Consistent Inconsistency – Part 1

Some things have been taking place in my life and heart over the past few years and I would like to share some concerns. I believe these concerns directly affect the state of the body of Christ, particularly in the west like here in America.

There is a trend that seems to have developed to great proportions over the last century. In modern evangelicalism, the trend has grown to the point where fellowship between brethren is either non-existent, or teaching of issues and doctrine has become consistently inconsistent.

Let me explain based on the groups that I have seen or been involved with and share a few examples –

For a long time, I heard that the KJV Authorized Version 1611 was the ONLY version that was ever to be used. It is ignorance to hold to such a position when today we know that only a handful of people in the world can even read the 1611 version due to its style of English. But, it has not stopped the arguments which range from the ridiculous (if it was good enough for the apostle Paul, then it is good enough for me) to the well-meaning individuals who believe and practice that the Authorized Version is the “best translation” available in the English language. It is not really the latter that I am addressing here, but those who fall under the ridiculous 3/4ths of the spectrum.

Many in this group are militant and will refuse to even fellowship over coffee with another pastor across town if they learn he uses the NKJV, does his own translation work for his sermons, or <gasp> has denigrated the faith once delivered to the saints by using the ESV.

Or, another doctrinal issue that is prevalent, normally in the same group, is “Are you pre-trib and pre-millennial?” Again, the straw man arguments abound on positions both for and against, but they exist only to break down possible fellowship between people for whom Christ died.

Sadly, these same individuals have rows of books on their shelves from godly men of old that they hold in high esteem who used versions other than the KJV. They will even quote these men from the pulpit, recommend their books, and send their young people to a Bible college that uses books written by and about men who do not use the KJV and did not hold to a pre-trib rapture position. (Gasp – please say it is not so, but as an aside, this includes the great Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon!) Shhhh, don’t tell anybody this little tidbit or sales of The Pulpit Commentary will decline greatly.

However, the inconsistency lies in the fact that if these godly men were alive and called for a meeting – they would be rejected outright because “they don’t believe in the same Bible.“ Many pastors would refuse to have tea or coffee with these old saints because of their belief system.

Please do NOT misunderstand. I am not speaking about sharing pulpits with others who deny the foundations of the faith. I am speaking about refusing to speak or love others who do not hold the same position on areas that are not based solely on the Scriptures. There were 1600 years of church history before the KJV was offered to the English-speaking world.  There were also a number of godly men, like Spurgeon, who did not believe or hold to a position on the rapture of the Church. Yet, these two issues divide brothers and sisters from spreading the cause of Christ.

Let me use this example —

As a missionary, I called hundreds of pastors trying to schedule an appointment to share my ministry to a non-English speaking group of tribes in Liberia, West Africa. NOT once was I ever asked about my philosophy of ministry. NOT once was I asked what my stand was on teaching these tribes about the dangers of polygamy. NOT once was I asked how I planned on teaching the men to become elders and what material would I be using to ensure continued growth should we ever have to leave the mission field.

Yet, I was asked dozens of times, “We might be interested in you sharing your ministry, but WHAT Bible version do you use?”

NOT once was I asked how I would provide spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for my family while spending hours and hours with men who were almost illiterate. NOT once was I asked what we would do when we walked into a new village that had never heard the gospel even once.

BUT, I was asked, “Do you believe in the pre-trib rapture?” Strangely, I was rarely asked my position on the millennium. However, these same pastors never questioned the theology behind some of their favorite hymns. They have never once bothered to determine whether the hymns they are having the sheep in their flock sing each week are truly theological powerhouses, or if the hymns have faulty doctrine.

Do you see the inconsistency here?

The missionary and his family have been called to a mission field foreign to everything they know and love. Yet, the average missionary requires 3-4 years to raise the needed support to sustain them on the mission field.

This involves:

  1. The cost of calling hundreds of churches,
  2. Travel all across the USA
  3. Wear and tear on the body of each family member
  4. Maintaining a home as well as hotel costs or buying an RV like a travel trailer and vehicle to pull it. The expense of living full time in an RV is not cheap and greatly depreciates what they can sell the unit for at the end of the 3-4 years.
  5. Mailing out hundreds of presentation folders, prayer letters, prayer cards, thank you cards, etc.

Why does this happen?

The average missionary on deputation takes so long to raise funds because of the consistent inconsistency in the body of Christ. Instead of asking questions about things that are vital or important, they are being asked to take a stand on areas that have no bearing on the people they will be working with.

The issues of the KJV or the rapture are obviously not the only ones that are at stake. I have received dozens of “surveys” or “questionnaires.” These pastors and churches who are to be a guide and a shepherd to the sheep would spend great deals of time asking questions like: 1) whether my wife or girls wore pants, 2) what version I used even in my devotions, 3) whether we listened to a certain Christian music group or individual, 4) what hymnbook we used personally, or 5) whether we went to the pastor’s favorite Bible college.

Sadly, if the questions were not answered correctly or favorably, the missionary has to call more churches just so they can find “the right place” to talk about their love for the Lord and for an unreached people group.

Oh, and for all this hard work of finally gaining a meeting, the average missionary gains a love offering that rarely covers his expenses for a week and a possibility of support. The average missionary requires 4-6 churches visited to gain an average monthly support of $50-100 per supporting church.

Brothers and sisters, this is just wrong. Such inconsistencies bring many missionaries to conclude that they must not have been “called.” Many use up all of their savings accounts just trying to gain enough funds to support their family and their ministries while they are on the road. They are worn out and often not in a position spiritually, mentally, or emotionally to then go through the culture shock of entering a foreign land.

To conclude for now, I realize that many who claim to be called as missionaries are not qualified. They were not taught by their home church, or have no clue about what they are going to do when they arrive in their chosen land. There are many factors that affect a missionary going overseas, but again, this is just a concern that needs to be addressed.

There is nothing about inconsistencies that bring honor and glory to Christ. All it does is helps to perpetuate poor or shallow theology at best to lies at worst.

Just because a church or pastor is consistent in their inconsistencies in belief or practice does not make it right. Inconsistencies are harming the body of Christ and not just when it comes to dealing with missionaries. Over the next few blog posts, I will have other thoughts on consistent inconsistencies.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts you may have.

 

 

Faithful Finance?

A review by Stuart Brogden

One thing sadly lacking for many people in today’s culture – knowledge and discipline for sound financial planning and practice. This book by Emily G. Stroud promises itself as a Bible-based guide to “10 secrets to move from fearful insecurity to confident control.” These “secrets” are examined in the 10 chapters. 

While the book does provide competent but basic counsel on myriad issues across the financial spectrum, it is woefully lacking in being sound in the way the author uses Scripture and recommends certain people. Not many should be teachers; this book would be much better if Mrs. Stroud had focused on financial issues and left theology out of it.

The introduction gives the reader high hopes, as our author tells us money doesn’t give us peace but is merely a tool, there is hope in Christ, God blesses people differently, and we can learn to use money wisely and have a more peaceful and fruitful life. In chapter 1, we read, “Most important, we all need a biblical foundation to understand the importance of putting our knowledge into action. (page 20)” This chapter is devoted to the idea that one needs a professional to worry about out money as we won’t. Several of the concepts described herein are basic and do not require a professional: budgeting, charitable giving, short-term savings. Others are well served by having another provide counsel: insurance, investments, mortgages, retirement planning. It’s a sad reality that so many in this rich country retire with not much more than the coerced plan known as Social Security.

Chapter 2 is titled Cash is King (or Queen) and provides solid counsel on monthly budgeting and short-term savings. If one has no idea how to begin financial disciplines and wants to begin, this chapter is a valuable resource. The next chapter is on giving and here our author shows why she should have avoided bringing her religious views into the book. When she mentions tithing, there’s no question in her mind whether or not it’s a New Covenant practice – only whether one should tithe on gross or net income and whether splitting your tithe between your church and another ministry is robbing God (page 55). She quotes “Mother Teresa” on page 54 with nothing to indicate this wretch was serving demons. Half of page 57 is filled up by a quote from Rick Warren, blabbing about how good it feels to be generous. This pastor (so-called) bases his theology on human phycology, leading many down the path to his theological therapeutic deism he calls Christianity. And on the following page she says people ought to “consider automating their charitable giving and tithing by setting up automatic transfers from your checking account or debit card each month. Then expect God to show up. Wait and see if the rest of your bills still get paid.”

Saints – giving is to be an act of worship, not some trite activity reduced to a bill that is to be paid, as mindlessly as possible.

The end of this chapter brings a challenge to “be the change this world needs” with an exhortation to “remember the wise words of Malachi,” as she then quotes Malachi 3:10 (page 60). Sigh. I’ve heard it said that one’s theology affects the balance of one’s life. This was in observation of how Woodrow Wilson was attracted to world government by Darby’s system of theology. Chapter 10, God Will Provide, ends with Jeremiah 29:11 with no context or application. It hangs there as if anyone can directly appropriate that as a personal promise from God.

Emily Stroud needs to leave her confused theology out of her work if she wants to of good service to all people. There is good, basic financial planning advice in this book. If the reader needs to begin taking responsibility for his money, this book can be very useful. Do not look to it for counsel from God’s Word, as she has shown she needs to learn much before she can be trusted in this arena.