Other Fellowships’ Phrases

We avoid them like the plague, don’t we?

Which makes me wonder if there are Restoration Movement Christians who have been baptized by immersion, but have never really asked Jesus into their hearts … because that was some other fellowship’s phrase.

Of course, it’s also Paul’s phrase (Ephesians 3:17), and what Jesus encourages us to do (Luke 11:13).

And I wonder if there are Christians who have asked Jesus into their hearts, but have never been immersed into His life – as well as His death, burial and resurrection in baptism.

Those are phrases of Paul, too (Romans 6:1-6).

I wonder, also, if there are those who are saved, but have never heard a heavenly calling to a holy life; to God’s purpose (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 4:1; Hebrews 3:1; 2 Peter 1:10) – because those phrases just aren’t in their vocabulary.

I have to wonder if there are followers of Christ who wouldn’t know what to do if a word from the Lord came to them (Jeremiah 37:17; 1 Samuel 15:10), or felt a burden God had laid on them (Ecclesiastes 3:10; Matthew 11:30), or were moved to participate in a sinner’s prayer (James 5:15-16) – for the reason that these phrases just aren’t written in their book.

Or they are written there, but they haven’t seen them for what they are.

I wonder if the proprietary phrases indicate our willingness to see and follow only part of God’s entire purpose for us; if they betray our unwillingness to see and be blessed by a whole gospel and a full fellowship. I wonder if these shibboleths serve to separate us, keep us apart, prevent the blessing of unity in the Spirit and the bond of peace between Christians who each adhere to his/her own distinct doctrines and subcultures and groups and sects and cliques and lingo and phrases.

Most of all, I wonder if I’m one of them.

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10 thoughts on “Other Fellowships’ Phrases

  1. It is so hard to strike a balance, isn’t it. My mother corrects me every time I call the preacher our “pastor” at the Christian Church we are currently attending… we’ve had the conversation several times now that the meanings of words change over time. She just can’t get over the fact that the guy isn’t an elder but might be called a pastor. Of course, no one in Churches of Christ calls elders “pastors.”

    I agree that we have tended to use “bible names for bible things” as a way to separate ourselves from other Christians. That really is a shame, since I don’t think that is what Alexander Campbell had in mind when he urged Christians to change their vocabulary using that little phrase.

    Josh

  2. Very well stated and thought provoking. How many times do we hear church-speak from well seasoned people who really do not know the meaning of the phrase they use but were taught to defend this type speach and reject “the other” words from entering their group discussions?

    If one believes the the English people and the American people are a people seperated by a common language, what does this say about the Christian nation?

    Loved it Brother.

  3. Now that we have been attending fellowships other than my heritage/tribe, I hear all kinds of things that still make me feel a bit uncomfortable. I’m also reading Viola’s book, “Pagan Christianity” and he thinks just about everything the modern church says / does should make us feel a bit strange.

  4. I don’t know…neither Jesus nor Paul actually speak about the action of praying Jesus into one’s heart.

    I don’t avoid that phrase because it happens to be a stock phrase among many Evangelicals (I am not in the game of just being about what I’m against). I avoid that phrase because it is a serious distortion of how scripture depicts us entering and proceeding forth as disciples of Jesus.

    I just so happen to be reading a newly released book titled “Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation” by Gordob T. Smith. The author, a professing Evangelical Christian, thoroughly scolds his own Evangelicalism for the way it has reduced conversion to an individualistic prayer about “getting saved” that has been absolved of almost any committment to discipleship. In what makes my Restoration Theological herritage almost want to proudly say “we’ve told you so”, he expounds both exegetically, historically, theologically, and missiologically why conversion began with repentance and baptism in Acts and why it must begin that way now if the church is to produce disciples who are being transformed into the image of Christ.

    But before those of us from a Restoration Herritage become to prideful, I believe his theology of conversion would offer some necessary criticism to our own fellowship. IN my experience and understanding of our history, rarely has repentance and baptism been practiced as anything except a means of “getting saved.” In that regards, while we might practice the biblically correct “ritual” (if you will), that ritual has functioned much the same as the Sinner’s Prayer. That may explain in part why the CoC struggles just as much as the rest of Evangelical/Conservative Christianity to produce disciples who ‘fruits’ is evidence of ongoing transformation (cf. Matt 7.16)

    Any ways…I believe we would do best to continue employing the biblical language of conversion but also restore the biblical theology behind those functions (as opposed to forcing our polemical driven theology behind them).

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  5. Rex, I understand your reservations. But, given that the Holy Spirit is the conduit by which we ask Jesus into our hearts, I believe that’s exactly what Jesus is encouraging us to do in Luke 11:13.

    If we’re not prepared to receive Him at baptism – some among us were actually taught that He only operates in scripture – then shouldn’t we be praying for His presence in our lives and hearts? When we’ve received Him, shouldn’t we pray our increasing submission and devotion through Him in order to be transformed into the image of Christ?

  6. A couple of things… First, the passage of Luke 11.13 is using the 2nd person plural voice. So instead of me asking…it is we who should be asking. I am not trying to deny the personal indwellment of the Holy Spirit but I do think that the personal indwellment has become too emphasized to the neglect of the coorporate (community) indwellment. And yet, in Acts it is not just a bunch of individuals who each individually have the Spirit but it is the church who communally has the Spirit. Second, I am not opposed to praying for the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this is what the church was doing in their coorporate prayer for boldness (Acts 4.23-31). I believe churches/Christians should do the same today (wouldn’t it be great to see God respond with so much power that the building shakes?…perhaps in California.) Third, this is different than the theology of “praying to receive Jesus into our hearts” which is a rather recent development in Christian theology when looking at the totality of Christian history. And one reason it is so different is that in scripture, the langugae of baptism (Rom 6) is not Jesus coming into us but us being raised into Jesus.

    Any ways…we may just have to disagree and if so, that is ok. We still be bretheren!

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  7. I’m not sure how much we disagree, Rex. What I’m really cautioning against is an automatic, parochial rejection of any practice or belief or phrasing that isn’t “our own.” (Christians in the Restoration Movement are not uniquely guilty of that.)

    Error is still error. But in the expression “asking Jesus into our hearts,” there is a germ of truth that should be encouraged to grow in the right direction, rather than being snuffed out entirely. Whether the Spirit’s dwelling is in individuals, communities or both (and I suspect it’s both), we need to ask for Him. By and large, we don’t.

    That’s not the totality of what God has in mind for our salvation, but it’s an important part of it that we shouldn’t dismiss out-of-hand because it’s not our phrase – any more than some of our fellow believers should dismiss “baptism by immersion” or “baptism for the purpose of washing away sin” or “baptism which saves [you]” out-of-hand because it’s not their practice.

    We need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ by our ongoing, growing submission to God’s will. We need to ask for His presence in our hearts in order to be so transformed. That’s what Paul prays for his fellow believers in Ephesians 3:16-17ff.

    And I believe it is Jesus speaking in Revelation 3:20, which says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

    He wants us to ask Him in.

  8. I see where you are coming from and I do agree that “parochial rejection of any practice or belief or phrasing that isn’t ‘our own’” is a bad way to practice faith. It leads to the “we’re everything we’re against” mentality.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

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