Christian author Chuck Crismier, usually so concerned as to the purity of doctrine as to suggest that divorced people who have remarried should consider divorcing their current spouses in order to remarry their previous mates or face the possibility of eternal damnation, came out on the February 7, 2006 episode of his program “Viewpoint” entitled Restoring Community To The Church” as part of the growing communitarian chorus critical of George Barna’s book Revolution. It is Barna’s hypothesis that those pursuing their Christian faith outside the church institutional are just as devout as those that are in the pew every time the door swings open.
Though Crismier does a good job in pointing out that buildings and programs a good church does not make, in his interview with Tod Bolsinger, the author of It Takes A Church To Raise A Christian, he seems to insinuate that the sincerity of one’s profession of faith is based on to what extent one not so much surrenders to Christ but rather to the will of the group.
For while he encourages the growing house church movement, he turns around and condemns the electronic church such as found through loose-knit Internet associations based on common interests expressed through forums, blogs, podcasts, and message groups. It is Crismier’s contention that these do not meet the requirements of fellowship such as the breaking of bread and the “going from house to house” as described in Scripture. I guess it all comes down to the opportunity to snoop through everybody’s stuff since while one can fellowship with others over the Internet in an exchange of thought, one can’t very well rifle through somebody else’s house in a virtual manner.
The passages referenced on the program also said that the early church lived together and shared their possessions. So what’s next, condemning as “individualists” those refusing to live in Jonestown or Wacoesque communes?
In this confused age, it has now become fashionable to extol the group at the expense of the individual and almost shameful to want even the wholesome for the benefit of you as a person. But in categorizing marriage as a “community”, Crismier shows that he is mistaking the human longing for friendship with the desire to lose oneself in the herd.
The Christian conditioned to dutifully heel to his ecclesiastical masters every time they ring a bell will whine, “But the church is a family.” In a sense, but in this life it is now more LIKE a family than an actual one and even if so, there are varying degrees of relationships within the most basic form of human social organization.
For example, just because I am your brother does not mean I am going to share my wife with you. There are parts of my life and property to which no other human beings are entitled. Just because there is little one should conceal from one’s spouse, that same transparency does not apply to the guy living down the street.
Why can’t the breaking of bread and mutual prayer and care take place within the context of the traditional nuclear family? Is it because there is no way for denominational bigwigs or gadabout missionaries to grow fat off the tithes and offerings in such a close-knit context with the individual families free to best determine how to give to the work of God?
Furthermore, not everyone is going to require the same degree of social interaction. To some, community will require repeated sharings of every last tawdry detail of their life’s testimony; for others an occasional “hello” will suffice.
Nowadays, we are often admonished how we must alter the way we do things to make headbangers and other musically rowdy sorts welcome in the church. Why can’t similar concessions be made to those that simply rather be left alone? One what grounds are we to say those prone towards solitude are not closer to God when they are listening to recorded sermons, reading Christian books or simply reflecting upon the handiwork of the Lord in nature than when they are sitting in some Sunday School classroom as waves of isolation and loneliness sweep over them despite all the yammering socialites gabbing about them saying little of consequence all around them?
Crismier claims that if the Christian is not in community, they will and I do quote “live like hell.” However, from my experience, it is often those that derive their identity from the group that “live like hell” as one PCA church (and that’s the more conservative Presbyterians) I was visiting for a while couldn’t seem to have a young adult fellowship function where it was not alluded to that booze was going to be present.
And as a PCUSA pastor, one would think Rev. Bolsinger would have more fundamental issues facing his denomination such as abortion, the demphasis of the role of Christ in the process of salvation, and chummy relations with terrorists and tyrants such as Hezbollah to occupy his time than Christians in his opinion not outgoing or affable enough. Maybe someone should tell Mr. Crismier how many get remarried in that denomination.
Of course people are going to flee from a haven a perdition such as that as those not going along with the progressive trends are no doubt castigated and ridiculed. Don’t the same New Testament epistles Bolsinger likes to bash everyone over the head with about the need to further communize also instruct the believer to come out and be ye separate?
The problem with Christianity today is not a lack of socialization as it is a basic failure to stand for truth. If anything, failure to make defense of the faith the priority of the day will make this renewed emphasis upon the group a far more dangerous threat to ordered liberty as well as sound doctrine.
Copyright 2006 by Frederick Meekins
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