Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A statement of faith - what do you say?

This was taken from the statement of faith of a fast growing church attended mainly by young people. The church is in my city ...

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.

Off hand this looks ok but I suspect, some may take issue on the way this is stated. What do you think? Give me some comments. I'll put mine last.

Split here, split there, split everywhere

By split, I mean church split not banana split. I have been studying this phenomenon in the ministry of pentecostal pastors. I wondered how come we pentecostals experience a lot of splits and intrigues in the ministry? Fortunately I am no longer holding a congregation and my job today is to fill in their pulpits when they need it. I am thankful that one or two still invite me to come and preach for them even though they have been made aware of my Lutheran views lately. I know it is a solitary road for me. However, my heart aches for them because their churches have been split more than a couple of times, some of them for 4 or 5 times through a span of 10 years of ministry, for example. Their present experience was once mine.

Here is an example, some keen and industrious disciple rises up in the midst as a leader, and before long, that disciple creates an issue in the church. Soon a few families will now move out of the church and follow this leader. Another usual occassion is that a pastor from out of town starts a small congregation right up close to another pentecostal pastor and soon some folk leave the church to join the new one that has begun. I do not deny that there could be lots of valid reasons for leaving the church but why is it so easy in pentecostalism to split a church up? But how come almost no effort is involved in doing this?

The reason is I think two fold. Firstly, in pentecostalism right doctrine is not stressed in the church. In otherwords, pentecostals do not require their pastors to be theologians. The pastors hardly discuss theological issues. They do not warn their congregation that wrong doctrine can hurt them and may destroy one's faith. In pentecostal circles, doctrine is not important, what is important is spiritual experience. The requirement to be a leader is that he is born again and holds some spiritual gift, like tongues and prophecy etc. Because of this, their members find no reason to stop, look and listen before they follow a new leader. They believe anyone has the right to lead so long as that person is manifesting some form of superior spirituality and maybe showing some care and concern for them.

Secondly I think is lack of communal responsibility. Most pentecostal ministers operate their churches like they are CEOs. Though they hate Roman papacy, yet, they are little popes themselves when they act in church. There is a lack of collective community responsibility to each other, both inside the body and outside the body . Have you noticed how many pentecostal churches are independents? Internally there is a lack of clear elder/deacon structure. Externally there is a weak notion that they are their brother's keeper and are responsible to the society they are standing in. This is not taught. The diet of pulpit food centers more on the christian and how to get blessed from Jesus.

One of my friends belong to a major pentecostal denomination and his church was split several times by leaders who found shelter and endorsement from the same denomination my friend belongs to. Don't you find that a wonder, well you could be asleep.

My hope is that my pentecostal friends may wake up and realize that the phenomenon of split frequency is a manifestation of upper level flaw in pentecostal theology and practice.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I recently put on a Christmas CD of the St Michael's Singers of England. The song Once in Royal David's City touched me and I felt moved by the solemness of the way these boys sang that Christmas song. There were no drums or up beat rhythmic guitars in the accompaniment, just an organ in the background.

Something in it touched my heart.

I know what you may be thinking, I have become religious, traditional, dead and old fashionedly boring. You are right, but I also have become lazy. I find todays church music hard work, it has to be up beat, loud, and lots of happy bubbly melodies - in short it is really really hard work to create some kind of feeling. With the type of music the St. Michael's Singers sing, you just sit, listen then tears start flowing from your eyes and you weep. I did not have to jump up and down and clap or shout myself to a freenzy to get this feeling of adoration and tranquility. It is for lazy people like me. I just sit, listen and they do the job for you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What does a Filipino mean by being 'saved'?

We have receieved our old copies of Patmos, the journal of ISACC. While reading through the February 1999 (Vol. 14, No.2) issue, I was attracted to the article of Sylvia Palugod with the above title.

The thesis of the essay is that the Filipino concept of being 'saved' is summed up by the the Pilipino word ginhawa, meaning - comfort or well being. The author equates this to the Hebrew word for shalom(peace). However, the ginhawa concept pertains to the present experience of having good health, a bit of wealth, harmonious relations with visible (and invisible) neighbors. My observation is that this thesis is true.

The main concern of the Filipino is finding total well being in all of life's concerns on the here and now. The reason? Well, the Filipino is well aware of his/her bad lot in life. The Filipino struggles daily to meet his/her daily bread i.e. food, shelter and clothing. This is the reason the Filipino can be found in all parts of the world. They have been exiting their homeland with the hope of bettering their chances in life - to find a bit of ginhawa.

What does this imply? Because of the Filipino's notion of salvation focuses on the here and now, the Filipino is susceptible to a Gospel of health and wealth. He/She is vulnerable to receiving a misrepresented Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This explains why the American preachers of a gospel of health/wealth that promises salvation in the here and now gets a good hearing in the country.

The Filipino is already deeply spiritual. He has a natural notion and longing for a close friendship with the Almighty. Fortunately, what cushions them when their prayers are not answered the way they like it to be as taught by 'prosperity' missionaries is their seasoned experience of suffering.

Lord Jesus, do not let false teachers succeed in misrepresenting your Gospel to my people. May you deliver them from those that will corrupt/contaminate the greatest news they can ever hear, peace with God today and life with you tomorrow, all because of your dying for their sins. Amen

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Altar Call No More

I have been reading the sermons in Acts lately. I should stop doing altar calls after preaching. I feel like a salesman or an auctioneer. Here was how it went...

Is there anyone else here in this room who wants to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Thank you I see that hand, you may put them down. Is there any one else? How about the others? Thank you, you may put your hand down. Is there any one else?

In Acts when people get agitated with their sins, they cry out "what must I do to be saved" - Paul would reply "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved with your household". It does not say there that they prayed the sinner's prayer, rather they got baptized.

Monday, December 05, 2005

4 Square Gospel?

I have been thinking about this for sometime. In the Pentecostal movement there is a teaching about the Four Square Gospel. This is the term that encapsulates the maxim - Jesus saves, Jesus Heals, Jesus fills with HS and Jesus is coming again. This misunderstands the Gospel. There are no four elements of the Gospel, there is only one simple fact - the Gospel is the declaration that Jesus died and rose again for the sins of sinners. That is the Gospel.

When one lumps with this message - healing and being filled with the HS and Jesus coming again, then the Gospel has been re-casts and no more Gospel. Do I not believe that Jesus heals, I do. Do I not believe he fills with the HS? I do. However, this is not the good news that the preacher should preach about. These benefits (in my thinking) flow from the Gospel - the forgiveness of the sinner's sins, but they are not part of the Gospel. What about Jesus coming again? Well for the believing sinner (the Christian) this is good news but this is bad news for the unbelieving sinner, this is terrible news. For when He comes, He will judge the whole world, so bad news for the world.

In some Pentecostal denominations, they even call themselves Full Gospel. Some have the motto pridefully shown in a car sticker - All the Gospel. That is to say, the preach all of the Gospel, as if there is more than one Gospel. This is not right because when one equates healing with the Gospel and the believer is not healed, disillusionment happens rather than hope. It hurts believers rather than keep them steadfast in faith. It puts them in condemnation.

There are also those that refer to the Bible as 'the Gospel' Again, a misunderstanding, because the Bible contains two kinds of messages - the Law and the Gospel. This could turn what is the Gospel as Law and what is Law- Gospel.

I'd say, there is no better gift that we can get from God than to have our sins forgiven. This He did when He nailed our sins in Jesus' body at the Cross of Calvary. When a Christian walks in heaven with Christ, he will always see the nail pierced hand, the scars on his back and the scar on his side. Each time he sees those, he will be reminded that the greatest thing Jesus did for us is to take our sins and God's wrath that was meant for us. The Christian will exclaim with great ecstasy - thank You, thank You, thank You, I am so glad You died for me.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Unbelievers too can be saved, says Pope

I got this from the cyberbretheren blog (whose blog I am also enjoying - do visit his blog and look around).

Well according to Zenit.Org of November 30, 2005, the Pope says that unbelievers so long as they are good and sincere (basically), can be saved without believing in Christ.
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2005 ( Whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this affirmation today at the general audience, commenting on a meditation written by St. Augustine (354-430).

On a rainy morning in Rome, the Holy Father's meditation, addressed to more than 23,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, concentrated on the suffering of the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile, expressed dramatically in Psalm 136(137).

The Pontiff referred to Augustine's commentary on this composition of the Jewish people, noting that this "Father of the Church introduces a surprising element of great timeliness."

Augustine "knows that also among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire," Benedict XVI stated.

"They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption," explained the Pope, quoting Augustine.

This spark

"And he says that among the persecutors, among the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live," the Holy Father continued.

"With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ," he clarified.

Continuing with his quotes from Augustine, the Pope added that "God will not allow them to perish with Babylon, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, on the condition, however, that, living in Babylon, they do not seek pride, outdated pomp and arrogance."

The Bishop of Rome concluded by inviting those present to pray to the Lord "that he will awaken in all of us this desire, this openness to God, and that those who do not know God may also be touched by his love, so that all of us journey together toward the definitive City and that the light of this City might also shine in our time and in our world."

So what happens to fervent evangelism and faith as stated in Mk 16:15-16? Jesus says "I am the way, the truth and the life. No comes to the Father but through Me"? Benedict is following Augustine rather than Christ's Words. He is trying to pontificate over and against what God has revealed. It is better to do evangelism rather than make such a statement that will only confuse and perhaps make complacent believers.