11 May Belonging Before Believing?
This is a phrase I’ve heard quite often in the past five years, and I’d like to take a moment to challenge it, because so much is at stake. And since this blog is all about ecclesiology…
The phrase, “belonging before believing,” suggests that unbelievers should feel included in the Body of Christ so as to cause them to be more open to believing. One writer in my own denomination has even suggested that every church board should have an unbeliever on the board. Now, I’m certainly not one to suggest that we should not be extra-nice to unbelievers who come to our worship services, but I would suggest that they should understand that it actually means something to be a Christian, and that passing from death to life is not a line that should be easily blurred.
Now, I don’t think I’m a pure contrarian (I’m actually rather committed to non-traditionalism), but I do think it is always fair to question the questioners. I’m afraid there is an attitude out there that some can question everything Christianity has ever held sacred, but they themselves cannot be questioned. Is that arrogance or just immaturity or something else? I don’t know, but for some, being positive means questioning everything except those who are questioning everything.
Anyhow, here are some of my questions regarding “belonging before believing”:
1. Where is the New Testament biblical support for such an idea? Is the Church not the communion/community of the saints? Did I miss a memo canceling out New Testament ecclesiology?
2. What is the compelling reason for overturning 2000 years of ecclesiology? For example, did Jonathan Edwards get canned in Northampton for no good reason? Were the catechetical schools of the Early Church for nothing?
3. How is this different than liberal Protestant churches who wish to include all regardless of their faith or lifestyle? How effective a strategy has that been for them?
4. If you can’t draw the line at ministry, or membership, or ‘lay’ leadership, where do you draw the line? Ordination? And why?
5. If Willowcreek has now discovered that their “seeker sensitive” strategy has caused a lack of maturation of the saints, how does this strategy not “seeker sensitive” on steroids, and thus doomed to fail even faster?
6. Why do you see corporate gatherings as the primary means of evangelism, when in the New Testament and Early Churches, it was interpersonal and outside the corporate gatherings?
7. If communion is banned from those who fail to “discern the Body of Christ,” how does an unbeliever meet the requirement of 1 Corinthians 11?
8. What are the major success stories of this strategy that you would share, particularly in non-urban settings (in major urban settings you can get a group of people together who worship shoelaces).
Just wondering. My questions are 100% sincere. Can anyone help me here?