Children Obey

Having children may be doing what comes naturally, but raising children is another matter altogether.   Parenting doesn’t really come with a set of instructions. For most parents, it’s like trying to put together a complex jigsaw puzzle without having a picture on the front of the box at which to look. For Christian parents, the bar is set even higher because of their desire to raise children that love and follow Jesus. At least, for these parents, there is the wisdom and guidance that comes from the Bible. As a matter of fact, the Bible is the first place I looked as I began to prepare for this article. I wanted to refresh my mind on the major Biblical passages that spoke to the subject of parenting, but what I discovered was remarkable – something I had not seen before in all my years of study.

My discovery was two-fold. First, I was surprised at how little the Bible had to say specifically on the subject of parenting! Some claim there are 17 passages that address the subject; my findings were closer to 10. That is not to say that the Bible is void of wisdom and instruction on child rearing. Transforming babes in Christ to spiritually mature saints and raising children into responsible adults is very similar with many parallels.   The Bible, of course, is filled with instruction for growing new Christians and the carry over application to child rearing is clear, relevant and extremely valuable.   Many of the articles I have read by experts on parenting used these passages to make their points.

My second discovery was that the passages that do speak directly to parenting were divided equally among the subjects of discipline and instruction. But what I saw for the first time was that all of these passages pointed to one thing: obedience! The reason for discipline and instruction is that the child might learn to obey!   The New Testament reinforces this with the single command “children obey your parents” that is given in Eph. 6:1 and Col. 3:20. This is the only command to children in the New Testament.

My studies in spiritual formation have convinced me that all formation in Christlikeness is oriented toward explicit easy obedience. The transformation of the heart, by grace, into a state of obedience allows the disciple to willingly obey the “all things” commanded by our Lord. Furthermore, a yielded heart is the inner condition that allows the Holy Spirit to enable the outer life of the individual to naturally express the character and teachings of Jesus.

The same is true in raising children! The formation of character through discipline and instruction is for the purpose of obedience. Once a child understands that he must obey and that he must do so with a willing attitude, then you scarcely have to teach him anything else! Once he knows he must obey, you can simply “ask” him to do whatever it is that you need or want him to do and he will do it. When a child has learned to obey willingly, then your discipline will be cut to a minimum and you can spend the vast majority of your time teaching, nurturing and forming that little one into the kind of man or woman you want them to be! So children, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right!”

Grace was in her steps . . . Heaven in her eyes

Motherhood was God’s idea. He purposefully created women to carry, give birth to, nurse, nurture, teach, and tenderly love their children in a way unique to women. It was His plan that a bond of unconditional love be forged between mother and child that would bridge any divide, face down any storm and last for eternity. I am blessed to not only have had a wonderful mother of my own but several wonderful “mothers” in my life.

My Mother

Clara Mae Avery 1923-1995

My mother was a simple, hardworking homemaker who loved her children. She was a genuine saint who loved God until it showed.  She was ever present, always encouraging, never demeaning, faithful in prayer and always ready to laugh. Mother taught me so much about practical Christianity. She also instilled a sense of confidence in me that was far beyond my capacity to perform. The following two quotes capture some of what she meant to me and what she did for me.

“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” (John Wesley)

“When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” (Pablo Picasso)

Her Mother and Mine

Virginia Vernon 1918-2012

My mother-in-law had one of the most gentle, selfless and soft spoken personalities of any women I ever knew – yet that softness covered a frame of pure unbendable steel.  Granny was a sharecropper’s daughter, a mother of eight (three in diapers at one time) a pastor’s wife, a missionary stateswoman, well read, a fantastic speller, a caregiver (eleven years to an invalid husband), a long term widow and all the while her children’s loving mother. She faced the normal trials of life plus: open heart surgery, Parkinson’s, a broken hip (that left her bedfast for ten years) partial blindness and much loneliness. Yet I never, ever heard her complain or whine! She never lost her sense of humor – even at age 94. She was a great role model!

Their Mother

Rebecca Ruth (Vernon) Avery

My wife and the mother of my children is almost an exact replica of her mother. She is witty, selfless, others oriented, extremely well read, hardworking, holds confidences (and her tongue), lives for her family, is prayerful and supportive. She has a very single devotion to her faith, her family and her husband. Watching her in action as she raised our two sons was a joy. She read to them and later with them – constantly. She taught them to read and write before they ever attended school. Their achievements today must largely be credited to the lessons they learn at her knee.

Other Mothers

Dot Brown, Mary Stetler

My mother suffered a massive stroke the night before I was installed as president of GBS. My parents had traveled to Cincinnati with me to share in this special day but mother never made it to the Hilltop. She lived only six months after the stroke. After her death, two godly women became “mothers” to me. Dot Brown, a retired nurse and my first Dean of Women, was one of those rare discerning saints who always seem to have the right piece of advice at just the right time. Her counsel and support were priceless. And then there was Mary Stetler. Mary Stetler came to me shortly after my mother died and said, “I know you have lost the woman that prayed for you every day. I want you to know I am going to pray for you now” – and she has!

No one can take the place of your own dear mother but I am so grateful for the wonderful mothers God has providentially placed in my life. So to them and to all of the wonderful mothers who will read this, I honor you with a quote from   John Milton’s Paradise Lost, “Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye, in every gesture dignity and love.” Happy Mother’s Day!

 

The Bible and Sexual Immorality

The 21st century doesn’t have a monopoly on sexual sin. Sexual wickedness has haunted every age since the fall of man. God has used water, fire and the sword to scrub previous civilizations clean of their moral rot. The Greek and Roman cultures were both so morally corrupt that they finally imploded – weakened and destroyed by their own lust. But what does seem to be unique to our day is that professing Christians – Bible toting, Bible believing Christians – have become quite at home in a culture deeply entrenched in all manner of sexual evil.  It doesn’t shock us. It doesn’t upset us. It doesn’t offend our consciences. The truth is, that unless it is really bad, sexual immorality just seems normal – even entertaining to many present day church folks! Many would even admit to telling dirty jokes, viewing pornography and watching sexuality explicit movies! This, however, is not the biblical norm.

Sexual Immorality (porneia) is Sub-Christian

Sexual immorality [any illicit sexual behavior including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, prostitution, rape, lust, bestiality, pornography , sexual touch with someone who is not my spouse and voyeurism] is included on every list of “sins” in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus, Paul and all the Biblical writers understood and taught that sexual activity outside of marriage between and man and a woman was wrong. The first Jerusalem Council made it very clear to the new converts coming out of paganism and into the Church that sexual immorality is “sub-Christian” and is unacceptable. Sexual immorality is so incompatible with the Christian life that Paul tells the Ephesian church that it is not enough to just not do these sins , “but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place . . .” (Eph. 5:3-4).

Sexual Immorality is a Sin against the Body

The culture of our day insists that the freedom to express ourselves sexually in any way we choose is essential to our identity has human beings. But God’s Word plainly says that the body belongs to Him and immoral sexual behavior is a sin “against the body” (I Cor. 6:15-20). Many sins bring defilement and destruction to the body but sexual immorality goes further and desecrates the body in the same mystical way that the temple is desecrated by bringing an idol into it.

Sexual Immorality is so Highly Contagious that we dare not have

Intimate Fellowship with People who are Sexually Immoral

In I Cor. 5: 6-7, 9-11 Paul tells the Corinthians, “your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world … since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality—not even to eat with such a one”. Paul is quite blunt here. He makes it plain that we don’t “coddle” but rather “cut off” the sexually immoral person who claims to be a Christian yet chooses to persist in their immorality. The Corinthian man who pursued an incestuous relationship was to be handed “over to Satan.” This does not mean we do not show them love. It means we show them “tough love”. Love and grace are redemptive and transformative – not just accepting and tolerant.

Sexual Immorality has Irreversible Consequences

Proverbs 6:27-33 says, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away”.

How does the church deal with Sexual Immorality?

1. Create a zero tolerance for all sexual immorality. This means condemning all inappropriate sexual behavior and all sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

2. When sexual immorality happens within the body of Christ, discipline should be administered fairly and without impartiality.

3. Preach the Gospel. It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can free anyone from the bondage of sexual sin. Counseling has many good things to offer in the healing and helping processes, but only the power of the gospel and walking in the Spirit frees from the “lust of the flesh.”

4. Lead – don’t just react. Teach people, especially young people, how to establish Biblical guardrails in their life. Guardrails are established in a safe zone to keep us from going into an unsafe zone. The idea is to help them choose behavior that keeps them some distance away from disaster.

5. Be redemptive. Create an environment that makes it easy to confess failure, seek help and find forgiveness.

Holiness and Social Concern

Today over a billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day.  That means over a billion men and women face a daily struggle to find food, water and shelter with less money than you would spend for an order of fries or your favorite donut.  More than 24,000 children die every day from preventable causes like diarrhea (contracted from unclean water); while more than 16,000 die from starvation.

The average American finds it hard to grasp this kind of poverty.  Especially since the hardest struggle many face in their daily routine is to fasten their pants.  Yet not all Americans are blessed by being average.  More than 16 million children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.  There are almost 14 million single parents (84% single moms) endeavoring to raise 26% of America’s children and half of them live in poverty.  Over one-third of America’s elderly live below the poverty line. Thousands of panhandlers and homeless people beg on the street corners and sleep over the warm grates of every major city.  Multiplied thousands of the working poor have homes in need of repair or cars in need of maintenance that can’t and won’t be fixed because there is neither the money to have it done nor  the skill to do it themselves.  Many of these folks sit in a pew next to you.

Should this really bother me?

Bob Pierce often prayed,   “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”   Every serious Christian prays this prayer. They also go further.  They strive to learn what breaks the heart of God and then act on what they learn.   Fortunately for us, God’s view on the subject is not hidden.  In the laws given to the developing nation of Israel, He addresses every segment of society that needs a voice of compassion spoken for them: the widows, orphans, strangers (aliens), the injured, the hungry, women, those who have been enslaved by debt, the marginalized, the disenfranchised and others who are oppressed or disadvantaged in some way (Leviticus and Deuteronomy).    He makes it clear to the Jewish nation that honoring these laws is so close to His heart that their peaceful existence and continued ownership of the land is conditioned on their obedience to these laws  (Jeremiah 7:5-7).  The prophet Amos gives us a glimpse into both God’s attitude toward and judgment upon those who ignore justice for the distressed and exploit the poor.

The New Testament speaks loudly on behalf of this same group of people. Jesus communicated his concerns powerfully through such parables as:  the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22), the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the sheep and goats (Matt. 25: 31-46). The newly formed Church appointed a group of deacons just to care for the widows (Acts 6).  When the Jerusalem Council gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and commissioned them to go to the Gentiles, it was with the admonition to, “ remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10).  The Apostle John, who may have known the heart of Jesus better than any, spoke these words, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”(I John 3:17).  James tells us that pure religion and true faith are validated by how we respond to those in need (James 1:27, 2:15-17).

“There is no Holiness but Social Holiness”

            The above quote is not from John Wesley but from Mike Avery!  Yes, Wesley made that statement but he was talking about “Lone Ranger – separated-from-the-body religion” not social action.  But I am referring to social concern and action.  Why?  Because social concern is where the central issue of holiness – love – meets the road!  If the heart of holiness is centered in lovingthe Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” then holiness is inextricably linked to the way one treats his neighbor. It seems to me to be quite impossible to claim a heart full of love for God yet offer a hand empty of compassion toward my neighbor.  Dag Hammarskjold was correct to say that the road to holiness passes through the world of action (I John 3:17).

Calling the CHM to Social Concern!

            The Call to the Conservative Holiness Movement Article IX states that the CHM has to a great degree turned its gaze away from society’s neediest people toward the “cloistered walls of a narrow and narcissistic piety.”   It further states that by doing so the CHM has forsaken the pattern of her spiritual forefathers who not only declared the gospel verbally but demonstrated it visibly by building orphanages, establishing homes for unwed mothers and planting Gospel Missions on every skid row in every large city of America.  To them taking the gospel to the “least of these my brethren” was the only way to both fulfill the command to “preach the gospel to every creature” and to “love my neighbor as myself.”

Has the CHM failed?

            It is not as easy as it might seem to evaluate the extent in which the present day conservative holiness churches are engaged in social action ministries in their local communities.  There are many cases where individuals (who attend a CHM church) are involved in volunteer work, or give significantly to fund these types of ministries, or are directly assisting individuals who are needy while the church itself has no formal participation in any social ministry.  For example I found a situation where two men are supporting a single mom and her two children – housing, Christian school tuition, a vehicle to get her to work, etc. . . . Since it is not a structured ministry it would not show up in a list of ministries operated by a church.  Nevertheless it is the very kind of social action that the Bible addresses and clearly reflects a passion for social concern.  I am hopeful that this example is a norm rather than an exception.

I found a few cases where a church chose to give a small amount of financial support to organizations that specialize in some particular area of ministry to the needy rather than directly engage in these ministries themselves. Organizations like LAHIA, The Salvation Army, Regional Food Banks, Habitat for Humanity, City Missions, and Christian Clearing Houses.  These and a host of others like them specialize in social outreach and do a good job on the local level.

The question remains as to the movement at large.  Is the CHM failing in the area of social concern as a whole?  The only way I had to find an answer to this question was a less than perfect method of just looking at the number of actual ministries operated and funded by conservative holiness churches.  I did not include ministries that were federally or state funded with the exception of food banks. Out of approximately 3,000 churches identified as conservative holiness churches I was able to locate: 5 prison/jail ministries, 3 rescue missions, 6 food distribution ministries, 2 free clothing ministries and 1 home for unwed mothers.  I am quite sure there are other churches with ministries that I did not discover.  Nevertheless, even if the numbers above were doubled or tripled the ratio of ministries to churches would still be quite small.  I will let the reader draw their own conclusions.

I also contacted World Mission organizations that identify with the CHM to see what they were doing to: provide care for orphans, clean water for villages, medical care for the destitute, and food the hungry. According to the Rope Holders Newsletter there are approximately 31 organizations that serve the CHM as Foreign Mission agencies.  We were able to get responses from 29.  With the one exception of work among Native Americans, all responses involved work outside the US. The Table below gives the question and the percentage that answered in the affirmative:

Care for orphans                                              17%

Food provided daily                                        27%

Education for the poor                                  48%

Clean Water                                                       20%

Medical Clinic                                                     20%

Medicine for preventable causes             34%

What is being done by individuals within the CHM is being done, as it should be, without knowledge to others so there is no way to draw any valid conclusions. If you look at what the CHM is doing organizationally in America and overseas one can draw their own conclusions.   However, there is one conclusion that can be drawn that may not be as obvious as others but needs to be pointed out nonetheless. The CHM has clearly lost the full measure of the social conscience that gripped our forefathers.  Our Methodist holiness forefathers filled their cities and towns with acts of mercy.  John Wesley, it is estimated, gave over 30,000 pounds (Over $4,000,000 in today’s value) to other people during his life.  He opened the first free dispensary in England for medical aid to the poor.  He organized a society to aid strangers in need.  He supported education for the poor, opposed the slave trade, and encouraged prison reform.  Succeeding Methodist battled slavery, alcohol, ignorance, poverty, gambling, racism, political corruption, abortion and sexual degradation. Phoebe Palmer, known for the Tuesday Meeting for the promotion of holiness, may have done some of her best work through her Five Points Mission. Many of the churches among the Nazarenes and the Pilgrim Holiness had their origins as rescue missions. Many, if not most, of the early Bible Schools located in large cities so they would be near those who needed help in both soul and body.  Martin Wells Knapp pushed God’s Bible School to the forefront of the “soup, soap and salvation” work in Cincinnati.   Lela McConnell saw the need outside the cities and carried the same passion for acts of mercy to the Appalachian poor in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.  As Larry Smith would say in reference to our history, “we Wesleyans have punched our holes in the darkness.”

Reasons or Excuses?

            It would be simplistic and irresponsible not to acknowledge the many problems associated with undertaking many of these ministries.  For example, the regulatory role of government through federal and state agencies has made it next to impossible for small denominations or churches to operate any type of facility for those who need both Christian compassion and professional care.  Furthermore, government’s involvement in the whole arena of care for the needy has created such a “welfare culture” that it has taken the heart out of many who might otherwise be involved in helping the less fortunate.  They are turned off by a generation of poor who not only expect help but demand it.  However, this is not sufficient reason to face our communities with a closed fist.

There is also a very real danger that we allow social concern to become an end in itself.  Our attempts to help society will not make a society with better men.  It is the power of the gospel that changes hearts thereby making better men who will in turn make better societies. On the occasion of William Booth’s 80th birthday he wrote to his officers these words, “but while you strive to deliver them from their temporal distresses, and endeavor to rescue them from the causes that have led to their unfortunate condition, you must seek, above all, to turn their miseries to good account by making them help the salvation of their souls and their deliverance from the wrath to come. It will be a very small reward for all your toils if, after bringing them into condition of well-being here, they perish hereafter”.

Many have sought to alleviate the sufferings of someone in need only to find they had been duped by a professional con artist. I truly understand this dilemma. Since I travel a lot I am often asked for help with fuel when I stop at a service station.  Of course I am skeptical, but since I have no way of knowing if the need is real or not I often help (I do so by putting fuel in their tank and never money in their pocket). I do not believe we should foolishly give money away or subsidize laziness, addictions or sin.  But I believe it is better to help a hundred fakes than to close my heart to humanity and end up failing to help the one truly in need.

You may excuse yourself from helping others by claiming you can’t find any real needs or that you are too poor yourself to help someone else. You may not feel wealthy or think you are but if you have running water, a shelter over your head, clothes to wear, food to eat, and some means of transportation (public or private) you are in the top 15 percent of the world’s people of wealth.  It has been my experience that those with less means are generally more willing to help than those with great means.  The same is true with churches. Generosity is not controlled by ones bank account but by ones heart! Rich churches who neglect the poor are not the communities of God just as rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God!

What can we do?

First, start with becoming a Christian who takes the Bible seriously!  Our lives should be a living witness against a worldly church that has become self-satisfied with its affluence and privileged position.  We should be a living reproach to the nominal Christian who cares more about the number of shopping days left until Christmas than he does about the poor.  We should simplify our lives so that we can share with those who truly need our help both in our own community and around the world!

          Second, care enough to be informed.  Educate yourself about global issues such as preventable disease, clean water, hunger, sex trafficking, the plight of the unborn and education. Find out what is happening in your own sphere of influence and do something about it.  Commit to practicing the law of love. Develop a systematic approach to helping others that follows the Biblical admonition to: care first for one’s own family (1 Tim 5:8), then fellow believers (Gal. 6:10), and then to every human being possible (Gal 6:10; James 1:27-2:26; cf. Rom. 13:1-10).

Third, give your financial support systematically and thoughtfully not just emotionally. It should be noted that the early church used great care in discerning who should receive their support. For example, a widow was to be put on a list for permanent, life-time support only if she met certain criteria. Paul sets these down clearly in I Timothy 5:3-6: she must be at least 60 years old, “left alone” without family or presumably any other means of support, a woman of prayer, married only once, and a reputation for good works, among other things. In contrast, Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to withhold their social care to those unwilling but able to work: “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (II Thess. 3:6-15).  Giving should always be done in a way that doesn’t support bad behavior or subsidize addictive habits or close the door for the gospel.  Give wisely but give. This also includes being wise in your giving to mission organizations and agencies that care for orphans and feed the hungry. Do some investigation into any organization that you plan to support.  Ask for a public audit or go online and read the audit.  Ask how much of your money actually goes to the need and how much stays in the local office for administrative overhead.  If no answer is forthcoming, find another organization that will give answers.  Legitimate ministries are more than willing to share any information that will help you give confidently and generously.

Fourth, pray.  The giving of your time and treasure may be small but the offering up of your prayers can be large! We cannot take up every kind of injustice or concern in the world – to even try to do so would do us in.  But we can enter the arena of social concern on the wings of prayer.  Prayer is necessary if the forces of darkness and the demonic principalities that are behind the institutional structures that are responsible for so much poverty and suffering are to be defeated.

Everett Hale said, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do”.  I cannot cut the ropes that bind the little girls of Thailand as they wait to be sold to some vile monster but I can pressure my government to get involved, support the organizations that do and be faithful in my prayers to defeat the demonic forces that hold this corrupt system in place.  I can’t save every child that dies in the Sudan but I can support a missionary who braves the risk of working there. I can’t alleviate all the suffering in Cincinnati or even all that is found on the street where I live, but there are some things I can and must do!  I will probably never feel that what I did was quite enough even though it was my best. I may always feel a little skeptical as to whether they really needed my help or truly appreciated my efforts.  But I am always comforted and motivated by these words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).

The Church – A Community of Faith

– Winter 2011

The Church – A Community of Faith

America is blessed with a lot of churches.  Some sit astride prominent street corners proudly displaying their architectural glory while others are tucked away indiscreetly between a used shoe store and a day old bakery in a weary strip mall on the tired side of town.  Some have one word names like “Grace.”  Others have names so long that you can’t say the full name without stopping to breathe. Most have the stereotypical church look, while others resemble something between a cinema and a warehouse.  It is not, however, the architect they display, the appellation they wear, or the affiliations they boast that makes them a church.

The New Testament doesn’t provide a simple concise definition of the Church other than what is found in the meaning of the Greek word for Church (ekklesia) which is “the called out ones.”   What it does provide is long narratives portraying the Church in action, colorful word pictures of what the church is like, specific duties that the Church should fulfill, doctrinal standards that the Church should teach and prophetic insights of how the Church can stray from the path and lose its way.

History has taught us that the Church needs periods of reformation and times of revival to keep it doctrinally sound, morally pure and faithful to its calling. At other times, the Church needs change that is less radical and might be described as a course correction.  These internal corrections need to be made because the Church has a hard time keeping its balance.    Certain imbalances can be attributed to the peculiarities of leadership.  Others are derived from simply over-emphasizing one truth to the neglect of other balancing truths. The worse imbalances, however, grow out of the fertile soil of fear. When the church and its leaders do what they do or fail to do what they should do out of fear, the church will inevitably suffer from some imbalance.

The Call to the Conservative Holiness Movement, by its very nature, is a challenge to the CHM to address particular areas of weakness or failure. The call is not designed to enumerate all the good things that could be said about the CHM.  Article III of the call speaks to the CHM’s community of faith and addresses some of the imbalances in the way the CHM views its own community of faith and the community of faith at large.  I think it is important to note that even though these imbalances are real and need addressed, the average conservative holiness church is a wonderful place to worship.  In my opinion, they still offer one of the best environments available to raise a family; hear the Word of God fearlessly proclaimed; feel conviction for sin while at the same time find the power of grace; hear fervent praying; sense the moving of God’s Spirit; worship with people who are serious about everyday holiness; and find an environment that truly helps one to keep his feet on the narrow path that leads to life eternal!

Nevertheless, the CHM does have a significant imbalance in the way it views its own differing communities of faith as well as how it views the larger community of faith.  The Movement at large and the various denominations within suffer from a culture of suspicion toward those who do not share their particularities.  They also suffer from a certain insularity that robs them of the insight, wisdom and balance that could be derived from the larger Christian community.  This condition varies in degree from denomination to denomination and from church to church, but it is present and needs to be honestly confronted and openly addressed.

A Culture of Suspicion

The CHM highly values the Biblical call to separation from the world.  As appropriate and good as this may be, inherent in any serious commitment to “Biblical separation” is the temptation to be suspicious of others who may have a lesser degree or even a greater degree of separation that we do.  Just as the call to holy living can veer off the path into perfectionism, the call to separation from the world can veer off the path into isolationism – an isolation that breeds a carnal suspicion of anyone and everyone that doesn’t see it like I do or share my particular version of how the faithful ought to manifest their faith. This has been a perennial bane for the CHM.   Rev. Tom Reed says this kind of suspicion has caused us to “play God – determining who is or is not a Christian based on the way we see things.”  Clearly if this suspicion is left unchecked, it will lead to a spirit of judging and condemnation of the larger community of faith as well as to divisions within our own CHM family.  Even now many groups within the CHM will not use a speaker from another group within the CHM because of suspicion and fear. Conservative leaders could use their influence and voice to help remedy this disease with a cure that doesn’t require anyone to compromise their corporate values or personal convictions.  It only requires a renewed understanding and commitment to the teachings of I Cor. 8-10 and Rom. 14.  Add to that a fresh supply of the “love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” and we can be well on our way to removing the ethos of suspicion and division among us.

A Detachment from the Larger Christian Community

In I Cor. 12 Paul reminds us that the Church is a body made up of many different members; each contributing something that the other members cannot give.  This has an application to both the local body and to the larger body of Christ.  It seems to me that God has given the various traditions of the Christian Church particular insights into truth and practice that He has not given in the same degree to all.  He must expect us to learn from one another.  I have learned much about prayer by reading from both Catholic and Evangelical writers.  I have   been immeasurably enriched by the writings and teachings of evangelicals like C. S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Ravi Zacharias and Chuck Colson.  The expository preaching and teaching of men like John MacArthur, David Jeremiah and Howard Hendricks have added great value to the life of the whole Church and challenged others to take the Scriptures more seriously.  The work of William Booth, Mother Teresa and Erlo Stegen have challenged me to the core of my spiritual being to be mindful of the downtrodden and disenfranchised among us.  Where would America’s families be today without the ministry of James Dobson?  Personally, no one has challenged me more in the area of spiritual intimacy and holiness than Dennis Kinlaw and John Oswalt.

It must be noted that not a single name mentioned above identifies with the CHM.  Yet each one of them has spoken powerfully into my life and the lives of many conservative holiness people.  In preparation for writing this article I spoke with the Rev. Tom Reed, who is an elder statesman within the CHM.  He shared with me a list of men outside our tradition who have been used of God to advance his own spiritual life.  He mentioned: H.A. Ironsides (a former pastor of Moody church), A.W. Tozer (he visited his church often on Sunday evenings), Paul Rees, Vance Havner, S. M. Lockridge and Howard Hendricks.  He added this insightful comment, “these were not holiness men but they were holy men and I refuse to write them off just because they see some things differently than me”.

The CHM has tended to isolate themselves from these “outside” voices.  They fear that they might be a corruptive or a persuasive influence, or even worse, that if we allow anyone to minister to us that does not fully share all our values we have somehow compromised and demeaned those values.  Some of this kind of thinking grows out of simple fear.  In other cases I think it is because we have failed to distinguish between a Romans 14 category issue (opinions, preferences, interpretations, etc…) and a Galatians 1 category issue (false doctrine or heresy) and have treated all outside voices as if they were in the Galatians 1 category.  Mature leaders should be more discerning than this. I know many laymen who already exercise this kind of discernment by means of radio, books, CD’s and DVD’s that they buy and listen to.

Let me clear, I am not advocating an open door policy on “outside voices”.  I am certainly not encouraging local churches to open up their pulpits to men and women from other traditions.  What I am suggesting is that in our large conventions, conferences and forums we need to occasionally hear what our brothers and sisters outside the CHM have to say to us. God is working powerfully in His world through many of these choice servants. There are many outside our little circle who are far outstripping us in their passion for the lost, their zeal for the disenfranchised, their insight into scripture and their love for holiness. To hear what they are doing, to be challenged by their successes and to learn from their insight will not and does not diminish my love for my Zion nor make me want to jettison my spiritual tradition and values!  It simply makes me a better servant of the Lord!

We Have Something to Offer the Church

The sword of isolation cuts two ways.  We are cut off from what the larger Christian community can give us and the larger Christian community is cut off from what we can bring to it. The CHM is the beneficiary of hundreds of years of rich holiness heritage.  We have grown up embracing and experiencing truths that some in the body of Christ will never know or experience. We have some preachers who are as capable and anointed as any out there anywhere.  Our emphasis on personal transformation, purity of heart, perfect love, real character development, growth in grace and freedom from the power of sin are emphasis that are needed by the larger body of Christ!  Surely what God has freely bestowed on us we ought to freely share with others!

My plea is not for some silly, stupid ecumenicalism!  It is a simple plea for us to both reap and share the bounty of spiritual riches that are ours in Christ and found within the various members of His Body – including our own.  The late H. E. Schmul, one of the greatest conservative holiness statesmen I ever knew, use to lead us in singing, “I don’t care what church you belong to, Just as long as for Calvary you stand.  Just as long as your heart beats with my heart, You’re my brother, so give me your hand”.  Somebody strike the tune and let’s sing it again!