Notes scribbled on the back of a church bulletin

Thoughts are like birds that circle far overhead, and when they swoop down close enough to touch, you have to grab a few silky feathers before they vanish into the atmosphere.

I won’t tell you where I was when the thoughts came circling, but I rummaged through my purse and found a pencil and a church bulletin. These thoughts had often come close before, and now was the time to capture a few of them. Pardon my unpolished offering, but I do not have time to write a comprehensive essay.

  • Four parts of the salvation process (leaving the old life for a new life in Christ): repentance, baptism, filling of the Holy Spirit, and induction into God’s church.
  • I have never seen a church group emphasize each of the four components equally. Most of my experience has been an emphasis on repentance with weakness in the other areas. (Baptism is symbolic, filling of the Holy Spirit is nebulous, being part of a polarized local church group yields a fuzzy view of God’s church as a whole.) But repentance is a very good start. It’s impossible to get anywhere worthwhile without that. Where I am right now I’m experiencing more of an emphasis on God’s church, which I’m enjoying!
  • What then? Don’t defend an incomplete understanding or practice, ignoring that Scripture has more to say on the subject. For instance, when I hear teaching on the symbolism of baptism, I feel ill. Not because symbolism doesn’t exist–the Bible is rich with symbolism–but because that is the only aspect of baptism that is taught in too many churches. (Don’t believe me that baptism isn’t merely symbolic? Look up all the verses in the Bible about baptism and see for yourself.) I wrote about baptism here, but there is much I don’t yet understand.
  • Keep searching to become more Biblical, instead of spending all your time defending the little you know. Look past the church confessions of faith to what the Bible really says. If it’s a good confession, it can stand up to some scrutiny. Definitely don’t write a theological essay using a church confession as the primary authority.
  • At the same time, don’t let imperfections within the church hold you back from making disciples. While we don’t want to be a slave to a man-made system, we can often work within imperfect systems to spread the good news of Jesus. Will is doing this by mentoring a teenage boy who is going through confirmation. Even though we hold to believer’s baptism rather than infant baptism, disciple-making is always appropriate.
  • Joining hands with God’s church and working together as a whole could help us flesh out the parts of the Bible we don’t understand well.

And that filled up the back of my bulletin. What thoughts are flitting through your mind as you read these notes?

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