Let me start off by laying my cards on the table up front. I believe the answer to the question I ask in the title is a definite no. No, I do not believe Church Repent Projects at local churches, especially with big abortion themed signs, are biblically sound practices. I will labor by the grace of God to prove that with scripture and what I hope is sound reason.
WHAT I'M NOT SAYING
Let me next be clear on what this is not. This is not a bombastic screed against AHA or even the Church Repent Project as a whole. If you are looking to find an article from an AHA hater, emotionally blasting them and calling them a cult, you won’t find that here.
THE GREAT GOOD AHA HAS DONE AND IS DOING
In fact, much of the work being done now in the United States, to the glory of God in the realm of gospel based outreach to those seeking abortion, is because of, or as a result of the influence of AHA. I believe God has and is using them to wake up the church in America to our need to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. If you want to see abortion abolished and criminalized here in America, you would be well served to examine much of the excellent information and resources available at: www.abolishhumanabortion.com
If you have seen or heard of strong bills being proposed in your state seeking to abolish abortion completely in your state. Bills that would treat it as the crime of murder God tells us it is in the Bible. A crime the framers of our U.S. Constitution would undoubtedly agree with. You can be assured it was either started or strongly promoted by Bible believing Christians in AHA.
I applaud and join in on many of the same fronts as AHA. I do so because God has used folks in AHA to help disciple and bless me. Much of my personal repentance and growing abortion evangelism and interest in legislative activity is due to God working in me through AHA. AHA folks are on the frontline like few others in all realms of the fight against abortion.
No matter where you come out after reading this article, it is not my intention that you come out angry at or seeking to further distance yourself from AHA folks. I believe you may indeed be able to learn much from them.
So, please pray for God to move on folks in AHA in this one area. I think they err here to the hurt of much of the good work they are doing for the glory of God, the good of His people and for the cause of lost souls and babies in danger of daily imminent death. May God move to strengthen the work of AHA and bring unity in His Church through this, not more division.
DOES THE CHURCH NEED TO REPENT?
I do firmly believe that The Church, especially here in the United States of America, has been sinfully apathetic in regards to the plight of our unborn neighbors we’ve been called to love as ourselves. Above all we’ve failed to seek to glorify God in all we do in this life and death ministry.
I also believe the mass majority of the action, politically and in other social venues, from rallies and action groups to pregnancy centers to abortion clinics, has been polluted by unbiblical pragmatism and compromise for years.
The Church as a whole in America, and probably the mass majority of individual local churches are in need of serious repentance. I do not excuse myself from that equation either. The Church needs much repentance.
I am not here to defend apathetic churches. I am here to specifically critique the practice of Church Repent Projects at local churches. I will focus on showing that in no biblical area does AHA have a legitimate reason to do these projects. I am not here saying The Church in America has no need to repent.
WHAT A CHURCH REPENT PROJECT MIGHT LOOK LIKE
So let’s start with a basic explanation of what a Church Repent Project might look like at a local church.
AHA Abolitionists sometimes go to what they believe are true Christian churches with large signs speaking of, or even depicting fetal development, abortion, or even the dead babies after an abortion. Other signs may have slogans or scripture on them. They go there with the intent to call the local church to repent of abortion apathy and to join them in abortion evangelism and other action.
They may or may not talk with the Elders at the local church they are exhorting prior to carrying out their exhortation. If AHA folks are spoken to by the local church Elders or their representatives and are asked to leave, in most cases they will not. For the most part they do not step onto the local church property so there is no legal grounds for law enforcement to intervene.
During their time at the local church AHA folks will try to call folks over to talk to them about the issue. They may try to get local church folks to at least look at their signs or answer questions about them from afar.
This is just a very brief and cursory explanation of what you might see or encounter when AHA folks decide to call a local church to repentance.
ON TO THE CRITIQUE
I do not believe that scripture, in all the places it discusses New Testament Church structure and function, gives example of anyone except the Lord Himself or His Apostles, calling entire local churches to repent.
I also see no explicit(or even implicit)teaching regarding professing Christians from other churches standing outside another church, calling for that church to corporately repent in any specific area of ministry that is lacking.
In the past I’ve looked at different AHA folks arguments and interacted with them through conversation and video as well as written correspondence. I recently even agreed to a friendly chat online to debate the issue as it were, with some AHA folks. That should take place soon.
ARTICLES AND RESOURCES I WILL DRAW FROM
While I’ve looked at various articles on top of the aforementioned interactions, I thought I’d revisit maybe the most thorough issue by issue apologetic for the Church Repent project at local churches. The articles are called, “(Church) Repent is not a Dirty Word” parts 1 and 2 by John Andrew Reasoner. You can find part 1 of John's article below, and find the link to part two in that page. https://kingdomandabolition.com/2017/03/04/church-repent-isnt-a-dirty-word-part-one/
I will also reference AHA's Church Repent web page at www.churchrepent.com
Let me start off by saying overall I appreciated John's tone and that he goes in depth into the specific issue I’m addressing. He comes from originally a position very similar to mine now.
I also want to say right off the bat here, that I am one of the folks he addresses in his articles. Like I mentioned above, I am someone who does not oppose the entire Church Repent Project. I simply stand opposed to the project when directed against local, confessing, biblically orthodox churches.
I also agree that if my or anyone’s reasons were(and undoubtedly some people's sadly are)some of the arguments he lists, it would be pretty silly.
Again, I hope to clearly lay out why I stand opposed to the project at local churches, in what I think is a biblically sound way. Part of my doing that will be where I try to show some places where I don’t think John is either making his point, or maybe even just missing it.
Before I get started though let me quote John where I think I can agree totally with him:
“I commend any abolitionist who fervently disagrees with me on this issue yet refuses to allow that disagreement to bring hatred and division between us.”
Let me start off with another quote from John that I also agree with:
“At the foundation of any ethical call to repent addressed to believers (or anyone really) is the question of whether or not the Church as a whole, specific assemblies, or individuals are truly guilty. Is the call to repent ethically and judicially justifiable?”
PRIMARY ISSUES TO ADDRESS
Now, John's article, the Church Repent page and my responses to them, are dealing primarily with calling individual local churches to repentance, and whether that specific call to repentance is biblically justifiable. Obviously I don’t think it is.
I see this as primarily an ecclesiological issue. An ecclesiological issue dealing with several issues within that issue. Some primary ones are authority with responsibility, knowledge, and wisdom.
THE ISSUES OF AUTHORITY AND KNOWLEDGE
I want to address the authority issue first. I think it is clear and John’s quote is clear, that if the call to repent isn’t justified, nobody has grounds to call any person or entity to repentance.
Now, even if AHA has authority to call churches to repentance, they must then have knowledge with which to criticize the church’s wrong beliefs and actions.
In short, if AHA has something to criticize a local church for, the burden of proof is on them. I will quote John again from his article:
“If the critics’ contention is with a specific means of communicating the ideas, as opposed to the ideas, it should be made clear that the onus is on the critics to show from Scripture why that tactic is unlawful.”
This quote went on to apply this to people who criticize the use of large signs in Church Repent projects. Yet, by this principle John promotes, it is AHA that must first prove that the local churches they exhort are using tactics to address abortion that are unlawful.
This of course goes again to knowledge.
Do the AHA folks have specific knowledge of all churches they criticize and call to repent? So, first it would seem that AHA must at least gain some first hand knowledge from the church as to what their beliefs about abortion are. Also, before criticizing and calling for repentance shouldn’t they also have some details about what the church believes they should do in light of what they believe?
Well actually they do give some insight there. This is directly from the www.churchrepent.com website:
“We have specific things in mind when we decide to exhort a local church. Here are the general criteria we use to decide which churches in our culture to exhort to love and good deeds regarding the sin of abortion apathy. In general, we would think it to be a good thing to exhort a church that:
1. Adopts a pro-life position but does not state this boldly or publicly.
2. Would check a “pro-life” box on a survey or ballot, support a pro-life option, but takes no action against abortion.
3. Discourages members in good standing from taking action against abortion under the covering and approval of Church leadership.
4. Encourages members to minimize the seriousness of the sin of abortion. (Example: Abortion is just another old sin like gossip or lying).
5. Does not practice any formal church discipline on unrepentant abortion rights advocate, abortion practitioners, and those who have chosen to murder their children by an abortion.
6. Possesses the financial ability and number of people able to seriously challenge the culture of death and is not otherwise engaged in works of pure and undefiled religion (James 1:27) which prohibit their taking up the cause of abolition themselves.
7. Brushes aside, rejects, or even opposes multiple attempts to bring the church to a greater awareness of the sin of abortion and their apathy in dealing with it to the extent that the word of God demands.”
So, from looking at that list, we should expect that AHA folks have knowledge that the church they’re doing an exhortation of meet at least some of the criteria from this list. That would be reasonable right?
Please note, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing that things on this list are not present in local churches or that they shouldn’t be addressed. I just want to be clear AHA believes these are essential to doing exhortations.
So do all AHA folks do this consistently? From my personal conversations with AHA folks and from video I’ve seen, they do not.
These are important issues and things we as Christians should never take for granted. Their very site says they should make these evaluations, but some AHA folks do not agree or act in accordance with this. It seems clear to me that the AHA folks organizing and placing guidelines should either change them or seek to encourage their adherence.
I recognize they cannot make people follow them, but they can renounce any action outside of them as illegitimate projects. I have not seen this happen. It surely isn’t noted on their website.
I also don’t see these guidelines as seemingly necessary from John’s point of view from his articles either.
John does talk a lot about how to call people to repentance though. Let’s look at some of his statements.
“Although grand and general calls for the evangelical church to repent are good and necessary, they are also easy to ignore. Whether it is David Platt, Paul Washer, or Francis Schaeffer calling on the Church to repent, too often we never consider our own fellowships and our own lives. We think of someone else.”
I don’t want to be the grammar police. I know I’m not an English major. My punctuation and grammar is often atrocious! But I do want to point out an important point muddled by the statement made here, “too often we never consider our own fellowships and our own lives. We think of someone else.”
I only point this out because muddle is not good when we’re dealing with issues like authority and knowledge. This statement either means general calls for repentance too often fail to bring it about. Or it means they never bring it about.
The sentence fragment, “too often we never” conveys two opposing views. “Too often” and “never”. Both are judgment calls. If it is “too often”, how much is that? If it is “never”, then he surely can’t quantify that. I’ll believe he means the unquantified “too often”. Which means he’s made an unquantified and vague claim about a practice he says provides the same kind of results.
Now here John gets pretty specific about specificity(I just thought it would be fun to say that!).
“Ambiguity is met with the shrugging off of responsibility. Specificity confronts. Specificity is difficult to dodge. You can think of this as a sort of spiritual diffusion of responsibility. A diffusion of responsibility is a sociopsychological phenomenon wherein individuals fail to take responsibility because of a perception that others will take responsibility for them. When all of Christendom receives an exhortation, it becomes psychologically easy for Christians to believe that the extortion was meant for others.”
This line of thought lines up with the Church Repent website and the logic of making knowledge claims, criticism, and calls to repentance, with a specific foundation.
But does this logic hold through John's articles? I argue that it does not. I believe he just puts all the specifics together to make the same point that all are guilty. He even just says that.
Which of course derails the need for knowledge of individual churches beliefs and activities prior to exhorting them. I mean if you can know something for sure by assuming it, just assume, say you know it's true, and get to exhorting! Look here at these two quotes to see what I'm getting at.
“Although the American Church bears a weight of responsibility, and therefore, guilt for the widespread sin and bloodshed in our communities, it is good to say that Heritage Grace Community Church is guilty. It is good to say that Grace Community Church is guilty. Trinity Baptist is guilty. Mercy Seat Christian Church is guilty. Christ Church is guilty. Apologia Church is guilty. Door of Hope is guilty. WE are guilty.”
“I call on the Church to repent. I call on your local assembly to repent. I call on YOU to repent. Because I love you.”
As you read these quotes, in the end is anyone left out? In listing Apologia Church who has started the big anti abortion campaign called "End Abortion Now"(which I also recommend checking out and supporting at www.endabortionnow.com) and even John's own church, Door of Hope, is he not making the case that every single church could be on this list regardless of their beliefs and activities regarding abortion?
Does this not just culminate into another general, Church wide call to repentance just using more words?
You see, it is necessary really to lump everyone together if you feel every church is worthy of criticism and in need of a call to repentance.
Even more important is that John makes truth claims that neither he, nor any other AHA person I can find backs up with the scriptural authority to do so. He says:
“It is good to say that Grace Community Church(and any other church)is guilty….”
As an aside, do we see that type of language directed by just any professing Christian to local churches in the Bible? Or even in Church history? Just because they are churches? I don't think so. Later on in this article I'll get to what the Bible does show us(Oh it's a WDJD moment! Ahh Ray Comfort memories!).
Now it is John’s and other AHA folks assertion that it is “good” to say that specific churches are “guilty” of all the things their websites seven point list details.
Again, I will assert that without authority to do so, it is not good. Even if the proper level of knowledge is obtained. But despite guidelines their own page sets up, testimony from AHA folks who do otherwise, and John’s paper saying any church is good to call guilty, I posit AHA believes specific knowledge is at best preferred, but not necessary.
Now, I plan to flesh out the authority issue. Again this issue is key. Everything stands or falls on authority. If you don’t have authority you have no say.
A while back my friend and I were at Planned Parenthood ministering when a young man attacked my friend and tried to rip his amp off him. I had a recent shoulder surgery and couldn’t safely use my other hand to grab him.
So I was tugging him off my friend with one arm and wasn’t getting anywhere. I eventually told him I was law enforcement. This caused him to immediately slack his tugging on my friend. He then told me he wanted to see ID. I told him if he would hold still I would get it for him. When I let him go he fell over and as I was reaching for my ID he ran away.
Just assertion of my authority brought change. But it wasn’t until I was presenting the sign of authority that he decided he was surely in the wrong. Proof of authority is important.
It is not a false appeal to authority for an Elder of a local church to ask an AHA Abolitionist what scriptural authority they have to call their local church, under the care of biblical Elders to repentance? In fact it is perfectly reasonable.
SO LET'S GET INTO THE BIBLE!
So where do we find an understanding about who has authority to call a church to repent? Obviously Jesus does. He’s the Head of the church. He’s the Chief Shepherd. His word makes abundantly clear He has all authority in heaven and on earth.
Now as Protestants we reject the papacy. So, does scripture tell us anyone else has special authority over the Church universal? Yes, the Apostles did. The New Testament we get primarily from Apostolic writing, inspired by God, makes that clear. They also exercised authority over individual and groups of churches. However, I personally believe there are no more Apostles. I assume you agree.
If not and you claim Apostolic or some other form of Prophetic authority from God, we have other big issues to address. I will continue on the assumption that that is not the case with at least most folks doing AHA Church Repent Projects.
So, is there anyone else that has authority for local churches prescribed by God through His word? I believe there is. The local church Elders.
Christ is the head of the Church Universal(Eph. 5:23). In His grace He has set up little “heads” in local churches for their good. In 1 Cor. 11-14 Paul has a lot to say about orderly function of local churches. Look here at 1 Cor. 12:21-26:
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body,giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Now I believe this text is a both/and text. Meaning it holds truth for the universal and local church. But, it is being primarily shared in this context for local churches to learn how they are to minister. Obviously Christ, The Head of the Church Universal would not say He had no need of a foot. It goes without saying His very attributes make clear He needs no other part of His body. We are there grafted in by grace and love, not His needing us.
Yet, local “heads” are needed for local church bodies. Even though little "heads" can be confused, get "swollen", or even be flat out wrong, and thus need reminding of the necessity of other parts of the body they have in their care. Placed under them by The Head, Jesus Christ, for mutual correction and upbuilding in love.
In 2 Timothy 4:1-2 Paul commands young Elder Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
This is clearly by context speaking of Timothy doing this with Christians. Christians in a local Church or even Churches He leads.
And how is it Elder’s are to lead? As commanded by Christ. In John 21:15-17, Jesus tells Peter what He wants him to do:
““Feed my lambs.”...“Tend my sheep”...“Feed my sheep”.
In short, Jesus wanted Peter to shepherd His sheep. Peter no doubt reflected on this when he exhorted fellow Elders.
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Pet. 5:1-4
Christ is the authoritative Head over the Universal Church and every local church, and cares for us as the loving and willing Chief Shepherd. Scripture clearly teaches us that there are also little heads and little shepherds. These are what we commonly call Elders and/or Pastors. They have authority from God and a responsibility to God to lead His people and to care for them.
We could go over lots more scripture, and will later, but I think for now we have a great picture of the clear authority of Elders in the local church.
If you need to re read the passages above to see what they are responsible to do, please do. It is no insignificant task.
Yet, while we’ve looked at the authority they have and the responsibility they have to do these things, we have not looked closely at what that responsibility to God entails. Like Uncle Ben said: “With great power comes great responsibility!” - Ben Parker
But seriously, what great power there is in the Word of God! Untold masses of people have been deceived(albeit willfully) and led away into cults and false teaching from religious hacks and charlatans!
Matthew chapter seven and Jude may be the most frightful anywhere in the Bible! Woe to false prophets, false teachers, and their followers!
However, it is not just a warning for the heretics. All who wear the mantle of Bible teacher must be diligent to teach rightly as they will face stricter judgment. How much more the Elder whose primary ministry is one of prayer, preaching, and teaching the word(James 3:1, Acts 6:4)?
Peter, as we saw above, spoke to authority and a reward for being a good under shepherd. Yet the writer of Hebrews adds solemn warning for Elders in the church.
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Heb. 13:17
Friends, do you feel the weight of that? Elders have to give an account to God not only for themselves, but also for the flock in their care!
On top of that they are more open to public rebuke than the rest of the flock due to their position as teachers who lead by what they teach from God’s word. Even Peter himself when his actions were teaching contra what he had previously taught about the gentiles.
Paul rebuked him publicly(Gal. 2:11)! Paul makes it clear that this was not an isolated, inter Apostolic issue only either. If you teach publicly you are open to, and should expect, public rebuke when you teach wrongly. He instructs the young Elder Timothy on how all Elders are to receive special treatment, both positive and negative.
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” 1 Tim. 5:17-20
When Elders rule well double honor is due. Especially if they labor in preaching and teaching. Neither an Elder or any member of a local church(let alone a professing Christian from the outside who may know little or nothing about them) should receive or make slanderous charges against an Elder without multiple witnesses. But when an Elder persists in sinful activity, He is to be rebuked openly, in such a way that other Elders will be fearful to do likewise!
That it is spoken of as being done in front of all, lends credence to the idea that it is done in front of all present at a local church. Obviously not in front of the entire Church Universal.
Now, please notice what we've seen about the realms of authority and responsibility regarding Elders in a local church. Knowledge of the Elders of their flock and likewise the knowledge of their flock of their Elders, is essential to proper function of the local body of Christ.
I believe it is very clear that the special relationship of authority with responsibility, coupled with knowledge of the parties involved, is essential to orderly local church issues being addressed across the board. Maybe none more so than in exhorting the church to repent of certain areas of shortfall or outright sin.
Now, can I give you an example of a biblical call to repentance of a local church that embodies these elements of authority and knowledge? Yes. A perfect example at that.
Let’s look at when Christ speaks to His churches. I will post all of Revelation chapters two and three so that you can see what Christ says to all seven of the churches he speaks to.
2:1.“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not,and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life,which is in the paradise of God.’
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9 “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practicesexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come.26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
3:1. “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. vI will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that dI have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear,let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ 14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Now, obviously we could get into a huge study on all that Christ deals with in speaking to these seven churches. However, we will keep our focus here narrow.
Notice this key issue right from the start. Even when Christ chose to speak to individual churches, He chose to speak through His Apostle and Elders!(While there may be some argument a very common belief is that the "angels" Jesus directs John to deliver the message to, are the Elders at these churches. History tells us John in fact was an overseer of all these churches.)
When Christ speaks to His churches it is with absolute authority and perfect knowledge! The first two verses of chapter two establish this without fail.
As you read, see how he has tailored messages for each and every church. Just a cursory glance tells us this general information.
Four of the seven churches He has both praise and exhortation to repentance for. Two of the churches He has nothing but praise and encouragement for. Finally one he has nothing but rebuke and strong warning for. Each individual church received the tailor made message God wanted them to have.
Now, we've examined the role of the Elders in their local church. We've seen their role as little heads appointed by Christ. We've also seen their role as under shepherds. Both as shadows and a reflection of Christ to their local church.
While Christ has perfect knowledge and complete authority, Elders have incomplete but special knowledge of the flock in their care and authority to teach and lead by their firm grasp and adherence to God’s authoritative Word.
Now, let’s contrast that with the position of the AHA abolitionist(s) who’ve come to a local church to call them to repentance of their abortion apathy. We don’t even have to ask if they have knowledge like Christ. Yet we can be pretty sure they do not even have knowledge of a visitor at that church, let alone a member, and certainly not of an Elder there.
Just like an Elder asking for their authority so it is reasonable for the Elder to ask them, what knowledge do you have about this church that makes you think any criticism you have is any more than speculation or heresay?
But let’s go back one more time to the all important question of authority. The authority of the Elders there are derived through God placing them in authority over and in responsibility to the flock there and ultimately to Himself.
Above that, it is authority infused with knowledge of the flock and love. They are not there by compulsion or lording over their authority. They wield authority in righteous fear of the God who holds them to a higher level of accountability to Him, due to their role as primary teachers of God's word.
Here’s a question to think on too. Do you think that there was really no sin in the two churches who received no call to repent from Jesus? I don’t think anyone reading this subscribes to the false teaching of sinless perfectionism. So, undoubtedly Jesus could easily have called them to repentance for any number of things.
Undoubtedly child sacrifice and even abortion was taking place at that time in their culture. Yet, Jesus said nothing of it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
So where does that leave you as the reader? Who has the authority to call local churches to repentance? On one hand it seems you have clear biblical foundation for Jesus, Apostles, and Elders of local churches having authority to call them to repentance. Elders doing so based on special authority with responsibility from God through His Word, and working knowledge of their flock.
On the other hand you have AHA abolitionists whose stance is: “It’s good to call (insert local church name here) to repent.” They do it based on a biblical authority I don’t see, and couldn't see as reasonable even if they did try to cobble one together. Because if your authority leads you to call specific churches to repentance without knowledge, or responsibility to them or more so to God, then I can’t see how that authority could be biblical.
So, do I think there is a biblical way to go about reaching people at local churches in line with the Church Repent Project? Of course!
John even gives some great ideas(Minus of course using big signs and calling local churches to repentance):
“I don’t believe using signs is always the best tactic. They can be helpful, but they can also be hurtful. Very often sending an email or writing a letter is a better option. Perhaps just offering to buy an elder a coffee or a beer (if he’s Presbyterian or Lutheran) would be more effective. Remember that holding signs is just one tactic out of many and that tactics should be employed with wisdom and forethought.”
Those other ideas are good ideas. I also think standing with signs on a road where possibly several church members from several churches will pass you is a great idea too. Going to Christian concerts or festivals are other great places you could go. There are lots of options. These options are sound because they don’t have you outside a specific church, unbiblically calling a whole church, under biblical Elders, to repentance.
Even if it is an email or sit down meal or coffee or beer, I can only assume there will be some questioning and desire for two way communication. Those scenarios won’t be where the AHA abolitionist says to the Elder or even church member: “I’ve asked you here today so I can tell you you need to repent of abortion apathy!” These instead are a time of fellowship with a fellow saint or saints and fact gathering meetings to see if a call to repentance is even necessary.
If it is necessary a believer can of course always call a fellow believer to repent of admitted sin or error. If through conversation the AHA Abolitionist hears confession from an Elder that he believes His church is sinfully apathetic towards abortion, or in anyway needs to improve in the area, counsel from a well informed and loving brother or sister from AHA is awesome! Encouragement and even offers to help that Elder or Elders disciple that local church in that area is great. That's the Universal Body of Christ working together, building each other up in love.
But even if the Elder or Elders reject any wisdom the AHA Abolitionist gives, that Abolitionist still has no authority to then call that entire church to repentance against the wishes of the leadership God has placed there.
ONE MORE IMPORTANT WORD
Now a key word John mentions here is another one I mentioned earlier and cannot be dismissed. That word is wisdom. Even if AHA had the authority and the knowledge to do these projects at local churches we have to ask a key question. Would it be wise?
Let’s say my wife and I drive eight hours to reach a realtor in a big city, with all kinds of people swarming around us to put a ten thousand dollar cash down payment on a new house. Then let’s say that while we’re surrounded by people(some maybe a little shady looking) I say in a none too quiet voice, “Hey honey, you didn’t forget to put the ten thousand cash in your purse before we left home did you?”.
Now, the question is an important one. But I think it goes without saying that that wouldn’t be the wisest thing to say at that time and in that place.
So, let’s just say for arguments sake that John and AHA are right, and doing local Church Repent projects, big signs and all is simply an issue of personal preference. An optional tactic to try to gain help from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Does it sit well with the conscience of the one planning to do the project? How about those at the church the project is exhorting?
Well, the Bible speaks to how we should act towards other brothers and sisters when there is conflict on practices that are not necessarily sinful, but can become such when they violate our conscience. In other words, our personally held stances on right and wrong.
In Romans fourteen, Paul is dealing with matters of liberty with Christians and how they should manage those liberties in the body of Christ.
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14:10-23
Now Paul is speaking here specifically to days of worship and food issues that could cause a brother or sister to stumble in the Lord, due to a matter of conscience.
Now when you read this you see it is no small matter to use your liberty. Even in doing good things, if doing them could hurt, or Paul even says, “destroy” someone!
Now let me take and combine some key thoughts from the preceding verses on the issues here that are really important.
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother?...For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by…(what you do), you are no longer walking in love…. Do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil….For the kingdom of God is...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding….Do not...destroy the work of God….Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble... It is good not to...do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.”
There is so much blessing throughout these verses for those who seek to deal peaceably, without stumbling brothers and sisters over secondary issues of conscience! Let me combine two last sentences to drive an important point home.
“So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.” and “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.”
This is saying that we must not use our liberties to do good things that could stumble or even destroy a fellow saint. Because then we’ll need not bring ourselves into judgment for the harm we caused others with those liberties.
So, even under the criteria AHA holds for calling whole churches to repentance, especially with big signs, we have to ask the question. Is it wise?
Well to answer that it would seem all we need to do is examine what fruit Church Repent Projects have produced. What is the overwhelming response from local churches AHA claims not to be protesting, but genuinely wanting the help of said fellowships in the fight against the abortion holocaust we’re facing?
The simple fact is that if it was yielding the blessings that Paul tells us should come from acting rightly as it pertains to matters of conscience, John’s articles, this paper, and countless other blog posts, videos, and just about every other form of communication known to man wouldn’t be out there as testimony to being for or against the practice.
I think I am safe in saying that this optional tactic, regarding a non essential, secondary doctrinal issue, is the most inflammatory and divisive issue as it pertains to the Church, that AHA holds to. Fires continue to burn and be stoked every time another project takes place. AHA folks will admit this is true. Those who are upset with them, some to the point of being ridiculous and even sinful, almost universally point to the Church Repent Project as the foundation, if not the entirety of their problem with AHA.
Now, I take for granted that AHA is being truthful when they say they are not questioning the salvation of the biblically orthodox churches they are exhorting. I believe that indeed they really want those folks at those churches to join them in the fight as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Which leads me to ask: Why keep using a tactic you say is for drawing, that time and time again repels instead? It just doesn't make sense in any way!
Now, I understand if this is a primary doctrine, like the gospel and other essential doctrines. We expect the lost to be driven away from that if the Lord isn't drawing them.
Yet, we also recognize that if a tactic is the issue repelling people, we drop it. We never want to add unnecessary offense in any ministry we do. Especially when we are ministering to and seeking help in ministry from fellow saints! Look at what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10:
"We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
My AHA brothers and sisters, do you exemplify this passage during Church Repent Projects at local churches?
Remember once again friends. This is not a primary theology issue. This is not even a secondary one. This is an optional tactic regarding a secondary issue!
Yet, due to the stumbling and offense this tactic causes, you often hinder Christians supporting and even joining you. Joining you in carrying out the two great commandments to love God and our neighbor and the great commission of gospel proclamation and discipleship!
Please my friends, don't be blinded by stubborn pride! Take it from someone who has pulled forests from his eyeballs! Please allow me to try to help you get this splinter out of many of AHA's folks collective eyeballs, that otherwise see so clearly the abortion holocaust and the gospel centered answers to it!
Friends, let's look at another prescriptive quote from John.
"Whenever you place your favored form of church polity, for example, above the unity of believers in Christ, what you are necessarily saying is that your ecclesiastical structures are more vital than Christ Himself. This is true of any non-essential doctrine. I am not saying that you must accept everything as equally true or even to not, at times, stress the importance of your secondary doctrine, but whenever you make an enemy of anyone who has a different nuance on a peripheral issue then that is a clear sign of making a good and important thing into an idol. We are to have unity in Christ. Don’t replace Christ with your pet doctrine, lest your pet doctrine becomes an idol in your heart."
I really couldn't say it any better than this. The question is will people see this truth, from both sides?
As I said earlier, I believe John has heard some pretty silly complaints against Church Repent Projects at local churches. Some indeed may have made idols of secondary and non essential doctrines, or misapplied even relevant scripture. Some may even idolize their church or Elders.
But shouldn't AHA Abolitionists search their hearts and minds to see if their relentless support of Church Repent Projects against local churches, admittedly just one practice, one method of reaching fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, not even a doctrine, could have possibly become an idol to them?
Could it come from being exasperated at the apathy of the local church? Could it be they've been burned by local churches and have a legitimate grievance? Could some be there as an act of defiance just because their ecclesiological stance against institutional local churches is so strong? Like John said again so well in another quote:
"When it comes to fighting a holocaust with the power of the Gospel, we ought to unite according to Christology, not ecclesiology and not tactics. Theology matters. How much Theology matters also matters. We should consider first things first. Above all other things, be for Christ and His Kingdom."
Friends, on both sides of this argument please remember this. For the most part, neither side is calling the other unsaved. We are arguing over a secondary, ecclesiological issue. In fact, merely a tactic being promoted from one side and opposed from another. But remember, these are two factions in one camp. Please, don't hate me for mentioning Mark Driscoll, but this really is, at the very worst a state versus state squabble. We are still part of a united country. Better yet of course, universally we are all members together in the eternal body of Christ!
John Calvin rightly says, “Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
Has this issue become an idol for you? Have you let this issue become a driving and separating force between brothers and sisters in Christ? I know it has caused a huge negative divide almost everywhere it goes. I am sure there is blame on both sides for it. I tell you the truth friends, I so long to see that divide eliminated!
Sadly I do not see any chance of that happening until my AHA brothers and sisters stop these projects. Even more so, repenting of them. That will be an act of true wisdom in humility. An act that God may then use to send a more united Universal Church into battle against this abortion holocaust!
Please God, bring an end to these projects! Please bring an end to hostilities among your people on this issue! Please do all this and more than we can all ever ask or think! Please do it that You may be glorified, Your people's good furthered, and that lost souls, and babies lives may be saved! Amen.