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Dear Mr. Prophetic Voice for True Christianity

Dear Mr. Prophectic Voice for the Church,

While I appreciate that you feel the need to make every other post, comment, tweet, or FB contribution about how the church in the West, or a certain theological tribe, or even specific high-profile preachers have strayed from the ideal of nascent, biblical Christianity, might I ask you to reconsider your current “ministry” strategy with a few suggestions:

Dial down your dogmatism.

It’s one thing to go to battle if we’re going to wrestle over the atonement or the uniqueness of Jesus, but often what I read falls into areas that not even the Bible seems dogmatic about. For example, when someone calls out other models of discipleship, or corporate gathering, or simply “how they do church” because they’ve found the “biblical way” to do it, I think to myself, “How can that be when we don’t have any one-time-for-all-time way of that in the New Testament?” Could it be that God, in his inestimable wisdom, providentially allowed the writers of the New Testament to NOT give a precise blueprint of exactly how those things should look in the specifics (e.g, Lord’s Supper weekly or not) because, just maybe, it might look different depending on both the cultural and historical setting (to mention only two) in which each local church finds herself. Again, I can appreciate your theological reasons for your way but when you end up speaking with your typical dogmatism of what should always be it makes me think you actually know the Bible less, not more.

Take the issue of how a church should conduct a worship service. I see guys blow up all kinds of models around them (I find them often to be straw-men arguments) but when D.A. Carson, one of the most highly respected theologians and scholars around can say, “The New Testament does not provide us with officially sanctioned public ‘services’ so much as with examples of crucial elements. We do well to admit the limitations of our knowledge,” and concludes saying, “There is no single passage in the New Testament that establishes a paradigm for corporate worship,”[ref]Carson, Worship By The Book, 52, 55.[/ref] wisdom would dictate we dial down our dogma-meter. So chill out a bit. Stop sounding like your ideas are going to be nailed to the door at Wittenburg when in reality they’re simply posted to your blog at WordPress.

Stop using your education in biblical studies to validate your conclusions as some kind of expert.

You and I both know there are a lot of people who went to seminary who have said and written dumb things. Need I say more?

You’re in a tribe. Get over it.

True, you’re not in the one you can’t stand and love to post about incessantly. But make no mistake, you are in a tribe. This means you also are privy to having group-think, the temptation to be insular and demonize those opposite you, and develop serious holes in your theological/ministerial/ecclesiastical swing. So you’re not immune from being like those you disagree with; on the contrary, in many ways you’re just like them. If you really want to help your tribe, turn your prophetic powers upon them instead of the ones you’ve already made clear time and again you don’t agree with. That’s how real reformations start. Luther didn’t want a new church but a reformed one. A tribe also lets you know that while you’re a part of Real Christianity, you’re not the epitome of it.

Spend more time telling others what you’re for than what you’re against.

The truth probably is that right now you are so incredibly inconsistent in your own belief system and blind to your own cultural presuppositions (I’m sure I am) that more than likely within a few years, some 20-something who is still only halfway through his undergrad degree in Biblical studies (with little to no chips on table) will say something “prophetically” about you or your ministry, or your strategy, or your preaching in the same dogmatic, critical spirit you are doing to others today. Why not learn now what many of us (including myself) had to learn the hard way as we got older? Spend the bulk of your time showing everyone your loves and less time with that one axe that’s surely been ground to a stump by now.

Practice the maxim: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

Now, I’m sure we will all fail this from time to time. I’m know I have. Heck, this post may not qualify (though I hope it does). Stop making every issue equivalent to the atonement. Put the theology book down and start reading the one on church history. In it I’m sure you’ll find a bunch of people who really loved Jesus, took their faith seriously, submitted themselves to the Bible, were committed to the developing historic orthodoxy, and still their expression of preaching, small groups, and the like were different from each other. A healthy dose of church history (even just studying the last 250 years of American church history) should create not a greater dogmatism for a return to ‘Real Christianity’ or an increased passion for posting more links to your favorite theolog-ideolog’s articles, but a greater sense of liberty and charity for those who love Jesus, his word, his gospel but differ from how you “do church.”

Your cynicism is a mark of not only immaturity but a sin that should be repented of.

If at the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul can point out the graces of God evidenced in a seriously jacked up church because ultimately that local church, as broken, faulty, and wrong as she is, is still the Bride of Christ, then surely the spirit of how you rebuke those who’ve missed your idea of “True Christianity” should have little place for mockery, belittling, sarcasm, and just plain meanness. Paul, in addition to rebuke, had genuine hopes, prayers, and encouragement for a church with which he deeply, personally struggled. Do you love churches you don’t like? I would say that snide, smarter-than-thou tones already reveal to all what you think. I would also argue your cynicism is as ugly if not uglier than the brokenness in the churches you don’t like.

Don’t confuse prophetic with being a jerk.

Look, the church needs a prophetic voice, just make sure it’s prophetic and not really just complaining about non-essentials that only serve to make you look smaller, less charitable, and more immature than the people you are trying to critique. If you constantly have the same people responding to your less-than-redemptive posts it likely means you’ve maxed out your reach and are just running around the cul-de-sac with people who have the same spirit as you. Listen, being prophetic is a gift to the church, being a jerk isn’t. I should know, because I’ve definitely been both.

Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

4 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Prophetic Voice for True Christianity”

  1. I agree with your over all consensus. I do sometimes think we place some things as “non-essentials” which are really the Word of God to us and the body and if so, are very important since they came from God! There are differences for sure on what some classify as “non-essentials,” but really, did God mean what He said and should we not dig deeper to come to the truth and facts which He gave? I am sure you would agree. Words are not just “fillers” to be taken or left according to our whim. So, yes, they may not be essential in terms of Gospel and Eternal Life but certainly are important since God spoke them. Otherwise, I agree, and will also maintain we must “all rightly divide the entire word of God and His whole Counsel”. I think the main point should be we approach any corrections, challenges, discussions, and teachings with love and gentleness for then God may grant repentance to the party who actually is in error! Blessings to you Yancy and keep up the good work til Jesus comes!

  2. Yancy,

    Thanks for this post. I’m very surprised that there are now only two comments (including mine), and you wrote this over a month ago. I suspect that’s evidence that people are thinking about what you wrote more than that they don’t care.

    So much of what I read is written to convince the already convinced tribe rather than convince those who differ. I don’t see much use for that kind of writing. It seems to be a waste of paper and/or electrons, but certainly a waste of time.

    What I saw in your writing here was a reaching out to those who tend to be jerky prophets (other’s naming, not theirs!). It was hard to read, especially when I found you “meddling” with how I sometimes do things! Nevertheless, it was all written in a way that treated your brothers and sisters in Christ with the respectful call to be effective.



  3. The sarcasm and prominent egotistical sophisticated wording of the above article reflects much of what accusations are thrown toward me I presume! I pray for God’s grace and mercy to learn from this erudite writer and blogger! Perhaps God will truly through His Spirit give me some nuggets of wisdom from this illustrious pen! Not sure I wish to be in his tribe, since I have enough difficulties within my own! May God have mercy on all of us who engage in self centered know it all doctrinal issues. Perhaps it is time we consider that God gave us the word as it is and isn’t in giving as much liberty on the issues brought out as this article seems to promote! Personally, I would rather come down on the more extreme side and be off base than to be so liberal I disregard God’s teachings and His purpose in giving us the word so carefully in order to make sure with give Him honor, praise and glory rather than our own self and ego!

  4. Yancey Arrington

    Lamar, I don’t know if you realize this or not, but the sour rebuke you attempt to give me and this article is the last of three replies, the first of which is from you AGREEING with the article I wrote?!?!?! I don’t know what happened between October 17 and March 25 but it seems a little schizophrenic in that you liked an article to such a degree that you wrote about it then WITH THE EXACT SAME ARTICLE wrote a few months later that you didn’t like it! Very bizarre.

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