When I worked in aerospace, the group manager I worked with had an inside joke about sending left over documents to the Redundancy Department of Redundancy. Of course, that psychotic disposition to rechecking everything was both job security and helped keep future passengers on the airlines safe, so we didn’t complain too much.
Theology can be a little bit like that. Once a person has become convinced of an idea, they see it in all kinds of other Scriptures. Passages that previously would have had another meaning to them, will now point to the doctrine that they have recently adopted. The same affect occurs when defending a point of belief, having put it in the forefront of your mind you see it in every passage for a while.
This can be good or bad, depending on whether what you are seeing is really there, or whether your enthusiasm has caused you to read into the passage what you wanted to see. We humans are really good at reading into the Bible instead of reading out of it. Whether we want to admit it or not, we tend to read looking for what we are already convinced it is going to say, instead of looking for what it will say.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to check what point you are drawing out in several ways. Does it fit the context, either as a main point or as a logical aside? Could this passage be read so as to mean something else on the point I am seeing? Does it agree with the nature of Scripture and the character of God?
Scripture can be misread, but we can protect ourselves from misinterpretation with a few simple questions and an open mind.
On Mondays I talk politics here on my blog. So far I have always talked national politics, but I have had it on my heart for a while to talk church politics or denominational politics occasionally as well. Today I want to start by doing some basic definitions.
When I speak to my church I instruct my people to think of politics as the outcome of relationships between people. We should not try to avoid politics in the church as some suggest, but rather we should recognize it as a byproduct of the relationships of the church members.
One of the reasons people try to avoid politics in church is because they define it negatively. For example I knew a church with a couple hundred members. They only had about twenty attending, tithing and working for the survival of the church. They needed to change or die. But when decision time came the 180 inactive members got a call from a member who didn’t want to change. He convinced them all to vote against it. They were essentially voting to kill the church, but they weren’t involved enough to know that, and the instigating member wasn’t going to tell them. That is church politics at its worst.
But in a Bible believing church politics takes on a positive influence more often than it does a negative. Visitors become regular attenders because they are engaged and befriended by members. They consider the truth of the gospel, not just because they hear the gospel preached, but because they see it lived out in these new friends. They begin attending Bible study and other programs because they feel a friendly persuasion to do so. Perhaps they begin fighting a sin they previously embraced because they feel embarrassed around these new friends. All of these are positive outcomes of politics in church.
Trying to convince people not to practice politics in church is like asking them to keep their relationships superficial. You will not see your church deepen its walk with Christ without strong accountability and relationships between the members. This peer pressure, this mutual accountability, and this team work available in the larger group are some of the main purposes behind Christ establishing the church.