Most churches, and probably most Christians, assume that those who serve in the ministry, at least at the pastor level, should have seminary training. There are some who dare to question this system. Their question is often, Are seminaries biblical? The answer they’re often given by seminary advocates is, Does something have to be biblical to be good? After all, cars, indoor plumbing, electricity, and other conveniences that we take for granted are not in the Bible. Even words such as “Trinity” are not in the Bible. But this response of citing general cases is an evasion of the question.
October 31, 2017: Today marks the five-hundredth anniversary of what has come to be considered the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That’s because, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483–1546), then a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, nailed a notice on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He titled the notice, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but it became known as Luther’s 95 Theses.
Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.
I used to do some freelance editing for a man who ran a Christian publishing, Internet, and speaking ministry. A few years before his death, he found that he was unable to, in good conscience, continue his membership in the church of which he had been a member and elder. Soon afterward, “Christian” forums had threads about him that went something like this: “Did you hear that so-and-so is no longer under the accountability of a church?” “What? Do you mean that he’s not under a church covering?” “This is outrageous! How can he continue his ministry while being unfaithful?” “Well, all I know is that as long as he’s not under the authority of a church, I’m not listening to him any more.”
A. The answer to this question is more important than we might at first think. Since at least the time of the Edict of Thessalonica in AD 380, Christendom has ignored with grave consequences Pilate’s inability to charge Jesus with a crime. Today, millions of American Christians also ignore this matter. So, what is the answer to the question, and why is it so vital?
If you and I were hiking along a mountain trail and you were in front of me, and I suddenly yelled out, “Look out!” what would you do? I think you would likely stop dead in your tracks and look around. Then you might see that you were on the edge of a precipice, and that with one more step in the direction you were going, you would have fallen over the cliff to your destruction. So you would probably back away, look around, study the terrain, maybe look at a topographical map, and find a safe path and take that.
May 22, 2012
“Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.” (Ezekiel 34:4, 5 NASB*).
A. It is estimated that there are over 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide and that by 2025 that will be 55,000. In other words, Christianity is fragmenting more all of the time. Yet Jesus prayed for the unity of His people. Has Jesus failed? Did the Father not grant His prayer? Or are we misunderstanding something about the denominations?