In Life Together, Bonhoeffer writes, “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community, even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”
These are men that Bonhoeffer calls visionary dreamers. They are never satisfied with anything in the real world because it doesn’t live up to their ideal. Many men today are such visionary dreamers. They are on a quest to find a church that only exists in their imaginations. It is a church that lives up to every expectation for their perfect liturgy, their perfect preaching, their perfect doctrine, their perfect music—and their perfect pastor. It is led by a hero they can look up to. It is filled with people that are “likeminded” in his niche concerns. That church is out there. He just knows it is. He hasn’t found it yet—so far, every church has been off in some way. So he will hop from one church to the next, always looking for something better. He is vocal about the terrible condition of the modern local church, and often gives up entirely on it, turning exclusively to the internet. Thank goodness for podcasts and social media. How else could he get his “preaching” and “fellowship”?
We are walking a tightrope between the compromise of gutless pastors and the delusions of visionary dreamers.
There is no perfect church.
However, there are faithful churches. Find one. If you are genuinely in a region where the only church options are terrible, you have three potential courses of action:
- Work for reformation where you are at;
- Move to region where there is a good church;
- Join an effort to plant a new church in your region.
That’s it. Sitting at home isn’t an option. Complaining isn’t an option. Pick one and get to work.
God’s house-rules are not optional. God’s design for embodied creation is not optional. Hence church is not optional. The internet can guide you, but it will not father you. The only way to become a mature son of God, to become a true father yourself, is through the means he established by which he raises up sons to image him.
The formula is simple: Find a church that will disciple you. Submit yourself to it. Grow up.
—Excerpted from It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity, Chapter 8, “No Father, No Manhood.” The book is now available for preorder from Canon Press.
Or preorder digital »
All ecclesiology rises and falls on the faithful administration of church discipline. It is the issue.
It is more important than music, modes of baptism, youth programs, nursery, head-coverings, the finer points of polity, and every other ecclesiological issue. You can be wrong on those things, and still be a true church.
But you can’t be wrong on discipline. It is essential to a church. No discipline, no church.
There all many places in Scripture where we see this—but nowhere more clearly than in the Great Commission. Our Lord said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
You can’t make disciples without discipline. Therefore, discipline is essential to the work of the church.
What is the work of discipline?
It chiefly takes the form of teaching Christians to observe all that our Lord has commanded us. That teaching comes in many forms: both formative and restorative, both informal and formal. In other words, church discipline is much more than a judicial process. It is a culture which emanates from the pulpit.
How do you know if your church practices church discipline?
The preaching is the clearest indicator. Do the sermons make you squirm? Are you ever offended by what is preached? Do find yourself spiritually disturbed at the end of a service? We hope to God the answer is “yes.” If not, get out. Run quick and far if necessary. It is hard to conceive of a greater evil than a church that withholds discipline.
Consider the exhortation of Charles Spurgeon:
Faithful preachers are among God’s best gifts. Cherish them, and be obedient to their admonitions. I have known persons become offended when a minister is “too personal;” but wise men always prize a ministry in proportion as it is personal to themselves. He who never tells me of my faults, nor makes me feel uneasy, is not likely to be the means of good to my soul. What is the use of a dog that never barks?
Sadly, many churches are content to tell you God’s yes—but, out fear of man, they will not preach God’s no.
They want you to feel affirmed and comforted.
It keeps the ministry simple. It allows them to be lazy and rich.
Because of this, they see conflict in the church as some sort of failure. But these men are wrong. Conflict, rightly understood, is normative. We are at war with sin, flesh, and the devil. We need correction. The loving church gives it.
Consider Calvin. A few years after he was pretty much kicked out of Geneva, the Genevans begged him to come back. He agreed under two conditions.
- He required that their children be catechized;
- He demanded that the ability to discipline be restored to the church.
They agreed, and the latter demand came to be reflected in what we now call the marks of the church. The marks of a true church are: (1) the right preaching of the gospel, (2) the right administration of the sacraments, and (3) the right practice of church discipline. And the first two are rendered pointless without church discipline.
When you’re considering a church, their attitude to discipline should be at the top of your list of questions. But there are other things to ask too. Here is a shortlist, courtesy of one of the men in our members group, Tyrannus Hall (now open for new members):
- What are the demographics of the church? This can be insightful to a church’s values.
- How are sermons chosen? Exegetical, or topical?
- What is the church’s stance on <insert major cultural issue>, and when is the last time this stance was openly proclaimed? For instance, while our last church’s doctrinal statement regarding certain cultural hot points was solid, they never mentioned it, which was catastrophic.
It’s not enough that a pastor loves the Word of God, and is a skillful master of it.
He must love God’s people, and possess “people skills.”
A shepherd doesn’t tend the flock from a distance. He lives among the bleating of the sheep. It’s a sound he loves. Regarding 1 Timothy 3:3, Calvin explains:
“Mild and not quarrelsome”— He contrasts with ‘the striker’ the man who is ‘not quarrelsome.’ Mild – which, we have said, is contrasted with being ‘addicted to wine’ – is the term applied to him who knows how to bear injuries with a gentle and moderate disposition, who forgives much, who passes by insults, who neither makes himself be dreaded through harsh severity, nor exacts with full rigor.
Here we see why a pastor must be a people person with people skills. Sheep butt. They frustrate. A man who is inconvenienced by this reality—a man who wants to mostly pastor from the pulpit—will be tempted to try to rid himself of these “problems” through harsh severity.
He will hold grudges, lash out (usually from a distance), and routinely throw his church into a state of confusion. If you strike the shepherd, the sheep will scatter—but this type of shepherd scatters the flock of God through his rigorous strikes.
There is a place in the church of God for men with sharp minds but weak people skills. It just isn’t in the pastorate. They would spare themselves and others much pain if they choose their vocation more wisely.
This applies to all forms of leadership. Know yourself, brothers.
- Social media is for women what porn is for men - YouTube
- Thames-Coromandel Mayor won’t take the Pfizer vaccine, and won’t say why - YouTube
- Lessons from the Gulags - The Sojournal. “There is always a price to be paid. It is not whether, but which. You will pay either way. The good news is that most of the time you get to choose which price it will be. Solzhenitsyn taught me that the price we pay with our bodies, our wealth, and our livelihoods, pale in comparison to the price paid by those who forfeit their souls.”
- A brutally accurate tweet thread about John Piper - Twitter
- Bonhoeffer‘s Theory of Stupidity - YouTube. One quote not included: “The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.” Bonhoeffer understood something about what would later come to be called mass formation. We prefer the term judicial stupor. God judges people as a body by giving them over to blindness and cowardice.
Abraham Kuyper, Our Program, A Christian Political Manifesto (1879):
And if the government does not wish to stiffen this resistance [to health interventions], but cause it to diminish, then as a servant of God it should demonstrate in such critical days that it has a heart. Then it should not, like a violent accomplice of unbelieving science, turn against the nation’s religious beliefs that only intensify in the time of epidemics. … Rather than prohibiting prayer services it should itself proclaim a day of prayer. In this way its solemn decisions and actions will underscore the impression that as a government it is powerless to ward off the plague that is visiting the nation and that it knows no better refuge for deliverance than to humble itself before almighty God.
For this reason alone, compulsory cowpox vaccinations should be out of the question. Our physicians may be mistaken and government may never stamp a particular medical opinion as orthodox and therefore binding. Moreover, compulsion can never be justified until the illness manifests itself and may therefore never be prescribed as a preventative. A third reason is that the government should keep its hands off our bodies. Fourthly, government must respect conscientious objections. In the fifth place, it is one or the other: either it does not itself believe in vaccination, or if it does, it will do redundant work by proceeding to protect once more those already safeguarded against an evil that will no longer have a hold on them anyway.
Vaccination certificates will therefore have to go […]. The form of tyranny hidden in these vaccination certificates is just as real a threat to the nation’s spiritual resources as a smallpox epidemic itself.
Read and share this email on the web: #
Talk again next week,
Bnonn & Michael