Monday, April 30, 2012


As a citizen of this country I know I may hold a few political positions that would cause some people to call me an Egalitarian or even a "Feminist" [I guess a man can be accused of that!]  Feminists may perhaps be at the forefront of the kind of Egalitarian debate we are having in our nation politically, but that is far removed from what I'm addressing here. 

Equal pay for equal work is a policy I hold to politically, that is true. That fact, as well as my stand on legal equality for the sexes in education, sports, office holding, and other issues of national importance, may cause me to be labeled by many in an unflattering way. I understand that! Some have even tried to call me, of all things, a Democrat. [For the record, I'm NOT a feminist, Progressive Democrat, Tea Party Republican, Liberated Libertarian, or any other of a number of things, all of which I've been accused of being.] However, none of the above is what I am addressing at the moment. 

I'm addressing Egalitarianism in the context of the last post, I will be speaking of it in regards to theology alone. In this vein, Egals  [I will now revert to the abbreviation as last time.] believe that there is no inherent authority found in the male gender that would scripturally assign them the responsibility of being over female believers in an hierarchical manner as all believers are "equal" before God because of being "in Christ."  Egals believe that "In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free" as declared in Galatians 3:28.  So all believers are equal in worth and value and are all equally under the Lordship of Christ with no one to take that place of Lordship over any other believer. This is not a political statement, it is a Kingdom statement. 

While Egals would insist this does not, for obvious reasons, mean that all believers have the same skills, abilities, interests or physiological traits: they would say it does mean that all believers have a mutuality and are all to live out all the scriptures that are true of all believers as servants such as, for example....

"Love does not demand its own way." 1 Corinthians 13:5

"If any man [person] desires to first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:35

"If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet; ye ought to wash one another's feet." John:14 

 Add to that an equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey in their calling to glorify God and encourage the Body of Christ with their ministry abilities without regard to class, gender, or race, just as that verse in Galatians indicates, and you would have what is basically believed by theological Egals.

The organization called Christians for Biblical Equality has put on record about what is believed by Egals in its Statement of Faith. A portion of which reads this way....

1___We believe in the equality and essential dignity of men and women of all ethnic groups, ages, and classes.

2___We recognize that all persons are made in the image of God and are to reflect that image in the community the community of believers, in the home, and in society.

3___We believe that men and women are to diligently develop and use their God-given gifts for the good of the home, church, and society.

Egals would desire that people understand it is not the culture that is the influence on why they hold to what they hold, but the scriptures themselves. In fact, it is the exegesis of Ephesians 5 [More on this passage and others in my next post.] that is one of the stronger reasons for the Egals stand on equality of servant hood as believers and a rejection of the unilateral male authority concept.

As intended originally, the man AND woman were commanded to care for the garden as Genesis 1:26-28 states..."Let THEM have dominion...let THEM be fruitful and multiply....let THEM subdue..."  That "THEM" intention, while lost in the rebellion called "the fall" was regained in the redemption called "The Cross" and is to be mirrored in the family and the Church as stipulated in the mutuality found in Ephesians 5 when correctly translated.

The husband is no more intended to autonomously make decisions for the household than is the woman intended to autonomously conceive the children for the household.

I will close by saying something of a personal nature. 

I've never liked labeling. In some ways it pigeon holes us into systems that may be a bit too rigid for our taste and separates us from one another. But there is also some value in knowing, examining, discussing and even embracing some system of labels, if they help us on our journey.

C. S. Lewis said this one time..Remember for geography's sake, he's speaking as an Englishman from the UK....

 "If a man has walked on a beach and looked at the Atlantic ocean, and then goes to look at a map of the Atlantic, he also has turned from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here is the point I wish to make. The map is only admittedly colored paper, but two things need to be remembered about it. One is that the map is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you had on the beach: only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America."

Next time I will draw you a map of my journey to the one label out of the three I've been describing that I now identify with more than I do the other two and my study of the scripture that led me to my destination. If it helps for you to read the map I draw, great. But may I remind you we're all on a journey that no one else can take for us. Push out from the beach onto the ocean of scripture study for yourself, as a good Berean, and BonVoyage.

Paul B.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Patriarchalism, Complementarianism, Egalitarianism, big words all ending in "ism," but do they have anything else in common? Not much! Unless you count the fact that each group has Christians, both male and female, who hold to one of them as the popular title of their particular point of view about what the bible teaches concerning the roles of men and women in family life, church life, and even society at large. 

The end result of a couple of them is a kind of male gender authority that is said to be God's plan for the ages. If these three words are unfamiliar to you at present, trust me, they will not be for long. They define what may be one of the major issues facing Christians today in the theological realm.

What follows is a bit of what I trust will be a fair and non-condemning description of each of these differing views of male and female roles with emphasis specifically on how male authority is seen in scripture. Ultimately, I'll give my view and why I hold it. 

I going to simplify this post by using abbreviations instead of the three rather long words each time they're mentioned. So from here on it will be the battle of the Pats, the Comps, and the Egals with winner take all. 

First the Pats. [Patriarchal] They hold to what they believe to be a God-assigned role of authority for the male head of the family without question. In fact, they see the father/husband to be something of the Prophet/Priest/King of the family structure with much of the responsibility, power and prominence that go with each of those roles to be inherent within being__the man. 

The Pats believe that the male head of the family unit is the final word on any issue where a decision must be made. There may be some disagreement within the family members, but he has final word. They usually see this role of the male to be not only for the family, but for the church and society at large as well.

The Comps [Complementarian] would hold to the same view of the male role without it necessarily being for society as a whole. But it is certainly true for the home and church in the Comps mind. They also would generally be less likely to have a rigid control in place, being more open to the gifts and personality of the wife. In fact, it would be more of a complementary aspect of the marriage that they would wish to emphasize. But that would have to be without any loss of the final decision responsibility and power of the man as husband and father. Thus, the coined name, Complementarian.  

Because of the similarities of the first two however, I will address them as one, yet will in fairness, as earlier promised, try to point out a few minor differences along the way. 

The third group, Egals, [Egalitarian] will be examined by itself in the next post.

It would only be fair to say that both the Pats and Comps would agree that, while the husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, God has simply divinely appointed the man as the one to have final decision making responsibilities as has been described. The Comps would more likely hear the wife's advice and input, but if there is disagreement, both Pats and Comps would see the man is to have God-appointed decision-making responsibility in that moment. The wife's role, in both systems, is to graciously submit and obey any final male decision that is made.

All of this is determined to be true because of the Ephesians 5:22-25 passage that establishes the man as the "head" over the wife [meaning boss] as Christ is "head" over the Church. Add to that passage the 1 Timothy 2:12 verse that establishes [as they see it] the eternal principle that the woman can never have authority over the man in any situation, and you have male authority established. [Remember the distinction of society at large being exempt for most Comps.]

There are other 'Logical' arguments used by Pats and Comps that they believe give some further biblical basis for this view, but those arguments don't count very much in the final analysis from my perspective. For example, they say since all the original 12 Apostles were men it follows logically that women should not be leaders.  My problem is if you continue that argument for a moment you will be faced with the logical fact that all of those men were Jewish and all had, as much as we can know, been circumcised. I think you get the picture. The fine line of where logic ends doesn't make for the best of arguments. But I digress.

If a woman is single, both Pats and Comps see this headship found in the woman's father or some male who is older and is responsible for her welfare. When she marries, that is then transferred to her husband. All this is seen as the God-ordained authority structure firmly established in the home and family.

You will not be surprised that this has profound ramifications in the local church. Pats and comps say that the 1 Corinthians 14:34-40 passage indicates that the submission of the woman already found in the home in Ephesians 5, is found to be true in the church as well. 

So much so that, in the Pats case, a woman is not allowed to read scripture, lead in prayer, or teach, except children and other women, and in some churches, women are not allowed to be present for business discussions and if they are present, no questions would be permitted at all. 

The Comps would be less rigid for sure, but would not permit a woman to have a leadership position in church over men or to teach men. Neither would allow for a woman to hold the office of deacon or pastor/elder. Additionally, the role of the man in the family is given to the pastor or elders of the church as well.

Pats and Comp proponents, while quick to point out that the scriptures show all this to be correct and true, would just as quickly acknowledge that women are of equal value in the eyes of God with men. But God has simply appointed different roles for them within the family and church. 

To be truly biblical they believe the same must be held to in our day in truly Christian families and churches. After all, the scriptures never change. Culture may, but not the bible.

In fact, Comps and Pats find it amazing that anyone who says that they study the scriptures could ever come to a position that disagrees with their male/female point of view. 

Clearly, they believe that those who do hold to a different opinion___and I'm referring to the Egals now___whose view of scripture and male authority we've not yet addressed, but when we do it will be found to be fundamentally different than the Pats and Comps___ are theological liberals who have embraced today's culture and live by political correctness rather than endorse what is clearly God's biblical roles for men and women. 

Are the Pats and the Comps correct in their opinion about Egals? Do Egals follow culture with a total disregard for scripture? 

We shall see next time.

Paul B.

Monday, April 23, 2012


If I had a quarter for every time I've been asked about the office of "deacon" and whether or not women are qualified, I'd be rich. Were you to add a quarter for the number of times I've heard someone declare that anyone who believes women can be a deacon is not standing on the bible but has become a theological liberal, it would make my fortune even larger.

To prove their point when talking with me, they always take me to their proof text in 1 Timothy 3:13 in the King James translation where it says..."For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." [KJV] They then remind me of what was said in 1 Timothy 2:12 and that settles it for them. 

They rest their case with arms crossed and daggers in their eye just waiting for me to admit my folly and cry for mercy from the Almighty for having become a Liberal myself. 

What's a guy to do? Maybe translate the scripture correctly? That might really help. [I'll save a "my view of a correct" translation of 1 Tim. 2:12 for another time.]

The 47 translators who did the KJV were told by brother James the King in 1604 [completed in 1611] to be sure and stay with the [his] proper ecclesiology and the episcopal structure of the Church of England which, in that day, had its ordained clergy intact. Well, when the King says that, you'd better please the King.

Lest you think I'm out in left field by myself, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of Biola University and Dallas Seminary says this.."It is not altogether unfair to say that the motive to produce this grand work was more to protect the status quo than to meet the needs of the people. In this respect, the King James Bible resembled the Roman Catholic Rheims-Douai version rather than its own Protestant predecessors of the sixteenth century."

So they took the word "diakoneo" in 1 Timothy 3:13, which means "serve" or "minister," and paraphrased it with "have used the office of a deacon.They wound up with an entire carefully articulated and constructed phrase used as the supposed meaning of one Greek word, [diakoneo] but which only winds up, as intended, undergirding and even promoting the ecclesiastical system of that day rather than giving a true translation of the meaning of the text. They did brother King James proud.

But along came brother Strong [Strong's Concordance] a good bit later and rights the ship by translating it as simply..."to serve." Brother W.E. Vine agrees with brother Strong by saying it this way, "The R.V. rightly omits "office" and translates the verb diakoneo "to serve." 

So not surprisingly, in every other place in scripture that Greek word "diakoneo" is found, it is translated "serve" or "serving" or the equivalent English words "minister" or "ministering". No problem! That's the way it's suppose to be. 

An illustration using a method that I saw some time ago in one of the finest articles I've ever read on the subject will make my point quite well. These are just a few although many such verses in other books could be used as well.

First is Matthew 8:15 where it says, "And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose and ministered [served/diakoneo] unto them."

Then there is Matthew 20:28 which says, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, [served/diakoneo] but to minister [serve/diakoneo] and to give His life a ransom for many.

Finally, John 12:26 says, "If any man serve [diakone] me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall my servant [diakoneo] also be: if any man serve [diakone] me, him will my Father honor." [Here is is used three times in one verse.]

Now....To make this point very clear let's insert the paraphrase used by the 47 James boys in 1 Timothy 3:13 for that very same word into those Matthew and John verses and let's see what happens.

Matthew 8:15: "And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose and used the office of a deacon [diakoneo] unto them."

Matthew 20:28: "Even as the Son of man came not to be used the office of a deacon [diakoneo] unto, but to used the office of a deacon [diakoneo] and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 12:26: "If any man use the office of a deacon [diakoneo] me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall my office of deacon [diakone] be: if any man use the office of a deacon [diakoneo] me him will my Father honor."

You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a Greek scholar to see that doesn't make any sense! That's because the word was never intended to mean "The office of deacon" or "deacon." That is paraphrase or a transliteration of that single Greek word "diakoneo." 

It simply and only means to minister or to serve or to be a minister or servant when translated rather than transliterated or paraphrased for a purpose.

The previously mentioned article used one more illustration I also want to borrow that shows yet another twist to the sinister plot we're uncovering and then I'll draw some personal conclusions from all this.

In Romans 16:1 Paul said, "I commend into you Pheobe our sister, which is a servant [minister/diakoneo] of the church which is at Cenchrea...." 

Notice the 47 James boys doing the KJV [all men remember] saw a woman being talked about here. Well, they thought, that means it's safe to correctly translate the Greek word "diakoneo" as "servant" here because a woman is being talked about and everyone knows women are always supposed to serve anyway. 

But, then, the King's boys chose to transliterate it as "deacon" when it applied to a man. Could that be because they needed to be careful of ever putting men in the place of JUST serving? That really could mess up the "clergy" gig they were playing and that would be unthinkable! My goodness..what tangled webs we weave! 

That the language reveals the 47 guys bias is pretty clear when you understand where they were coming from IMHO. To them, a woman was not ever to be able to hold "the office of deacon" so they used the correct translation of "servant" even though the word is exactly the same as in 1 Timothy 3:13. They probably thought,, "Shoot! Who's to know anyway!" This was probably the last big translation ever in their view anyway. [Maybe I'd better try to stay out of their heads.]    

But the point I'm making is that the word was never intended to mean "office of deacon." It was describing a servant or serving or minister or ministering. 

There is, in fact, no "office of deacon" invisioned by the biblical writers at all and there were clear indications from them that both men and women served in special ways in the New Testament, such as Pheobe in that Cenchrean church and even with Paul in his own ministry and were called "servants." [Transliterated 'deacon.']. 

But later translations would, indeed, correct the plot they hatched. So__to have an "office of deacon" that is for men only__ is only a church tradition__and not a biblical interpretation at all. [Thank the Lord for brothers Strong and Vines and some later real good translations.] 

Come to think of it, maybe those who hold that women can serve are the biblical ones and those who hold to a male office of deacon are the___well, not liberal maybe___but certainly not biblical!!

CONCLUSION? As I see it....

1___What you have in the KJV is an adopted hierarchy of male over female and certain offices established with men only filling them, but which are not in the clear meaning of the text of scripture. I'm not saying it's evil to have "deacons" as we do today. You just have a man made system when you do. 

2___This also means that when reading about women in the KJV, you may need to really BE CAREFUL with your translation and make sure of what you're hearing is said in context and you are interpreting the text correctly.

3___What we do with the well established "office of deacon" [not evil necessarily, just not biblical] in Southern Baptist churches is anyone's guess and each churches decision, but to make it a male over female thing and then to try to make that a test of biblical orthodoxy as a Baptist is so far removed from the scriptures themselves it is incredible.

4___In this matter at least, it looks like the people in the SBC___ who hold to an office concept where women are excluded___ have tragically ceased being "a people of the book." Well I'll be, who'd of thought!

Paul B.

Friday, April 20, 2012


All of us have what Ron Dunn use to call a "Secret History with God." What he meant was we tended to appear to be on a mountain top spiritually on Sunday mornings while the week had, in truth, been filled with a journey of scrapped knees, bruised behinds and bleary eyes from struggling to get the top spiritually. 

Often we even found ourselves in valleys that we didn't know existed. Some of them deeper than we believed they could ever be. But, evidently, we think the appearance of the mountain top experience must be maintained resulting in a kind of pretense so that when Sunday rolls around we put on a mask to hide the pain. Coupled with our adept ability at using a Christian vocabulary or what I call our "Christian lingo" we wind up giving off the appearance of having it all together while all the time we've really lost our focus on Christ being our "all and in all" including our spirituality. 

After all, if my Christianity is REAL then I SHOULD have it all together and this struggle to be spiritual would really be an easy thing rather than the failure at it that I'm facing___right? I say___ really!

Struggling TO BE spiritual aside___that's a subject for another post within itself as shown when I indicated that Christ IS HIMSELF our spirituality and we lose sight of that reality___a truly biblical NT Church gathering can/should be a safe place and time where we can/should "bear one another's burdens" and talk with transparency about those pages of our "Secret History with God," scrapped knees and all, without fear of condemnation or shame. 

But, you say "that would take a miracle and that would have to be the work of the Holy Spirit wouldn't it?" I 
say___ "Yes!" 

Paul B.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Why I always seem prone to want to say when posting something good by someone else..."While I don't agree with all their theology..." is a mystery to me yet I always seem to want to so there, I said it! 

Now I want you to read a statement about silence from God which, while here it is in the context of prayer, may be applied to every realm of life I believe.

I'm not a fan of daily devotions personally, I haven't been for a long, long time now, but this one is especially good I think. I'm sure I'm posting it in light of my answer in my final comment on my post just previous to this one. ENJOY.

Oswald Chambers said....

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” John 11:5-6.

Jesus stayed two days where He was without sending a word. We are apt to say—’I know why God has not answered my prayer, it is because I asked for something wrong.’ That was not the reason Jesus did not answer Martha and Mary— they desired a right thing. It is quite true God does not answer some prayers because they are wrong, but that is so obvious that it does not need a revelation from God to understand it. God wants us to stop understanding in the way we have understood and get into the place He wants us to get into, i.e., He wants us to know how to rely on Him.

God’s silences are His answers. If we only take as answers those that are visible to our senses, we are in a very elementary condition of grace. Can it be said of us that Jesus so loved us that He stayed where He was because He knew we had a capacity to stand a bigger revelation? Has God trusted us with a silence, a silence that is abso­lutely big with meaning? That is His answer. The manifestation will come in a way beyond any pos­sibility of comprehension.

 Are we mourning be­fore God because we have not had an audible re­sponse? Mary Magdalene was weeping at the sep­ulchre—what was she asking for? The dead body of Jesus. Of Whom did she ask it? Of Jesus Him­self, and she did not know Him! Did Jesus give her what she asked for? He gave her something in­finitely grander than she had ever conceived—a risen, living impossible-to-die Lord. How many of us have been blind in our prayers?

 Look back and think of the prayers you thought had not been answered, but now you find God has an­swered them with a bigger manifestation than you ever dreamed. God has trusted you in the most intimate way He could trust you, with an absolute silence, not of despair but of pleasure, because He saw you could stand a much bigger revelation than you had at the time. 

Some prayers are followed by silence because they are wrong, others because they are bigger than we can under­stand. Jesus stayed where He was—a positive stay­ing, because He loved them. Did they get Lazarus back? They got infinitely more; they got to know the greatest truth mortal beings ever knew—that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. It will be a wonderful moment for some of us when we stand before God and find that the prayers we clamoured for in early days and imagined were never answered, have been answered in the most amazing way, and that God’s silence has been the sign of the answer. 

If we always want to be able to point to something and say, ‘This is the way God answered my prayer,’ God cannot trust us yet with His silence. Here is where the devil comes in and says, ‘Now you have been praying a wrong prayer.’ You can easily know whether you have—test it by the word of God. If it has been a prayer to know God better, a prayer for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, a prayer for the interpretation and understanding of God’s word, it is a prayer in accordance with God’s will. 

You say, ‘But He has not answered.’ He has, He is so near to you that His silence is the answer. His silence is big with terrific meaning that you can­not understand yet, but presently you will. Time is nothing to God. Prayers were offered years ago and God answered the soul with silence; now He is giving the manifestation of the answer in a revelation that we are scarcely able to compre­hend."

by Oswald Chambers

Good stuff. 

Paul B.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Mary and I spent the day at SWBTS a couple of days ago as guests at a dinner where we were recognized for the Paul and Mary Burleson endowed scholarship given to a student at that theological institution of which I'm a graduate. It was our first visit back on campus in many years. What a hoot it was too.

We saw some VERY special people to us including former Southcliff students who now are in ministry and were back also. Some of those special people were were Dr. Berry Driver, who is Dean of Libraries at SWBTS  and who gave us a grand tour of almost the entire campus. Guy Grimes, Dan Brandel were there also. Great guys all three.

Friends we saw there were Tom and Shirley Costen, Steve James, who now pastors in Lake Charles La. and several others, including Kevin Walker and his wife who are presently on staff at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth where I was privileged to pastor many moons ago.

I also got to visit at length with Dr. Jack Terry, Jimmy Draper, Gil Strickland, Dr. Jack McGorman, all of whom belong to a who's who list of Baptist life, along with several others, and it was also fun to visit with Dr. Paige Patterson and his wife Dorothy, who came to our table and chatted with Mary and me. Dr. Patterson and Dorothy were extremely gracious to always. 
I may not agree with all the direction of some of the leaders of that institution but there was a sweet family spirit with all and it reminded me of what can be in the SBC when a common ground is our emphasis. If that common ground could forever remain Christ and His work at Calvary and an empty tomb we would all enjoy each other as diverse as we are in so many other things. Maybe that's what family really is anyway.

I posted the above comment on my FB a few days ago but wanted to do it here as well and add an observation or two.

One observation is that, while those six years spent at Southcliff in the late 70s and early 80s as pastor of that church__ where we saw a great work of the Spirit by the way and I was privileged to speak for six consecutive years in chapel at SWBTS__ are some of my best memories of ministry, I wouldn't choose to go back to that time for a million dollars. That's not to denigrate that time at all. It is to emphasis the ongoing work of His Spirit in my life personally.

The changes that have come across the years are so real and the work of God's grace in me so deep that, were I privileged to go back, it would have to be to basically tell those wonderful people of the great things God has continued to do in me. 

Things like giving me understanding of the New Covenant we are in with Christ and the freedom for the whole of the Body of Christ to minister in giftedness and the anointing of the Spirit. Back then I had culturally bought into a one man show with volunteers to build an organization that we called the "church." I'm not denying God blessed then and worked incredibly among us, but that was "in spite" of some biblical ignorance and a lacking in my ecclesiology.

He's still blessing by the way, and working in spite of my confessed on going ignorance. But I do find myself wishing I could go back just long enough to share what I'm seeing now in my understanding of, the Ekklesia as mentioned but a lot of other things also. Some of those other areas that I've come to see in new ways are things like...

The law of Moses
The law of Christ
Women in Ministry
New Covenant Ethics and lifestyle
The whole thing of being the PERSON and FAMILY where grace is in place.

A final observation is that I would want to emphasis to them how the present day changes in my belief system have NOT come about because of my embracing our modern day culture as some who disagree with me on them would suggest. Quite to the contrary, from my perspective, it is BECAUSE I've seen the text in new ways and have seen with better clarity how much our culture had invaded my theology BACK THEN. [Don't we all say this about our personal belief system!]  So I'd love to be able to share my new understanding with those people of Southcliff who are some of the finest I've ever known. 

Alas... all that sharing will have to wait until heaven. Maybe that is part of what the eternal blessing yet to come is all about. [Unless someone reads my FB page or my blog where I talk about these things with regularity.]

No wonder I find myself saying with some regularity these days..."Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus."

Paul B.

Monday, April 09, 2012


I read an article that presented ten myths about people who have left the church that I found interesting. Let me give you a sample of the myths found in the article.
One myth pointed out in the article was that the people who leave the church are NOT young adults or people on the fringe. While some leavers were in that category, the predominate group found to be leaving was middle-aged people. 70% were between 35 and 45 years of age.

A second myth pointed out was that it is typically believed that if Mom and Dad were church goers their children would grow up to be also. The research found to the contrary that the influence of church going parents grew very weak eventually and that the effects church-going parents had on their children apparently disappeared under later influences such as marriage and peer groups which became more important to them as the years past by. I'm reporting what I read remember.  

A third myth shown in the research is that the leavers are NOT people who lacked commitment to the group left. Ninety-four percent [94%] of those interviewed had been involved in significant leadership positions within their churches and 40% of them had a year or more of a position on church staff, with a para-church group, overseas missions assignment or had studied in a Theological Seminary somewhere.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the research or even the conclusions drawn from it. Someone reading this post may be able to find other researchers with differing opinions. But what no one can doubt is that people are leaving the Church in bunches according to many reports today. George Barna says the same thing and he's the god of statistics with regards to church-life. Right!!

My problem with all this is not that people differ on numbers or categories. I don't even have a problem admitting that people are leaving. I read tons of blogs that have been established to help and assist those who are leaving to better cope with their disappointment with the group left behind. I appreciate those blog sites and concur with trying to assist in helping remove as much of the pain involved with situations that cause people to leave. I've got issues with some of our local church-life as well.

My problem is with what is it that people really think and say they are leaving?

Would it not be more correctly stated to say that they are leaving an INSTITUTION rather than the Church when leaving behind a particular denomination? Presbyterians, Anglicans, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and a host of others may have people leaving those bodies to be sure, but to equate that with leaving the "Church" is a theological mis-step from my perspective. 

I think it wise to see and understand this fact as one is leaving any denomination. It could even be a major step in true healing of the wounds and pain caused by such groups were we to challenge our thinking along these lines. 

Would it not be more correctly stated to say that they are leaving an ORGANIZATION rather than the Church when leaving behind a particular local body. A local Baptist church, a local Sovereign Grace Fellowship, a local Bible, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Fundamentalist fellowship or any other designated group can be left behind to be sure, but to equate that with leaving the "Church" is ALSO a theological mis-step from my perspective. I'm not denigrating small bodies of believers in saying either IMHO. 

Far better for healing and health to admit that 'institutions" and "organizations" doth not the Church make. And the Church is certainly not the brick and wood that make up the building that is typically called "The Church." 

So, regarding the "True Ekklesia," [Church] we must always remember that by virtue of being a Christian we ARE THE CHURCH and that identity will never and can never be left, changed or abrogated in any fashion whatsoever. We are His Church whoever we are as believers and wherever we are on any day of the week. You can't leave your identity as the Church any more than you could change your own fallen nature. Christian...YOU ARE THE CHURCH!

But as the Church, we need each other, because the Ekklesia is, as Frank Viola says in his book, "Re-imagining the Church," corporate by her very nature. A Christian is not thinking biblically when he or she thinks like a "Lone Ranger" as a believer. Viola points out in his book in a biblically correct fashion that "Christ and His body are distinct but not separate and the Ekklesia is the native habitat of every believer." 

This means I am to recognize that while an organization may be left or even an institution, the Church HAS NOT BEEN LEFT by any Christian. I'm also to recognize that my connection with other individual believers will need to continue through other and various means, online or otherwise, as it is important to connect with the true body at all times. Connectedness is not a biblical option though the methods involved in that connectedness can be creative for the true Ekklesia. 

[Small groups meeting in homes for personal connectedness say on a Thursday or Friday night for a wine and bible night as one group I know of in Tulsa Oklahoma is doing it, is an example. The Wartburg E-Church online is another creative method.] 

All believers are commissioned and anointed to go and as they're going to minister, making disciples and baptize. [Matt 28]

Do I believe in local churches? By all means. I've pastored them for forty years. I just don't think they always look the way we think they do in our American culture. Then there is the Church as the whole of the Body of Christ as well.  

Can we find another local organization with which to connect? Perhaps! I hope so. I think it is even good to do that. Eventually. Maybe. Are people leaving institutions and organizations that have the word "church" attached to them? Yes, by the droves if research is correct. 

But my point is simply that if you do that you haven't left the "Church." That's who you are.

Paul B.

Friday, April 06, 2012


Do you remember the last time someone sat calmly with you and discussed dying which is as much a fact of life as is living? Was it a life insurance agent selling a policy who talked with you about when statistically your family was projected to receive the benefit? Or perhaps it was as you were awaiting the memorial service for a friend or family member which seems to be happening with a bit more regularity these days for Mary and me. 

Then there is the ever present statements from the pulpits of our churches that frequency remind us that it is appointed once to die, but the emphasis is more on the potential for terror afterward so much so the average person tends to remove it from their thought processes as quickly as possible after the conclusion of the service. 

I've had an occasion or two where the reality of death was very close and there seemed to be the possibility of it being the next item on my personal agenda. The first time was as I lay on an operating table in 1985 and heard the doctor who was doing an angioplasty on me say to his assistant and I quote..."Oh my god, we've got a bubble in there." He meant there was an air bubble in the artery close to my heart and I had done some reading about the dangers of just such an event. I remember that precise moment and my precise thought that at any moment now I could be literally in the presence of the Lord. I have to tell you with no exaggeration whatsoever that I laughed. The doctor said, "Mr. Burleson are you alright? I answered him, "Better than you can know Doc." 

The second time was in 2005 when I suffered a stroke on the second day of a twelve day motorcycle trip to the Blueridge Parkway and I had similar thoughts that will have to be told another time.

Old timers used to say that a person is not ready to live until they are ready to die. I do think that being confronted with death does often tend to nudge a person toward measuring life quite differently after that experience. It may even be seen as something of a gift from that point on. Life from the beginning is that, of course, but sometimes for us to focus in on it's true giftedness a moment has to come where the loss of that gift is a strong possibility.

My moments when, if death wasn't at the door, it was sure on the porch, allowed me to grasp anew the true gift of life I'm sure. But what was REALLY interesting was that the fear of dying was totally foreign to me in that moment.

Why talk about this today? Have I begun to feel my age? Has some physical problem been revealed? Is there some announcement I wish to make? None of the above.

Good Friday has caused me to think of how the death of our lord was not only on the porch but inside the door for Him and was now very, very real. It wasn't as if were any surprise to Him. He had, after all, set His face as a flint toward this moment since a child of twelve leaving the Temple. He was born to die. 

We are all that of course, the difference being He had no reason to other than His incredible love for us and desire to accomplish His Father's plan for our redemption. With that as His goal and purpose He died. 

But Sunday came. We call it the first day of the week. Some call it Easter Sunday. I call it my removal of the "fear of dying" day. Death being "on the porch" or "in the door," for me makes little difference. Easter Sunday has happened. And it's ramifications for all of us who know Him now include the fact that we will never truly "die" maybe... we can truly "live."

Paul B.