Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Should churches require members to sign Covenants when they join?

Some churches require members to sign Covenants when they join - a practice that was very popular among the Shepherding and Discipleship movement during the 1970s. I am increasingly uncomfortable with the practice. Why would a verbal commitment be considered insufficient? If a verbal commitment of repentance to Christ is sufficient, why should one be required to sign a commitment to join His church?

Often the real unspoken reason that a church requires a written commitment is that it reduces the church's exposure to legal liability. Shouldn't such a request be a red flag to a new member at the beginning of their relationship with a new church? As a layperson, would the knowledge that a group of attorneys crafted the church membership document (as is almost always the case) that you were about to sign give you some pause? A manipulator will often abuse such commitments to his advantage; this of course was very true of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement of the 70s.

In an ideal situation when church leadership is morally well qualified and legitimate, a written covenant might function well. But in this fallen world, no local church is ideal. (Paul had to publicly confront and rebuke the apostle Peter for his treatment of Gentiles [Gal 2:11-14].) What if church leaders are lacking in true moral character?

Make no mistake: whichever term is used for the ‘agreement’ or ‘affirmation’, these signed documents are contracts. Some of these legal documents appear quite innocent. Others make you sign away certain rights and/or force you into making specific promises. These promises are usually related to (1) the church’s authority structure (specifically, your commitment to obeying the leaders), and (2) finances (in particular the flow of money from you to the church.)

In chapter 10 of his book, Fraudulent Authority: Pastors Who Seek To Rule Over Others [ Kindle edition], Wade Burleson gives five reasons why Christians should say no to a church covenant.
  1. A church covenant makes the Holy Spirit irrelevant in my life
  2. A church covenant replaces my one true Mediator with inferior mediators
  3. A church covenant makes the institutional church equivalent to the Kingdom of God
  4. A church covenant by its nature is designed to protect an authoritarian structure.
  5. A church covenant requires something more than a simple “Yes” or “No.
– Source: Wade Burleson, Fraudulent Authority: Pastors Who Seek To Rule Over Others, Chapter 10.

Ultimately, the requirement to sign a formal written covenant prior to joining a local church should raise red flags.

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