Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Authority of God's Word for God's Church

I made it on time for the first session (alert the media!), so I signed in and slapped on a nametag. I noticed lots of Simi Valley registrants on the list, and I found out later that a surprisingly high number of attendees here are not from either Cornerstone Church or Eternity Bible College, but from surrounding churches. The lecture room was almost full – lots of college kids and young single types. I’m guessing the turnout is 150-200, which is probably the largest conference ETM has ever held.

Joshua Walker, provost of Eternity Bible College, welcomed everyone to the conference and opened with a word of prayer. We sang a couple of praise songs, and then Doug Main, assistant pastor at Community Bible Church and an instructor at Eternity Bible, introduced Pastor McDougall. I had to chuckle knowingly when Doug said, “to many of us at CBC, his first name is Pastor” because he embodies so much of what a pastor is called to be.

Pastor began by saying, “I’m going to talk to you about God’s Church.” (It helps if you pronounce it “charch." LOL.) He gave an overview of his ministry through the last 44 years, then outlined his goals for the conference’s attendees: 1) personal renewal, 2) renewal in their marriages and families, and 3) renewal in the life of God’s Church.

I’m tempted to say that the title of this talk should have been, “McDougall’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1.” It encapsulated many of the things we’ve been hearing on Sunday mornings for the past ten years.

“This (holding up Bible) is the only authority; it’s all that matters… Understanding what it says isn’t so difficult; it’s a willingness to submit to what it says that’s difficult.”
Pastor said that there are three tests for us as we encounter Scripture:
1) Is it really the authority?
2) Is it the only authority?
3) Will we let it define itself?

He referenced 1 Corinthians 4:6, “…do not go beyond what stands written…”, which is pretty much the theme verse for CBC. In preaching through 1 Peter on Sunday mornings, he realized that he wants to emulate aspects of Peter’s life – every decision, every sermon, every theological position, and everything he writes must be based solely on the Word of God.

He said that one of the main problems we have in the Church today is that when we want advice on something, we run to the Christian bookstore and read all kinds of books, many times to the exclusion of THE Book. He cautioned the audience not to spend more time reading the notes in their study Bibles than reading the text itself.

He quoted David Wells: “Today the issue is not so much the inerrancy of Scripture but its sufficiency.” He added his own corollary: “The Bible by itself is sufficient for the church Christ created. But the Bible by itself may not be sufficient for the churches we have created.” This elicited lots of ohhhhs from the audience, as if 100 mental light bulbs went on all at once.

That one moment was very encouraging for me, because I remember having many of those light bulb moments when dh and I first began to sit under Pastor McDougall’s teaching ten years ago. After a while, it’s easy to forget the excitement of learning something new. Seeing all those people interact with these principles for the first time made me excited again.

One area to apply 1 Cor. 4:6 is in learning to separate personal preferences from biblical principles. We must not go beyond the Book in judging the motives of men’s hearts, since we often don’t even know our own motives. But more importantly, if we “speak down on” (katalaleo, James 4:11) someone else, we put ourselves above that person, and we speak down on the law. The only time we should “jump in with both feet” is when someone has clearly violated a clear directive of Scripture.

Finally, Pastor explained the pyramid. (To follow what I’m saying in this paragraph, open the link in a new window.) “Jesus didn’t give people rules; He gave people principles.” Principles and people were the extent of Jesus’ ministry. He didn’t leave any programs behind. Programs aren’t wrong, but we need to keep in mind that they’re our creation. As for property, Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay His head at night. Pastor also mentioned that most churches have the pyramid inverted, with property at the base and principles at the peak.

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