My Letter to Rick Hein
I write this letter to you with what I believe to be a humble heart relying upon God's grace. I pray that the pride which has come to blind me most of my life is absent as I compose this letter. Please bear with me as I try and describe what beliefs I have come to after a year of intense Biblical studies. Also, I ask that you don't perceive this letter as a "gripe sheet", or just a means for me to make my complaints known. I am still searching, and recognize the need for guidance (particularly yours) on these issues.
I view myself primarily as a child of God, one adopted into His great Kingdom; and ultimately, I want to be known as a Christian a.k.a. a follower of Christ. However, due to vast number of differences found within the Body today, I also recognize the need to identify myself with certain Biblical interpretations. You are already aware of my soteriological stance. I am a Calvinist. It's really a nickname, as Charles Spurgeon wisely wrote, "I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism." Just as it is of high importance that you and I agree with the doctrines of grace, I also believe it is important for us to be in agreement with regard to ecclesiastical practice.
I believe it is very important for a church to imitate apostolic tradition. I also believe that Scripture alone is the standard in which we should determine proper church practice. I'm not one that is against extra-Biblical traditions like Christmas or even wearing blue jeans. However, I believe a church must be very careful to prevent modern church tradition from becoming more important than apostolic tradition. I'm reminded of Jesus' words to the Pharisees, "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition, Mat. 15:6".
Now, I don't claim to be an expert on apostolic church tradition. However, what I do claim is a basic understanding of how a church should operate. The patterns that have been revealed to me from Scripture do not line up with the traditions of which I observe today. And because of these discrepancies, I am alarmed.
You've heard me state before that I see the cell group I participate weekly in as my "church." I don't believe God has "called" me to this church, but in fact, He has sovereignly placed me in it. I don't believe there is such a thing as a perfect church either. However, I believe there are several apostolic patterns that Jubilee Church is breaking in favor of the traditions found in the majority of churches today. I've mildly elaborated on these things before, but I hope to touch on them a bit more in this letter.
Ok, so now that I've laid down the foundation for the purpose of this letter, it's probably a good idea to lay out the main problems I have with Jubilee Church.
1. The Lord's Supper: From what I can gather from Scripture, I see the Lord's supper as a full meal rather than a token ritual. Instead of celebrating the Lord's Supper, at Jubilee Church, I think of it as the "Lord's appetizer" or the "Lord's Snack." Also, I find no evidence for celebrating this event monthly/bi-monthly/quarterly/whatever, but see evidence for celebrating the Lord's Supper weekly. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was written some twenty years after Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, and I don't see evidence for celebrating it as a token memorial, but as a full meal. I believe it is clear from 1Co. 11:21 that it was understood to be a full meal.
2. Tithing: Jubilee Church's stance on tithing really bothers me. I have listened to your argument that it is a form of worship; but I actually believe this argument is a way to candy coat the issue which is really at hand. Jubilee Church needs money to pay for its various expenses. Why don't you just come forward and state that? Why do you feel the need to preach about "giving back to God" every Sunday? These things trouble me deeply, and I seriously question the Biblical validity of such techniques.
2 Corinthians 9:7, (NASB), Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
According to the New Covenant, each man should give "what he has purposed (or decided) in his heart to give." That's all there is to it! Tithing, as required by Moses, is not a New Covenant practice.
Now how do you expect me to give if God hasn't worked in my heart the necessity to give? Rick, you've come out and asked me to start giving regularly again, but because of the things that I believe God has opened my eyes to, I feel compelled not to. The last time I gave money to Jubilee Church, I was almost sick to my stomach because I betrayed my conscience. I cannot do this anymore, and I feel compelled to obey God (that is, His command through the Holy Spirit) rather than men.
Mat. 6:1-4, (NASB), "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
I also believe the common teaching on setting aside 10% (of income) or any amount for that matter for a weekly tithe is unbiblical. How can you prevent your right hand from knowing what your left hand is doing if you are careful to give exactly a certain amount every week?
Secondly, I don't view Jubilee Church as the New Covenant equivalent of a storehouse. Shouldn't giving in the church be directly from giver to recipient? I see no problem in taking a collection in times of need, but really this whole business of a ritualistic worship practice every week is unbiblical in my opinion.
Also, from what I read in the New Testament, there are only two reasons that warrant a collection from the church. They are to help believers in need (Act. 11:27-30; 24:17; Rom. 15:25-28; 1Co. 16:1-4; 2Co. 8:1-15; 9:12) and to support apostles in their work (Act. 15:3; Rom. 15:23-24; 1Co. 9:1-14; 16:5-6,10-11; 2Co. 1:16; Phi. 4:14-18; Tit. 3:13-14; 3 John 5-8).
Whenever believers in another place were undergoing severe hardship, the other churches were called upon to supply financial resources. I find no evidence to believe these collections were ongoing, but in fact ceased after the need was met (Act 11:27-30; 12:25; 1Co. 16:1-4).
3. Your salary: Rick, as much as I hate to discuss your means of income, I honestly believe it is an unscriptural means of earning a living. I find no evidence in Scripture which justifies the common practice of paying salaries to church elders today. Even Paul stated that he had coveted no one's silver or gold and that he had paid his own way by "working hard" (Acts 20:34-35) with his hands. In Acts 20, Paul is giving the Ephesian elders specific instructions on their duty as elders. From Acts 20:32-35 it is clear to me that elders are to be in the financial position of giving to the church (just as Paul was), and not receiving from it. I think if all the elders were self-supporting, it would free large sums of money to be used for missionaries or to help the poor. I also believe it would place your motives above reproach in a time period where televangelists fleece the flock to support their excessive lifestyles. Also don't you think by paying elders full time salaries, you unintentionally foster an artificial clergy/laity distinction? I do. If the church hires a full time elder, I believe it puts that person (particularly you) and God's sheep which they tend to (me in this case) in an unbiblical salesman/customer relationship. And try as you might to avoid this misconception, it's difficult for me (and probably others) to overlook.
4. Church buildings/edifices: I find no evidence in Scripture for meeting in large "church buildings." Romans 16:5 and 1Co. 16:19 refer to meeting in the house of Aquilla and Priscilla. Even when Paul wrote to Philemon, he also addressed the letter to Archippus and to the church in his house (v. 2) Paul also addresses the church which met in the house of Nympha (Col. 4:15). Even when Paul was teaching the newly formed churches, he did so from "house to house" (Act. 20:20). There are even more examples that support the apostolic pattern of house churches found throughout Scripture. Yet, I cannot seem to find one passage of Scripture that states the early church met in large buildings with pews for their weekly meetings. I see that the early church occasionally met in the temple (Act. 1:13, 2:46, 5:42) and Solomon's Porch (5:12), but this was at a time before normative church practice had been developed. Also I see these events as early Jewish Christians attempting to hold on to much of their Jewish heritage (Act. 21:20-26). In effect, I do not see Jubilee Church as a product of the first century church, but a product of the fourth century church which moved into more permanent "church" dwellings and cathedrals. I have read of a survey that indicates as much as 82% of church revenues on average go towards buildings, staff, programs, and equipment, while only 18% is appropriated towards missions. If this is true, I find it deplorable. What resources the church would save if we only followed the apostolic model of meeting exclusively in homes!
Another problem I see with the Sunday "worship service", is the pew structure. How can we follow the command of 1Co. 14:26 if all eyes are centered on the platform? Should one man be the dominant focal point of a church service (not that your monologues are bad; I actually love them)? How can you mutually edify one another if you're staring at the back of everyone's head? Wouldn't these problems be solved if we met in many individual homes on Sunday instead of a large building?
5. Recently I told you that I agreed with the doctrine of particular redemption. You also stated that if you allowed me to teach, you would prevent me from teaching this doctrine. I thought about this for two weeks, and I must say I have to disagree with your conclusion. Not only is this doctrine true, but it is a most beautiful doctrine indeed. To teach that God died for many (the elect) is a Biblical statement. Also, why would you prevent me from teaching what I believe, and then allow others to believe as they are led? Is there anything wrong in sharing with God's people the variety of viewpoints that exist? We don't want a group of mindless Christians that need to be spoon-fed every doctrine, do we?
"For there must also be differences among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you." (1Co. 11:19)
Aren't we supposed to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, 1Jo. 4:1" And "examine everything carefully and to hold fast to that which is good, 1Th. 5:21"
I believe it is important the people we teach are discerning people, and not spoon fed babies.
6. Theological Study Program: Since my application for the year long theological study program was rejected, God has given me plenty of time to think about these things. I have been shown that it was a good thing that my application was rejected. I don't necessarily believe it was for the reasons you gave me (I'm "too independent"); but because I think it is wrong to pay for such training. And a revelation came to me this week that shows me why this is true. As I was reading 1 Timothy, I noticed Paul warned against men who require money to teach the Scriptures ("who think that godliness is a means to financial gain", 1Ti. 6:5). And he made a clear distinction between what they do and what Christians are supposed to do, "unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit, 2Co. 2:17."
What does it mean to "peddle the Word of God for profit" if not to require payment for teaching it? Yet this is precisely what Jubilee Church is doing when they require payment (over $1000.00) for the Theological Study Program. I can easily see how you might justify the expense (which you did), but didn't Jesus instruct the disciples that, "freely you have received, freely give, Mat. 10:8"?
The list above details shortly the things I feel fairly strong about. Albeit, a lot of them are new concepts to me; but I am one who grasps a hold of the truth when presented with it. I certainly am open to varying interpretations and to your suggestions. However, I believe I have a different vision for God's Church than you do. Certainly our goals are the same, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Mat. 28:19". It's just our interpretation of the means for accomplishing this great commission differ quite significantly.
With all of this being clearly stated, I am curious as to what you think of my interpretations. I am open to your suggestions, and respectfully request your response. Also, please do not take my criticism negatively, as my intentions are not designed as a means to tear down. But I willfully, and even reluctantly, make my beliefs known in an attempt to build each other up. I am not seeking a debate. I am not seeking controversy. However, I do seek your friendship, wisdom and guidance.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,