I’ve been listening to this language of “partnering” coming from the leadership of my church. Which is the same rhetoric coming from a wide assortment of popular Christian leaders.
By “partnering”, they mean joining together with other organizations to accomplish some good thing – in Jesus’ name.
These good things might range from working with local homeless shelters, food banks, addiction ministries, helping the poor, helping abused women, feeding starving children, or even joining with national or international groups providing aid to impoverished countries; or maybe just standing along-side some activist group trying to affect social or political change – once again, in Jesus’ name.
A common justification for this joint participation is that the organization we are partnering with is supposedly a “Christian” ministry that is doing “great good”. Which could, supposedly, do even greater good if more churches would join in their work.
However, does the Bible actually have anything to say about How we are to minister to others? Or with Whom we are to partner? Or Not to partner?
Has the Lord given us any clear guidelines or limitations for us to follow?
Or does our desire to help and to be good humanitarians take precedence over all other concerns?
A Disgust for Isolationists
Back when Evangelicals first started calling themselves “Evangelicals”, one of their basic reasons for forming the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was to avoid isolationism.
Isolationism was what they accused Fundamentalists of practicing.
They criticized Fundamental Bible believers of hunkering down in their churches and never joining up with or fellowshipping with anyone that “they didn’t agree with”. Or of avoiding any other churches or organizations that they “didn’t agree with on every doctrinal point”.
This was a foundational reason given by Evangelicals for breaking away from the Fundamentalist camp.
The “isolationism” label is also frequently used against older Christians that are “just not tolerant” of the ideas of the young. Or of anyone whom they say “does not have enough love for lost souls” to give up their “idolization” of doctrinal purity.
Agreeing to Remain Silent
Modern leadership puts up a lot of resistance against anything that might limit the styles, methods, or partnerships that an Evangelical church would like to employ. They also exhibit an intolerance of any criticism of their goals or methods. Especially any second-guessing coming from the older guys in the pews.
These are the “elder brothers”, as Tim Keller likes to call them. These are the ones whom church leadership wishes would just give their money, get on board, get to work, and shut up about anything they don’t like. Especially in areas of doctrine or theology.
Because the younger leaders have been conditioned in the seminaries and Christian universities to be undiscriminating (undiscerning) about what other ministries actually believe. And to be relatively unconcerned with those ministries they associate with.
They have been trained to stop quibbling about such things as different religious traditions, doctrinal beliefs, and any other things that might cause “division in the body of Christ”.
This is evident by the fact that most seminaries and universities today play fast and loose on doctrinal issues. By not requiring their faculty to take a clear stand on issues relating to biblical inerrancy, and the literal, accurate historicity of Genesis and other books of the Bible.
Even while these institutions of higher learning give lip-service to all these things and would bristle at any accusations of compromise. But they waffle on these things anyway – speaking out of both sides of their mouths.
The “Tie that Binds”
Essentially, they live in a state of denial about such things.
In fact, it could be accurately stated that this is the real glue that holds Evangelicalism together.
An unspoken agreement not to look beneath the surface. To avoid seeing what is really there.
But what does the Lord actually say is to be our attitude toward the purity of His church, the purity of His truth, and the purity of His gospel?
Or does the pursuit of “love” trump all other concerns of Christian ministry?
Or does How and with Whom we choose to partner with have an incredible effect on the gospel we are trying to proclaim; possibly even destroying the clarity and effectiveness of our ministries?
To Be Continued . . .
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