Lone Ranger Christian?

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Q. My friend told me he does not read reference books in Bible study, saying there are so many different interpretations and opinions that it’s confusing. All he needs is “me and my Bible”. He said, “If you believe everything the books say, you might as well do without books (盡信書不如無書).” He also does not trust leaders in his church, nor well-known pastors. How can I steer him back?

A. While there are many opinions, there are sound rules of hermeneutics by which you can evaluate whether a particular interpretation is valid or not. It is not free for all and everything and anything goes. Your friend has a very high view of himself and a very low view of learning from others. But the fact of the matter is that most things we know we learned from others, our parents, elementary and high school teachers, bosses, books, media etc., even though your friend does not acknowledge them. We always stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and passed on the lessons they learned through their words and writings.

The Christian life is never meant to be lived in isolation, but in community. To say that one does not need the wisdom of the church in history, the exhortation of fellow believers, the edification of leaders is to be very arrogant and naive about one’s dependence on the body of Christ.

1 Co 12:21-26 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
• Eph 4:11-16 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
• Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

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There are dozens of “one another” verses in the epistles about how we should relate to each other. For you friend to say “just me and my Bible” sounds pious, but in fact goes against what the Bible taught. There is no place for playing “lone ranger”.

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Lobster Supper Spiritual Lessons

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The last time we visited Prince Edward Island (PEI) was at least 25 years ago, but one thing that stuck in our minds, besides the red sand beaches, was the traditional lobster suppers held in church basements. Teams of patrons wore plastic bibs, sat in rows of tables in the fellowship hall, chatting and joking as they enjoyed their five course meal – mussels, clam chowder with fresh rolls, potato salad, lobster and dessert, with hot coffee. The atmosphere was jovial, which helped to build up an appetite as you watched other diners’ eyes lit up while they devoured their delicious meal.

But times have changed. Restaurants had taken over much of the business, so fundraising via lobster suppers by churches for their parish is no longer profitable. One of the oldest, St. Ann’s, which had been catering daily for over 50 years, closed this summer. Some had switched to an annual event during the Island’s fisheries or lobster festivals. We attended one at Murray Harbor-Murray River, which, though on a smaller scale compared to what we recalled, afforded some spiritual lessons.

First, the beneficiary was for the community arena, used by many local residents. When was the last time your church did something to support the community, not just for yourself?

Secondly, it was a joint effort of all the churches in the area – Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of Scotland, Pentecostal, and United. It was inter-denominational for the benefit of the community, with no doctrinal issues. I’m not saying doctrine is not important, but there are times when doctrine is not involved and we can cooperate.

Third, it was an every member involvement. The churches did not just donate funds, the whole congregation from staff to members participated. Some donated dessert, some served as kitchen helpers or waiters, a local company donated lobsters. Everyone contributed something. Did your church have projects like this that pulled everybody together?

Fourth, it was like a family reunion. We noticed that while there were tourists like us, many of the patrons knew each other on a first name basis. It was a big community event that drew everyone out for a “family” gathering. They talked, they laughed, and all had a good time. It’s so refreshing to see many people working together for the common good, and having fun at the same time.

Sure I’m all for evangelism and discipleship, but unless you have unity and love for one another, how can you draw people? Seems we can learn a lesson or two from a simple community event. You might say that works only in rural areas where everyone knows everybody else. Perhaps, but what’s your strategy for reaching your community?