If You Attend Church, Do You Know What Your Church Believes?

Discussion in 'Faith & Religion' started by Ken Anderson, Apr 18, 2021.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    It seems like the answer to that question should be easily answered in the affirmative, but I think that many people attend church regularly yet don't know what it is that their church teaches and that this is probably more so today than in the past.

    People have come to expect church services to be heavy on music and fellowship, but light on sermons. I read somewhere that the average sermon time in Christian churches in the United States is ten minutes. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that people don't expect to have to listen to the guy behind the pulpit talk for long and that many of them aren't really listening to what's being said anyhow.

    That's true for me, as well. When we were raising our nephew, we would sometimes question him about what the pastor spoke about during the sermon, and there were many times when I couldn't have answered those questions either, and I was a deacon.

    For as long as my family has been in America, they attended Bethel Church, just up the hill from our house. At one time, it was part of a denomination known as Bethel Covenant, which consisted of only eight churches when they merged with another denomination to become the Evangelical Covenant Church. When I became an adult and was living in California, where pretty much every flavor of church imaginable was available, except for an Evangelical Covenant Church, I decided that it might be important for me to figure out just what it was that I believed.

    Although I attended pretty much every church service at Bethel Church since I was a baby, I didn't really know what it was that the Evangelical Covenant Church believed in. I learned later that one of the reasons for this was that our local church hadn't had an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor since they became part of that denomination. The two pastors who I remembered the most were both Lutherans, and although they may (or may not) have tried to teach Covenant theology, their training was in the Lutheran Church.

    I don't think this is all that unusual, particularly in small congregations. When I was on the search committee for a new pastor for the American Baptist Church that I was a member of, several of the pastors who were under consideration were from other denominations, although we did end up with an American Baptist pastor.

    Reviewing church websites for my web directory job, I have to come up with a 500-character description of the site, and many of the church websites that I look at don't even have enough information for me to be able to do that. Today, many of them have more about COVID-19 than about whatever their mission is supposed to, while many of the others are, I think, so afraid to alienate someone who may identify as some other flavor of Christianity that they are deliberately vague as to just what it is that they teach, which leads me to believe that they don't actually teach anything.

    If you attend church, do you know what your church teaches?
     
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  2. Jeff Elohim

    Jeff Elohim Very Well-Known Member
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    Years ago, when I was an active member of a church , I naturally at first believed that they taught what Jesus taught the disciples to teach, and that they at least believed the Bible is True.
    Like some others who asked questions over time, I found out that they were opposed to the Good News of Jesus, and believed a social or prosperity or other gospel, not at all requiring repentance nor faith in Jesus or in God.
    Thus, the search continues for true disciples every day, in any place. It seems that because of fear of covid, fear of putting people off, and desire for more members and more money, and the reality of being attacked by other groups if it becomes known that a group of disciples adheres to Scripture and to Jesus, following Jesus as He Says His sheep do,
    thus the true sheep are not advertising, and may indeed be difficult to find,
    but once found, it is clear and delightful and joyous and righteous to live as one with them and as one with Jesus and the Father as written in John 18 et al. There is a devil, prowling around seeking whom he may devour, and he gets a lot of help from religous groups and religous people doing that. But we know Jesus Voice, and follow Him, and will not follow another voice. Thus, Jesus guides up to fellowship(s) together with one another as the Father in heaven directs every day.
     
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  3. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Supreme Member
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    I certainly agree with you, @Ken Anderson that most church attendees don't understand what their church or denomination believes. I have found that the churches I classify as "congregational" don't often have a truly consistent theology from church to church, simply due to the nature of a congregation-based church. Each church develops their own "take" on things, depending on the ethnic make up of the church and the local traditions. The ones I classify as "episcopal" tend to have a more consistent theology, but that is generally less well understood than the "congregational" churches since the theology is imposed form outside the individual local church, and it tends to be more complex. This all depends on the education level of the attendees and the pastor, minister or priest involved as well. The educational program within the church also has a bearing on how well-informed the congregants are.
     
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  4. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Supreme Member
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    Hence, one of our basic problems finding a home church.
    When we attend certain churches it seems as though the praise and worship team are the warm-up show before the main event, 10 minutes of passing the plate followed by a 10-15 minute praise and worship thank you God speech. My goodness, we regularly attended two churches which were split because of problems IN the praise and worship teams. In essence, they were nothing more than show people with some kind of celebrity complex which was almost justified since many in the congregations treated them like celebrities.

    The other problems we have faced is that it is indeed hard to get a real foundational doctrinal and missions statement that is taught and preached. It’s as if the idea of a pastor being either a preacher / teacher or a teacher / preacher has given way to motivational speakers.
    One pastor was so enamored by his recordings of himself that he forgot he had a congregation to speak to and stood there talking into his computer for later broadcasting.

    One other church we left was another praise and worship possessed congregation. They were going to have a bluegrass gospel group come in on an off night and Yvonne and I were going to go. At that time I was preaching at our local rescue mission so I asked the pastor if he could lend the church bus and a driver to pick up some of the program people at the mission so that they could attend the concert and the answer was no.
    The reason: The congregation might not “like” homeless people from the mission attending their church. Those “homeless” people were in a Christ based program in order to straighten out their lives but the congregation might not like them attending their church. Declared Pentecostals not wanting to evangelize and build their congregation? Pitiful.
    Long story short, we took a couple of the programmers to the concert and later attended 2 or 3 more Sunday services but that was about it.
    Funny but their praise and worship team also blew up and again, the church split.

    Edit: In answer to the OP, yes, if there is anything of importance to hear, I hear every single word the pastor says.
     
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  5. Jeff Elohim

    Jeff Elohim Very Well-Known Member
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    Yes, like Jesus says:
    "IF they teach/preach/read Scripture (Torah) then Listen; but do not live like they live." They do not live right ?
     
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  6. Hugh Manely

    Hugh Manely Very Well-Known Member
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    Yes, I've been a member since 1975 at my church, which is Baptist.

    The first sentence in our beliefs is:
    The purpose of this church is to glorify God through obedience to the great commission in leading people to faith in Christ and into an ever-growing relationship with him.

    Under that there are beliefs about specific entities, such as God, Holy Spirit, Bible, eternity, salvation, etc., but the sentence above gives our main purpose
     
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  7. Joseph Carl

    Joseph Carl Very Well-Known Member
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    You raise several good points Ken, and none complimentary for the churches or believers.

    The majority of my believing friends are Catholic, and I have found none of them aware of the unbiblical beliefs and practices of their Roman Catholic Church. I give them credit for accepting the Gospel message and trying to lead Christian lives, but remain dismayed at the doctrinal contradictions they hold out of ignorance from not discipling themselves outside of the Sunday mass service. Like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, they readily accept what they've been taught, sadly whether it's consistent with the Bible or not.

    I think the majority of believers pick a church based on locality convenience and their feel for the worship service - being agreeable music, preaching, and people. The church's doctrinal beliefs are secondary and easily disregarded. That less than diligent attitude allows false teachings to proliferate from many churches.

    No local church is perfect, but all Christians would do well to care more about what they believe and who they follow. It takes some time, research, and a desire to truely know and love God more as we're purposed to do in life. If a church's website doesn't detail an adequate catechism of the Gospel message, along with a position on the Bible's disputed authority and moral value issues, then a sit down question/answer meet with the lead pastor is warranted. If more people would seriously assess a church's doctrinal beliefs based upon the Bible, I think we'd have a stronger, more effective Christian church body - putting the cults and man-made religious denominations out of business.
     
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  8. Jeff Elohim

    Jeff Elohim Very Well-Known Member
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    Thus, or also, another gospel. (a false gospel)

    *"aware" or maybe apparently aware? i.e. they might be aware, but prefer the love and approval of (lost) men instead of the <true> love and approval of God ?
     
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  9. Lon Tanner

    Lon Tanner Supreme Member
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    No Comment---I don't belong or attend church.
     
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  10. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Supreme Member
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    The members of every church tend to believe "what they are told" as you say, not just Catholics, Mormons, and JWs. Outside the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses, virtually every denomination is based on beliefs developed by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, chiefly the Divinity of Christ and the Trinity. While I do believe most alleged Christians don't have the foggiest idea what their church or denomination believes, all the Protestant denominations are based on beliefs developed by the older churches.
     
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  11. Jeff Elohim

    Jeff Elohim Very Well-Known Member
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    It may take 3 years, or even only 3 months to see - maybe less even, for some - what is the description in the Bible

    of the local Ekklesia at the time it was written.

    Yahweh's Own Description of those who were immersed in Yeshua's Name, who were born again by The WIll of the Father (not of the flesh, nor of blood, nor of the will of man), who were (also/likewise) "holy" - "set apart" by the Father for His Own Plan and His Own Purpose in Christ Jesus ?

    The Description, as Revealed by the Father in heaven through His Chosen Messengers, might be the only "perfect" description ever seen by someone on earth today.

     
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  12. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    Functionally, the Methodist Church has some questionable practices:

    -They never read from The Book of Revelation
    --"It's just John's dream"

    -They claim that Mary was ascended into heaven (taken to heaven without dying first)
    --"She's such an important figure, and the Bible doesn't speak of her death"

    There are likely others that are not formally proclaimed and that I have not encountered yet.

    Methodist pastors go through significant formal training.
    I've often said that if I could find a Bible study group that met in a coffee shop or in someone's home, I'd prefer that to attending a formal church with its attendant costs, maintenance, upkeep and other distractions. Part of that desire is I'm not fond of the way UMC services are structured. There is a reading from the Old Testament by a lay person and then a reading from the New Testament by the pastor with no context whatsoever. It feels random, and sometimes just clumsy.

    During one service our pastor referred to where we were in The Liturgical Year and I could see eyes glaze over. So I put together a Liturgical Calendar so folks could understand and partly to give a context as to why there were specific passages read at specific times of the year, but couldn't get traction with even mentioning it during services. He did let me hang it on the fridge in the kitchen. (I attached the one for 2021 below if anyone's curious. I learned a lot by putting it together.)

    Our pastor did a couple of Bible study classes and was looking for suggestions. I wanted a very high-level overview of the Bible itself: who wrote each book (or group of books), when was it written, who was the audience, what was the historical context, maybe a brief explanation of major prophets vs minor prophets...after all, it was Bible study. I didn't want anything complicated, but it would sure be informative for folks to have some sort of context and to remind them during services. There was no appetite for it.

    The other upside to participating in a Bible-focused group (and what churches lack) is the engaged informal interaction, just as you see Jews passionately argue their faith (and thereby refine their understanding of their own beliefs.) Classic Christian church services lack an engage role on the part of the laity...it is mostly a rote event.

    When I first moved to this area, I met a wonderful woman at work (Heidi) and we became friends. She gave me a Quest Bible (I love the margin notes and study guides, and the fact it's a gift from a friend.) Heidi told me that getting into the word on our own is the main course, and that church was dessert. Lots of wisdom in that. Perhaps Christians compartmentalize our faith too much, which causes us to put so much emphasis on the quality of what goes on every Sunday.
     

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  13. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    Here is an annual rollup of the membership data each and every UMC church reports every single week (unless the UMC has since backed off of the requirement), even the small rural churches. We must all do it online, even country churches where no one has ever had so much as an email account (I know such people.) The routine format is different, but it includes all these data elements. In addition, there is financial data reported.

    This has been a requirement since around 2013, with recent COVID tweaks.

    What we say we believe is one thing.
    What we measure is what really counts.
    We all feel that this is a pretty reductionistic way of looking at the laity, and wonder exactly why anyone would put us through updating so often.

    Sorry for the poor quality, but you get the idea where the focus is. I've attached a pdf for the curious.

    Reporting Pic 1.jpg Reporting Pic 2.jpg Reporting Pic 3.jpg
     

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  14. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Supreme Member
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    @John Brunner it certainly appears that you know what the United Methodist Church teaches. I was raised a Methodist, and attended regularly until about 1995 or so. I used to read the Discipline whenever it was published, but the one in the year I left the church was one I just could not stomach. It spoke against home-schooling (we homeschooled our 6 children), and announced that abortion was okay with the Methodist Church. We also had a District Superintendent (female) who changed the Lord's Prayer in all the services she officiated to "Mother-Father God" at the beginning. The Bishop eventually removed her from her position for blasphemy I think, but much of the damage was done and I was already gone by then. We have a Methodist Minister here who converted to Catholicism and the Pope allowed him to become a Catholic Priest even though he was married with several children. I regularly attend a Roman Catholic Church now (wife's church) but I have never joined and don't intend to do so.

    Interesting that The Methodists don't read Revelation. I don't recall anything along those lines while I attended. For the Catholics, it is a big thing during Advent.
     
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  15. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    Somewhere in this country (I think in Minnesota) there is a UMC Bishop who is "questioning" as his/her identity. They changed to confirmation language from "him/her" to "they/them" to accommodate. Yeh, we're "woke."

    I found out about the Revelation thing one evening in a Bible study class our pastor was leading. I forget how the subject came up. He kind of mentioned it as an aside. A quick web searched shows that a professor of New Testament theology at the UMC Wesley seminary in DC (Craig Hill) wrote a book in 2002 on apocalyptic writings (Daniel and Revelation.) I don't know if that has any bearing on current formal UMC doctrine. I think many churches avoid this book for a lot of reasons (it's complex, lots of allegories, it's not a happy message, etc.) Some time ago I met a minister of a Louisiana church who told me that they exclusively study that book. I don't know if they're one of those "end times focused" churches or what...it was a brief talk.
     
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