White Settlement Thoughts
I've juggled all week the decision whether or not to comment on the shooting where the Lord's church meets in White Settlement. I've worried I might say something and it be taken the wrong way, and I'm still worried about that. But after I read an article today, I decided to risk it, because I was just moved to say a few things about this church, their example to the world, and even the news coverage that has ensued.
After the worship service was halted by the gunman's actions Sunday, church members decided to gather together Monday night. I think this was a bold and necessary step in the healing process for them, and the community at large. But I want to point out that they sang songs to God, including "Amazing Grace" "Precious Memories" "It Is Well With My Soul" and "The Battle Belongs To The Lord". Under these tremendously emotional circumstances, the words of these songs must have been hard to sing, yet all so applicable to the situation. I have a lump in my throat thinking about it.
Surrounded by physical family, church family, and friends from the community, this church listened to an emotional message from their minister, and then one of their Elders led them in prayer. Emotions were understandably high, but in the midst of it all, they had God at the center.
The minister in his talk said, "There is evil in this world, and evil took two of my dear friends yesterday,”... “Not a bullet from a gun — evil. Not ideology — evil.” He could not be more correct. Our fight is against evil, not things or people, but evil. (Eph 6:12) Evil will use whatever weapon or method it desires to accomplish its task. Satan is at the core. John 8:44 says he is a murderer.
Another thing that stood out was part of the Elder's prayer, “Father, we even grieve the soul of the one who wronged us.” Instead of voicing hate and disdain as many in our would would have, he expressed a deep sorrow recognizing that this man too, had a soul.
What an example for the world to see, Christians putting their Christianity into action. May we continue to mourn the loss of two brothers, alongside our brothers and sisters in White Settlement, and continue daily to ask God for His comfort and healing for all involved.
Changing gears just a bit, the news media began covering this story using titles for the minister that were not correct, terms for the church that are misleading and are rooted in Catholicism (and similar religious practices), as well as using terms to describe their meeting place that insinuate the building itself is a consecrated structure. While most outlets are unfortunately sticking to that terminology, some of the media has started calling the minister 'the minister' or 'preacher'. Some stories now are just calling the church 'the church' or 'the congregation', although all are still referring to the building as 'the church'. We sometimes say "at the church" too when talking about our meeting place, but just like these other things, that too is incorrect, the building is not the/a church.
These reporters, I suspect, don't really understand that members of the Lord's church are not 'parishioners'. Oh, you can (and I did) find some definitions online that would suggest it simply means one who attends a church in their locality. And it does, if you practice Catholicism or similarly structured religions, and subject yourself to the authority of the one 'ordained by Catholic bishops' to be the leader of that locality or parish, ie., the local priest. Yet the more descriptive definitions are quick to note that 'parishioner' is tied to the Catholic church. They place a parishioner in a line of authority, with "deacons and the local priest" above the parishioner. Then other "church leaders" (archbishops and bishops) have authority over the priests. Bishops are subject to the cardinals, and eventually working up to "the leader" (the pope) of that church who presides over the church across the entire world, with the authority to control it, wearing the title 'Holy Father' which belongs ONLY to God (Matt 23:9). (also see Col 1:17-18, Eph 1:22-23, Eph 5:22-25, 1 Cor 11:3, Col 2:10)
We can see why as members of the Lord's church that we would not want to be referred to as 'parishioners'. We fully believe the scriptures that designate God the Father (1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:6, Matt 23:9), Jesus the Son and head of the church (Col 1:18) as the only authority over the church (1 Cor 12:27, Rom 12:4-5) (1 Cor 12:12, Eph 4:4, Col 1:24, Col 1:18) Then, according to scripture, Elders are appointed by each autonomous (self governing, subject to Christ) congregation for shepherding (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5-9) and Deacons for serving within that congregation (Acts 6:3, 1 Tim 3:8-10). There is no hierarchy of man in the church of the New Testament and to use of these terms to describe the church of Christ is problematic. I'm assuming some Christian(s) along the way offered to correct these misapplied terms and titles with some of the reporters writing these stories, and I'm glad to see the correct terms starting to be used.
As trivial as that may seem in the eyes of many, it is important to make these distinctions because the vast majority of people truly don't understand the scriptural pattern for church organization. Not correcting these inaccurate terms being used to describe the church falsely portrays the distinctive church of our Lord. It is left to just blend in with everything else out there in the name of religion, when we know it is different, distinctive by nature according to the scriptural pattern outlined in the New Testament. (Acts 2:47, Eph 5:4, Matt 16:18)
So in a good way, not only has God touched the world this week through these incredible people in His church in White Settlement, but in the process, some teaching of His Word has even crept through the news cycles.
We serve a great and awesome God!