Monday, September 7

Looking for a home....

“Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”- John 14:23 (NIV)

Since my family and I have left the ‘wilds’ of Holly, that quaint little village about a half hour from Flint in the southwestern area of Oakland county I have pondered the argument of finding another community in which to fellowship and belong. It has not been one I’m eager to impart upon again, with the recent string of mega-driven churches that seem to be more on size than on community relationships that have been the experience or that preach a doctrine that has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Beginning at the ‘bottom’ again just fills me with frustration and discontentment that has plagued me since God called me to ministry some five years ago.

Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that I must be in a community of believers, not just for the edification of the journey but to have accountability and instruction. John tells us to gather together because of who we belong to:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1John 1:7 NIV)

The example of the early church was to come together for instruction and fellowship….

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” ( Acts 2:42 NIV)

So, that is why I travelled with my kids to Berean Bible Church in Livonia.

The Bereans of the bible were mentioned in the book of Acts, in comparison with the Thessalonians, who had run Paul out of town with false accusations. They are said to be ‘of more noble character’ because they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true, rather than trying to incite a riot like the Jews in Thessalonica did ….they did not merely sit under the apostle’s teaching and swallow what he had to say with blind obedience. (Acts 17:11 NIV)

Paul would be followed by those Thessalonian Jews, Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea, and sneaked down to Athens, where he sent word for the others to follow, and during that wait, uttered the famous sermon about the ‘unknown God’ the Greeks had a statute for.

According to Wikipedia, many churches and ministries that follow the ‘Berean’ label are predominately evangelical protestant and place an emphasis on the primacy of Scripture.

The Berean Church is compromised of 60 independent congregations in the US, with features common to Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations. It is the ‘sola scriptura’ or ‘bible only’, that puts this denomination at odds with its other denominational brethren, predominately Catholic, because of the protestant doctrine that declares the Bible as the sole source of revelation, and judgmental authority on all Christian faith matters. Formed by Martin Luther, the ‘sola scriptura’ rejects the authority of the Church and the apostolic tradition according to popular theology.

Historically founded by John Barclay, a former Presbyterian minister, the early form of the Berean church was modeled on a modern form of Calvinism. Barclay’s church merged with the Congregationalists after his death.

A new group was formed under Dr. John Thomas, under the title of “Christadelphian". The Thomas group believed in obeying the Commandments of Christ and the Bible as the inspired word of God, and split into two groups, the Christadelphians and the Berean-Christadelphians, but retained the division with the denominations of Protestants, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox over the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

The two groups of Christadelphians do not believe in the three-in-one Godhead.

Some groups, under the Bible Student movement, have also used the “Berean” title, such as the Berean Bible Students and the Berean Bible Institute. But, adding the “Berean” to a denominational group or church doesn’t necessarily mean it is a Barclay- or Thomas- or Luther-ian formation of the ‘sola scriptura’ group.

The Catholic dislike of the “Bereans” seems set in an argument about ‘more nobleness,’ pointing out that Paul preached for three weeks in Thessalonica and therefore the Jews there were allowed the time to compare to the Old Testament, soundly reject Paul’s teaching at the end of the third week.

The defense is that the Thessalonian Jews were right to be skeptical because of the myriad of heresies, cults and sects that were rampant in the Roman Empire, and the Jewish belief in the sole authority of the Torah, which the comparison was to have been made. This would have made the Thessalonians more of the “sola scriptura” mindset than the Bereans, who accepted Paul’s additional revelations as God’s word.

That argument falls on the face of the written word, as the Bereans are the only one of the two groups who were said to compared scripture for the discernment of God’s word in this new apostle, Paul, “to see if what he said was true.” This means Paul was preaching, at least in part, the Torah and bringing it in connection with the revelation of Christ’s sacrifice, overcoming death and ascension into Heaven. This we have evidence of throughout his teachings.

The Berean Bible Church I attended listed this as their beliefs on the website:

The Bible is God’s word and absolute authority in a believer’s life.

God is one, eternally existent in three Persons (Father,Son,Holy Spirit)

God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being.

Jesus Christ was born of a virgin conceived by the Holy Spirit,fully God and fully Man, satisfying divine judgment by the sacrifice of His death, from which He rose again and ascended to Heaven from which He will return.

The Holy Spirit convicts, regenerates, baptizes, indwells and seals the believer.

The need for salvation extends to all people, not earned by reformation of our life, morality or obedience to the sacraments but freely gifted to those who accept by faith the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as offered through the design of God for the redemption of His people.

They believe in the value of being a people who examine Scriptures for biblical truth and enjoy fellowship with like-minded believers on the essential beliefs stated, who seek to love one another and who look forward to the blessed return of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. As far as the doctrinal creed goes, they believe in the triune God.

Two brothers in Christ, one whom I know personally, come from this group. Joe finished his chaplaincy training and left for the field. Tom belonged to the same work bible group and extended the invitation to attend his church group.

It is led by Dr. John McLean, Senior Pastor who has thirty years in ministry with a focus on biblical and theological teaching/studying through various Christian post-secondary schools according to his bio and is passionate about bible exposition and application. He is also serving as the Director of Distance Education for Heritage College and Seminary. I got to meet and talk to both the Pastor and his wife, Diana. Very nice people, with the calm air of a mature Christian. Dr. McLean has the following titles; B.R.E, William Tyndale College, TH.M., Dallas Theological Seminary, M.A. Near Eastern Studies and Ph.D. Near Eastern Studies (Biblical) both from the University of Michigan.

The ‘other’ side of the congregation, the youth, are led by Ben Luethy, associate pastor, who has a B.A. from Moody Bible Institute and M.Div. from Heritage Theological Seminary. He became the associate pastor of BBC in 2005 and has a passion for building community and discipleship through small groups and helping the youth to have a personal relationship with Christ through active participation in it. I have not met Pastor Luethy, or his family. We didn’t stay for the ‘Sunday school’ portion of the Sunday, so I only saw maybe twenty kids in the ‘Kid’s church’ portion of the day. They do have programs for all age groups.

This is an old congregation, with a generational feel to its membership. When I walked in, it felt like I was walking into the hallowed halls of another church from long long ago, Dunning Park Chapel. The majority of the group was in their older 40s with precious few children it seemed gracing the hallways. There didn’t seem to be a lot of young families, and there definitely (at first glance) weren’t any single fathers in the group. Of course, summer time, especially with the holiday of Labor Day right around the corner, doesn’t give one a sense of the true size of the group that meets under the banner of BBC.

And, apparently the congregation is looking for a new shepherd…..

One cannot gain a sense of the congregational life from one visit. But one can verify whether biblical teaching is taking place……

Dr. McLean taught from 2 Thessalonians….an ironic place to teach if you take into account the biblical reference to the Bereans… a part of a series concerning the Anti-Christ.

“And you know what is holding him back, for he can be released only when his time has come.” 2 Thessalonians 2:6 (NLT)

It was interesting to see Dr. McLean point out that it isn’t the church’s influence or even the power of the faithful that are keeping the power or coming of the Anti-Christ at bay; rather it is the power of the Holy Spirit that holds this manifestation of the end days in check, until such time as that authority is withdrawn and the final days are allowed to commence.

McLean pointed to several verses that show the convicting power of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:8 and 16:13). He refers to the time of Noah, when God said that “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time….” (Genesis 6:2 NLT) as a historical point when the Spirit’s authority was removed. It was shortly after that Noah’s ark was built and the Great Flood destroyed the whole of humanity beyond its wooden hull.

It is that moment in time, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, when God will allow “this man [who] will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe those lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.”

The world will be allowed its disillusionary savior……its conquering hero…..

Of course, as we progress as ‘human’ in a postmodern world, you cannot go long without coming face-to-face with the disillusions of this world….Evolution, Atheism, Secular Humanism, Individual rights v citizenship, Situational ethics, separation of Church/State, life begins at birth, and homosexuality… McLean named a few.
It would seem the ground is fertile for the ‘refusal of the truth’ today, as we progress towards a liberal, universalist government of individual rights over the sake of societal cohesiveness. The land of the ‘majority’ has become the fragmentation of the individualist. We have the steps that this Anti-Christ will take; treaty with Israel, sit of world government in Babylon, etc… say that our current President, like many others before him, is the anti-Christ is folly……there are too many things that he doesn’t fit that are prophesied. He may be a precursor to the fields being prepared for the ‘releasing’ of the Anti-Christ…..but, the whole world has worked itself into being fertile for the taking.

As Pastor McLean points out, we have the chronology of the end times prophesied and the signs of the false one. And we know the framework of what will be the last day of the end times….

“After all of this, I saw another angel come down from heaven with great authority, and the earth grew bright with his splendor. He gave a mighty shout: ‘Babylon is fallen ----that great city is fallen! She has become a home for demons. She is a hideout for every foul spirit, a hideout for every foul vulture and every foul and dreadful animal. For all the nations have fallen because of the wine of her passionate immorality. The Kings of the world have committed adultery with her. Because of her desires for extravagant luxury, the merchants of the world have grown rich.’ Then I [John] heard another voice calling from heaven: “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her. For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God remembers her evil deeds. Do to her as she has done to others. Double her penalty for all her evil deeds. She brewed a cup of terror for others, so brew twice as much for her. She glorified herself and lived in luxury, so match it now with torment and sorrow. She boasted in her heart, ‘I am queen on my throne. I am no helpless widow, and I have no reason to mourn.’ Therefore, these plagues will overtake her in a single day----death and mourning and famine. She will be completely consumed by fire, for the Lord God who judges her is mighty.” And the kings of the world who committed adultery with her and enjoyed her great luxury will mourn for her as they see the smoke rising from her charred remains. They will stand at a distance, terrified by her great torment. They will cry out: ‘How terrible, how terrible for you, O Babylon, you great city! In a single moment God’s judgment came on you.’ The merchants of the world will weep and mourn for her, for there is no one left to buy their goods. She brought great quantities of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet cloth; things and objects made of expensive woods and bronze, iron, and marble. She also bought cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots, and bodies ----that is, human slaves. ‘The fancy things you loved so much are gone,’ they cry. ‘All your luxuries and splendor never to be yours again.’ The merchants who became wealthy by selling her these things will stand at a distance, terrified by her great torment. They will weep and cry out, ‘How terrible, how terrible for that great city! She was clothed in finest purple and scarlet linens, decked out with gold and precious stones and pearls! In a single moment, all the wealth of the city is gone!’” Revelation 18:1-17 NLT

There will be a time of prosperity in the economy and the overnight collapse of its system. The Anti-Christ will seem to be for the benefit of all, but will break a covenant with Israel halfway through its existence and will show signs, wonders and miracles to convict the weak of his authority and promise. And he will rein until the white horse is spotted in the skies, ridden by the Lord and Savior, who has come to reclaim His creation.

If anything else can be said of BBC, it cannot be considered to be a church without biblical teaching.


Reverend John McLean (PhD) sermon, 9-6-09.

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