Top Ten Heresies of the American Church

I wasn’t going to post this here, but after reading Conrad Kanagy’s insightful book, “Road Signs for the Journey”, it seems that us Mennonites need a few reminders of who we really are.

You see, a “heresy” is, according to I Timothy 6, a teaching that is in opposition to the teaching which Jesus gave. So we need to examine our own churches and see where we stand in realtion to Jesus, as opposed to in relation to the Confession of Faith.

So here’s my top ten:
1. Prejudice against the lower class
When Jesus says “blessed are you who are poor.”

2. Thinking salvation = comfort
When Jesus says, “Woe to you who are wealthy, for you have already received your comfort

3. That the only good leaders are seminary-educated leaders
When Jesus says, “The greatest among you shall be your slaves.”

4. Believing that the United States is or should be a Christian nation
When Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the gospel.”

5. Thinking that any political leader is a good Christian just because he uses evangelical language.
When Jesus says, “You shall know them by their fruits.”

6. Whole-hearted support of war
When Jesus’ command was to “love your enemies”

7. Supporting the unrestricted personal use of wealth
When Jesus’ command was to “sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

8. Believing that prayer is less effective than political or military action
When Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find.”

9. Accepting the current division of ethics in politics along liberal and conservative lines—adopting rather than questioning worldly morality
When Jesus said, “Call no man teacher, for your only Teacher will be the Messiah.”

10. That obeying Jesus is only for super-saints, like Mother Teresa, and that living like Jesus isn’t possible for any “normal” Christian.
When Jesus said, “Who is my mother or brother or sister? The one who hears the word of God and does it.”

Steve K

Comments (15)

  1. jurisnaturalist

    Umm…
    Regarding #7. If we don’t believe in centralized governments, who is going to restrict the use of wealth?
    You either get war-mongering nation-states with restrictions on economic liberties, or peaceable loose federations with economic liberties.

    Economic liberty and peace are inseparable.
    Nathanael Snow

    Reply
  2. SteveK (Post author)

    I am speaking of the church which is– or should be– an uncentralized government. It is a political body free from human commands or a false sense of democracy.

    Jesus’ system only works by faith– by the freely offered fealty, devotion and obedience to our Lord and Emperor Jesus, who rules at the right hand of the Father. So if we are to distribute our wealth, it is not at the command of a central government, but at the command of our Lord who loves us.

    Thus, the only restriction on freedoms is voluntary. Which is freedom.

    Steve K

    Reply
  3. Paco

    Not supporting unrestricted use of wealth is very very different from supporting coercion to restrict that use. I strongly encourage people to restrict themselves, hoping that the people of the kingdom of God (that’s the church) would encourage each other (gracefully, peacefully, and non-coercively) to follow the example of JC and wouldn’t even think of making it a question of government, imagining such an unjust, self-serving, power-dead and demonic entity even being involved in any kind of true peace to be absurd.

    Reply
  4. Paco

    sorry started posting the reply and got sidetracked so didn’t see that steve had already replied. so, what he said.

    Reply
  5. Lora

    Thanks for sharing this, Steve — I especially resonated with the last three. It got me wondering what other’s lists of heresies would look like; anyone else feel inspired to share theirs?

    Reply
  6. James McGrath

    I don’t see why seminary education would necessarily undermine a servant attitude. Indeed, although this depends on the seminary, for many people there is a change between going to seminary with a certainty that one knows the answers and graduating realizing how much one doesn’t know, which is good for one’s humility!

    Reply
  7. SteveK (Post author)

    The issue is not seminary education itself, but the necessity of it. The best leader is one who is lowly, is willing to serve, not one who must:
    a. Be educated enough to do graduate work
    b. Have the necessary free time to spend years in school
    c. Be willing to be in debt
    and d. Go out to get a “well-paying job” right after school to pay for the debt.

    This system means that no one will be a pastor among the poor, because no one can afford that sacrifice. This system means that pastors, for the most part are not dependent on the Spirit, but are dependent on their education. This system means that there is a sense of privilage for a pastor and professionalism that sociologically undermines servanthood.

    Steve K

    Reply
  8. somasoul

    There are a lot of things wrong with the church. What’s right?

    Reply
  9. SteveK (Post author)

    Somasoul, I feel like you are looking for one of the letters in Rev 2-3. “You have done this well… but this I have against you…”

    I suppose that we could look at what’s right in the church as well, for instance the resurgance of openness of the powers of the Spirit. And its emphasis on including youth. And its stand against abortion and sexual immorality– and even learning to support single moms in the midst of that.

    But for me– and perhaps this is just my negativity– the stands that the American church takes against the word of Jesus just looms so large. The Corinthian church had much that was positive about it, yet Paul focuses two large letters on the negative issues within it.

    The thing is, the church is the first and only realistic representation of Jesus. But if the church itself denies what Jesus says for it to do, then where is the world to turn for a true gospel? How will the truth be known? How will anyone know that Jesus really IS the way, if the ones who name themselves by Jesus stand against that very way.

    This is not to say that the majority of churches in other places are much more balanced. The majority of the church in the world don’t have these issues. But it is the American church that communicates their values to the world, and so their impact is exponential.

    We need to be different here, so that the world will be able to have a true Jesus to reflect on and put their faith in.

    Steve K

    P.S. Sorry if I seem to be commenting so much. I promise, I’ve got other stuff to do today, so I’ll be silent soon. (Collective sigh of relief)

    Reply
  10. Adam

    Steve,
    Your comments about seminary education are insulting to those of us who have sunk ourselves into debt (poverty) in order to heed the call of God and the church, all to enter the glamorous and high-paying world of church work. Your generalizations are unfounded. I cannot fault anyone who spends several years of their lives intensively studying the scriptures and examining their calling, nor can I fault the church for wanting their leaders to do so. I would welcome more clarification on your part.
    Adam

    Reply
  11. SteveK (Post author)

    I am not trying to tell anyone that extra effort to become a better minister of the gospel is false. The issue I am speaking of is the requirement of churches or denominations for pastors to have seminary education. This denies the lower class to be pastors and it does require a debt for almost everyone. I am speaking of it as an oppression, not a sin for those who willingly take it on. And the majority of American churches do not consider a person to be a pastor without seminary education.

    So I hope you do not take offense, Adam.

    Steve K

    Reply
  12. Greg

    This one maybe could have been stated a little more clearly, but it makes sense; I read it NOT as saying that “seminary educated leaders are a heresy,” but as saying “a mindset preventing non-seminary educated leaders from participating is a heresy.”

    It’s not the fact of seminary education that seems to be the issue, but peoples’ perception of and response to that education.

    Reply
  13. Mark Van Steenwyk

    As someone who went to seminary, somewhat begrudgingly, I want to say I agree. For 15 years (ever since I was 17) I have been looking for solid leadership development in churches…but the sad reality is most churches suck at disciple-making. I went to seminary because real alternatives didn’t seem to present themselves. And believe, me, I looked. It would take a lot of commitment and faith for us to ween ourselves off of dependency on seminaries.

    Having said that, I benefited from seminary. It was mostly a positive experience. I was in ministry the whole time I was in seminary. And I had served as a pastor before I went to seminary. I’ll probably get a PhD someday. I have a lot of tension about that, but real apprenticeships aren’t really available anymore.

    Having said all that, a few months ago Missio Dei took on a staff person (he had to raise funds) who hasn’t received any education after high school. What he has received is a lot of investment from me (which is both good and bad, I suppose) :)

    Josh, the guy I’m talking about, turned 23 today. And I’d pit him against any seminary trained person in a debate.

    Reply
  14. somasoul

    Mark,

    You’d pit Josh in a debate? I like to see you pit him against rabid beavers in a winner take all death match!!!!!

    Anyway, I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with seminary but we need a way to bring up leaders. Then again, true leaders should rise up around us.

    Reply
  15. jurisnaturalist

    Steve,
    Thanks for your reply, we are agreed.
    Per seminary, I’ve never been. I took a systematic theology class online through Moody, snuck in to Hauerwas’ Christian Ethics class at Duke without even being a student (one of the best experiences of my life!) and read a lot.
    I also attended churches where the Bible was taught expositionally verse-by-verse, so I got to know my Bible real well. Then, of course I read it all myself a few times.
    Finally, I married a really smart woman who has more wisdom in her pinky finger than I have in my whole body. I owe it all to Proverbs 31.
    N Snow

    Reply

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