"Nos relinquo noster sententia" is the Latin reply
to last week's question to the American church, "Quo
Vadis?" -- Where are you going? The answer is what
we have come to realize is true about large segments
of the church: We have lost our way. Or perhaps more
accurately: We have abandoned our convictions.

Last week we promised to propose a Bible based
answer to the problem of the decline of the Christian
church in America. The search for an answer to this
very pervasive problem was given added impetus by
Bill Hybel's admission of an erroneous emphasis in
his ministry at Willow Creek Congregational Church,
the second largest "mega-church" in America: "We
made a mistake... We should have taught people
how to read the bible between services, how to
do the spiritual practices mush more aggressively
on their own."

This week our attention was directed to a similar
admission by Tim Keller, pastor of the Redeemer
Presbyterian Church in New York City, and author
of "The Reason for God" -- "I just need to do a
much better job than I have of leadership
development, mentoring and training."

We cannot devote the time or space to set forth a
complete doctrinal theological position as to the Bible
taught ministry of the church. Instead, we offer this very
brief outline, largely based on the words of Jesus Christ.

Anglican theologian W.H. Griffith Thomas authored
a classic textbook titled "Christianity is Christ," which
presents Jesus Christ as the center of the Christian
faith. It will be recalled that when Jesus asked His
disciples who they believed Him to be, Peter
responded with what has been called "the first Christian
creed" -- "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
living God." Jesus said that upon that statement
of faith He would build His Church. (Matt. 16: 16,18)

And He did. The Scripture records that the early
believers were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26); they
went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4); they
were described as having turned the world upside
down (Acts 17:6), and the Lord added to the Church
those who were saved (Acts 2:47). That is the Bible
record -- the history -- of the Church that Jesus Christ

And the message that Jesus gave them to preach?
"God so loved the world that he gave his only
begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life."
(John 3:16) "I am the way, the truth and the life;
no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
(John 14:6) "Except a man be born again, he
cannot see the kingdom of God... Ye must be
born again." (John 3: 3,7)

Paul confirmed those things that Jesus had taught,
saying , "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and
thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31) "There is
none other name under heaven, given among
men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
And in establishing what being a Christian involves,
he wrote:"Study to show thyself approved unto
God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Tim. 2:15)

And what instruction, what directive, did Jesus give
to believers? What was the purpose of the Church?
"Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel
... teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost." (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19)

And that is the history, the message and the purpose
of the Church which Jesus founded. It is that faith
which grew to become the largest religion on Earth.
It is that faith which sent believers across the ocean to
establish a new nation called America, based on the
principles of that faith. And it has been the church in
that new nation which through the years -- by faith --
has sent thousands of missionaries to the far corners
of the world in obedience to the Great Commission
of Jesus Christ.

But it is that church which is in decline -- it is not the
faith which has failed, it is the failed demonstration of
that faith by those who call themselves "Christians" or
even "Evangelicals."

We have experienced in recent days attempts by the
"Religious Left" to redefine "Evangelicalism" and the
mission of the church by moving it away from its main
emphasis on the power of the gospel to change lives,
and to broaden its agenda by putting primary emphasis
on a cure for HIV/AIDS, poverty, global climate
change and the environment. But those elements have
always been part of the church's task to bring about
social and cultural change, and they have always been
based on the message of the gospel resulting in the
changed lives of believers.

So what is the promised answer to the question,
"Quo Vadis?" (Where are you going?) addressed to
the American church, and to the church's response,
"Nos relinquo noster sententia" (We have lost our
way, or We have abandoned our convictions.)? The
answer is: "Impleo propositum ecclesia," Fulfill the
purpose of the church, as stated by Jesus Christ. It's
just that simple: Fulfill the purpose of the church.
That is the answer.

So there is the history of the Christian church ... the
message of the church ... the purpose of the church.
It is all just that clear and simple. Then why is the
church in a state of decline today?

This discussion continues in next week's issue
of American News Commentary.

"We may not understand how the spirit works;
but the effect of the spirit on the lives of men is
there for all to see; and the only unanswerable
argument for Christianity is a Christian life. No
man can disregard a religion and a faith and a
power which is able to make bad men good."
-- William Barclay

Some Random Afterthoughts . . .

The continuing problem in the Anglican church,
world-wide. The lingering effects of the ordination
of an openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal
church in America has brought the Anglican church
close to schism. This week approximately 1,000 of
the more orthodox, Bible believing leaders will be
meeting in Jerusalem, many of them planning to
boycott the once-every-ten-years-Lambeth-conference
in Canterbury in July. One of the leaders is Archbishop
Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has declared, "There
is no longer any hope for a unified communion."
The recent "marriage" of two homosexual Anglican
priests in a church ceremony has exacerbated the
problem. The issue is centered on the acceptance or
rejection of the Word of God as the final authority for
the church.

Meantime, here in America, the Presbyterian Church
USA will be meeting this week in California to decide
whether or not to re-write the "Book of Order" so as
to permit Presbyterian ministers to marry homosexual
couples. Thus the Presbyterians will be facing up to the
issue which so many "main line" denominations have
dealt with unsatisfactorily, from a Bible-based viewpoint.
In California, where homosexual marriage became legal
last week, Roman Catholic bishops have rejected the
procedure and have declared that marriage"has a unique
place in God's creation, joining a man and a woman
in a committed relationship..."

A personal encounter: Daniel Heimbach, Professor
of Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
has withdrawn his membership in the Society of
Christian Ethics after the organization took a stand
which he describes as "honoring sin over Scripture."
New guidelines will make it impossible for any member
to remain in good standing who does not affirm homo-
sexuality, and who defend and apply Biblical morality.
What is happening along these lines reminds one of
the old illustration of the camel's nose under the tent.

In case you were wondering, here, according to
Forbes Weekly Newsletter, in 1-10 order are the top
most powerful celebrities in the world today: 1: Oprah
Winfrey; 2: Tiger Woods; 3: Angelina Jolie; 4:
Beyonce Knowles; 5: David Beckham; 6: Johnny
Depp; 7: Jay-Z; 8: The Police (a musical group, not
your local cops); 9: J.K. Rowling; 10: Brad Pitt. In
case you had been wondering, now you know.

For the record, Congressional leaders do well on a
financial basis. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi
is by far the wealthiest of the Congressional leaders,
with her assets valued at between $30 million and
$131 million. John Boehner, the minority leader in the
House has assets valued at between $2.1 million and
$7.9 million. Over in the Senate, majority leader Harry
Reid's assets are valued at between $2.6 million and
$12.3 million, with minority leader Mitch McConnell's
assets valued at about the same level, $3 million to
$12.7 million. The wide range is provided for in the
financial disclosure forms in the Ethics in Government
Act of 1978, making it extremely difficult to determine
a lawmaker's exact wealth. But they do appear to be
doing quite well, by any standard.

Not exactly a "Founding Father," but wise words,
even so: "Our safety, our liberty, depends upon
preserving the Constitution of the United States as
our fathers made it inviolate. The people of the
United States are the rightful masters of both
Congress and the courts -- not to overthrow the
Constitution, but to overthrow the men who
pervert the Constitution." -- Abraham Lincoln

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