Rule Confusion

 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.‘  Matthew 15:8-9

I suppose that rules are essential in every organization. They help everyone know what is expected. They guide decisions. Rules create pathways for groups so that people can work together in the same purpose. A “law” is a rule and civilized societies structure their codes of what is acceptable and what is not by them. Without rules there can be a loss of security and peace. Rules are not evil. But rules can be confusing if we forget their origin. Not all rules are created equal.

What about rules in the church? They serve the same function as they do in other realms. There are rules about who can drive the church bus. There are rules about the use of the facility. There are rules about …. everything. In fact there are so many rules that at times churches can seem more in the business of holding people captive rather than setting them free. But when it comes to church rules, something ought to be made clear. The rules that apply to the church ought to come from our boss, the head of the church, our High Priest, Jesus Christ.

There is confusion over rules when the rules of men begin to take on the importance of the rules handed down to us by the Christ. Ultimately these rules become formed into the foundation of the local congregation to such a point that even discussing them is out of order! I would guess that you are thinking of some of those church rules now … rules that are treated as if they came out of God’s Holy Book itself! Rules that did not come out of God’s Holy Book, but were added there by men. Having an association with lots of preachers, I am aware of rules in many local congregations. These may or may not be rules at Central, but I know places where these are rules. I would wager that there are members of those congregations who really believe with all of their heart that these rules are found in Scripture. That’s how entrenched they are.

  • Men must wear a coat and tie to wait on the Lord’s Table.
  • Women can never wait on the Lord’s Table.
  • Baptisms must be performed in a church of Christ building by a church of Christ male to be effective.
  • Women may not utter an audible prayer if males are present.
  • The King James Version is the only version acceptable to God.
  • The communion table must reside at the front of the auditorium.
  • God hates instrumental music in worship and it is not to be allowed … ever … during the one hour worship service.
  • Attendance at the one hour worship service is the primary signal of faithfulness to God.
  • Songs sung during the one hour worship service should be written pre-1950.
  • Singing during communion is not allowed because it is doing two acts of worship at once – which is prohibited in Scripture.
  • Someone who serves Jesus within another denomination can never speak during the one hour worship service.
  • Once children have been baptized, they must have a male teacher in Sunday School.
  • We must have Sunday School.
  • Someone baptized within another denomination must be re-baptized to be saved.

I need to be sure you do not think that I am sitting here pointing my finger and guffawing at the rules of others. I’m not making fun, I’m simply making a list. I’m sure that some of my readers believe they can attach verses to these ‘rules’ to prove that they originate in God’s Word. And there is a point to this. When we criticize others for “adding to the Word” we must take a long look in the mirror. We’ve been doing that for a long time. Not by simply having rules, but by making these rules essential to salvation. That’s when rules become confusing.

I think we need less rules. Most of these rules are created to accomodate someone’s scruples about what the church ought and ought not to do. The rest of the people are held captive to the ideals of a few. Further, I think we should purposefully break the rules sometimes just to remind ourselves that they are our rules and not God’s.

Can you think of some other church rules? How do we communicate to each other our thoughts and feelings without demanding that everyone else bow down to my list of rules?

Thanks for stopping by!

john

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