Are theme churches Biblical? Is it right to have our point of fellowship be based upon us all being cowboys or bikers?
This is a good one to end with. James just sent me this one today. “What’s the Bible say about all the new theme churches? Cowboy and biker?” The answer? Nothing. It says nothing about biker churches. It says nothing about cowboy churches. Now, yes, nothing specifically, but let’s just think a little bit. One thing that does strike me from Scripture is this: The Bible never, never, never indicates that we should have more than one kind of local church, except for geographical reasons. You hear what I’m saying? There’s nothing in Scripture – by the way, this doesn’t just come down to cowboys and bikers. This comes down to denominations as a whole. The Bible gives us no platform for Methodist churches and Lutheran churches and Baptist churches, and etc. The only reason for different local churches is exactly that – locality. Geography. And that’s interesting, because think with me here. You had some churches that had Jew and Gentile issues. What would be an example of that?
(from the room): Galatians.
Tim: Galatians had the Judaizers come in – very possibly. The Roman letter, he’s very specifically speaking to Jew and to Gentile in different portions of it. But you know what’s never said to any of those churches? You ought to divide up and have a Jewish church and a Gentile church. Let me tell you something else. The Corinthians were never told to divide up and have a rich church and a poor church. Do you know what else? Even in the book of Revelation, when you had five of the seven that are unhealthy, Jesus never told the people inside those churches to basically pack up and go start a new one or pack up and move to wherever. I find that very interesting. Very interesting. Now I know things have played out the way they’ve played out. I know we have different denominations because we have different ways of interpreting Scripture. And I know it would be very hard for Baptists to church plant or whatever if you’ve got a Presbyterian over here. I recognize there may be issues that they would not be able to get past. I recognize that there needs to be a fight for doctrinal purity, and if we have to move away from something where that purity does not exist, I recognize that. But what you need to recognize is this: Jesus calls for unity. He prays for unity. And there is not a single example in Scripture where you had in one locale two different churches functioning side by side. Now somebody might say, well, didn’t they have lots of churches that met in houses? Wasn’t there a lot of that going on? Okay, there may have been. But nowhere are we called to basically divide these things up. The thing that comes to my mind was what Paul said concerning Corinth when you had some people following this guy and some people following this guy. And he said this: Is Christ divided? That’s the question we need to ask. Is Christ divided? And we could say, okay, what’s wrong with a cowboy wanting to start a cowboy church? Is there really anything wrong with it? I mean, come on, they’re all going to wear their cowboy hats, and they’re going to wear their boots, and they’re going to sing country-western gospel. Is there really anything wrong with that? Or who cares if somebody wants to start a biker church? I mean, don’t bikers need to be saved? And somebody might even quote: We need to become all things to all people. Right? What I find interesting about that text is Paul says to those who are under the law, I became as one under the law. To those that are not under the law, I became as one not under the law. (incomplete thought) But you know what’s interesting? He’s speaking to the Corinthian church and he didn’t say, therefore Corinthians, divide up. He didn’t say that. Somebody might say Hudson Taylor – Hudson Taylor grew his hair long and he dressed like the Chinese to win the Chinese. So if I want to win bikers, I better get me a Harley. Right? Look, I would say this. That if I was formerly a Harley rider and God saved me, might I have a special place in my heart for those guys? Yeah, I might. Could I maybe feel a bit more comfortable among them? Yeah, I might. One thing I would just say is this: We don’t want to get to the place where we wouldn’t evangelize somebody because they’re not a biker. And would we want to get to the place where if we started a biker church and somebody came in that didn’t have a bike, that we’re going to look down on them? You see, the thing that makes me uncomfortable about cowboy churches and biker churches is I think one of the dangers is idolatry. Look, you don’t want your desire to have a Harley or your desire to have cowboy boots to somehow trump your willingness to love all Christians no matter what stripe they may be of. (incomplete thought) Look, the very same thing that causes me to cringe when I hear there’s black churches and white churches, or I hear there’s an Indian church over in Houston. We had people visit us one time when we were at Fatty’s and they said they heard about us on I’ll Be Honest and they came over here. I think they may have come over here maybe for business, maybe they came just to see the church. But I asked them about where they went to church and they went to an Indian church, like not red Indians like Apaches, but Indians from India kind of church. And I don’t like that. And I remember Ryan Fullerton speaking out against the fact that there were Gypsy churches in Romania. And I think rightly so. It’s like why are we dividing God’s people up? I know this, that from the very get-go, I prayed for a racially diverse church in Grace. And you know what? It tests our love. There are times when you have to fight through difficulties and you have to fight through prejudices and seek to love each other. But this is what Jesus was praying for – unity among His people. And I think we need to strive for that. I would just say this, that you know is there a place to dress like Hudson Taylor if you want to win the Chinese? I think there is. I think there is. But you know, he did not – you know how they had the bald front and the ponytail in back? If you read Hudson Taylor’s biography, he was a shiny white guy from England. His head would get burned all the time in the sun. Wearing their shoes was extremely uncomfortable for him. He did this to win souls. He didn’t do it because long hair in a ponytail was an idol to him. We just need to be honest. We need to be honest about our cowboy hats and our cowboy boots and about our Harley Davidsons, because if they become an idol and we basically are creating a church around that idol – see, that’s different than him getting a hairstyle that he would not have gotten if it wasn’t for the fact he wanted to win souls, and wear shoes that he would not have worn. They were almost like Dutch wooden shoes. They were super uncomfortable. They talked about how they hurt his feet.
James: And it wasn’t a subculture. It was the main Chinese culture.
Tim: Right. So, yeah. Well, any other comments on this subject? Probably a good time to stop. Okay, well, let’s pray. Father, I pray for these men and these women. Lord, make us discerning – truly discerning, biblically discerning. Help us to be able to separate. Help us to be able to tell one thing from another. Help us to be able to interpret things in light of Scripture and apply Scripture to all the practicalities of our everyday life. To know how they apply, to see, to discern. Lord, help us by constant regular use and exercise applying Scriptures to become very discerning people. Wash us with the water of the Word. Sanctify us by Thy truth into that image, that perfect image, that beautiful image of Christ. We pray in His name, amen.