Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ecumenicophilia and ecumenicophobia?

I am passionate about the Hornchurch Passion Play (HPP). I have been involved in every production since 1995. And I hope to have a part in next year's Hornchurch Passion Play.  I rejoice in what has become known as "the church of the Passion Play".  I love the fellowship, the prayer times, the rehearsals, the preparation meetings, the casual conversations and comradeship/camaraderie among local believers in Christ.  This is an event and expression of God's grace that crosses denominational backgrounds and barriers. Some would therefore see the Hornchurch Passion Play as an ecumenical enterprise, and certainly an evangelistic exercise. People have been converted to Christ through the HPP. And God willing, people will be converted to Christ in 2015 as a result, in some ways and various means blessed by the Lord, of the HPP and future HPPs. I pray that God will continue to use and to bless this ministry.

Now in calling the HPP an ecumenical enterprise raises various questions and concerns about ecumenism and evangelism.  My love for the HPP could be construed as ecumenicophilia, a love for ecumenism and ecumenical enterprise.  But in some respects I am, as a result of my past ministry in the Federation of Evangelical Churches and at an independent Baptist church (not in fellowship with the Baptist Union), ecumenicosceptic perhaps even ecumenicophobic. To many in the FIEC and among independent Baptist churches the word ecumenism is a pejorative term rather than a positive one.

The reason for my ecumenicoscepticism is due to my understanding of true faith, evangelism, and what preaching the Gospel really involves. We, Christians, are urged to contend for the faith that was once and for all given to the saints. To me, to contend earnestly for the faith means preaching the whole counsel of God and faithfully proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed. If we preach a false or another Gospel then it is a very serious error indeed. Please see Galatians 1: 8-9.

Some churches do not preach the authentic Gospel.  Their "gospel" is mixed with false teaching and vain hopes. There is compromise and concession to pseudo-evangelistic enterprises, such as the social gospel, the prosperity gospel, the gospel of cheap grace, the gospel of spirituality without repentance, the gospel of a meek and mild prophet who performed no miracles, sanctified good manners but no sacrificial discipleship, the gospel of religion and religiosity without a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Beware those who are "clouds without rain, blown along by the wind...wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame..wandering stars for whom blackest darkness has been reserved for ever."  The prosperity movement has produced plenty of "shepherds who feed only themselves." Jude gives us solemn yet sound advice in his epistle.

Some churches talk about being on spiritual journeys and on various religious paths, but they never seem to get to the point of repentance.  There cannot be any progress without repentance! We will face the wrath of God if we disobey the Gospel.  But then some churches seem to manage without the ministry of the Holy Spirit bringing conviction and guiding them in the truth. There are spiritual pilgrims who are seeking and searching, but they never come to the Truth, Jesus.

Some of these "gospels" are spiritually deadly and destructive because they contain poisonous teaching.  Like some powerful rat poisons they are coated with sweet and enticing flavours. And some poison is so effective when it is mixed with good food.  It may appear wholesome but it is fatal when consumed. It gives folk a false sense of eternal security, based on self righteousness and pseudo-spirituality.

Let us rejoice in the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that calls us to repent as the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, to find forgiveness of sins and the precious promise of eternal life through grace.  For by grace are you saved through faith, not by ourselves as it is the gift of God, not by works lest anyone should boast. His workmanship are we, created in Christ Jesus to perform good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  That's really great news.  Good news from God, the Gospel. 

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