Are we majoring on the minors? – 1st Corinthians 1:10-17

20 Jan

Yesterday during our continuing study of 1st Corinthians (listen here), we talked about BNPs!  After a very encouraging greeting, Paul begins to deal with the problems coming out of the church in Corinth.  First up, people claiming that they are followers of certain Big Name Preachers of their day.  Apollos, Peter, Paul himself and even Jesus.

It seems that groups were forming in the church, divvied up by who got baptised by one of these famous preachers.  Then there was the uber-spiritual group who said they followed Christ!  Paul confronts them all.

Even the group that followed Christ?

Yes, even them.

His point was that even those who sounded spiritual on the outside, claiming to follow Christ, were being divisive, creation a faction.  Paul’s solution is to remind them to pursue a passionate unity of the heart and mind.  He goes on to say that his purpose wasn’t to baptise, but to preach Christ.  His focus was on the mission of God.  And that is the one thing that we Christians from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives can unify around.

But that will only be possible unless we are a people committed to unity of heart and mind.  We need to major on the majors and minor on the minors.

The problem is that too often we major on the minors.  We can spend a lot of time and energy on lesser matters.  Some theologians over the centuries have tried to develop a system for understanding what the major doctrines are and what the minor doctrines are.  A common way to describe this is to use a pyramid with three levels.  On the top we have primary issues, which are the majors.  The next level are secondary issues, which are still important, but they are minors.  The third level, a very minor, and people will have wildly divergent points of view on them.

In the EC Church, our top tier is what we ask people to agree to when they become members of one of our churches.  The list is very small:

1) Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord;
2) Belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God;
3) Commitment to daily Christian growth;
4) Commitment to giving Jesus Christ your time, talent and treasure;
5) Support of the local church and the ministry of the Evangelical Congregational Church
denomination;
6) Faithfulness in attendance and participation;
7) Baptism.

Our second tier issues are found in our Articles of Faith, and our third tier issues are found in our Discipline, which is our book of order.

What you notice about the triangle is that the sections get larger as you go down the levels.  There are very few major issues, but we have scads of secondary and tertiary minor issues.  Here’s where the problems happen.  When people try to expand the top tier of their pyramid!  Majoring on the majors means that we’ll keep our top tier relatively small, but we will focus the vast amount of our time, energy and money there.  We will refuse to create factions based on second or third tier issues.  We will work graciously with people, even if they don’t agree with our opinions on the minors.

So are you majoring on the majors?  Does this raise any concerns or your questions in your mind?  Let’s discuss it further.

3 Responses to “Are we majoring on the minors? – 1st Corinthians 1:10-17”

  1. Brett January 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    Hey Joel – interesting post. I couldn’t help but notice there’s no mention of the trinity on the list. That always seemed like a pretty major one to me given the many different beliefs on it. I’m curious what tier the EC Church would place that in. Also, what specifically do you have to believe about baptism (i.e paedo or simply that it’s a sacrament)?

    • joelkime January 20, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

      Hi Brett! Great to hear from you. And great question. There are so many angles to this. If you get a chance to listen to it, in the sermon I get into a tad bit more.

      In the sermon, and post, I was focusing on what the EC Church states is required for members to “sign off on” to be members of a local EC Church. Granted, when they commit to believing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that covers a lot of ground, arguably including doctrines such as the Trinity. Further, in membership class we spend a lot of time talking about the nitty gritty of what the EC Church believes, as stated in its 25 Articles of Faith, so that when a person submits their membership application, while not committing to every word of those 25 Articles, they are at least very aware of the beliefs of the denomination they are committing to support. So to answer your question, for members, the Trinity is a second tier issue. For pastors, it would be top tier. Pastors are held to a higher standard, and would have a top tier that includes pretty much every word of the 25 Articles, or at least a willingness to teach them respectfully. We ask teachers at Faith Church to have that same agreement, or if they are in sharp disagreement, and would not be able to be respectful about a certain article, to do the honorable thing and let us know that, so we can have someone else teach that lesson. You raise a great point. What should members commit to, to be accepted into the fellowship of a local church? Missionally, I think less is more. The larger our top tier, it seems to me, the less missional we become. That is not to lessen the importance of our second tier doctrinal positions.

      Baptism? The EC Church would hold that it is a sacrament, including infant baptism in keeping with covenant theology.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What is the most foolish thing you’ve ever done? | Let's Talk About Sunday - January 24, 2014

    […] has begun addressing some concerns he has with the Christians in Corinth.  Last week (here and here) we saw him begin talking about divisions and unity in the church.  With that theme as the larger […]

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