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Montgomery Paul Webb

The Non-Institutional Church

The subject matters for the chapters of this book are foundational to accomplishing a church experience that is successful in Spirit and in conforming to Scripture. A completely biblical view of church structure must be identified and affirmed as the starting point of understanding the Christian community. Otherwise, any and all church practice will be conformed to a system of thought based on human traditions, and thereby serve worldly objectives more than God. Sadly, all too often the institutional church throughout history has failed in being a spiritual example to society, because meeting the demands of the organization itself has drawn the focus of the believers away from God’s true priorities in the practice of religion.

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Love and Humility

An emphasis on love and humility must be paramount in any church community, but in reality, most churches offer no in-depth help for realizing these traits in the lives of members. In fact, upholding the imitation of Christ as the primary goal in the lives of believers is only given superficial treatment, while a great deal of attention goes to their self-centered concerns, such as acquiring prosperity. Success in the church commonly is not measured on spiritual accomplishments, so much as the size of the congregation, and addressing worldly interests keeps the people coming.

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The Image of Woman in Scripture

In recent decades, the image of woman in Scripture and her position in the church has come under increased controversy, regarding the extent that Christianity’s historic view on gender issues actually is based on archaic social attitudes. Thus, a succinct but thorough review of biblical passages relating to the conception of woman and her role in society and the church should be considered not only relevant, but necessary for a clear understanding of practicing Christianity in modern times.

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The Corinthian Correspondence

No New Testament books more thoroughly deal with church conduct and practice than I & II Corinthians, and none have been distorted more consistently by church leaders on overall theme, because the principles involved are too often just completely different than what they want to accept. However, even though the Reformation began more than 500 years ago, the time has not yet arrived, that we can just ignore what the Bible says on how the church should function in favor of human tradition. The Reformation actually never did fully come to a completion, and the time is not too late to keep striving for entire biblical truth in all church matters.

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Jonathan Edwards

Just as controversial, but found throughout many centuries, are issues regarding the place of emotion in church meetings and true religious experiences. Perhaps, no one has dealt more thoroughly and with more exquisite wisdom in the essence of this debate than Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), in his extensive treatise Religious Affections. Edwards is constantly praised by scholars as America’s greatest and most influential theologian. Unfortunately, he is very seldom read by the average Christian, and his insights on clarifying the relevance of emotion to religious practices essentially have been lost for our time.

The problem in keeping Religious Affections widely read may be that many church leaders in reality are not fond of the actual truth of Edwards’ arguments and have no desire to actively promote his position, that at times the expression of intense emotion is a relevant part of an active faith in God. However, the real difficulty in reading this work is, that most people simply do not have the time or energy to tackle Edwards’ 18th century literary style in setting out a most comprehensive review of the subject. The very brief synopsis of Religious Affections included herein serves only as an introduction to the essence of its message. A quick summarization of this book should be available to those who would never find any exposure to Edwards’ arguments otherwise, due to their enduring significance to the Christian faith.

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Charles Finney

Evangelism should always be a primary concern of every Christian, and the best techniques for bringing people to salvation and stimulating revival in the nation should be taught prevalently in the church. Instead, church leaders more often advise members to leave winning people to God to anointed experts. Actually, the principles involved in the process of winning people to Christ in general are not even comprehended well enough by most church leaders, that they could create an effective overall plan of instruction in evangelism for a group of believers.

In American history, no one understood revival more thoroughly or had more actual evangelistic success than Charles Finney (1792–1875). He believed in relying directly on divine intervention in winning people to Christ, but unfortunately, such a technique caused great resistance and persecution against him by Christians, who upheld that the biblical concept of the expression of supernatural power in people’s everyday lives has ceased in modern times, and that God works today primarily through scholarship.

However, even though Finney is a historical figure well over a century from our time, his influence remains pervasive, and attacks against his methods routinely continue by modern academics, still biased against the possibility of witnessing the power of God in any biblical manner. Later in Finney’s career and under popular pressure, he accepted a teaching position at Oberlin College and published some works in theology, which can be demonstrated as having certain inaccuracies of varying significance outside of the basis of salvation. Those who persecute Finney always have pointed to these mistakes in formal theology to discredit him as a Christian leader and to serve as a basis for representing his techniques in evangelism as invalid and false. However, in reality, his teaching on evangelism is consistent with Scripture and should be assessed separately from his other theological positions, and the great success of his techniques should be noted, as the most flourishing evangelists in the 20th century have done.

At the end of his evangelistic career, Finney wrote Revival Fire to help other Christians understand the process of success in winning people to Christ in actual experience. This book is often out of print and unavailable to the average Christian, but the importance of its message cannot be emphasized enough. His book Power From God demonstrates how he depended on the intervention of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the work of Christ in bringing people to salvation, complimenting and enhancing the value of the wisdom of the former treatise. Having an introduction to these works by Finney through the very brief synopses included herein can serve as a vital first step to a real appreciation of what can be accomplished by anyone with a true desire for revival.

However, as Edwards served as an example to Finney in many respects, the works of these men can be seen to compliment each other, with the former often also reviewing the aspects of how a person comes to salvation, and the latter additionally placing a proper perspective on the expression of emotion in religion.

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Introduction constitutes a chapter from Church Essentials: Relevant Issues for a Spiritual Community. Copyright 2004 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.

From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.

Chapters include — Introduction | What Is The Non-Institutional Church? | What Is Love? | Seeking Christian Humility | The Image of Woman in Scripture | Corinthians Un-Compromised | A Brief Synopsis of Jonathan Edwards’ RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS. | Charles Finney on Evangelism: Brief Synopses of REVIVAL FIRE and POWER FROM GOD.

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