In a 2009 series theologian R. Scott Clark admonishes people who go to Christian conferences to start attending the churches of his denomination. Beware, I say, of what ye ask for.
“These folk also attend Reformed conferences. They attend because they are “fed” there, because they can fellowship with like-minded folk there, because, in some cases, it’s a relief from their congregation. Still they stay in their congregations.” (part 1)
Clark, professor of Historical Theology here, labels such people Nicodemites, a derogatory off-take on Nicodemus who didn’t want to commit to Jesus. They are also called crypto-evangelicals and crypto-Calvinists. He is committed to Reformed theology and writes brilliantly on it and broader issues. His books, especially on QIRC and QIRE will richly repay the reader’s time.
His piece and web site are unabashed about encouraging people to leave their churches and join a church like his. But buyer beware. He finds even his own denomination less than faithful and queries its pastors:
“If our evangelical crypto-Calvinists do step out in faith to lay hold of the blessings of the heritage of the Reformation, what will they find this Sabbath in your congregations?” (part 7).
Sort of like a “buyer – beware” and lemon law wrapped in one. Sorta like warning everybody against your own denomination.
Seems to me that you need the discernment of the author himself. After all, on one hand he believes,
“Christ has a church, and it exists where ever the gospel is preached purely, where ever the sacraments are administered purely, and where ever discipline is administered” (part 5)
but on the other, some of his denomination’s own churches don’t have that, according to him. So tell us. What’s a crypto-Nicodemite-crypto-evo-calvinist-person to do?
In the end his prescription can’t cure the spiritual problems he diagnoses. Yes, there are people who flit from churches and attend conferences. Have pity. Their confusion in part stems from the fact that they have about 2,956 choices for church this Sunday in a ten mile radius. Meanwhile, they’re working, raising children, watching NASCAR and American Idol, and trusting the most reasonable voices around. Adding a few more churches for their consideration is unlikely to solve but rather exacerbate the real problem of schism, a problem he is unaware of.
Real people defy labels and if we would have the “interests of Christ Jesus” we would build unity by merging instead of offering more choices of his type of church. He has already admitted his own type aren’t living up to his high call. So why plant more? Has he swallowed the Holy Spirit, feathers and all?
Nicodemus never had a choice of church which is Dr. Brown’s prescription, and Nicodemus ended up with a pretty OK church. The one in Jerusalem. That is, until he was evidently martyred and taken home in glory.
Having pity on the present-day Nicodemuses (Nicodemi?) means compassion on the elect (John 19:39, Titus 1:1, Titus 1:5). Study the Bible and the local body of Christ. If we would be Nicodemites, we should merge into “one locale-one church.”
What are the biblical grounds (in both precept and command in the NT) to plant a church in a city where a church already exists?
How many churches will the author’s denomination have to plant before they can provide a viable option for the “Nicomedites?”
Once planted, how long will it take before they can recommend with their own churches without a caveat emptor?