Summary: Building God’s Church through Truth(Bob Russell - When God Build’s a Church)

The facts depend on a person’s perspective. Listen to the following:

The Metropolitan Insurance Company has published this list:

Reasons/Excuses for Auto Accidents:

(1) “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car, and vanished.”

(2) “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.”

(3) “I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident.”

(4) “The indirect cause was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.”

(5) “The other driver was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”

(6) “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”

This is the first in a series of 10 sermons on Building God’s Church. This series was inspired by the book “When God Builds a Church” by Bob Russell, who recently retired after thirty years as the senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. This series is not an extended book report. We will be looking at the principles that Dr. Russell identified as they apply to Park.

Why are we looking to Southeast? Someone once asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. The answer was “That’s where the money is.” Why look to Southeast? It is not that I think that Park needs or wants to mimic Southeast, but I do think that Dr. Russell knows a thing or two about church growth. Now, while this congregation is involved in a search for new ministerial leadership, it is an opportune time to think about the core principles upon which effective congregational ministry is built.

While we and Southeast share common origins and have much on which we agree, I recognize that Disciples and Independents also have some real differences. Of the ten principles that Dr. Russell identified, there are eight about which there should be no controversy. We would all agree that the church needs skilled leadership, needs to be involved in service, and should strive for excellence. I am beginning and ending with the two principles that raise different issues in a Disciple’s context than they do in an Independent Christian context. Those two principles are truth and evangelism. Today’s topic is truth.

It is amazing that the notion of truth itself has become controversial, but it has. It is a common view among philosophers today that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Truth, they say, is always relative and always contextual. According to this thinking, my truth and your truth may be different, even contradictory, but both views have equal claim to being truth. There is no absolute standard and no universal context. Even physical laws, like the electrical charge of a proton, only hold within the context of our current universe. There must be some universe somewhere else (where somewhere else could be a different place or a different time or a different dimension) where the laws of physics are different. When theistic philosophers point out that the laws of physics seem particularly suited to supporting intelligent life, secular philosophers counter that all possible laws of physics must exist in some universe, so it is not at all remarkable that life evolved in a universe where the conditions happen to be favorable. It is maddening to engage in these dialogues because anything imaginable is put forward as if it were self evident. In a world view that denies that the laws of gravity have a claim to truth, in a universe where everything is the result of random chance, it is not surprising that we have no common ground on issues of morality or spirituality.

But philosophers are unusual sorts of folk by nature. You won’t find many ordinary people making the explicit argument that there is no such thing as truth. However, you do hear people saying that no one has a right to judge another person. You hear people saying things like “I would never live with someone without being married, but I’m not going to say that it is wrong for them. To impose my views would be intolerant. Whatever two consenting adults choose to do is OK as long as no one gets hurt.”

Have you heard that sort of thing? If not, you’ve never watched Oprah. In general, the younger a person is, the more likely it is that they see tolerance as the ultimate virtue and judgmentalism as the ultimate sin. That is the cultural corollary to the philosopher’s notion of no absolute truth.

According to a survey done by Barna Research back in 2001

About 3/4 ’s of all adults in America rejected the notion that there are absolute moral truths. Most Americans believe that all truth is relative to the situation and the individuals involved. Similarly, at least 80% of our teens embrace the same position regarding moral truths. Not only did more than 4 out of 5 teenagers say there is no absolute moral truth, 4 out of 5 also claim that nobody can know for certain whether or not they actually know what truth is.

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