Multiplication necessarily contains, in some form or another, a repetition or reiteration of the original form. It may not be observably apparent, but when reduced to its most basic elements, a reproduction/multiplication is plainly representative of its place of origin. As human beings reflect their parents at the most fundamental level (DNA, blood type, etc.), so do church plants find the fabric of their theological formation woven throughout them. Consistent theological agreement is required for responsible church multiplication–for historical, confessional, and theological agreement breeds: orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy.
Minimalist culture is commonplace in this modern era. Minimalism can be wonderfully clear or terribly ambiguous. The simplistic logos of many corporations (e.g., McDonalds, Disney, Pepsi, etc.) allow them to communicate their brand with ease and perspicuity. However, the scandal that arose from the absence of “Christmas spirit” on Starbucks’ holiday-themed, plain red cups caused quite the stir on social media–which ironically relegates its users to 140 characters or less to voice their disdain. Minimalism has its value, surely, but minimalism and exhaustive understanding are most assuredly not synonymous with one another.
It is a mistake to see values as divisions, beliefs as detachment, and convictions as divorce. Reduction is not always helpful; it may take more than a dozen bullet-points to biblically and responsibly state doctrinal beliefs pertaining to the Christian faith. Following the oceanic metaphor of the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter four, the historic confessions of the church act as a grand ship, steadied by doctrine of old, not easily tossed by the waves or carried by every wind of doctrine. The community of saints helps us to designate a theological ‘true north’ that we may find difficult to discover and keep on our own. Orthodoxy is a communal affair, tied to history, rooted in Scripture.
By allowing confessions, drawn from Scripture, to inform our ‘true north,’ we avoid heretical errors strong cultural winds push us toward. We can be tempted, like Columbus, to claim we have discovered ‘new lands,’ when in all reality, we have simply drifted ashore for lack of vision and direction. Historic confessions help us, before we even set out, to decide what direction to head in as well as which directions to avoid entirely.
Embedded in the life and practice of every church is some sort of theological statement, and contained within that statement is one of two things: either 1) the church informs its theology by what it does, or 2) the church informs what it does by its theology. Essentially, either the orthodoxy drives the orthopraxy, or vice versa. For most modern churches, even when declared otherwise, practice drives theology. Though this should already be apparent, this is a massive problem for the church.
Confessions do not applicably spell out how the local church should conduct outreach, make its coffee, or spend its time. However, the truths found in the Bible,echoed in confessions of the church, make it clear what we are to value and what is tangential.
Our Christology must inform our Ecclesiology, or we will aimlessly wander into something that is not church at all.
We can all too easily create collections of well- intentioned moralists who angrily condemn, rather than graciously invite. This, indeed, is a foremost danger of multiplication without historical, confessional, and theological agreement.
Many push back against confessionalism as needless, claiming Scripture alone as their creed. This is a lovely thought, however, we are still charged with interpreting Scripture, and we will either interpret in community or as individuals. Is it not much wiser to stand upon the wisdom of those who have gone before us and allow their words to guide our understanding? Or are we so arrogant as to think we will arrive in a ‘new land’? We may indeed find a ‘new land’ but be found in isolation from the church, warmly embraced by the world.
Orthopathy refers to the affections of the soul–the things that are not taught, but caught. Doctrinal agreement is not the goal; simple obedience is not the goal. The true goal is to stir up a love for the Lord our God in our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The powerful engine we call doctrine and the wheels we call practice are to be ignited by the affections deep within a person’s being. Which is why a person must know the central truths of scripture, practice the charity of Christ, and be continually spurred on toward love and good deeds.
Because passions are something so deeply rooted within a person, it makes them all the more important to establish before the storms of life come. As we raise up leaders within our churches, it is vital that they experience more than ice cream socials and catechistic indoctrination. They must see and experience discernable passions for Christ, or else our witness is to intellectualism and to the amassing of followers.
Orthodoxy cannot be a salve for our lack of affection, nor can orthopraxy be a veil for our lack of understanding. Both must inform radical and passionate zeal for Christ and his mission. How do we accomplish the stirring of these passions? By rightly teaching and displaying the truths contained within confessions. Confessionalism does not coddle the cerebral respite of post-modern minimalism, but challenges the believer to stand once again and declare the whole counsel of the Word of God to a lost and dying world.
This is why we find it important to hold to confessions as we reproduce disciples, which leads to the reproduction of churches. As we disciple men and women in our churches, we find it appropriate to not only to reference these confessions but to plant them deeply in the hearts and minds of our congregations; that they might be so permeated by the truth of the gospel that it would spill out from their hearts onto their hands. We desire that our head, heart, and hands would all be drawn together in unity, for the sake of Christ.