There are a lot of people out there who write and like to make lists. Thom Ranier is one such person and you may have guessed, we are not a fan of his. In fact we think he causes more problems for the church than he solves as his lists are so broad that they lead churches to confusion and misidentifying problems in their congregations. His lists are also very unbiblical and do not bring any real biblical teaching to lead church members to the correct way to handle problems in their congregations
There is another writer out there who penned the following article
10 Warning Signs You May Be Attending a Legalistic Church
and we put the key word in bold. Too many believers have a special paranoia about attending a ‘legalistic’ church and this attitude misleads them to the wrong idea about how churches should be run. They lean towards the idea that if a church has rules then it is a legalistic church. They do not understand that there must be rules or the church would be without correct guidance and just be stumbling along like the blind leading the blind.
For some reason some people have decided that freedom is the key operating word for Christianity and that freedom means that they get to do as they please, within certain ideas of reason. This is why we have so many mega-church pastors dressed like homeless bums. They do not understand that true freedom has rules and that these rules do not constitute legalism. But that is what they conclude.
They also ignore the fact that God has rules, though you probably wouldn’t think so given the way some churches behave. God did not set up a legalistic church when Jesus started the NT congregation. He gave the church rules so that they would know the difference between right and wrong & good and evil. Without rules no one would see that there is such a thing called sin and that someone is in need of repentance.They would also not know the difference between being respectful and disrespectful.
Abolishing the rules does not release church people from legalistic churches; it actually dumbs them down so that they do not know anything at all. Removing rules also undermines solid preaching as there would be little to preach about if nothing is considered wrong. Then such action leads people to sin more for they have no boundaries upon which to govern their lives.
Rules are not wrong as long as they are God’s rules and they are understood and applied correctly. We do not change the rules to be ‘seeker-friendly’ for that undermines any evangelistic effort. You cannot be ‘seeker-friendly’ if you do not tell them the correct rules.If you alter the rules to get more conversions or seats in the pew then you are not much of a friend to sinners as Jesus was. You also do not love your neighbor as Jesus loved us.
Jesus did not change the rules to get people to believe. He told them the truth even if those rules made him look legalistic. Jesus did attack the Pharisees for their false rules but that example does not mean that every church rule outside of the bible is a false one. Churches need rules to govern the use of their facilities and programs. Not every rule will be or must be found in the Bible before it is not a legalistic rule or a correct one. God does give us some latitude in these areas. But they do need to be fair, wise and just with enough flexibility to use mercy when needed.
In that list we linked to is rule 1
The greeting team looks like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice.
Why is this a warning that the church may be legalistic? Greeters are not going to be beauty pageant contestants or Mr. Universe athletes. They are going to look like they have lived life, deformed, seasoned by experience and dress according to their own personal tastes and upbringing. And on it goes. This is an example of lists being too broad and subjectively based. Personal opinion does not make a legalistic church
Rules 3,5 and 7 demonstrate how absurd these lists get. For example:
Skinny jeans are considered to be part of a Satanic plot to slow us down when we try to run from him.
Absolutely absurd as no one I know thinks that but I and others may think that skinny jeans are immodest and violate biblical teaching on being modest– which is not being legalistic but teaching the correct attitude to have when dressing oneself.
Rule 8 exposes the fad mentality that permeates the church as it reads:
The contemporary service uses a pipe organ (okay, maybe that doesn’t make it legalistic, just grossly out of date!)
That is personal opinion and one that is legalistic against pipe organ music. Psalm 150 tells us
3 Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
But that does not mean we have to have cymbals, drums, contemporary music each and every time we worship and praise God. Those verses do mean that when we praise and worship God we CAN use those instruments and that includes pipe organs. Too often worship is sacrificed by modern praise teams which are not biblical at all and could be construed as a product of modern legalism because they see these passages of scripture and do not think. They assume that churches need to ‘modernize’ in order to keep worshipers or to do worship correctly.
What those verses tell us is that there are a variety of ways to worship God and one is not better than the other if they are all done according to biblical teaching. e do not throw out hymns because someone does not like the fact that they do not have a contemporary beat.Hymns lead us to worship probably better than choruses do because of their depth.
Rules 3, 6, 9 & 10 undermine the complainers’ complains:
Before you can be a member, there is a day long inquisition … followed by a potluck.
Being overly critical and mocking of others is also a sign of legalism. It is called being hypocritical which is an actual sign of a legalistic church and that author fits right in with the church he is pointing his finger at.Even if there is an ‘inquisition’ before being granted membership but the church may simply be cautious and concerned that they do not let in wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing.
Making lists without understanding exposes oneself to criticism about one’s lack of sound judgment. Sometimes church members are too quick to criticize in order to look ‘spiritual’ and those actions only makes the list builder look bad, not those he is criticizing.
Our personal opinion is that Ranier and that author need to go away for they are not guiding the church correctly but making it worse and more paranoid. You should have noticed that not one item in the list we just examined was supported by one biblical verse. This tells us that what we are reading is just some wise guy’s own ideas and they have nothing to do with God or the truth.
People forget that it is God’s church and it runs according to God’s direction not the personal likes and dislikes of those who want to appear cool or super-spiritual. Or by those who spend their lives conducting surveys. There is no biblical teaching to use surveys either yet Ranier feels comfortable in using them instead of biblical instruction to guide the church.
To avoid a legalistic church or steer your church away from a legalistic attitude, one needs to accept the fact that the right rules are needed, that they do not change because someone disagrees with them or does not want to follow them and one needs to avoid too many man-made rules like the Pharisees constructed. God gives us a lot of latitude but he set good and solid boundaries for us to operate within, we must do the same for our churches.
God’s rules are not meant to be broken. Breaking them is not pushing the envelope, breaking the glass ceiling or empowering anyone. It is sin, wrong, and evil. The church knows how to handle those problems. We follow god’s rules on church discipline correctly and honestly, being just not appearing to be more than we actually are. We are also fair but do not play favorites.
God placed rules in the Bible for a purpose and we should take them seriously instead of trying to retranslate the Bible to avoid obeying them. It is God’s Church and He sets the rules not those who do not want to follow them.