by Bill Davis
We as a church family have been reviewing proposed updates to Kossuth's constitution and statement of faith. Our aim is to become even more clear on what we believe together and how we'll function together in hopes to foster further fruitfulness in our mission to gather, grow, and scatter for the glory of Jesus Christ. I like how Abraham put it in his blog post titled "Team Kossuth": we’re clarifying what we are about and how we go about it. One of those proposed updates to our statement of faith is the current statement on "Separation" and how we're merging that with the preceding section on "Personal Godliness."
Now, I've had the privilege to sit in on a number of our Welcome to Kossuth classes, particularly for the sessions discussing Kossuth's doctrine and practices. I think I can safely say that no section of our statement prompts more confusion or questions during these talks than our language on "Separation." There are probably several reasons for this. One is that it's a bit dated in its language and written for a time when the church was trying to be distinct from some rather specific groups without naming those groups. Another is that it is broad yet still rather vague. (What constitutes exactly as a "worldly" amusement? Precisely which doctrines of God's word are the "great and essential" ones?) But I personally think one of the biggest problems is that it leans more on what we're against rather than what we're for. It's like we’re being Grumpy, one of the seven dwarves, who was famous for saying, "I don’t know, but I'm agin 'em!"
Of course, as followers of Jesus, we're against many things because God is against them. The scriptures point out several lists of things that we as the body of Christ must turn from, put off, flee, put out from our midst, and have nothing to do with. However, when Jesus affirms the first and second greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-40, he holds up what to be for, not "agin." Not that the "against" is wrong (on the contrary), but he makes the remarkable statement that all the "thou shalt not" and "do not" commands of Exodus 20 or Leviticus 19 (and beyond) are summed up into these two "do" actions. Amazing.
So, what ought to be the point of our Separation paragraph? What are we affirming that we believe together? What is the "do" that perhaps sums up all the "do not" that is in there? Is it this: be distinct for Christ. Live in such a way as to bring honor to God by glorifying Him in your conduct, in front of Christians or non-Christians alike (1 Pet 2:12). Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27)—not to earn God's favor, of course, but to reflect the favor he has shown us. We do this not only individually but also collectively as the local church at Kossuth. We must guard our distinction as a church before the world so as to honor Christ and not to confuse the gospel. We might find ourselves working alongside another religious group to swing hammers in building a Habitat for Humanity house, but "Distinctive Living" as worthy of the gospel means it would be only those groups who uphold the gospel with whom we'd co-sponsor a public prayer service. It's not about avoiding group A or organization B but about conducting ourselves in a manner that upholds our ability to reflect Christ.
However, some of that is simply another way of referring to the "Personal Godliness" that is already referenced in our statement of faith. In fact, currently "Personal Godliness" is article 11 and "Separation" is article 12. The original framers of Kossuth's statement thought through this well to have these side by side. One is focused individually, the other collectively as the local church. But together, both are in essence aiming for the same thing: that we live distinctively as followers of Jesus before a world that needs to know him.
So that's the reason for the new title, "Distinctive Living," with a single, unified section. Take time to review it as we prepare to consider the change at an upcoming Family Gathering night. Take even more time to consider and pray for this distinctiveness to become more evident in you, in me, and in the life of Kossuth. It's a statement to clarify that we'll be separate from the world when we live in a way to show Jesus, and that this is not merely an individual responsibility of our personal godliness but also a corporate one of our local assembly. It is in our statement of faith to give us as a church family, and all who would join with us, a chance to affirm not only what we believe but how we'll aim to live before the world. Our aim is to sin less and look like Jesus more. And that's definitely something we're for and not against.
Link to proposed Statement of Faith Changes