Monday, September 11, 2006

The Gathered Church - Pt 1

As I continue to look at the church and the meeting of the church I need to make sure that you know I am in a process of seeing what I envision church to be like. The reason this is important is that my personal views that I am working through may or may not be exactly those of the church I presently serve. We all, or at least we should, need to step back often to see what it is God has given us a vision of and while in that process the vision we have may even conflict with how we presently do ministry.

I do not know if it is just me but when I talk with others about the gathering of the church it seems very hard for people to give up what has become so ingrained. By this I mean if one is to say that the gathering of the church is to be for believers the first thing that some complain about is that they will not be able to invite their unsaved friends because they will feel uncomfortable. Where I am confused by this mindset is that Paul in 1 Corinthians lets us know that the message of the cross is foolishness to an unbelieving world. This will also mean that how we as believers worship and relate to each other will in all probability seem foolish or at the least different. For many people the role of the church in its gathering is evangelism and little else. There may be offerings towards discipleship but they are so minimal that they accomplish little. How one changes this mind set is not an easy endeavor and in all likelihood is going to be uncomfortable.

I, personally, have been thinking about how I would “do” church based on scripture and it is not as easy at it may seem as we all struggle with tradition. Tradition is not necessarily bad but the goal is to weed out tradition based on pragmatism and such and those either blatantly contradictory to scripture or at the least not supported by scripture. One such tradition is the idea of age graded Sunday School. While there may have been good that has come from this system, as well as bad, we have to admit that it is not something dictated by scripture but is a human derived system of education. While the Sunday School system may have had success in numbers and apparent conversions it should not be something that is held onto as if ordained by God. Success in numbers does not make something correct. I say “apparent” success in conversion because it would seem that the great numbers we may see in Sunday School does not always mean those same people persevere to the end. This is seen especially in the youth ministry movement where all too often once a youth leaves the ministry they no longer attend church and simply disappear. As a side note, I personal feel that it is youth ministry that has fostered much of the Emergent Church errors, because the youth ministry has raised children that are unsure of what they believe and are simply in search of an experience. Most youth ministry, just check out a youth ministry site some time, revolves around activities to entertain and even the teaching is designed to be entertaining. So what that in the end develops is a group of people constantly seeking an experience and if the experience is missing or not what they expect they leave. I think if you check out scripture the idea of teaching via entertainment is non-existent. If one feels they have gotten conversions through entertainment means the number of young people leaving the church would say differently. By the way I have been a youth leader so this is not an area that I have not had experience with.

Over the next few weeks I am going to move from simply seeing what the church is to how it should function and what that functioning looks like. This is also an area where toes often get stepped on because once one puts forth a model of ministry it in many ways says other methods may not be as biblical and it also can rattle traditions. Above all my desire is to see the church and especially the gathered local church to be as biblical as possible even if it does of looking out of place. While our culture may direct the words we communicate with, since words do change meanings over time, an unbelieving culture should not dictate how a believing community gathers and interacts.

Previous Posts on the Church:
The Local Church Pt1
The Church Pt 2 - Ekklesia
The Church Pt 3: Church Local or Universal
The Church, Where – Pt 4
The Church – Pt 5


RevyRev said...

I look forward to the next post Tony.

There are theh questions I have been struggling with.

Where does contexualization end and Scripturally prudent order begin?

How far should contexualization go into worship style, preaching style (and language), worship time, some structure of church gatherings etc.

What is the difference between making teaching engaging and confrontive vs. making it entertianing and wrongly attractive?

Tony said...

I agree that the how of "doing church" is often a struggle since we have to take principles and make mehtods or actions out of them. This is where differnces arrise and often conflict. One thing I have realized over the last 6 months or so is that there is also often a differing level of conviction in how we do things and this often creates struggle. So as I move forward I hope to work through my convictions and then see how they align with scripture and what best equipps the saints. IF the saints are equipped as they should and motivated by the Holy Spirit then all other things such as evangelism will happen naturally, I think.

In the end it is all about giving glory to God even if the method does not attract the world as we often desire it to. God is the only one that can open eyes to make people see His beauty and without the scales being removed God is not desirable no matter how good we package Him. Of course He may seem temporarily inviting but that does not last with out the change of heart wrought by God.