Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scheduled for Retirement?

Not talking about people here; instead, I thought we'd think in terms of words/concepts that may be ready to be retired (honorably or otherwise) from service. We've had some discussion already about whether "church" might fit into this category; "Christian" is another possibility, as is "patriarchy" (all for different reasons, however). Let's focus on important words within the context of the communities of Messiah's followers. Let's not chase words that we find merely annoying, but words which, whatever their past usefulness may have been, have now reached a place where they are actually counterproductive to the present progress of God's kingdom (as best we understand it).

So here's what you do: propose a word that you feel has outlived its usefulness. Briefly explain why you think this is the case, and, most importantly, propose/suggest a new word to take its place. Feel free to coin a new word altogether if you must!


josenmiami said...

Senior Pastor.

Reason: not in the Bible and it implies that there are "junior" pastors. It gives a connotation of professionalism or institutional office.

In the minds of church 'consumers' the word is often invested with a load of unrealistic expectations of roles: (friend, entertainer, counselor, problem solver, therapist, CEO superhero, etc.)

Better words: servants, elders, or leaders, although the word 'elders' carries some ecclesial baggage also, it might be re-claimed as a biblical word.

steve H said...

the very word "pastor"

In addition to the cultural baggage that goes with "pastor" there are Biblical considerations that should also be weighed in that make me question whether the word is salvageable even without "senior" added to it.

1st -- don't mean to bring up old "wounds," but the Latin word "pastor" as brought into English does not suggest the shepherding ministry in today's language.

2nd -- a thorough study of the Old Testament makes clear that as used there there shepherds referred almost exclusively to the "civil leaders" of the community -- and not to the levitical or priestly ministry.

3rd -- the word "shepherd" (pastor) became a Messianic title used of King David's heir

4th -- Note Jesus use of the word in John 9/10 (ignore the chapter break). The Pharisess clearly understood the claim he was making to be Messiah/King; they did not hear it as a term referring to a "religious" leader.

5th -- a study of the NT shows that the word shepherd/pastor is almost always a verb when referring to leaders of God's people. Exception: Eph 4. 11 [1 Pet 5.1-5 does refer to the chief shepherd which implies undershepherds; however, the passage addresses elders.

I think we would be better off to simply call our leaders "elders" (who as often as possible really are older) whose service is to oversee and to shepherd the community of God.

josenmiami said...

hmmm.... it got quiet.

Steve, I agree with all your points. I think there are some potential problems with the word "elder" also, if it is understood as a "ruling" office rather than an older, wiser person (in life experience) teaching with the example of their home-life. I have seen some fellowships that were really stuck under top-heavy elderships that were security guards (The Message, 1Cor.4) rather than spiritual guides. But I'll save my tirade against elders for another post.

josenmiami said...

wow... things have gotten really slow in here Brian. I wonder whats up? I am at the CSM mtg. in Gatlinburg....Steve Humble is here as well.

As we talk about words to get rid of, we should keep in mind that it depends on the context. In already existing churches, it might simply be better to keep words and give them new meanings. I always approach these discussions as a 'church planter' in the sense that I am thinking about what is useful, or not, if I start another ekklesia with a new group of untaught, unchurched people. That is a luxory that most pastors cannot afford (the idea of starting fresh).

While we are at it, if I start another ekklesia on the u. Campus with unchurched grad students, I would most definitely deep-six the word "church"... in fact, we already have in our little community composed of two house groups. We talk about 'community', 'band of brothers' and the 'young couples group' and an 'older couples group' but we never call ourselves a church.

I believe that it is Banks book on "Paul's idea of Community" where he goes into the history of the English word "Church" which is related to the Scottish "Kirk" and which King James insisted on using in the English bible rather than "congregation" because he didn't want to get rid of the church buildings that the Church of England was using.

In my opinion, "Church" is a really bad word for the gathering of believes that is contained in the concept of ekklesia. However, if we get rid of "Church", then we need to revisit "church" planting and "church" planter as well. Might be interesting.

steve H said...

Well -- whatever you want to call them, in Gatlinburg at CSM's annual gathering the past few days we were priviledged to be with and to hear the wisdom and challenge of brothers who have led the way in the past and who are still examples of faith, sensitivity to the Spirit, and seasoned zeal in pursuit of the Kingdom of God. Call them "brothers," call them "teachers," call them "fathers," or call them what you want. I heard the voice of the Great Shepherd (pastor) and Bishop (guardian) or our souls in them.

josenmiami said...

which one in particular?

I most enjoyed Bob's messages and Ken's fire stories.

steve H said...

Content wise -- Bob's were freshest and powerful. Charles' were clear and full of wisdom as usual. I think we heard much of his message in Columbus the last two years.

Ken Sumrall and Charles Green added humor and to me simply impart faith and encouragement by their tested character gained through their faithfulness and longevity in the journey.

Although he is not a "father" in the same sense, Norm Willis' short presentation contained a good deal of insight into the way God builds trans-generationally.

More than anything being among faithful brothers and "letting our hair down" is of great value. The atmosphere at Gatlinburg is relaxed and unpretentious -- even more so after Charles Green cut short Stephen Simpson's formal introduction.

josenmiami said...

morning Brian,

a couple of quick thoughts: is there a feature on this blog that would allow us to "post" papers to download? Some of the things we are talking about might be better handled in a 10 to 15 page paper format, that could be read and responded to, rather than a post.

The other thing is, I have a hunch that most of our new bloggers don't know how to navigate this blog. I ran into the same problem at first with the previous ten thousand places: if you "bookmark" a discussion thread, your bookmark always takes you back to the same thread and you will not notice that a new thread has been started. There is no convenient or obvious "home" link to go back to the overview. I finally figured out that by clicking on the name of the forum "Covenant Thinklings" it would take me back like "home" and I was able to see the new discussion threads. I have a feeling that our new bloggers have not figured that out, and for that reason have not yet visited it this posting.

Brian Emmet said...

Afternoon, Joseph! Uh, you may be talking to the wrong guy here--I was pretty pleased with myself just to get a blog turned on! Let me sniff around a bit, using my shiny "administrator" credentials and see what I can find out about (a) somehow making longer papers available and (b) getting everyone up to speed with the nav tools...

...or I could make one of the sharp younger guys an "assistant administrator..."

...but that might imply a positional approach to authority and a modernist institutional mindset...

...hmmmm... Any suggestions?

josenmiami said...

I can never tell when you are being sarcastic or just playful. I guess I don't know you well enough.

Not sure what to tell you, probably wait and see who comes here the most often and ask them to assist you. You can appoint them to be a blog deacon.

by-the-way, I apologize if you felt in the previoius post that I "hammered" you or that I was in a win/lose mode. The subject is one that I am passionate about, have thought a lot about, have experienced in painful ways in my own efforts, and there is a lot of stuff in church history about it. I probably got carried away and went way over the top in making my point.

I do not have a romantized view of small or micro churches. They can be even more dead and static than mid-sized or big churches.

However, I do believe that replication of DNA and basic multiplication always takes place at the smallest, simplest, celular level, both in nature, and in the spiritual realm. I also believe that unecessary institutionalization is counter-productive.

I am still working my way through these issues. Two very helpful books for me have been the Organic Church by Neil Cole, and a book that I am just now reading by Alan Hirsh, called "The Forgetten Ways."

The biggest two drawbacks of the micro-church, in my opinion, is the tendency to turn inward, rather than outward, and the danger of isolation.

Dick Scoggins, in his church=planting strategy, emphasizes that a church is not truely planted until it repruduces itself in a new church. He also places emphasis on planting micro churches in clusters, with some gifts and ministries rotating among them and a common group of leaders/elders watching over them to mitigate isolationism.

josenmiami said...

hey Brian,

I have been experimenting a little this morning. I tried to post an academic research paper I wrote on "ORGANIC CHURCH PLANTING" several years ago. It actually ended up creating a post in my unused blog:


It is a 40 plus page paper outlining a whole philosophy of church planting and multiplication...the basis of what I have been doing for the last 4 years in Miami. Although I might change a few minor things, for the most part, it is still reflects the perspective on the church that I am using.

If anyone has the time to go read it, I would appreciate your feedback. If you prefer, I can email you the document as a WORD attachment.


Brian Emmet said...

Joseph (and everyone else), I mean to be playful, not cutting or sarcastic... not that I am incapable of cuttingness or sarcasm, only that that is not my intention here. I certainly do not mean to belittle or denigrate anyone's input, and ask forgiveness if I have offended.

I don't mind, and often deserve, some teasing in return!

As to the technical questionsn you asked, I really am at the current limited limit of my expertise, so I would welcome help from those with better tech skills. I did try to do some research on the blogger site we use, but grew disheartened when I saw "Here are the first 10 of the 53,486 items that might thave something to do with what we think your question might be."

josenmiami said...

I was going to say that my best guess was that you were being playful, but I clicked on "publish" instead of "preview"...no biggie. I am just still getting used to your "dry" sense of ironic humour.

Bill said...

Hi guys I will make a brief comment and write more later. I see all of your points but the danger in all of this is to throw out the baby with the bath water. The institutional church the emergent church and the house church movements can all take extremes I believe we need to always look for balance. :) :)

josenmiami said...

good point Bill (is this Bill Carp? or Bill Livingston?) I agree. In fact, both the emergent and the house church movements HAVE taken extremes and have been "reactionary" at times.

Have you seen ALan Hirsch's new book, "The Forgotten Ways" yet? he goes into a lot of this, and at the end of the book shows how about 8 different streams (emerging, house church, missional worship, Pentecostal, evangelical, and some others I don't remember at the moment) might converge to release an authentic 21st century Jesus movement. I am about half way through it.

I'll probably send out a book review soon if any one is interested. Prob. the best book I have read in several years.

PS: Oh yes! One of the 8 was the radical discipleship movement starting in the 70s and continuing with Dallas Willard. Glad we got into the book....

Brian Emmet said...

Balance is an interesting picture--the difference between being balanced on dry land and balancing on a surfboard, for instance--the former is a pretty static situation, the latter quite dynamic (especially if you are me and don't know anythng about surfing, other than for me it is mainly an experience of vast wetness). I suspect balance is really of particular importance only when we are negotiating difficult, uneven, unpreditable terrain, whether terra firma or terra aqua. I'm not disagreeing with Bill's comment, just reflecting on the different ways, and the different reasons why, we use the term.

Hey, maybe "balance" is one of those words slated for retirement!

To be replaced with... hmmm. How about "force field adroitness"?

josenmiami said...

have any of you read "The Forgotten Ways"?

Alan Hirsch talks about the dangers of equilibrium as contrasted to edgy chaos.... he believes that the church has always advanced the most in times of chaos. I realize that balance is not necessarily the same as equilibrium.

Bill said...

This is Bill Carp I posted something in the other blog related to some of this. :)

Robert said...

Is this about creating a new lexicon that uses terms that describes age old funtions? I am OK with contemporizing "roles" in an effort to communicate. If we want to use "mentoring" versus "discipling" to convey dynamic realities, that is one thing. If we are talking about tossing out legitimate biblical concepts of Church order in the interest of engaging culture with non-offending nomenclature, that has potential risks...like avoiding the fact that some are called with an anointing to build His Church in ways that others are not. However we might identify those roles, if we don't recognize them for what they are (I suggest ascension gifts)...we don't benefit from what they bring to the table. We can invent new descriptive terms...such as "follower of Jesus" versus "Christian" and better convey what it means to be identified with Jesus. We might want to toss "bishop' in preference for describing a unigue individual to whom others look for spiritual formation and guidance. Call it what you want...it is what it is. If we don't recognize those distinctions, we are left with an existential consensus that ignores patristics and 2000 years of Church history. I am good with a new lexicon as long it is not detached from historical perspectives. Otherwise, we presume that we get it better...and that speaks of controlling the future without reference to those who have handed to us what we have received.

steve H said...

Amen, Robert.

josenmiami said...

boy, it got quiet in here!

Agreed Robert. Just changing terminology does not change reality. I think I am advocating a more deliberate discussion of the realities or substance behind our terminologies in order to clarify our concepts, definitions and to better understand one another for more effective communication.

You said: "legitimate biblical concepts of Church order" ... ah yes! But there is the rub. Your legitimate biblical concept of church order may be quite different than my concept of legitimate biblical church order (I'm sure you have already guessed that by now ;-)

So, we need to carefully examine the scriptures together in communication with one another and with God in order to at the very least, come to a mutual understanding of our differences as the bonds of love lead us to the unity of faith.

I have adapted my understanding of legitimate biblical concepts of church order as I have attempted to be more effective in church planting and disciple-making. This is led me to quite a significant departure from my earlier understanding 25 years ago (even 5 years ago!).

I'm sure your experience in the Anglican church as also influenced your views on church order. The lovely thing about us is that we are united by our common relationship to Christ and commitment to one another, not by a common theology or ecclesiology. Therefore we can have the security to examine these issues freely without fearing loss of relationships.

The good news is that the scriptures seem to leave enough fuzziness on the issue of church structure to allow legitimate support for a variety of approaches, espiscopal (bishops), prebyterian (elders), congregational (all the saints) and Pentecostal (the 5-fold ascension gifts).

None of them will work in the absence of love, and probably all of them will probably work with pervasive agape.

By-the-way, welcome to my good friend Bill Carp! Bill is doing an awesome job of leading one of the more successful and significant megachurches here in Miami. He and Kevin have wonderful missional hearts, not only for the lost but also for the down and out. Good to see you Bill! If there is any illustration of diversity and mutual commitment in love, Bill and I are it.

Robert said...

My experience with the Anglican Communion does not represent the defining influence. It does represent a "way" that has existed since Celtic Christianity. How the Church has been viewed over the centuries is worth a serious look. We are not bound by such views but it seems that we are less informed if we ignore how those who have gone before wrestled with the same issues. My personal journey has been shaped by the ethos of Covenant and Kingdom over the past forty years. I have not departed from those values and the relationships that have been established. The past forty seems worthy of influence from all that has gone before. There are a lot of folks that paid a high price to pass along their understanding of the Church. It all belongs to us. Reformational thought has continued to be a major influence within Evangelical circles. But re-formed to what? There were fifteen hundred years of Church life prior to the Reformation. What does that mean to us in a post-modern context? It speaks to me...

josenmiami said...

me too. I agree totally.

I wonder if there is a practical mechanism that we could develop to faciliate what you are saying. Perhaps a series of historical vignettes or essays dealing with various points in the history of the church?

My guess is that Steve Humble and Brian (and John M?) would be willing and able to assist with that. Perhaps each of us could take a specific century and develop a 3 to 5 page paper focusing on the administration of the Spirit in each period…lessons learned, mistake made, key figures and key theological issues, etc. Between us, we should be able to cover the first 5 centuries.

We need to put feet on your burden to help the brothers connect with their history. What do you think?

Brian Emmet said...

I'm really no expert in church history--not even close, so the prospects of even writing a 3-pager on, say, the 13th century, seems a bit daunting! But it sounds like an intriguing proposal nonetheless. It might be interesting to see if one of the younger men might want to participate--that would be an additional way to help them connect with our ancient-future faith.

josenmiami said...

agreed...I have read up on the 1st century and a tiny bit on the 2nd...and a whole lot on the 20th. So...if I get the draw of 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th...I'll have to do some homework.

I like the idea of gettng some of the young men to join us. There are plenty of centuries to go around.

I would be most interested in doing the first century (because I have studied it the most) or the period of St. Patrick and the Celtic church (late 4th or 5th if I am not mistaken?). However, I will take whatever is left over.

Perhaps we could get Jimmy or Jeremiah to take centuries as well?

I have not heard back from Robert yet, but I am thinking that between Wikipedia and some of the standard introductory church history books (can't remember the names --- John is asleep in my office), we could come of something fairly brief...perhaps a general description taken from the text with a time line. Plus, a listing of the key leaders of the church (theologians, bishops or later on, popes) in that century along with some of the persecutions and hersies combated.

Perhaps we could post them in this forum, one century at a time and discuss them. --just a thought in response to Robert's desire for us to get more acquainted with our history.

William said...

I feel that I am a little out of my league being in the "presence" of men who have been on this journey a lot longer than I have, but I do have some thoughts...or questions might be better...

first, I dont think i know many you guys...my name is Will Currie, i attend Covenant Church in Mobile and am going to school at a Jesuit School in Mobile named Spring Hill. It is nearing the end of my freshman year...and I am majoring in journalism...thanks for letting be apart of this

i would agree with joseph that "church" needs to be filtered out, mainly because no young people that i know want to go to "church" with me, much less on their own...i dont know much about the original greek, but i think to be relevant in redeeming the culture, we need to find a more useful and fitting word.

josenmiami said...

hi William! Thanks for showing up. Most of us are from Robert Grant or Paul Petrie's spiritual families, scattered all of the country...and a few from Dennis Peacock's group as well. It is nice to have some one here from Mobile...especially one from the younger end of the generational spectrum.

John the Musician said...

Hey Will, John Holbrook here. Good to have you on-board, and hear you me, I feel way out of my league as well. However, I find myself being drawn to the idea of aquainting myself more with church history. At the same time, I do feel that change is neccesary. In my opinion change doesn't have to be the tossing of one ideal and the adopting of a new one, but rather can be a mix and match, what works? what's good? throw it in the blender.

One thing that occured to me was that I've often heard others stress that Jesus didn't come to throw away the old testamant, but to make all things new. And after all since Jesus is living to this day isn't he still making all things new? Probably the most deeply moving experience that I ever have is breathing in the cold fresh air of an Ohio morning. (usually after staying up the whole night before! =OP)There is a distinct newness to it, even though the air has been there before and it'll be there again, it's new! How? I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that it's God's handiwork.

All that being said, I want to mention that as a younger man who grew up primarily in a charismatic church setting, it's been difficult for me to accept that the church is a good thing. I've always seen the church as that which steals my mother and father's affection, and uses and abuses them, that which expects more from me and those I love than we can give. As of late I've come to an acceptance that the church is something much larger, relating not to the institution or building, but to the people who love God. God's people. However, that's only my understanding, and I think there are a whole lot of people out in the world that see the "church" as a hypocritcal and judgemental institution that's grown stale. For this reason I think it would be best at least introduce people to it from a different perspective. Personally I've always been fond of the term,
The Gathering." Just as a side note, I used to work as a waiter at Ruby Tuesdays, and my worst tips were almost always from Christians. One day I got a pin that said, "Jesus Saves" for my tip. I think that it's really easy for people in the world to slip into thinking negatively about Christians.

I've gone on to long and I think I've stopped making sense, it's a pleasure talking with you gentlemen. =O)

steve H said...

I will be out of town from Wednesday this week to Thursday next week -- in Bradeton, Florida actually. With trying to finish up at the home school where I teach and preparing to leave town, I won't be in touch much.

I'd be glad to say what I can on some of those early centuries but won't get the chance for a couple weeks.

It's a great joy to have contact with you younger men.

josenmiami said...

Peace Steve. Have a good trip. and
"amen" about the younger men.

Sean said...

Hi Everyone,

My name is Sean Bortz - John Meadows led me to this blog. This discussion is great! I'm new to this, so if I'm completely off track, let me have it.

I think retiring some words might be beneficial. For others, I think its better to define them more clearly and accurately, more historically, more biblically.

Here's a phrase that should be retired: "Business Meeting". I believe John Piper has railed against its use in a church setting, but its everywhere. Our culture is so bureaucratic and institutionalized that the only way we know how to organize anything in society is through bureaucracy, which includes the church. What results from this is a professionalization of the pastorate; leaders are chosen based off of credentials and not spiritual gifts and annointing.

I will stop here but I could go on.

Robert said...

Language is the means by which we communicate. It is the vehicle we use to convey concepts and ideas. The substance that informs words becomes vital in understanding what we mean. You say something...I interpret your meaning based upon my understanding of those words. If the word "ecclesial" is used...one might interpret that as institutional while another might understand the same term as relational based upon gifting and anointing. I prefer the latter...but that does not mean you are hearing what I am saying. What informs your sensibilities regarding terms such as "presbyter" or "diakonos" in the New Testament? How have those terms been understood since they were handed to those who received them from the foundational apostles? If we dismiss their understanding, we have to assume we get it better...and that sounds a bit post-modern. Office...position...versus function...gifting...that seems to be what this is about. I prefer to stay with biblical language as the basis...even if it calls for understanding those ideas in contemporary language. The ideas don't change even if the lexicon calls for different terminology.

We are back to hermenuetics...how we understand the original message and bring it forward into our context...

josenmiami said...

I agree, that is why we need this conversation...to thoroughly communicate about the biblical 'substance' behind the Greek and English terms, as well as the mental images that we associate with them...so that we can arrive at common definitions of the substance, or least mutual understandings of our differing definitions. That will facilitate our communication.

For instance, I think I am operating with a slightly different Biblical understanding, as well as mental image of the words "apostle" and "elder" than some others in our discussion. There is probably a larger degree of latitude than we think, and several possible views are probably acceptable within Biblical limits...but the conversation will lead us to better communication of shared values.

josenmiami said...

I just came across this quote on the NextReformation.com blog and could not resist posting it here:


Mort Ryerson, chairman of Perot Sytems remarked,

“we must realize that our task is to call people together often, so that everyone gains clarity about who we are, who we"ve just become, who we still want to be. If the organization can stay in a continuous conversation about who it is and who it is becoming, then leaders don"t have to undertake the impossible task of trying to hold it all together.”?

Robert said...

Love to hang in on this...I am checking out for a week to spend a week apart with Sue...priorty time. I will attempt to jump in when we return. Keep it going...

josenmiami said...

me too Robert. Deb and I are headed down to Key West now for our anniversary. Wish it was a week! Have fun. Please come to Miami some time with Sue and go with us to Key West...we can talk theology better over cigars with our lovely wives in margaritaville!

John the Musician said...

One thing that I've definately noticed about God's workings in our lives, is that he almost mandates that change has to come willingly from inside of us. The key in my opinion it to find a group of people that will be "real" and honest. If they have substance and a desire to learn/grow, then they will make it work. The problem is that there aren't many people like that in the U.S. I would guess that in China there are a lot more people who have substance and who desire what God has to give. I think here in the U.S. though it's much easier for people to find an escape from reality than to have to deal with it.