Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You just don't get it!

Welcome! The idea here is some friendly-but-serious intergenerational conversation. If you're under, say age 32, you get to put to the, ahem, older folks a question or issue about which you suspect said older folks "just don't get it!" Same with the more mature crowd--you get to put to the rising/emerging generation a question about which you suspect said younger generation "just doesn't get it!" Several caveats:

We're interested in questions/issues of thological/spiritual substance/significance, OK? This isn't the place to work out your frustrations with your parents/kids, debate pop culture (unless you're making some spiritual connections to/from it)

We are NOT assuming the inevitability of conflict between/among persons of different ages. The goal of Covenant Thinklings is to learn to think together ("do theology") in a way that leads all of us into more faithful and fruitful lives as followers Jesus Christ. The title of this post is offered in good humor, not hostility!

You do not need any "credentials" to participate, only a desire to listen thoughtfully, participate respectfully, and push one another to (re)consider, (re)think through, and possibly revise (in the basic sense of "re-see") where and how we stand (or surf, for those preferring a more fluid metaphor) on important questions.

My hope is that this first post will simply generate/surface some interesting questions, which we can then tackle in subsequent posts.

Full disclosure: your host is 55. (I know that's hardly 'full disclosure,' but I'm not sure you're interested in any more at this point!)


Robert said...

Just checkin in to see if my previous blogger info let's me in the inner circle.

Brian Emmet said...

No inner circles here! And I should modify the age factor--your "age" for our purposes can be your 'psychological' rather than your 'chronological' age...32 years old was pretty arbitrary.

josenmiami said...

hi Brian,

I didn't really see a specific question for discussion, but rather the general guidlines.

Should I answer your earlier question (from the other blog) about what postmodernism has to say about spiritual authority here, or go back there? I am assuming, if I remember correctly, that you were talkinga about spiritual authority, but it does not matter, my answer is the same for natural or divine authority and postmodernism.

I don't think postmodernism has anything to say about any kind of authority...at least nothing postive to say. Postmodernism, as I understand it, it not FOR anything... it is against pride in rationalism... just a sec...be right back....

josenmiami said...

Ok, I’m back now. Tonight was our “Purpose-Driven Life” group at FIU. I was not sure anyone was going to show up, but two of the grad students, Kay and Halcyone arrived as I was writing the first post.

As I was saying, I don’t think post-modernism offers any solutions—only critiques. Postmodernism does a good job of pointing out hypocrisy, human pride and lust for power in modernism…but it does not offer any alternatives. Postmodernism does a good job of delivering the ‘bad news’ and makes no pretense of offering any good news. That’s why its called POSTmodernism rather than PRO or PRE-something else. We don’t know what comes after modernism…although we can be sure that God is guiding the world towards his rule and drawing it to himself. Postmodernism is just the disenchantment with what is… not the preview of what will be.

That’s why I don’t think postmodernism is capable of saying anything to us about proper biblical or spiritual authority. However, make no mistake, postmodernism will let us know in a hurry if we try to work an agenda, pull a fast one, or impose our own authority for the wrong motivation. Postmodernism has a great BS meter.

The only source of any true authority is Jesus. The only way to have authority is to submit fully to him. The more we submit our egos to Jesus and serve, the more authority will oscillate from him through us to others.

stephenhumble said...

Thanks for setting this up, Brian. I haven't done much blogging, but will be checking in here with you all.

Postmodernism as you know provides a great opportunity and great challenges for those of us caring the message of the Kingdom. I am convinced that God's emphasis on the Holy Spirit's power in the last century, at least in part, has been preparation for the postmodern times. We desperately need the Spirit of Truth! And we also need The Spirit's works of power which will demonstrate to those with "eyes" and "ears" that the Spirit of Truth has authority to speak, rather than simply some more ideas to discuss.

Robert said...

One of the challenges of postmoderns is rampant individualism. It leads to being a "teller" of one's personal views...truth as I see it...versus being a seeker who is asking questions. Couple that with cynicism about the past and you have self-referential persons whose first response is to protect themselves, their rights and point of view. And, yes, I am aware of the danger of sweeping generalizations.

What I find helpful is NOT assuming the posture of "telling" but asking...showing interest. Maybe another way to say it is seeking to serve. That usually opens the door for some level of meaningful conversation that leads to being able to tell my story. I often leave it at that rather than try to close the deal. Occasionaly, I happen to intersect a situation where people are ready to say "yes." Some sow, some water and some get to reap. Reapers tend to get the press. I would like to be able to say 100 got saved at our church last Sunday, but I can't. I can say 100 were helped toward the feet of Jesus...so in that sense I lead people to Jesus every day. So do you. In that context, authority is exercised to serve. People genuinely hungry for truth can recognize that...and become "askers."

josenmiami said...

ditto! I am having a blast...just hanging around, hanging out...and listening. There are all kinds of people around me that are gravitating toward Jesus as I listen to their story.

Brian Emmet said...

All right you guys, no more comments from you unless/until you bring a visitor/guest along, OK?

Welcome, Steve H--very good to have your presence and participation!

I suspect that authority emerges from love and wisdom. Both are needed (although love is supreme). Perhaps we've been backing into this question of authority--maybe we need to stand in worrship together and reflect on how God has and 'uses' his authority. His authhority, as with all his attributes, is a reflection of his essential essence, which is love. Postmoderns rightly see that so much of our "authority" has nothing to do with genuine love for the other, and therefore also lacks wisdom for the other. I sspect we would all gladly submit to an 'authority' that we knew loved us and had genuine wisdom for our lives!

josenmiami said...

sorry Brian... I am working on it but they have not commented yet.

Robert: I totally agree. Most of what I do at the U. Campus is to listen to people. It really works.

Ok guys: I am going to lay this out... what does it mean?

MAT 23:8 "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
MAT 23:9 "And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
MAT 23:10 "And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
MAT 23:11 "But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

Help me interpret what Jesus is saying here. I remember struggling for a time with these verses back in 1975, and then I just kind of blew them off.

Brian Emmet said...

Jose, the reason I haven't responded more to your citations from the Gospels about leadership is because I basically agree with you! So I haven't meant to ignore or skirt them.

Matt 23 is Jesus' indictment of the Pharisees, so his comments on leadership need to take that specific context into account. If NT Wright is on the right track historically, Jesus' conflict w/ the Pharisees was fundamentally about the nature and calling of Israel. The Essenes thought the way to be 'faithful Israel' was to withdraw to the desert; the Saducees were more the accomodationists; the Zealots were the freedom fighter/terrorists ("God is waiting for us to show we're serious about being Israel by slitting some Gentile throats!"). The Pharisees' emphasis was on 'purity' and Torah--God is waiting for Israel to truly purify herself; then Yahweh will move to rout Israel's enemies. The Pharisees were strongly nationalistic and even somewhat revolutionary, not the staid conservatives we usually paint them to be, and not the semi-Pelagians (save yourself by good works) we make them out to be either.

So, was Paul violating the spirit of Matt 23 when he sends Timothy as his authorized delegate to 'clean up the mess in Ephesus'? I don't so much care what we call Timothy; it seems clear that he carried a real measure of authority for the churches to whom Paul sent him.

stephenhumble said...

My dad has never allowed me to address him as father because of Matthew 23 -- which seems to me way beyond what Jesus meant. In the ecumenical community I gradually began to use Father as a title of respect for Catholic priests so that I would not be putting up walls to communication. A few years ago I began to develop a friendship with an Antiochian Orthodox pastor. The first time I met him I greeted him, respectfully I thought,as "Father Tom." However, Tom immediately responded, "You don't need to call me Father since I am not your spiritual father." That put it in perspective for me. The issue is one of title versus relationship. Paul did not call himself Father as a title to my knowlege. However, he had no hesitancy to remind the Corinthians that he was their father in that he had begotten them in the gospel. Also if Paul could so freely call Timothy his son, I would think that Timothy clearly saw Paul, relationally, as his father in the Lord and would have had no problem saying so.

J.Aviles said...

well I can say i was invited by Joseph, will prob post some things (more on topic) later tonight when i have a bit more time.
thanks for the invite Joe.


stephenhumble said...

We are looking forward to hearing from you, Jimmy.

josenmiami said...

ok Brian, can I talk now? I got my guest here...actually two if you count Steve!

thanks for showing up Jimmy...we need some cross-generational, postmodern perspective...now if the ladies will just show up....

sarahmorgado said...

Hey guys, I have finally had time to read through all the posts. This is what I have noticed in my own experience: That true spiritual authority comes from Truth and Love.

If a "leader" is trying to excerise spiritual authority (without love) over another just b/c he or she has a title, (Pastor, youth leader, etc.)the "followers" will simply leave. Also, that "leader" is in danger of becoming judgemental and cultish.

In our "Community" here in Miami, we have a group of young couples that gathers twice a month. There are NO leaders. However, we have continued to meet together for about two years - even through severe anger, hurt and frustration.

Why haven't we broken apart and gone our separate ways? B/c we have each made a comittment to love one another. That committment takes priority over our emotions and forces each of us to be accoutable and bring reconcilliation to every relationship wthin the group.

The committment of love that we have for each other allows us to excercise mutual authority with each other. (I hope this is making sense)

I definately doesn't make things easy or "warm and fuzzy", but it HAS caused much spritual growth and true accountability.

An individual only has as much authority as the "follower" gives him/her.

Or, in my husband's favorite words "People don't care what you know until they know that you care."

Michael said...

Joseph,thanks for the invite. My first thought when reading Jesus's words is the overall emphasis that He placed on the inside (the heart) versus the outside. My sense is that the titles (Rabbi, Father, leader)can't be given or accepted without the content, the inside stuff, that goes with the title. When Jesus shared the sermon on the mount, Matthew's last words were that all were amazed for He was teaching them as one having authority and not as the scribes. The scribes were just repeaters. Jesus's words carried weight and life because the Word & the Flesh were one.
As a side note, did you ever wonder how creation felt when Jesus spoke? I wonder if the grass got a little greener or the trees healthier, the birds a little chirpier (not sure that is a word) just as the son of man with the words of life walked by and spoke. Sorry I digressed.
It is interesting at the end this lesson about calling yourself Rabbi, Father, or leader, He said if we want to be called anything, be called a servant. Jesus's authority rested in His willingness to serve. Can't wait for the responses!

steve H said...

I certainly would not argue for titles; there are two sides to the issue. One is the misplaced need to be recognized -- to have one's identity and sense of respect be based on one's title or position. On the other hand there is the human and God-given need to show honor to those who carry responsibility for us. Whether it's only a cultural thing or something rooted in some internal "instinct" -- it is strong. Those to whom we old guys looked called each other -- and we called them -- Brother. That too can become a title only if it is only used toward those who are over us or older than us. Most of the young people in our community call me "Uncle Steve"; hopefully, that expresses our "family" relationship. Leviticus 19.32 does indicate that SHOWING respect to those who are ahead of us, at least in age, is something God expects his people to do. Should not our culture encourage this too?

Brian Emmet said...

Welcome to Jimmy, Sarah, and Michael, and thank you for checking in and participating! I especially appreciated Sarah's vey 'real-world' sharing about her community, with which I'm not familiar, so it was good to get a glimpse into the life of the Master being formed in those people.

"I am among you as one who serves," Jesus said. I think we're all ageeing that the heart of true leadeship and authority (and let's note that these two words are similar/overlapping, but not identical)emerges out of love, servanthood, wisdom/tuth. I don't think any of us are hung up on titles, other than continuing to recognize that our hearts do tend to lust after them!

Maybe we're touching on what it means to 'serve' one another. Perhaps we tend to take the (very appopriate) approach of undestanding servanthood as taking the lowest place, doing whatever is practically needed in the moment, giving up my rights in order to potect/serve the rights of others.

But service also includes, though perhaps not as its primary expression, rebuking, teaching, commanding, confonting, calling to account--activities that we tend to associate with having 'authority' of some kind. It is certainly the case, as Sarah's experience illustrates, that there is a 'flatness' to this within Chriist's community: we are all 'authorized' to lovingly do these things for one another when needed.

However, are there some persons within Messiah's community that uniquely carry a responsibility for providing sound teaching (not understood merely or primarily as the impartation of information!) and for guarding (another 'authoritative' word, as is 'shepherd') the flock from bad teaching and/or unfaithful practice?

BlueOrion said...

I was struck by the total condemination of a religious group. This story draws the contrast between Christ's teaching and the religous leaders of that day. They took their authority from God and his word but they didn't have the Father's heart. They were self centered and self promoting.

I imagine that a person could find a few of these same leaders today. Could this be one of the reasons for the post-modern turn off?
Paul, used titles in the church and then told us to beware of the false titles.

I belive that we have to be genuine in our relationship with the Father. I belive that our lives must line up with God and his word. We have to live the life of: copassion,grace,slow to anger,mercy,truth,faith and forgiveness.
I haven't arrived but I need to have God's presence moving in my life daily. I am a witness to the world and my life is saying so much than I may even realize.

josenmiami said...

hey folks, I'm back! We finished a two day history conference on Miami Beach and just got home in time to host about 60 plus young people in our house for my 56th birthday party. At least half of them were grad students from FIU. We partied into the wee hours...I even got Debbie out on the dance floor to shake her booty with me!

Robert said...

Booty shaking...now that was a word picture Jose...Happy Birthday! Church on the dance floor...I like it.

To make you feel better about turning 56, I signed up for Medicare this week...there has to be a boot camp for those turning 65 to get them ready for the next twenty years of ministry...

Brian Emmet said...

I'm glad to be one of the young 'uns! Happy Birhtday, Joseph, and Happy Medicare (??) Robert! If this doesn't scare younger contributors, we're all set!

josenmiami said...

have 18 months of chemo therapy and dealing with breast cancer... I am just happy that she still has a booty to shake!

by the way, I have i mentioned that she and I are going to Rio de Janeiro together for 6 weeks this summer?

josenmiami said...

After our wild party with the grad students Saturday night, Debbie opened her bible (The Message) on Sunday morning and said “lets read about those unruly Corinthians!” This morning we read chapters 3 and 4 in the Message and I was struck by how congruent Paul’s attitude about his own authority is with the teaching of Jesus. I am pasting in a portion below.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It's not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God's field in which we are working.
1 Corinthians 4: 1-4 Don't imagine us leaders to be something we aren't. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God's most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them.

Ok, I finally have time to catch up reading and responding to the post.

Jimmy! Come back! Talk to us!

Sarah, thanks for joining us. I think I might say it a little differently than you…there actually is leadership within your group, but it is not appointed leadership…and it ebbs and flows through different people and gifts at different times with a huge amount of teamwork and reciprocity (and conflict resolution). Sarah is actually the strongest initiator in the group and the best communicator, her husband Carlos has the pastoral heart and does a lot of impromptu counseling. Jimmy probably has the strongest leadership and exhortation gifts, Jessica has a pretty strong prophetic and prayer orientation, and Brian and Rosa are very outreach oriented. So there is lots of leadership and ministry but it moves around. There are several other new couples who are pretty passive and have not yet learned to move in God’s grace in their gifts.

Michael (by the way everyone, this is Michael Tomko. Welcome!)
I agree that Jesus’ authority rested on his willingness to serve. I think it also rested on his humility and utter submission to God the father, i.e. Phil 2. I remember Derek teaching on the 7 steps downward, from Phil. 2:5 – 10, that resulted in his exaltation and 7 steps upward. “The way down is the way up.”

Steve, I agree with you that there is a human tendency or need to show honor. I suppose it is also human to want to set up a king to rule over us. The young generation loves “super-heroes.” Probably the biblical teaching is that we should honor everyone, including the weak and the needy. We must also choose for ourselves the chair of least honor at a banquet and allow the master to call us up to a more honored position. Part of the context of the teaching of Jesus on not using or giving the titles of father, teacher or leader was the inappropriate seeking of honor by the scribes and Pharisees:

MAT 23:6 "And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

I strong agree with your earlier comments about titles such as ‘father’ being properly used in a relational context, such as when Paul identified himself as a ‘father’ to the Corinthians.

Brian, I am processing what you said about people who are uniquely called to provide ‘sound teaching.’ I think you are probably right…some are called to be ‘teachers.’ However, what do we do with 1 Corinthians 14:26, which clearly is providing guidelines for the assembling of the ekklesia and implies that “each one” may have a teaching? It reminds me of the Quakers, where there is a corporate teaching that comes through everyone’s contribution.

1CO 14:26 “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

Brian Emmet said...

Reaching way back to Gothard's material on "temperament gifts" and Romans 12: Paul indicates that some folks are gifted by the Spirit to lead. Yes, they need to lead in all the ways we've been discussing--in humility, seeking to serve, not lusting after postion or title, committed to God's will, etc.--but nevertheless, they lead.

The leadership dynamics of Sarah's group work very well as long as the group stays relatively small, and localized. Perhaps this indicates that a local christian community should remain relatively small.
However, historically speaking, as the church grew and spread, it had to begin to address questions and issues that we characterize as "institutional." For example, who is Jesus Christ and how do "we" articulate that? Does "Christian" mean whatever each local ekklesia decides? Who is part of that decision-making process, and who decides that they are? I think it's healthy to react against "institutionalization" in some ways, but foolish in others. I think if the ekklesia always remains a small "prophetic" community, it will lack the resources--the "institutional resources" to effectively advance the work of the kingdom.

So: does the Spirit of God have any interrest in building institutions, or does "instituialization" always and necessarily represent a "fall" from genuine life in the Spirit?

josenmiami said...

Brian, you said:

"I think if the ekklesia always remains a small "prophetic" community, it will lack the resources--the "institutional resources" to effectively advance the work of the kingdom."

I am not sure I agree with you here. I don't personally think that the ekklesia getting bigger or more institutional does anything valuable in terms of providing resources to advance the kingdom. In my experience, churches of 80 to 150 are much less likely to advance the kingdom, or to multiply than a church of under 50. I believe the research of Christian Swartz, who carried out a massive survey of churches, resulting in his book, Natural Church Development (2000) found that 20 churches of 50 would be far more effective in advancing the kingdom and leading people to the Lord, than one church of 1000. I will quote him: “Churches in the smallest size category had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200 and 300 averaged 39 new individuals; churches between 300 and 400 won 25. While the smallest churches (with an average attendance of 51) typically won 32 new people in the last five years, the megachurches (with an average attendance of 2,856) won 112 new members during the same period” (Swartz 2000: 47) If the church of 2,856 had instead been 56 churches of 51 members, statistically 1,792 would have been won to the Lord in five years.

DNA multiplication always takes place at the smallest, cellular level. There is a recurring theme in scripture of “where 2 or 3 are gathered.” In my thinking, the greatest way ultimately to advance the kingdom is to launch a social movement that will become self replicating…some thing that operates similar to a virus. This has to happen at the cellular level…and be able to multiply itself without large institutional resources and without centralized command and control. This was true in the early Jesus movement, it was true in the cell church in China, and it is the message of numerous recent books such as “Organic Church” by Neil Cole and “The Forgotten Ways” by Alan Hirsch. I really do think that the congregational size church (and the megachurch) requiring more formal authority and institutional structures may be the greatest obstacle to growth and the advancing of the kingdom.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph--yes but: you didn't answer my question. Is the Spirit inimically opposed to anything smacking of 'institution'? I'm not arguing for megachurches; I'm not arguing for "christendom." Small is beautiful--the only things I've accomplished in my life, if I've accomplished anything, have been on the micro side of things. I think, however, that you're ignoring or downplaying what we can learn from church history--it's not all bad, not all a record of emptiness and futility. Western civilization was the product of more than small prophetic communities, although they were at the heart of it (as they were in the collapse of communism). Western civilization, I hasten to add, does NOT equal the kingdom--but it does represent an important vehicle for carrying the kingdom (along with carrying a lot of garbage).

josenmiami said...

Hi Brian,

I was responding to your comment that seemed to assume that small = inadequate resources to advance the kingdom. It seems to imply that the church must become institutional in order to advance the kingdom...my argument is that it is the unnecessary or unbalanced institutionalization of the church that keeps the church from advancing.

You may not believe me, but I have nothing against institutions per se... I believe institutions are simply social necessities, especially in the modern world. They are not bad in themselves...for example, Jamie and his gang work with Boy with a Ball as an institution...it is a good tool for their work, even though their work is organic, dynamic and relational.

There is nothing inherently wrong with owning a building, or incorporating for IRS tax purposes, which then requires a board of directors, officers, etc, etc. IOM is a very good and useful institution. In my mind, ACM is a very good and useful institution that serves our relationships with an annual meeting.

My problem comes when we 'institutionalize' the church and then confuse the institution with the ekklesia, thinking that the institutional forms are a necessary part of the church.

I am all for the study of church history, in fact, I am paying big bucks to study it. I draw a lot of the points that I am attempting to make about the ekklesia from my study of church history.

I think the record is pretty clear that the Christian movement grew exponentially until the conversion of Constantine and the legalization of Christianity (see Michael Green). From the mid-300s on, the growth of Christianity slooooooooowed waaay down, with the exceptions of the Celtic missionary planting movement, and latter the Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit orders began to push out in cross-cultural missions again. The Celtic church sent out missionary church planting cells of 12 men... the Jesuits also sent out small teams of missionaries. There has been no discovery of any church "buildings" other than private homes used for worship before 280 AD... As Michael Green puts it in "Evangelism in the Early Church", the early Jesus' movement "gossiped" the good news from house to house (small, and very little institutional structure).

The Wesleyan movement transformed English society (and the American colonies), not primarily with public preaching, but with small groups -- the class structure of 12 or less. A good example of a virus movement that eventually enabled the end of slavery (Wilberforce was influenced by Wesley) and might have prevented a bloody English Revolution similar to the French (George Hunter has a good book on Methodist small groups – I believe Howard Snyder also does).

The Moravians went out to the nations two-by-two, or in small bands, one of the greatest missionary movements of Protestantism.

And finally, to come back to where we stared in another blog and in a previous thread....the Chinese church. Shut down the buildings, kill the pastors and expel the Western missionaries, forbid meetings of more than 12 to 15 people, and what do you get? One of the greatest explosions of the growth of the kingdom of all time.

I heartily endorse the study of the history of the Christian movement in all of its forms: the good, the bad and the ugly (and there is that too). We can learn from the heroic victories, and the dismal failures, and there are plenty of both.

I think the overwhelming evidence is the kingdom of God is always like a mustard seed...and grows like a vine. And that the New Wineskin almost inevitably becomes a Old Wineskin that must be renewed or will be torn and the New Wine spilled.

Brian Emmet said...

Anyone else want to weigh in? Joseph has me pinned to the mat, slowly cutting off my oxygen until... I ... yield...

Michael said...

I have to agree with Joseph. I believe that to often the line has become blurred between what is church and what is institutional. I might be off the mark here, but I believe we have to remember that the church serves the purposes of the kingdom of God and not the other way around. When the church sees itself as an end and not a means through which the kingdom of God is extended, institutionalism is not far behind.

John the Musician said...

That's intense. I think it took me about 30 minutes to read all of the wonderful posts on this page, but it was well worth it. A definition that I heard recently of Humility, is, "Being no more and no less than what one is." I think we see this perfectly in Jesus' life on earth, in that he had come to serve, but not by moping floors or cooking. He came to serve by by living and giving his life for us and conquering death. That was his purpose, that was exactly what he had come to do and he did it, and thus he is the perfect example for humility. Did that mean he was a push over? Not really. Ultimately I think he was balanced. A different reaction for a different circumstance almost every time, and I do believe that it all stemmed from the spirtual discipline that he consistantly practised.

Something that Steve Humble said stuck out to me.
"Those to whom we old guys looked called each other -- and we called them -- Brother."
It's interesting but I have a friend who is always very energetic and affectionate, he's constantly calling me Brother. For some reason though I began to notice that whenever he would call me brother, I would be annoyed internally. I had no idea why I would be annoyed with him, after all, he was a good guy and I had always enjoyed his company, but for some reason his calling me brother just bugged me. Until now I never understood why, but it's because in truth and in spirit he isn't at all my brother. Not that he couldn't be in time, but there simply isn't a brothering relationship between us.

I think ultimately that's what it comes down to. Spirit and Truth. When I spend time with friend's whom I am influencing towards Jesus, I don't say, "Hey billy, I'm your spiritual father, or yeah I'm trying to influence you spiritually." They already know what's going on, they know that I'm trying to tell them about something that I believe is the truth. The appreciate the spiritual honesty that I'm coming to them with. And often young people like my self quickly sense whether or not a person is being honest. I think that because there's such a lack of honest people in this day and age, that when they find somebody that is honest it makes them all the more curious and open.

steve H said...

I heartily recommend Nancy Pearcey's book "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity" for a number of reasons. In this context I specifically chapters 9-11 which analyze the roots of the "church culture" we call evangelicalism, by which we are deeply influenced for good and ill whether we know it or not. We need to understand the roots of the anti-authority, anti-tradition, and anti-history tendencies at work among us. We need to understand our dualistic tendencies -- ways in which we separate ideas and realities that should be held together

As has been acknowledged above there are grave dangers in institutionalism --the prinicipalities and powers seem to thrive in institutions and organization. At the same there is a need to "build together" which requires the "body" to be organized in some way.

Here's an issue: The gospel -- that is the message that Jesus who was incarnated, crucified, and resurrected is NOW the Lord of heaven and earth and his enemies are NOW in the process of becoming his footstool -- the gospel "seed" WILL germinate, grow, and produce a harvest. The Gospel -- the Word from the throne -- will prevail and accomplish what it was sent to do; it is the "power of God unto salvation."

Right now in this culture many of us we are not seeing that "success" on a large scale. How do we scatter the "seed" and participate in the growing crop in a way that allows the true nature of the seed to grow up and reproduce? The small churches that Joseph describes may well be the best means for that at this time.

In fact, in the face of the type of institutionalization that characterizes most of the contempory "church" something like Joseph describes may be a necessary correction.

If we are faithful, however, there will almost certainly come a time when more definition and order of some sort become necessary in order to steward the truth that we are to manifest and proclaim, and in order to preserve the unity of the body and to protect the flock from wolves from within and without. In those times we are face up with how to organize and what sort of "institution(s)" is(are) fitting for and compatible with the nature of this "seed."

Which brings me back to "Total Truth" -- We may well be required to hold two things together as a whole that from our finite (and fallen) human perspective we tend to see as separate. We will only be able to do that by absolute dependence upon the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, who is at work among us to produce maturity in God's sons and in Christ's body.

steve H said...

Just a reminder:

seed --> developing plant --> maturing plant --> buds --> blossoms --> fruit --> decaying fruit reveals new seeds

There is one life, one DNA, at work in every manifestation.

There is great diversity in appearance and "function" in the parts and at each stage.

There is life and death and multiplied life.

John M. said...

Hey Everyone. John in Lexington here. Thanks, Joseph for inviting me on. I've been skimming for awhile. John the Musician must read faster than me. Very stimulating conversation. I'm not sure how much I'll be able to contribute, but hopefully I'll have something constructive along the way. Happy Birthday Joseph! Robert, does 65 and medicare mean that you can now retire? Oops that could bring up another discussion. Sarah, Jimmy, John, keep talking and bring some friends. I really like your thoughts and want to hear more. Can one get paid for this? OK, as you can see I'm basically speechless. I haven't really digested the discussion well enough to make any original comments. But I do have something to say about the "booty" subject. It may even be relevant to the way different generations would "hear" this particular verse. Vicki and I are doing a through the Bible reading thing and we're in II Chronicles. Here's how 14:14b reads in the NIV: "They plundered all these villages since there was much booty there." For some reason, I never saw that before. It's really there. Look for yourself. OK I'm out of here, before Brian kicks me off. Unless he already has...

John M. said...

Where did everyone go? Hope I didn't scare you off. I finally got through all the postings...good stuff. I resonate with most of what is being said. I have struggled with the tension between the institutional and the organic. My bottom line is a strong tendency toward being anti-institutional, therefore I am often tempted to be critical and, at times, judgmental of the institutional church. But I am attepmting to adopt what I feel is a wiser and more godly attitude which is similar to the points Steve makes. This leads me to be grateful for the institution and its (good) fruit while mourning it's bad fruit (rather than being critical and judgmental). At the same time I know that God has put in my heart a vision for the small, dynamic, organic, micro-church...whatever name it is given. So, even though I don't feel called to the institutional expression of the church, I can still appreciate many things about it and see things in a "both/and" focus rather than either/or. I agree with Steve and Joseph that the present growing edge of God's movement in the earth is with the multiplication of micro organisms that will ultimately have a macro effect, I hope, of speeding the day when the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed to all peoples (people groups).

A little anecdote: Some of you know that I teach 7th grade Bible at a large interdenominationl Christian School (an institution). The other day one of my students asked, "Mr. Meadows" [hmmm, formal title; never really thought of that until this discussion], where do you go to church?" I said, "I'm part of a house church." Someone else asked, "You have church in your house?" [not sure what they envisioned!] "Yes." Someone else, "You must have a really big house."[There are a lot of mega-churches in Lexington.] My answer, "No, I have a really small church!" I let the students have the last word, one of the guys said, "Wow, I bet you could dress-down to go to your church." From there I got back to the lesson plan.

To comment on the authority issue: Imagine a world where everyone honored and showed respect to everyone else, and where everyone sincerely attempted to serve the highest good of everyone else. We would all honor,respect and serve; and we would all be respected honored and served. It seems that it would be a pretty flat world because each one would recognize and honor authority wherever they found it and each one would serve authority wherever it was found. There would be little need for hierarchy, enforcers, lording it over, power structures etc. I can only imagine...Lord, may your Kingdom come...

Jeremiah said...

Lots of interesting stuff here. Most of you I haven't seen in a real long time. Some I've never met. Since this is split between young and old, I'm young. SH invited me so he gets a peg in his board for that.

One of the things that hinders many discussions regarding the mysteries of Christ is to approach the topic from an either/or mentality. Many of the comments are holding up either institutions or small uncoordinated groups. I think it is instructive to look at the way God creates so many things in nature to see that
A) Everything is highly organized. B) Everything is highly complex
C) Everything is built out of many small modules that require exquisite intra-coordination to work together. (Both small /And large)

Why would it surprise us if the "Church" is the same way?

Secondly it seems clear to me that as important to Christ as His Kingdom is, that isn't what He is coming back for. He is coming back for a Bride without spot or blemish. My personal opinion is that the Bride will be without spot or blemish when she is a unified shining city of living stones which is working to make the earth look like heaven and contending as one man for the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. But that is just my opinion.

Brian Emmet said...

Wow, I look away for a few minutes and suddenly find myself panting to catch up! Welcome all, thanks all for pitching in.

I appreciate the both/and perspective that several have brought tot this discussion. I also want to offer another postmodern critical tool, which is to deconstruct the micro-church model just for a minute. Doesn't this become a cover for each doing what is right in his own eyes? "We don't want to participate in the institutionalized corruption and fruitlessness of the so-called church; we're committed to the practice of genuine New Testament faith!" I bring this up because it is EXACTLY what I used to say and think and do when I was young and (whatever), instead of now being old and wise! It's the warning that always accompanies renewal movements, including our own "covenant" movement (for those of you who are in some associated with that).

(Is that the sound of Joseph flexing befoe he takes the hammer to me again?)

BlueOrion said...

ED Biggs this is a test.

BlueOrion said...

Hi this is Ed Biggs from Miami. I thought that I needed to have a title so I took my dog's named blue and attached it to a star the I see every night playing with the dog.
I think it is time to go back to the basics. Why did God make me? He had a purpose for my life and he wanted me to share it with others. God spoke about the value of life. He made us because He wanted to see love demonstrated first to him and then to others. His character demonstrates love that covers a multitude of sins. If it wasn't for the love of God we would not know how to be gracious, and have a honor that has be given to us by him. Jesus said, "If you honor me": there is more to that quote but I can't recall it. Perhaps it might be good to look it up.
Paul talked about honoring one another. It was in the context of the body of Christ.
I was reminded of a comment by an old modern evangelist. "A Christian is always a gentleman". God is always a gentle loving God when he deals with me.
Church growth was clearly seen in the early Church. What is hindering that same growth now?

J.Aviles said...

Well sorry it took so long for me to come back, (forgot to write down my password and could not get logged on, too many of those codes swimming in my head as it is).

I can’t shake a feeling as I have spent the last few days reading all the postings (going back to christplays.blogspot, great blogg by the way) you men have made. I don’t know if this is me or not and I don’t know if this is just "email static" (its what I call the unclear communication of exact feelings when one uses email) that naturally happens when you dive into deep topics over the net. But I get a real positional aspect to some of the ...man I can’t even give it a word, discussion, points made...or better yet the underlying commonality of the attitudes taken in some of the postings. I say this with the understanding that I could be picking up something totally off base, also with much respect for all, and out of a place of wanting to understand further not as a challenge to anyone.

As I understand it (from Brain's great summary of what’s going on and of all I've read so far) that some of this has to do with women in leadership within local churches. Oh by the way on a side bar I just thought I throw this in for added controversy, Jesuscreed blogg...not very interesting at all...It is my humble opinion that it really does not matter who wrote what book, its still God's will and "words" that are within those pages and as such they are beyond contestation...focusing on who took parchment and ink and sat at a bench I think deludes the true depth of God's intent. To me it seems to compare to giving credit to the stenographer for the creation of a great work rather then artist who envisioned it into being. Having gotten that of my chest I can go back to my original track =).

I guess my questions would be: could the western church get any worse (over all I mean) if mature Godly women taught or shared what God is giving them with the rest of the congregation? You men are still going to be there right? It’s not like we are just turning over our manhood and handing it to the ladies? By the same token I don’t think most if any Godly women want manhood in the same way that I or any of you (I would very certainly think) want to be feminine. I guess what I’m saying is that I see a vast difference in a Godly woman wanting to share the things that God has placed in her heart as appose to the usurping of any sort of authority. You can do the former and be a fruitful servant and never cross into the latter be you man or woman.

I think the question of who is an apostle and who is not, who can be and who cannot; bypasses a much more important query. Do we, those you are trying to reach (secular post-moderns and anyone to come after us…”neo-post-moderns” maybe?…I might have to copyright that word, dang I think someone beat me to it), do we really care who is an apostle and who is not? Is someone who calls himself so or has it bestowed upon them by another going to be more successful in doing the simple task of loving one another and sharing that love with those that need it most? I think this demands some exploration by those wishing to call themselves so. You can come up with a more “post-modern” sounding word to explain the same position of authority but …what was it that Shakespeare wrote ”a rose by any other name…”. I can paint my car cherry red and place a Lamborghini emblem on it and its still gonna be just a Toyota. Now I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to tear down anyone who finds themselves in (notice how I did not use the words position of) leadership like I said earlier I respect all of you. My angle is that the fact that we are willing to change the name of the title does not in an of itself counter act the fact that the title is still there and that we have chosen to aspire to it. I think the reason for the focus on this leadership/Apostolic/who’s in charge issue (IMHO) is cause we have build churches with such large structures (not the building rather the mechanics of operation) that we feel the need to get a handle on it by subdividing areas of influence, responsibility, and “authority” in order to keep the machine moving. This is a very practical and functional way of doing business but we are not a corporation, or a government, heck we are not even a democracy. There is one King and one law and we are all servants.

My grandfather told me once that if I ever had to tell anyone I was in charge that I was already combat ineffective and probably had been so for longer then I new. I read somewhere that Leadership was action not position. I guess as a post-modern man I would much rather spend my time serving those around me and drawing closer to Christ (action) and letting the chips fall where they may, if you will pardon the expression.

I guarantee you that within every one of our circles we all know of someone that has a strong leadership gifting and whether or not he/she has had a positional title bestowed on them usually that does not make much difference…people tend to follow them anyway. I’m reminded of a line in Braveheart where William Wallace is speaking to Robert the Bruce and says to him “men don’t follow titles, they follow courage”. And that’s not just a young man’s battle analogy. Courage takes many forms outside the overused war comparisons.

I think I shared way too much of my thoughts as I look back on this post its even long for me to read it. So if you have gotten this far I thank you. If you have received it in the spirit in which I wrote it, respect, honesty, and forthrightness of thought, than I thank you again.


Brian Emmet said...

Jimmy, you can now consider yourself all caught up with the conversation! Many thanks for your comment(s); please write your password down someplace safe so you can keep in touch more easily and quickly!

My general sense is that we're becoming more comfortable than perhaps some of us used to be with the idea of women "minstering", through teaching/preaching as well as other ways, and we probably get the idea that men and women will minster differently because they are men or women. Part of this is generational, part is cultural--our covenant movement was birthed during the craziness of the 60's and 70s (alas, as in 1960s and 1970s!) and one of the cultural tides we were responding to was a kind of feminism that was and is, well, crazy. I think it took about a generation (25-30 years)for us to start to think that there is a Scriptural feminism of some kind that not only is not crazy, but which is in fact important and necessary.

By the way, my thanks to Mike C for making available the audio from Bill Hein's presentation; I found it helpful and commend it to you. It sounded a bit older--I'm guessing from the 1980s, but I could be way off--but still a helpful overview.

Ok, comments shouldn't go on too long, so let me snip this off here, with thanks again to Jimmy for a thoughtful and helpful contribution. Now as for the rest of you...

josenmiami said...

good comments everyone! Thanks Ed, John Meadows, John the Musician, and Jimmy for your excellent comments. Welcome to Jeremiah! (by -the-way, Jeremiah prophesied to me about 6 or 7 years ago using the Gandalf metaphor...it was the beginning of my acquaintance with postmodernism).

Brian, don't worry...there is no hammer and I am not flexing my muscles. I am all for decontructing the micro church. A small church can be just as messed up and ego-driven as a larger church. Just because a church is small does not mean it will be healthy or reproduce. And I am definitely NOT in favor of everyone doing what is right in there own eyes...

by-the-way, I am not sure everyone realizes that if you go back to the top, and click on "Covenant Thinklings" it will take you "home" on this blog, and you will see that Brian has started another thread.

I will ponder all of you comments and get back with more specifics.


John M. said...

Welcome Jeremiah! Good to hear from you. Joseph mentioned Jeremiah prophesying over him. Jeremiah reads my mail most every time we see each other. btw, bro, it's been too long. Ed, thanks for identifying yourself, I kept meaning to ask who is blueorion, and then forgot to before I published. Jimmy I really like what you are saying. I agree. Love works. Faith works. Leadership works, etc. I can take the title "faith man", but if I have no faith working in my life, what good is the title. I also agree with your comments about women and ministry. If we focus on functioning in our gifts and serving/loving one another with our gifts rather than positions, then the whole issue kind of melts away. I remember years ago at Lex. Cov. Church, we had the body broken up into "flocks" which were composed of around 10 or so cell groups. One morning a certain very gifted sister was "allowed" to be the primary speaker in one of the Sunday am flock meetings. I was excited for her and the group. Heck, she had more to say, more depth, and probably more maturity than some of us who were "elders". But the result was that it created a big stink. The elders got really huffy about it. The flock leaders were called to task for being "rebellious" or some nonesense, and the poor sister was humiliated, hurt and felt like a chess piece being discarde after a capture. I was only one young voice among the elders, but I didn't think we handled it well at all. Most who hold to a high view of scripture (which I think we all do) have been afraid to violate some of Paul's statements in Corinthians. Perhaps we need a fresh reading of Paul, asking the Holy Spirit to give us God's perspective on the whole matter. "And God created mankind in His image, male and female He created them..." "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female..." The foot of the cross is level ground. Different functions, different gifts, different roles, but one Spirit, one family, one brotherhood that is both male and felmale together in Christ.

John M. said...

Regarding labels... I believe we should think carefully before labeling ourselves as "modern" or "post-modern". I think Jimmy called himself a "post-modern man" in his last comment. (No offense Jimmy. I understand what you meant and I know you were describing yourself, not labeling yourself.) But isn't that like a fish calling itself a "water fish"?

"Modern", "post-modern" is the era, the cultural/philospical context in which we swim. Of course the era and cultural context in which we come of age affects our thinking and our approach to issues and life. But we are Kingdom men. We are followers of Jesus, called to a higher way -- to have our minds renewed and transformed -- to have our hearts set on things above where our risen Christ is seated.
My identity is in Him and His Kingdom and Body, not in my nationality, ethnicity, gender, or particular cultural context -- not even in my generational identity. Does Paul imply "no young or old" in his Galations statement that I eluded to last comment?

The terms modern and post-modern are helpful in describing and understanding ourselves and those around us, but we should be careful not to label ourselves or take our primary identity from these terms.

It is helpful to rmember too, that although history and sociology tend to make era's into nice charts and time-lines with specific beginnings and endings, we all know that it is not that way. The yeast of post-modern thought was working in modern culure long before the "post-modern era" officially began. Bty, when did it begin? In actuality, eras overlap and cultural currents mix together, just like two bodies of water flowing into one another. So, although we can look at someone who is a certain age and say that they were primarily formed in a certain context and approach to life, each of us who have lived in this transitional era have been profoundly affected by both streams. Even today's teens and 20 somethings are still very much influenced by modernism and utilize technology every day that is the product of the modern era. Ironically, that very technology has been the facilitator of much of what we call "post-modernism".

Just a thought.

Brian Emmet said...

When I see the various times at which some of you post--middle of the night, early in the morning--i don't know whether to feel like a wimp or tell you to live more balanced lives.

'Course here it is Sunday morning when I ought to be polishing up my sermon for the morning and instead I'm...

Gotta go! My continuing thanks to all for helping sharpen one another.

J.Aviles said...

wow..sunday morning sermon..for me thats like a..a..a..like a 55' chevy bel air, its a classic, have not "seen" one of those in ages.

yeah the posting times, for me anyway, as i continue to participate Brian are gonna get pretty wild, 2 kids under the age of 3, a wife, a job search and a host of other things dont lend themselves well to a set time table for almost anything. Needless to say its like fliying with no map and a limited amount of fuel...but dont get me wrong I love it, would not trade it for the world.


John M. said...

Hey Jimmy,
Thanks. I think! I would give my blogging rights for a '55 Chevy Belaire.

Regarding balance. It would be nice. Every now and then I find it for a few hours (sometimes even a couple days), but for me it's an elusive creature, kind of like bigfoot or lockness.

John the Musician said...

First off, I'm a lava fish.

Second, I know bigfoot personally and his feelings are hurt.

And finally, good times. Great posts and discussions. I personally have been reading through the epistles recently as I felt that I needed a refreshed view of them. I was kind of thrown off by Paul saying to the corinthians not to allow their women to talk in meetings. I think though that we can assume that each church which paul had planted was a different seed with different fruit, different purposes, but the same spirit. Ultimately, Paul allowed them to go on in the same way they had been culturally and rather aimed at a more important target which was their relationship with God as a body.

Another issue related to one of the above posts,or several, is that of a population that honors and esteems all of it's members,and essentially a utopia.
I said to my friend that I believed the first Christians to have been the closest humans ever to achieving utopia. That of course being said in relation to all the other forms of government and community that have come before. I'm still a young pup so I could be completely off-base but I truly believe it to be so. What we see in the acts and epistles is a continual planting of new seeds, watering of said seeds (via the Holy Spirit), the maturing and trimming of said seeds (maturing of course being the seed itself, and the trimming being done by Paul and other apostles), and... well I haven't finished the epistles in their entirity... so.. yeah. But I honestly believe that the example that Paul and the early church show us is a great standard for running things. I think it's especially important to note that Paul didn't confront cultural traditions and/or beliefs unless the contradicted the Word of God. He went into a community showed them the truth and helped them grow, often in a different way than others, but with a sameness of spirit.

Lastly I wanted to comment once more on the woman issue. I personally have long held a desire to see the young women in my community be active in connecting with eachother and being sisters in the body of Christ. This is going to be a horrible paraphrase, but in the book Captivating, by John and Stacy Eldredge, one of the two disects the original word used for women when they are created by God. He says the term is often translated helper or help-mate, sometimes partner, but in actuality it translates into something like,"the help that comes in a desperate circumstance." That's of course a rough paraphrase, but you get the idea. Women are not to be she who helps by cooking and cleaning, although those can also be done by her if she chooses, but ultimately she is the savior for a man in a time of desperate need. They explain this by talking about how a womans beauty brings out the strength of a man. If like in the film "300" I remembered my wife before the huge choice ahead of me and her love for me, then it would surely give me the strength to give my life in order to save hers.

Sorry for the Length.

Brian Emmet said...

55 Belair indeed...humpf!

John M. said...

Hey Lava Fish. Your'e tough... asbestos skin. Second, maybe you could introduce me to Big Foot sometime -- after he cools off and forgives me. I promise not to bring a camera, only a pen and paper for an authograph. Third, thanks for your thoughts. We'll have to wait for some of the heavy weights to weigh in to set us straight on this women in the church thing. Are there any '32 Fords out there?

steve H said...

The matter of women in ministry misses the point so far as I can see. We all are called to serve -- to minister -- to "diakono". The question is when, where, and to whom.

The primary question, I think, concerns who is to have the foundational authority / responsibility in Father's house. Scripture seems quite clear that he has delegated that service to the "fathers."

Don't forget 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 2 when considering the matter. 1 Corinthians 11 certainly speaks of women ministering when rightly submitted to authority. 1 Corinthians 14 seems to refer to a matter of order in the meetings -- rather than to ministry.

However it is very vital that we not play fast and loose with Scripture -- reinterpreting things in terms of our cultural biases.

Martin Luther made the point powerfully: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Jeremiah said...

Hey guys,

I felt a little camoflaged reading all your posts deciding how I would respond, but now I'm revealed. :) Good to touch you all in The Spirit again. It has been too long. I think of all of you periodically (at least the ones I've met before now) I gotta agree with Steve. When God wrote the Bible, He meant what he said. I don't think it matters much if our culture doesn't like it, or if we, having swam in the moral filth of the our culture, don't like it either. John, I don't know who, what, or how whatever happened, happened in the way back (I may not have even been born) and I'm sure carnality was involved, but I don't understand why something written in such clear language can be interpreted in such muddy ways.

I'm not trying to be caustic or condemning, but if we don't at least have the authority of the Scripture, then what do we have? As protestants it is a rather uphill climb to accept authority in the form of a man (and when it has been abused, as I know many of you guys endured it is even harder) But putting the topic of whatever form we accept spiritual authority from men aside, we have to at least accept the authority of Scripture.

Finally, on this topic, I've got to pass along what a good friend of mine who happens to be a Roman Catholic has said. He related to me that the pattern he sees is that whenever a denomination has embraced women in leadership, it is very shortly afterwards that they rationalize homosexuality.

Finally, finally :) (like a preacher trying to close it out) Women obviously do have a place to minister and a place of ministry. It is very clearly spelled out. However, it does not happen to be in the Government of the Church. (Regardless of maturity or gifting)

josenmiami said...

hi Jeremiah, good to hear from you! I enjoyed spending time with your dad and mom last week.

Good comments! The point on church government is true...however, there is a variety of different views represented by the people in this forum about what constitutes church government. I wish it were open and shut, as clear in the scriptures as how to be saved.

Among Protestants, we have normally believed that the scriptures are the only source of authority...and yet we see that even among those who take the scriptures as the only valid source of authority, there is bickering and bitter divisions over the proper interpretation.

The Catholics and Orthodox (and perhaps the Anglicans) include tradition as a aource of authority.

I'm thinking that there must also be one other valid source of divine authority, but I am not sure what it is. I have been meditating on the authority of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said, would lead us into ALL Truth. Bob Mumford was talking with us at lunch on Friday about what he called "Agape Government" ... the idea that almost any structure will work if it is saturated with Agape Love, and almost any church structure will be dead and lifeless, if it does not have the Agape Love of God.

By-the-way, I have posted a 40 research page paper I wrote on what I called an "organic" church planting philosophy and methodology back in 2003. This has been the guiding approach for me in miami in the last 4 years if anyone cares to read it and give me some feedback or comments.

You can find it here:





steve H said...

Regarding the authority of Scripture issue -- although I am not quite able to flip from a Protestant view to an Orthodox view I stongly recommend my friend Jordan Bajis' book "Common Ground" (Light and Life Publishing, Minneapolis). I don't see that the authority of Scripture is weakened at all by the approach Jordan describes as Orthodox -- in fact, it may be seen as stronger in some ways. However, that approach relies heavily on the Holy Spirit who works with the Scriptures and with God's people to lead us according to the "living Tradition." (Warning: If you decide to read "Common Ground," read it from the beginning and don't stop when it challenges your previously held assumptions. It may well be a paradigm shifting experience.)

John M. said...

Jeremiah, Steve, Joseph, I appreciate your comments. How about some of the rest of you?

The scriptures are clear that "elders" are men. What is not as clear, as Joseph pointed out is what constitutes "Church Governmnent". I personally do not see that a woman sharing her heart in a public meeting is a governmental function. If a woman was giving formative, guiding, interpretation of scripture then that would probably be considered by most as a governmental function.

When it comes to interpretation, many believe that Paul's statetments about women remaining silent in the church is a cultural/contextual issue rather than a universal mandate. In I Timothy 2:12 Paul says "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man..." He dosen't spell out like he did in another place whether this is only his custom or whether it is the Holy Spirit speaking to the whole Church. Since he doesn't, it isn't possible to know what he was thinking when he wrote that. But doesen't the way it's stated leave open the possibility that this was only his custom in the churches he planted and not necessarily a universal rule? Just a question...

Another question: What does it mean that women will be saved in child birth? I have heard inspirational/motivational comments about what a mother learns from birthing/raising children and I understand that. But theologically what does it mean? Is child-birth somehow efficacious in terms of salvation? That seems to render Christ's blood ineffective, so he must be referring to life on earth, not eternal life, but what, exactly does he mean? Also, where does that leave unmarried or childless women? It's not difficult to see why many contemporary women think Paul was saying that the only thing women are good for is having babies!

Jeremiah, I don't agree with your friend's statement about accepting women in ministry leading to accepting and condoning homosexuality. My early church background was in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. If you add in Wesleyan-Holiness-Pentecostals, you have several very conservative denominations who strongly condemn homosexuality and yet have ordained women preachers, pastors and teachers since their inception more than a century ago (Pentecostals) and well over two centuries ago (Methodist/Holiness).

I concur with Steve's recommendation of "Common Ground" and his warning.

Finally, a comment about the New Covenant Scriptures, the Chruch and the Holy Spirit. There is an interesting order here: The Holy Spirit came first (has always been). The Holy Spirit birthed the Church by the initiative of the Father and the Son. Then the Holy Spirit used the Church to birth the scriptures. So, just as the Chicken came first and produced the egg (In the beginning God created the chicken, not the egg, didn't He?), the Church came first and produced the scriptures. (Can a pioneer chruch be planted in an oral culture that does not yet have the scriptures availble to them in their language?)

We protestants sometimes function as though the scriptures were produced in a vacuum, and function arbitrarily without the need for the Holy Spirit and the Church to intrepret and apply them.

OK That was a long "finally". I'm stopping before I get in any deeper...

josenmiami said...

hi John,

I like your comments about the role of the Holy Spirit in the church. I think the Holy Spirit is more of a source of authority than we realize. Most of the explosion of the early church was accomplished without a bible.

I ordered the book Steve Recommended, "Common Ground." Hopefully, I'll have time to read it this summer. I also ordered a book by Lauren Winner called "Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity" recommended by Scot McNight on www.jesuscreed.org. He says it deals with sexual morality from an emerging church perspective. I need it because that is one of the primary issues that comes up in dealing with grad students.

And finally, let me mess with you a little, John. You said, "It is clear that elders are men."

are you sure that it is so clear? While I tend to agree with you, what about the following scriptures which both use the Greek word "presbuteros" to describe women?

1TI 5:2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
TIT 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,

Notice that in Titus, the "elder" women are to "teach" what is good, similar to elders in Timothy.

The key thing here, is the "elder" women are specifically focused on teaching young women, not governing the whole church.

I would suggest that "elder", even among men, is simply "older" men who are apt to teach, whos lives are an example, rather than a professional office.

The scriptures seem clear that women can be deacons, and I would argue that women can also be apostles...again, not in the sense of an office of church government, but as female "missionary/church planters" working with their husbands, or team leaders specifically to reach and disciple women in new churches.

josenmiami said...

for a good discussion of women in ministry, and a conservative exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:12, go to Scot McNight's www.jesuscreed.org today.

He is posting a study by Les Keylock, a professor of biblical studies at Trinity College in Florida.

John M. said...

Hey Joseph,
Actually, I agree with you -- that we need "Mothers" in the church as well as "Fathers". I am moving more and more toward a functional/active description of the words that many of us have understoond to be an official position or "office".

I was placed into the offical position of "elder" long before I was an elder, either by your concept or by the biblical description of the "qualifications" of an elder. I was still in my 20's, so I wasn't an "elder" by any stretch. Second, my children were all under six, and two of them handn't even been born, so I didn't qualify in the scriptural definition that my children be believers and be "undercontrol and not unruly".

It's interesting that we quite easily rationalize the above, even with older men who may have unbelieving children; but we tend to be very brittle and by the letter when it comes to the "woman" issue, and we tend to get upset with our brothers and sisters who want to push the traditional envelope a little.

I also wonder if most of the folks that you're talking to at FIU would be amused and perhaps hurt/offended that this remains such a big discussion point with some of the "elders".

Lauren Winter's "Real Sex" book is excellent. I highly recommend it. My daughter, Sarah, told me the summer it came out, "Dad, you've got to read this book." I did. After you read it, let us know what you think of it. I would be interested in the response of some of your young "pre-disciples" to the book.

Jeremiah said...

Boy oh boy it is good for a young guy like me to have old guys like you to look up to. "...the heritage of those who fear your Name..."

The three legged stool of authority is actually spelled out clearly in the opening salvo of Ephesians 3 where God explains that he has made known the mystery of the Gospel in 3 ways: 1) The written word that HE was giving Paul, 2) The "Apostles and Prophets" and 3) Directly by the voice of the Holy Spirit.

so that settles that. You guys came to the same conclusion outlined in Ephesians. The most interesting thing to me about about this passage is that the scriptures do not uphold "Sola Scriptura"

Regarding Women in ministry/leadership/authority. I think it is best to follow the "law of first mention" coupled with the "law of progressive revelation" and interpret the Bible from there.

The first mention is when the curse is laid down and it says that a woman's desire will be for her husband but he will rule over her. the next significant item is when Deborah tells the general that he will be cursed for not going into battle without her.

Next up is Prov. 31 where it is clear the woman has a place of government in the home and economically, but not "at the gates"

These seem to form a picture that it is a disgrace for a woman to have a place of rulership over a man, but when a woman excercizes her place of government in "sub-mission" to the man's mission, she becomes "the glory of man" Women weren't made for the heavy lifting, and when the are forced to do it, they take on a hard edge that isn't appreciated by anyone.

Finally (first one) salvation is a both one time and continuing process right? I mean You are saved, you are being saved, you will be saved. (this too is biblically clear) in this context it takes nothing away from the Blood of Jesus to say the "Women will be saved through Child bearing"

Incidentally, if you want to look at this from the cultural perspective a very good case could be made for both roman & greek societies being very close to ours in terms of how they regarded women. If Holy Spirit, through Paul, was merely addressing cultural bias, it probably applies to us very uncomfortably close.

josenmiami said...

good points John...however, perhaps you WERE an elder, relative to those you were leading. I have no problem with a single, 29-year-old 'elder' if everyone he is watching over are 21-year-old singles... I might not even have a problem with a single, 25-year-old female elder, if all of her disciples were teen girls or younger singles. As Dick Scoggins points out, 1Tim. 3 is not an absolute set of pre-conditions but a standard to aim for.

Jeremiah: you are awesome! I love the way you think, and it is obvious that you have "studied to show yourself approved." I also love your amazing sense of finality: "I guess that settles that." be patient with the rest of us who might be a little more process oriented.

I love the passage you pointed out in Ephesians...thank you! I had not thought of that in terms of divine authority. That is very helpful.

Regarding women in leadership, I tend to agree with you, but I am leaving myself open to re-think my way through the scriptures from my current 21st. century, secular context. It is a story that has to be told to the current generation, and I am finding out that the secular side of your generation are VERY different in how they view reality than you guys who have been well discipled by the "fathers" and elders. Thanks, I will thoughtfully process your examples.
love and blessings ~ j

Brian Emmet said...

Jeremiah, I likewise appreciate your comments--so let me challenge them a bit!
I'm familiar with the concept "law of first mention," but am not sure that that is how the Bible "interprets itself," if I might put it that way. Even if, it seems to me that a strong case could be made that the first mention that pertains to the questions under discussion would be Gen 1:26-27, where the image of God is shared in equally by the man and the woman, and the creation/dominion mandate (:Be fruitful, multiply...) is also given to them both. As you probably are aware, there is significant disagreement as to how to understand what the LORD says to the woman ("Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you")--does it represent an aspect of the curse that follows Adam and Eve's disobedience, or is it an expression of God's ongoing intention despite the fall, or something else.
My other question about the law of first mention principle is that, since the vast majority of first mentions will be in the OT, it tends to drive us to read the NT as somehow subservient to the OT. (I don't think the answer is to see the OT as subservient to the New, but to read the whole Book as a Whole Book).
So anyway, feel free to straighten me out in whatever ways I have misconstrued or misunderstood what you were driving at.

Jeremiah said...

Joseph, Thank you for the compliments. as far as my finality, my dad likes to say that I am not always right, but I am rarely in doubt. :) Regarding the relationship of theology to culture, while we do have to be aware of the culture and its challenges, I lean more towards the monastic approach of developing a community of believers who has their own culture which can challenge and replace the current culture.

Brian, I wondered if that point would go unchallenged. Thanks for the challenge! Yes, there is significant disagreement over that point and I don't know What the historical perspective of the church is, but I did just look up the hebrew words and found something very interesting. The hebrew word for desire is strongs reference 8669 which means stretching out after; a longing:-desire. Nothing groundbreaking there, but it is derived from 7783 which means to run after or over, i.e. overflow. Now that is not a submissive terminology. It is also directly contradictory to the word Adam uses when he says in his prophetic statement about a man "cleaving" to his wife. The word cleave is strong's reference 1692 and it means "...to catch by pursuit". So before the fall you have Adam describing describing the relationship between a man and his wife as the man being the aggressor/initiator (incidentally this is the same as Christ and the Church) and after the fall part of God's curse is to say that the woman is now going to try to "run after or over" but the man will still rule over her. Since God is a God of harmony, why introduce the conflict if it isn't a curse?

Now regarding setting up the Old Testament over the New, I am in 1000% agreement that it is one book written by the Holy Spirit what I was trying to get out with the two laws I mentioned was that if you look closely you will see every major doctrine in seed form in the first 3 chapters of Genesis. I think the Law Of First mention sets a trajectory for how the idea/issue is being cast and then the rest of the book progressively unfolds that idea. The center of all significance is Jesus Christ and so obviously any hiearchy of meaning would be dependent on statements directly attributed to him etc. (so when HE interprets a Psalm as applying to Himself, that Psalm has a somewhat higher level of significance than one not so interpreted). Anyway, this was how I was taught to interpret the Bible and I think it is a very good way to do it. Sorry for the digression away from the point.

John regarding you being an elder when you weren't. (that is a pretty poetic way you said it) I guess it made me think of Isaiah 3:4 where HE says "I will make boys their officials; mere children will govern them." the context is a curse HE is pronouncing over Judah for her unfaithfulness. When the youth are set in government I think that is more indicative of GOD's chastisement than anything else. And I do agree, we can not wink at one ignored admonishon and get all hot and sweaty over others. As young as I am I have already seen absolute headaches erupt because the guidelines given Timothy and Titus were not followed.

Boy is this fun! I haven't had good discussions like this in a long time! I'm getting a lot out of what you guys are saying. It is good to touch your hearts for Jesus and especially to be with guys who still love HIM passionately after having been through some tough stuff. I hope to do as well with my life.

BTW my wife and I are going on a weekend getaway that is long overdue so if you think about it pray that we rest well.

I'm sure there will be a ton of posts to read when I get back.

Bill said...

Hi Everybody,

These postings are very interesting and deep. Please don't take this the wrong way :) :) but when was the last time any of these small communities went to the inner city and fed the homeless. The church where I serve which happends to be institutional in nature feeds the homeless every Sunday on the streets of Miami. I know Jesus said that we should do that. I believe that one of the dangers is that some churches large,small, communities or whatever you want to call them become very inward focused and forget the people that still need to hear that Jesus died for them and is alive and wants to give them hope. :)

Also I believe that leadership is all over the Bible and I agree that pastor is used in the verb form. But for once in my life I am part of something the moves and is having an impact in our community. I just don't want to be a part of something where we all sit around and talk about what we are going or should do. But that we get out there and do something. :) :)

John M. said...

Is that Bill Carp? Your points about obeying the commands of Christ are well-taken. I can go under the table really quick when it comes to my sins of ommission in relationship to the clear commands of scripture.

Joseph and Jeremiah, thanks for your obesrvations about my self-described "faux eldership". Actually I was and still am honored at being chosen by the elder elders to fill that position and carry that title. Joseph,I concur with you regarding relative age. When Paul went back through the newly planted chruches in Asia Minor, many of the elders he appointed had to be young in the Lord and possibly young in age also. The situation I was in, though, was in a church that had many people older then me. It was rather intimidating to have a man come to me for counsel and pastoral care who was 20 years older than me, who had formerlly been a vocational pastor and who had left his pastorate to join our movement/church. Jeremiah, I hear your prophet's voice about the young rulling over the old as God's judgment. I'll let God make the call on that one! The good news is that I was functioning in corporiety with older men, so the whole process was actually part of my discipleship and formation -- again for which I am eternally grateful.

This is certainly a stimulating discussion. Jeremiah, I reflect your appreciation for the opportunity. May the Lord guide and form the thread of our discussion.

"Finally", Jeremiah, may you and your lovely wife have a wonderful, restful and restorative time away.


josenmiami said...

Bill makes a good point about feeding the homeless. I have to confess that I don't do much of that, although I am connected with some people in South Dade who are doing it.

This would probably be a good subject for a new discusson. One of the major thrusts of liberation theology, was not only to feed the homeless, but to address the structural social sin that causes them to be homeless inthe first place. If the kingdom of God is real, then it must adress every area of society.

J.Aviles said...

Wow log off for a few days and BAM!! I’m back playing catch up.

John M.
Actually I used the words post-modern not to describe myself at all in the sense that I believe the cultural and/or age defining attributes that are associated with said label can truly fully paint a picture of the man I am. In fact I had never (and still don’t) referred to myself that way but a few years ago in ACM a large debate was stirred up and the older men used the term to “understand” ( I was going to say label but..) our particular generation. So you see I use the tern as a point of reference that most of you well schooled older men understand. It seems to make things easier to have a basic similar starting point of understanding and the word seems to do that for you all. By the way I never liked the term Gen-X either.

I guess after reading all the posts I find I don’t have much of a willingness to prove my dominance over my wife or any woman for that matter. My wife will follow me out of a God given conviction to do what is asked of her and facilitated by my willingness to serve her (their it is again servant leadership). I find that the words “Church Government” seem to be contradictory in certain ways and the desire to establish such a “ruling class” and exclude many goes contrary to the set patterns and the very words within the Bible. It would seem to me that whenever God wished to have some one do something he would find the least likely, the most unwilling, and the farthest from authority to carry it out. (Moses, David, Paul and the list goes on an on). Now I know we can (and after this post probably will) find scriptures that would seem to contradict the very thing I just said but I cant help but feel that our willingness to force Kingdom principles and make them fit hierarchal sets of man made authority just plays wrong in my head. Anyone else gets that or is it just me?

There are many examples I can quote to you on where we have gone our own way and think we are smack dap in the center of Kingdom principal. But ill use this one first, in the scriptures it talks about the “shepherd” and what that “gifting” (gifting, calling, but not office of authority as we see it today) entails in some form. Well somehow we went from Kingdom truth and simplicity to “pastor” (which in most cases and places means everything form head man, counselor, “Mr. fix it”, and a host of other non biblical ideas) and when that was not enough we called out and made senior pastors and junior ones, soon I’m afraid we will adopted some kind of class/rank system, where some one out there will hold the title of “Junior pastor 3rd rank” or “Youth pastor 1st class” or can you imagine a “4 star Senior pastor” ? ….its funny to some, to others I’m sure it hits home, and some will be upset that I made light of such an “honored” biblical role. I mean no disrespect to anyone holding any one of those positions and I respect your God giving talents and the willingness to put them in God’s hands and be used. In the same way even you can try to see the strangeness of the distinctions no?

Does being “senior pastor” make you closer to God or does it demand more respect and authority? Do you find the need to remind people of your authority? Do you find you expect to be treated differently by those around you because you hold an “office” within “church government”? Do you ever walk out of the house in your boxer briefs to take out the trash and not realize it till you get back inside? (…well that last one was to see if you were paying attention and …well I guess that one just happens to me, dang) If so (minus the last one) then the issue probably goes deeper then others in authority and would probably have more to do with the individual (you, me).

I’m not advocating chaos, or disorganization, I am not preaching for one Kingdom (notice how I did not use the word church) model over another. Big mega building, medium building, home, small groups, none of this really matters to me, God will be with us when two or three are gathered in His name. Where that happens is not the point. So that’s not the place I’m coming from. But I think I do see a need to realize what the true desire and motivation for many of the things we do within the spheres we are in and if they truly fit the simplicity of the scriptures.

The simplicity of scripture. The word says (I’m paraphrasing) share the good news with all the nations…somehow we turned that into “Save the world”. The word says go out and make disciples …we turned it into “get more converts”. The word talks to us about caring for those that are in need as a shepherd with his flock …we created an office of authority that rules. The red letters say the greatest among us will be those that serve….but we speak of authority and position. The simplicity of scripture.

Dang, sorry Brian I went long again.

Mental note for next time:
-Must remember to hold comments to 1 or 2 short paragraphs!

Much love and respect to all!

P.S. is that “Bill” Bill Carp?

josenmiami said...

Actually, Alan Hirsch, in "The Forgotten Ways" says that the church is always at her best when she is "surfing the edge of chaos" ...may chaos is not so bad.

Brian Emmet said...

Jimmy, nice to have you back. I don't think any of us are seeking to exert domonance or domination over our wives by raising questions about what authority is and how it works. Asking if and how a group of disciples might order their common lives together seems like a good question to wrestle with. Servanthood and leadership are related, but not equivalent. Every follower of Jesus is called into a life of servanthood, but not every one is called into leadership (although I agree that every servant exercises leadership because of the way his/her servanthood influences the world, accepting for the moment Maxwell's definition that "leadership is influence"). When Paul is working his way through the "gifts" in Romans 12, he does address those who lead and, if I am reading him correctly, he seems to think that some of the believers in Rome were entrsuted with this gift, and others with different gifts. Sure, I think leadership can switch and flow, being dependent upon and responsive to context and the people involved, and I agree that God chooses unlikely people to lead (Moses, David, Paul). However, to defy Moses was to defy God, as several Israelites discovered to their doom. Hebrews does exhort us to obey "our leaders", and I would guess that the recipients of the letter understood who those "leaders" were in their particular situation. Paul does remonstrate with the Corinthians about their failure to receive his leadership--is this not an expression of something along the lines of "church government"?
Other than that, I agree with everything you said!

John M. said...

Good to have you back. Thanks for the clarification on "post-modern man". Sorry to use you as an example to make my point. I actually assumed that you were using it descriptively, not as a title. Labels do help to define terms for discussion, but most of those who are so labeled don't like it much. It's really odd. All my life "modern" meant, the latest, greatest, most up-to-date. Now it's kind of stale and old-fashioned. What's this world coming to...?

I really like your points and find myself saying, "Yes!". You mentioned the idea of Church or "Kingdom" structure not mattering. But I think it does. To maintain the simplicity that you were describing and making a scriptural case for, you also have to maintain simple chruch structures. It's very difficult to have complex organizations without having complex organizational flo-charts. Most mega-churches do have four-star senior pastors,and sever strata of leadership by necessity. I understand the points Brian made early on about large organizations having greater resources influence etc. than simple micro-churches. I have wondered at times if we should call these large organizations actual churches, or should there be another name that designates them as a sodality within the Body of Christ like Promise Keepers or Campus Crusade. I hate the term "para-church", but perhaps they function more like what we have traditionally called para-church than as a closely knit community of believers walking together in Koinonia and mutual care for one another. That idea will probably never fly, but if the large, complex churches and denominations could understand themselves in that light, then they could be free and unthreatened to form and encourage the formation of scores of simple curches joined together to make a more visible and higher impact for the Kingdom than they could functioning alone. If that were so, then the CEO's and administrators of the large organizations could be called by those terms (which much of the time their leadership models are taken from and given religious and biblical terminology), while the micro chruches could function simply and unencumbered with ecclesiastical baggage.

OK guys, go ahead and shoot me down.

Two short pragraphs right? How about one run-on chapter length paragraph. Sorry, I did it again.

John M.

OUT OF THE BOX said...

Howdy, brothers, or fathers, or friends, or Beloved in the saints, those in the organization and those organized against organization, those institutionalized and those afraid of being institutionalized. What a great conversation. Its too late at night for me to read all of what's been discussed. I have quickly perused the material. God bless you all and may He intervene in such a way to cause all of us and our work to grow. Some grow because they speak in tongues, some grow because they don't speak in tongues. Some grow because they are in a small place and some because they are in a large place. In the final analysis I trust that the Lord will work in such a way that as we plant and water and cultivate and do the best we can, and after we plan and strategize, that God Himself will intervene with the sovereign and providential and mysterious moving of His own hand in such a way as to fulfill this aspect of the process: "the seed sprouts while the farmer is asleep, and it grows yet he himself does not know how, for the earth yield crops by itself." That speaks of the sovereign working of God in spite of us. I am with you men. But I just thought I'd throw that in.
Billy Long

josenmiami said...

welcome to my good friend, OUT OF THE BOX (sometimes known as brother boonlevel)! I loved your post, it was almost poetic.

By-the-way, we are also having some good discussion on Billy's blog, OUT OF THE BOX at,


hope you can check in.

J.Aviles said...

Thanks for letting a young man swim in the deep end of the pool with you guys.

Ill do my very best to keep this brief.
I do believe that some are meant to lead. However I don’t think it’s in the way the current western church carries it out. I think leaders exist to facilitate the bringing forth and usage of all the other (just as important) gifts. As facilitators that serve the people and allow them to come into the “full manifest wisdom” of God’s plan/Word by creating an environment where the Spirit guides and makes known that which God intends for his people.
I recognize the need to respect those men and women who in service facilitate such an environment as it says to do in Hebrews.

J.Aviles said...

Some time back in the blogg someone commented on the church in China, and that (and if I miss quoted it plz forgive me it was not intentional) once a great deal of the missionaries and pastors and others that had been sent in were martyred that the church in China exploded. Later someone commented on the great impact of martyrdom, and a few postings later someone asked what is holding back the western church.

I hope you hear my heart in what I’m about to say and not think me disrespectful of any that would so give their lives for what they hold true. But “we” (the western church) get sent to China, we preach the gospel, show God’s love, and bring the person of Jesus into a country that for as long as most can remember has been closed to all spiritual influence. And then something extraordinary happens, all the people that would have naturally created copies of the western church in China (the far far east) are taken Home. And in the absence of “leadership” the church….no I don’t think that’s the right word…the Kingdom…yes that’s it…the Kingdom in China flourishes. Someone asked what is getting in the way here…we are.

That’s not an avocation for any sort of radical anything. I do think we need people to facilitate the bringing of the Word, and the many other giftings that we have been granted. But I don’t see that position as one of defined authority. To defy Moses was defy a man. The reason Israel was punished every time they did was not because Moses was their leader and he said to do. It was because God told Moses to tell Israel and they intern did not do. It’s a very fine distinction to make. Moses was not the avatar of God on earth, as we are not. We are but servants in the Kings house; I don’t not think that our God given gifting and its variance in comparison to others makes any of us “First Among Equals”.
To prophesy, to worship, to teach, to heal, to give aid, to facilitate (lead), to oversee (bishops-apostle), words of wisdom, words of knowledge, to raise the dead, or any other gifting does not stand above the rest. They all serve an equal purpose to bring forth the full council of God.

J.Aviles said...

ok so i cheated a lil..my post was really long so i cut it into two. Sorry.


J.Aviles said...

John M. I’m not sure if what I’m saying is coming in clearly or if it sounds like the ramblings of a youthful mind.

I do think John (M.) that the level of structure by which we try to engage that which God is doing could be more detrimental to us as a body then the possibility of a bit of chaos. I can’t imagine that the Acts church or any for that matter in the times we read about in the gospels were structured as ours are. Could you imagine the babies crying, the children at play while the worship carries on, some standing and giving words others confirming or rebuking them. Animals outside making all sorts of noise, the sounds of the market close by. Heck I know of places where kids are forbidden to be in the services for fear they will be disruptive and hinder the “leaders” agenda. I think we are too attached to the old wine skin and are trying very unsuccessfully to fill it with new wine.

You will have to forgive me John my good friend but id rather see a bit more fluid chaos if it meant getting closer to the purposes of God. Once we start using flow-charts to linearly define where we all fit in well…then we are not better then the pre-reformation church. Where the flow chart was understood clearly as the pope, his bishops and cardinals, priests and then somewhere at the lower end everyone else. And I know that’s not what you’re saying I was just trying to find the closest understandable comparison in my mind.

I get the fact that large organizations by definition require and consume large amounts of resources and people. But contrary to what most of us here in America believe, bigger is not better, complex is not superior, and more resources does not a better outcome make.
And all the organization and resources in the world would be hard pressed to replace 12 guys walking around preaching the good news.


josenmiami said...

good words Jimmy...of course, you know I agree, although I might phrase some of the points differently.

By-the-way, I have just sent out a book review of The Jesus Creed to most everyone is this blog, except Jeremiah (I don't have your email). I also posted it on my other blog at


Brian Emmet said...

OK, I think I'm seeing something about our conversation, so let me know if you think I'm right. I'm kinda scared though, what with John M using "sodality" in one of his comments!

I think we're all reacting against the same things--none of us feels that megachurches are where it's at (at least for us), we all find the current Western expressions of the faith deficient in various ways, and we really are trying to figure out our current "practices" (in the sense of a physician 'practicing' medicine) in our local communities. I'm not meaning to defend the things that Jimmy, for example, is attacking (and I'm not using 'attacking' as a negative term). I'm not arguing for leadership that is merely or purely positional, nor that Western missionaries did an absolutely bang-up job in China (although let's remember to be merciful to those who screwed up in an earlier day, lest we reap the same sort of judgment from the saints 100 years from now--history sure does clarify things in the end). I think we're all sincerely seeking the kingdom and imagine that some of us are doing that better than others...

...so let's try to help one another. What in your local situation/context is puzzling/perplexing to you? Are there ways we (thorugh this blog)might be of better service to you in helping sort through some of those things?

I think we may be able to lay down questions around authority for the present--we haven't exhausted the subject, but we may be appraoching the limits of the wisdom we have to offer! What might we take up next?

John M. said...

Hey Jimmy,
Nice trick, cutting your comments in two!

On the topic, I'm with you bro. Like Joseph, I might say some things a little differently, but I agree with you.

In my post I was proposing that perhaps the large organizations now called churches are probably actually something else, and if they realized that, perhaps they could feel less threatened about allowing their small groups to actuallly become churches. Kind of turning the tables so that the "real" chruch is the micro and the mega is the supporting mechanism.

I'm trying to understand how to recognize what already exists, realizing that it won't be going away anytime soon, and see how the exsiting structures can be most effectively utilized for the Kingdom.

But I personallhy think that the best place to put our energy and focus is where the Holy Spirit is creating new wineskins in the vein of what you are saying.

I personaly believe that church structure is high on God's present agenda.

steve H said...

I agree with you, Brian, that we may have exhausted (or nearly so) our present level of wisdom concerning the theory or theology authority/leadership. I also think we could get further if we were to discuss specific applications -- what are we doing? what is working? what problems have we created? What wisdom can we gain by bringing our varied perspectives to bear on the same problem.

josenmiami said...

hi guys,

I have posted a book review of "The Jesus Creed" by Scot Mcknight on my other blog at http://c-far.blogspot.com/, along with a study on "Jesus-style" authority.

Also, having just read Alan Hirsch's discussion of living systems and chaos theory, I am not sure it is a good idea to overly 'direct' the conversation. I have noticed several times that regardless of the original post, or our questions, the conversation seems to take a life of its own and goes wither it wil....

Having said that, in our own situation in our community in Miami, this issue of organic versus "positional" leadership is very alive at the moment, which probably explains why I have expressed such strong opinions about it.

We started our community on the premise of "kabooki" type apostolic leadership which, at some point after the new church is established exits and functions from behind the scenes in a largely invisible "servant-coaching" mode in order to facilitate the rise of the gifts and graces inherent within the new group.

We are well into that stage now....my studies at FIU give me a perfect excuse to stay out of the way and allow the young men, and the heads of households to struggle with the 'chaos' and to allow the spontaneous self-organization of the living system to happen under the direction of the Spirit, rather than the orchestration of postional leadership.

Interestingly, the biggest obstacle to overcome are the older leaders who have been in more traditional church life. Some of them feel that something needs to be done...someone needs to step up and take charge. Someone needs to lead. Even my wife wants me to take a stronger leadership role, and she misses hearing me teach.

Others miss having a corporate worship service which brings everyone together. Of course, once one decides to have a centralized, corporate worship, it is like dominoes falling... where are we going to meet?, what time?, who is in charge?, who will lead the music?, who will bring the message?

I have been resolute in resisting any and all attempts to centralize/organize our common life and all attempts to move me back into pastoral role.

I would rather let our community disintegrate than allow it to become just one more church in Miami. What we desperately need is not another church, but a different kind of church as Hirsch, Barna, Cole, McLaren, Willard and many others have pointed out. A church that is incarnational rather than attractional, a church that focuses intentional disciple-making not impressing consumers.

Since I just turned 56, I doubt that I will have the years or the energy to take many more practice runs at this...so, this is it. Either it works here, or it does not work at all (at least through me).

Change is very, VERY hard. Individual change is next to impossible and usually comes only through crisis and pain. Corporate change is even harder.

I beleive the tendency I see in our older (elder?) crowd to revert back to the default mode of "going" to church has to do with what Hirsch identifies as the "system story" or core paradigm at the heart of the church. He calls it "Christendom."

J.Aviles said...

well said Joe,
the wisdom in your years shows, I think i need to start to learn how to speak "modern" so i can sound like you when i try to comunicate where in coming from to the older dudes.


J.Aviles said...

Oh and yeah the last line you said was great, I usually use the term "Christianeese" to describe the perpetual repetition of the old while constantly preaching that God is doing something new.


josenmiami said...

"Christendom" is a specific historical term that refers to the post-Constantinian alliance between the church and the state that helped create the medieval period and Western Civilization. It means much more than "Christianese."

This actually my focus of study, both in the masters in Latin American Studies, and now in my research in the History department. All of Europe was part of Christendom, but since the reformation, the Protestant wing has moved away from Christendom more rapidly than Catholicism and has been more susceptible to secularization. My study of Spanish “counter-reformation” Catholicism in Latin America, is basically the study of the last desperate battle against modernity by medieval Christendom, resulting in bloody violence throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, right up to Vatican II in 1962.

Alan Hirsch is using “Christendom” in a slightly different way that we do in history. He is defining Christendom as a “Christian” civilization where the Church is at the heart of the public sphere and is all encompassing. In such a paradigm, the attractional model of “going” to church makes more sense. In a post-Christendom, post-modern paradigm, incarnatonal mission is essential. That’s what I am attempting to do at FIU…they don’t come to us (the church) I am going to them and living the kingdom in their midst, in the hopes that they will be persuaded to surrender their lives to Jesus and commit to follow him with one another.

While a valid argument can be made that Christendom saved the Roman empire, and ultimately created Western civilization, secular history, especially of the post-modern deconstructive kind, is not very kind to the excesses of the Christendom model. Despite glowing examples of Christ breaking throughout the medieval period in the monastics and mystics, for the most part, it was about power, force and domination. I don’t need to review the history of the crusades, the popes, and colonialism here.

Hirsch views Christendom at best as a “systems story” at the core of the ‘modern’ church that has outlived its usefulness. At worst, it is a sort of viral cancer that constantly pulls us back into Greek dualism, paternal hierarchies, and the Cathedral model of post-Constantine Roman Christianity.

Ok…now I have gone on too long. Has any one in here read any of the books by James Thwaite?

steve H said...

In our community "talking new but thinking (and eventually acting) old" is sometimes an issue. For example, our people have shown remarkable flexibility in terms of the configuration of gathers as well as the times and locations of gatherings. We are clearly held together by our relationships.

Even so, most would prefer a regular schedule, set meeting places, and a defined order in leadership -- some structure.

My vision has always been to have shared leadership -- elders who work as a team -- and I have consistently worked to that end and practiced it as well as I know how. However, it's amazing how we like the "idea" but quite often do not have the time, or maybe do not want to take the time, to work things through until we come to a common mind about what God is saying.

Efforts to work issues through with a broader circle of men or to involve the whole community in direction setting decisions has seemed to create confusion and consternation in many.

If you knew our community, you would know that we are no where near being a "traditional church." Still, after years of effort to counteract what appear to be man-made traditions, I have had to ask the questions:

Has God wired people in such a way that defined leadership is necessary?

Is that wiring rooted in the nature of God, who is Three and One, the Three are equal in substance and reality, but each of them with a defined role -- Son and Spirit subordinating (choosing to stand under) themselves to the leadership of the Father.

Is this rooted in the reality that the Son is the eternally begotten of the Father and that the Spirit (eternally) proceeds from the Father?

Has the God who created day and night, the One who rules over the orderly passing of seasons, also created humans with the need for a regular order of time and activity on our lives?

Have I been resisting man-made traditions or denying the way God made us? or both?

josenmiami said...

good questions! I have wondered the same.

Another example: Israel choosing to have a king against God's wishes. There does seem to be an inbuilt human need for strong leadership...but is it godly? or is it part of the fall?

steve H said...

The matter of the king is an interesting one. The people of Israel clearly wanted a king for the wrong reasons -- to be like the other nations -- and maybe at the wrong time.

However, I believe it was always God's intent for Israel to have a king at the appointed time, for two reasons:

1) God included instructions for the future king in the law (Deut 17.14f.)

2. God was all along preparing for Israel's king -- the Messiah -- to be king of the nations and the universe. It was God who determined that the scepter, the ruling staff would be given to Judah's descendants. It was God who determined that the Messiah would be David's son -- heir to David's throne.

J.Aviles said...

Sorry Dad i was not very clear on my last coment i was talking about
"Change is very, VERY hard. Individual change is next to impossible and usually comes only through crisis and pain. Corporate change is even harder." when i comented on my use of the word "Christianeese" not comparing it to Christendom.

Sorry my bad, but thanks for the further explanation on the later, i had some idea as to what you were refering to but that helped clear it up very well for me.


josenmiami said...

np, jimmy.

good points Steve. So...the issue was not having a king, but the wrong man at the wrong time? A man who usurped authority and was not submitted, rather than a man with a shepherds heart?

Have you read "Searching for God Knows What" ? There is an interesting chapter in there called LIfeboat Theory, that might have some bearing on this.

Hey guys...I think with minimal effort, we can break the 100 mark for comments in this thread!

John M. said...

Thinking/talking new; acting old. Steve, you told me that was a potential downfall back in the fall of 1999 when I was trying to launch my vision to build something "fresh and new". After a time we started a Sunday A.M. house meeting in our home. When we shut it down intentionally a few months later, a brother who had been attending and who had originally been part of the church I launched from told me, "Even though the meeting was in a home, it felt just like the old ________ Church. I thought it was fresh and new. What the others experienced was still top-heavy, up front, "pastor/leader" centered "church".

After that we began a less tradional "house church" where we ate together around the table and shared in a much flatter more mutual configuration. It was edifying and sometimes stimulating, but we rarely got into the word (no plan) or experienced corporate worship, although we were pretty good at corporate prayer sometimes for rather extended periods. After a couple of years and some fruit, three of us felt a sense of call to move out from that group and start other groups. We turned it over to a couple who had been there the whole time and seen the whole thing modeled. The meeting moved to their home, where the husband who worked for IBM proceeded to run the meeting totally atocratically "like an IBM business meeting", according to feedback I received from those attending. Needless to say it didn't last long.

Then the Lord connected Vicki and me with a group of 20 somethings all of whom were Christians with traditional church backgrounds. They were/are dedicated disciples and followers of Jesus. We have seen each of them marry (one another), participated in their pre-marriage mentoring and their weddings. Now they are beginning to have children and we have sent several out to pursue their calling and ministry in other locations. We have built a good deal of community, although I still get jealous when I see the community that Joseph has "fathered". (Yikes, I'll probably get in trouble for that usage.)

The funny thing to me is that even though they all say that the group is the most meaningful part of their fellowship with other believers and the high point of their week, none of them is willing to let go of their Sunday morning church. Because of this we have never designated ourselves as "church", but only as a "study", even though they all acknowledge that it is more church to them than their "churches". They all get a little nervous when I tell them that, for me, they are "it", when it comes to my weekly assembling with other believers.

Steve mentioned this issue also, but why is it that even when people are tasting new wine, they always want to hang on to the old wineskin? I don't get it. I get a little envious of Joseph sometimes in his work with the grad students. It will be interesting when some of those pre-disciples" become disciples if they will gravitate toward their idea of what a "real" church is (ie. steeple, pews, institutional leadership etc.) or will they want to form into organic communities. Because of Joseph's non-leaderly, but very real, and biblical I might add, leadership, I would vote for the latter. But it is interesting how many who once were pushing the envelope in various movements in the 60's, 70's, and 80's are now just sitting in pews doing the traditional church thing.

OK, I don't know if I've added anything to the discussion or not, but these are some of the thigs we've experienced personally over the past few years.


josenmiami said...

yes, John, I believe you have added something. This is the real crux of the problem for the contemporary church.

Neil Cole, in "Organic Church" discusses the concept of 'imprinting'. Whatever a new believer learns in the glow of those first moments (days, weeks, months?) in Christ, become 'imprinted' in her/his spiritual DNA.

Alan Hirsch, in "The Forgotten Ways", describes it as the "systems story" at the heart of the church paradigm. Something like a computer code or script. He believes that the Western church still has a "Christendom" systems story which is VERY hard to change.

I have seen this happen repeatedly when new, pioneering ministry is handed over to pastoral type leaders. A friend of mine started an innovative, relational church in Canada and turned it over to his associate, a former Lutheran pastor. Within a few years, the church had transformed itself into a very traditional, program-driven, “Lutheran-style” church. The same thing happened to the Spanish-speaking church I started in Miami. I turned it over to a very gifted young Colombian man, and it quickly reverted back to his Colombian Pentecostal Four-Square roots. You can’t get around the internal script, the DNA. I even often see it in our community among the older members. That is why I have completely removed any ‘positions’ of overseeing authority from the possibility of interfering with our younger couples as they struggle to organize themselves under the guidance of the Spirit.

Have any of you seen the movie "Adaptation" with Nicolas Cage? I don't recommend it unless you want to feel depressed, but the basic message is about the difficulty of change. It compares the ability of an orchid to evolve under difficult circumstances to a person’s difficulty in changing their 'self-talk', the internal script by which they operate their lives. Only extreme pain and crisis can normally force us to change.

The church as we know it will not change until it is forced to, under persecution (like China) or the threat of extinction (like Europe). Alan Hirsch believes we are at just such a stage: the church in the West must adapt or die. The church in Europe already largely has died.

I personally believe that it will take extreme measures and radical living to bring any measure of change to the church in the United States.

Our current situation reminds me of an Old Testament story:

2Kings 7:3-4: Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, "Why do we sit here until we die?
"If we say, 'We will enter the city,' then the famine is in the city and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die."

It is time for those of us who care about the kingdom mission to take some radical risks to lay hold of new wineskins to receive new wine. The worst that can happen is that we die. If we stay where we are, we will die anyway.

By-the-way, we have upgraded our graphics at our family blog and Debbie posted a book review of "Safely Home" by Randy Alcorn at www.friends4thejourney.com

John the Musician said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John the Musician said...

To John M. from about 30 posts ago. Bang! Bang!
You've officially been shot down for no better reason then that you asked for it.


This comment also goes way back seeing as how it took me a good 40 minutes and a smoke break to catch up with you guys. Who knew old dudes could move so fast!

John and Stacy Eldredge believe that Woman was the crown of creation, the finishing touch, and as such severly disliked by satan. This is basically their explanation as to why women have been so abused in the history of the world.

Also lets none of us be too politically correct, I started noticing a bit of this earlier on and would like to admonish everyone to feel free to step on a few toes, that we might sharpen both our intellect and our spirit through these discussions. That beings said, you guys are so profoundly intelligent that I feel quite dull. =OP

Erm... I guess that's all for now but I'll be sure to check back in before too many posts get added.


Brian Emmet said...

You guys are making me nervous. Not because you are seeking a more faithful demonstration of the kingdom in the life of a local congregation/community (I'm with you there!), but because I think I'm hearing echoes from, of all places, the past, as in renewal movements from the past.

The quest for a "pure" or "purer" or "purest" expression of faithfulness to Jesus is almost always accompanied by significant dangers. It is not that the church, or whatever we wish to call it, does not need reform, renewal, reconstruction... it is that the church is always in need of resurrection from the dead, which is something only God can accomplish, and something he regularly accomplishes by himself, without our aid.

The problem with our renewal movements (and I write as the chief of sinners) is that our analysis inevitably runs something like this:
The church sucks.
We have/are/will find God's better way.

Everyone wants to have/be part of "a New Testament church," which is precisely where we all find ourselves already. I don't so much care about the order, structure, leadership, worship style, traditional-vs-cutting edge questions (we will get back to those, with gusto!)--my point is that we have exactly what we see in the NT: churches with problems, deficiencies, sin, weaknesses, strengths, and the presence of Jesus through His Spirit in the midst of the mess and muddle.

(I have worked myself into a bit of high dudgeon at this point and may go on for a bit.)

We run the risk of the "family values" folks, that is the people who see the Bible as a source for "strong family values" (it is), but forget that we hardly encounter a single healthy family in the Bible. We want to read the OT as the story of Israel's failure and the NT as the story of the church's (at least our version) success, but that doesn't square with the NT. We don't find in the NT a single church that was not withour significant problems, including the churches of Acts and Ephesus. We forget Bonhoeffer's counsel (in "Life Together") that we must abandon the church of our "wish-dream" and love the church that's right in front of us, in all of her sin, stupidity, and folly.

I am not counseling passivity or don't-worry-be-happy, and I love hearing about what different ones of us are doing, trying, experimenting with, and even playing with: may God grant us all more revelation, more wisdom, more faithfulness and more fruitfulness in all that he has called us to do!

Could we just work harder at not dividing ourselves into the "pure" and the "purer"? Can we not dump on the folks who seem to have the wrong DNA for the times? Maybe they do have the wrong stuff... maybe God has graciously given all/some of us the right stuff... but only history will make that clear. If we like and want to keep the DNA analogy, let's keep the larger metaphor in mind: in the chaos of life, it's never clear in advance which organisms have the DNA that will give them a leg up as their environment changes. The dinosaurs were the only game in town for quite a while until (apparently) an asteroid changed the rules of the game for everyone. 99+% of all "mutations" are fatal--it's that fraction of a percent that advances the cause of life. I suspect that something like that may also be true spiritually--just don't ask me to tell you definitively who's got the right DNA right now!

Some other time I'll tell you what I honestly think and feel...

josenmiami said...

good points Brian, I agree with just about everything you said.

did you feel that I was dumping on folks who have the wrong DNA? If so, I apologize. Most of what I share comes out of my frustration with my own ineffectiveness in church planting. I really don't feel that I am particularly critical of what others are doing...I am just not satisfied with the fruit I have seen in my own various endeavors.

I also, don't think I am calling for a 'purer' form of church: I do think we need a different kind of church in order to get different results. I have no problem accepting impurity/humanity or deficiencies in the church...my problem is when the church seems stuck inside the box and unable to engage in mission in the world, particularly in our secular context.

If I gave the other impression, I do apologize. Thank you for the exhortation and the cautions.

John M. said...

Hey John the Musician, thanks for finally shooting me down. I've been waiting and no one did it. You're the man!

Regarding the DNA/Imprinting idea, it is probably a good thing for us older guys to recognize that our "imprinting" was pretty traditional and institutional. I guess that's what causes us to still "act old" even when we're trying to "think new".

Brian, I can't wait until you tell us what you really think. It's time to stop posing! :)

You do make a good point. It is so easy to get on this quest for the pure, pristine, "New Testament/1st Century" Church". I think what we really need to be seeking is what God is building in the 21st Century. We have two choices (probably many more, but I'll stick with these two): We can try to re-create our wish dreams and attempt to build what we conceive to be the ideal church, or we can ask the Lord to show us what He is doing and allow us to join him in what He is building. When I look back at what I was conceiving eight years ago I am glad that the Lord didn't allow me to produce it because even though it might have been innovative it still would have been cetralized, program-based and too complex to be virally reproduceable.

Do any of you remember the "law of existing ordaninces"? As I recall, the idea was that when building anything you cannot ignore what has already been built and is in place from the past. The N.T. church did not emerge in a vacuum, it was birthed on the foundation of Juadism and began on the margins as a minority movement within Judiasm. I think it is imperative for us to recognize what already exists in "Christendom" and understand that we are not living/building in a vacuum. One of the major problems of current Evangelicalism is that it exists in a historical vacuum without appreciating or understanding what has come before it.

Those of us who are seeing glimpses of something fresh and different also need to acknowledge what already exists, anemic as it may be. We do not and cannot exist in a vacuum. Love it or hate it, these are our brothers and sisters and we are all part of Christ's Body -- part of one another.

What I'm hearing the Lord say to me is that I need to follow the vision He is putting into my heart, build small and simple, live on the margins and be content with what he chooses to do with that. It is also helpful to understand that the most effective way to influence the excisting structures is from the margins. Maybe our biggest difficulty is to lay down the "pride of success" and pick up the humility of simply following Jesus the best we can with those to whom he has joined us.

For a long time I was asking the Lord, "What's next?" Then one day, I realized that I was asking the wrong question. Since then I have tried to ask, "Who's next?"

He is the Lord of the Chruch. He's building it the way He wants it!

And, that's a great place to stop!

John M.

Michael said...

Hey everyone. Only the second time here. John M. as I was reading your most recent comments I thought how difficult transitions can be. We've seen and experienced enough of the past to know what we don't like, but not enough of the future to know exactly where we are headed. All we know is that disatisfaction with the old, and hunger for more is what is fueling the movement out of one thing into something different. I would suspect that the inner transition or transformation is probably the most critical. I was reading the story of David and Saul. Certainly a time of transition. One of the things that struck me was that both Saul and David were annointed. And if you read the scriptures, they both use similar religious language to describe God and his ways. We have the benefit of some editorial writing in 1 Sam to know that David was on the way in, and Saul on the way out, but if you lived in that time can you imagine the confusion? Who do you follow? Who do you believe? Saul? David? The old or the new?
We are certainly in a time of transition. Maybe someone else can add to these thoughts.

John M. said...

Thanks Michael. Good to hear from you. Good thoughts.

John M.

John the Musician said...

Brian, you reminded me of something I read in Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, when you mentioned the idea of attaining a pure, purer, purest form of church. Something Screwtape wrote to Wormtongue was, (this is a horrible paraphrase) It's not about what he likes or doesn't like, it's about what the "best" is. It's not about good food, it's about the best sort of food, the finest people, the most select wine. Like I said horrible paraphrase, but I think this definately makes clear in my mind the danger of attempting to attain the "best." I guess I'm starting to realize that it's all about the "good."

Secondly I wanted to mention that a lot of the more recent posts have been mirroring some of the topics that were discussed in this years IAM (International Arts Movment) meeting. Many of the speakers talked about Avant Guard (sp??) art. How it's an attempt to create something entirely new and completely seperate from the old, and yet most of it has been done before, and if not then it soon becomes old itself. The speakers encouraged the artists to take from their heritage and to allow that to effect their new art.

It was also said that truly new creation can only come from God.

josenmiami said...

Good comments Michael and both John’s…thanks! I agree with John the younger, that IAM in NY was addressing similar issues.

Looks like we are getting close to 100 comments…so I will take us right up to the edge, and leave it to someone else to take us over the edge.

I want to respond a little more to Brian’s “high dudgeon” post. It shook me a little bit and caused me to do some internal inventory. Believe it or not, I am posting the ‘short form’ of my response here, and I posted a longer essay on this subject at my other blog at http://c-far.blogspot.com/. I decided to put my longer rantings over there, and try to keep myself more conversational in here. If you have time, go read the essay, I bring some of the teachings of Mumford and Simpson into the equation of “God’s 500 year steps in history”.

Basically, I want to underscore my agreement with Brian and highlight how important his comments were. There is nothing I personally dislike more than “insider” thinking and elitist attitudes. Next to that, what I most dislike is idealism, in the sense of romanticizing certain conceptual ideals as more ‘pure’.

It seems to me that this is always the greatest danger in times of transition and renewal. There is a legitimate dissatisfaction that comes at the end of an age, and a restlessness for what ever is coming in the new. The dangerous trap is to fall into a critical spirit toward what has gone before and is need of change, and to enter into the new out of a reaction to the old. When we try to do “new” out of reaction to the old, we will almost always end up reproducing what we don’t like in the old. Gothard calls that the power of a negative focus.

So here is the challenge that Brian brought to us. How do we discern those areas in the church that must adapt in order for the church to be effective in the new epoch, without reacting to traditions? How do we experiment with new approaches in new situations (as I am attempting to do), without making our friends in established congregations feel that we are questioning value of their experience of ecclesia or mission?

How do we keep ourselves open to change and innovation while loving the whole body of Christ? How do we adapt to the changes in our culture, while cherishing and drawing from our heritage and our history? It may feel like walking on the edge of a sword, and yet we dare not fall off to the left or the right. We need to hear the sill small voice that says “this is the way.” As Robert and Brian have been rightly pointing out, this is a significant challenge in a time of major change.

Sean said...

I guess I'll be the 100th post. I'm from John M.'s group in Lexington, Kentucky.

I'm musing through these posts with great affection. God to the ancient Hebrew is a verb, a dynamic purposeful force in the universe, who is known by His active intervention in the world, from Creation to the Cross, from the Cross until now. We need not necessarily try to understand God's movement in history by trying to categorize His work into organic or traditional bodies, i.e. house churches vs. megachurches, the first-century church vs. the 21st century church. We do not necessarily need precise definition just because our Western minds are in the habit of categorizing things as A, B, and C. We think in terms of structures, organizations, and categories. We feel comfortable with defining everything in concrete terms so we know what's going on. Western thought is ingrained with this. But God is the God found in the desert among the Israelites, who made His name known by opening the Red Sea, by living amongst them in the tabernacle, by His commandments that were to be understood by being followed in daily life, not by intellectual assent. God is dynamic, known to us by His active voice, His work, His constant movement in history. Categorizing what He has accomplished is not as important is joining Him in His activity. Therefore, we must look to following Christ wherever He is moving, co-laboring with Him in His work. The products of His work, whether house churches or megachurches, is secondary to what He is accomplishing. Focusing on what He is transforming, i.e. individuals into communities, should occupy our attention.

Feel free to shoot me down. Perhaps I'm completely off topic. I am a novice at this blogging thing.

josenmiami said...

welcome Sean! you and I have met before in Lexington. I am John's friend Joseph from Miami.

you do not need to be concerned about getting shot down in here...maybe prodded, questioned, balanced, kidded, poked in the ribs gently, challenged and sharpened... at least I have been so far!

Our moderator is Brian Emmet from Boston MA. He is a super cool guy, quietly thoughtful, full of good, probing questions and an occasional exhortation.

Thanks for joining us, I will ponder your good points.

John M. said...

Hey Sean,
Welcome! Glad you joined us. Congratulations on being the 100th post. This blog may bring back flashes of the men's study on the book of Hebrews you and I were in a few years ago. For the rest of you, we spent a year, meeting weekly and I think we got to chapter three, but we sure covered a lot of ground!

I ditto everything Joseph said, except that when you ask to get shot down, John the Musician will take care of it for you. He won't even do it with his post, he'll just take care of it in the first sentence, so be prepared. I speak from experience.

Seriously, in my opinion, Joseph's response to Brian's "high dungeon" post and Sean's opening post may be the two most important posts so far. They are definitely worth the time it took to get here. At least that's how they strike me. I for one plan to go back and re-read them.

josenmiami said...

thanks for your kind words John.

by-the-way, I posted a more detailed and thorough version of the post John is refering to at my other blog:


Also, just in case you guys didn't realize it, Brian has started a new thread. To access it, go back to the top of this thread and click on "Covenant Thinklings" it will take you "home" and you will see the new thread.

Jeremiah said...

alright, I'm back. Chicago was great, my wife was greater! :) It was good to be together alone and I would have to agree with whoever said women are the crown jewel of creation! Hot Dang! Wow 40 posts in 5 days, I missed a lot. I've got to say I disagree with all you all who put larger vs. small, authority vs "fluid" or structured vs non-structured. I think the point is completely missed to view these items in terms of an "either/or mentality". God has demonstrated, bibilically, historically and in the natural order that He always builds in both ways. To those of you who claim that significant growth always happens at the "micro" level you are right, just look at every single example of reproduction we have. But (and here is the "Both/And") no significant heavy weight gets moved except at the "Macro" level. (i.e. the Roman Empire didn't shift until a "large" Church existed. God wants both fetuses and mature men (or women). The point behind the "big 5" was not so that there is some kind of magic titles to make people feel good, but so the Church will be brought to complete maturity and unity in the faith. It seems to me this is what God is after and the sooner we get it figured out, the sooner HE gets HIS Bride.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, Sean, welcome back, and glad to hear from you. I've started a new post, so if you could migrate to it, that would be great. Not really changing the topic, just trying to not have evryone wading through 100 comments to keep up!

I liked what you said about how God "builds" in many different ways, from the micro to macro, structure to free-form, clearly-define authority to somewhat diffuse authority. Thanks!

John the Musician said...

Thought I'd mention a couple things on th is post sense it's being used less now. John M. and Brian Emmet, I've really appreciated your comments and friendly banter. You guys are great. Also Brian I feel like God is really working in this blog and I think you've done an excellent job administering it as well as having a loving spirit through all. =O)

You guys rock.