Wednesday, October 8, 2008

‘wiki’ updates for the church - 17 theses summary

Ok… the ditty is now

♪♫ 17 theses to discuss on this thread…
17 theses to process!
take one down, discuss it all around,
16 theses to discuss on the blog…

1) there needs to be greater emphasis on spiritual formation (Joe -57).
2) there needs to be greater missional engagement with the secular world (Sarah -32).
3) there needs to be greater humility among Christians and respect for others(Sarah - 32).
4) there needs to be a deeper engagement with Scripture as God’s word (Brian -56).
5) there needs to be a deconstruction of church growth thinking: churches limited to under 250 people. Over that, churches should reproduce a daughter church (Brian -56). Move from church growth to church multiplication.
6) greater emphasis on “Real Church” as micro-church of 10 to 12. Big God parties less frequently (JohntheMusician - 23).
7) Repent of judging the lifestyles of outsiders (JohntheMusician - 23).
8) Greater focus on the role of the Holy Spirit (William - 20).
9) Move from a corporate model (with buildings) to a household/family/tribal model centered on the headship of Christ (William - 20).
10) Move to a 'kingdom' focus rather than a 'church' focus; a 'sowing'/scattering mentality rather than a gathering/building mentality. An 'outward' focus rather than inward (Joe - 57).
11) Eliminate badly composed, theologically vapid or erroneous "worship music." (Brian - 56).
12) All "senior leaders" (however defined) will have a grounding in all 2000+ years of church history (Course title: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). (Brian - 56).
13) Congregations (however defined) will creatively and meaningfully celebrate (however defined)Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday (however named)every year, because these events are at the center of our faith (Brian - 56).
14) Greater emphasis on bi-vocational, tent-making ministry in local congregations and in apostolic mission (Patrick - 24) Pat: I reworded it for you in a less inflammatory way ;-) joe, the low-key guy
15) The Evangelical church needs to regain a proper, biblical appreciation for the apostolic and move from a primarily 'pastoral' mindset to a primarily 'apostolic' mindset (Joe - 57).
16) The "church" should cease being congregations primarily defined by "religious" meetings and "services rendered," and to return to our calling -- to be the people of God who manifest and proclaim the kingdom of God in our way of life together (Steve H.- 58)
17) every "church" (however defined) should have a poet-in-residence, along with one other non-musical artist-in-residence (Brian, the ironic poet - 56).

Memorable comments:
(John M. - 59) "The Evangelical Church would do well to make a constructively critical and intentional evaluation of it's understanding and practice of ecclesiology; understanding from the outset that radical reform may be indicated and that the current, popular structure of the church is not sacrosanct or absolute."

(Patrick: - 24) "I would recommend disbanding Sunday morning congregational meetings, breaking into groups no bigger than the size of your living room and begin building relationships with people 'in the world' start in small steps."
Meeting together in worship
Maturing together in discipleship
Missioning together for the harvest.


Brian Emmet said...

So, do we pick one of the theses and then start picking at it? I know that my theses will be adopted unanimously and universally without any editing, but as for the rest...

smokin joe said...

go for it Brian ... follow your ironic and poetic instincts!

Travis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Travis said...

Okay. It's been a while since I've posted anything on here although I have swung by several times lately. I totally am in agreement with this updated "wiki." I think it's necessary and crucial to where we are as a Body right now. As I was scanning over these things, I noticed that the first four seem to be intrinsically linked, so here's what it looked like to me:

There needs to be greater emphasis on spiritual formation, there needs to be greater missional engagement with the secular world, there needs to be greater humility among Christians and respect for others, and there needs to be a deeper engagement with Scripture as God’s word.

The words "spiritual formation" are key in this passage. So, in my mind greater missional engagement, deeper Scriptural engagement, and greater humility among Christians are all part of spiritual formation.

This could be a trivial question, but for my sake, I want to know what you all think. What is spiritual formation? I know it involves all of those features and probably all of the rest of the theses, but how do we create a mindset focused on the Spirit and spiritual formation. I want to hear your thoughts.

I figured we can just dive into talking about this.

And Brian, sorry if I jumped ahead of something you wanted to start discussing, so don't let this post hinder you. Coolness. You guys rock.

smokin joe said...

thanks Travis ... and welcome! You broke it down and analyzed it for us brilliantly. I agree with you that spiritual formation is a key to many of the others.

The best thing I have seen that is not too long on spiritual formation is Dallas Willard's The Great Omission. See also his books The Spirit of the Disciplines and The Divine Conspiracy

Brian Emmet said...

Great comments, Travis, and no problem with the direction you're suggesting--you didn't jump ahead of anything. Let me muse on your question a bit and try to respond tomorrow.

steve H said...

Here's a stab at describing spiritual formation even though I am not well qualified to speak about it.

Spiritual formation is the "journey" through life by which the Holy Spirit brings a person and a community of faith to maturity (that is, to Christlikeness or godliness).

A significant point of the New Covenant is that will be the teacher. (Jer 31 and Heb 8 always take some of the air out of my ballon -- since I'm motivated to teach). As The Message puts in in Heb 8, "They won't go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called "God in Five Easy Lessons." They'll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great. They'll get to know me by being kindly forgiven with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean."

To make a disciple, or to be involved in another's spiritual formation, as I see it, is to serve that person by helping them interpret what God is teaching them through life situations. I can do my best to point them toward appropriate responses as revealed in the Scripture and as learned through my own life journey and what I have gained from the input of others who have gone before me on the journey.

I know you are probably looking for specific "topics" or "areas" of formation and that's important too. But the attitude above is about the best I have to offer.

Brian Emmet said...

Steve's "about the best I can do" is very good indeed! Travis (and anyone/everyone else), was that getting at your question in a way you find helpful? If not,can you help us zero in our your concern?

Travis said...

That was awesome insight Steve. Thanks for the encouragement Brian.

What I was kind of leaning towards was: "What is spiritual formation in community?" All, or most all I would think, of the theses are focused on the "Church" or the "body of Christ." What is spiritual formation in a community? What would the goals be? What would be the things to absolutely stay away from?

That's kind of the route my mind was taking.

Brian Emmet said...

Great question! How often we tend to approach spiritual formation as a purely or mainly individual enterprise: I might need or use a "spiritual director" or mentor from time to time, even regularly, but the focus stays pretty much on "me and Jesus," me becoming more like him (which is not a bad thing!)

I think, though, that the context in which I really become more like Jesus is communal-corporate-relational. As Joseph says, it happens--it has to happen--it can only happen in the context of "one anothers". If God is love, and love is pateint, kind, not easily angered, etc., I can only grow in love in and through relating to some particular folks.

Richard Foster identified some of the spiritual disciplines that were individual, some that were corporate, and several that should be both. Perhaps our Christian communities could work on articulating more clearly the disicplines they will embrace as corporate disciplines: e.g.,we meet regularly for worship, we work together regularly to extend God's hospitality to those outside the faith, we seek to serve together the needs of our community. I'm sure there are others.

Travis (and everyone), does something along these lines move us in some directions you think are helpful?

Greg said...

I have a question that I hope none of you would mind answering for me. When I think of formation, it usually begins with some sort of substance and ends up becoming a completely different product. But when we speak of spiritual formation (communally or individually), are we speaking of a process that Christ is continually forming in us and we don't know the end product. Or is spiritual formation the goal and process to become more Christ-like, meaning that we are striving to become His bridegroom?
Or, when we speak of spiritual formation, is the word "formation" used in a militarist way, as if our spirit is to be in a certain form to optimally interact with Christ and others?

Hope this makes sense...

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, Greg--thanks for another perceptive question.

You're right that we can understand formation as a coercive process in which something/someone is forced into a different shape, mold, etc. It's good to open up additional meanings or nuances for "formation"--a sculptor forms a sculpture. Familiar with the great quote attributed to Michaelangelo: "How did you come to carve such a magnificent horse?" "I just saw the horse and then chipped away from the block of mrable everything that wasn't 'the horse'!" A violin-maker forms wood into a Stradivarius. A good coach forms individual players into a team. God uses trials to form us as men and women of proven character.

I like to think of spiritual formation as the process by which the individual becomes more fully and truly "who am I in Christ" or in which a church becomes who it truly is "in Christ." Much more the sculptor of violin-maker than an assembly line!

And since Christ is "inexhaustible," I suspect the process of spiritual formation, of becoming who I/we am/are in Christ, is ongoing, perhaps eternally.

Brian Emmet said...

But don't let me have the last word on any of this...

smokin joe said...

I have had several spiritual mentors over the years ... and I have attempted to provide some degree of spiritual mentoring for dozens of people. Lots of people will 'say' they want spiritual formation for lots of reasons ... one of them being they want attention.

The most important thing I have learned about spiritual formation is the following:

The very first step is for the person who desires spiritual formation to make a core commitment in their heart to abandon everything and follow Jesus. They must learn to pray the prayer, 'not my will but thine be done.'

Until they cross that river, no amount of mentoring, pastoring, exhorting, accountability or discipling will move them along the process.

IF you have surrendered yourself fully to Christ, you WILL experience spiritual formation ... The old Zen saying is applicable here: "When the student is ready the teacher appears."

For those who have not surrendered to Christ ... trying to help them with spiritual formation is a recipe for frustration. It is more helpful with such people to think in terms of finishing the incomplete process of evangelism ...

John M. said...

If Joseph's analysis is correct, and I believe it is probably accurate, then where does that leave us with the Church at large.

Is the need primarily for personal formation or for "completeling the evangelization process" as Joseph says?

david said...

what exactly is meant by "incomplete evangelization process"?

smokin joe said...

Hi David,
I believe when Jesus commissioned us to 'evangelize', he didn't have in mind just making converts, but he said to 'go and make disciples.'

He never invited anyone to repeat a simple prayer of repentance, but he said 'repent' and 'follow me.'

I use something called the 'Engels Scale' to conceptualize evangelism or the process of salvation as a series of steps. It goes from a -10 (hostility toward God) to -5 (indifference and unbelief) to "0" (the point of conversion and initial faith) to a +5 (incorporation into the body of Christ) and finally to a +10 (a fully committed, reproducing follower of Christ).

Most evangelicals think in terms of getting people from the minus side of the scale across the "o" to a +1 and then they stop there. I believe that true evangelism is not complete until the person moves all the way to +10 and becomes a deeply committed follower of Jesus and then begins to join in themselves in the commission to 'make disicples'.

The problem with conversion and church attendance is that we gather a bunch of +.5 and +1's into a meeting and call them "Christians" and they learn the songs, the dress and the vocabulary ... and stop progressing towards the goal of become fully surrendered to Christ... they become 'anemic' Christians but not committed followers.

These are the kinds of Christians that shout out hateful things at McCain rallys.

The goal is NOT to convert people to Christianity, but rather to make fully committed disciples of Jesus.

Brian Emmet said...

I am a dull clod. It just hit me this morning, rereading our 17 theses, that the numbers affixed to the name of each thesis-generator are... our ages! Duh!

Now that I'm only 100 years behind the rest of you, here's a suggestion for a way to organize and perhaps simplify our theses: heart--head--hands. What is it that needs reforming in my heart and the heart of my church (however defined) and in the heart of the church at large? "Heart" here maybe has to do with "core commimtments, core loves." What is it about the ways we think (head) and the ways we work, use our bodies, time, strngths, resources, etc. The "work" one guards us against gnosticisim--having all the "right ideas" but nothing incarnational in practice. Just a thought on a spectacularly beautiful fall-in-New-England Saturday morning, before my wife Kathy and I head up to NH to close up our little cabin for the winter.

steve H said...

Another way to address the matter of incomplete conversion is to observe that we evangelicals generally preach the gospel backwards.

The gospel is the good news of the kingdom--that is, the good news that God has raised Jesus from the dead and made him king of the universe. To be saved (Romans 10) one must "call upon the name of the Lord" which entails believing from the heart that the God raised Jesus from the dead and confessing him to be Lord with the mouth-- of all things, including the believer's own life. Those who do, he saves. To confess him to be Lord but not submit to his call to follow him (be a dsiciple) is an oxymoron, isn't it?

Most evangelicals call on people to believe on Jesus as Savior, and imply if not explicitly teach that to make him Lord and to become a disciple is something of an option for the most serious believer. This, as I see it, produces incomplete conversion.

How God will deal with that in the final judgment is his to determine not mine. But it certainly has created a severely weakened "church" here.

Is this another theses: To return to proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom with the clear emphasis on the Jesus as Lord of heaven and earth -- the king who is making everything right again.

smokin joe said...

I agree Steve -- it might be interesting to look at some of theses inconnectedly ... for example, the one you shared shared about preaching the Lordship of Christ ... combined with some of the others about moving from a pastoral to an apostolic, or a 'church' to a 'kingdom' focus ...

This is why I seriously question so much of current church 'practice' as in weekly worship services.

I am pretty convinced from my own experience that getting unchurched people involved with 'church-life' does not generally challenge them to make Jesus Lord and to seriously begin to follow him in the world. Rather, such people learn to be 'church attenders' and cultural Christians ... and they naturally adapt to the same low level of spiritual commitment as the rest of the people in the church. The wrong leaven is at work!

I'm often reminded of Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees for traveling long distances across sea and land to make a convert, and then turning him into 'twice the son of hell' as themselves .... Jesus told the pharisees that they refused to enter the kingdom, AND they blocked the door and prevented those who might have desired from entering.

In my mind this is a really, really serious problem, and I cannot think of any easy solutions.

Of course, this is NOT true everywhere, and in every church ... but the few exceptions are those who are swimming against the tide.

John M. said...

Joseph, I like what you and Steve are saying about "incomplete conversion" and your comments about the ingels scale.

Question: When does spiritual formation begin? The way you couched it earlier, implied that spiritual formation can't even begin until someone is totally committed. But is it possible that what is happening all the way "up" the ingels scale is spiritual formation?

Comment: The observatioins being made about the practice and the fruit of the "Church" is why I earlier suggested as a thesis that the Church ciritcally evaluate it's structure and way of doing things [ecclesiology]. I was puzzeled that this didn't make the list, but was only listed as a "key comment".

Is the above too general to be a thesis, or...? Just wondering.

It seems to me that status quo, mainstream ecclesiology is usually accepted as a given even by "reformers" who see the need for reform in other area's. In the same way that architecture determines function, I think our "chruch architecture" i.e. our understanding and basic assumptions about chruch structure and function(not buildings, although that is an issue that is definitely related) is a foundational, perhaps core issue of the problem(s) as we're seeing it(them).

I don't think that just adding a contemporary service, a worship band and care groups is going to get it.

John M. said...

Here is some proverbial wisdom that supports Joseph's contention that you cannot bring spiritual formation to someone who is unwilling.

"If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you'll get slapped in the face; confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins.

So don't waste yor time on a scoffer' all you'll get for your pains is abuse.

But if you correct those who care about life, that's different -- they'll love you for it!

Save your breath for the wise -- they'll be wiser for it; tell good people what you kow -- they'll profit from it." Proverbs 9, The Message.

Hey where is everyone? I feel like I'm talking to myself!

steve H said...

Weekends are almost always slow on this blog -- too busy with "church" or "weekending" or something.

Concerning a theses about reevaluating church structure -- I think most of us are assuming that reformation is quite foundational and will effect structure. If we move toward churches that center on seeking and manifesting the kingdom, then structure will change. To me any change that does not start at that central issue is "rearranging the furniture"; no matter how much good that might do, it would not be reformation.

smokin joe said...

Steve: I agree. It might be good to go through the 17 suggestions and decide which are fundamental, and which are secondary, like rearranging furntirure.

Regarding spiritual formation, going back to an earlier question, in terms of the Engels scale... a person becomes seriously open to discipling or formation at the point at which they release their will and consciously choose to surrender to Christ. It is a bit arbitrary, I would put that at somewhere between +4 and +6 on the scale...after that, they become a wise person in the proverbs sense who will value instruction and correction.

someone at a -1 experiences God's grace drawing them to faith ... often through pain and adverse circumstances. Ditto for someone at a +1 who has decided to 'believe' in Jesus and be open to God ... it still usually takes painful circumstances to help them move forward toward the Lordship of Christ ...

I visualize a little like getting a rocket off the ground and moving out of the atmosphere....the greatest amount of fuel is consumed moving the first 2 or 3 inches ... as it accelerates, it gets easier

Perhaps that is why the PRoverbs says that the path of the righteous is like the dawning of the sun, shinning every brighter to the full light of day.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, boyos and any women: which thesis do you see as "fundamental"? Who wants to sticj his or her neck out first?

John M. said...

How can our understanding of the church NOT be fundamental? Jesus said, "I will build my church." What are the implications for us? It seems that the Body of Christ and how it functions (institution or organism, etc.) IS a fundamental issue. Am I missing something?

My concern is that the Children of the Reformers have taken what Jesus intended to be a simple, organic, family that reflects the life of the trinity and injected politics, posturing, cultural baggage, budgets, buildings, staff positions etc.

The way church is currently understood has become so complicated, expensive, and "buisness-like" (ie Wall Street exective CEO model), that the idea of planting one is totally overwhelming except to the high functioning AAA personality, entrpanuerial genius (only slightly overstated).

I could never plant one of those. Even if I could I hope I wouldn't. But I can get people together in my living room or on my patio.

I really don't have much hope that what already exists can be fundamentally altered. I think God wants the "law of existing ordinances" honored, and obviously what we have now is much better than no church at all. But can't we evluate how the church should grow and be reproduced?

Acutually as I've thought about it over the weekend, I think that Joseph's burden for a re-examination and acceptance of apostolic ministry and my burden for eccesiology is related.

I believe that along with evangelism, spiritual formation, and apostolic ministry that we need to ask God to grant a vision and desire to move beyond the current status-quo when it comes to the current state of the church, and seek God for a way of being His Church that will be what He is building now -- churches that will represent him well and be viable in the 21st century...and moving forward.

The Constantinian Church was barely touched, if at all in the Reformation. The Reformation profoundly affected how we approach, scripure and atonement, and personal salvation among other core doctrines, but except for re-arranging the furniture by putting the pulpit at the center, church structure was basically unchanged.

I don't see the Emerging brothers or anyone else who advocates reformation and change in other areas even questioning the fundamental assumptions about what church is. I think someone needs to.

I know this is a sacred cow. But someone has to poke at the thing.

As I listen to some of the comments that have been made by the younger guys on this thread in their thesis proposals and questions, I feel them poking the cow. My challenge is for some of the rest of us to pick up our cattle prods.

John M. said...

After publishing my post, I went back and re-read the 17 thesis that Joseph drew out of our comments and counted how many that, in my opion at least, relate to how the church is configured and functions.

I counted 13 out of 17.

The one's that from my viewpoint relate to this topic are: 1,2,4,5,6,9,10,11,13,14,15,16,17.

It appears that we're already poking at the sacred cow in the room. I'm suggesting that we call a cow a cow! :)

smokin joe said...

Well, I think some are more fundamental than others. For instance, I would say that spiritual formation is more fundamental than the kind of music we sing … also changing our focus from a ‘pastoral’ and ‘church-centered’ focus to an ‘apostolic’ and ‘kingdom-centered’ focus is more fundamental than church structure or size. If it were to happen, it would be a true ‘paradigm’ change, not just fiddling with the deck chairs.

I organized the 17 theses into three broad areas:

Spirituality: 1, 3, 4, 7, 8. (spiritual formation, disciplines)
Ecclesiology: 1, 5, 6, 9, 12, 13,14, 17, (the largest area as John pointed out).
Missiology: 2, 10, 15

John, I was curious why you seemed to come down so hard on the Reformation guys and their children? You don’t think that the RCC and the EO injected politics, cultural baggage, buildings and hierarchy into the church? When you talk about the Constantinian church you are talking about the official church of the Roman empire … both east and west. The Reformation was only a first step at partially breaking the power of imperial Christendom in the west. The problem is that they didn’t far enough, and they probably threw out some things they should have kept, out of their reaction.

One other thing -- although Luther had 95 theses, the central tenants of the Reformation with only two or three – sola scritura, justification by faith, and POSSIBLY the priesthood of the believer. If I am not mistaken, the emphasis on the new birth, personal regeneration, did not become predominant until later with pietism and the Wesleyan movement.

Regarding my three categorizations of the 17 theses, I would argue that missiology is the most important, followed by spirituality and that if we take care of these two, ecclesiology will follow automatically. “Ecclesiology follows missiology” (Alan Hirsch).

We are probably getting too theological now for the younger guys ... what do you think Patrick, JohntheMusician, Sarah, Will, Travis and Greg?

Brian Emmet said...

I want to offer a brief side note while waiting for the rising generation to tell me/us if we're being too theological, impractical, or obtuse.

I think Joseph's missiology-spirituality-ecclesiology schema, while helpful, misses the point that the central identifying mark of the church is worship. Without keeping worship at the center of our field of vision, all we'll end up with is a culturally-conditioned scraps-and-bits collection of ethics and practices. I'm exaggerating for effect just a bit, but will stick with my point that a reformation of worship will naturally flower into missiology-spirituality-ecclesiology, but that a reformational approach that puts those at the center will disppoint us in the end.

But as Joseph will point out, I have been wrong before!

smokin joe said...

you may be right Brian ... as soon as I put missiology ahead of 'spirituality' it did not sit right in my spirit. I think I would include worship under 'God-centered spirituality' and put it thus:


I hope we are not losing people...more than one told me (women and young adults) that we go over their heads often and they lose interest.

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

Joseph, I'm sure you're right about pietism, I was thinking of justification by faith.

The R.C. and the E.O. totally sold out to the criticisms I was raising, and although there are clear doctrinal issues, one of the primary reasons I could not convert to either Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy is because of their structure.

I only mentioned the Reformers and their children because I thought that our theses were directed toward the current Evangelical church, so when I said the Reformer's children I was referring to us as ecangelical protestants.

I hear what you and Steve are saying that if we can get the other fundamentals reformed that church structure will follow. I used to believe the same thing.

But I have become convinced that it isn't true. The Reformation brought huge changes to the Church and created the whole Protestant movement, emphasizing the tenants you mentioned.

But the Reformers did not reform chruch structure significantly. The Reformation maintained the edifice complex that the churh has had since Constantine. It embraced the doctrine of the Priesthood of the believer, but did not really allow the full practice of it, consequently maintaining the clergy/laity divide. It contiued with the theater style of doing church, with one man in a monologue entrpreting scripture for all, and we could go on.

Since then, none of the major movements have really had much permanent impact on the ecclesiology of the church.

Many of them appeared to be having a reformational impact at their inception and in their early days, but from a historical perspective they rather quickly reverted right back to the traditional structure that they had attempted to break out of.

I have come to believe that those who are concerned about continuing to reform the church must, intentionally and self-consciously, examine the accepted structure and pracice of the church in light of the scriptures, and perhaps even more importantly, in light of current culture and the future.

If that doesn't happen, then my concern is that the reforms we make in other areas will simply be swallowed by the current ideology.

Individuals can and do change within the structure, but the structure itself creates a glass ceiling beyond which they cannot go within the institution itself.

If we do not intentionally and consciously reform church structure and practice by creating new and fresh concepts and expressions of chruch, I am concerned that the emerging generations will continue to pass Christianity by as being totally irrelevant to their lives, not to mention that they percive it as intolerant also.

Perhaps just as sad, if no alternatives are created, some of them will probably end up sitting in a Sunday morning pew in a traditional structure when they hit middle age and embrace the same nominal, superficial Christiaity of their parents' generation beause they don't even know that there is any other way.

That's why I'm passionate about the issue, and continue to believe that it is fundamental.

I agree that missiology and spirituality are vital, but I would at least put ecceseology on par with them. I don't believe that church reform will automatically follow refrom in those areas, at least it hasn't happened yet.

I think there is a symbiotic, synergestic relationship between the three and that all three should be addrssed simultaneously.

I'm having trouble understanding why determining the nature, function and structure of the church is "just moving the furniture around". I think that is what has been done in the past. I think that our default, status-quo concept of church needs to be challenged with some fresh, new ideas and concepts.

I really do believe that the new wine needs new wineskins, not patched old ones.

John M. said...

Didn't mean to ignore the posts since the one I was responding to. It took me a while to compose mine in between classes.

I agree that worship as a life-style fits with spirituality, but the way I'm defining ecclesiology, our public and corporate expressions of worship fit there. Bottom line, I think it's covered, but Brian does well to remind us of its importance.

Hey you younger folks, we need you and your perspectives. Let us hear from you. If you think that the whole dicsussion is off track, please say so. I, too, hope that we haven't driven you off in sheer bordem!

smokin joe said...

I appreciate your points ... there does need to be structural reform of the church.

However, if you have men and women, deeply surrendered to Christ and walking with true agape love, almost any structure, however bad, will work. Witness the RCC and EO --there is still life there.

And the converse is also true, if you--have men and women driven by their egos, and lacking agape love ...the best, most scriptural structure in the world will do them no good.

Others have attempted every single structural change we have talked about ... the Plymouth Bretheran, the early Churches of Christ, the whole House Church movment which often turns inward and become reactionary .... changing structures does no good without changing hearts. structure cannot produce life ...only contain it.

John M. said...

You're right, Joseph! That's why spirituality would have to come first, because all those negative characteristics you mention can happen with mission as well. But I think we would agree that only empasizing spirituality can become ingrown and self-centered very quickly.

We'll never get things perfect until the perfect One returs. It is true that many before us have tried and failed.

But that does not mean we shouldn't try. Our responsibility is to serve God's purposes in our generation. Part of that, I believe, is for our generation to hand something to the emerging generations that is being reformed and that they can reform even further to express the future that God has called us to.

I do want to make it clear that I'm not advocating that we try to achieve or "restore" some pristine, ideal New Testament church. That has been tried many times and is futile.

What I'm saying is that we should move forward into what God wants the church to be today in this present generation. Personally, I just don't think that what we have today across the board (with obvious exceptions) is serving God's purposes well, and is not the best vehicle to move us ahead into the future.

That's why I would make this issue one of the thesis. But I feel like we're gettng into a debate and I don't think that will be helpful for other discussion and for the thread to move forward.

I think I've expressed my perspective as clearly as I can, so I don't want to keep going back and forth about it. I don't want to hang up the overall discussion, so I'll try to let it rest here.

If we can get a clear concensus about the core issues whether one, two three or more, with or without ecclesiology lets move forward with that.

steve H said...

Church structure or architecture is an issue, of course. However, one reason I can't start there anymore (as I used to try to do) is that the New Testament does not put much emphasis on structure as far as I can see.

For that matter the I don't think the Old Testament puts that much emphasis on it. In the Old Testament there is structure related to the tabernacle in the wilderness, along with the sacrificial system and the priesthood / Levitical system. David organized these structurally and later Solomon added more structure after building the temple. (Those systems do not seem, however, to be the model for the New Testament churches.) The true heart of the Old Testament, to me, is the story of God the king calling forth a community to love him and to represent him to the nations.

Most Biblical theories on structure seem to me to be extrapolations from scripture more than something plainly laid out in Scripture. If the structure is, in fact, revealed, then I have to turn to writings of the apostolic fathers to see what the apostles built and put into motion.

The more I consider the Scripture, the more I am coming to believe the emphasis is first on the relationship between the king and the community he calls and second on the way of life which the king calls his community to live -- a way of life that is the "spill over" of the life of the Trinity.

This is why I find myself in a bit of quandary:

1. Should we emphasize the gospel of the kingdom and look for structures to emerge appropriate to each generation and culture?

2. Should we emphasize the gospel of the kingdom and reform our life together according to structure that emerged from apostolic preaching and ministry and that has been written about by the fathers of the first few generations?

Frankly, I don't know. So I'm trying to emphasize the common factor: the gospel of the kingdom -- in other words, to emphasize the relationship between the king and the community he is calling forth and the way of life which the king is calling his community to live among the nations.

Brian Emmet said...

Not to cut off this discussion--Joseph, John and Steve have all just made substantive remarks that bear further reflection--but I did sneak a new post up, as the conversation appeared to be taking on a particularly grizzled character, if you catch my drift...

...besides, Joseph made me do it! ;~)

John M. said...

I'm not sure where to post now. I wish we could have continued this thread with everyone who was talking at first. I think it could have been helpful. Oh well...

I apologize if all my ecclesiological stuff shut down the discussion. I was trying to participate in good faith, but I must have been missing the point somewhere...

Steve, you said, "The more I consider the Scripture, the more I am coming to believe the emphasis is first on the relationship between the king and the community he calls and second on the way of life which the king calls his community to live -- a way of life that is the "spill over" of the life of the Trinity."

Is this not "church"? It sounds like a wonderful expression of the Body of Christ to me.

CindyC said...

Good morning,
I've only read through half of your discussion, but had to contribute this, even if it's only in fun.
Brian said: here's a suggestion for a way to organize and perhaps simplify our theses: heart--head--hands.
I would have to add "health" - as in growth, development, etc.
And because those are the four "H"s in "4-H". I could quote the pledge for you, but that would get redundant. However, it is a very good one, which may merit the curious to google it.
Thank you, Joseph, for reinviting me to join in again, and I will understand if you go, "why the heck...?"
I will read further and attempt to contribute something of more weight later. But now I must go make tents....

smokin joe said...

Good one Cindi! I never even thought about 4H! Health is something we vitally need these days.

Brian Emmet said...

Gosh, some of us really are from the Midwest. Growing up in suburban Long Island, the nearest 4-H Club was in sme strange place like, I dunno, Ohio.

No reason not to continue this discussion. Cindy, does "health" become the overarching idea, as in healthy head, healthy heart, healthy hands, or a fourth category along with the first three (heart-head-hands-health)?

Travis said...

Okay guys. In my opinion we aren't done here so I'm pushing for continued conversation in this area. This thread is so key to where we all are right now that it can't be brushed past to a newer post. I'm not against new posts. Post 'em. But this one is key in a way I'm not sure we know yet.

One question for Joseph. You talked about there being a difference between a "pastoral"/"church-centered" focus and a "apostolic"/"kingdom-centered" focus. I've grown up in the pastoral/church focus so I don't need that explained to me. But, could you possibly explain the apostolic/kingdom focus seeing as I have only recent experience in that form. P.S. - This sounds a lot like what Dr. Dow's been saying for years (we should get him on here).

John said:
I really don't have much hope that what already exists can be fundamentally altered. I think God wants the "law of existing ordinances" honored, and obviously what we have now is much better than no church at all. But can't we ev[a]luate how the church should grow and be reproduced?

If the above statement is discussed, it could drastically change the path of conversation. This is a question I have thought about a lot.

Also, Steve presented two points that he's considering. The first one, "1. Should we emphasize the gospel of the kingdom and look for structures to emerge appropriate to each generation and culture?", is, I think, the more appropriate view to take. I do not think, however, that we can ignore the importance of the apostolic fathers at all. Every follower of Christ that has walked before us (especially those martyred), have something we can take and apply to our lives.

In regards to Joseph's and Brian's worries that it was becoming too theologically boring, I need the theology whether I think it's boring or not.

But, what I would like to see is a move from explaining the historical and theological ideas to practical application in our lives. All of these things need to move from head-knowledge to acts.

In the midst of all this, I think it's so important that we continually keep seeking the Spirit and His will and purpose in every moment. If we do that, we will find that all of these things we are discussing will begin to implement. We were made for Him; in the midst of all this discussion, He still wants our hearts and He still wants to give us new revelation.

Keep this up and I hope that whole post wasn't too vague.

steve H said...

I don't have time to comment thoroughly right now, but THANKS Travis for you additional comment.

You wrote "...what I would like to see is a move from explaining the historical and theological ideas to practical application in our lives. All of these things need to move from head-knowledge to acts." That's the key issue and that's the rub.

Brian Emmet said...

Ok, Travis: applied to what? I'm not being coy or argumentative; the point of emphasizing practical application is we need to know what we're trying to be practical about. So I'm asking a focusing question, not a hostile one, and don't mean to pick on Travis. Anyone want to frame a practical question for us? I think this is what Jospeh was trying to get after in his "theses" exercise.

Brian Emmet said...

Oh, by the way--the rest of you'ns who've been reading but not saying much? Now's the time...

Travis said...

I attend Covenant Church of Mobile and am committed there. I also have a thriving community surrounding the apartment where I live (the Spirit's been changing people's lives and it looks more like a house church). How do I apply these theses to my life (in both areas)? I'm not sure what other focused questions to ask at this point.

Brian, keep prodding me to focus my questions more. It's how I'm learning. I'm not sure what to ask next, though.

smokin joe said...

Travis: the reason we moved on to another post was because we thought you guys (Pat, Will, JohnMus, Greg, Sarah, Cindi, You) lost interest. As long as you guys keep participating, we will keep talking.

Apostolic vs pastoral: obviously pastor = shepherding care toward the flock; apostolic means sent with a mission to new groups... missionary...outward focused... breaking through cultural and spiritual (and sometimes linguistic) barriers.

pastoral is focused on the needs of the flock ... apostolic is focused on the needs of the world... the unreached harvest.

If you have a bible program ... do a word count to see how many times variations of the roots "apostle", "apostles" and 'apostolic' is used and compare that with pastor(s) or pastoral.

Brian Emmet said...

Travis, if I understand your question, it's something like this: you're kind of in two spiritual worlds, Covenant Church and what's happening in your apartment. God is at work in both arenas, but they don't seem to connect very obviously yet, or may seem like they're never going to connect, interface. Your generation may be experieincing "life together in Christ" in a multipolar (having several poles, or focuses) way. Maybe you're a kind of "commuter" between somewaht different "worlds." People from the apartment may be a ways away from wanting to "attend church" (hmm, interesting way of putting that, eh?) at Covenant, and those who are members of Covenant might not find a lot in common with your apartment-dwellers. Am I somewhat on the right track in understanding your question?

I realize that for many of us, seeing that a discussion already has 30 or 40 comments is off-putting--just feels like you'll never get caught up. Any suggestions that would make these discussions more accessible and useful?

Travis said...

Brian, you're on the right track. I feel like I couldn't really invite the people I'm reaching out to at work and school to church. Not that Church is bad. It's awesome. I am part of the most amazing community I've ever known. But, they won't see it like that, I don't think. A lot of people around the apartment go to Covenant or another local church, but it's a more comfortable atmosphere to bring outsiders into.

I feel like people are not responding not because they have lost interest, but because they have no time.

Brian Emmet said...

Is one question: how could we get church folk more committed to and comfortable with apartment dwellers (and vice versa)? I think we're in a cultural season where what you're describing is more and more common: followers of Jesus operating in a variety of contexts that, unfortunately, will tend to stay compartmentalized from one another. Makes me wonder what it might look like for us to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in a niche-market culture...

CindyC said...

You will probably be nicely surprised by the simplicity of the 4-H pledge. (Ready? oh, I just KNEW there was a reason for my 6 years raising pigs in E Michigan!)

I pledge
my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country and my world.

(you can stop applauding now)

I know, it's hardly theological, but seriously, it has a lot of practicality and depth in it, both individually and corporately. It even reaches outward! I didn't mean to highjack the discussion with 4-H, though.

The discussion is great from what I've read - and it's gone a long way in only a week.

The thing I would add in response to some of what Travis has been brought up recently is this:
Because we are a body, and no member or part is separate from the other, neither is anything we do (or don't do).

A good sized group of us in my church recently read and discussed over a 6-week period the book "Life Together" by Deitrich Bonhoeffer. We all sort of thought two things - 1) it would kill us to read it because he had a stout German name, and 2) that it would teach us how to "be" the local body.
First of all, it's not that hard to read, and is pretty short. It just convicts you on so many levels that it is hard to read without being stopped in your tracks every few paragraphs.
Secondly, while it is all about living together and functioning in a way that glorifies God, there was a lot of emphasis on what we do individually that has an impact on the rest of the body.
The book talked about how to be believers and how to live a life of prayer, meditation, worship, reading the Word, confession, thanksgiving, and solitude as well as community, ministry, and meeting together for corporate worship, prayer, etc..

What a lot of us came away with was the reality that unless I am doing what I know I am called to do (for example, pray, obey the Holy Spirit, give, teach, etc.), the local body does not get the benefit of what God is doing in my life. And conversely, when I do let the Lord reign in my days, the body is edified.

It is hard to break the "practical" away from the "spiritual" because the spiritual is also practical - what I do in secret has an effect in public, regardless of whether I can measure it or not.

So, yes, the theses are practical, and some of them are real hands-on things to get going, but they're still all related.

And you never know who has been praying for a year for what God has been doing in your life or your workplace, or who has been sowing into some unknown ministry idea that someone else will be able to carry to fruition.

I would venture to say that any pastors who want to see their people thriving are praying for leaders to come up and just DO what God lays on their hearts to do. And if that changes things for the better, perfect! And if that kind of muddles things for a while, then great - it's a learning experience, but at least they gave an honest try!

I will stop now and see how long this is. I am making up for 6 months of being absent in one post, and it's not fair to you guys.

John M. said...

Cindy and Travis... thanks for keeping this discussion going... Cindy, in all these years I never knew what 4-H stood for... amazing!

Could be a creed for a new church movement, you never know...

Travis, I agree with you about the significance of this thread. I hope we can pursue it.

Reading "Life Together", together... can anyone say "spiritual formation"?

smokin joe said...

I think it is a waste of time to try to get the apartment dwellers to go to a church where they don't fit. It would be more 'apostolic' to help them come to faith to Christ and learn to "be church" in their own social network (Matt 10-oikos).

I say this as a church planter who planted 4 churches and attempted without much success to do exactly what you are talking about. I could not even get my present Tuesday group to fit in with the house church I started two or three years ago. Christian groups very quickly turn inward ... it is better to form new churches in new social networks.

This is the apostolic "turn" we are desperately in need of ... we are spending WAY too much energy trying to get the world to come and join our churches ... instead of teaching them how to enter the kingdom.

John M. said...

I agree Joseph. Some who make the "commute" Brian mentioned between two groups, but it isn't necessary for everyone to do it.

If Travis wants to function as part of both groups, that is fine as long as he has the time and energy, but I agree that it isn't wise to try to integrate the two.

Plant the seed of vision to multiply to other apartments rather than be swallowed up into the larger, more established entity.

John M. said...

Sorry, some may "make" the commute...

Travis said...

See the thing for me is that I can't quit on either. I don't want to quit on either. At Covenant are some of the most amazing men I've ever met that have walked with the Spirit for a half-century. Their wisdom and experience are invaluable. Then, over at our apartment, people have begun to flock around it and God is moving and it's real. I can't abandon that either. So at this point, I'm going to do my best to be a part of both groups, with probably the apartment getting a little more focus.

steve H said...

Travis, you have put your finger on one of the drawbacks of the emphasis on small, homogeneous groups. One of God's principal ways of working is the transfer of life and wisdom from one generation to another.

Hopefully, you will be a bridge -- a faithful man who can receive from these older men at Covenant and be able to impart what you have received to faithful men in the apartment (2 Tim 2:1-2).

And that brings us around to spiritual formation again, doesn't it?

Brian Emmet said...

My point in asking if there were ways that the church folk and the apartmenters might find ways to connect echoes Steve's point, particularly as Travis feels connected/committed in both spheres. The idea is not to integrate one group into the other, or have one "join" the other. Maybe another way to ask the question, and another possible thesis, would be in the area of what "the unity of the body" might look in the context of our increasingly fragemnted and fragmenting society. Is Jesus intrested in "reforming" how we think, and how we practice, unity? I confess, it was my first, second or third thought...