Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friends, Friends of Friends, Friends of Jesus

Jesus has called us his friends; he was known also as "the friend of sinners." Friendship seems to be something we take for granted but don't really understand. What roles do you think friendship can play in the life and work of Christ's people? Please read through the article [linked here]--thanks to Patrick Currie for finding it and bringing it to us--and then share what you think of the author's analysis and prescription.


John M. said...

Can't find the link. Is this the same article that Patrick posted on Facebook, and Joseph emailed?

smokin joe said...

yup... Patrick sent it out recently on facebook... John Norton got a gruop together in California to discuss it.

Patrick said...

I think we all agree about this. we might could go ahead and move on to the next topic...


and Jose, i didn't realize you played guitar!

smokin joe said...

wow ... way to kill a conversation Patrick... do I discern that the young guys get a little impatient with us older guys and our slow, plodding linear reasoning?

i'm not sure we agree yet ... of course we all agree that friendship is good ... but there is the question of spiritual authority and gathering for worship (weekly, monthly, yearly?) and spiritual discipline.

And even if we agree, how do we implement this in such a way that it is not just rearrange the same inward-looking Christians ...rather than drawing in new people into the community of faith...

This "FandFofF" model actually comes the closest to anything I have read so far in describing what I feel the Spirit has led me into with my network of friends ... and I have plenty of questions and concerns myself about it.

and Patrick, it depends upon your definition of "play guitar"

smokin joe said...

ok, I'm back -- for example of our possible disagreement...go read the article

and pay attention to the 6th paragraph down ...

"It was hosted by a number of people who have been living relationally around Dublin for almost 30 years. They were in the midst of forming a congregation in the 80s when God made it clear he hadn’t asked them to do so. They stopped meeting regularly, but continued to share the life of Jesus together as friends living alongside each other. They rarely all get together for a meeting, though it would also be rare if on any given day a number of them weren’t together in one way or another—sharing their journeys and helping each other."

they "stopped meeting regularly..." what implications does this have for us? Patrick, meeting in a house church can be even more dead and friendless than in a church building. Are you, Brian, willing hear a word from God to stop meeting regularly? Would God even say that? Is there really (really) a mandate in the scriptures to assemble ourselves together on a weekly basis, or what this just a convenient tradition?

Does the mandate to be friends trump the mandate to gather for meetings?

these are unanswered questions for me ... although I find myself moving away from meetings toward friendship as the dominant paradigm. I seriously doubt that we have acheived consensus on this ...

John M. said...

Do we really need consensus? It seems that we were reaching "agreement" that there were a lot of different models, each of which served valid purposes. We had (I think) reached agreement that no one way of networking, relating and gathering as believers was THE only way.

But I'm good to go with it another round if that's where we're headed. (Young guys [and Frank] please be patient with us, we're not finished yet!)

For those who are indentifying with the F&FoF matrix, the questions that Joseph raises are important.

The paragraph that Joseph highlights jumped out at me the first time I read the F&FoF article because it states my exact experience. In 1999, I was gung- ho to launch a non-traditional home-based church, with a vision for a network of similar churches that would grow like a vine throughout Lexington, central KY and beyond...

What God led us to do was shut down what we initially started and be friends and bros. and sisters, relating pretty much as he describes -- although the "daily" would be a stretch. The core leaders still meet occasionally, but infrequently and informally. We also relate regularly as friends, face to face, by phone, and email. (These guys don't blog or do Facebook.) Most of us still "meet" regularly with a group to which we're in some type of mentoring or outreach relationship.

Those are my "local" (within an hour or so) relationships.
Besides that I have you guys and our relationshps, and then there's Facebook where, after only a couple months of active involvement, I am networking with a score or so of fairly close friends around the globe and locally. Joseph, just like you said would happen, some of my former students are friending me.

I definitely think that we need to rethink and redifine what "not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together" means for
21st century pilgrims.

I would submit that we have added a lot of ecclesiastical baggage to that statement. We are reading it through the lense of our own upbriging and understanding of what "church" means. Most believers understand the church to be a meeting at a designated time and a designated place.

When it was written and up through most of the 20th century, the only way to "assemble" was to travel to a physical location at a designated time.

Do we need to redifine what "assembling" means in a digital age? (I know we've discussed this before. Is there anything more to say?)

And, as Joseph pointed out, there is nothing in the scripture that assumes it is a weekly assembling. In fact, based on the Chruch's initial experience in Jerusalem, it would probably have been understood as a daily gathering.

If that were the case, which more closely approaches daily for us -- a geographically based weekly meeting or the kind of daily contact we experience right here and through other digital portals?

Just thinking out loud...

John M. said...

Oops, sorry for the length. When I process verbally I get very loquacious. Sorry, I didn't do a word count before I posted. Skimming works...

Brian Emmet said...

There is actually a great deal in Scripture that suggests, or perhaps even commands, a weekly gathering. "We just get together when we want, with whomever we decide to" is an alien idea to our Scriptures. I'm happy to discuss the ways in which our culture may force/invite us to reassess that, but it's awfully hard to see the folks in Corinth, Galatia, etc. meeting other than weekly. They're following the Genesis rhythm of sabbath, as adapted by the synagogue model, then modified by the New Creation rhythms introduced by the Lord's resurrection.
Is there a "lot of eccelsiastical baggage"? I guess... probably depends on whether or not "ecclesiastical" is automatically a perjorative, and then depends on the basis on which the assessment is made as to what constitutes "baggage." Is the Lord's Table baggage? Baptism? Church committees? "Worship music"? How do we go about deciding (and yes, I deliberately phrased it in the plural)?

John M. said...

Still thinking out loud here:
Baptism and The Lord's Table -- definitely not baggage!

Church commitees and worship music...take it or leave it -- not particularly scriptural concepts. Singing to praise and glorify God, yes, but if you mean "worship music" as we know it today, although I totally enjoy worshipping that way, I can't make a scriptural case for that particular form of worship.

Sabboth rythms, and 1st day resurrection -- abosolutely. Lots of Church history for gathering on the 1st day, dating from the early days in Acts. Not knocking it. It is definitely the custom of the church and has theological underpinnings, but is it commanded by Jesus or the other N.T. writers?

Ths closest to a command that I can think of would be the scripture we're discussing, but as pointed out, any indication of frequency or a particlular day can only be inferred.

My recommendation is that we could asses how to honor that scripure in creative, ways that would fit within the ebb and flow of our current cultural context. Whoever wants to continue to keep the traditional custom can certainly do that. I know many who do, and who also network in other ways during the rest of the week.

I'm still chewing on the Synagogue vs. Temple model. I know that the Synagogue model is the one the Church chose, and we can't rewrite church history. I know the Orthodox and Roman Catholics would say that because it was chosen and Tradition supports it that it is God's choice and mandate for His people from the New Covenant forward.

Is that what we as protestants say as well or could we say as reformed and ever reforming that this is what has become the church's custom, but is not necessarily the scriptural mandate? I can't really answer this one. Do we need a Church Council to do that, or is there liberty for communities of believers to experiment?

Here is my real question: What did the Sabbath look like for God's Community before the Synagogue? It seems that it was more a home-based, family oriented cessation from unnecessary labor and activity than it was a big feast day for the corporate community to gather.

If this is true, do we have the liberty to explore this model under the New Covenant, or are we bound by God to the Synagogue model? I'm asking this seriously not facetiously.

Brian Emmet said...

"Church committees"--well, if several of you get together and attempt to organize something, isn't that a form of a "church committee"?

Baptism: is both into Christ and into his body. His body is "larger" than any local expression of it. If some of us choose to practice baptism using squirt guns, that's to be considered a normal "cultural variation"?

Lord's Supper: pizza and brews at the bar?

How do we decide what constitutes "good" experimentation, and which fivolous? Or do we simply need to let it all fly and sort it out along the way?

Good question about sabbath! For Israel in the Wilderness, it was a communal ("universal") event; hence, the capital punishment given to sabbath-breakers. In the land? More of a family--tribal--celebration. Could well have been the size of the average Protestant congregation in the US since the colonies: around 75.

John M. said...

Pretty ludicrous examples Brian! Never thought of the squirt gun mode of baptism or pizza and brew communion elements. A fellowship meal perhaps, stretches me a bit re the Lord's Supper!

For me, I can't find church commitees nor worship bands in the scriptures. Dosen't rule them out at all, just doesn't make them mandatory for anything.

Commnion. There seems to be a good bit of sripture dating back to the O.T. Passover meal that would strongly weight things toward bread and wine. I can go with a close facsimile if the "real thing" is not available. But I think your example would be frivilous at best and sacrilige at worst.

Modes of baptism? Do we really want to go there? It seems that the Church through the ages has never come to a consensus as to how, when or even where (running water, fount, baptistry etc.).

I think the squirt gun thing would also either be frivilous or sacrilige; unless you were in the middle of an arid desert with nothing else...

Personally, given the literal meaning of baptidzo, (to immerse, dip into, saturate, dye etc.), I am pretty baptist when it comes to baptism, but I'm not going to fight about how someone was baptized if they can indentify with Christ's burial and resurrection.

So, Brian, I think our "expermentation" has to remain within the bounds of what scripture clearly states or not. My original argument was to question if it is possible to experiment with the mode, time and frequency,of assembling.

My main question is, does scripture mandate a certain time, place and mode of meeting or does it leave flexibility for experimentation?

Brian, it feels like you're just reacting and not really responding to my questions. You did respond to the "Sabbath in O.T. Isreal" question, thanks.

Brian and I are getting a little lonely in here. Does anyone else have anything to say? Let's hear it.

smokin joe said...

I'm not too interested in figurinig out the details of congregational life -- I would rather leave that to each congregation in the light of scripture as they pray and discern WITH tradition ...

My concern is more about how to build life-changing friendships with those in the world who are hurting and needing good news, and how to introduce them to a faithful friend in Jesus.

John M. said...

Joseph, the three questions you posed were spritual authority, gathering for worship and spiritual discipline. These seem like issues that develop as a network of friends is influenced toward the Kingdom... Won't Baptism and Communion be issues at some point along the way?

I know that you have baptized at least one member of the "God Party" group.

Brian has raised the issues of church commitees, worship syles, Baptism and Commiunion. I'm still trying to discuss the "assemblying" issue that you initially raised.

My central question is: how much liberty is there for the F&FoF model to function, both as an evngwlistic network and a fellowship network? I think that your present group actually functions as outreach for some and fellowship for others and perhaps both/and for many.

With Baptism, if we teach the commands of Christ and the scriptures, then it will come up on it's own, and we can respond when people ask to be baptized or have questions about it. So we obviously can't control who is Baptized or how -- only teach or draw attention to the scriptures.

Communion...hmmm. That is another one I would like to rethink. I think Scott McKnight touched on it in the "Blue Parakeet". The admonition to correctly discern the Body of Christ is directed to believers who had entered the Covenant. We have assumed that automatically means that the Lord's Table is only for believers inside the closed circle.

Wasn't the 1st Passover meal available to Egyptians as well? Weren't there provisions made for foreigners who might be in their midst to partake of the Passover as it was observed annually over the years to come?

Could it be that the Church by closing Communion to outsiders and unbelievers has missed an important means of evangelism?

smokin joe said...

why doesn't someone just go actually start one and let us know what works and what does not?

Sorry, I am not in a very good mood right now, and my patience is thin. My problem. I'll differ to someone else to respond to your questions.

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, Joseph, let's do that, and I would like to help, support, cheer on, encourage, help fund...

John, several of my examples were deliberately silly. If all we have to steer by is local cultural preferences, we're defenseless against baptism by squirt gun or communion as pizza and beer (and the latter makes some sense to me in a way the former does not).

"Church committees": how about the deacons in Acts 6? A team working together to accomplish something good--but I bet they had to take notes and keep records, yes?

Baptism: my question isn't so much about the mode as the meaning: what does it mean to be baptized into Christ and into his body? Is there more to baptism than the individual's saying, "I have decided to follow Jesus?"

Communion: Paul does warn about participating in an unworthy manner, because the one who does so eats and drinks judgment upon himself. Are we loving our not-yet-belieiving neighbors by encouraging them to participate in the Table before they've been baptized?

Sorry: I am way, way, way off topic. But one last point: I consider you my friends as we duke it out over important things!

John M. said...

Absolutely, we're friends Brian. Joseph, you frustrate me... You are the one that got on Patrick for saying we were done with this thread (at the time I thought we were too, and then you threw out a bunch of stuff which Brian and I have been trying to discuss in good faith. Now you get testy and don't want to talk about it anymore. Besides, you're our test case here, becaue you're the one that's doing it!

I think we're just talking to ourselves anyway. Either everyone else is gone or they're just snikering, biding their time and hoping we'll run down soon...

I can't really "start" a F&FoF network (if I had your gifts Joseph, I might be able to). What I can do is participate in the network I'm in, and look for opportunies to expand that network and enter into others' networks...which is what I'm doing within the context of my limited gift-set. (I gave up trying to determine what that is, just know that I can only be who I am...)

I think Brian and I have pretty much expressed our opinions and are at an impass, so if Joseph won't particiapte in the discussioin he started (I forgive you bro.), and no one else has anything to say...

Brian Emmet said...

My apologies--I got us seriously off track. I've attempted to take another run at it, via a new post.