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Archive for the ‘Ecclesiology’ Category

saddleback

Anyone who follows this blog or any of the previous ones, understand that I don’t pick on Rick Warren. For the most part he seems to be nice guy who I differ with on some issues, but mostly on ecclesiology. I don’t think he is a false teacher/prophet. I think he understands and articulates the Gospel from a historic perspective, so for that he is my brother.

However, ecclesiology effects the way we as believers minister to one another and how we worship God. So for me ecclesiology plays a huge part in the believers life. With that said I will insert a link.

The Saddle Back One Card

card

Listen to the purpose of the Card and let me know what you think. I believe this is the epitome of Corporation style churches that plague the body of Christ today and instead of having genuine relationships with you and having to do life with you my shepherding of you is reduced to a card you swipe. Good technology? I think not.  Not to mention the card also is a “time, talent, treasure” monitor that can show your leadership and you how faithful you are to the corporation church!

Anyway listen to it let me know what you think.

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One of the biggest transition that I have wrestled through for the last 1.5 years is that of how to do church and is there a correct way? I am not convinced of “the” correct way. As Joe Miller says “the bible is really silent on how the church should function”. I think I agree more with Joe and here is why. If we look through the Pauline Epistles and Acts we can’t see “one way” to do church or how the church should meet or function. There seems to be  a great amount of diversity on how people met. If we are honest it would be hard to make any clear case either way. From single elder led meetings that was one of many meetings in a particular area (there seems to be multiple houses in Romans and Ephesus while there may have been only one in all of Corinth at least when Paul wrote Corinthians 1). I think some place had women leaders (Philippi as the church met in Lydia’s house who would have been the most mature disciple in Phillipi), to some places where women not being able to teach due to the mess it was making (Ephesus). 

So I am thinking this. I have come to the conclusion that it is the individual need, temperament, cultural setting and preference. I believe some people enjoy the weekly clear biblical exposition, while others like it more emergent. Some people like the big churches with worship leaders, good youth programs and simple, clear, biblical but practical sermons. Some people like the big weekly atmosphere with the tight nit small groups. Some like young energetic funny pastors like Driscoll and Chandler while other folks like the more detailed old school fellas like MacArthur and Swindoll. I think some people like strong doctrinal preaching while others enjoy a more interactive participatory. I think some people love churches that are heavily involved in overseas missions, while some people likes to see their church focus more on their local community. Some people like heavily evangelistic churches while others like churches who feed the poor and clothe the naked more. Some people like to meet in houses because they are convinced if Paul was here that is what he would do, while others feel the church that is growing and bursting out the seams is blessed by God (I neither agree or disagree).

Some people like the church with all the bells and whistles; from coffee shops, to work out facilities where they fell safe and believe that the church should do such things. While others believe that such a thing is why Jesus turned over the money changers table. Some people believe it is oppressive to keep women out of teaching ministries while others believe you are liberal loving heretic for such a stance.

I will tell you where I stand brothers and sisters. I like it simple and that is maybe because I am stupid. I am not convinced that we should meet in homes but if in a building it should be rented and for celebration style gatherings (unless that building is used to help rebuild the city more on this later). I think homes with 15-30 members with independent/interdependent shepherds/elders that come together once a month for celebration or maybe have to come together more frequently for some matter (maybe in March they meet weekly to teach a certain doctrine) seems to me to be the best way to meet. I think the Church that meets in America has way too much money wrapped in single use infrastructure (in the 100’s of billions). I think we should drink coffee at Starbucks and meet more nonbelievers than build one in our local church. I think we have way too much money wrapped up in staff positions, while I do believe an elder/teacher can receive a stipend due to the fact that he may have to take a job that allows him to provide oversight and lose out on potential income. I don’t believe a man who has the DESIRE (I Timothy 3) to provide oversight and walk in his gifting should be negotiating a salary, nor expect one as Jesus instructed “freely you have received freely you give” or Paul “it is better to give than to receive” our hearts should be to provide oversight for free and even at our own expense if necessary (that is why most men don’t want to go plant in rural or impoverished areas, the suburbs take much less faith and getting donors before one provides oversight is a sign of that).

I think many churches today to be complicated business entities who live for the entity and not the “Church” (the people who meet collectively). Many pastors are CEO’s and elders are “board of directors” they provide more business direction than care for the souls of those entrusted to them. They spend more time in “business meetings” than meeting with the saints in their homes or for lunch or for dinner. We know them as figure heads more than loving shepherds.  Someone leaving their church isn’t really a concern for them because another person will come to take their spot! Many are sheepless shepherds which bibilcally speaking are no shepherds at all.

I think most of this falls away when we being to meet more simply! When we have shepherds caring for less people (in a lot of churches there are 6-8 elders for ever 2000 members, that is about a 300 to 1 ratio and I am being generous). Most elders have no clue if their members are maturing and I dare to say that most don’t even care. They provide more oversight to the entity anyway and the measure of a maturing church is numerical growth and church income not strong marriages, growing disciples, maturing parents, and loving disciples. Those things are left up to the expository sermons and conference numbers. However, in the simple church you don’t have more than 30 per elder. And since the elder/shepherds know those placed in their care they can recommend them for eldership and they do life with these individuals as they have more time to care for their souls. In most churches the Pulpit provides more shepherding than the Shepherds themselves.

Another plus for the more simple church to me is the level of flexibility provided. You don’t have to put on the “World’s Greatest Show” week after week. One can be led by the Spirit to pray the entire meeting. Or to provide counseling, or to go out collectively and beautify a park, or go over a sick members house and clean up for them and love on them and serve them. Or they can go to a nursing home that Sunday, or to a women’s shelter. However in the more traditional setting, one must put on the show, because it is the glue that holds the entire congregation together and sick members get put on prayer lists not visited. Going to a shelter or a nursing home is an event not part of the gathering and to miss income for a week can really throw a loophole in the “church budget”.

The last plus for the simple church is the flexibility to move economic resources and the trust given to the individual Christian to give his/her resources as needed. The first is a genuine plus for me. When we have a member lose his/her job, or if we have a member who needs a car fixed, or if they need help burying a love one or a doctor bill, or some other financial crisis, money isn’t earmarked for salaries, mortgages, building funds, or some other reason. So the red tape that many believers experience goes away. We can raise funds on the spot or over a given period to meet that need, not to mention since we know each other and are a family we ACTUALLY KNOW the need! The second is another big plus for me. Christians should be given the freedom to meet needs as they make disciples and pray for God’s direction with their finances. The more traditional setting has way too many fixed costs and things such as “tithing to the local church” or in more theological jargon “giving where you are being fed” are the norm. A great deal of the money (8-90%) is wrapped up in these fixed costs. And a saint on a tight budget who has a sick relative or coworker or sees another need has to say “I have given to my church I will have to send you to them”.  And when the individual comes to that church the money is already spent or is locked up in “reserves” when saints don’t give as much during certain times of the year (Summers and Christmas).

So I really like the simple structure. There are many drawbacks. But a dependency upon the Spirit is where the simple church has to fall back on. Unlike the traditional church which has pragmatic pillars that support it, the simple church has to trust that the people who come will stay, the resources it needs will be provided and the growth will come through genuine loving disciples not “good church ministries”.

I close with this. The simple guys shouldn’t be so cocky to say they have it right and the the more traditional guys shouldn’t write off the simple guys as some incompetent emerging liberals who despise “church leadership” though we do despise “church authority” but so does Jesus (Matthew 20 and 23). I think both can play a huge part in the Sovereign plan of God to build His Church. So I think maybe we should spend more time loving and praying for one another versus “biting and devouring one another” as Paul says in Galatians 5.

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My good brother CJ at Christ My Rightouesness is doing a series called “Race Relations and Unity. So far there are three posts up.

The Cross and Racial Reconciliation : Jews and Gentiles in Christ  by Kehpa

Kingdom of Men or Kingdom of God: How Your View of Diversity Defines Your Kingdom by Lionel Woods (AKA Hot Chocolate)

Love is Beyond Diversity by Bradley Cochran

There are a few more coming, but if you have a heart for racial reconcilation and diversity within the Body of Christ, I think these would be good reads. Coming from the Reformed persuasion I belive this to be a critical issue, as the Reformed faith is highly Eurocentric and has a superiority complex!

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Most of you who read here belong to a traditional church of some sort. I want to first say I am not against the “traditional” church, though I disagree with them on many critical issues, especially over the last 9 months. I guess I would also struggle with most of the house guys if they begin to isolate and insulate themselves from others in any divisive manner. I think in some sense many traditional churches, regardless of how hard they try, will begin to lose the family aspect of the New Covenant Community especially once they cross the line of around 100 members. Then once we throw in buildings, mortgages, pastor salaries,  employment positions (I wonder how much you would charge your child or brother, or mother or sister to serve them 8) ) the Church loses the motif clearly presented in scripture and begins to function sort of like an organization/corporation/entity versus a loving close knit family eager to love and serve one another for the greater good of that member! However, this is not an apologetic for the way to do church but an eager plea to pastors/elders/shepherds/bishops or any other name one will take as the leader(s) in the local church.

What do you mean by masquerade Lionel? Great question! Glad you asked! If you have ever had the experience of attending a masquerade ball you will know exactly what I mean. Everyone dresses up in ball room attire, and it is meant be a social and interactive gathering; however, there is one spin! You all have on masks, thus I really never get to see you for who you are. For example if someone were really good at disguising their voice they could easily become someone else, though you may know them quite well. Or to put it another way, you never really get to know me, because you never really see me for who I truly am. The mask keeps you at bay thus I have real chance at being found out, unless I take the mask off and expose myself.

I think for the most part this can describe many Churches and their is a weekly ball! Everyone comes with their masks on and they use them to keep you at bay. So we waste all of our time and give our money, and read our bibles and sit next to each other, sing the same songs, listen to the sermons, pray the same prayers, recite the same liturgy, shake hands, park in the same parking lot, exchange the same pleasantries, even serve one another by ushering, deaconing, pastoring, leading worship, being parking lot attendants and even keeping one another’s children in the day care, all the while never getting to know each other because the masks stay on.

Think about it, what if you were a child born into a family where everyone wore masks? At the wedding the bride and groom wore masks, at home they sleep with their masks on, they eat dinner with their masks on, have children and the children wear masks so the other brothers and sister don’t get to see them. We would label that family at best weird at worst lunatics! But it happens every Sunday and pastors are the big reason why! I know, I know, Lionel you are making sweeping and broad assumptions! But the truth is in a recent study it showed that 80% of pastors have no relationship with those in the church they pastor, another 10% have very little relationship (they are a little more hospitable, but the masks never come off) and the rest had some form of relationship but not where they would like to be.

Why you ask? It is simple! The pastor is considered the spiritual leader in the congregation. I was reading something and it said that the pastor should be careful not to fraternize too much, if so, they may risk their authority! What the heck  (I would prefer another word)!!!!  I wonder how that works? I wonder what America would look like if the husband said “I only will fraternize with my wife to produce children and to set our yearly budget”?! But in most local churches the only relationship the pastor has with those he pastors is when he is leading some type of discipleship class! Nothing on any meaningful level. Though he teaches and proclaims the necessity of community we find him lacking in his own life.

So what do I mean about the perpetuating of the masquerade? You are asking really good questions! If I am correct in this analysis my thesis will prove to be correct, if not then what follows fails. So, here we go. Relationships=Vulnerability! Or Relationships=Authenticity! Or Relationships=Knowing and being know! If I can’t know you I can’t have a relationship with you, from the true sense of the word. I may be around you, we may do a bunch of stuff, we may even get much benefit from one another but we don’t have a relationship. Because we don’t have a relationship our commitment to one anothers development stops where we can no longer benefit from one another. That is why CEO’s and Managers, and Athletes, and even what we label friendships today are like revolving doors.  Sine I can’t receive any real benefit from you I no longer need you. Because this is only about how you benefit my selfish desires then that will be the extent of our relationship. If that sounds like a family then it is the epitome of dysfunctional!!!!!

So pastors by not allowing those whom they shepherd to see failure,  to give insight to their lives, to not let them see you lose it with the kids, argue with your wife, to not allow them to see that no, you don’t have all the answers (unlike our good brother Hannegraf), to not allow them to see you struggle and to keep your distance both relationally, and from even opening your life for accountability and constructive criticism on this journey, or in other words, to make it seem like you have arrived (though Paul says I “press”), is to force the congregation you are responsible for shepherding to also relate in the same way. The brokenness, the struggles, the burdens, the late nights, the fear of unanswered prayer, and the real wrestle with Jesus and all He is, is what your congregation needs to see.  You really do set the tone, especially today in the world where our pastors are second only to celebrities.

Its funny (as in odd) to me that a pastor wakes up one day and just walks away from it all. I have actually seen this praised by those in the House Church as burn out is the mark of one “really seeing the light”. However if this catches his congregation by surprise there is some intrinsically wrong. That wrong is that this pastor has perpetrated the Game Show Host shepherdship that plagues many churches today. Again and that is why in many of churches, husbands and wives smile every Sunday and sing the songs, and hold hands and rub each other back and next week they have different apartments. This is why a parent has to surprise the congregation with the news that their son is in rehab, that they are about to lose their home, that they are separating because the husband has been caught too many times with pornography, or that they are embarrassed because their oldest daughter just moved in with her lesbian lover!

Sunday after Sunday we listen to nice sermons and sing Christ Centered songs and we are dying at alarming rates. People are leaving their fellowships, they hate one another, they are looking for the first reason to leave and that is because the Church is not a loving family struggling through life together but a Masquerade where all the masks are smiling faces and pretty clothes.

I close with this. If you are a pastor or aspiring to be a pastor I have some words of wisdom. Your congregation needs to know you and you need to know them. If you find yourself more comfortable at a “shepherd’s” conference around other church leaders than those whom should be your family that is a problem. If you feel more comfortable with the church leadership than you do with the new disciple that is a problem. If you would rather hide your life behind your sermons, pulpit and authority versus spend your life loving, serving and being held accountable by the newest of Christian, then that is a problem. You may be a really good bible teacher, you may know theology really well, you may even be a good leader from the world’s perspective (many church leaders today) but you are not a shepherd. You are only contributing to a problem that seems to make Christianity a thing to do on Sunday or a set of beliefs to regurgitate but not be lived. You are inviting people to the masquerade and they will only continue to dress up and wear the mask and community will be more elusive as ever.

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Here are a list of things I apologize for. This is  to the Black Church, the next will be to the Charismatic Church and then the Emergent Church. I want you to read this carefully.

1. I am sorry that I thought your hermeneutic was inferior!

2. I am sorry that I mocked you!

3. I am sorry that I thought you were sub-par to the Reformed Church.

4. I am sorry that I called your worship “buffoonery”.

5. I am sorry that I wanted to make you white

6. I am sorry that I disregarded your history in this Country.

7. I am sorry that I overlooked the divine blessing of your culture.

8. I am sorry that I left you out to dry

9. I am sorry that I didn’t think you deserved to be at the table with other theological thought.

10. I am sorry that I forgot that you were the only place I could worship 40 years ago.

11. I am sorry that I forgot that you preached the Gospel!

12. I am sorry that overstated your failures, minimized your good, and slandered your good name before those who can’t understand you.

13. Finally I am sorry that I didn’t love you!

Please accept my apology!

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Here is how we would define Sola Scriptura:

The phrase sola scripturais from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings” – referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is ‘God breathed’ (given of inspiration of God) and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness…”

Most people who visit this blog don’t need a history lesson. So since the audience knows the history of the Protestant Reformation I won’t go into much detail.

However, I will say this. Sola Sciptura was a necessary doctrine for the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church had a strong hold on all things called Christian thus the development of Sola Scriptura was timely, relevant and again necessary for its season.

500 years ago there was only 2 churches. The Reformed Church and the Catholic Church both fighting for the right to be called “the true church”. One church felt it was tradition plus scripture the other said it was “sola scriptura” though as we come to find out they also attached just as much tradition to scripture as the Catholic Church. There was  third voice however, that was muted by the Reformers called the Anabaptist that had a desire to take Sola Scriptura literally but we know they found out quickly that there was no room at the table for another plate so they were burned at the stake, drowned, imprisoned, had their goods taken all in the name of  “orthodoxy”.

So why do I believe this doctrine is irrelevant? Because by practice no one upholds it. It sounds good and I know people like to quote Latin and seem smarter due to the terminology but at the end of the day we fail the test of holding to “sola scriptura”.

Let me give you an example. There are some today who believe that the Gifts of the Spirit (well the Charismatic ones as they call them or Apostolic gifts) have ceased. The same people who say “scripture must have a witness, in order for it to be made a doctrine” have one verse in the whole bible to defend such a position. So what do they supplement as the witness? Ding, Ding, Ding! Tradition! That is absolutely correct “what do they win Bob”. They say “the early church fathers did not talk about these gifts so they died out somewhere in the first century”!

Now for you sola scriptura guys who also hold to a cessasionist view I am bit confused. The bible nowhere says these gifts ceased and we see them in full operation through the end of the book of Acts; however, you say they cease because you don’t see it! That is like saying Pluto don’t exist because no one has landed on it.

Here is another example. Church buildings! For the sola scriptura guys they use double standard interpretive methods. In one voice they say “the bible is the final voice of authority on Christian practice and faith” but then they say “if the bible doesn’t say we can’t do it then there is freedom”. Now let me fall back a little. Nowhere in the bible does it say “you can’t use seeker sensitive methods to get people into church” or “you can’t use seeker sensitive methods because its unbiblical” the problem is you can’t find a verse that says that. The bible is silent. However, I hear “well the bible doesn’t tell us to use such methods”. See where I am going? But back to the church buildings. As much as I can see ALL the gentiles met in homes. The Jews were the only ones to meet in a building setting and as soon as the Jews labled them a cult they had to run to houses also. Where does the bible say “as soon as possible take 20 million dollars and erect musems buildings to meet in”? Nowhere!

So where am I going? Great question. We need to quit saying we believe in “Sola Scriptura” because we don’t. What we believe is Scripture plus my denominations interpretation. Or Scripture plus my seminary’s hermeneutic. Or Scripture plus my private interpretation. Or scripture plus my favorite theologians theological slant! “Why do you say such heretical things Lionel” you may ask! Because we are gravely mistaken at best, and hypocritical at worse. We all come to the bible with our presuppostions (wherever they have come from) and we all interpret the bible through our foggy lens. We need to quite saying we believe in Sola Scriptura.

This doctrine was for a specific group of people (most of who a Baptist would almost call a heretic LOL). It was necessary then but it is relevant now? My answer is a resounding no! One guy feels you should obey the Sabbath. The other believes you will be raptured in some secret meeting, one guy feels we should have a full meal for the Lord’s Supper, the other feels a shot of grape juice and an oyster cracker suffices, one guy feels that the Law should be preached for sanctification others believe (me) that the Law was a covenant document made obsolete by He who fulfills the Law, one person believes in a plurality of elders the other in a Senior pastor (with elders others with deacons). One person believes that we should bless Israel because of their future promises, others like me only acknowledge the “true Israel of God”. One feels women can preach/teach others not so much 8) Some feel that infants should be baptized into the covenant others feel disciples only, some feel that the sacraments “imparts grace” others not so much. Some feel that a theological education is necessary for pastoring others not so much. And guess what! They all do it under the banner of  “Sola Scriptura”. If you still believe this doctrine to be relevant, reread this post again and tell me how!

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There is an argument that goes something like this:

There are two reasons why this kind of speaking in the church is so crucial. One is that the subject matter is infinitely important. There is no other organization on earth that deals in matters of eternal life and eternal death—matters about God and his Son and his Spirit, matters about salvation and judgment, matters about the life that pleases God or displeases him. In other words, no other group of people, besides the church, gathers regularly to deal in such tremendously important realities. This means that there is a form of speech that is fitting as part of that gathering that fits the greatness of that truth—namely, preaching. So the first reason for preaching is that the nature of the truth calls for something more than mere explanation or discussion or conversation.

Today I want to tell you that I am not convinced of such a method and I will give you 3 reasons why.

1. Though many like to make the argument otherwise, the fact is that when we see preaching in the bible we have taken what we now do, and what the Reformers esteemed and have read it back into the text. As I read the Epistles the word or some form of the verb didaskō  is used much more frequently than the word  kēryssō and Timothy is told only once as far as I can tell to “preach” and to add to that kerysso is used the majority of time with proclaiming the Gospel and that 90% of the time to the lost. Thus we see the command to teach in the local fellowship.

The problem lies in this question. Is teaching to be a proclamation style (pulpit ministry) or a more sit down or conversation or dialogue of some type? I think the latter. Given the local of where the church met. When Paul went into the public he preached, when he was with the Church meeting in homes he taught. It is funny that Paul never ever gives the qualification of elders to “preach” (proclamation)  but they should be able to teach (instruct). So my first reason is that it makes no sense from a biblical perspective to “preach” expositorly, though you should always “teach” expositorily. This means that the grammar, original audience, historical context and all should be carefully considered before we say what a specific passage means.

2. The next two reasons are a bit more pragmatic. The number two reason is that interactive teaching is always the best method of teaching especially new information. Being able to ask questions, get clarification, and even engage critically seems to be the way people learn best. How do I know if you are learning the information? Because I am so good at delivering it? This seems to be the position of many who preach in such a way. What it sounds like to me is that they are saying “hey I did a good job expositing the text, now apply it to your life”. There seems to be a huge disconnect. The first being how do you know I understand, the second being  do you care if I disagree.

I am not promoting an arguement but a chance to engage the speaker. And if the speaker is preaching publicly he should answer publicly. If everybody already knows and don’t need clarification then maybe we should be teaching something different. For the life of me I can’t figure out why this happens. There are only two reasons. 1. A speaker is overconfident in his skillset or 2. A speaker is overconfident in his method. I guess a third option is that the speaker doesn’t care if you get it or not, they are going to deliver it.

However, when those listening to the message have a chance to ask questions and get points of clarification it can be quite rewarding. Everyone that I know, that has such opportunities are always excited that they are given opportunities to learn more and clear up any confusion that they have had. It is funny that when the person who is learning “expository” preaching is in school and at conferences they have questions and can interact with the professors and even be critiqued by classmates and professors but come to church and shut the very opportunity they had off to others. As one of my sons cartoons say “this is quite mysterious”.

3. The final reason is that people come because they want to learn and even share what they are learning. Not to mention sharing in the local congregation should be more than greeting at the door or helping people find places to park or giving, or ushering, or stacking chairs and operating the powerpoint or sound booth. Why do we encourage people to participate in the cosmetics of the gathering but not the purpose of it. If the purpose is the ministry of the word and we have built up such anticipation for it, shouldn’t we want people to participate in the most important part of “church”? But it seems that we eagerly and dogmatically exclude people from it! You can do everything else except participate in the word. For the life of me I can’t figure out why.

However, what greater way to know as a “pastor” what people are learning? If you allow them to share in the teaching and ministry of the word, you can find out quite quickly if they are really learing  how to faithfully handle the word. You can see if they are applying a proper interpretive method right? Not only that since “preaching” contains both the information and the application,  what better way to know if the word is being applied than allowing people to share what the word is doing in their lives and how it is transforming them to the image of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Something like Philippians 2, when Paul is saying have the mind of Christ which has all to do with self-sacrifice and being others-focused, wouldn’t it be sweet for someone to stand up and tell the family of God how the Spirit applied it to their heart? But nope, “pastors” have spent the last week preparing for the grand show, the great solo that follows the rest of the theatrics. We might as well start a drum roll when pastors walk onto the stage I can hear it now “coming to the stage….”, then the big blue spotlight comes on while the rest of the place dims!

I close with an appeal. I know we have been taught by many great theologians that the word is the center of the meeting. That if we don’t preach expositorly the church will fail to worship God and start to dive into liberalism. I know the pulpit has a high place (almost idolatry) in the church today and the reason why people don’t want expository sermons is because they are weak, or don’t want to be changed by the word or some other foolish statement that comes.  But that is a lie. I know many brothers and sisters who have been doing this for years and they have a community like no other who are image bearers of Christ and have deep love for God and His word.  Finally teaching is one of the functions of elders, never preaching. You can’t find one place in scripture where “preaching” was the primary reason for the church to gather. All types of teaching occurred however, through song (Col 3) through prayers (Ephesians) through the public reading of the word (Timothy) and so forth. The Greatest Show On Earth method of “expository preaching” doesn’t really make the cut, when I study the scriptures, especially the epistles, there are many proof texts with all type of traditional meanings read into them coming out of Timothy (and Timothy only) but again it fails to stand under the light of scrutiny.

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