Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thoughts On Attending Church

One of the valuable lists that is included in "Reimagining Church," is a description of the different kind of church meetings that occurred in the New Testament. In brief, here is the list:

1) Apostolic Meetings were special meetings where the apostles ("Reimagining Church" calls them apostolic workers) preached to an interactive audience. They were either planting a church or encouraging an existing one. Reference: Acts 5:40-42, 19:9-10, 20:27, 31. These were never permanent arrangements, the apostles came for a time, then left, with the purpose of equipping the local body of believers to function under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not a human head reference: Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Corinthians 14:26.

2) Evangelistic Meetings happened outside the church during the first century. The apostles preached the gospels to unbelievers wherever they gathered: synagogue or marketplace. The idea was to plant a church, or add numbers to an existing local body of believers, reference Acts 14:1, 17:1-33, 18:4, 19.

3) Decision-Making Meetings were called together whenever a big decision needed to be made, reference Acts 15. The elders and apostles played a helpful role, but the decision was made by everyone.

4) Church Meetings were regular gatherings of the local body of believers, reference i Corinthians 11-14. Certainly unbelievers were present from time to time, but the purpose of the gathering was for believers to worship and fellowship together.

Beginning on page 51, "Reimagining Church" describes the differences between a typical church service of today, and the worship time of the ancients.

After reading "Reimagining Church" I realized that the Lord had given me much and now expected much of me. Our family is still weighing the implications of this book. One of the ways I have made peace with attending our church is to remind myself that we are really attending an apostolic meeting. Sometimes evangelism is included.

Our church services are not like the worship services the New Testament describes, but I imagine they are similar to when Apollos came to preach, or one of the apostles. An Apostolic Meeting. Our church encourages the regular meeting of small groups (some churches call them home groups) and perhaps that is where the more New Testamental worship can take place (though our family is not involved with such a group).

We love the people in our church, and we love the pastors. God's Holy Spirit is at work among the people, and He is blessing work that He is enabling among many of our people. There are a few ministries represented in our church which God has just about opened the floodgates of heaven to bless (I am involved in one of them, a teaching ministry that is a "parachurch" organization, but has several key members who also are members of our church).

By this, it seems to me, God is at work through institutional churches, though it may very well deeply grieve Him that we have greatly limited ourselves with this construct. My fervent hope is that God will bring the "Revolution" into institutional church and change us from the inside.

On the other hand, considering what's happened to the seven main mainline denominations in our country, and considering the turning of the political tide away from Christianity, perhaps God is allowing the emptying of our institutional churches (by a million members a year) for the purpose of our survival. Perhaps, in years to come, it will be safer for God's people, and there will be more liberty to live by faith, if we are decentralized....


  1. Joanne,
    I came to your blog from your post on Viola's blog. Interesting stuff you have here, though I did not read word for word everything.
    I did want to comment on one statement in this particular post, as it caught my attention. The statement is this;

    "By this, it seems to me, God is at work through institutional churches, though it may very well deeply grieve Him that we have greatly limited ourselves with this construct. My fervent hope is that God will bring the "Revolution" into institutional church and change us from the inside."

    In my mind, this has been addressed by Viola and other's of the 'organic church' conversation; you cannot put new wine into an old wineskin. From the organic church view, since grievances of the IC are so many and go straight to it's core (did you read Pagan Christianity before Reimagining?), the old wineskin could not possibly contain the new wine, or it would burst at the seams. I have even read account of a "Pastor" who attempted to change his church to an organic model, and literally 'all hell' broke loose.
    You are correct to say that "God is at work through institutional churches", as this has also been pointed out by Frank, though I don't have the exact quote or writing that it came from (I have absorbed almost everything he ever wrote or spoke, in my journey in the last year). But just as when God gave a king to the Israelites when they pleaded, it was not His best for them, not His desire for them, yet He did not turn His back on them during the time.

    Keep up the journey, and may your blog and life be blessed!

  2. Ok, so I just went a little further back and see that you did indeed read Pagan Christianity, and Revolution as well. So I'm sure you know what I'm talking about in my previous comment! :)


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