Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thoughts on the second half of "Reimagining Church"

Most of the second half of this book resonates so harmonically with my own spirit that I began to have that experience A.W. Tozer says will happen with a good book – it all sounds familiar, though I’d never read anything like it before. It’s just….right. It’s true. I did stumble a couple of times over some comments.

1) On page 189 the book claims that there was no other form of leadership than a shared form. Except I kind of get the feeling that Paul somehow did have some kind of sway??

Otherwise how is it possible that when Barnabas (who was at that time a seasoned elder, and Paul was still kind of new) tried to get Paul to accept Mark, Paul refused; but Paul could rebuke Peter (who was also a seasoned elder), and Peter backed down? It reads like Paul pretty much ran everything and had the last say on what was right and wrong?

2) On page 237 the book admits that “Historic Christian teaching on the essential doctrines of the faith plays a crucial role in keeping a church on scriptural track.”

My comment is….so there ARE unifying doctrines!! This is in response to page 126, where the book says that doctrinal unity devolves into a quest for doctrinal purity which only serves to further splinter the church.

Since the epistles are pretty much teaching doctrine, and Romans is a whole treatise on the essential doctrines of our faith, I have to believe that doctrinal unity is important, and teaching false doctrine is bad.

3) 251 at the bottom, I said to myself, ”Well, God can do anything He wants to do.” So I decided to rephrase the sentence to read “If they leave God some ground,” rather than “If God can find some ground,” because right now I have become super sensitive to this mind set that we’re just bumbling along, and it’s everybody else’s fault, especially God’s, if something isn’t right.

4) I read “Straight Talk To Pastors” in about a day and found that two of the things “Pagan Christianity” did not state in a definitive way (to my recollection) were spelled out perfectly in “Straight Talk” (tithing and clergy salaries).

That got me to thinking about our own family's giving. I figured out that our family of five should be paying $200 a week to attend a typical church, because the budget divided by the number of people who attend a typical church (which counts adults and children) equals roughly $40 a person a week.

I realized that exactly none of the church budget is usually spent on the one and only budget item the early church had – feeding and caring for widows and orphans.

Wow. Just knowing that one fact makes me feel uncomfortable.

(Church budgets are most often spent on the mortgage, salaries and benefits, utilities, office costs, and program costs. Some is set aside for missions -- check that in your own church. How much of your church's budget is set aside for missions? Churches will also sometimes have a separate fund to help people within the church. Check your own church: how much money is set aside for that?).

These books have answered a whole raft of questions for me, why people are so passive, why we say it’s a worship service, but it feels like a performance, why those of us who are “on stage” (yes, we really call it a stage, and we face the audience), have to struggle so, every week, to remember that this is for the Lord, that we are “leading in worship,” that we’re “lead worshipers,” that this is not “for show.” Yet we have rehearsals, we polish our song set, we coordinate ahead of time where we stand, when we sit, and even that we’ll smile and make eye contact.

I always told myself I’d never go to a big church that paid people to put on services. But even without a salary, it's still a performance, at some level, no matter how high minded and pure hearted.

"Reimagining Church" helped me to see that insitutional churches often encourage passivity in the people who attend. The pastor and elders and deacons, the paid staff do all the cool stuff. For them Sunday morning is full participation.

But everyone else simply needs to show up, sit in their chair, and put money in the offering to keep it all going. For the worship service itself very little real participation is happening.

Code word "real."

To sing, to pray the words printed in the bulletin, to shake hands when prompted, to listen to the sermon and write down notes, to give money are all scripted, not spontaneous, "as the Spirit inspires" (I understand that Charismatic services are more free-flowing but...who is directing the meeting? Is it really the Lord Jesus Christ alone, or is it the pastor(s) up there on the dais?)

The kind of worship and church life described in "Reimagining Church" is radically different and deeply compelling.

I think God is “graduating” a million people a year out of institutional church and offering them a chance to enter into His real life of living by faith and regularly meeting together with other lovers of Jesus to “one another” with each other as the Lord Jesus Christ personally inspires: a "body" acting in coordination with the Lord as the living Head.

1 comment:

  1. I do agree with your thoughts here. It makes me sad when churches act like corporations and make decisions, as if they are businesses. The body of Christ and corporations are two radically different things!


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