“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

IC, HC, or SC?

I am writing this post in response to a discussion that has been taking place over at Theological Musings. We have been having a great discussion regarding the Institutional Church (hereafter known as IC), and the Simple Church (hereafter known as SC). I have truly enjoyed the give and take, but finally my responses were simply no longer comment-length, and to relieve Steve of my ovetaking the comment section, I decided to do a full on post. So, here go some thoughts:

First, a brief reference: We were discussing the synagogue teaching methods versus IC didactic preaching, and I had made a comment that synagogues used didactic teaching methods; this caused Steve to question my statement – and I must admit that my statement requires modification (thanks for the diligence in reading my LONG comments, Steve). In synagogues you would have found both interactive and didactic teaching. When the Word was proclaimed, that would be in a didactic manner, and afterwards there could be a time of interactive discussion. This was not always true, but could be.

As we have discussed SC, I have used the parallel of the synagogue as have others, but really upon further contemplation I believe that this is a false parallel. We cannot compare the IC of today with the synagogue as we must understand that the synagogue was really the ‘cell group’ of the Jewish faith, and true corporate worship took place at the Temple. So therefore, I think we have created a false dichotomy between the IC and the synagogue. I want to examine that a bit further in a future post, but first I wanted to get some things out on the table, so that people will understand my perspective a bit more.

I admit that I am an IC pastor, so I may look at things a bit differently from some of the folks in this discussion. When we established the church we had come from a situation where a pastor had done some significant damage due to an abuse of power, therefore as the church solidified, I knew that I did not want to be the potentate of this gathering of believers, (I am under no allusions as to my fallibility). We made it clear in our constitution that there was a plurality of leadership, with no one person more important than another within the realm of elders. This has served us well in many situations. We did not intend on doing anything different, or making a statement against the traditional church, but as we developed, we found that there were far too many trappings involved in starting a traditional church, i.e. liturgy, tradition, etc., and we therefore chose to start simply, and add things that we found to work as time goes on, rejecting a lot of other things that many people believe are required to be considered a true church.

I did not even know that we were all that different from most other churches until people pointed it out; I confess that this was not intentional (I would love to claim credit as a visionary!) However, I wanted to instill the things that I had grown to love within the context of my Jewish background such as; relationships being a vital component of our gatherings, the celebration of the Feasts, gathering as a family on other occasions OUTSIDE of Sunday mornings, etc. I also wanted to be as much a part of the church as possible, not treated in a way that separated me from others. These deeply felt convictions were not only the result of my background, but also a reaction to some of the abuses that I had seen in the past. We had been previously attended a church whose ecclesiology placed the pastor in the role of sole arbiter of the spiritual direction and guidance of the church. This was not a ‘one-off’ church, but a denomination that had, as one of their distinctives, this pastoral role. The damage that can be caused by this type of leadership is obvious to the most casual observer, and we lived through a horror story that I do not want to relate here as it will not serve to edify regarding my position. Suffice it to say, I found that type of pastoral role unacceptable.

Also, I will admit that I have made many, many mistakes in leading of this body of believers, and still make mistakes. However, we have learned through the mistakes AS A FAMILY! I emphasize that because it is something that I say regularly to the people within the congregation – we are family, not a bunch of people that simply get together on Sunday mornings and worship together. While Sunday mornings are a part of our body life, it is only a part.

You cannot function in the manner that Paul discusses by only meeting on Sunday morning. You also cannot function that way by subdividing the body into age, sex, and/or marital status groups. I see this nowhere in the Bible. To truly function as the body, we must have a VESTED interest in those around us, not a passing interest. When one weeps we should all weep, and when one rejoices, we should all rejoice. How can we hold one another accountable if we meet on Sunday only?

I am going to end this post for now, and next time post some additional thoughts. I do not wish to overstate what we are doing at my church. I am not sure how unique we are, and I am also uncomfortable thinking that we are somehow doing things better than other churches…

Truly, the Lord has blessed us, it was not my business or ecclesiastical acumen that put us where we are, but only His favor and grace. I pray that I am not being prideful in my discussions, but I am very proud of what the Lord has done in the people that worship with me.


ded said...

Comparisons are always misleading.
If your sense of His presence affirms what you have done, therein lies abundant peace. As you sense He would have you change, you cannot go wrong in doing so, regardless of what others do or say. May you continue to hold first onto Him and second onto each other growing continually in His will for all. My prayer is for the love of God to be known abundantly among the brethren with you labor.

ded said...

...with whom you labor. 8^)

Ray said...

LOL - I got the meaning Ded! :-)

Yes, comparison is a misleading measuring stick. I work with people who plant churches all over the world, and one thing that we find is that the form is not always the same -- function is the key (kudos to Steve for making this statement over at his place).

I think people get too enamored with form, and fail to evaluate the function.

Now, with that being said -- I think that some forms chosen are inappropriate. If it does not bring Glory to God then the form itself needs to be re-examined.

For example -- The narcissism that is rampant in many forms is not appropriate. Our focus should be on the worship of our Father, NOT on the worship of ourselves, mentioning Him only as a side aspect of our gathering.

Anyway, I will still make some comments on synagogue form versus the other forms of worship.

Thanks for stopping by!