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

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Of Synagogues and Churches

I apologize for my delay in posting. I have had some personal items that have kept me busy. However, I wanted to briefly post on something that we were discussing.

I wanted to make a few more observations regarding church structure, and then I will shut up about it.

There are many ongoing discussions regarding home church, and I think Steve has really opened my eyes to the difference between 'simple' church and 'home' churches. While a simple church may well be a home church, it is not required to be a home church. Simple church is church without the accretion of liturgy, traditions, etc (correct me if I am wrong, Steve). While I happen to think some traditions and/or liturgies are beautiful, I believe that the simple church is striving to bring back the relational aspects of the Body of Christ that have been lost in the 'institutional' church, and I am all for that.

As I have stated, I think there is a definitive place for didactic teaching in the church, however, I feel that church has become SO institutionalized that people are reduced to observers in their own faith. This is where I believe I have a point of agreement with my friends in the simple church movement. Far too many people attend church, sit in the pew, get their self-affirming message, and then go home to an unchanged life. This is NOT the message of the Bible!

I brought up the model of the synagogue in another discussion, therefore I thought that I would return to some synagogue thoughts regarding structure:

The synagogue was the place for relational study of the Scriptures, while the Temple was for corporate/national worship. In the synagogue you would find the Torah read, the points of Scripture expounded upon and discussion. The Temple would be the place for sacrifice, and for corporate liturgical worship. In our modern day church, some would equate 'small groups' with synagogue style worship, however I believe that one needs to understand that synagogues were not simply places where everyone got together and expounded upon what the Scripture 'meant to them'.

Far too often that is what a small group becomes, with people going down endless rabbit trails, or worse, as Ded has referenced; a Christian coffee klatch. In synagogue a teacher would expound on the Scriptures, and then discussion would occur. Where small groups can come up short is in the area of leadership -- somehow egalitarian expression seems to be the fad, with EVERYONE'S ideas carrying equal weight. There needs to be some Biblical perspective to this -- I have been in groups where everything from Jesus was an alien to New Age mysticism was given equal time with the Scriptures.

Now, with that being said -- I do not believe that one is required to have a seminary education, but I believe that one who is called to lead -- be it institutional, simple, or a home church -- should STUDY to show themselves approved. And they should be cognizant of the cultural, historical, and biblical perspectives of the material being taught. Someone needs to be the voice of Biblical reasoning, and it is vital that all church expressions have that.

So, I guess I have come to understand the concerns of my friends in the simple church movement, and agree. But I would like to put in place some caveats: there needs to be leadership within all of the structures -- however that leadership should not be a stifling, spirit-killing style of leadership that is often associated with the cult of personality type of churches that are out there. Also, the body needs to be able express its gifts and discuss their faith in an interactive setting that allows for true growth, not simple parroting of the leaders ideas.

Recently a well-known leader within the evangelical community was defrocked, and one of the charges against him was spiritual abuse of his congregants, the exact type of spirit-killing leadership style that I am discussing. This should open the eyes of those who feel that leadership should be exercised, rather than modeled.

I am not sure that I have covered all the bases, I just wanted to put some closure around this discussion. Bugs -- I hope to start with feasts soon! Probably going to start with Chanukkah/Hanukkah...


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I think most churches have too much leadership.

Still, I agree with you about churches becoming far too institutionalised.

Every Blessing in Christ


Steve Sensenig said...

Hey, Ray. Glad to see you continuing the discussion. I, too, have been busy, which is why I haven't had a chance to post again recently. Hopefully soon. My next posts should probably play off of yours so we can continue to have a David Wayne/Adrian Warnock kind of discussion going on! ;)

Anyway, you said some really good things here. Even though I have really tried to adopt the term "simple church" over "house church" for various reasons, I hadn't consciously thought of it in the terms you stated. Your point regarding "house" vs. "simple" is excellent, and gives me even more confidence in my choice of terminology! :)

I would still like to understand the place of didactic teaching -- specifically, does it have to be something that is a part of regularly scheduled meetings always, or could it possibly be less frequent than weekly?

I hope to comment and write more at a later point, but my time is up for now.

God bless, Ray!
steve :)

BugBlaster said...

Thanks for this Ray. Always study to show myself approved and remember that God is everything and I am a worm, no matter how eloquent I or anyone else think I sound... Having these two things always in the front of my mind is necessary for a teacher.

Chanukkah, can't wait!!!

Ray said...

Steve --

You have provided me with a lot of insight into the simple church, so anything I wrote in this post was a direct result of your patience with me...

Now regarding didactic teaching: This has always taken place in the church/synagogue. I think the question is; what form did/does it take? Truth be told -- there are a variety of methods. In the Western church the sermon has been the main vehicle for this, in the Eastern, it has been much more interactive.

When Jesus spoke, or Paul preached these were didactic events, now they may not have been standing behind a pulpit, but in the synagogue they would have been sitting/standing in a specific spot -- at the Bema, and the instruction would have fit didactic teaching -- that is to say, it would have been instructive teaching.

So when I say there is a place for didactic teaching, I don't believe that it HAS to be a sermon style, but I do believe that it needs to be instructive -- be it sitting around a table with others and instructing them, or standing behind a pulpit.

As to the how often -- in my opinion, it should be on a regular basis -- instructive, didactic teaching provides guidance for God's people, and all of us need that on a regular basis....

I have no idea if I have answered your question, but this comment is reaching posting length! :-)