Brant’s Report of His New Church

You guys should read this (in light of the post below) and report on what you think is good about it/what you think is problematic.  Interesting stuff…

We Quit Going to Church by Brant Hansen

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14 responses to “Brant’s Report of His New Church

  1. Here is what I asked Brant in light of his post:

    Brant,

    Sounds really exciting to me. Keep the reports coming!

    One thought:

    There seems to me to be a sort of emphasis in the NT on preaching and teaching coming from those in authority. Our authority to teach comes from Jesus having “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28). He gave this authority to teach HIS message to his disciples and the implication was that these disciples where the authoritative ones who would then go and start the church of Jesus. So it seems right from the start there is a structure of authority ordained by Jesus for his church. Church history affirms this in the formation of the canon, etc. Only those books that had direction connection to apostleship were accepted.

    The epistles also show us this as well as Paul assumes that he has authority over the churches to teach them how things should be. This is clearly seen in all his letters, etc.

    Elders are to govern the church as they are to guard the gospel, etc.

    Most to say on authority for teaching, but enough for now…

    My question would be, is there any sort of teaching in your church that could be seen as authoritative? Not in the sense of super Christian isolated pastor guy. I know you hate that concept as I do as well. But is it a free for all in terms of the teaching at your church (or gathering, or whatever you call it)? Do you agree that there seems to be a structure of authority for teaching that is present in the NT? How is this supposed to play out in church? More specifically, how does it play out in your church?

    Just my initial thought/question. I think there is real merit to what you are doing and I think many of us can learn a lot from it.

  2. Good question Z, I had the same question in mind after reading his post.

    I am still new to this whole studying of church stuff and I look at what Brant is doing with intrigue and also weariness. I do think that a lot of ways we have done “church” needs to change depending on the context of where you are and I think that a lot of traditional views of pastors are changing too. Such as pastors that do not go to seminary first then go into vocational ministry. As someone that is in vocational ministry and doing the whole seminary thing, I kind of lean towards the thought that a PHD or Seminary degree is not an absolute pre-req. for pastoral ministry.

    Good stuff to think about bro, good stuff!

    Los

  3. Brant’s response:

    Zach — Very respectfully, I actually don’t agree with your premise, that authority structures are an emphasis of the N.T. I think we can read them into the N.T., but to say it’s an emphasis — I don’t think so.

    After the apostles planted churches, they eventually came back and appointed elders. (So the churches existed without elders for awhile, for one thing.)

    We have Catholics saying there’s a very clear authority structure — Peter was named head of the church. But a whole lot of other people reading the N.T. don’t take it that way. It’s just not obvious. (Check out Acts 15, where there’s a BIG issue being settled, and normal people are allowed in the meeting, and Peter doesn’t seem at ALL like he’s heading things up.)

    I think there’s a lot of disagreement precisely because the N.T. is *not* terribly specific about the authority issue.

    I also think “authority” has to be re-interpreted. I think Jesus did a lot of that re-interpreting.

    I also don’t think that “authoritative teaching”, versus the kind of teaching that happens in our church, is an emphasis in the N.T.

    I’m being way too cursory with this, but I need to go watch T.V. with my wife…sorry about that…

  4. My response to Brant:

    Brant,

    Thanks for the response. I would still love to hear how the teaching goes down at your church and why you think that is supported Biblically.

    I agree that the Biblical definition of authority is very different than the world’s (servant, John 13)

    Let me cite a few texts:

    Matt 28 – Great Commission – Seems to me that authority is here being given to the apostles to “go and teach” as these first apostles were the first church planters. Do you think they they didn’t believe that they had some kind of special authority (I can support this more if you want)? Seems like church history testifies that most people thought they did have special authority since they hung with Jesus for three straight years.

    Don’t you think Paul felt that he had special teaching authority for the churches? 2 Cor. 10 seems to show this quite clearly. I would love to hear you interact with that text if you think I am wrong.

    2 Cor 13:10 – “For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”

    Paul exhorts Titus – Titus 2:15 – Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

    3 John 1:9 – I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

    1 Tim 5:17 – Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

    I just think it’s hard to make a case Biblically (I would love to hear one) for some kind of a teaching free for all. “Anyone who has a word, come and bring it!” I assume that is not how you run things, but you didn’t answer that one specifically.

    Please interact with these texts if you would like because they definitely seems to point to special authority within the church for those who teach. Simply the fact that we have actual letters written to churches by apostles seems to show this. They assume they had authority to write these letters and their authority was shown to exist as they were passed around the community.

    Thoughts?

  5. I haven’t read this guys blog other than the 2 posts mentioned here, but he seems well intentioned. However, after a couple of years reading and hearing different perspectives against the church, its just kinda worn out. I’m not really interested in the newest reason to ditch the church. I didn’t notice any specific reasons he gave for why he left the church, but I think I can at least offer some thoughtful responses to what he did say.

    1. All the things in his “one year later” post were just normal stuff that me or my friends already do – there’s nothing earthshaking about that. Its not really that profound to replace church with average christian socializing.

    2. All of the benevolence issues he brings up (having gift cards to give to those in need, helping the poor in other countries, etc.) are good ideas, ideas that my church and my friends are already involved in. If his church didn’t do those things, maybe he should have just found a better church.

    3. I noticed the same thing that Z mentioned above – who is the authority? If no one’s steering the boat, who’s watching out for the rocks? Krusty wrote: “T’s suggestion of merely asking, “What does God want His people to be doing?” is a great one. We start there. Not, in my opinion, with the power of tradition…” Ok. So you want to ditch tradition, but you’re wondering what God wants us to do? How about the bible? “Lets sit around and talk” just seems so shortsighted and self-centered. I know that there are different interpretations, but struggling together toward understanding is part of the joy of working this out in community.

    4. My final thought is that there is a prescribed church leadership in the scriptures and we can’t just ignore it and be faithful to what God is telling us in the bible. However your religious tradition lives out bishop, elder, overseer, shepherd, etc., they are still prescribed by Paul to Titus and Timothy. Paul wanted authorities in the churches who were established as leaders. Determining what these guys do and who establishes them is not within the scope of this comment, the point is that the offices are mentioned – multiple times within a few short letters – and we can’t just sweep them under the rug.

    Its easy to be misunderstood online where you can’t show your concern by the tone of your voice, but I want to be clear that I’m not annoyed or angry, just kinda burnt out on one more person leaving the church. It makes me sad.

    I’m reminded of a Derek Webb song that says, “you cannot care for me (Jesus) with no regard for her/ if you love me you will love the church.” The church is a seriously wounded institution, she needs our help, not just us walking out. I hope that God helps us all see how to go forward from here, and to do it humbly.

  6. Brant’s next response to me:

    Zach — I really recommend Viola/Barna’s book, because they take up the scriptures you have listed. I recommend this because it saves me a lot of additional typing. I do appreciate your points, and I’ve argued them in the past, to be honest. (I don’t mean that to imply I’ve matured out of believing that. I could be wrong NOW, of course…)

    The early churches did not begin with elders. Quite the opposite. They were recognized later by Paul, for example. I would say our gathering is in that early state.

    Is there a big emphasis on the office of elder in the N.T.? There are three instances of elders being publicly recognized: At Ephesus and Galatia, and Titus in instructed about them for Crete.

    I think there’s a real big emphasis on the Kingdom of God, and it’s corollary “Jesus is Lord”, in the N.T. But I also grew up hearing more about Correct Church Polity than about that stuff.

    There are no references to elders brought in from outside a church. They emerge from within an existing fellowship.

    There is no biblical office of “pastor”. There are people given pastoral gifts. There is no basis, in scripture, for a sacred profession in the church to be recognized as the authority.

    There IS, again, authoritative teaching in our church. You don’t have to do it lecture-style, folks. In fact, it’s arguably *more* authoritative, when the teaching comes from someone you know and respect, directed to you, in actual conversation.

    (Wondering what’s more authoritative to a man: A guy teaching, lecture-style, to a big group of men, women, and children, because he went to Bible College, or two or three men, sitting with you in your living room, saying, “Here’s what needs to happen…”)

    There is nothing more biblical about the first option. Nothing.

    What’s more, we all have something the early churches didn’t have: our very own Bibles.

    You write: “I just think it’s hard to make a case Biblically (I would love to hear one) for some kind of a teaching free for all. ‘Anyone who has a word, come and bring it!'”

    Not hard. It’s in Paul’s very explicit instructions for the Corinthians. He says “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, a word of instruction…” in I Cor 14.

    We don’t have a “free for all” in the least. Quite the opposite: If someone says something that’s opposed to scripture, it’s a sure thing someone will pipe up. This is in stark contrast to the churches I grew up in, where the instructor will go unchallenged, because it’s lecture-format. I watch TV preachers, in front of thousands, misuse scriptures without a peep from the crowd. That’s a free-for-all, though it meets someone’s idea of the authority test.

    Yes, the apostles were given authority. Your reference to Diotrephes may not bolster the idea of a person being considered the authoritative teacher in a church, though. He loved being a big-shot in his church, and tried to take over. Sadly, in my life, this rings familiar.

    Fact is, some people are gifted with leadership skills. People will follow them, for good or ill. In the church, these people must practice servanthood. The net effect will be the ethos of the entire group is changed, and made to look more like Christ. It’s not about ordination (which isn’t biblical, either.)

    If you’re worried about heresy, worry about large gatherings where one guy can smell some power and attention, and you can’t rebut him in public. That picture may meet the “authority” test, though.

  7. My next response to Brant:

    Brant,

    Viola’s book is on the list! I hope to blog through it when it comes.

    I was not inferring that your church was a teaching free for all, just wanted to hear how it goes down.

    Was not inferring either that you bring elders in from the outside. I agree that they should emerge from within. This for sure is the best picture.

    “There is no biblical office of “pastor”. There are people given pastoral gifts. There is no basis, in scripture, for a sacred profession in the church to be recognized as the authority.”

    Not really sure what you mean here, but my understanding is that the word “pastor” in the Greek is the same word as “elder”. That is why in our church only has elders that are called pastors or elders. Some are paid elders and some are lay elders, but we don’t have a Senior Pastor or anything… We don’t see that in the Bible. Pastor = elder and vice versa, thus we would say that there is a definite position of spiritual authority in the NT church and it would be elder/pastors. You cited the examples and those are enough for me to think that it’s important for us.

    “There IS, again, authoritative teaching in our church. You don’t have to do it lecture-style, folks. In fact, it’s arguably *more* authoritative, when the teaching comes from someone you know and respect, directed to you, in actual conversation.”

    I agree and have greatly experience this in my life. The qualification might be… what if the person speaking to you is a heretic, or doesn’t have a clue how to interpret the Bible correctly?

    “I watch TV preachers, in front of thousands, misuse scriptures without a peep from the crowd. That’s a free-for-all, though it meets someone’s idea of the authority test.”

    Great point, I agree, but I’m not sure that the abuse of a position by a few is warrant to throw out the position all together. At our church if our teaching pastor says something wack there are plenty of people who have the freedom to call him on it, namely the elders and anyone else who would want to chim in.

    “Not hard. It’s in Paul’s very explicit instructions for the Corinthians. He says “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, a word of instruction…” in I Cor 14.”

    You may have a point here, but we know for sure that Paul wanted it to be orderly and in accord with sound doctrine. From what I am hearing from you, you are striving for that and for that I am thankful.

    I grant you that there is very much grey when it comes to our ecclesiology and there are many that would erect idols about how we do church concerning things that are simply not present as laws in the Bible. There is a big difference between saying “we think this is a good idea for our church” and saying “this is what the Bible clearly teaches about ecclesiology!” The former is ok and I think we just need to be more honest about it when it comes to our forms. That Bible has given us this room I think.

    I honestly like what you are doing and would love to see how it continues to develop. I think I am ok with there being a big diversity to how church is play out in the Kingdom of God since there is so much grey. This is probably a good thing and there is much we can learn through dialogue with each other.

  8. Sorry to pop my head in so far into this discussion, but with preparations to move this week has been a little hectic. I wanted to comment on this discussion before it passed into the long lost world of blog archives and my comment was completely lost to pointlessness, though it might be pointless anyway. Also, because of my current schedule my comments will not be as thorough as I would like, so please forgive any incompleteness in my thoughts. My comment will also be a mixture of comments on liturgical practice and the authorial structuring of the church.

    Lastly, before I comment I will admit my seemingly crypto-Catholicism. I am bent towards a high church ecclesiology and therefore admit that I am not objective when it comes to ecclesiological issues. While saying this I do believe that my thoughts are gleaned from scripture not impressed upon them, which I hope to present to a lesser degree than is probably necessary.

    The exchanges that have been going on have been interesting to read and ponder, but I would say, though attempted, that there has been little truly historical sensitivity in the discussion. I don’t mean simply church history post Scriptural revelation, but within the canonical texts themselves. Though I am welcome to be corrected, there is a clear authorial structure presented in Scripture if the historical development of the NT is considered. I would argue that there is a clear development of ecclesiological thought, along with many other doctrines, from Christ’s ascension to the end of Revelation. If true this would mean, as I could argue further if necessary, that Acts is more a transitional book, or bridge, from Christ to the Church Age rather than a book revealing ecclesiological doctrine for the ages. Acts reveals the development of the church not its finished form.

    Everyone must accept that Elders did not always run the church, as is presented in Acts, because the church was lead by the Apostles. The fact that the Apostles lead the church does not dismiss the NT concentration on authorial leadership for the church but actually confirms it by establishing the authorities whom would present the developing authorial structure of the church as they died. This line of thought, which anyone can disagree with, raises the question, is there a difference in ecclesiological structuring as we proceed through the chronological revelation of the NT? I would certainly answer yes.

    (I must apologize for the incompleteness of the following points due to the lack of time that I have remaining before the UFC fight tonight)

    First, if the traditional authorial structure of the church was to continue on as it was under the Apostles there would be not need for the pastoral epistles, which are clearly establishing a development in the authorial structuring and practices of the church. Paul commands Timothy and Titus to enact a very specific church structure that is to help ensure the purity of the church.

    Second, the reality of a hierarchical structure of church leadership, as well as an ecclesiological development in the NT, is distinctly present in the Epistles of John, namely the Second and Third Epistles. In these two Epistles we see the battles over leadership that are occurring as a result of the Apostles dying. Leaders are attempting to lead the church astray. The elder flexes his authorial muscle, if you will, and intends for these church leaders and teachers to be completely removed. He then recognizes certain leaders for the church. Considering the context of III John it appears that the elder establishes Demetrius as one of these leaders. They can also be recognized by what they teach, these being specific men who are teaching. I wish I could go on further concerning these two Epistles but I will not. However, If one is going to reject the specific authorial structuring, not only of the local body, but the universal, that these books have to be specifically dealt with.

    Thirdly, the passage from I Corinthians used to defend a looser ecclesiological structure, I would argue, misses the historical context of the book, which from my understanding is one of the earliest Epistles written (if I am wrong on its chronological placement I apologize), and therefore, falls under the transitional structuring of church.

    Fourthly, concerning the development of church authority after Scriptural revelation or beginning with the Apostolic Fathers. It is clear from the beginning that the Apostolic Fathers began an authorial structure for the church, which carried forward into the later centuries of the early church. I would argue that the presence of hierarchal structuring in the church from the beginning is strong evidence for its presence in scripture. If one would prefer to stand on the classic argument that the early church almost immediately left sound doctrine I would ask you to prove such things not only from history, but also from common sense. To say that the church could almost immediately leave its established purity of doctrine, including ecclesiology, is seemingly a devastating revelation of God’s power in his church.

    Lastly, I would propose a question considering liturgical practice and the authorial structuring of the church: If Scripture commands a purity of doctrine, which we know it does, how could ecclesiology be so loosely presented that there is not a certainty of its practices and structuring? I am not saying that there is not to be a great amount of charity extended in our ecclesiology, but rather if we treated our ecclesiology more like our Trinitarianism we may be able to find more definitive lines in Scripture than the transient ecclesiology we are currently living with.

    At the end of this post I am sure that if anything has made sense everybody is glad that I was unable to expound on my thoughts. If it has made no sense than everyone is very glad that I was unable to expound on my thoughts. I am open to any critiques or criticisms of my thoughts. Lastly, for real, I would recommend reading the last chapter of Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology, which masterfully presents the structural beauty of liturgical practices. Also, I would highly recommend reading John Williamson Nevin on the early church and its ecclesiological developments.

  9. I said to Brant again:

    One more…

    What do you make of 1 Tim 3:1/Titus 1:7 – speaking directly about the “office of an overseer”?

    How do you make sense of Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

    How about 1 Tim 5:17 – Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

    Do these texts not assume that there is an authority structure in the church?

    Maybe my concerns (not that my concerns matter that much…) would be cleared up if I knew more explicitly how things went down at your church when it comes to teaching. If it’s not a “conversation” then how does it really and specifically go down? I guess I have not heard about that yet.

    My point = The Bible seems to imply (texts are ample in this comment thread) that teaching will come from some recognized authority or two or three or whatever, that will not be the same for everyone.

    Would you not admit that Paul was an uniquely authoritative teacher for the church? Would you not say the same of the apostles? Would you not say the same of the early church fathers?

  10. Brant said this:

    Zach — Good news! There are many ways to teach, besides lecture-style. (Actually, at least in a college lecture, you can raise your hand and ask a question.)

    But, since I was raised in church, I didn’t know of them either for some time.

    There’s something called an “apprenticeship” model. This is where you spend time with people, go places with people, do things with people, and they learn how to live. Jesus was known to employ this model. Perhaps this is “postmod”, since it’s not lecture-style, but I’m sure we both doubt it.

    There’s also a parental model. I don’t sacrifice absolute truth by not whipping out a pulpit when I teach my boy stuff. He respects me, as do some adults, and so I kinda have authority with them. Not “kinda”, actually. Really. The kind that comes not from a career move and a position, but you-can-see-my-life kind.

    There’s the Socratic method of teaching. I’ve employed it on occasion. Let’s people arrive at “their own” conclusions, but you know where it’s going, because you ask the right questions.

    There’s a related rabbinical approach, which involvede letting people speak and ask questions, and even asking questions of them. Jesus employed this, too.

    He did deliver talks to big groups of people, but not the same people every week in a lecture environment.

    There’s the shock-em style, too, where you do stuff to teach people because you know it will cause healthy cognitive dissonance3. Jesus used this with people who thought they knew all the right answers, and he blasted them right out of their proverbial boots. Even went out of his way to break their precious traditions, just to break their traditions, like when healed that one guy with mud and spit, directly in the face of rabbinical teaching not to. Very attention-getting and, I think, authoritative. Just not typical lecture style. Kinda dangerous, when you break with deeply-held traditions, but Jesus did it fairly routinely.

    He did tick off the people of the book, but I like his style, and other people liked him a lot.

    Those are a few options. They may not be deemed “authoritative” in some churches, but I’m okay with that.

    And yeah, I employ these at various times with people. I use the “shock ’em” style sometimes on this blog, even. Seems to tick off the right people, to be honest. I really like Jesus a LOT.

  11. I said back to Brant:

    Brant,

    Good thoughts. I have no problem with what you say about the forms of teaching. Sounds pretty biblical to me. Maybe I gave this impression, but I don’t think I ever said lecture style was the only way to teach in the church. (I think we might be talking past each other). My issue that I am trying to raise is one of authority in the church when it comes to the teaching of God’s word.

    Does the church needs to operate under some sort of consistent and recognized authority from certain individual(s) that is distinct from others in the congregation? (Elders)

    My answer is “yes”, but I have not heard about this from you. I (and others) have raised significant Bible texts concerning this and I guess I have not heard you interact with them. Do we not agree that the Bible has to set the agenda for our ecclesiology?

    This was my initial question with what you are doing (not that you or anyone else should care), but you said you would answer questions so I thought I would just put it out there.

    Would still love to hear how the teaching goes down and in what sense there is any sort of authority associated with teaching the Bible.

  12. Brant replied:

    A lot of people have asked me specific questions, via email, about how our church works. I’m more interested in answering those, to be honest, then to go argue the Bible with people who aren’t going to agree. I’m sorry. But I’ll do it in time, I promise. Maybe tomorrow.

    Meantime: It would be *great* to have you and Christopher discuss whether a church is not a church without a formalized membership program and excommunication policy. He says it’s clear in the Bible. I Corinthians 5, you know.

    I’m entirely uninterested in justifying our gathering as a church to anyone. Seriously. And, what’s more, uninterested in whether or not someone deems our teaching authoritative or not. But I’d say we have teaching the forms I’ve listed above, so that should answer the question, I hope, regarding how our teaching goes down.

    Once again, and again, leaders are quite necessary. Early churches did not start with them, and ours hasn’t either. It would be bizarre to address them and say, “No one can teach here,” when there are obviously people gifted, willing, and, in fact, doing it. I’m honestly not sure what the point here is. Are valid teachers only ones in churches that start with officially recognized elders…? How’s that even possible? Fact is, we have people who are older believers, mature in faith, with experience and a heart for people, plus giftings to teach, and they do.

    I find this bizarre, to be honest. I “preached” this morning in front of 500 people, as I do fairly regularly, and no one questions my teaching authority. The Pastor is a guy who started a Bible study, and it grew. Perhaps my teaching this morning was authoritative, but this afternoon’s wasn’t.

    Ahh…rulemaking.

  13. I replied back to Brant:

    I don’t think you have to justify your church to me either, but you said you would answer questions so I am bringing the first one that popped into my head. I guess that discussion led us to specifics about your church teaching.

    You said:
    “then to go argue the Bible with people who aren’t going to agree”

    Sorry to hear about your pessimism here. I honestly don’t think I have all the answers when it comes to the Bible (and I know you don’t either) so I greatly enjoy discussing it. Not to flaunt knowledge but to learn. I do think I can learn some things from you. You have experience that I don’t have and perhaps vice versa… Perhaps the more we talk the more we could learn if we stay humble.

    I never said your church didn’t have good teaching, just wondering about it and how it went down. But if we can’t talk Bible here specifically that is cool. Probably too much typing for one sitting anyway!

    To answer your question about church disciple….(I am less dogmatic about membership, but I do think it’s a good idea, even though it is not explicitly Biblical, as we both know we can have lots of “good ideas” that are not explicitly Biblical when it comes to our ecclesiology)…back to discipline.

    So with the passages that describe it in the NT… Would you say those are prescriptive or descriptive? Well, we have to say they are for sure descriptive right? Does that lead to prescription? Not sure about that. I think it might lead us to wise practice.

    Here is what John Calvin said about church discipline on why we should do it:

    1. For the Glory of God – if he gives it in his word in different contexts we can know that he desires it.

    2. For the health of the whole body of the church.

    3. For the good of the offender.

    Now this is not an argument from the Bible, it’s from Big John C., thus does not have the same authority, but at least I think it shows that it might be a really good idea! Can I say that church discipline is explicitly Biblical as a mark of a true church (like the Reformers did)? Not sure I can say that yet, but again, is it not a good idea?

    Said another way… Clearly seems like Paul exhorted the early church to practice some sort of church discipline when sin was present. Why would we not want to practice it for the reasons above? Seems like just good wisdom! How that goes down at your church may be different from ours, but from what I have already read about your church it seems like you are already doing it, or are willing to anyway.

    Do you have to have a program for it to be a true church? Well… Not sure who can answer that, but again, seems like a pretty good idea to me.

    Make sense?

  14. Z –
    thanks for starting this thread. This whole topic, to me, is highly interesting. In large part because the “church,” at least here in the west, is so institutionalized. We can’t picture a church apart from buildings, lots of written documents (like constitutions and by-laws, which no one reads), mission statements (which usually cannot be quoted by anyone in the church verbatim), programs, etc.

    I tried my hand at writing a book two years ago not so much about this topic but our faulty equation that “preaching = sermon.” Had bites from two publishers but it never made it to final acceptance, just interest on the part of one editor.

    Below are my opening two paragraphs:

    There is a movement underfoot to challenge the equation “preaching = sermons.” I say “underfoot” because it is small in stature, and at present only a minor hindrance as the Protestant church continues its march, begun in the Reformation, to the tune of the sermon. There are few things that Christians worldwide have in common in terms of the structure and “ethos,” or feel, of a worship service. But the one assumed element, one that crosses so many cultures and continents of east and west, indeed the focal point of most services, is the sermon. We can rename it to a “talk” or “message,” dress the speaker down in casual clothes, replace the pulpit with a music stand or remove it altogether, but the core of a church service is the sermon.
    This new movement challenges the Stoic march of sermonizing with two questions. First, is the equation “preaching = sermons” biblical? And second, are sermons, in our day, an effective method to promote learning and life-change among those listening? [END OF QUOTE]

    Much of the book was biblical theology, to show in gospels, Acts, and epistles that preaching in the NT does not equal what we call a sermon.

    But I think its also great food for discussion to look at what constitutes a church in the NT. Certainly we’d agree it doesn’t have have a building, or doesn’t have to be a certain size. Or even that it doesn’t have to have a constitution or be incorporated. Questions that are not quickly answered, but probably also a “yes”: Could a church not have a (commercial-type) building, whether owned or leased (in other words, meet in homes)? Could Lord’s Supper be done in homes (if by an elder)? Could a local church meet in various homes and locations, and then from time to time meet all together? Could preaching be done without any sermons at all? Can liturgy and structure be developed in a home setting?

    To me the answer to all these is “yes.” Though like many of you, I’m not at all a fan of the contemporary, emerging, attractional movement (I was a part of it from the inside for 14 years). To me such movements lead to (1) not only a non-caring, but even a distaste, for all things “tradition” (hence the motto “deeds not creeds” whereas many of us would say “deeds based on creeds” or “deeds *and* creeds” or something similar); and (2) often a neglect of doctrine and biblical theology.

    But … what we can learn from emerging churches is still vast, in the methodological areas, in how they challenge what are often assumptions in so many churches (of all stripes).

    To think about a church that collects no money at all (and thus a “member” could give 10% or more directly to the poor, unreached people groups, Bible translations, etc.), is a pretty neat idea! I guess I’d be out of a job quickly if Desert Springs ever went that way, so I’m not saying that’s the only way to do church here in the west. I’m just saying that its fascinating to ponder, and may be just the kind of thinking we should encourage.

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