Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Christianity: Much More than a Meeting

One of the biggest challenges we face in the organic setting is overcoming the "meeting mindset".  For many people, the expression of Christianity has always been largely defined and expressed by the "Sunday meeting".  This warped non-Kingdom mindset is also often simply transferred over into the house church setting. 

Neil Cole does a great job of tackling this issue in his book "Organic Leadership".   I've chosen a couple of excerpts from Chapter 3, Pharasaism Today.  The first is from the sub-heading, "The Leaders Must Lead the Way", taking on the so-called pastor/laity divide:

"My friend John White once said "My aim is not to do away with the clergy. I want to do away with the laity and make everyone a priest before God!"  Clergy people need to take the first step; usually the laity will not. But the problem is that when people hold positions of power, they want to hold onto them to protect themselves. So they use their power to maintain their position. This is a vicious circle that prolongs an unhealthy environment."

"People who are in positions of power stand to lose much if the church reverts back to the way it was meant to be. Just as Rome was threatened by Luther, many will lose their honored status and monopolized power if we give the reign of God's kingdom its rightful place in the lives of his subjects.

Unfortunately, those who are in a position to make changes are those who will be the least motivated to do so and this perpetuates the power struggle. If we are to turn things around, leaders must be willing to sacrifice power, prestige, and perhaps even profession, all for the sake of the kingdom of God.

I am not suggesting that we simply eliminate a Sunday morning service in a church building and meet instead in a home. All the arguments of this chapter can be applied to a house church gathering. The point is that church is shared life together, not an event, no matter how good the event is, whether a traditional worship service or a house church gathering.  If we place importance on the event at the expense of shared life together, we have missed the point entirely."

Later, Neil Cole speaks of "A Stark Contrast of Powers":

"The religious leaders Jesus confronted were much like the Roman Catholic authorities Martin Luther confronted with his 95 Theses.  They were leaders who were invested in the programs of the institution, and likewise, the institution invested power in them. In each case, because they were the protectors of doctrine, they were threatened by any who would challenge the status quo and allow ordinary people the authority of God's Word.

Jesus confronted these people with another kind of power. Luther also unleashed a force that threatened the established institution. In a sense there was a clash of powers. But the unleashed power of God's kingdom is far superior to any other, and this increases the fear of those who are part of the institution.

If you think you have authority because the system grants you position, you have not yet tasted true power. True power cannot be contained by programs, organizations, or human systems. It is found in God's own voice and presence.

I often mention that Martin Luther had two important goals for his life. They were to translate the Scriptures into the common language of the everyday man, and to compile a hymnal of praise songs for the people to sing. He said of these two ambitions: "Set them loose and the flame will spread on its own.". That flame can be an unstoppable force consuming darkness and leaving transformation in its path in ways that our traditions and programs can never do. I believe we have yet to see the true unbridled power of the kingdom of God because we have been too satisfied for far too long with lesser power.

As leaders, we must decide if we will hold on to the Scriptures or let them loose. Will we continue to oblige our people to look to us as the only ones who truly understand God's Word?


Stephen Crosby said...

Hi Vince,

Had a pleasant surprise in OH. One meeting had the most healthy "charismatic Body ministry" than I have seen in a long, long time. It was baby stuff, but healthy baby stuff.

Anonymous said...

+The point made that "Church is a shared life together, not an event, no matter how good that event is." Is making more sense to me now. I do think we get caught up in the mindset of: we must do this or we must do that everytime we get together and we are missing the point of fellowship and building relationships. I recently had a social gathering at my house and it went really well. We were able to connect on a level we havn't before because we didn't have any preconceived notions about the gathering. Thanks for the insight! Suzane Monet-Wooten