Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peeking Into An Assembly of First-Century Churches of Christ

This is a second excerpt from The Churches of the First Century by Jeff Reed.

Part One explained how the evening meal, or Lord's Supper, was the centerpiece of Christian assemblies for the first 300 years of the church, before Constantine legalized Christianity and began to build basilicas for church assemblies.

The basilicas (today associated with Roman Catholicism) were the public, government buildings during the era of the Roman Empire. Before Christians began meeting in basilicas, or church buildings, as we know them today, Christians met in homes.

Reed's main thesis is to show:

"There is a connection between the spontaneous expansion of the Early Church and the simple gathering together of communities of believers on the first day of every week in homes/tenements around an evening meal, celebrating their new life in Christ."

This second excerpt explains the role and style of "teaching and preaching" during the Christian assemblies centered around the evening meal.

Reed continues:

"Teaching and preaching were also quite central to these small, simple meetings but took on an informal form with a strong dialogical component, which was more inviting to the inquiring mind and more effective... than a more formal oratory form."

Speaking of a revelation from personal experience, Reed writes:
"Over a decade ago, I remember comments from many individuals...They said this was the first time they had really understood these issues... I had exposited almost all of these passages, and yet until they were involved in personal study and serious dialogue on these issues, they did not internalize the truths... The plan became creating a discussion in the church that could be discussed in smaller groups and a focus on equipping more than just expositing verse by verse. Yet, I did not go nearly far enough as you will see as we peer into the practices of preaching and teaching in the small churches of the first century. I am increasingly convinced that the sermon should not be central to our assembly meetings. It probably should not even exist as we know it, but the role of skilled teachers in and among a city of churches is vital."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Churches of the First Century by Jeff Reed: Part One

Jeff Reed writes,

“…The West must rediscover its roots and get back to the way of Christ and His Apostles. Yet it is hard to see our way back. It is hard to see through our traditions and institutionalization to see clearly what is actually there in Acts, the Epistles, and the early church…”

“…It is very important for us to look closely and carefully at this early church to discover its success. We must understand why these churches were so strong and the secret of why they so successfully multiplied across the Roman Empire until they turned the entire world of that day upside down.”

“The simplicity of the churches and the complexity of their movement are hard to see today, because we are blinded by the clutter of our ways: our institutions, our traditions, and even our expectations of what it means to go to church... Let‘s turn our attention to these small groups that gathered together weekly, called churches.”

“By small, simple gatherings, I mean small, simple meetings of new believers that were called churches: simple, met in homes, on the first day of every week, around an evening meal, celebrating their new life, inviting friends, coworkers, relatives, etc. They all looked like this. And they multiplied around the world…”

“The church began meeting in Acts 2 where we see the church meeting together around four key elements: the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (cf. v. 42). Once the church was scattered and churches began multiplying around the Empire, that practice shifted to breaking bread on the first day of the week in small communities called churches (Acts 20:7-11).”

“They were devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (4 elements). The Lord added to their numbers. For the next 300 years these small church communities, meeting in homes, multiplied around the world.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Leadership in the Church: Consensus & How It Works: An Excerpt from Reimagining Church

Ilustration by Judith Clingan
"The Trinity understood in human terms as a communion of Persons lays the foundation for a society of brothers and sisters, of equals, in which dialogue and consensus are the basic constituents of living together... in the church." --Leo Boff

"It would serve us well to ask why the NT gives so little airplay to elders. The oft ignored reason may be surprising to institutional ears: the bulk of responsibility for pastoral care, teaching, and ministry in the ekklesia rests squarely upon the shoulders of all the brothers and sisters." --F. Viola

I made a notation of the date and time when I read chapter ten of Reimagining Church for the first time back on "5-29-2010, 9:11 a.m." I didn't realize it had been three years...Wow. I thought an excerpt from Frank Viola's book would be a good follow up to my article My Arguments for Elder-led Consensus. What exactly is consensus and will it work?

The two most important suggestions that I can make to anyone reading this is to view Christianity as non-institutional as possible. And by that I mean to look at your work, daily-family life, relationships with others, etc. as "spiritual." And not to look at going to church as separate from the rest of life, and preachers and elders as in positions of authority over you. The second is to recognize the "matters of expediency" [pragmatism, convenience] hermeneutic. Where does God say that He wants us to live Christianity "expediently?" The NT teaches unity, love, agreement, etc. but these are not "expedient" matters. They are difficult, but they are worth it.


Frank Viola writes:

"Ministerial responsibility is never to be closeted among the few. This explains why the word adelphoi, translated 'brethren,' appears 346 times in the New Testament. It appears 134 times in Paul's epistles alone. In most places, this word is Paul's shorthand way of referring to all the believers in the church--both women and men. By contrast, the word 'elders' appears only five times in Paul's letters. 'Overseers' appears only four times. And 'pastors' appears only once."

"The stress of the NT then is upon corporate responsibility. It's the believing community that is called to carry out pastoral functions. To be more specific, all the Christians in a local assembly are called to: 'be devoted to one another' (Rom. 12:10); 'honor one another' (12:10); 'live in harmony with one another' (12:16); 'love one another' (13:8); 'edify one another' (1 Thess. 5:11b); 'accept one another' (Rom. 15:7); 'instruct one another' (15:14); 'greet one another' (16:16); 'discipline fallen members' (1 Cor. 5:3-5; 6:1-6); 'organize the church's affairs' (1 Cor. 14:29-34); 'care for one another' (1 Cor. 12:25); 'abound in the work of the Lord' (1 Cor 15:58); 'serve one another' (Gal. 5:13); 'bear one another's burdens' (6:2); 'be kind and compassionate to one another' (Eph. 4:32); 'speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs' (5:19); 'submit to one another' (5:21); 'teach one another' (Col. 3:16); 'admonish one another' (3:16); 'encourage one another' (1 Thes. 5:11); 'warn the unruly' (5:14); 'comfort the feeble and support the weak' (5:14); 'incite one another to love and good works' (Heb. 10:24); 'pray for one another' (Jas. 5:16); 'confess sins to one another' (1 Pet. 4:9); 'be humble toward one another' (1 Pet. 5:5); 'fellowhip with one another' (1 John 1:7)..."

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Arguments For Elder-Led Consensus in Acts 15

I would like to provide my reasons for believing that private elders meetings designed to make decisions for other Christians have no basis in Scripture. 

I firmly believe that Acts 15:6 which states: "The apostles and elders met to consider this question," and Acts 16:4 which states: "The decisions reached by the apostles and elders," do not mean that 'elders meet privately' nor that 'they decide for everyone.'

By argument I mean: "a discussion involving differing points of view; debate; a series of reasons; a statement or fact for or against a point; and/or a composition intended to convince or persuade; persuasive discourse."

Perhaps others can publish their arguments for everyone's consideration. 

"Discourse/dialogue" (Acts 20:7) is not permitted in the institutional assemblies of churches of Christ with which I am most familiar, mainly because of the 'position of gospel preacher.' [See Footnote].

Nevertheless, since today's system is what it is, I must resort to publishing my part of the discourse and discussion online, because oversight is popularly viewed as "control of what is taught" and not "guiding or leading" a reasonable, orderly discussion. 

I believe that the passage commonly known as the "Jerusalem Council" occurs in the presence of the church. I believe decisions are reached with the consensus of the entire church--not privately by a few Christian leaders such as elders or in men's business meetings. I believe that the decisions were not reached by elders for everyone to be later announced to the church.

Friday, August 9, 2013

An Excerpt from Bankruptcy of Our Nation by Jerry Robinson: Brief History of Oil, America & The Church's Response

"There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know."--Harry Truman

“History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives."—Abba Eban

“History never seems like history when you are living through it. Yet, together, we are witnessing the end of an age — we are living at the end of an empire.”—J. Robinson

Jerry Robinson writes,

"The Evolution of Energy Since 1700"

"Despite its increasing global demand, oil has not always been the world's most important energy source as it is today. In his book American Theocracy, author Kevin Phillips provides an illuminating look at the evolution of energy supplies over the last several centuries."

"Phillips writes about the world's various energy leaders of recent memory and begins in the 17th century with Holland. Thanks to Dutch ingenuity, they were able to harness enormous amounts of energy supplies from three basic sources: wood, water, and wind. As the global leader of energy, Amsterdam soon became the center of commerce and finance and boasted the largest share of world trade. And their navy fleets dominated the sea lanes from Holland to Asia."

"By the mid-18th century, Great Britain began rising in energy dominance, thanks to the discovery of coal-fired energy. As Britain began to harness the power of refined coal, it soon led to the creation of steam power (which would later give rise to the internal combustion engine). These early discoveries, including the development of iron-making, gave rise to what historians refer to as the Industrial Revolution."

"During this same time, Holland's energy influence began to wane as the new center of global power began to shift toward Great Britain. Put simply, the Dutch windmills could not compete with the efficiency of British coal-fired energy. As the British continued their massive investment in coal, a second industrial revolution began occurring near the end of the 19th century. During this new era, the focus moved from the steam engine, iron, and coal to the internal combustion engine, steel, and petroleum-based energy. Leading the charge of this new energy source was none other than the United States."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

5 Reasons Why Churches of Christ Are Not "The Church You Read About in the Bible"

A linchpin is a person or thing vital to an organization. Vitality is life. Without linchpins organizational life pulls apart.

The linchpins that hold together the organizational or institutional churches of Christ are centered more around things than people. This is why the church building, pulpit, and official positions, etc. are revered as the most important (necessary expedients) to a church's life.

The organization (something greater than yourself we are told) is more important than you and everybody else for that matter.

Ironically, this Industrial Age viewpoint in churches of Christ sacrifices the very people who the NT says is 'the church.' What is left is a veneered organization claiming to be the church that eats its young.

Veneer Churches of Christ (like most Western Churches) cover or disguise the true nature of the church you read about in the NT with an attractive appearance that does not actually help the Body of Christ, but serves the few competing to be heads of it.

When things (steps, acts, offices, positions) instead of the people are the linchpins of churches, this veneer must remain at all costs for it to hold together whether the actual people who are its substance do or not. The people are replaceable cogs in a machine supporting the linchpins. Some linchpins are more important than others, but below are what I believe are the main linchpins in order of importance and my reasons for why they need to be pulled.

The primary reaction by the status quo is to dismiss and demonize anything and everything that challenges its truthfulness.

As Noam Chomsky said,

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." I challenge that allowed spectrum.

Recently, I learned the mission of The Emerging Church,

According to Wikipedia:
The emerging church is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that crosses a number of theological boundaries… Some attend local independent churches or house churches while others worship in traditional Christian denominations. Proponents believe the movement transcends such modernist labels of "conservative" and "liberal," calling the movement a "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue… What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community.
The churches of Christ that I am familiar with would oppose TEC because it removes so many linchpins needed to survive. While I was pleasantly surprised to see many characteristics I agree with and were actually present in the first century church, my main purpose is to show that the churches of Christ today are not who they claim to be to the exclusion of all others. In fact, I am more "conservative" than they are if I must use that cultural term with my view of the first century church.