This post looking at institutions in general and then applying it back to the church.
Comment on Deep Church Blog
I agree with Dave in his reaction against institutions, and only because of what many institutions are simply nothing more than a large community of people all benefiting a few people at the top, and all of them following a few people at the top. Unless that is God at the top (which we would all want to claim to) then I don’t see it happening.
However, if we could have institutions that existed for the people at the bottom, well then , now you are talking. The conference I am at this weekend is a perfect example. It’s open source, and there is no top or bottom. Everyone has a role, developer, user, raper (those that make a killing of the product they didn’t make) etc. All of them love each other and wouldn’t exist without one another. An institution like this I am for. I’m not freaked out by specialization like Dave seems to be, I think its OK to focus in on one or two things you are good at and kick some ass, I can’t honestly expect to learn all the skills and be good at everything. What’s the point of community.
Here is my fear Dave, is that if we throw out institutions all together, then eventually we throw out community, because in a way its very much an institution, but it doesn’t exist for its top members but it exists for everyone inside it and more importantly for a purpose outside itself. You’re view eventually leads you to solidarity with yourself and dependence on no one.
Dom, the institution that you would pull for (my guess you would be much more closer to a pope/bishop type institution, correct me if I’m wrong) I think is ridiculous and is exactly why many people are bunking the entire institutional model. To many people at the top, who are people just like us, fall because they are higher up and not on equal level with everyone else. No man should be on top with control and power unless it’s Jesus, which again, I just don’t buy it if someone says that they themselves or someone else has been put in a position of power by God over his body.
A little snippet of a post on Rob McAlpine’s blog:
Why I am house-church/emerging-church
Within a broad generalization, it can be argued that emerging churches fall into two types (with many permutation between the two poles):
1. House churches which further subdivide into (A) intentional missional communities of faith, and (B) healing communities for those needing to detox from church for a season, and
2. Emerging churches, which may include (and often do) a house/cell component, …
From a post by the internet monk.
I love this passage of scripture. I don’t know why know one believes it, but I love it.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
Let me attempt a slight retelling of the text, more in line with the Christianity of our time.
But we have this treasure in saved, healed, delivered and supernaturally changed vessels, to show that God has given to us, right now, His surpassing power over ever situation. We are no longer afflicted, perplexed, in conflict or defeated. No, we are alive with the power of Jesus, and the resurrection power of Jesus has changed us now…TODAY! In every way!. God wants you to see just what a Jesus-controlled person is all about, so the power of Jesus is on display in the life I am living, and those who don’t have this life, are miserable and dying.
Contextual concerns aside, let’s read Paul’s words as a basic “reality board” to the Christian life.
read more …
A post found on realmealministries.org
What does a missional leader do?
I have always been drawn to the concise yet profound definition by John Maxwell-”Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.” Influence is a potent term. It captures the essence of leadership. Influence is the ability to persuade or move people or institutions to adopt a certain course of action or to believe certain things to be true. It is also, as Erwin McManus suggests, the ability to change the things that a person cares about.
“Missional expression can grow out of the current church, but it is not limited the the current church. The missional agenda literally just requires that Jesus followers live missionally. People currently immersed in nonmissional religious church systems can begin to practice missional Christianity. Some are keeping their church membership or even their leadership roles while they are making the transition. Some do not choose that path. They are creating other ways of living their faith, some in missional communities and others in marketplace expression. Some serve as missionaries to the church as part of the wooing strategy of God. While those prophetic messengers are often viewed as threatening (to those who should be threatened), they are another sign of God’s grace in restoring his people to their rightful covenantal relationship with him and his intention to continue working through his church to prosecute his redemptive mission in the world.
McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the CHURCH. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009. p. 38″
To those of you who have chosen the marketplace route – Blessings and peace. Do not let the institution discourage you. Keep doing what you have been called to do and pray for the rest of us.
To those in the institution: Please do not think that the fact that some may leave and pursue missional practices in a non institutional manner is an inditement against you. If anything it is against the broken system. As such, pray for them as the fore runners they are!
There is a three pronged impact on Christianity evident in today’s society. They are distinct and yet overlapping. They have to do with structure and form, purpose, and theology.
House Church/ Un-Church
If any of you reading this have followed any of my notes, you will know that this is a hot topic. The Barna research group have said that we are in a time of migration out of the institutional church into a more organic form of Christianity.
1) Leadership Hierarchy is flattening out; the clergy/ laity split is dissolving.
2) Believer gatherings are becoming smaller, and though some house churches are mere duplications of the institutional church, many others are taking open participation to a new level.
Un-Churched people, on the other hand, believe that community just happens. It does not need human organization, rather God is responsible for guiding the believer into relationships that He wants the believers to develop – be it with other believers or non-believers. The emphasis for these people is to remain in Christ and to be obedient to His daily leading.
Of course there is the possibility of losing contact with some Christian fellowship, but the fellowship that does occur is claimed to be deeper and have more meaning then the average Christian fellowship within the institution. My caveat is that in the new testament, the letters were written to the whole body and individual believers were addresses through the body. My caveat is not just to the un-churched believer but the the institution. Communication has been greatly enhanced in the information age so the un-churched believer will know what God is doing in the greater community. But the greater community may not include house churches or the un-churched in their mindset of the Body.
Missional vs Attractional Movement
Missional vs Attractional is far more than just ministry emphasis. They are ways of being.
Attractional: the goal of attractional is to get the un-believers into christian community. It is a ‘come to us’ mentality.
Missional: living an incarnational life. Our Christianity is lived out in the world.
Scenario 1: Coffee Shop Ministry
An attractional church will create a coffee shop, either in the church building or in another facility, in order to minister to unbelievers. Even if they have a coffee shop in a public facility, for the period of time that they are doing the coffee shop ministry, they convert the public space into a sacred space. Even in the most benign environment, they are still either excepting the people to come to them to be ministered, or they enter the unbelievers space to strike up conversations in order to get the person to come back to the believers space.
Missional believers would not have their own coffee shop, they would attend an unbeliever’s coffee shop. They do not go with the agenda of planting seeds to get the nonbeliever to come back to the Christian’s space but to bless and serve. They are witnesses. As such they live Christ and let the Holy Spirit work His purpose in the lives of the non-believer. This in no way means that there is no talk about God stuff, but it comes through relationship and by the invitation of the unbeliever and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Scenario 2: Soup Kitchen
The attractional model of the soup kitchen is to build one yourself, or to have your church take over serving at a local one. The missional response would be to only work at one that already exists, preferably one not run by a Christian organization, and only go in small numbers. This spreads out the influence – instead of a team of ten taking over once a week, teams of two go out and therefore there is the influence there five days a week.
The idea of being missional is like a virus that spreads throughout the community rather than being like a caner that is more noticeable because the cells stick together.
Here are two of the best videos on missional teaching that I have heard:
The idea here is that theology is worked out in every generation and is formed for that generation according the their context.
-Paul’s theology was the result of working out the Jewish message in a gentile context.
– Augustine’s theology is a result of his struggle to balance Neo-Platonism with his conversion to Christianity.
– Since the time of Augustine, theologians have taken the greco-roman god of Christianity and reinterpreted this in their context. So Calvin and Luther took Augistinian theology and translated it for their context.
As a result of Augustine’s struggle and the resultant struggle in the middle ages to marry greco-roman philosophies with Christianity, our current theologies are heavily reliant on a non Hebraic philosophical system. The emerging theologians today are wrestling with what this means for our understanding about God. This is not to say that Augustine’s theology should be nonchalantly discarded, but it needs to be understood within the context of the neo-Platonism that is was formed.
The Greek philosophy of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates viewed God as an abstract force that lived apart from humanity in a state of divine purity. The Hebrews viewed God as One who got his hands dirty. He is a creator God very much tied to His creation and His creation tied to him. He was an active and present God not a god removed from the concerns of humanity. This God lived in the midst of his people not out there somewhere.
There is a large number of theologians, and if you have any thought about God you can consider yourself a theologian, that hold to the idea that theology is not static by dynamic. We can only understand God through our own human wisdom and understanding. And so, as human wisdom and understanding changes, our understanding about God must change. Some truths are not universal but cultural. Other truths are grounded firmly in God, but as God is so big, from our human perspective those truths seem to move and we have to wrestle what it means to us today.
There are other grand approaches to theology, that to our greco-roman saturated understanding deems to be heretical:
God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion.
The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will.
Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.
Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God.
All that I can honestly say about such theologies is that they may be closer to the ancient Hebraic concepts of God. I have not studied these ideas much and what I have read have challenged my current beliefs.
My theology has changed greatly in the last year or so. The change that has had the greatest effect on my life is that of the atonement. I no longer hold to the idea of substitution atonement. My views on ‘original sin’ [a neo-Platonism ‘doctrine’ incorporated into Christian doctrine by Augustine], nature of man, work of atonement came to a more harmonious view with in the love of God after many months of wrestling and inner turmoil. I realize that this puts me outside of the ‘orthodox’ of the evangelical and charismatic flavours of Christendom, but my views are in no way un-orthodox with much of church history.
I leave you with a quote from one last video that I feel sums up the attitude of much of the desire of wrestling with God in regards to theology.
“You don’t experience birth, birth is what allows you to experience.
I don’t experience life, its life that allows me to experience.
I don’t see the light in this room, it is the light that allows me to see.
in the same way
Christianity is not something that you can grasp, its what changes how you grasp everything.
So God doesn’t enter the world as an object that I can talk about, God is what changes how I interact with all objects,
God is that which transforms my experience, so that I become like Christ.
So that mean that I can not talk about God and pin him down absolutely, I can use some words, But God is somebody who makes me look like Christ and act like Christ”
This list in it’s original unedited format is found in a blog post called Values of Organic Christianity.
The Kingdom of God
- Emphasis as Christians should be on building the kingdom, not a church, or even “The Church.”
- Allegiance within groups and networks is to the King, not to the leadership within those groups and networks.
- Ministry should be allowed to flow naturally, both during any gathering and in everyday life. It should not be viewed as an event that must be scheduled, but one that occurs as directed by the Holy Spirit.
- Ministry is the right and function of all believers, not of a select class or group and certainly not the exclusive function of the leadership.
Leadership and Accountability
- Leadership within each group of believers and across the wider networks should be recognized and based on character and their example rather than a title or office.
- The primary purpose of leadership is to promote the spiritual growth of each believer so that every believer’s ministry to others can be stronger and more effective.
- Leadership is fluid, overlapping and never exclusive.
- Accountability, pastoring, teaching and encouraging should happen naturally as a result of the relationships between believers, not because of a specific job description of those with the proper ministry “credentials.”
- Structure, organization and hierarchy needs to be limited to however much is needed to accomplish a specific task or mission and then be dissolved afterwards.
- Teaching should be facilitated in the context of discussion and dialogue. Dissent and disagreement should be allowed.
- Programs should be de-emphasized and replaced with a dependency on the “behind-the-scenes” working of the Holy Spirit through obedient believers.
- Programs that exist should be temporary for single or special events. Generic programs are less effective then specific ones.
[Take a food bank for example. Setting up a food bank does a number of things. It separates individuals from responsibility of getting their hands dirty actually helping flesh and blood. I drop off canned goods every other week and I can check off helping the hungry. If the food bank were to end, we could help real needs of real people as they come to us for aid. Leaders could then take the opportunity to lead by example by getting together shoulder to shoulder with a weaker brother and getting their hands dirty and meeting a real need. ]
- Quality rather than quantity should be used as a determination of success.
- Gatherings should be allowed to be preempted in favor of activities that satisfy Christian responsibilities to the poor and needy, both domestically and globally.
Finances and Giving
- Expenses of single-purpose buildings for use by the church should be foregone in favor of simpler gathering spots, such as homes, offices, restaurants or any places not requiring regular rent payments.
- Expenses to support staff for the purpose of ministry should be minimized in favor of volunteers and/or simpler programs.
- Believers should be encouraged to give of their time and monetary resources, both collectively and individually, to those activities advocated by Christ, such as meeting the needs of poor and persecuted believers and the weaker, needier members of society.
- Tithing is old covenant and should be foregone in favor of the new covenant sacrificial giving. Tithing is a necessary evil that re-arose as a result of the new covenant believers depending more and more on expensive structural facilities and structured programs rather then on the Holy Spirit.
Dissolution of Denominational Distinctives
- Belief in Christ as the Son of God should form the foundation for unity rather than mental conformity to a set of doctrines. Agreement and conformity should not be prerequisites for acceptance into a group or networks of believers.
“Truth is unkillable.” – Balthasar Hübmaier, a flaming heretic in 1528.