Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Social Evolution and the Church

One of the most prominent distinctives of 21th century American culture is our rugged individualism. Our relative wealth and political freedom has given us the luxury of having to rely little on others. Give me a cell phone and a Visa card and I can accomplish the impossible! This attitude has permeated nearly every aspect of American life, the church being no exception.

As a result we have stratified our social interactions. We have our church friends, our work friends, friends from the gym, and friends from our children's activities. Then it seems we try as much as possible to segregate each group. Our lives are arranged around our life's "programs", and we dare not try to mix them. Why is this so?

This paradigm for social interaction and daily living stands in stark contrast to 1st century Palestine. The cultural fabric of that time was interwoven; religious life, rather in Judaism or early Christianity was integrated with secular life. We see a history of interdependence, not independence. Community was vital as opposed to optional.

Do we as a society embrace our social evolution or do we just accept it? What effect does this have on the Church? Should we try to change anything? If so, what?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New Testament Church

Well, I've been searching for the New Testament church and I found her. I think. Maybe. Perhaps. However, you will need a time machine to find her. Or a Bible. She is firmly embedded in the time and culture of the 1st century. I just do not believe it is possible to re-create the New Testament church that we find in Scripture.

To actually recreate the New Testament church, we would have to re-create 1st century culture. I don't believe you can separate the Biblical record from the time and culture in which it was written. That is not to say we should not take the principals and elements we see in Scripture and incorporate them into our church experience. In fact, I believe that is precisely what we must do. But in actual practice, how is that going to look?

We need to build personal, one on one relationships. We also need to rebuild our sense of community and service. We need to practice all the ''one anothers'' of Scripture . I could go on and on...

I am just starting to unpack some of these ideas which I hope to attempt to explore further in subsequent posts. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Christian Population Control

A friend of mine, a pastor was relating a story of encouragement, or what began as an story of encouragement yesterday. A large group of young people of approximately 200 arrived from another state and wanted to evangelize in one of our inner city neighborhoods. God at work most definitely.

A pastor from one of the churches in the neighborhood stepped up to the plate to receive the newly saved into their congregation. Sounds like a great idea doesn't it? People turning their life over to Christ, and then having a local church to care for, love and disciple the new converts. Except there was one small problem.

That local congregation didn't want anymore members. They were afraid that new members would be aligned with the pastor and they would lose power and influence. This is a church that has "Missionary" as part of their name. Did you catch that? A missionary church that doesn't want any part of true mission. How sad.

The good news is that some other area churches grabbed the torch and ran with it. The bad news is that the worst enemy of Christianity seem to be Christians.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Meeting Together

For about two months now the group of Christians I meet with has been meeting together three times a week. We meet on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Our Sunday meeting resembles what most would recognize as a traditional Protestant style meeting which I describe here. We have been shifting towards a style of meeting that more resembles what you see in I Corinthians 14. Gone is the church bulletin. The teaching style has become less preaching and more teaching. But the order of service is almost identical every week.

Out Tuesday meeting is almost entirely focused on prayer. Prayer of all types. And we like to sing songs. We also have a short teaching, either reading directly from Scripture or something somebody has brought. What is unique about these meetings is that we have people regularly attend that have never been to our Sunday meetings. These meetings are almost entirely led by the Holy Spirit.

Our Thursday meeting is devoted to Bible Study. Currently we are engaged in a topical study on spiritual warfare. And yep, we sing songs as well. We also have people attend that do not attend our Sunday meetings. Both our Tuesday and Thursday meetings are very informal. Some folks dress up on Sunday, while others don't. I don't, but that's another post. Our Bible study follows a structure similar to what you would expect to find in a classroom. However, we sit in a circle-- relaxed, informal yet structured.

Of all the different ways we meet, our Tuesday meeting that focuses on prayer seems to me the most essential, the truest expression of Church. If I could only attend one meeting a week, this would be it. I don't mean to imply that the other ways we meet aren't important. Every meeting is important. Each meeting has a primary focus that is critical for the Church to grow as a body. My view of what is really important for the Kingdom of God has shifted, I believe permanently.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

50 and life

A few weeks ago I had my fiftieth birthday. For some reason that just sounds old. Now, even though I have been told I look younger, I can't say I'm “40 something” anymore. Plus, I am now a grandfather. I am also old enough to join AARP. Before, when I was “40 something”, if a group of people I was in consisting of all ages were told to form two lines, one for young people, the other for old people, I would get in the young line.

Now, I probably won't always be able to get in that young line. Oh, I'll try. But I think increasingly people, mostly young people, are going to come up to me and say “excuse me sir, I think you're in the wrong line”. But sometimes it will be the older crowd telling me to get in their line; “Hey Jeff, get over here and act your age”!

When I lived in Arizona, I worked in some of the retirement communities there. These communities were designed such that you could only live there if you were 40 or older. I was in my late twenties at the time. What set these communities apart was the folks that lived there always seemed just a little bit more distant, disconnected, even bitter. The younger residents, those in their 40's and 50's seemed to embody a perspective that was more typical of those in their 70's and 80's. In other words, everybody seemed a bit older than they really were. I don't want to go there.

God has really blessed me, and for that I am grateful beyond words. I have my health, as does my whole family. I am in good shape. The other day, I was at the beach with my family. As I chased my one year old grandson along the beach, I pondered the question of rather I had the energy to raise a family from scratch all over again. That was just a hypothetical question, mind you. But I can honestly say yes, I do still have the energy. Not just physically, but mentally as well.

When I was a teenager, 50 sounded old as dirt. I couldn't even imagine being 50. Thought I would have one foot in the grave! As it turns out, I'm just an prematurely gray, slightly wrinkled teenager. The primary difference being instead of 18 years of wisdom, I now have 50. Man, that was a quick 50 years!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Community, are you sure?

A friend of mine today was relating a story of how when he was divorced back in the mid-70's he was ostracized by the very church he helped start. He went on to say that non-Christians were supportive and friendly when his pleas for support and friendship fell on deaf ears from the "Christian community". He said that even after 35 years, he still remembers that experience vividly. I can't say as I blame him.

He continued that indeed he was proud of his faith but that even today he found many Christians that were less than friendly and intolerant of alternate opinions. He still was convinced in his heart that tolerant, friendly warm Christian community existed. I think my friend just got involved with the wrong folks.

But this got me thinking: I wonder how many others have had similar circumstances? What if someone was convinced that true Christian community did not exist? What if anything does this say about Christianity?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Money and Pride

A few years ago, our church moved from a residence to a school building. To accommodate growth that never occurred. I can't say I really approved of the move then any more than I do now. But nobody asked me. I was the newest member, what did I know? The folks that helped initiate the move are no longer with us. Now we are paying for a building we can not afford.

I think what happened was we had a little money in the bank at the time and felt we had to spend it. We also bought a broken down van, but that is another story. Live and learn. Money and pride is a dangerous combination.