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.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Impact of Dialog

Today I attended a "Kingdom Impact Conference". The conference covered a variety of topics such as evangelism, spiritual gifts and leadership. A number of different churches participated. I really was "impacted" by the variety of different teaching styles.

One common element present in all the presentations of the pastor/teachers was that each had a unique entertainment style. Humor was a prevalent theme for each style, each just used humor in a slightly different way. The end result was although I was up early for the conference and not in a fully rested state, I did not get bored or fall asleep.

What really set this conference apart from a typical Sunday of teaching was the interaction. There was actual dialog as opposed to the usual monologue! I really think the church could benefit from this type of teaching. But the question is: There is a group of people that perhaps would prefer not to participate. So, will they leave? Do we want them to?

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I "Do Church" (Short Version)

I really love the church I attend and I love the people in it. We have diversity in culture, age, education and background. Some have been Christians all their lives, others are new converts. Folks come from a variety of prior traditions. Our congregation is small, and I like it that way. Everybody has the ability to know everybody's business, and I believe that is a good thing. We have been growing and we want to continue to grow, but at the Lord's pace.

We have a one hour period of teaching and discussion (Sunday school), followed by praise, worship, prayer and some of the best preaching I have ever witnessed. We take turns leading the service, reading from and expounding on Scripture. We are all not at the same place as Christians or as a Church this year as last. We have all grown considerably, moved forward. And I believe we will continue in that growth.

We meet in a school building every Sunday morning/afternoon. We are currently searching and praying for a new place to hold our weekly Bible study and prayer meeting. A person would feel equally comfortable wearing jeans and a teeshirt or a suit and tie. Our service is focused on the person of Jesus Christ. We are a non-denominational, Bible believing, New Testament Church.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Baby Steps

I managed to write two days in a row, I'm impressed. You got to walk before you can run, right? One of the primary reasons for starting this blog is to document my walk with my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. I might use a different term later, but for right now I'll use the term "walk with Jesus".

Today at church, our Sunday school is really starting to become what I had hoped! We had a lot of interaction and sharing. Everybody seems to be honest and "on the same page". I really think people are starting to genuinely care about one another.

I also have begun reading again. Right now I'm reading The Book of Acts, The Early Struggle for an Unhindered Gospel. I have chosen the book of Acts as my first book of the New Testament for in depth study.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Use it or Lose it, Part 1

I used to write. Not as much as I would like, but I did write. Technical stuff mostly, but with a few random essays thrown in for balance. I started a blog once, but never kept it up. I try to keep a journal, mainly as a release mechanism, but alas with no consistency. I used to read more too, but that's another story. I don't want to lose the ability to write, so I better use it.

I always seem to have something better to do than write. I've never been really good at the balancing act of life. This is the year I balance things out. Get some perspective. And hopefully, make writing a consistent part of my life. And so ends my first post.