Saturday, October 04, 2008

What is the church? (part 2)

The book was very tightly organized and flowed well from thought to thought. Jim did an excellent job of keeping the information (there was a lot) organized and rooted to his thesis (God’s people are in the world to bear witness to Christ by living among and serving unbelievers. This ministry depends upon every believer using whatever God has gifted them with to serve Him by serving others). Jim attempts to show the ways in which the church has veered off track from its original mission. He points to the Early Church Fathers as the starting point for the downward spiral. He blames them for the separation between clergy and laity and describes it as unbiblical. He did a good job of following and showing the paradigm shift from the New Testament Church to the Catholic Church. What he revealed was eye opening to my thinking about the church and its purpose.

I’m not sure I agree totally with his idea (maybe I misinterpreted what he was trying to say) that it was the Church Father who created the separation between clergy and laity. In the Old Testament priests were established by God to teach the people and offer sacrifices on their behalf before God. God even selected priests to minister in the tent of meeting. So, isn’t there already a separation created between laity and clergy? This was not a job everyone could do. How does Jim reconcile this to what he is trying to say? Maybe he was talking more about the transfer of responsibility (from everyone participating to just the priest) instead of the actual office of a priest, elder, or deacon. I was a bit unsure of where exactly he was going with his idea. What would our churches look like today if that were implemented? I connected some of what he was saying to what he said about traditionalism in the Jewish culture. He addressed the Gentile Christians coming to faith in Christ in Acts and how they Early Church handled that by dropping some of their traditions to not make things harder for the Gentile believers. They had to exclude some of their Jewish traditions (e.g., circumcision) to welcome the Gentiles into the family of God.

Another issue I felt could have been more elaborated on was discipleship (the church building up believers and turning them into disciples of Jesus). He talked about going to unbelievers and if necessary making living rooms, offices, and homes our church, but how would discipleship take place in that context and what would it look like? Was this intended to be included in reaching out to the lost? I thought he could have been a little more specific in what discipleship in that context would look like (maybe that’s another book of his?). To me, the New Testament is clear about hierarchal structure in the church (elders and deacons). What would that look like in a church without walls? Is it even possible?

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