Archives For Doing Church

Living The Message….

April 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

Emergent congregations are especially well equipped to live creatively in the newly post-Western Christianity. They are careful not to confuse the life and message of Jesus with the “Western” elements in which it has been packaged. They try to assign equal weight to both the message and the context so that a new version of the old story can take shape. They strongly underline “living the message” rather than simply proclaiming it. They experiment with settings, like cafes, in which two-way exchange rather than one-way preaching is possible

The Future of Faith (Cox, Harvey)

The words above are one of the reasons I have such hope for the emergent movement currently taking place in Jesus’ church throughout the world. After studying the history of the church it has become obvious to me just how much of Jesus’ message has been twisted into man’s messages.  We need to strip away the worldly cultural part of the message so that its true heart can once again be glorified.

I am part Native-American and have read what the Christian missionaries did to that population. To me it was abominable how they tried to force their culture on the native population in this country at the same time strip their native culture away from them. It just wasn’t good enough to these early american missionaries to try to meld the two cultures together. They shamefully deemed their culture superior and determined to eradicate the other.

The message of Jesus Christ is what it is all about; the context from which the message is communicated is secondary in nature. Why didn’t these early missionaries understand that? But even how the message is delivered is not as important as living it in your life. If you don’t do that then you are rightly proclaimed to be a hypocrite.

“Doing church” is something that I have often been critical of in this blog because I believe it is often the same as putting the context above the message. I still quite clearly remember when I suggested that the Lutheran church where I was a very active member do a second different format service on Sundays. I remember the immediate and adamant opposition to the very idea coming from the clergyman and many of the long time members.  That was maybe the beginning of my separation from that group.

I admire many emergent churches for trying different setting for “doing church”. Cafes, two-way exchanges in place one-way preaching and thousand year old liturgy, just might be a better way to present Jesus to a new generation. Why are so many resistant to that idea. When the method of delivery becomes more important than the message of Jesus it is time to step back and take a thoughtful look at how you are doing church.

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Sometimes a burst of questions comes into my mind. They usually come and go before I have time to even put them on a Post-It for further study. This time I was at my keyboard. Here is what I have been thinking of this afternoon.

In the past I have been a member of different Christian denominations who say we must go out and save the rest of the world by telling them about Jesus.

  • But I’m not a Jesus freak as the world has come to know many of us. At least not any longer. If you want to go about your life without any in deep knowledge of Him that is your business. You will certainly have many opportunities to know Him if that is your desire. Unless you ask me I will not try to push you in that direction. I am a guy who has chosen to make the teachings of Jesus the central theme of my life. If you choose otherwise I won’t bug you. But if you ask I will certainly tell you why I have the joy that I have in my life. I will not try to intimidate you into believing by threatening God’s eternal damnation. That is between you and God. I have been exposed to various methods that supposedly bring people to Christ. I have come to believe as the Bible says that is the business of the Holy Spirit.

     

  • Are there other paths to heaven besides belonging to a present day Christian organization? At this point in my life I am not willing to say that there aren’t. Jesus said to get to the Father you must go through him. But to me that does not necessarily mean that you must fall in lock step with any current groups who call themselves Christians.
  • Is it possible to be Spiritual without being religious? If being religious means going to church every Sunday (or Saturday) then I don’t know? But I believe I have found my path to the Lord. It is studying the red letters found in the Bible. All of the Bible contains some degree of inspiration from God. All of its many human authors believed they were speaking for Him. But if I really want to know from a firsthand account what God is all about then I must concentrate on those words that came directly from His lips. All the other words found in the Bible at best just reinforce those words. Jesus’ ministry lasted three years. He had enough time to personally tell us what God is all about. I believe he did just that. Study the red letters if you want to know the real messages of God.
  • I know the words of Jesus known as the Great Commission tell us to go out and make disciples but he did not give us a laundry list of just how to do that? I think he chose to leave the details up to each of us individually. I chose a way that is best for me. That is to listen to the last half of that message which is to obey all that he has commanded. That part of the Great Commission seems to have been lost in much of today’s world. In order to know what he has commanded we need to study his words on a daily if not minute by minute basis and to make every attempt to obey them. We will lead people to Christ by our examples, not by our words. And no, I don’t obey his commands perfectly; that is just not possible for us human beings but that does not excuse us from even trying. Giving up even the attempt is a total cop out.

This is a continuation of my personal reflections on the world and where I might fit into it.

 Is doing “church” separate from doing discipleship? Let’s investigate that question. I have always assumed that the two were actually the same but recently I have come across a couple of definitions of church that seem to separate the two practices.

Here is a definition of “church” from Greg Ogden in his book Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ: ” The church is a caring community, a serving, studying, praying, healing community. But what is the fundamental purpose of the church? If it is true that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then fundamentally the church is a worshiping community”.

Is it possible that doing church and doing discipleship are indeed be two different things? Do we have one group of Christians who form our worshipping community and another, for those of us who are so inclined, to reach beyond our door out into the world. My church is certainly strong in worshipping God and they do it very well!

I don’t know if that is common to most Christians or not. I may certainly perceive this wrong and I hope this doesn’t come off as judging, but it seems that my church mainly wants to do the usual things: worship service, Bible studies, church dinners and of course a full menu of committee meetings. But many members just don’t seem to have as strong an interest in the poor and down trodden that I do.

Don’t get me wrong, we do have outreach but never enough for my satisfaction. This year we have done or will do several projects in our community. We are perhaps more engaged than many churches in our area but never enough for me . It is usually only a small core of members actually participate in these activities and they are almost always one-time events, not an on-going thing that requires day-to-day commitments.

My discipleship work takes me around the community and, at least monetarily, around the world. I give my time and financial support to a local homeless shelter, a regional food bank, the Salvation army and a couple of international “feed the poor” organizations and even a Christian organization focused primarily on political issues. In the past it has bothered me that my “church” members don’t seem to share the same commitment in the things that I have passions for.

 I used to get upset about this but I am now learning to chill out somewhat now. That is just the way it is I guess. My pastor keeps telling me that I may not be aware of what others are doing and spending their time on. Maybe they are committed to a day-to-day discipleship activity but I am not aware of it? I know that I am a retired old white guy who now has the time to spend on discipleship things. Maybe, actually probably, I am being too harsh on others who do not share my enthusiasm for such things. I also have more time to read the Bible and as a result I hear Jesus “screaming” that loving your neighbor is where he wants us to be. No one, including me, ever seems to be able to do enough! At least the need never seems to be even remotely quenched.

 In summary, is doing church and doing discipleship the same thing. In a perfect world they would be but given the reality of our times they are not the same today. Christians today are just not that homogeneous anymore (if they ever were). We seem to concentrate on only our personal limited versions of both these topics.