Tuesday, March 29, 2005

the church part 4

I will now go into some of the Pauline ideas. If we take these in context, viewing first Jesus, and cross referencing the church as described in Acts, I think we get a pretty good picture of what Church is meant to be. This will not only serve to help us to understand our calling as the community of faith, but also make us relevant to our communities. Please understand that this part doesn't really matter much if we don't understand the above call to relational, incarnational ministry. The church like Jesus, becomes Gods presence in the midst of the world, rather than call the world to it.

Pauls concept of the body, and every joint supplying. In the epistle to the Ephesians Paul says that the body of Christ is to be built up for works of ministry. It also says that each person in the body has a particular function, and when we are all doing our part, the whole body works properly. This theme is repeated often. The idea being quite simple actually. If your little toe stops working, it effects the entire body, same with the stomach, the knee whatever. So for the body to be healthy each part must do its part.

First Corinthians tells us when we gather we are all to participate as well. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (The Message) 26So here's what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. In Romans we are told that we all have certain gifts, some have the gift of hospitality, some of leadership and so on. It then tells us to work hard, to not be lazy, to serve the Lord with devotion.

Now here is where the current church structure has made things difficult. When we gather together, often we have hundreds, or sometimes thousands of people. It is not possible to have each person involved in sharing. So hundreds of gifts do not get utilized. Now some may say, well they can use there gifts at home, well it seems to me, this was not the intention of Pauls exhortation.

We know from history, and the bible that churches met in homes in the first century. Now the place is not the most important thing here, but, we see from this that there would naturally be a limit in space in a home. That these groups would be small enough that each person could bring something. Maybe one would bring the meal. Another a word of warning that they felt while praying. Another a scripture passage that really changed their life that week. Every joint supplying.

We also see that in this smaller grouping the ability to have true community. In larger groups we must necessarily divide into smaller groups in order to have deep relationships, or, have more shallow relationships with multitudes of people. We see this in Jesus life, he made sure the numbers were managable. There was a small group that he spent most of His time with, but when larger groups appeared he often enlisted the help of the smaller group to minister to them, but eventually sent the crowds away.

Now when we consider the "charismatic" gifts, we often see some pretty weird stuff. And I think again it is possible that our current structure adds to these abuses of the gifts. When a gift of knowledge, or prophecy is spoken in a large gathering, there is an unhealthy tendency to elevate the person. People tend to idolize the individual and put them above others. This happens because outside of relationships we do not see the person anymore but the gift. Then with that social "power" we see others try and qualify for that prestige, and it can often become a contest to see who is most gifted. This can be true in the smaller groups, but since relationships are much closer, and vulnerable, and the power available much smaller, we find this not as easy to fall into.

We also see the ability for each person to beging to experience the gifts of the Spirit in their lives. Someone who may have a prophetic gifting, really doesn't have much place in the larger gathering, because everything is scripted, or is overseen by someone who may or may not know of this persons giftings. In a small group we can begin to walk these out in a less intense envirenment. And if a strong word from the Lord is given, it can and should be shared around the churches, and maybe via a large gathering.

So in this smaller focused group we find the giftings of the community expressed more easily, and the burden shared more equally. So every joint supplies, not just the extremely talented, and the rest pay them to be experts in their gift.

I will next talk about the five fold ministries.


Garth said...

I can only agree with what you have said here. I think what we now have is a situation where we "do church" rather than "be church". Ministries are sub-contracted to the few, and one must be'released' into that ministry (read authorised). I still think that model has a valuable place but it has replaced the early church model where real church happens. Perhaps the big church event can serve by way of regular corpate celebration and teaching etc but not be programmed so frequently so as to give rebirth to the small organic group.

Richard said...

You're red hot, John! Keep it coming!

- Rich

soon to be at: http://www.acupofrich.com