Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Plugins Extensions and Add-ons and the Church

"Speed up browsing by disabling add-ons." I keep getting this message when I use Internet Explorer. I just checked Firefox and counted 13 plugins and extensions. I should sort through which ones I need to keep and discard the rest. If you have too many add-ons life slows down. We all know people who fill up every spare minute of their lives with activities and clubs. Its worth taking a moment now and then to sort out our priorities, and disable some add-ons.

From the studies I've done on what church meant in the New Testament here, here and here I believe church is people of God and when they get together. However when I look at church today I see a lot of extra things that have been added over the years. Extra additions are not necessarily bad. Sometimes people get so used to these extra things that they can't imagine church without them. Sometimes these extra things get most of the focus, a lot of resources and time.

I think it is worth recognizing that the way church is now is not the way it has always been, and it is not the way it has to be.

This is a simple summary list of some extras the church has added over the years. I won't attempt to do in-depth research here on any of it. If you have any questions feel free to comment.

Video/Multimedia presentations - a recent addition by our generation

Sound technicians - another fairly recent addition

Worship Band - styles of music have changed throughout the years. There was a time when the only musical instruments were voices.

Youth Groups - YMCA and YWCA were some of the first ministries aimed at young adults and teens. These were founded in the 1850s. Now youth groups are seen as an important part of most church communities.

Sunday School - Started in the 1780s, originally started to teach poor children to read. Now it is hard to imagine a church community without a Sunday School program for children.

VBS - I was surprised at this one. VBS ministries have actually been going for over 100 years. But still in the scope of church history a relatively recent addition.

Bible College - it seems Christian education in the early days was more of an apprenticeship model. Studying Scriptures would have been important to the early church, but there is no mention of Bible Colleges in the New Testament. Christian leaders haven't always had certificates, diplomas, and degrees in Christian education.

Church Libraries - early church gatherings would have been lucky if they had copies of some of the New testament writings. It took a few hundred years to put them together into a collection we call the Bible. Today most church communities have libraries with hundreds of books and audio and video resources.

Pews/Chairs - people sitting in rows of pews were not common until the Reformation 500 years ago, around the same time when the sermons became more of a focus.

Ushers - just a guess here, but I suspect ushers were not needed before the pews.

Sermons as the main part of the gathering - I guess it depends what you call a sermon. There were lengthy speeches or sermons in the NT. And believers obviously spoke and taught each other whenever they got together. However it seems there was usually audience participation during these speeches. When did a 30 minute monolog become the main part of the gatherings?

Church Buildings - the early church met in homes, and in public spaces. Some of these private homes were converted to accommodate growing gatherings. However there were over 3000 believers in the church in Jerusalem with no records of an early mega-church building project.

Staff - some research suggest it wasn't until 300 years after Christ that some introduced the practice of tithing to support a paid clergy. This practice did not become widespread until about 700 AD. It is now common to have multiple staff on a payroll.

Church annual meetings - they make sense if you have buildings, staff, programs and a leadership structure that wants input from a membership. It is unlikely the NT church held annual meeting to vote on a budgets and discuss programs if they didn't have staff, programs and special buildings.

Board meetings - with all the above extras added to the church, it seems there is a need for a group of leaders to make decisions about these things.

Most Christian (in the West at least) value these extras. Many of these extras can help build relationships that build up believers to become more like Christ. It's not all bad.

Take a moment though and try to imagine church without the add-ons.

What would the church be left with? You may find it hard to imagine what the church was like before these things were added. I can imagine a group of believers with a simple focus of loving God and loving others.

I find myself fellowshipping with others who value more plugins and add-ons than I do. But when I can, I am now saying no-thanks to some of the add-ons. I see value in focusing on the church, the people, without the extras. That is the church I am committed to.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Church and Kingdom

I want to try to start working the word kingdom into my daily vocabulary. I welcome any suggestions.

The word church makes my head spin.

Recently I'm always stumbling with my wording around the use of the word church. Whether talking about dropping someone off at a building where some believers often gather. Or discussing plans for a specific Sunday event when believers gather. Or talking about a sub-group of believers who make decisions and plans and organize programs for other believers. But I don't see the word church in Scripture being used to refer to a building, a Sunday morning event, or an organization.

Lately when I talk with my family, I've been trying to use the word 'church' to refer only to people. If I'm going to start using it to refer to a gathering of believers I believe it can be used whenever believers assemble to build each other up to become more like Christ.

But I'm finding it quite difficult. The term church gets used quite often. My family is starting to understand why I talk so differently, but I don't expect others to understand so I often end up giving in and speaking the common language.


I find the term kingdom doesn't get used very often.

We have 100 records of Jesus speaking the word kingdom, and only two passages where he spoke of church.

However, since kingdom doesn't get used very often today, there may be less confusion with the term. If I talk of God's kingdom, nobody will be thinking building, local organization, or Sunday morning event.

We can simply talk of God's rule in our lives, how He reigns, or how He is Lord/Master/King. I believe the Kingdom of God is a present reality that will expand into eternity.

I'm not suggesting everybody needs to drop using the word church. I love seeing discussions around what the word church should be about. Yet for myself I find my head spinning when I hear the word church used in daily language. I'm always trying to figure out if they are talking about a building, organization, event or about people and/or when they get together.

So I sense I should shift my focus toward the Kingdom and the King. I know there is overlap between the kingdom and the church. But I find the Kingdom easier to focus on, and since that is what Jesus spent most of His time talking about I feel this may be a healthy change of focus.

I still don't know how best to respond to scenarios where I find myself discussing a particular building, event, or organization... I welcome any suggestions.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kingdom Like Yeast

Continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom. The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to us (Matthew 13:11). Jesus came to share this kingdom message (Luke 4:43). So I'm examining different passages related to this kingdom message.

Matthew 13:33 (HCSB)

"He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into 50 pounds of flour until it spread through all of it."

Reading different commentators on this one there is a range of thought on what Jesus is saying here. Some take the position that yeast is representing sin spreading in the church. It is true that in many other passages yeast is used to describe the way sin or bad things spread, but I don't see the yeast being a bad thing here.

In this parable the woman put yeast into the flour on purpose. She then mixed it into the flour on purpose. I think she wanted the yeast to spread throughout the flour and change it. And it did. It was a good thing. The kingdom of heaven is like that yeast. Jesus shared the message of the good news of the kingdom of heaven, and the reign of God has been spreading through the world ever since. At a personal level, I sense the reign of God growing in my life as well.

I pray that God's kingdom come, that His will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. I pray His reign will be evident in my life, and that His rule would continue to spread in my life and in the world around us.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

To My Protestant Friends

It's been around 500 years since the Protestant Reformation. I'd like to ask my Protestant friends some questions about where they find themselves now. If you are part of the Protestant branch of Christianity, are you still protesting? Do you know what you are protesting?

The Reformers first took issue with:

They also took a stand for the 5 solas:
  1. Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
  2. Sola fide ("by faith alone")
  3. Sola gratia ("by grace alone")
  4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("Christ alone" or "through Christ alone")
  5. Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")
I once considered myself a Protestant.  Yet I don't think I really understood these issues.  Yes I'd heard a bit about why the other side was wrong, but I hadn't examined the issues with much of an open mind.

As you can see with the links above I've written some posts in the past on many of these topics.  I haven't written on all the topics yet - we will see if I get the urge to finish at some point.

But how about you, my Protestant friends?

Does this list of issues summarize where you stand today? Do you strongly feel the need to continue protesting these issues? Or are you ready to drop the label 'Protestant'?  Or does being a Protestant mean something different to you today?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Playdough Scripture Acts 2:41

"Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day, so they quickly started the first megachurch building project, hired on more staff, and expanded their programs."

Acts 2:41 (Playdough Version)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My Role with Church

In my last post I worked through how I am trying to recognize Christ's Church whenever and wherever I meet together with other believers. I suspect that is how the term church was used in Scripture. I don't view Church as a building, or a Sunday morning event, or an organization. However I can recognize that the Church (assembling of God's people) does exist Sunday mornings in many buildings and organizations. It also exists every day of the week all over the place.

So my next point is: What is my role when I get together with other believers wherever and whenever that may be.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.and all the more as you see the Day approaching. "
This passage is often used to encourage people to 'go to church'. But if we look again we also see instructions as to what we should be doing when we meet with other believers. Why do we get together as church? To encourage one another, and spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

This means more to me than having one or a few people at the front encouraging the others.  I believe each member of the body can and should play a role in building up one another when we get together.

1 Corinthians 14:26 (NIV)
"What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up."
Again, building each other up when we get together.

There are many 'one another' commands that we should pay attention to as well. Of course these are best done when we get together.
  • Offering hospitality to one another
  • Show humility to one another
  • Be at harmony with one another
  • Not slandering one another
  • Encouraging one another
  • Teaching one another
  • Admonishing (giving advice) one another
  • Forgiving one another
  • Submitting to one another
  • Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another
  • bearing with one another in love
  • serve one another
  • Accept one another
  • Agree with one another
  • kissing one another (ew)
  • and the repeated call to love one another.
There is a lot for us to consider when we get together (as the church).  As I take a look at this list it seems clear that healthy, loving, and active relationships with each other is key.

Consider one more passage Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)
So Christ himself gave the apostles [messengers who are sent out], the prophets [those who speak a message of God], the evangelists [those who shares the good news], the pastors [shepherds - those who care for other believers] and teachers [those who teach], to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

One may think this passage supports the idea that it is the job of a few select people to build up the body. I'd like to push you to consider that God is calling most of us to do these tasks. To be messengers sent out into the world, to share the good news, to care for others, and teach each other. Some may be more gifted in different areas than others, but I don't believe anyone is exempt from considering their role in each of these areas.

And to the point of this passage. That the whole body works together, to build up the body to become mature and more like Christ. So that we can be Christ's living body in our world today.

And I think that is the role for each of us as we get together with other believers (the church - whenever and wherever).

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Recognize Church

So how do I Recognize Christ's Church?

Now that I understand church according to Jesus
  • is not a building
  • is not a Sunday Morning event
  • is not an institution or organization

Jesus talks simply of when two or three are gathered in His name. Church (ecclesia) was a word used to refer to an assembly or democratic gathering. We see in other New Testament passages the early believers also used the term church to refer to all the believers in a geographical area. So in my mind church is simply believers and whenever they get together.

So how do I move forward and relate with my brothers and sisters who view church as an institution, building, or Sunday Morning event?

Well... if church is simply the whenever two or three are gathered in Christ's name... I can recognize that I am part of Christ's church whenever I build relationships with other believers
  • as we walk up the sidewalk as we 'go to church'
  • as we visit before and after the 'church service'
  • (as we chat during the 'church service')
  • as we visit in each others homes
  • as we visit in parks
  • as we visit at work
  • as we visit whenever
You get the point?

I am looking to recognize Christ's church within the institutional church and beyond the walls.

I guess the next question is... What is my role as I meet with the church (wherever/whenever)? I'll work on that for my next post...

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