A LOVE SUPREME

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Church Fasting

God, Who provides for all, will not desert us; especially being engaged, as we are, in His service.
- Don Quixote, Book 1, Part 11

In our recent discussion on worship music, some of the commentators seemed to have a common theme: if a person (me, in particular!) is not engaged in a worshipful experience, then that's a you problem; that is, it is your fault and you need to get your heart right and join in the worship.

This response reminded me of an offhand comment made by a Pastor friend of mine at a recent lunch. He was complaining about the fickleness of the younger generation. Specifically, he bemoaned the fact that church attendance for the young is so irregular. The other two members at the table began to grin, laugh, and look at me. Why did they look at me? Because I am on a church fast.

Yes, friends, I am fasting from going to church, and I have been for quite some time. I have not attended a service since last August. On a few occasions I have been in the church building for sundry reasons, but a service I have not attended.

Just as it is healthy to abstain from foods or sex or television for a period of time, so I am beginning to believe that stepping away from church for a time may have similar benefits to one's spiritual health. Indeed, I have come to believe that church attendance has been a negative influence on my life.

Is this another me problem? Am I fickle? Is my heart in the wrong place?

I don't think so. I think the problem is with church itself. To me there appear to be so many opportunities presenting themselves to the body of Christ in this generation, and all we seem to be concerned with is filling a damned building for an hour or two each Sunday morning!

Most Christians go to church as an obligation, and yes, friends, even at this point I still feel the burden of obligation that has been seared into my heart and soul. This past Sunday was Easter. How can I call myself a Christian if I'm not on church on Easter Sunday!??! Ah, but that's just obligation--that's just social pressure.

The stats tell the story: most young church kids are forced to go to church when they live with their parents and then they split the scene. They may possibly return later in life when they have kids and settle down. Is this their own fault? Fickleness?

Perhaps there are youth who are fickle. I'll grant that. But there are also good reasons that the young are leaving church. In fact, in some regards I applaud them! The young want to be intellectually and spiritually engaged. They are looking for something stimulating and real. But the church, as we all know, is not a place for the intellectually curious or those with spiritual hunger. It is no place for the young. It is a place for the old guys who are set in their ways. In this sense, then, a church fast is important, because too much time in church with church folks can make one intellectually and spiritually complacent. After all, in church we all have the right answers and we listen to a sermon from someone who more-or-less has it all together.

I think that the whole idea of preaching is misguided. Whatever the intentions behind it, the church (particularly the conservative evangelical types) has created a spiritual elitist class who can "preach the word." There is a direct implication here: some voices are worthy to be heard on Sunday morning while others are not. Usually the ones able to preach are the seminary trained white guys in their middle ages or older. In other words, the dudes who have it all figured out; those who look and sound like good Christians. And if we would only listen to their wise words, then we would be able to get our acts together too!

But did Jesus really want to establish this spiritual hierarchy?

The problem is even greater than this. The whole church notion is based on a stadium show. We come, we sit, we follow orders. We sing what we are supposed to sing and we listen to the spiritually enlightened tell us how to think, live, and feel. The show is carefully programed so that common themes are explored and everything is wrapped up in a nice box for us to take home. (Although most of us forget the substance of the show 5 minutes after the final "Amen": "Uh, what was that sermon about. It was a good one. Something about loving unconditionally...")

The whole Sunday show closely resembles the television sitcom: meaningful issues are opened up and within 30 minutes we have closure and perspective on that issue. 30 minutes??!?! Friends, life is far more complicated! Particularly the life of faith!

The young spiritually minded need a better place to dialog on meaningful issues. That is, if anyone cares anymore. Perhaps television and church has dulled our spiritual sensitivity to the point that we do not even know how to open up these issues anymore. I think this is the current state of American pop Christian culture: we don't even know where to begin when it comes to discussing meaningful issues in the church, and we sure as hell don't know how to hold meaningful dialog with those outside the church.

So, friends, I am on a church fast. I feel healthier and more spiritually engaged than I have in years. It is not a safe feeling. I struggle. But I'm glad to struggle. Christianity should not be about eliminating struggle. Christ called us to struggle. So, embrace the struggle. Sign up for a church fast.

32 comments:

Ken said...

Just one question, what are you doing to uphold the exhortation in Hebrews 10:25?

Yun said...

Haha! I was almost tempted to go for a church fasting too. Instead, since last Aug, I have been attended a different church where I don't know anyone (and didn't quite intend to know anyone) only for worship. But I have been thinking, maybe I should start to meet some people...

Yea, I totally agree with your last paragraph. It's a bit "dangerous" but it's not such a bad thing! Though sometimes I do wish I know what to do...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken,

What about verse 24?

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Emily said...

Heb. 10:24,25: 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.

I thought Kondo said earlier this month that v. 25 is more about meeting people on a closer, more personal level than about a big Sunday morning meeting. So I don't see this passage as advocating church attendance. However, I do think church attendance is a piece of the puzzle. But not attendance in the sense of coming, sitting, leaving. More in the sense of coming to worship, etc. It's mindset.

Emily said...

Also, I don't have the verses on me, but why would church attendance (in the sense of larger group meetings) be optional if the New Testament goes into detail about the qualifications of someone who is to be a leader in the church?

Ken said...

Jon,

My question wasn't necessarily an attack on your post, just a question of interest as to how you are meeting with people, encouraging them and being encouraged by them.

If your not doing it through a church, then how are you doing it? Church seems the best avenue for finding people and fulfilling those commands. Not necessarily during the worship service, but through other means provided by the church.

I don't know if you view this blog as part of that means, but I will say this; A web blog does not provide for the close fellowship, accountability, and personal encouragement that comes with face to face interaction. So this is where my question lies. In the middle of your "church fast", how are you meeting the exhortation of Hebrews 10 (we can even go with the whole passage)?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken,

The reason that I bring in v. 24 is that we find that the author of Hebrews wants us to "consider" how we can "spur each other on." You say that church is the best avenue for this kind of encouragement. I disagree. In fact, I think it is the worst avenue. (I'm not exaggerating here, either.) Church interactions encourage more superficial interactions. There are certain issues that can't be touched. There are certain struggles that can't be shared. As I stated in the post, I think that the church reflects the culture in that we are losing and/or have lost the ability to sustain ongoing, meaningful dialog.

In terms of meaningful dialog, I would suggest that blogs are a far better forum than the church. Far better. On this blog, for example, we can all be honest with each other. There is no pressure agree with me just b/c I post. In fact, most of the time commentors disagree! And that's a good thing--I quite enjoy it!

In terms of my own personal interaction in "real" world terms, I have had more time to cultivate relationships with a small group of believers that I meet with on a weekly basis.

What originally got me intrigued by your original question is that you, Ken, went straight for v. 25, which talks about the meeting. You skipped over the part where we are exhorted to encourage each other. So, I wonder this: if the church ceases to be a forum for dynamic interaction and encouragement and ceases to be relevant for living faith in the 21st century, then is it time to abandon the forum?

Melody said...

if a person (me, in particular!) is not engaged in a worshipful experience, then that's a you problem; that is, it is your fault and you need to get your heart right and join in the worship.

God seems to bring it up a lot in the bible. Are you saying that worship isn't important? Will the Erdman cult eschew praise of the Almighty?

Just as it is healthy to abstain from foods or sex or television for a period of time, so I am beginning to believe that stepping away from church for a time may have similar benefits to one's spiritual health.

What kind of benefits? And how long do you abstain from church before it turns into spiritual anorexia? Are you really stepping away from the body of Christ or are you just stepping away from organized gatherings of the body?

To me there appear to be so many opportunities presenting themselves to the body of Christ in this generation, and all we seem to be concerned with is filling a damned building for an hour or two each Sunday morning!

I (and probably the rest of your readership) would be interested to know what other opportunities you are pursuing in place of occupying the building consigned to perdition. How does that extra hour or so assist you in these pursuits?

The stats tell the story: most young church kids are forced to go to church when they live with their parents and they split the scene.

Leaving my parent's church was the best part of graduating highschool, but being involved with a church I actually like is pretty good too.

But the church, as we all know, is not a place for the intellectually curious or those with spiritual hunger. It is no place for the young.

We all know this? Pray tell, what leads us all to believe such things? Where should those with spiritual hunger go?

we don't even know where to begin when it comes to discussing meaningful issues in the church, and we sure as hell don't know how to hold meaningful dialog with those outside the church.

Meaningful dialog? Maybe it's because we're floating vague terms like "meaninful dialog" around.
What requirements would a conversation need to meet before reaching "meaningful" status?

So, friends, I am on a church fast. I feel healthier and more spiritually engaged than I have in years.

Again, with the vaguery. What makes it healthy and spiritually engaging?

Ken said...

What happens in a particular church body is the result of what the individuals in the particular church choose to do. Some are more willing than others to become engaged in deep, meaningful relationships. Just as is the case outside the church in a situation similar to where you are, relationships only happen if we are intentional about creating them. This can and does often happen in the church. Agreed, many do not engage in such practice, but this does not mean the church as a whole is messed up.

So, I wonder this: if the church ceases to be a forum for dynamic interaction and encouragement and ceases to be relevant for living faith in the 21st century, then is it time to abandon the forum?

I would say no, because the church brings people together to create opportunities for "dynamic interaction and encouragement." Sure it is not a perfect system and many people fall through the cracks, but more often than not the people who do not become more engaged are in that position because of their own choosing.

If I was not going to seminary right now and was not involved in a church, how would I meet others in this geographical community to find meaningful Christian relationships? Before coming to this area I worked in a factory where I was the only Christian. The church was my only source of connection with other believers in my geographical community. So if we depart from the forum, through what channels are we to find and develop those relationships?

Antoine said...

My bro just passed me a link to this, and I am smiling and nodding all the way thru the article and comments. This is good, for several reasons.

To those that would spout Hebrews 10:24-25 as an admonishment to "church," I would only make the argument that if all that one learns in going to church is how to interact to those in a church, then "chruch" is not at all being effective as a launching point to getting out to the ends of the earth. Rather than criquie the original poster's reasons for dismissing fellowship in a church because it doesn;t fit the model that most church-goers are accustomed to, it would be better to ask if he feels that in leaving church that he feels equipped to relate to the world outside of it. If not, then he shouldn't leave, the church hasn't done its job.

I would also say that one should be very careful in espousing "the worship experience" as a reason for staying anywhere near a church gathering. If all that binds you to a group is a tingly feeling that you get; then an investigation into the rest of your life should be taken - you might be a surface dweller more than you want to acknowledge.

Thanks for this post; its refreshing to read honesty in the Body online.

Anonymous said...

I am at somewhat of a loss by this whole conversation. I see value on both sides, but feel there are some real concepts being left out of the equation. Though I nod in agreement to many of the realities you express in your disillusionment of the American Evangelical Church; I simultaneously distance myself from your attitude about the situation. I stand in a tradition of disciples who sacrificed much to get us where we are today. I see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because the people just don't get it -- ultimately giving His life with blood sweat and tears for people who are totally in the dark about the Kingdom! I find myself asking God to give me a love for His people that would cause me to consider cutting myself off from God's Kingdom in order for their blind eyes to be open -- this is a result of reading a letter from the Apostle Paul. I see reformers like Martin Luther broken over the fragmentation of the Church Universal because his desire for change was never intended to break apart the body -- when one part of the body hurts, the whole body feels it. He would rather be killed for not recanting within the church than conducting himself outside of it. They forced him out . . . he never left on his own accord!

As far as the worship experience, I am still at a loss. I don't even think we get what it is all about. I think we totally miss the point -- in general. Yet what good can I do sitting outside and throwing rocks? If a grass roots movement is not birthed from within, what's the use? This is a job for the Spirit of God dwelling within the people of God who reveals Himself in a dynamic way when we gather together as living stones. Regardless of the condition of the church, at the end of the day, it is still filled with blood-bought sons and daughters. They are family -- as blind as they may be, I am not loving them if I leave them in the dark. They need a taste of authentic community just as much as some elite group of insiders who "get it". If I were a starving beggar who found bread, why would I not go back to the community of faith and show the way -- is this not true love? Who cares what they give me in return . . . they are dead in their tracks if I don't come to their aid! I would guess most people in my congregation have never known unconditional love, sacrificial service, God speaking in their midst through His people, and in-your-face-accountability -- and many of them know it! So, how could I boast of leaving a church that admittedly doesn't have it all together in order to search out a small community who is united and comforted by the fact that they admittedly don't have it all together? Why would I be at odds with the one and comforted by the other?

I honestly can't relate to many of the comments I find in your article. Maybe, in part, because I recognize my church's weaknesses and seek out those needs in other venues and partly because I am not looking to find many things in the building that most people are looking for there. At the building, I find people who are messed up, blind, beaten down, broken, full of joy, challenging to my faith, full of wisdom, full of faith, hungry to serve, selfish as the day is long, and they are all looking -- even if they don't know it -- for trail markers to get them home. I also find people genuinely striving to communicate God's worth back to Him in poetic verse set to music because normal words just won't do it! How could you not love that environment? How can you not be moved with compassion to do something about their condition? How could you not want to bring bread to the beggars? Deceived they may be, but the problem with deception is you don't know you're being deceived. You need people who love you enough to come along side you and point out the blind spots. That's what shepherds do for sheep -- you don't need a paid position or some goofy title to shepherd sheep, just a love for the flock and a sense of the terrain.

I appreciate your honesty and trust I have misread much -- if not most -- of what you are attempting to articulate in words. I feel you are the voice for many silent witnesses and pray we can grow together toward maturity.

Crystal said...

I feel for you bro. This is very interesting since aren't you a preacher's kid?

Some things to add after reading your post and the ensuing comments:
-I agree w/ Ken about the Biblical mandate of not giving up on the meeting between believers. The church was established by God for a reason. The reason for its existence is being missed however by many I agree. The need for authenticity is being missed in the overreaching purpose of making disciples. Most churches in America are missing the mark in being authentic. Although they try- the show, the program, the time limit, the chics, and the lack of vulnerability and accountability are all things which contribute to them missing the mark.
Wasn't it though in your post not too long ago that our society is becoming too mechanic and disconnected. Therefore, only relying on a blog or AIM or any such thing is too impersonal and inauthentic for a person's spiritual and relational needs.
One side does have to do with our own personal responsibility of making the effort to connect w/ God and be soft to the working of His Spirit in our hearts and lives. In our our day and age this is becoming more and more difficult because of our disconnected, impersonal functioning along with all of the everyday distractions that strive the pull is away from Him.
On the other hand of our need for personal responsibility, there must be outlets for meeting other people's needs while having our own filled. I agree that large corporate shows of one-man sermons, 30 minute presentations, and no personal contact other than someone handing you a bulletin on the way in is not the way church should function. That's not how the Bible portrays the church and it's not meeting anyone's long term needs- spirituality or personally.
So, how can we be different? What if church changed? what if a different person preached every week? Several people preached every week? Only lay people were leaders? We were less focused on the building and more on reach out to the community? We only sang when our hearts were right before God and yearned to give Him praise?
I heard someone recently say that" You cannot say you love God, but hate His bride [the Church]." I agree that His bride is messed up, but then isn't our responsibility to bring her back to where she needs to be?

Melody said...

What if church changed? what if a different person preached every week? Several people preached every week? Only lay people were leaders?

Interesting thoughts. Mormons have laypreachers. I don't know how that works, I just know that they have them. Jon could convert.

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken said...

Crystal and Melody:

That form of church structure already exists in Congregational churches.

The only concern I have with that is the potential to foster heresy. If no one is dedicated to the teaching and preaching of the Word, to study, and (dare I say it) training, how can the church ensure that what is being taught is sound? Sure it used to be that the church trained up its own leaders, but culture has changed that and now training is done in the seminaries. Is this bad? Not as long as the seminaries remain committed to the local church.

Anon: Thanks for your thoughts. Much to chew on there.

Antoine: My bringing up the passage was simply to ask how Jon was obeying the exhortation, not to say that the passage is about attending a morning worship service. I think you misread the discussion.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody: And how long do you abstain from church before it turns into spiritual anorexia? Are you really stepping away from the body of Christ or are you just stepping away from organized gatherings of the body?

I am stepping away from "church." As I have said several times on this blog, words mean things; and a word's meaning has to do with how we use the word in our context of living. The word "church" in America means an organized religious gathering where we sing songs we usually don't really mean and listen to preaching that doesn't really interest us. It is this form of "church" that causes what you call "spiritual anorexia."

Melody: I (and probably the rest of your readership) would be interested to know what other opportunities you are pursuing in place of occupying the building consigned to perdition. How does that extra hour or so assist you in these pursuits?

People.

Me: But the church, as we all know, is not a place for the intellectually curious or those with spiritual hunger. It is no place for the young.

Melody: We all know this? Pray tell, what leads us all to believe such things? Where should those with spiritual hunger go?

I would suggest using the extra two hours each week to brainstorm ideas. One of the problems with those of us who have grown up in churches is that we have been taught that we cannot jump until the Pastors tell us how high. Psychologists call this a learned dependency.

Melody: What requirements would a conversation need to meet before reaching "meaningful" status?

A guy who attends our church recently told me that he is doubting the historical reliability of the Bible. I suggested that he discuss this in a church Sunday School. How do you think that would fly!??!

The term "meaningful" is relative to the person.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken: Sure it is not a perfect system and many people fall through the cracks, but more often than not the people who do not become more engaged are in that position because of their own choosing.

And this is obviously where you and I disagree quite a bit. If I had to guess, I would say that 99.9% of the people who walk through the doors of a church with doubts, fears, sins, or pain also leave the church without being able to express and engage the issues. I don't think this is their fault. I think it is all of our faults. We are just like the greater culture in the sense that we don't know how to have meaningful dialog. In a lot of ways, we are much worse in churches because we feel this incredible pressure to throw answers (in the form of a handy Bible verse) at people who are doubting/fearing/sinning/hurting. We are the great handymen for the world! The self-proclaimed fixer-upers!

We do not understand the fine art of drawing people out and walking with them in their hour of trial.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Crystal: This is very interesting since aren't you a preacher's kid?

Yes, ma'am.

Anyone else would be able to just look at the church, laugh it off, and move on. As it is, I continue to post on the topic b/c it is seared upon my soul.

Dawn said...

Amen brother! I can say without a doubt that I don't think that church is the place to help/get to know/encourage our Christian brothers and sisters.

You only get to know the mask.

I've been tempted to join one of those small, home churches. At least people would know my name.

Great post!

Melody said...

Ken, I was being sarcastic, but in response to this...

The only concern I have with that is the potential to foster heresy. If no one is dedicated to the teaching and preaching of the Word, to study, and (dare I say it) training, how can the church ensure that what is being taught is sound?

I understand those concerns, but how does the church ever get rid of heresy? I think it would work pretty much the same.

I'm not saying there's no need for people to be experts on the Bible or for people to be taught by them. I see a lot of value in that. I just don't see the absense of it leading to heretical beliefs as long as we're literate and have access to the bible.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody/Ken,

I tend to side with Melody in that I think that people are capable of far more than most leaders give them credit for.

Besides this, though...Ken, you never answered my question posed at the previous post. You said that theology dictates practice.

I think that "sound doctrine" is overrated for most conservatives. I think there are other things that dictate practice and that believing something does not mean that one acts accordingly in all cases. For many Christians, I find that it is the exact opposite: they find great comfort (even pride) in the fact that they have superior knowledge. As Paul says, "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

Melody said...

The word "church" in America means an organized religious gathering where we sing songs we usually don't really mean and listen to preaching that doesn't really interest us. It is this form of "church" that causes what you call "spiritual anorexia."

Alright, well I like the sermons, but even assuming that your American definition of church is accurate, you're the one who compared it to food, which is necesary to live, and to sex, which is usually described as desirable.

So, I don't feel bad about not understanding what you meant by the word "church". Your use of the term "fast" seemed to imply that church is good, but as I know you don't really think that, I wasn't really sure what to think.

People.

So many opportunities that you can't even come up with a whole sentence to describe them.

I'm not really doubting the abundance of opportunities for Christians. I don't doubt that we mostly don't take advantage of them. I just...you're telling us, "Oh it's better, it's better" but answers like "People" are just not all that convincing. You know?

I would suggest using the extra two hours each week to brainstorm ideas. One of the problems with those of us who have grown up in churches is that we have been taught that we cannot jump until the Pastors tell us how high.

Not a bad use of two hours.

But...I think it's absurd to imagine that anyone's jumping when the Pastor says to, let alone asking how high they should jump. I just can't even imagine that.

A guy who attends our church recently told me that he is doubting the historical reliability of the Bible. I suggested that he discuss this in a church Sunday School. How do you think that would fly!??!

I guess it would depend on who was in the sunday school, just as it would depend on who you were talking to in any other conversation. It would probably also depend on what he was doubting.

Like, I can't imagine having a whole ton of patience with someone who doubts...oh, the historical existance of Jesus. I probably wouldn't be of any help if someone doubts the historical existance of the Amorites or the Hittites. I suppose we could assign homework and everyone could come back the next week with what they've found out about them and we could compare notes.

Not that I think that would happen. I think he'd get blank stares. Ken would probably take the opportunity to give a mini lecture (you know you would, Ken).

Where do you think this fellow would get a better reaction? For that matter, what do you envision being a better reaction? Would we all magically have answers? Would we all admit we have no clue and that he'll just have to be as confused as he was before? Would we hunt down (gasp) a Pastor and ask what they thought? Would we crumple up our faith like a napkin and head for the nearest bar?

chris van allsburg said...

I would wager that 1st century christians, to whom hebrews was written--jewish christians--who had nothing: no family, no work, no place in society, because of persecution, would certainly not have had any inkling to the effect of not meeting with each other face to face to gather for corporate worship, and also to encourage each other to keep the faith in jesus the messiah.

if the church has become banal, make it unbanal. be a genuine person with others in that bible study, small group, or mercy ministry or whatever. running from the problem doesn't solve it.

when the philistines filled jacob's wells with dirt, he didn't quarrel with them, he dug new wells. and he brought his household with him.

Crystal said...

dawn- I've going to a house for the past six months or so. Although there are still kinks sometimes, it has been one of the most authentic church experiences I have very been apart of. The main reason I started going to this one was b/c of the impersonalness and authenticity I was experiencing elsewhere. I went to a church where after a whole year I couldn't tell you half the congregations name and they couldn't tell you mine, much less what we were struggling w/ spiritually. I'm not an expert at how house churches function b/c I haven't been apart of it for very long, but so far it's amazing to see how God can work through such simple means.
ken and melody- you both seem to be wondering about the question of leadership in non-traditional church contexts. Going back to my point before, if the church's purpose is to make disciples part of that work entails that we are also training those disciples to be effective themselves. This is the ultimate responsibility of the church, and one where the church is sadly failing. Ken- to say that people are slipping through the cracks b/c it's their own fault is almost entirely false. Isn't it "The people are dispirited and without a shepherd, therefore we must ask God for more workers" instead of "You didn't catch the train; too bad." I think antione and I are on the same track w/ this.
yun-it seems you went on a people fast, not a church fast and after a while you felt the need to get to know people. There are times when you should just step back and take time to be w/ God ( I'm not recommending months and months like jon), but if the main purpose of the church is make disciples connnecting with people should be the goal right? The purpose of meeting together is to encourage one another and spur one another on to "love and good deeds."

Ken said...

Jon and Crystal

Earlier I mentioned the issue of people "slipping through the cracks" and put the blame primarily on them. In large part I do hold to that idea. There have been numerous times I have opened up to vulnerability and have not had it reciprocated. Other times I give the other person the opportunity to open up and they refuse, choosing to stay vague in their response. How can I minister to someone and come along side them if they will not open up and be vulnerable? The opportunity has been presented and they refuse it. What else is there to do?

Yes there are others who "slip through the cracks" because we do not reach out to them. But there are few who seek to lead and many who want to follow. Believe me, it is frustrating and disheartening for pastors and leaders to find out about someone they missed simply because they did not know there was a problem. Try as we might, we are human and limited. We will miss some, and that is why there is a need for more people to be involved in this sort of direct, personal ministry. The leaders cannot do everything.

This is a good example of wheat and tares. There are many in the church who do desire and work to find authentic relational Christianity, and there are others who just want to pay their dues. Just as getting involved in "house church" involves intentionality on everyones part, so does relationships within the regular church structure.

Melody: you wrote;
Ken would probably take the opportunity to give a mini lecture (you know you would, Ken).

Gotta admit, I laughed because there was alot of truth to that. I would, but I would also point them to a book or a person who knew much more about the subject than I, so the person struggling could talk with someone who could help them in their struggle. My "mini-lecture" would be introductory to get the ball rolling on helping them and not leaving them in the dark. Sure I fail sometimes in my approach, but I am working on that. Maybe someday I'll be perfect :P

Jon, I'll try to tackle your question in the other post. I am busy and tend to either forget or just not read everything. Seminary takes a lot of time out of my days.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken: Believe me, it is frustrating and disheartening for pastors and leaders to find out about someone they missed simply because they did not know there was a problem. Try as we might, we are human and limited. We will miss some, and that is why there is a need for more people to be involved in this sort of direct, personal ministry. The leaders cannot do everything.

Well, Ken, this is the whole point!

Pastors are working from a top-down hierarchy. The elders/pastors/etc. are the spiritual elites and they get paid to take the spiritual weight of the world on their shoulders. This is not only nonbiblical (i.e., without any biblical justification) it is also just plain silly.

We need a new breed of leaders who realize the ridiculousness of the current church set up and start to cultivate relationships in smaller groups and house church type of settings. It is only on a small scale that we can grow in authentic and open relationships. The current emphasis on church services and Pastoral leadership is counterproductive to this aim.

You are right, the leaders cannot do everything. So, why do they try?????

Ken said...

The idea of a pastor/elder is non-biblical? Why would Paul spell out qualifications for these positions if they are non-biblical? Why would Peter and the other apostles have deacons appointed to care for the widows if an hierarchal structure is wrong? Paul would appoint leaders in churches or have others do so (the purpose of Titus) So to have these positions is in fact biblical. For them to carry the weight of the responsibility is biblical. The problem is not with the leadership alone as you seem to be pressing. The problem is when other people are not exercising the gifts they are given for the church, and therefore forcing the pastors / elders to take up the slack.

So by going against this structure, saying that having this structure no longer works, are you not saying that the structure established by Scripture is lacking? Is Scripture no longer good enough for determining how a church should operate? It seems your answer is yes.

Ken said...

I find it interesting that the mega-church picture you used at the top is in fact the Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ken, The position of elder/pastor is biblical. To me that's obvious. The question is how to use that position. American Christianity follows the corporate model: everything starts at the top. Pastor = CEO. The leaders develop the vision and consolidate their power. Only a few have the privilege to speak or lead worship. The others take their marching orders.

Elder/Pastor as a position is okay. Leaders are good.

What we need are fearless young leaders who will step outside of the nonprofit, corporate approach to church and lead as servants. These leaders would take Jesus' example seriously: washing feet and laying down his life as a sacrifice. They wouldn't see ministry as a career path but as a lifestyle. This would allow them to get out in the world and avoid being cloistered in their church offices day after day, ad infinitum.

Ken: The problem is when other people are not exercising the gifts they are given for the church, and therefore forcing the pastors / elders to take up the slack.

No. That's what Pastors tell themselves in order to try to understand why everyone just sits back and doesn't do anything.

The real problem is that the Pastors take all the responsibility on themselves. It's a structural thing. If you organize a church according to the American corporate model, then the blue collar Christians will just punch the time clock each Sunday. You can blame the blue collar Christians, but I think that misses the greater point. The problem is the tight structure and the spiritual elitism.

"Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters." Matthew 23:8

Ken said...

I will grant you that there are pastors who do treat the church in a corporate fashion and have a CEO mentalilty to leadership. But I hope you are not making a blanket judgment on pastors. There are many who do not approach their ministry in this way. Admittedly it is tough to find this in a larger church, but they are there. It is more common to find a correct mentality to ministry in a small church.

In any case, if you get to know the heart of these men, you will find that they are doing simply what God calls them to do. I highly recommend a book by D.A. Carson called Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor. He writes about his father, a pastor who faced many challenges and yet still held a solid example of what a pastor should be. I have a copy if you want to borrow it.

Maybe in your dissatisfaction with large churches, you should consider attending a small country church. It may be a refreshing experience.