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Sunday, August 14, 2011

What the Carlson & Longman book review has to do with simple/organic church


One of the nice things, for me, about being a part of a house church is getting up Sunday morning and catching up on what’s been going on in the world during the week via CNN’s Candy Crowley (for national political news), Fareed Zakaria (for international news), and Howard Kurtz (for the role of the media).  I know that one could cogently argue that the first two subjects could be better done via newspapers and magazines, but since I have cable in my house, and no place with excellent place for reading, it works for me to the degree that I wish to apply myself to it.  With regard to the media, I subtly learned via Inter-Varsity’s HIS magazine, which by now has been replaced by a website for many years now, that the way media, which in this case includes not only radio, TV, but also books, newspapers, internet news, art forms and any and every other method that develops, covers and does not cover various issue and societal patterns is in itself a pattern of what the present and future holds.

            From that point of view, I wish to explain why I put in the review of the Carlson and Longman book last blog.  I can picture why, for some, it does not fit into the general theme of my blog, which deals with house/simple/organic church.  I will begin to explain via a story.  A few years ago, I was involved in a traditional church in Florida.  The senior pastor was apparently a lively, interesting person to hear speak.  Over a period of five years, I came to learn that he dropped out of high school, went to police academy so that he was able to join the local police shortly after or at becoming 18.  He stated that he originally accepted Jesus as Savior at a young age, fell away, and came back to following Jesus actively at about 21 as a result of God speaking to him to either follow or that He would leave him alone, which he took as a “last call” to either follow God’s ways or not.  My wife volunteered in the church office for about a year. 

            One day, I saw a man at that church who led, of sorts, the “men’s ministry” in the grocery store on a Friday afternoon.  I say, of sorts, in that this brother and his wife had a fairly extensive ministry plan for the community, of which his volunteering to lead the men’s ministry was a part.  It was heavily involved with helping poor persons fix basic needs, such as leaky roofs, build a ramp for handicapped persons, etc.  Over the course of over a year (I no longer remember how much over a year), half or more of the men involved with this were not a part of the church we went to.  This man was somewhat torn as to whether go through the paperwork of establishing this as a separate not-for-profit or closely tie this to our home church.  There were benefits to each course of action.  Anyway, in speaking to him for a moment, he ended the conversation with, “I’ll see you Sunday.”  It so happens that I didn’t see him Sunday, but as we know, things can happen.  Somehow, I wound up calling him the following Friday.  I was on a phone which had an overly loud speaker in the handset.  Just as my wife was walking through the room, he told me over the phone that between when I saw him on Friday and Sunday, the senior pastor told him not to come to that church anymore.  When I got off the phone, my wife told me she would not go back there.  We had a discussion, and I found out that she put up with going to that church because she believed I liked going to it, and I was continuing to go there because I believe she liked it.  Both of us had seen that things happened in that church only because the senior pastor liked it, and, through the stories he had told, it was clear that he liked being the head person so things he was concerned about happened, and things that would be corrective in his life were rejected, unless it came from his father or mother’s mouth. 

            At this time, I worked in a Home Depot, in a city of about 20,000.  As such, anyone who knew me knew where to find me.  After a few weeks of my leaving, when it was clear that I had left, a number of people who knew me walked up to me asking a variety of questions.  It became clear that this pastor had some personal problems everyone who knew him, except himself, could see, and anyone who either attempted to speak to him about such was either intimidated to stop talking to him or asked to leave.

            The point of the above story is, that while Matthew 18:15-17 (I am quoting NKJV) says, 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector,”* with the structure traditional churches have, it is difficult to go to the established leaders when they are wrong.  Moreso, when, due to the unique aspect of our modern society, leaders come to influence large numbers of persons via TV and radio by means of their eloquence and personality, combined with the limitation of the media, that the average person can hear what they have to say in detail, but they cannot hear from the other direction, even if such person was in your city getting access to such person would be near impossible, and it is even more difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary, reputation, and, might I suggest sometimes even ego, depends on their not understanding it, to paraphrase Sinclair.

            Therefore, the importance of the Carlson and Longman book is that, while the facts line up behind their point of view, both scientifically and theologically, most of the best known names in Christian teaching, might I even say, the celebraties, either do not touch this subject, or teach the super-literalistic view because, either they believe it is correct and/or that is what the people who give the money that keeps “their ministry” going and growing expect and/or they are riding the tide of momentum, in that what they taught made more sense 200 years ago, so it is not worth fighting the tide and/or they cannot be personally confronted.  One person in leadership with a personality to attract others can lead (either intentionally or not) many in an incorrect direction.  We live in a society, here in the U.S., where much of our society fears the overly charismatic leader, as they can see at the secular level what has come of societies persons such as Hitler, and within organized Christian structures where all kinds of pastors have taken positions on one subject or another that is obviously incorrect, of which, to an unbeliever, there appears to be no corrective action.  From inside the fellowship of believers in Jesus, there is the one of quietly leaving by the back door and never returning (an option sometimes not available in a dictatorship).

            What I am saying is not just that house/simple/organic church is not merely more correct theology, but also that this problem is alieviated by the church being small enough to self correct.  If someone stands up with an off track teaching, any other believer can correct such a situation.  Further, if no one has their living based on “being the leader”, and no money is collected by an organization which can be directed by the leader (intentionally or not) to hype his/her special idea, it cannot grow further off track.

            Now, an aspect of this is that in, not just every church, but every group of people, some who will just “go with the flow”.  In my story above, because that church is in an area which has consistent population growth, for all the people who quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) leave, people new to the area have allowed that church to grow slowly in membership, helped by the pastor putting his really entertaining sermons on cable TV.  Now, its kind of obvious that I take a fairly intellectual approach to how I approach desiring to follow Jesus, and, as I mentioned above, this pastor, for his ability to naturally lead and captivate persons by his speech, wasn’t great in intellectual achievement.  My wife, long after we left, told me one day that it was mentioned to her, whether by this pastor or someone else, I’m not sure, that he didn’t always understand what I said.  Obviously, being “the pastor”, he couldn’t admit it.  Too bad, maybe he, I, and who knows how many others might have learned something about following Jesus.

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*This quotation needs be balanced from scripture with Lev. 19:17, Prov. 25:9, Mt. 18:14, 21, Lk. 17:3, 1 Cor. 9:19, Gal. 6:1, 2 Th. 3:15, Titus 3:10, James 5:19.  I believe if one examines all these scriptures, it proves that I have quoted this in proper understanding with what is in other scriptures on this subject.

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