This is another five minute commentary for radio, as are most of my posts. This one, at this time, I feel is kind of special. I feel that I need an introduction commentary, as is #28 in the two minute commentaries I posted in December, 2010. With this one, I began by thinking that, as I have examined the critique the ideas behind organic church, that most come down to the misunderstanding rampant in the western world as to what the words “church, pastor, preach, tithe, and communion” mean. Below, I tie this to an experience I had as a teen, which years later, I realized spoke to a general principle going on in institutional churches today.
2010—comparing apples to apples
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute. When we make a choice in the world, a reasonable person would like to make an apples to apples comparison. When we go to a grocery store, there are a number of dish detergents on the shelf. We might choose one by price, or color, or fragrance, or how the package looks on your shelf, or how it affects one’s hands or if they give a nickel to a favored charity, or you could have ordered some via Amway a couple of weeks ago, or bought a book on chemistry and made it yourself. All these choices have pluses and minuses. In making comparisons in the real world, as opposed to, say, politics, one needs to compare apples to apples. Some of those companies wish to make the comparison as easy as possible, particularly with the strategy of offering the lowest price. The company offering the product at the highest price is attempting to do something to differentiate themselves such that whatever that unique thing is will make you ignore the high price. In autos, for instance, the companies wish to put so many optional features on a car that you can’t find two identical cars to compare to.
The reason I bring this up is to present the following question. Think of the following words: church, pastor, preach, tithe, communion. When you hear that word, or read that word or read about that concept in the Bible, are you thinking of the same thing that the writer of scripture was talking about when he was writing it? Now some might say that that is an unfair question, in that we know that to some minor degree, according to our experiences, we all see the words we use everyday in a very slightly different nuance. I’m not talking about that. I’m asking, do we understand these words apples to apples similar or apples to pineapples different? When Paul wrote the Koine Greek word ekklesia, how similar is that word in how the original receivers of his letters understand it in comparison to our modern English word church, which also includes aspects you have picked up from your experience that you’ve never heard said.
Let me give you an example from my life. My parents were honest, moral people, if you asked them, they would have said they believed in God, but I doubt ever really thought through what that meant. When I was 8, they started having me go to Sunday School at a church a couple of miles away (I lived in a rural area). When I was 15, I came to faith in Jesus, just a few weeks after the elderly pastor of that church passed away. About a year later, the new pastor also came to teach the high school class I was in, and asked how many people believed doctrine X, which that church held one view of, and most churches held an opposite view of. I’d never considered the idea one way or another, and wasn’t sure, although I knew the church’s stand, so, in a show of hands, I stuck my hand out sideways and waved by wrist to indicate that I wasn’t sure. I was sitting in a front row, and later learned that no one else raised their hand, where raising their hand indicated agreement with the official position. Given that, the pastor taught about this doctrine for four weeks, and then asked that question again. This time, no one, including myself, raised their hand. What was the pastor to do—now no one agrees with that denomination’s position? You can’t toss everyone out—you need a salary. The answer is: don’t talk about it one way or another.
The thing I am getting at is that what Paul and the other writers of the New Testament, and the apostles taught during the days of the early church, when faith in Jesus spread like wildfire, and also what we have seen in parts of the world where the government or a social group is overtly attempting to persecute faith in Jesus, but faith has been spreading like wildfire, was connected to what Jesus taught the disciples, who in turn taught the early church. We, here in the West, with all of our money and marketing ideas and media teaching are not seeing people come to faith in Jesus in an exceptional way, and may even be seeing a harvest of criticism and mockery from unbelievers that aren’t always undeserved. I am suggesting that some of these key words in the Bible have, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally by both well meaning persons and those who were not, have morphed in meaning so significantly that we are not reading our Bibles correctly, that is, we are reading the correct word, insofar as translating the word from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic to English, but we are connecting an incorrect definition to it, as various people in history have leaned on society in ways that have changed how we understand a word, and we’ve added and deleted to the word by what we’ve seen but no one has ever overtly explained. My time today is done, but this series is looking at a variety of specific instances.
You can contact me at email@example.com or 757-735-xxxx. Hearing a talk goes really quickly; if you would like to see a transcript of what I just said, I have it posted on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, dated September 1, 2011. For more information about organic worship in this area, visit www.hrscn.org.
Almost nothing that I say in these commentaries are my original ideas, but I am putting out in the public because these are ideas spoken of in some evangelical seminaries, and among certain groups of believers in Jesus, but are quite invisible to many believers who are sincerely desiring to follow Jesus, and who are plugged into what is being said and sung in Christian pop culture. Two books which are an excellent introduction to what will be said in these commentaries are:
George Barna & Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity.
Wolfgang Simson, Houses that Change the World
Many Christian bookstores will not have these in stock. Many authors sell their works on their websites, and I have not had any problem finding anything I have been looking for on amazon.com.