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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some thoughts on communicating the truths of simple, organic church

            How do we lovingly challenge, or at least inform, our brothers and sisters in Christ, with regard to the group of truths upon which this development (I am avoiding the word “movement” in that there, as I see it, some problems with the term) of faith called “simple/organic church” is based?

            I say this in that while there are a couple of persons who, in my opinion, have communicated at a forefront level who live in my area, I still perceive that most believers in Jesus that I know have not dealt with this group of teachings (a. church as people, not organization, b. generosity, not tithe, c. Jesus as actual Head of the Church, not ritual or professional human leadership, d. giving to help the poor and pioneer missionary activity as primary beneficiaries of the generosity, e. leadership by gifting, not training or accreditation, etc.) because of their being unaware of the teachings’ existence.

            The blunt truth is that, if they were aware, which they may not be, there is a problem with the fact that these teachings are counter to the financial interest of a large number of persons—not just those on the staffs of traditional, corporation-based churches, but also Christian bookstores and Christian radio and TV.  These teachings are not being overtly suppressed by these groups, but some less assured of their incomes might wish such if they were aware of the teachings’ existence.  Among non-professionals, because of being unaware, many have yet to either accept or reject these teachings, although if past history foretells future trends, some will reject because they are not, in the early awareness, status quo, or that they threaten persons who are their hearts are genuinely knit to.   Also, when more persons become aware of these teachings, these groups could not suppress them if they tried, similar to what we saw in the previous century on the subject of spiritual gifts.  To clarify, if a greater amount of believers give first to helping the poor and pioneer missionary activity, as opposed to traditional corporate church budgets, it would be of detrimental effect to Christian bookstores, which I perceive are more and more dependent on sales of light reading Christian books (as opposed to books that examine theology or thoughtful topics) and the various pop culture trappings sometimes derisively referred to as “Jesus Junk.”  As for radio and TV, they almost all depend either on playing music, which is given them by record companies in that the music is an implicit commercial for record sales, or programs, which are paid for from the budgets of traditional church organizations, which pay for themselves either by attracting new persons to the church, or at least giving pastors a greater awareness of their work among fellow ministers.  None of the above fits into the simple church paradigm for the same reason it didn’t fit into Jesus’ plan, which then became the apostles’ plan for guiding others in faith. 

            A few months ago, I thought that I needed to move to another city on the opposite side of the country.  Thanks to the internet, I could see that, if I had moved there, I could not find anyone involved in simple church for a two hour drive (this is somewhat stretched due to the city I was looking at being in the desert).  I also recognize that that does not mean that there is not, just that no one had joined which, as far as I can find, is the best location for finding others in other areas at this time, I think. 

            One of the difficulties in communicating any message in U.S. culture is, because we have a freedom of speech with relatively minor limitations, we are overrun with messages.  I can look back on my life and see that I came fairly close to contacting the issue of simple church about ten years before I did.  I took a correspondence course from a Christian grad school that had a Chinese studies program.  Now, at that time, I got that the church had grown greatly in China during the Mao years in spite of governmental opposition, and that would be a reason worth studying what happened, but, as I only took a couple of basic courses on a correspondence basis, I missed out on the informal interaction that happens on a campus that would have informed be that part of the importance in the phenomenon was how governmental opposition forced the church to follow the early church’s structure, at least until a slight amount of easing allowed Western organizations to rush in and “help.”

            About two weeks ago, I was involved in a group discussion with a number of persons involved in simple church in my metro area.  One of them was an institutional pastor, has been involved in pioneer missionary work, specializing in working in Muslim cultures.  At this time, he can only be involved part time due to fund raising issues.  I respect him as a leader.  One thing he pointed out was that, in his position of desiring to align finances so that his family can work in full time missionary endeavors, he is not in the best position in our culture to speak about finances among certain groups.  To hold the position of the New Testament that only apostles/pioneer missionaries are to be supported in a culture where most believers consider it unthinkingly normal for local leaders to be paid is to say, implicitly, from his point of speaking, “I should be paid, most of the people you know who are paid shouldn’t” (my made up quotation, not a sentence he actually said).  Therefore, for myself, as a person who probably wouldn’t be allowed into many countries if I tried due to health issues, it is more than my role to emphasize that those of our mature brothers and sisters in Jesus who have it on their hearts to go to the 28% of the world’s population that doesn’t get to hear the message of Jesus should be supported to do that, and are, according to scripture, a higher priority for our generosity than any other project except helping the poor, and many of the areas they wish to go to can also fall into that other priority also. 

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