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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Some thoughts on God's ways of correcting one


On my last writing, I finished by saying,

That’s one of the great things about using participatory Bible studies instead of sermons—if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, which includes you leaving out some thoughts in your head that tie two points together, that person can ask, and you can correct yourself, or maybe realize that you are running down a mental rabbit trail to nowhere. The greater problem is for those of us who are either leaders or more highly educated accepting correction when God somehow chooses to send it through someone less educated or with less leadership ability or who shows normally less obedience or faithfulness or commitment.

            Carolyn Spence commented that she would like me to develop that thought more, so I will attempt to.  Many (although not all) persons in this network do not know me personally.  If you knew me, it would filter out and add certain aspects to what I am attempting to communicate, and that occurs wherever you interact with persons whom you know to some degree.  Since this is not the case for most, I need to tell you a little about me.  There are persons I know, particularly in some traditional Pentecostal institutions which honor zeal or excitement over intellectual study, who might take this as a defense of being zealous over having put in time in study (and not just in Christian studies, but also in almost any practical subject).  That’s not me.  As a young believer I learned that, part of what shows that the God of the Bible is truly God is that, to speak creation into existence, before creation, God thoroughly understood all the various things that make the universe what it is, from laws of astrophysics in the universe to what works at the subatomic level to dna, much of which the intellectually greatest of us humans have begun to understand to a degree only over the last few generations.  God understood it sufficiently to speak it into existence.  Then, He gave us a group of writings that speak to persons from extremely primitive to our current modern technological culture.  From what we see in Genesis about the fall, He could and did even conceive alternatives, one of which He put in place at the Fall, and another of which He will put into place near the end, at the least.  To say that sentence doesn’t mean that I, or you, begin to understand it. Even then, maybe, even probably, we are just guessing to the best of our limited understanding. 

            To that effect, what He is doing is spiritual.  When I prayed to accept Jesus as my Savior, something happened.  I felt it, but I can’t explain it.  Later, I learned that I didn’t choose Him, He chose me.  It felt at the time like I chose Him, but I believe God is not a man that He should lie, so somehow it is true.  Maybe after this life is over, He’ll explain it to us, and maybe we won’t care. 

            To the subject at hand, I’ll tell you a story that first brought this aspect to my attention.  I came to faith in Jesus between by freshman and sophomore years in high school.  After graduating, I went to a nearby public liberal arts college.  By the Spirit, He directed me to getting connected to a group of fellow Christian students of all different backgrounds for mutual support and to be a witness of Jesus to the campus community, which, of course, has somewhat of an anti-Christian leaning to its culture.  This group was about 50 on a campus of 4000.  I’m not saying, by any means, that we were the only believers on campus, as I’m sure there were believers who just got on campus and off, and had other things in life going on.  Anyway, one of these other believers was a young woman named Kathy, also a freshman, who had been messing with Zen through her high school years, and had come to faith in Jesus over the previous summer.  Her wardrobe still reminded one of someone who had just walked out of an ashram.  When winter term came around, a young man named Mike came to campus.  He’d been hiking around the country, and it seems God started speaking to him while touring the cathedrals of Montreal, and, if I recall correctly, doing drugs.  Somewhere during the first week of school, Kathy and Mike wound up in a conversation, and Mike accepted Jesus as his Savior.  The next Thursday, I ran into Mike for the first time, and we had a short conversation, and realized that this was the person I had heard had gotten saved during the previous week during about the last sentence of the conversation.  The next weekend, some of the students in this group (I was not there that day), for whatever reason, or for the experience of it, visited a church which might fit into what Frank Viola describes as “wacky”, or, to put it into conventional terms, old-time Pentecostal.  Mike was with the group, and as none of the other persons came from that background, they directed Mike to a professor who is a believer and could explain what went on (the good, the bad, and the ugly) better.

            The next Thursday, I ran into Mike again.  In the course of a conversation, Mike said something (I no longer remember what) which, as soon as I heard it, I knew was something true about following Jesus, but which had never occurred to me before, and I knew that I, or at least my spirit, hadn’t ever heard.  Exactly what it was isn’t the point.  The point is that it was a jolt to my spirit that I had been desiring to follow Jesus for about four years, and someone who had been a believer for a week and a half was teaching me!  Now, I had grown up going to an intellectualistic institutional church which was always led, by denominational decree, by a person with a master’s in theology.  This started showing me that, in reality, leadership, in this case teaching, is by gifting, not position or title.  As I would know him for the next couple of years, I came to see that God gave him certain abilities immediately that I would never have.

            This is one of the wonderful things about the true church, that is, groups of believers.  God is showing us what true spirituality is by having the true church function in a manner different than businesses, government, or the military.  Now, I was still decades away from even realizing simple, organic church existed.  After I graduated from college, and particularly after getting married, I knew that there was something special and more powerful in a Godly way about that informal group in college than the institutional churches I was part of once I was living in the “adult” world.  Not just in salvation, but in many aspects of sanctification, we can look back and feel within one’s spirit, “How could I have missed that?”  Even if afterward, a certain thing looks like an intellectual point, it actually is a spiritual one.  You cannot learn the point, one must follow Jesus and eventually experience it, and then know what God said in the Bible.  The rabbis of Jesus’ day missed the prophecies of Him, and we almost assuredly are not  understanding some of the prophecies of His coming again the way we will when we can look back at it.

            So far, I have discussed the intellectual aspect.  Leadership ability can be a natural gift or a spiritual gift.  We know of persons, both believers and non-, who have an ability to lead, either in general, or in specific situations, and to differing degrees.  The military believes that it can teach leadership, but that is difficult to clarify in a situation in which leadership is stratified by titular position.  In many capitalistic businesses, leadership is nothing more than a position, its title and responsibility.  I have had many managers at work who both didn’t have a hint of even caring about leading the persons who reported to them.  The manager expected the amount of respect that went with his position sufficient for all in a working group to collect a paycheck every week or two.  In government, such as in the U.S. where I live, we elect leaders, but I don’t remember if I have ever met one of these “leaders”.   I am certain I could meet some if I would go out of my way and find out about the meetings of one of the political parties (assuming it is a major party). 

            In the world, it is a threat to power to open a situation where those who have less power can ask a question, which is why we often see conflict between politicians and reporters. As the world’s way of doing leadership was forced into the church, much of institutional church has operated that way for centuries.  In a fallen world, a major reason behind it is that those in power are protecting themselves from being challenged or embarrassed.  In a true church, Jesus is the Head, we are all followers, and, to honor Him, we should all be attempting to build up each other.  If we don’t, it is still a teachable moment.  Even when I was in institutional churches, oftentimes the greatest lessons in faith came from something not as planned, or, unfortunately, someone in their humanity attempting to cover up something going wrong (at least in their own mind). 

            The last category is learning from someone who normally has shown less obedience (to the Holy Spirit), or faithfulness, or commitment. This takes situations which are closer to organic church, even if they are formally marked by names such as youth groups, parachurch organizations, home groups, prayer meetings, participatory Bible studies (as opposed to what certain churches call Bible studies which are nothing more than sermons following a book of the Bible, in which no one other than the speaker studied the Bible or can contribute anything) or just informal interactions in real life.  It takes a situation in which any person can speak.  This means that someone can say the wrong thing, and others in the group get to practice dealing with this person in a way that shows Jesus’ love and care for them through us.  More to the point, that person just may be able to say something beyond where they have grown spiritually, and in doing so, actually grow closer to there.  I think of one time when I was a young believer, and I quoted “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”, which is Isaiah 56:7, but I didn’t know that I knew that.  Afterward, when I was alone in my room, I was amazed to think of that.  As much as I assuredly heard it before, in my spirit, at that moment, it seemed miraculous.  I have been in other situations in which, particularly a young believer, says something that is wisdom, just in the midst of a normal conversation.  We don’t necessarily know what that means, except when either that piece of wisdom comes, surprisingly, out of one’s own mouth, or it is exactly the thing we needed to hear.  One special instance is when the person speaking says something that touches a point in oneself that God wishes to speak to you about, you know it, and you know the person saying it cannot know it.

            Before I conclude, I wish to bring up a situation that I struggle with.  This is those brothers and sisters in Jesus who wish to make every problem something that can be answered with a clever phrase and/or quoting one or, at most, a few scripture verses.  Among persons in that group, anyone that gives an involved answer, especially without quoting scripture verses (whether quoted in context or not is irrelevant) is somehow seen as unspiritual.  If these persons are in a leadership position, oftentimes they have been respecting those who have practiced emotionally moving others as opposed to teaching, and are unaware of the believers over the centuries who have struggled with problems of life and faith, and have communicated both excellent and incomplete answers, the latter of which has been further examined by others over time.    As I have said previously, I have not been able to have been in a missionary situation outside the U.S., but I suspect that such people appear in all cultures.  One last benefit of organic verses institutional church is that, if house church is the norm, such persons can send fewer persons off track.

            I sense that much more could be said about this issue, but these are thoughts I have at this time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

On using too few or too many words


            I fully well understand that this site is read by persons all around the world, and, therefore, we live in different cultures.  I also understand that many of my brothers and sisters in Jesus are not sports fans.  Therefore, I would like to relate a piece of U.S. sports news to this discussion area.  Here in the U.S., yesterday’s top story was of a professional athlete committing suicide in front of his coach and the person who ran the business side of the team.  Today, a nationally seen sports talk show host stated that, in this day, he perceives that he is expected to have a definite opinion on everything, and to have it in 140 characters or less (the size of a Twitter entry), and on this subject he doesn’t have a clear one, and by implication, if he did it couldn’t be that short.

            As we write here on the House2Harvest site, the first two sentences appear when emails get sent to everyone else.  It is tempting to try to say something important in that amount of space.  The general rule is, in attempting to, what is said is either obvious or totally unclear, particularly when read by someone in another cultural area.  Personally, I haven’t felt to say something here often, as I am a person that, not only has never served in a mission situation outside of the U.S., but has not been outside the U.S. other than a day trip across the border of Mexico, and a few days in Canada, which is only slightly different from the U.S.  I have spent time on secular college campuses, which culturally is very different from the world across the street from them.  Now, that is a perspective that is important, as I’ve also been to churches in which leadership is based on emotionalism, and of which the leaders could not have effectively dealt with college culture if they tried (maybe, fortunately, they don’t). 

            Many of us have sat through hundreds of structured speeches (sermons), and some have delivered hundreds.  Many of those were highly worked on, were theologically correct, but went in one ear and out the other.  There have been other instances in which, in the middle of one of those, one sentence was said which, at least for oneself, the Holy Spirit was in to touch and change oneself.  One may remember that occurrence years, decades later, but not remember the greater message, or even who spoke it.  I do not believe it is something you or I can try to do.  I know that Kenneth Copeland says that he tries to say something shocking every ten minutes.  I don’t know that that makes his style better, and I am certain that I could find some sincere brother that feels it makes his style worse.

            Some of us might argue that a compacted version of the message of salvation, i.e. 4 Spiritual Laws, and similar pamphlets, have been a boon to communicating the message of Jesus, and others argue that they ultimately been a bane.  Personally, I do not know a person who has come to faith totally from the result of a tract.  I have known many that have come to faith through seeing believers in relationship to the world and other believers.  I have known many who have come to faith via the Spirit speaking into their spirits, oftentimes just a few words which, in and of themselves, don’t say much, but with the realization that God is behind it making all the difference. 

            Many years ago, when I lived in another area, a certain tv station started doing a tease (one sentence description of the lead story) at 10pm for the 11pm newscast.  One evening, the anchor appeared, and with eyes extremely wide open said, “Nuclear accident at (town about 100 miles away)—details at 11.”   Since this is potentially a matter of life and death, I stuck around (actually trying to find other news sources during the hour).  When 11 came, the story was that a cooling water pipe broke, that is was no big deal, but, according to the government’s definition of a nuclear power accident, it was a (lowest level) accident.  One of the things I face before the watching world in my culture is we believers in Jesus (maybe not you or I, and then again maybe so, and definitely some others) overdramatizing things to the point that in some cultures with freedom of speech, everything we say is ignored.  Its one more reason God works in relationships.  Using many words does not make our words more effective.  Neither does using too few.

            Also, assuming that my brothers and sisters, or for that matter, any other person, is thinking of the same nuances of a word that you or I am using is dangerous.  On this site, for leaders, if one, in leading Bible studies or speaking, has been emphasizing any one certain meaning of any one word or scripture or periscope does not mean that any of the rest of us is thinking along that same direction, even if you are correct!  That’s one of the great things about using participatory Bible studies instead of sermons—if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, which includes you leaving out some thoughts in your head that tie two points together, that person can ask, and you can correct yourself, or maybe realize that you are running down a mental rabbit trail to nowhere.  The greater problem is for those of us who are either leaders or more highly educated accepting correction when God somehow chooses to send it through someone less educated or with less leadership ability or who shows normally less obedience or faithfulness or commitment. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Comment to Stayrev Victor

Stavrev Victor posted in House2Harvest Network Group Page



Stavrev Victor
10:49am Nov 25
 
Is communism in the church in the west or is that a slander ? Who can give some teaching on humanism and socialism mixed with some organic vision ?
   

Stayrev,

While this is a short question, the answer is not short. Now, I believe that I have seen that you are based in Europe. I have lived in the U.S. all my life. I feel, therefore, I could not reasonably comment about any society I haven't lived in, and I have no idea whether you have ever been to the Americas. Anyway, I will give my opinion from where I am.

First, since you are writing from an organic church perspective, or at least on House2Harvest, which recognizes church as a group of believers, not an organization, you are probably aware that few of us can comment on what's going on outside of the church one is part of and some others nearby. From society's traditional definition of church, though, it is clear that some liberal/progressive churches have socialistic influence in them, but they aren't the true church, or have believers in them. I will also say that some of us might say that history shows that back in the days of the civil rights movement in the U.S., there appears to have been funds from communist organizations funnelled into that movement, but that doesn't negate the faith of those who were believers who were involved in it. Some of my brothers and sisters in Jesus may, though, disagree with me on whether that is actually historical. If you have never visited the U.S., "communist" is a generalized perjorative. Due to having gone to a secular liberal arts college in the early 1970's, I have actually known four persons who publicly considered themselves to be communist, and two of them overtly couldn't stand each other. A communist couldn't get onto a library board in most of this country.

Therefore, "is that a slander?" cannot be answered, in my opinion, in that I have no clue who you are thinking of.

Your third question, "Who can give some teaching on humanism and socialism mixed with organic vision?" is also quite difficult. Humanism is a point of view in many of the social sciences. As a believer in Jesus, humanism is too low a view of man and most everything in comparison to the Christian view of man, God's work, and everything. Now, one problem is that, among us believers, there are persons who are highly educated and intellegent, and others gifted towards the opposite degree, and some of our brothers and sisters will confuse "humanism" with "humanitarianism". The believers view of caring for our neighbors includes humanitarianism and more. Socialism is a political philosophy, which, to my understanding, is different in different areas. A philosophy of religion professor looking at the west (which in this use would include Europe and the Americas) would say that Catholicism is more socialistic, and Protestantism is more capitalistic. In recent weeks, you have been criticizing some of my fellow believers in the U.S. for tying their faith to conservative politics, and, in general, I would agree. I will also say that here in the U.S., there is a full fledged Christian media, and, if you watched or listened to it, there would be no indication that organic church even exists, as it is dominated by music companies that release songs that reflect basic Christian beliefs, and preaching programs that are paid for out of institutional church funds, either to get more people to come to their organization, or, at the least, allow leaders to say to other leaders, "We have a media ministry" (whether anyone is listening is another story, as in my city, we have roughly 12 Christian radio stations available).

Those generalities said, there are assuredly some points of view on certain subjects that might be labeled "humanistic" or "socialistic" that one could argue narrowly would be congruent or similar to proper belief for followers of Jesus, but that doesn't prove anything. At times, we will be in agreement with someone that we vehemently disagree with in most things, even if it is within the trivial ("It feels cold today"). That doesn't mean that one has "sold out" on important subjects. Therefore, "Who can give teaching on humanism and socialism mixed with organic vision?" If you meant that question literally, probably a brother with experience dealing with one or both of these subjects in either the practical or theoretical, and with experience and gifting for teaching in the organic setting. The Holy Spirit would need to show me the reason for that, as I cannot picture any urgent topic where I live that demands that. If you meant that question in a rhetorical manner, such as that the two are so opposite as to be impossible, this is, again, a situation where attempting to say things in too few words brings about misunderstanding. Maybe such inference is clear to the fellow English-speaking/reading believers that you are around, but the nuance was unclear to me from where I live.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Book Review--Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, 2012)

For anyone unfamiliar, Leonard Sweet is a theology professor, best known for his two books which I understand to be an intellectual framework behind the megachurch flavor of Christian groups, Aquachurch and Soul Tsunami (I say that I believe in that, personally, not ever gotten around to reading Soul Tsunami). Frank Viola has written a group of books that could be described as an intellectual framework behind the housechurch flavor of Christian groups. When it comes to organizational structure, this appears to be going in opposite directions, but, over time, Sweet and Viola met, and wound up collaborating on Jesus Manifesto in 2010, with this being their second collaboration. The word "Theography" is a combination of "theos" the word that meant "God" in the Greek that the New Testament was written in, and "biography", emphasizing the idea of the attempt being to write a biography of Jesus from the perspective of Jesus as God come to earth, who has a history both before and after his days as a person on earth.

Now, I have to state that, over time, I have heard many Christian leaders say and do things that only seem correct when viewed from our cultural context, but do not fit the original cultural context of the writings of the Bible and actions of God's people of those days. Therefore, I have a fondness for all teaching that puts the original context in proper perspective. To that degree, possibly my favorite learning tool is the two volume, IVP Bible Background Commentary. I am willing to say that I would put this book next in line in speaking to this part of Christian knowledge.

The two books are extremely different, though. Bible Background Commentary is written like a dictionary, with the comments connected to specific Bible verses in order of book, chapter, and verse, with each comment disconnected from the previous and next comments. Jesus: A Theography covers specifically those facts having to do with Jesus, from before creation to the Final Judgement, understood in the widest form possible, and written in literary, as opposed to reference, form. Further, as with George Barna & Viola's Pagan Christianity, this is written in a language that an average adult can understand, but with copious footnotes, as would be done for a theological or other book written to the highest level of intellectuals. Unlike Pagan Christianity, which was written as a criticism of all kinds of status quo structures in the modern believing/evangelical Christian church and defense of very different ways of doing things in the early church as being what was taught by the apostles and in the Bible, which demanded copious footnotes of all kinds of historical and theological sources, most footnotes in Jesus: A Theography are just scripture references done in the style of an intellectual work, as opposed to being inserted in the text as is the case with most popular Christian books.

Therefore, this book, in literary form, connects a large amount of related statements, analogies, prophecies and literary illusions that appear in various parts of the Bible which look forward to Jesus from the Old (referred to in the book as First) Testament, or look back from the New (or Second) Testament's Acts to Revelation to the Gospels and previous. The basis for this is the standard Christian concept that Jesus, as God, was before creation and continues through eternity future in community with the Father and Spirit. Therefore, nothing He did on earth was an accident, but was connected to His communication to man in times past and future.

As such, to the unbelieving person who is not open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the whole book probably would come across as the construction of an elaborate house of cards. To the believer, this will be extremely helpful in realizing how such a wide variety of situations throughout the Bible are interconnected together to communicate His truth to us. Further, it is done in a readable style for those who are more attuned to read things written like a story. Particularly, as various flavors of the church have come to realize over the past century that leadership is a function of gifting, not academic accreditation, this type of writing is highly useful to leaders who have not had the opportunity or received the direction to have buried themselves into just studying theology for a period of time.

Friday, November 23, 2012

An unintentional hiatus

I haven't written anything new for weeks, because I have been really busy with certain mundane details of life, and I have felt tired (I have been struggling with stamina for a while, as I have written before), and I was reading Sweet & Viola's new book, "Jesus: A Theography".  I will have my review of it on Sunday.  I will give a hint--it's exceptional!

A couple of weeks ago, I had to discontinue my radio program.  Even if, somehow, no one but myself realized that it existed, I believe that it was something the Spirit gave me as a goal, and I got to the end.  What's next, I don't know yet.  I may never know on this earth.  That's not the point.  The point is to follow the Spirit's leading, and leave the results to God.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sunday--(program 2005)

Since recording the "Simple Church Minute" programs, I have realized that it is easier to repost the transcripts on the day of broadcast, so what is below is the same as the date stated at the end of the program.
===============================================================

2005--Sunday

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today, I wish to speak about the way we who are believers treat Sunday, as opposed to what the Bible teaches us about Sunday.  In Genesis 1, we are told that God rested on the seventh day.  We know that days, months, and years have an astronomical basis; weeks do not.  When God established the Old Covenant Law, there was a Sabbath day.  While it is now celebrated among the modern Jews from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, back then, the festival days were not counted among the days of the week, so relative to our calendar, the Sabbath floated through the week. 

            When Jesus came to earth and ministered to the people and taught his disciples, there was a continual clash between Him and the religious leaders over various aspects of the Law, including how to honor the Sabbath, to keep it holy.  The Roman Empire, which controlled Israel at the time, had the worship of the sun god, Mithras, on Sunday.  That’s where the word Sunday comes from.  When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Covenant and the Law.  Now, God knew that, and the few hundred people who came to believe on Jesus while he was on earth knew that, but the Jewish religious leaders didn’t know it, and Jesus’ death wasn’t even a blip on the news to the Romans, just one more person put to death on a disorderly edge of the Empire.

            When the Holy Spirit was sent on the 120 persons in the upper room in Jerusalem that we read about in Acts chapter 2, the God’s New and better Covenant began.  By the power of the Holy Spirit the people came from that room and spoke about Jesus in the street.  The church grew rapidly, and we are told that they met daily.  They didn’t all meet together daily*.  It tells us they met from house to house.  They may have met a little by the side of the Jewish temple, but that went away after a while.  Almost all of them were poor.  Some foreigners who heard about Jesus and believed dropped what they were doing and attached themselves to the believers.  Because they were poor, most of the believers assuredly worked long and odd hours.   They had no building, no ritual, but were connected by having seen Jesus in their spirits, and from that, desiring to live to honor Him.  Because of Roman Mithras worship, Sunday probably became a convenient time to meet, especially outside of Israel where Jews and Jewish worship was a minority belief. 

The Jews were unhappy under Roman rule, and between attacks in 70 and 130 A.D., the people of Jerusalem were dispersed, which would have made the Sabbath as a holy day of even less effect on surrounding society.

            After the legalization of Christianity in the 4th century, many pagan ways got forced into the now legal, no longer underground church, and Sunday became entrenched as the day of worship.  The Reformation came, formal, ritualized worship changed, but the use of Sunday as the day of the services was not affected. 

            This is not the case everywhere.  I know of a man who is a leader of a small group of believers in a Buddhist dominated country.  The tradition in that land is that most of the people meet at sunup on Thursday mornings to give a ceremonial bowl of rice to the Buddhist monks.  In that area, it is only reasonable for the small group of Christians to meet at that same time, as the social tradition of the area will make it easiest for everyone to meet then.  This will be the case wherever a religion or dominant social organization has ruled that a certain regular time is an off time, whether for religious ritual, political indoctrination, or whatever.

            Why is this important?  Because, even though scripture doesn’t command a special off day, tradition can make it feel that way.  A couple of years ago, I had a job where I worked all day Saturday and Sunday, and I mean all day as in 16 hours on Saturday followed by 10 on Sunday,  what little I had to do the rest of the week was easily scheduled to my convenience.  It was impossible to “plug in” to what we in this culture see as a traditional church, as almost all are set up to revolve around a Sunday morning meeting.  In 1 Corinthians 11 verses 20 to 22, when Paul is warning persons in this city about their behavior about food during a shared meal among the believers, the underlying situation is that some believers got to the assembly at different times due to their work.  Is it because most of the believers there were poor and some were slaves that this church was expected by Paul to be flexible to lives of the various persons among the saved, but today, because churches are big business, with real estate, well paid officials, and neighborhood marketing plans, that they don’t have to be flexible to real needs in their midst?  Jesus told us that the poor we would always have with us, but never commanded buildings, salaries, or marketing plans.

            Every day is the Lord’s Day.  Church is where one gets spiritually fed, but that doesn’t have to be, and oftentimes isn’t, an intellectual thing, when the Holy Spirit is directing us.  He has commanded us to build up each other in faith, and serve those around us.  Almost all of what, in this society, looks like Christian ritual really doesn’t have a basis upon what Jesus taught the disciples, who taught the early believers. 

 I can be reached at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or 757-735-3639.  To see what I just said written down, where you can read it at your own pace, visit my blog tevyebird.blogspot.com, where this is the entry for September 16, 2011.  For more information about simple church, visit www.hrscn.org.

*I mean, as in, all of the now thousands of believers in Jerusalem

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book review: What Shall This Man Do? by Watchman Nee


Watchman Nee, “What Shall This Man Do?”  (Kingsway, 1961; Tyndale, 1978—I read the 1986 printing), 269 pages.

This book comes out of a number of sermons Nee delivered in China during the period 1938 to 1942, which was a tumultuous time due to World War II, Japan invading China, and Communist rebels acting in such a way that forced the government of Chaing-Kai Shek to Taiwan in 1949.  Additionally, in the previous decades, western missionaries had acted in a way with respect to the locals and the governments of the countries they came from such as to bring less than respect to things considered Christian.  It also serves as background behind the great coming to faith in Jesus that would occur during the time that Mao had most of the culture blocked off from the rest of the world.  Nee did not actually write this book.  It was edited into its form by Angus Kinnear from Nee’s sermons.  In the preface, as a note of caution, Kinnear quotes what Nee said after writing “The Spiritual Man”:  “The headings, the orderliness, the systematic way in which the subject is worked out, the logic of the argument—all are too perfect to be spiritual.”  I might suggest that this is the weakness of our “churches” in the U.S.—the music is practiced until perfect, then a speaker, depending upon tradition, presents something intellectually systematic or emotionally fervent, and everything is so under control no one can say the wrong thing, or even ask a question before others.

            There are 11 chapters to the book, and the order of presentation is the editor’s, not Nee’s.  The personal callings of Peter, Paul, and John represent the framework of the book, and represent the three main historic emphases of God to his people for all time—evangelism (fishers of men), building the church (tent making), and restoration (mending the nets) guiding/repairing us back. 

            Chapter 2 concerns itself with some situations involving Peter in which Jesus or the Spirit intervened to teach Peter and others beyond where Peter would have on his own.

            In Chapter 3, Nee’s message is about what an unsaved person needs to have to be saved, and what the Christian worker needs to be a vessel God can use in a situation.  Nee’s presentation on this idea is different from the other things I have heard and read on this topic.

            Chapter 4 goes back to the introductory analogy of Paul and the tent making ministry of helping build the church.  In the latter part of the chapter, Nee deals with the phrase “Be angry but sin not” and how so many of us will not rebuke and why.  I do not remember if I have ever read or heard someone teach on what this practically means.  If you read this and come to disagree with Nee’s conclusions, one will have to think hard on this matter to know exactly why.

            Chapter 5 is on the idea that we are both individuals who are servants of God’s will and parts of the Body of Christ at the same time.  He also speaks on the initial general vision of God’s will for us—salvation and a specific vision, with the believer moving through times of greater consecration.

            In Chapter 6, Nee deals with the relationship between specific calling and a person’s, a generation’s, and the Church’s character.  Much of the chapter is built around comments on Ephesians 1, 2, and 5.

            It is of note for those of us involved in simple/organic/house church here in North America that we implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) look at the revival of faith in China during the Mao years as an example of simple church working properly (rightly or wrongly).  From that, we see the work and writings of Nee as a precursor to that explosion of faith, especially in his discouragement towards denominations or groups that divide believers from working together.  In this book, it is clear Nee personally, at the time of these speeches, spoke in a mode that saw “preachers and workers” in a different class, or if he did not, it appears that way from the way certain ideas are phrased.

            Possibly because this book was developed out of transcripts of speeches, and possibly because Chinese language and culture is so different from ours, on a number of sentences, one might easily disagree with an idea stated.  This may be because it is an accessory thought to a main point being discussed, and it would not fit to develop the details of the point in a speech setting, as opposed to in a book where one might be able to struggle with the fine points of a written teaching.  On the other hand, this is somewhat easier reading than Nee’s intentional books exactly because a speech, in and of itself (as opposed to a college lecture which is given, in part, to supplement texts) is less in depth than a writing.

            Chapter 7 examines 1 Corinthians 12:15-25, on Paul’s body analogy to the variety of giftedness in the church and, therefore, in we who are members of the Body.  One thing he speaks on is how we need to function as God has chosen to gift us, and not how we might prefer to be gifted, as that is a part of submitting to God’s direction for each of us in ministry.  Personally, I found that, beginning in this chapter, the reading gets slower as the teaching begins to present practical conclusions that I needed to stop and consider before moving on.

            Chapter 8 is titled, “Ministering Life” and moves on to 1 Corinthians 13.  God’s strength through a believer remains God’s, but love is for the long term building up of the church.  From this, he discusses the difference between ministering through gifts, as opposed to ministering through one’s life of serving God through what he calls “the formation of Christ” within.  At this point, the book begins to move from being a series of teachings to the presentation of practical points for the believer to apply in being God’s called person in the situations we walk through.

            Chapter 9 begins with the difference in the use of the word “church” versus the word “churches” in scripture, and continues with the role of all believers in restoring another to right relationship with the church, i.e. other believers, and brings insight from verses not normally seen in our part of the world as concerning this matter.

            Then comes what seems to be a jump to the subject of prayer, God’s self limitations, and the role of the believers as a group in minimizing those self limitations.  What is said here is different in attitude, but excellent.  He finishes the chapter with an exhortation for one to see the Church as more than those caught in the evangelistic net, but that all believers together, as the Church, have a fuller purpose that we are to grow into.  One can see in it a precursor to what more current writers have written on eternal purpose.

            Chapter 10 is about the connection of John’s writings:  the last gospel, the last letters, and Revelation—the last book, and the common theme of restoration and God’s view of time, eternity, and divine reality.

            The last chapter begins by discussing what the scriptures mean by “overcomer” and its connection to spiritual warfare.  The book concludes with a section that addresses the question of the book’s title, “What Shall This Man Do?”  Upon reading the last 15 pages, it is clear that the whole preceding part of the book was edited to prepare the reader for the conclusions there.  I believe that any normal person can look back on one’s life and feel that, at times, one did not do the optimal thing.  The final conclusion is both motivating and comforting that even our self-perceived failures are a part of what is in us, for the purpose of walking in God’s call upon one’s life, provided that one is willing.

            I wish I had read this forty years ago, but possibly I would have been too immersed in the traditionalism I had grown up with to have caught on to what Nee was saying.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Notes on Philippians 4


            First, I would like to provide a little explanation about my notes on various chapters of the Bible.  At the church I am a part of, I, and everyone there, usually knows what the chapter for study will be.  In this aspect, a participatory Bible study takes the place of a sermon in an institutional church.  As such, anyone can ask a question, and there is the great possibility that the actual topic taught is not the one that those who prepared for the study prepared for.  One might say that this method would not work in most settings, but I would maintain that, if something came up that no one knew the answer to, the proper response is (and would also be in a witnessing discussion), “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”  Over the past three years, this has actually happened a couple of times, even though my church has a few people who have been believers for decades.  I think of this, as such a point comes up in these notes on Philippians 4.

 

            Usually, I put footnotes at the bottom, but just to highlight the works I looked at, I wish to mention them right up front.  One reference work I find invaluable is:

Craig Keener, ed., “The IVP Bible Background Commentary—New Testament”.

            Two other works I used, which I have not in previous chapters:

Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Writings of the New Testament”

IVP New Testament Commentaries, Phil. 4, online, www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT   I have been using a commentary that was printed in about 1928, but this online one I find to be more thorough, and deals with issues current to our world culture.

 

Verse 1:  I covered verse 1 back with Phil. 3, because it belongs with the previous paragraph.  We need to remember that chapter and verse divisions were added centuries later and are not part of the inspiration of the Bible, along with any notes and even the book names, i.e. the book we call Genesis, if one translates the name of the book in Hebrew, would be In the Beginning.  Both were added later.

Verse 2: “Euodia, Syntyche” are Greek names.  It may have been more acceptable in Philippi than in some other cities to refer to these women as co-workers. 

Verse 3: “Clement” was a common Roman name, so this person may or may not have been the author of the New Testament Apocrypha book 1 Clement.  “Book of Life” is an idea that appears in the Old Testament (Ex. 32:32-33, Dan. 12:1, Mal. 3:16, other non-scripture writings) and would be further developed in Revelation.

Verse 4:  The threefold expression of Jewish piety was a) rejoicing in the Lord, b) prayer, and c) thanksgiving. (Ps. 61, 64, 84, 95, 97, 100)  From Old Testament days, devotion and ethics were considered responses to grace.  Gratitude begets generosity, which is the opposite to anxiety.

Verse 5:  “Gentleness” was a trait then and now of how a believer cares for those around him/her, and differentiates one from the average person pushing for their own wants. In Hellenistic culture, gentleness was an attribute of the gods and the nobles.  This is similar to 1 Pt. 2:23.

“The Lord is near” could be referring to the Second Coming, that the Holy Spirit indwells, it could be referring that He is close to us and knows our needs and troubles, or all at the same time. The believer was to live without care, but not uncaring or careless.  Since this mentioned wants and needs, in that day “needs” were thought of very narrowly, as those things one needed, like food, health, clothing—the extreme basics. 

“…be evident to all” includes those to opposed the believers.

Verse 6:  “Peace” could mean inner or outer tranquility, or peace with another (person or nation).  The latter was a common theme in Roman oratories on this subject, and Paul often either quoted or parodized common cultural ideas, as comes up again and again in this chapter.

“…be anxious for nothing” there was opposition and suffering at the time.

Verses 6 through 8:  Paul recites a list of virtues, similar to what Roman moral speakers might, and he uses their phrasing, although what he says here would not be objectionable to Jews or Christians, as it is Jewish wisdom in the terms of Hellenistic morality.  Notable is that the Roman moralists would have included “beauty” in their lists of virtues, and it is notable by its absence.  Beauty, then and now, was less a virtue, from a Jewish/Christian perspective, as an open door to the opposite.

“Meditate” meant to think upon what believers  had been taught about following Jesus, and is nothing like the modern western culture’s acceptance of blank-minded eastern meditation.

Verses 8 and 9: “Praiseworthy/excellent” (arĂȘte) was a word used by Greek moralists; “learned and received and heard” reflects Paul’s Jewish background. This is an example of how Paul wove different cultures phrases together to communicate.

Verse 9:  Paul uses himself as an example on how to live.  It is notable how rarely we hear this from Christian leaders today, in part because they are separated from average believers and the rest of society in a way that those not on a salary cannot possibly be.

“God of peace” is a rough equivalent to “Wisdom” in Proverbs.  Peace guards the hearts and thoughts, not just of individuals, but of the community.  “Lovely, admirable” relate to the concept of common grace (God has given gifts and/or abilities to all men).

Verse 10 and 15:  The Roman writer Seneca indicates that a person from Macedonia, where Philippi was, was prosecuted for being ungrateful.  In the section beginning with verse 10, Paul indicates gratitude without directly saying “thank you”, which in that culture might have implied being subordinate to the giver, which was connected to the Greek-Roman concept of friendship.  At Jesus’ death, it was understood that the Law of the Old Covenant held had been completed in Jesus, but the New Covenant’s Law of the Spirit was that the believer desired to give all of oneself to honor Jesus, so such generosity was only reasonable, if it was possible to do so.

“At last” might, in our culture, sound like a subtle complaint, but Paul is indicating that he means that they had the “opportunity” to help.  “…flourished again” is literally “blossomed again” as in perennials or flowering trees.

Verse 12:  “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.”  Stoics and Cynics held similar statements, although the Cynics made certain that they were always in the abased situation.  Paul’s statement differs, in that he makes it clear that it isn’t just a matter of self-control, but to honor Jesus.  We should note that Paul’s “abundance” would still be considered basic by our modern standards.

Verse 15: “Philippians” was bad Greek, but it was what Roman citizens of Philippi called themselves.  It indicates Paul was being sensitive to local traditions and culture.

Verse 16:  “…for my necessities” comes from the language of that day’s business documents, such as if a special account was set up for when he was in need.  We need to remember that Paul was under house arrest, and prisoners received extremely little unless others helped them while in prison.

Verse 17: “I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”  Paul’s joy is more in their growing maturity in Jesus than in the items received.  This phrase also comes from commerce, as many transactions of the day involved crops.

Verse 18: The church (group of believers) in Philippi gave money to help Paul.  We see in the New Testament that the church spent money on two things—helping the poor and helping mature believers communicate the message of Jesus out to the world, of which this help fits both categories.  “I have all and abound” is a specifically Stoic phrase.

Verse 19:  Unlike how this verse is quoted among prosperity teachers, Paul’s prayer here is for their most basic needs, which was a matter of constant struggle for most people of that day.

Verses 21 to 23: This is a specifically Greco-Roman way of ending a letter, with concluding greetings, and a grace-benediction.

Verse 21:  Unlike the Romans, Paul is general in his greetings. “Saint” refers to individuals, “church” to the group.

Verse 22:  “…those of Caesar’s household” tells us that even at this early time there was at least one, and since “those” is plural, probably more, believers in Caesar’s household, which could refer to civil servants working directly for Caesar, slaves, and freedmen, and probably refers to the Praetorian Guard.  A slave working for Caesar held more prestige than most free persons.  Like Acts 17:6 “turned the world upside down”, this implies that faith is seditious to the world’s status quo.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012--eternal purpose

In today's edition of "Simple Church Minute", the broadcast said that the script appears at September 11, 2011.  Last night, in reviewing my writing, I realized that I made some corrections way back at the time of the posting, and, as such, it moved to September 18.  Anyway, given that it is usually easiest to have it on today's date, I have reposted it today.
While you are here, I will be reviewing Watchman Nee's "What Shall This Man Do?" on Thursday.
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2012—eternal purpose


My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute. Milt Rodriguez, in his blog entry for July 6, 2011, told an extremely short story, of which I quote:


A friend recently told me that the eternal purpose of God was so vast that it was difficult to grasp and even more difficult to explain. I told him that I agreed. He also said that it’s very difficult to put into one sentence. I also agreed with that, however, after thinking about this later, I decided to take on the challenge. So here is my contribution of consolidating the eternal purpose into one sentence:


“God’s eternal purpose is that the fullness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be displayed and expressed visibly through a vessel that would be a Family/House for the Father, a Bride/Body for the Son, and a Temple for the Holy Spirit.”





What in the world does that mean? Most believers have never heard anyone overtly speak on this subject—God’s eternal purpose. Implicitly, most of us who have been part of evangelical or fundamentalist or Bible-believing (choose you favorite phrase) church understand that the thing to do that is most emphasized is wishing other persons to come to faith in Jesus, that is, evangelism. If I point it out, it is obvious, that in that part of time previous to Genesis 3, the story of the fall, there was no place for evangelism in the whole universe. At the other end, beginning at Revelation 21, the final judgment, there will once again be a time where there will be no place for evangelism.


Now, just for a moment, glance at what things would look like from a liberal progressive church position. There, doing good is the emphasis. Once again, before Genesis 3, there is no place for that, as sin had not entered the human race, and some period of time before that, the fall of Lucifer that is told us in Ezekiel 28. On the other end, after the judgment in Revelation 21, there once again will be no room for doing good, because sin will have been banished. Therefore, neither of those things can possibly God’s eternal purpose.


Let me go over those items in the Rodriguez quote. God wants the fullness of Jesus displayed. That was the plan before the creation of the universe. How do we know this? Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” If we follow Jesus, then we have to take God’s word that what he has told us in the Bible was what he meant to tell us. He tells us that he wants a family. The chosen people of the Old Covenant, were a physical, and imperfect, type of a New Covenant chosen people that are a new creation by faith, a people that deep in our hearts want to be his chosen people. We also are God’s house. John, in Revelation 21 verse 3 tells us, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” On this idea, Frank Viola, in his book, “From Eternity to Here”, wrote,


“John’s climatic vision in Revelation 21 and 22 gives us an intriguing window into the ultimacy of God’s house. Therein we discover that the house is a city. As we read further, we discover that the city is also a bride, and that the bride is also a dwelling place, and that the dwelling place is also a wife, and that the wife is also a temple, and that the temple is also a garden. All are graphic, mind-grabbing images of the same reality. All speak of God’s ultimate purpose.”*


God’s ultimate purpose is that temple of the Holy Spirit from 1 Corinthians 6 verse 19, that bride of Christ from John 3 verse 29, the body of Christ from 1 Corinthians 12 verse 27, that family of God from Galatians 6 verse 10, that house of God from Hebrews 3 verse 6. That all is us, the saved, the believers in Jesus, who wish to desire to do His will in everything. Good works are good, communicating the message of Jesus’ love for us is good, it is part of how we desire to honor God, but there is a time coming that those things will be irrelevant, and God’s plan in some way accounts for a time that we only can understand at this point in time quite dimly, and trying to hold onto any chaff that the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit is blowing and burning away is counterproductive.
I can be reached by email at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or at 757-735-3639. What I just said went fast; to read what I just said, I have it posted on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, with additional information, posted to September 18, 2011. To find out more about simple church on a national and international scale, visit www.simplechurch.com and, for this area, at www.hrscn.org.


Milt Rodriguez quote from his blog, miltrodriguez.wordpress.com, from 7/6/2011. Frank Viola quote from his book, From Eternity to Here (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009) p. 213-214. This book is an excellent, thorough examination of this subject. Frank has additional resources at his website www.ptmin.org, and his blog is www.frankviola.org.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A thought about why organic church isn't flourishing in North America

I have been reading and hearing people speak about why simple, organic church isn't flourishing the way it appears to be in some Third World countries, particularly ones which face overt persecution.  I will write more on this later when I have thought through this more thoroughly, but I have an idea, which, I admit, may be totally wrong, but also might be worth thinking about.

Could it be North American culture is different in some way or ways from other cultures that the person-by-person, word of mouth method doesn't work here?  We have now been in a culture where every important and not so important idea, right or wrong, is crammed down our throat by advertising and media commentary, that we in this culture, believer or non-, cannot picture receiving any important thought by any other means?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Eternal Purpose

Today's Simple Church Minute broadcast was on the subject of God's Eternal Purpose.  In reviewing the recording, I see that at the end, I said that is was posted on September 11, 2011.  I actually posted it on September 18, 2011, so it is better that I have reposted it today.
   
 
          I have been attempting to include quotations from a variety of persons writing on simple/organic/house church, and this rewrite turns out to allow me to add quotations from two prolific writers on this subject, Milt Rodriguez and Frank Viola.  In spite of most of these blogs being heavily built on the research from George Barna and Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity, I had not put an actual quotation in any of the commentaries, heretofore.

2012—eternal purpose

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Milt Rodriguez, in his blog entry for July 6, 2011, told an extremely short story, of which I quote:

            A friend recently told me that the eternal purpose of God was so vast that it was difficult to grasp and even more difficult to explain.  I told him that I agreed.  He also said that it’s very difficult to put into one sentence.  I also agreed with that, however, after thinking about this later, I decided to take on the challenge.  So here is my contribution of consolidating the eternal purpose into one sentence:

            “God’s eternal purpose is that the fullness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be displayed and expressed visibly through a vessel that would be a Family/House for the Father, a Bride/Body for the Son, and a Temple for the Holy Spirit.”

 

            What in the world does that mean?  Most believers have never heard anyone overtly speak on this subject—God’s eternal purpose.  Implicitly, most of us who have been part of evangelical or fundamentalist or Bible-believing (choose you favorite phrase) church understand that the thing to do that is most emphasized is wishing other persons to come to faith in Jesus, that is, evangelism.  If I point it out, it is obvious, that in that part of time previous to Genesis 3, the story of the fall, there was no place for evangelism in the whole universe.  At the other end, beginning at Revelation 21, the final judgment, there will once again be a time where there will be no place for evangelism.

            Now, just for a moment, glance at what things would look like from a liberal progressive church position.  There, doing good is the emphasis.  Once again, before Genesis 3, there is no place for that, as sin had not entered the human race, and some period of time before that, the fall of Lucifer that is told us in Ezekiel 28.  On the other end, after the judgment in Revelation 21, there once again will be no room for doing good, because sin will have been banished.  Therefore, neither of those things can possibly God’s eternal purpose.

            Let me go over those items in the Rodriguez quote.  God wants the fullness of Jesus displayed.  That was the plan before the creation of the universe. How do we know this?  Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.”  If we follow Jesus, then we have to take God’s word that what he has told us in the Bible was what he meant to tell us.  He tells us that he wants a family.  The chosen people of the Old Covenant, were a physical, and imperfect, type of a New Covenant chosen people that are a new creation by faith, a people that deep in our hearts want to be his chosen people.  We also are God’s house.  John, in Revelation 21 verse 3 tells us, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”  On this idea, Frank Viola, in his book, “From Eternity to Here”, wrote,

            “John’s climatic vision in Revelation 21 and 22 gives us an intriguing window into the ultimacy of God’s house.  Therein we discover that the house is a city.  As we read further, we discover that the city is also a bride, and that the bride is also a dwelling place, and that the dwelling place is also a wife, and that the wife is also a temple, and that the temple is also a garden.  All are graphic, mind-grabbing images of the same reality.  All speak of God’s ultimate purpose.”*

            God’s ultimate purpose is that temple of the Holy Spirit from 1 Corinthians 6 verse 19, that bride of Christ from John 3 verse 29, the body of Christ from 1 Corinthians 12 verse 27, that family of God from Galatians 6 verse 10, that house of God from Hebrews 3 verse 6.  That all is us, the saved, the believers in Jesus, who wish to desire to do His will in everything.  Good works are good, communicating the message of Jesus’ love for us is good, it is part of how we desire to honor God, but there is a time coming that those things will be irrelevant, and God’s plan in some way accounts for a time that we only can understand at this point in time quite dimly, and trying to hold onto any chaff that the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit is blowing and burning away is counterproductive.
            I can be reached by email at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or at 757-735-3639.. What I just said went fast; to read what I just said, I have it posted on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, with additional information, posted to September 11, 2011.  To find out more about simple church on a national and international scale, visit www.simplechurch.com and, for this area, at www.hrscn.org.  

            Milt Rodriguez quote from his blog, miltrodriguez.wordpress.com, from 7/6/2011.  Frank Viola quote from his book, From Eternity to Here (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009) p. 213-214.  This book is an excellent, thorough examination of this subject.  Frank has additional resources at his website www.ptmin.org, and his blog is www.frankviola.org.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Simple Church Minute--on preaching (program 2007)

 On today's "Simple Church Minute" program, I said that the transcript of today's program is located at June 12, 2011, but I have come to realize that, according to the way this blog is programmmed, it would be easier for anyone who might come here to find it under this day's post. 
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2007--preach
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, the definition of “preach” is 1) to deliver a sermon, 2) to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action; specifically: to exhort in an officious or tiresome manner. These definitions truly indicate the modern understanding of the word “preach” and also, to a degree, the negative attitude a significant segment of our society has towards what we call preaching. Is that what the Bible means by the word? I know—for me to bring this up implies that I’m going to say “no”, and that is correct. Somewhere after the recording of the Scriptures, preaching became a Christian form of the equivalent of Roman oratory, a one-way form of communication. Interestingly, if one looks at pieces of speaking in the Book of Acts and later, one can find that a speech is preceded by words like “said” or “speak”, and not preach. This does, though, vary by translation.

The Bible tells us Jesus preached. What did he do? His style of speaking was like that of the style common to Jewish culture, in that it was two-way communication. We are fully well aware that Jesus had to tell the disciples that it was ok for children to be around him, John 3 and 4 tells of Jesus speaking one-on-one to two extremely different persons with regard to their spirits. The Jewish religious leaders overtly came up to him to ask him tricky questions. It was the style the rabbis had taught the people with.

In Acts and following, we see that preaching was sporadic, unplanned, without rhetorical structure, delivered on special occasions to deal with special problems, and was dialogue, not monologue. A word found in the original Koine Greek that is sometimes translated preaching is dialegomai, which is obviously where we get the word dialogue from. In the early days of the New Covenant, ministry came from all believers, and worship in the early church included teaching, exhortation, prophecy, singing, admonishment, speaking was conversational and even the teaching of local elders was normally impromptu.

For many years, it was something I noticed, but didn’t understand, that all the times that it seemed that the Spirit taught me the most significant things about following Jesus came through situations that were not what we in our western Christian culture consider regular worship services. I must now say that the reason for this is that those informal gatherings of believers, whether we call it a home or cell group, Bible study, prayer meeting, or maybe even no meeting, but just believers living and working together, outside the building walls, are more congruent with what the books of the New Covenant, that is, Acts to the end of the Bible, showed as being church than what we call church in our culture. Conversely, our ritualistic services, and any regular way of a service that is always or almost always the same way is ritualistic, is not taught in the Word. A regular order of worship is common for most beliefs in the world, and the Roman Empire forced buildings, paid leaders, and official structures into the church, and those structures have morphed over and over again over the centuries, An unbeliever can understand that structure, as a strong head person structure is used in government, military, and business, but God gave us, the true church, the Holy Spirit for us to follow where He wills. When we don’t do that, we get messed up. If there is any official titular office in the New Covenant church, it is in Colossians 1 verse 18 and Ephesians 5 verse 23, which mentions what could be a title, head of the church, which is filled by Jesus. I believe a further indication of God’s blessing upon living informally and meeting informally as the proper way to honor Jesus in our lives is how we see the church throughout history in persecuted areas see the blessing of growth, where the organizational church in the West has forgotten the Great Commission for centuries and has tied itself up in its bureaucratic complexity, and has not seen such growth.

You can contact me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or by phone at 757-735-3639. If you wish to review what I just said, a transcript is posted at my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, at the entry dated June 12, 2011. You can find out more about being church without corporate structure in this area at www.hrscn.org.
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Almost all of what I said here comes from Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, “Pagan Christianity” page 88. That, in turn, has seven footnotes for the person looking to verify the historicity of what I said. As most bookstores in this area, Christian and secular, will not have this book on the shelf, one can obtain it quickest from www.frankviola.com or www.amazon.com.
For reference, the Greek word dialegomai appears in Acts 17:2, 17:17, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8-9, 20:7, 20:9, 24:25. None of the other words translated “preach” imply a speech, oration, or rhetoric, either.