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Friday, March 21, 2014

7 foundational traditions of the 1st century church

Today, I am reposting my blog of October 2, 2011, which is the transcript of an episode of "Simple Church Minute" that was never broadcast.  It is about what Steven S. Lyzenga wrote in his doctoral thesis, which, as a writing, can be read for free.  Its an overview of the variety of writings about non-organizational church in the West up to the point of that thesis.  If one isn't into digging through a thesis, this and the next three posts are an overview of points I found to be important.
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Over the past couple of months, I have been attempting to read a variety of writers on subjects that simple/organic/house church speaks to.  One that I had been hesitating to start was Steven S. Lyzenga’s “Accessing the State of Simple Churches in the USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing the Great Commission” due to its length, 425 pdf file pages.  I finally got around to it about a week ago.  This is not a book, but a doctoral dissertation.  One nice thing about that is that anyone with internet access can read it at http://house2harvest.org/docs/Simple_Churches_Releasing_Resources_S_Lyzenga.pdf . To address the subject of the title, he first needed to explain just about every subject that simple/organic church speaks as a counterpoint to, in regard to what has become traditional in western culture, and mention every relevant writer, whether consciously involved with this flavor of the Christian palate or not.  At the time I am writing this preface, I have had 38 five minute commentaries prepared.  Not all appear in this blog, as I have a few which are fully quotations of others.  Steve has so many appropriate thoughts that fit into the concept of these commentaries, it has presented a new challenge for me to wrap up this first grouping.  Today, I begin to highlight some of the ideas he presented in his writing.
Note:  In the previous paragraph, I used the word “flavor” instead of denomination, movement, strand, or any other word that might describe the various trains of thought within Christian life, past or present.  I first heard this word used in this manner by Duane VanderKlok of Resurrection Life Church, Grandville, MI.  I believe that it describes the variety of trains of thought simply, and in a way most will implicitly understand, better than any other way of phrasing that I have heard so far.

2150—7 traditions

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  One basic statement of  Christian faith is that one believes God has communicated to us supernaturally through the Bible, and not the Bible plus something else, which usually refers to the traditions that came about after the apostles from which the Reformation stood against, or, other writings held by a heretical group to be the equivalent of or a superceding to Scripture.  In Steven S. Lyzenga’s writing, titled “Accessing the State of Simple Churches in the USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing the Great Commission”, he states that there are at least seven traditions implicit in the writings from Acts to Revelation that we, the believers in Jesus were to follow, as Jesus taught the disciples, who, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and His sending of the Holy Spirit, the apostles taught the early church to do.  Certain leaders within the fledgling church, beginning one generation later, started leading the followers away from these traditions, from which we in the west have never returned to, to any significant degree.   There are some believers, of which some are persons learned in the history of our faith and loyal to Jesus, who would maintain that following these traditions are in scripture, and that we should return to them, as opposed to following practices developed later.

            In Mark chapter 2 verse 22, Jesus states, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”  It is pointed out that, in the original Greek, the word “new” in front of “wine” is a different word than the “new” in front of “wineskins.” The Greek word for “new” as in “new wine” is neos, meaning “recently born, young, youthful.” The other Greek word for “new” as in

“new wineskin” is kainos and it means “new as respect to form (recently made, fresh,

recent, unused, unworn) or as respect to substance (of a new kind, unprecedented, novel,

uncommon, unheard of).”  In effect, Jesus came to earth to pour “recently born, young,

and youthful” wine into “fresh, recently made, unused, unworn, unprecedented, novel,

uncommon, and unheard of” wineskins.

Jesus Himself was the new wine.  As for the wineskins, they are new practices that Jesus would introduce.  The Old Covenant old wineskins were a physical temple, physical priests, and physical sacrifices, of which Jesus’ death, in fulfilling that Old Covenant, would make Him the living temple of which the fullness of God dwells, the forever High Priest interceding between God and man, and the final, perfect sacrifice.  As Jesus taught, he was introducing to the disciples the new wineskins, the new practices for groups of believers that would be a chosen people by the Spirit.  Once Jesus became those things, we became those things in Him, as indicated in First Peter chapter 2 verse 5. 

Correspondingly, at least seven apostolic traditions appear to be biblically foundational to the way the first century Church operated:

1. Meeting in homes/houses – the most prominent place for a family, and, by faith, God was going to build a temple from “living stones”, which is those of us who believe.

2. Spiritual Family – the experience of community.  A properly functioning family doesn’t see each other once a week.

3. Hebraic method of education – learning through mentorship, the polar opposite of a lecture.

4. Everyone a priest and minister – the whole Body functioning, which is the expression of the wisdom of God.

5. Open-participatory meetings – every person’s gift valued and developed in an atmosphere of every person caring for each other so as to glorify Jesus.

6. Servitude leadership – from the bottom up.  Jesus said whomever would be great must be a servant, the polar opposite of being on a pedestal with a special title.  First John chapter 3 verse 16 says “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”

7. Outward focused – making disciples of neighbors and nations, as every person on earth is equally valued by God, without regard to the world’s feelings about gender, ethnicity, slavery, caste, language or any other prejudicial category.

            How do we put this into action?  Author Milt Rodriguez has stated that one key is our having an all-inclusive, open spirit to all God’s people.  If you know the Lord, you are my brother.  Denomination, minor issues, personality problems, or feeling that one has grasped a special truth are not scriptural reasons for division between believers.  That is sectarianism.

            You can email me at 757757tev@gmail.com, or can call me at 757-735-3639.  You can see a transcript of what I just said, with footnotes, at my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, for the posting of October 2, 2011.  You can find out more about simple churches in this area at www.hrscn.org

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            In the writing mentioned in the article, of which there is the link in my opening comments, one will find what I am referring to near page 247-257, pdf file page 265-275, and appropriate footnotes to where he found this information.
            The Rodriguez reference is from a speech he gave in Rapid City, SD, which is posted at www.therebuilers.org, titled, “The 7 Essentials"

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