5c.2: …WHAT IS CHURCH? The Christian Church Sequence …. Community or Corporation?

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See the previous post:

5c.1: The Change From Church as a Community to the Church as a Corporation

Note: It is strongly suggested that you  print off  a complete section for reading through at a later date than trying to read the content of this website directly off the computer screen.

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Do You Live in A Flexible Family or Do You Live With A Solidified System?

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The Christian Church Sequence:  I recently received an e-mail query from a woman in America regarding an e-mail broadcast I had sent around the world called: The Value of People ….. NEW CRIMES ON THE ROAD TO “PROGRESS” She said: ‘I ESPECIALLY NOTICED THIS CREDIT FOR FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIANITY: Woman Received Freedom and Dignity. ‘Off the top of my head —Seems to me the role of Christian churches (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox in particular) then worked diligently to keep a woman in her place. At one point the Catholic Church performed marriages on the church steps to keep woman from defiling the buildings. Remember things like the hierarchies devised to keep Kings in power. Can’t see much difference between early Christian women and her Jewish counterparts. For a religion to survive it must be both adaptable and encompassing. Look at all the old ones that have died from inflexibility and inability to assimilate other cultures. The truth is Gods of Rome , Greece , Egypt or Norse were made for those cultures and acted as part of those groups identity. Take a look at Paganism — one would have thought the religion had died out except for a few folks. but it seems to be re-inventing itself as an earth friendly belief system and shedding all nearly all the pagan deities except by poetic connotations. Then again, for centuries Native American or Native Peoples elsewhere have had a cultures that assimilated Christianity to blend with older myths.

I wish I could recall the Gnostic and other early sects better, Dan Brown rants in his books how the Roman church in particular re-wrote the role of women from a mystical elevation to a subservient partaker. Perhaps the message is that Christianity would be revealed over the years and its messages be refined to reflect and be part of any society by appreciating the will and efforts of its citizens’. ……… ANY COMMENTS?’ …..

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My comments were these: Note the Christian churches (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox in particular) didn’t emerge until the 3rd and 4th Centuries as Christendom in the Western World. This e-mail documents how the Christian Community became the Christian Church with an emphasis on a Christian Philosophy with good Christian Principles ie. not a Christian Spirituality but as Christian Religion. The Church changed from being Community to one of being a Corporation. This began to emerge in the 3rd and 4th Centuries as Christendom in the Western World. The Apostle Peter came to be seen as the earthly successor to Jesus Christ on Earth …. the first Pope. Therefore all Popes had a right to direct the form and strategy of the Church because they alone heard from God. The Church Community in becoming a Corporation led some of these changes:

  • Jewish Church becomes a Gentile Church (Gentile is any position which wasn’t Jewish ie. Greek, Roman etc.) Gentile Converts steeped in Greek Platonic philosophy (Plato was a Greek philosopher from 600 B.C.) began to predominate in the Church. The Church becomes the gateway to God and the spirit realm.
  • The priest represents this removed spirit realm. The Church became the gateway to Heaven with the Church very much at the centre. The Church:
  • The priest + the mass + sacraments = The way to Salvation into the spirit realm. These were the key mediators There came about a separation of common life from the spiritual realm.
  • This view increasing became the status quo across Europe. It extinguished the lamp of Celtic Christianity in Ireland and Britain it forcibly caused the abbeys and churches to become part of the Holy Roman Empire ….. see the following websites:
  • gol.com/users/stuart/celtihs.html  (Celtic Christianity)
  • http://celticchristianity.org/ (Celtic Orthodoxy)
  • iona.org.uk  (Celtic Iona Community)
  • esatclear.ie/~dougheff (Celtic Prayer Centre)

A marriage of Rome and Empire led to:

  • Launching of the Crusades
  • Saved Europe from Islam
  • Made the nations and rulers subservient to the Pope under the threat of excommunication
  • Kept the masses confused by Latin

It further meant that three realms emerged:

Neoplatonism was at work in the Church (The new influence of Plato:  Greek Philosopher from 600 B.C.)

  • 1. God in the Spirit Realm: the perfect realm …. forever removed from life …. the ideal dimension found in the eternal realm …. Detached from the temporal …. Known only vaguely through concepts and possibly available after death  

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  • 2. The Church: The priest + the mass + sacraments ….. These were the key mediators = The way to Salvation __________________________________________________________________
  • 3. The Created Realm: was seen to be not the real realm but one of dark shadows and imperfect forms … Christians lived in a wispy land of shadows …. Was the temporary testing ground for the reality of the next worlds arrival …. Humanity was greatly devalued:
  • Human sexuality denied …. Led to an emphasis on celibacy by priests
  • Everyday activities were considered to be in opposition to higher spiritual pursuits
  • Marriage, family and secular work were devalued (hence the marriages on church steps in case woman defiled the church)
  • This led to a view whereby other world things like celibacy, sacraments and obsessive moralism replaced a common view on humanity

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The Historical Outworking of The Christian Church Sequence:

St. Peter’s Square itself, St. Peter’s Basilica:

see (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Peter%27s_Square)

On this website is a vast impressive aerial view of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City which looks over Rome. You see on this website the following things:

  • You see the basilica of St. Peter’s = Construction begins in 1506 and completed in 1626.
  • You see the dome = Original designed by Donato d’Angelo Bramante, designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti
  • Obelisk is at the centre of the square.
  • You see the facade = Designed by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.
  • Peter’s Square = Designed by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.

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With the simple teachings of Jesus Christ, what was the nature of the Church as Jesus saw it?

  • The Nature of The Church: If you look at Luke 6: 17- 36 (The teaching on the Kingdom of God) in the Message Bible and note particularly vs. 35 on our God created identity. We are loved by God more than we would ever knew and we have a vertical identity in Him alone. It is not a horizontal identity given by our family background or circumstances. Our whole focus as a church is to initially demonstrate and give value to other people, no matter who they are as everyone is very special to God ….. even the ones who haven’t heard it yet. We are called into an inner circle of light to have and live with the our God-created Identity. Jesus says He is ‘the LIGHT OF THE WORLD’. That is what the Kingdom of God and its focus is really about. When you have an Identity, then you have a purpose or destiny for being here on Earth. Good preaching up the front of a church or signs and miracles down the front of the Church are secondary to Identity and Destiny.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is an  exciting  thing. Most of  all,  find other people who have a similar  outlook on Jesus in your community. Becoming a follower  of Jesus is a communal thing. You not meant be  alone. It can more formal as  in  a Christian Church or it  could  be more informal …..  of a house church meeting where you  get together with a group of Christian friends every week  in a house. Have  meal together, then  study a portion of the Word  of God.  Encourage  each  other  to  stay  strong  in  the Lord.

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See the following web / blog sites:

·          http://christorchurch.blogspot.co.. Church or Christ?

·         http://christchurchandcommunity.blogspot.com/.Christ, Church and Community

·         http://shouldourfellowshipbeintheform.blogspot.com/. the nature of Christian fellowship.

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Australian Cell Church Equipping Network at:

  • http://www.ruach.org.au/ ….. Ruach Neighbourhood Churches. It says on the website: ‘Our mandate as a movement is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)
  • Our Vision is:  to see people of all ages and cultures come to faith in Christ and to grow as Christians through the life of multiplying cell church communities across the nation and beyond
  • Each pastorate, and each group of pastorates within a city or country region will develop their own goals within this vision.
  • For example, in Sydney we hope to see groups of cells in every one of the city’s 40 municipalities by 2005 as the lost are reached, leaders are raised up and cells are multiplied each year’.

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  • Pagan Christianity:  Frank A Viola  and George Barna  have  written together a book called Pagan Christianity.   The book contends that most of today’s church practices have no biblical foundation, and in some cases, hinder people from having a genuine experience with God. With extensive footnotes and documentation, the book shows that the following church practices had little to do with scriptural mandate or apostolic application:
  • Church buildings were initially constructed under the Roman emperor Constantine, around 327. The early Christian church met in homes.
  • The pulpit was a piece of stagecraft borrowed from Greek culture in which professional speakers delivered monologues in public debates. There is no evidence that Jesus, the apostles, or other leaders in the early Church used a pulpit; it seems to have been introduced into Christian circles in the mid-third century.
  • The order of worship originated in the Roman Catholic Mass under the leadership of Pope Gregory in the sixth century.
  • Preaching a sermon to an audience was ushered into the church world late in the second century. Sermons were an extension of the activity of the Greek sophists, who had mastered the art of rhetorical oratory.
  • There were no pastors, as an official or director of a group of believers, until sometime in the second century. That was eventually furthered by the practice of ordination, which was based upon the prevailing Roman custom of appointing men to public office.
  • The biblical approach to “communion” or the “Lord’s Supper,” was truncated late in the second century from a full, festive communal meal without clergy officiating to the presently common habit of having a sip of wine and morsel of bread (or juice and a wafer) under the guidance of a recognized clergyman.

The  book is available  from the Book Depository website in the UK. Book Depository is a UK-based online book seller with a large catalogue offered with free shipping to over 160 countries. The store was founded by a former Amazon.com employee. In 2011 it was acquired by Amazon.

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” Alan Jamieson’s book ‘Churchless Faith’  at Book Depository. I haven’t read it yet, but I came across a list of his findings. Seven things people leaving church wished their church had done/been to help them stay involved:

  1. Provide places to explore, question and doubt.
  2. Include a theology of journey.
  3. Understand the leaving process.
  4. Offer assistance in our faith struggles.
  5. Model other theological understandings.
  6. Focus on realities rather than ‘shoulds’.
  7. Have more room for emotions, feelings and intuitions.

Alan also wrote an article titled ‘Ten myths about church leaving’, a ‘must-read’ for church leaders. I believe churches could greatly improve in this area if they would only have honest ‘exit interviews’ with the people who leave.

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Another Kiwi who published about the ‘out-of-church’ fenomenon is Andrew Strom. He says:

  • “The surprising thing is that church leavers are often the most committed kind of Christians – praying, insightful, deep-thinking. Yet they have grown tired of ‘playing the game’ inside our church system and have opted out. Often their involvement goes back many years. In fact, they had commonly been leaders of various kinds. But the LACK OF GOD is what gets to them – even in our most ‘Spirit-filled’ churches. And so quietly, sometimes without anyone even noticing, they slowly slip out the doors – never to return. Some have even told me that they felt God ‘calling them out’. Others simply felt they couldn’t stay there anymore. The state of the church weighed upon them more than words could say.
  • “Most of these people have not given up on Christianity at all. It is today’s church system that they have given up on. Some of them have started up home-fellowships. Or they meet with other couples on a casual basis. But many meet with nobody at all, and they consider themselves in a ‘wilderness’ place – alone with God. I was asked several weeks ago by a pastor whether I agreed that what is happening could be a ‘move of God’. That is a pretty radical thought. Many leaders would think the opposite. Because anything that leads people out of ‘their church’ can’t be of God, can it? Hmmmm. All I know is this: The concept of going through a ‘wilderness’ just before entering the ‘Promised Land’ is totally Scriptural. In fact, it is right through the Bible. Even Jesus went through such a wilderness time.”

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Emerging church talk: An interesting topic in the blogging community these days is the definition and values of ’emerging (or emergent) church’. Jason Clark in the UK  writes  on Five Streams of the Emerging Church in the UK suggests there are twelve emerging values, though not all emergent churches have grasped all these:

  • 1. Women in leadership, with role of pastor, elder, deacon, evangelist, apostle, etc.
  • 2. Multi-cultural (ethnic and generational) representation in leadership and congregation (dependent on culture of context)
  • 3. Salvation as a process: progressive, continual, ongoing vs. sinners prayer salvation.
  • 4. Evangelism through community: relational, worship, communal.
  • 5. A recognition of unclear absolutes in regard to moral truth (i.e. sex before marriage, cohabitation before marriage, drinking alcohol, homosexuality, stewardship of money).
  • 6. Theological openness, discovery.
  • 7. Value placed on creatively worshiping God via arts and other alternative means. Music, writing, painting, screaming, mud baths, etc. (got ya thinking).
  • 8. New metaphors of teaching: moderation, facilitator, conversation, dialogue.
  • 9. Redemption of everyday life: vocation, recreation, friendship, family, neighbourhood, etc.
  • 10. Social action as a way of life.
  • 11. Decentralized leadership, pluralistic leadership, whatever you want to call it.
  • 12. Discipleship and mentoring as a priority.
  • Brian McLaren of Emergent Village in the USA holds the view that there are no postmodern churches, and quotes his friend Ed Chinn when he says:
  • “The primary reason I ever attend a church service (or frankly, even have serious or long conversations with Christians) is the hope that I will hear something proclaimed out of heaven, something that carries the majesty, the revelation, the heart and breath of God. I am not interested in a 3-point guide for living or more apologetics and theology. We all know that the more traditional churches live in a ghetto of unreality; they speak only to themselves, write books for themselves, and make music for themselves. No one else has any clue what they’re saying. That’s why serious people have been ignoring them for a couple of decades. While I appreciate the freshness and youthfulness of ‘the emergent church’ (or ‘postmodern church movement’ as some call it), sometimes I think they have simply become better conversationalists. They’ve learned the language and the concepts of the natives and are very good about engaging them in real conversations. I greatly admire and enjoy that. But, very honestly, I’ve not heard very much in that world that really testifies of anything seen in Heaven. Like most other church worlds, they speak from a distinct ‘earthview’ and in a distinct earth-language.”
  • Brian comments: “Ed is telling us something humbling, something we need to hear. The emergent movement has a wonderful promise, but it could just become another marketing gimmick to sell books, build egos, and bolster sagging spirits with a new invisible wardrobe for a pudgy, pasty old emperor. No doubt, in some quarters it will squander its potential, but if you care about the possibilities being actualized… please… let’s aim deep and high.”

Emerging church talk (2)

I’m catching up with the discussion on ’emerging church’ that is going on in the blogging community. Andrew Jones posted some excellent contributions that might help to get some grip on the ’emerging church’. I summarized them, so for the full story you should click on the titles.

1. How would you define emerging church?

  • Andrew: “No one has succeeded in defining it. Maybe that is OK. People in the emerging culture do not really want or need such a definition, because behind the practices and models of emerging church, lies a radically different mindset, value system and worldview. People coming from a modern mindset always want to know what is new or next, so they can upgrade or replace what they have. This sequential, diachronic replacement way of thinking is light-years away from the emerging way of thinking, where the new thing finds its place by nesting, linking or layering vertically into the whole thing. New things compliment and enhance rather than replace. For this reason emerging church is not the same as ‘youth church’, because it’s intergenerational, and can’t be labelled ‘postmodern’ either because it’s not reactionary. It’s about understanding the way of Jesus in our own culture.”
  • 2. What examples have you seen which you think deserve the phrase ’emerging’?
  • Andrew: “Parties that happen in a home, with lots of food, a DJ, and discussion on spiritual things. As people decide to follow Jesus, the group gradually becomes a church, but it keeps its party format. House churches are also becoming increasingly popular, and in some countries represent the bulk of new churches. It’s a relational place to share life together. Monastic models of church are now a viable option for young people in urban centres who want a higher level of commitment. The practice of pilgrimage is increasingly popular, as are yearly festivals. The internet (and especially blogging) is adding a significant slice of church life to the layers. It is providing a place for greater visibility, storytelling, self-publishing, accountability, witness, and networking. Style-culture churches and traditional churches will also find new ways of engaging with the culture.
  • “Believers who do not belong to an institutional church are no longer seen as unchurched or backslidden. They are a large part of Christ’s body [a majority, some argue] and they may become the most important players in developing organic and relational church forms. The real difference lies in a new way of understanding church. When emerging people zoom out to see the whole church, the invisible church, they see church in modular form, as discrete but connected elements working together in a harmonious system. Church life then has more to do with the combination of many activities, projects and events than with participation in any single event or commitment that tries to define the church experience.”
  • 3. Why do you think the idea of an emerging church has gained such popularity over the last few years – why do so many want a part of it?
  • Andrew: “I believe the commitment to emerging church has to do with a deep love for God’s church as the beautiful Body of Christ, and the dissonance in knowing that the church in its present form is not living up to our expectations, is not attractive to outsiders, and is not adequately reflecting Kingdom culture in the world we live. A great body, stuck in a frumpy dress. “There is also the new sense of empowerment. Not long ago, young people were encouraged to join a church but they were not allowed to start them – that was considered rebellious or reserved for the professionals. In the last two decades, partly as a result of the church growth movement, church has been somewhat demystified of its priestly elitism, defragged of its excess baggage and deconstructed of its abusive power claims.
  • We are now seeing more streamlined, simple, organic churches that ordinary people can start in their favourite coffee shops or their own homes. Add to this the sense of empowerment and immediate access to resources that the internet has provided, and you can see why being a player and developer in the emerging church is more appealing than joining the struggle to preserve an incumbent church. People in the emerging culture are generally creative, entrepreneurial, innovative, empowered. They don’t want to join somebody else’s program. They don’t want to become somebody’s number. They don’t want to warm up somebody’s empty room. But they do want to be a part of starting something that will make a difference.”

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The  Emerging  Church:

I am friends with a man called Keith Allen in Melbourne, Australia. He is a wonderful Christian man who has a website: Christ Your life.  His Kingdom multiplied through you. The website says:

  • Anything that is not Jesus is a waste of time. Anything that is not Jesus dulls our being replacing life with death. God’s Son is either our life or a footnote to our activities.
  • It’s unfortunate that we are accustomed to hear people talk more about God than Jesus and more about Christianity than God’s Son. Why? Because it is Jesus who is life Himself. Life is not some force or abstraction. It is Jesus!
  • Most of us have heard of a sex object – of making women things instead of loving them as a people. But this is the tip of the ice-berg. Life as it is lived takes away life. We treat people as things and treat things as though they are our life.

In the son of God you have your life. In Him your dreams are fulfilled. In Christ you have a life because He is life and this life is infinite. It is the life of all who would live. Choose life!

We move onwards to infinite growth when we live move and have our being in Jesus the Son of God.

Choose Jesus and you will have chosen life that is infinite in scope and never ending in extent. This is the Jesus Life!

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Look  up  and read his wonderful website!!

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See the next post:

5d: Transitioning from a life of religious performance towards a kind of genuine relationship that God ….

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