I spend a fair amount of time over at Todd Rhoades’ Monday Morning Insight and find the discussions riveting, to say the least. But I thought I’d post a few thoughts here to see if anyone from there wants to jump on.
Many of the conversations over at MMI end up being arguments for or against “Purpose Driven” and “Seeker Sensitive” methodologies. So here are some questions I’d like to hear some answers to – and I would really be interested in contextually-accurate, biblical support.
1. Should church be for believers or should it be open and inviting to non-believers – an evangelistic experience, if you will?
2. With which of the following statements do agree more? Why?
- The book of Acts prescribes for us what church should look like and what it should entail (including leadership structure, methodologies, and so on). It should be a manual for how we ought to “do church” today.
- The book of Acts describes some of what transpired in the early church, but was not written as a how-to manual for the church.
3. Is a congregational form of church governance biblical? Why or why not? If not, what would you say is a biblical form?
4. When the Bible is silent on a topic, which of the following (if either) would more closely express your belief?
- If the Bible doesn’t expressly permit something, it should be forbidden.
- If the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid something, it should be permitted.
Thanks for playing! Check back every now and then to see what people have said and what else I may write.
This may be a little lacking as far as Scriptural support, because it’s off the top of my head, but let’s hope the common sense in it is still worthwhile.
As far as the book of Acts goes, I see no reason to view the record of the early Church as normative for the entire Church throughout world history–so I’m perfectly comfortable viewing it as simply descriptive (although that’s not to say we can’t learn from it…).
When you say ‘church’, I’m assuming you mean the traditional Sunday morning gatherings that many of us evangelicals are accustomed to.
My preferred model is halfway between big church and house church. I think the Church (note the capital C) needs to gather on (at least) a weekly basis for mutual encouragement, worship and communion: this is the basic unit of Christian community. The church (small c) I attend currently does this by encouraging people to be involved in ‘covenant groups’ (small groups). These are ‘open’ but only to serious disciples of Christ (so not ‘seeker sensitive’). However, we view Sunday worship and teaching as just that: worship and teaching. This is just a little bit more ‘seeker-sensitive’, and it is sort of our ‘front’ for the outside world. (What’s my church about? Come on Sunday and find out!)
And so I think the Church should see itself as a network of house churches. The smaller groups (covenant groups) gather during the week for believer’s fellowship, and the large group gathers weekly for praise, worship, teaching, and openness to the outside world. I realize this is sort of a half and half stance, but I think it is its strength (although whatever can be said about its strengths, I don’t mean that any other models are wrong or ‘unbiblical’–I just think this one is a good idea).
All the best,
Wow – great questions! Our church is going through a great deal of struggle around these very issues. Here are my thoughts based on where I am right now:
1. As the previous poster I will assume “church” in this case refers to the Sunday morning gathering. In the past we were believer-focused on Sunday mornings. A year ago we commissioned a “worship learning team” to (among other things) identify our purposes for Sunday morning gatherings. We came up with three: Adore God, build believers, and assist unbelievers. We have had some follow on discussions about their priority and whether they can be accomplished in the same service. I personally believe that you can do all three with excellence in a balanced Sunday morning service. We continue to struggle with this issue in our ongoing vision process.
2. I strongly agree with the second statement. I had someone in our leadership tell me that you should only read the Acts and Epistles for guidance on how to do church, and not the gospels. I must say I was incredulous. Does this mean that we have nothing to learn from Jesus regarding how to do ministry, especially when we’re inside the walls of the church building? I guess this might shed light on some of the things that go on in our churches – if we’re only expected to act like Jesus when we’re outside the church building.
3. I’m not a theologian, but I don’t see any evidence in the New Testament of the congregation voting on anything. This idea seems to me like an American interpretation. I do see evidence in scripture of Godly servant-leadership by pastors, elders, and deacons, presumably with primary concern with the needs (not the wants) of the flock. I can’t imagine the sheep voting to tell the shepherd what to do.
4. I agree with the second statement. I think that the other is legalism.
Randy, these are very important questions you’ve posed. I hope you get lots of input!