Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ekklesia: Christ-centered, open participatory gatherings

New Testament documents were written to Christian communities that possessed a certain spiritual environment. For them, "church" was not filing into a building and sitting like a pillar of salt during a worship service officiated by a clergyman (pastor or priest). The modern "audience church" historically evolved (or devolved) from cultural elements that, in my view, replaced the organic expression of church life that the early Christians knew.

That said, I believe that understanding the grand narrative is only a piece of the puzzle toward rightly grasping Scripture (as well as the incredible Lord that Scripture presents). Another important piece is to live in the same spiritual context in which the early Christians lived. This includes face-to-face community as well as Christ-centered, open participatory gatherings.

For instance, try applying Paul's teachings in 1 Corinthians 14 to a typical church service. It can't be done. What congregant, for instance, sitting frozen in a pew is going to interrupt the pastor or priest during his sermon? And what pastor or priest will yield the floor to the person who interrupts? Hence, 1 Corinthians 14:30 has no relevance at all in such a setting.

However, if a group of Christians are living in a face-to-face community that practices, as the early Christians did, open-participatory church meetings, then that passages makes perfect sense and all of the instruction applies.

I believe there is a great need to freshly examine how we have been "doing church" since the Reformation. I also believe that a new look at the New Testament narrative along with the historical origins of our church practices can teach us a great deal about ecclesiology . . . if we are willing to be instructed by it.

Taken from the Present Testimony Ministry February 2007 newsletter: http://www.ptmin.org/february2007.htm
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