How Organized Does The Church Have To Be?
Wayne and Brad continue the discussion they began last week about the quest for expressions of church that allow authentic community to grow and flourish. To add to the discussion they read from a book review in Christianity Today about Why Churchless Christianity Doesn't Work and from an analysis of "postchurch" Christianity. Where does community emerge and is there a minimal standard of institutionalization or number of people to qualify a group of people as an official 'church'?
I really agree with the sentiment that we, as believers need to step back and almost go back to ground zero and rethink community and relationship in the body of Christ. I think in our society today it has blown up WAY out of proportion and many believers are getting lost in the institution unless they have pretty talents to demonstrate. I think it’s time to press the “reset” button and restart the process of taking the time to truly build the authentic, organic, life-giving community that we call church all over again.
Surely the Church (in the true sense of the word) is exceptionally well ordered and organized. The question is who is doing the organizing: Is it man or is it God?
It is very obvious when man orgnanizes and creates structure, but it is not always obvious to man when it is God’s Spirit moving like the (invisible) wind in ways that we cannot fathom. It may seem very haphazard to us, but in God’s eyes He can see the tapestry being perfectly woven together.
How about “The church is never manifested in anything but human flesh?”
dear brothers,thanks for the mention the other week,it actually touched me deeply to experience that “body connection”through this somewhat bizzare feeling medium.The healing is still ongoing as I learn to live with the challenge of”there is now NO condemnation etc” not easy for an,up till this year workaholic perfectionist.I t was amazing the first taste, when Father gave me a whole day without any concious guilt shame or self condemnation.The first of my 64 years as far as I am aware.I have not had another one like that,but I am learning day by day to live in a way I could not have comprehended before.I just would not have believed it possible for me. With regard to what I meant to write about,I have a friend who is an Anglican priest who has been shaken as much as I have by all this ,His comment was”Its taken me 60 years to get to this point.What do I do for those who havent got here yet?” (We were both struggling to assimilate the teaching in “transitions”)We were in a churches together meeting a few days later,I was manning the p.a. the meeting was “predictable” “I was bored” until a short period of open prayer which had been written in to the order of service / liturgy by my friend,at the end of which I was moved to pray,which actually was more prophesy really.The lord lifted the whole spirit of the event on to a different level,I was not validated by that, it was too much of a Balams ass job ,but this word was centerd on “I will build my church,Jesus perfecting the bride etc.” the validation came when the next hymn followed on as if scripted, I was not in any way aware of what hymn it was previously .Extemporanious prayer,a hundred year old hymn. an order of service / liturgy written weeks before ,all blended together seamlessly.we discussed the event subsequently and felt that we had been shown that” there are diversities of operations but the same spirit worketh all in all” it seems that I doesnt really matter much what one does, if that same spirit is there so is the blessing.The one thing that has changed is that all begging for forgivness,has been removed ,substituted by gratitude for forgivness ,healing work replaces “penal substitution”etc.no condemnation,seems to be the order of the day.It truly seems to be being born out that” where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty “.Another thought, I love truth expressed as cliche(,Ime sad that way)this one may be of some use”form without content is death,content without form is waste” lastly, is it streaching things too much to see” forgive us our tresspasses .as we forgive those who tresspass against us” as refering purely to transgressions against relationship.rather than having anything to do with “sins”as such ?Jesus command was after all to “love one another,as I have loved you” thank you again for your efforts on our behalf,I have now listened to all the archive ,and have moved on to “cherry picking” keep it up chaps,loads of love to you and yours.your brother ray.
It is amazing to me as I experience less strucure I am experiencing more “love” and one anothering than I ever have in my life. And God has been drawing people to us(our ministry) who we have hurt in the past when we were more a part of the structured “grabbing place”. And God is healing them and us as we journey forward and out of the injury of “religious” experience. Totally amazing. I love Stepen’s(very Apostle like) response and I see that happening in the larger picture on all these different web sites and all over the world. The way we “do church” is being changed by the Spirit. This is such an exciting time for the body of Christ is it not? Living Loved, slinging freedom all around and making no apologies is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Pastoring people outside the box ( as I lived Loved) is creating a community that has much less co-dependence going on than I ever experienced inside the box. Its just a natural fruit of loving people with nothing to prove, gain defend or change. Sometimes I feel like I am living “The Shack” because the conversations (or like the Jake book) I have now are like the ones in the book. People come for external answers from “the pastor” and leave with more questions and their own answers because of The One living on the inside of them. This is the most beautiful experience I have ever known and I did not know this was possible this side of eternity. Did you guys? All I have ever wanted is Acts 29 church experience and I think this is very close to what the early church experienced. Haphazard is just a judgement from a below the line perspective.
Colossians:1:15-18 (MSG)”We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen…For everything, absolutely everything, ABOVE and BELOW, visible and invisible, rank after rank of angels–everything got started in Him and finds its pruprose in Him. He holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, He organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.”
Wayne, I love your book “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore”. And I love listening to you and Brad’s podcasts! After years of being in an institution where you are an outcast if you disagree with… well, with anything, it’s nice to be able to voice what I’m really thinking and be heard. I have a question about the articles you referred to in this recent podcast. I read them and found that I had some of the same questions. While I agree with you that God’s church is his people and not an institution, building or meeting, I have trouble reconciling some of the scriptures with not being part of a group. Not that I plan on excommunicating anyone, but how exactly would you do that if someone you considered your sister/brother in Christ would not repent of a sin. Since I left the institutional church (IC) 5 years ago, my fellowship with other believers consists of a family that recently moved several states away. A few people from the IC I was a part of for 15 years. A few people that I know that have also adopted from the same country I adopted my daughters from. But while I have a relationship with each of them, they don’t know each other. How would I bring the matter before the church if they are just people here and there that don’t know each other? Do we just ignore that scripture now. You made the point that the IC’s don’t do a good job of that either. The people just go down the road and worship at a different place. But whether or not they apply the scriptures doesn’t mean I don’t want to apply them.
The closest thing I’ve experienced to this is a friend of mine that left the IC I was a part of and then their family moved far away. She then had an affair with a married man and left her husband and the married man left his wife and they got married. She came to visit me thinking that since I left the IC too, I’d understand. I told her I left the IC, not Jesus. I’m still his follower. I listened to her and tried to reason with her through the scriptures… I told her I loved her but she was clearly wrong. It was painful to see that she’d walked away from her faith. But though she still claims that she doesn’t regret her actions, she doesn’t claim to be a Christian anymore. In fact she now denies Christ. I pray for her and have remained her friend and will never stop hoping she returns to Jesus. But if she was unrepentant and still claimed to be a follower of Christ, how would I put Mathew 18 into practice??? I know it’s a lot of what if’s. But I’d really appreciate your insight.
Ok, one more comment, a little unrelated. Have you heard of Greg Boyd. He’s a pastor, but when he preaches on Sunday’s he refuses to call it church because he says that doesn’t fit the biblical meaning of church. He calls his Sunday gatherings seminars and says that real church is what goes on the rest of the week, outside these walls. He preaches because he says for whatever reason, Americans will come out to hear about Jesus on Sundays and whenever he gets an opportunity to preach Jesus, he’ll take it. I think you guys really have a lot in common. In fact he recently read “The Shack” and loved it! (But who doesn’t) Anyway you can check out a short interview he recently did on neueresources.com. then click neue podcast: Greg Boyd. Every week I listen to you both…Greg is at http://www.whchurch.org. It seems like you guys are very much in sync.
Michele, in regards to “excommunication” (which is a word not even in the Bible) the heart of the message is choosing your relationships wisely. Don’t engage with people who willfully, continually make destructive and hurtful decisions. Such people can destroy those around them. It is a matter of who we associate with. Of course the Biblical remedy is that you deal with trusted elders to resolve the issue first. Cutting them off is the last resort. God always opts for healing relationships. I, myself, have often run into trouble with sick relationships and destructive people who I had to sadly cut out of my life. But it wasn’t my first choice.
Wayne and Brad… but especially Wayne,
As an individual who has read/listened extensively from you all, Frank Viola, Wolfgang Simson, Howard Snyder, and a multitude of others, … I don’t think you did justice in your comments relative to Frank Viola’s recent statements and articles concerning the “Post-church” perspective.
To lump FV’s perspective in with Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck is a gross misrepresentation by way of association. FV never asserts that “the church is a physical place to visit”, nor does FV assert that “appointed, official leaders” are what defines a “church”. Everything you attributed to FV is certainly true of DeYoung and Kluck. If the truth be known and effort was taken to think before speaking it would be noticed that you two guys and FV have much more in common than would be true in comparison to DeYoung and Kluck. I would possibly grant that Wayne and Brad when compared to FV may represent different poles of the same spectrum, but you three are not even in the same spectrum as DeYoung and Kluck.
Just so we’re on the same page about not getting carried away with any personalities…I’ve never known any man, let alone any two men, to be definitively faultless about everything. I’ve benefited tremendously from paying attention to brothers Wayne and Brad, and I would say the same about learning from other brothers and sisters–including FV (though I don’t consider Frank a “sister” ;o) ).
Ok, the conversation continues….
I have been enjoying your podcasts (some more than others, of course) for quite some time now. My husband and I have been out of the institution now for over 12 years, after playing quite a significant part in a mega church in the U.S. (We are now back in our homeland, Australia).
Frank Viola’s book, ‘Rethinking the Wineskin’ came along at a time when we were ‘rethinking church’ and resonated in our spirits, and was one of the catalysts God used to get us out of the institution.
Hearing you criticise his article on the post church perspective was a little painful for me. Not that we agree with what he was saying, but the fact that he had no opportunity to defend what he has written or even explain it better. I am sure you would find that you do agree with him on many points.
How about asking him if he would come on your show and discuss it with you? That could be pretty interesting. 🙂
Also it was sad to hear you say many people have sent you this article to ask you what you think, which interpreted is really saying, ” Could you please tell us what we think?” Yuck. I know you have no control over that, but isn’t one of the good things about leaving the institution that you learn that it is o.k. , no , not o.k., but imperative that we learn to think ( with the help of the Holy Spirit), for ourselves?
Keep up the great work. I know yo are helping so many people!
Thank you, that’s a good point. Excommunication isn’t in the bible. I guess rather than Mt 18, I had more in mind 1 Cor.5. The title in my bible says “Expel the immoral brother”, but the title of coarse wasn’t in the original text. The context is about putting a man out of your fellowship that won’t repent of sleeping with his father’s wife. It says to hand him over to satan so his sinful nature may be destroyed, and that his spirit saved. But what you said about the heart of the message being to not associate with them for their sake and yours makes sense. I think that’s what often trips me up. Instead of looking at the heart of the message, I often look at it with the eyes of a pharisee. I would probably be one of those that would have rebuked Jesus for healing on the sabbath.
I guess Wayne or Brad’s point about institutional churches not really applying that scripture well makes sense because in todays culture, the Body of Christ is so divided that we don’t bring it before the local church in a particular city anyway because there isn’t one, there are hundreds. I guess the question is how can we apply the principles of the scripture in todays culture.
Tom and Allison,
Just to clarify, it was not our intent to lump Frank Viola in with DeYoung and Kluck. We realize that their perspectives have little in common. We discussed the Christianity Today article as a separate part of the conversation from Frank’s article. I, too, have read much from Frank that I appreciate that we hold many values and perspectives in common and have said so on numerous occasions. I appreciated his early books on leadership and covering. I wish I’d said so here so people would not have misunderstood that we were simply talking about the content of this one article, rather than offering a critique of Frank as a brother or as a writer.
This article, which had also been publicly posted by Christianity Today, was as fair for us to interact with as any other article we read and comment on. We didn’t do it because we were asked, but because we thought it unfair to demean how God gathers twos and threes together in fellowship as a beginning point to building wider connections. Many had felt condemned by this article and we thought it would be helpful for them to walk through it ourselves and point out our concerns as Frank pointed out his. We firmly believe that community is an irresistible reality for someone who is in a growing relationship with the Father of this family, and putting people under obligation or condemnation by defining the church with a minimal standard of order is a step toward rebuilding another system to distract people from the way Jesus builds his church.
While we believe in time that twos and threes in coffee shops alone may not constitute the fullest expression of the church locally, for many they are far better than what else is available to them at the moment and don’t want people to despise the day of small beginnings as Father draws his family together and connects them in wider and wider circles.
I certainly appreciate your reply and clarifications.
When you say, “…it was not our intent to lump Frank Viola in with DeYoung and Kluck. We realize that their perspectives have little in common.” I fully accept and believe that. The problem most likely has to do with the limitations of the podcast format. In my listening I couldn’t separate or distinguish the shift or compare/contrast between what you were saying relative to DeYoung and Kluck vs. Viola.
I agree that FV’s “minimal standard of order” of what constitutes a “church” may be overly concrete based on assumptions and inferences (of certain NT passages) rooted in a Restorationism perspective, HOWEVER, FV’s concreteness is much simpler and less “organized” and “structured” that the lowest bar placement of DeYoung and Kluck (and most Christian religionist for that matter). I think it’s unreasonable to think that the Spirit brings individuals into long term relationships devoid of some structure and organization. Two’s and Three’s may certainly constitute “church”–just as Paul and Barnabas brought with them in their relationship with each other as they entered each city to which they traveled a reality of “church”.
I certainly agree with your warning to not despise the day of small things. Yes, let’s give God the freedom to build as He sees fit and pray that we are receptive to His loving leading. I also accept FV’s warning about the post-church perspective being “… more convenient and easier on the flesh than virtually every other form of church.” If meeting a bro once a month or so at the local Village Inn becomes our preferred mode of thinking and doing “church”, then it really has “become church on our own terms.” That is a legitimate warning. Two’s and Three’s are most likely the best beginning point, but not likely to be the end point.
Ok, I’m done. I don’t want to be perceived as a “Violista”. Thanks for not moderating out my previous comment. I haven’t arrived; I’m still on the journey and in process. When I do “arrive” I’ll let you know so you can then write me off with total impunity.
BTW, just so you feel better…I think Brad really missed it when you guys had that health care conversation several months ago ;o)
i didn’t listen to the podcast, but after reading the article by deyoung, i’m left with the following question …
is anything being said?
it’s like this: “church should be this way, and when the guys who left figure out they can’t do it alone, they’ll come back, See church should be this way!”
we rarely hear both sides of the story at the same time. those who are “out” and happy AND those who were “out” and are now back in and happy AND those who never went out and are happy AND those who never went in and are happy AND etc.
i guess if you’re gonna pick teams then there’s always gonna be disagreement, there’s often a sense of i am right! because this is how i perceive it to be right you must be wrong!
a friend of mine said, it’s somewhere in the middle we should meet up …
I guess I left the podcast a little frustrated because I feel like we have been out of the institution for so long and yet are still living in pocket relationships that Frank would call “post church”. I didn’t understand the emphasis of Brad and Wayne’s comments. Wayne’s clarification and Tom’s summary clarified the podcast and hit home for me. The twos and threes are a beginning point but not an end goal. I don’t think Frank was despising the small beginnings so much as challenging people who believe that the two’s and three’s are the fullest expression of the body (like Tom already said).
Why does this journey feel so hard sometimes?? I feel stuck in the two’s and three’s. I keep thinking I better buy Viola’s new book on finding organic church so I can figure out what to do next. Maybe I’m not trusting God to build in his timing and leading. Do we need an apostle to help us move beyond the two’s and three’s? Am I not thinking outside the box?
Hi there!! Are you guys really thinking about visit us here in brazil??? That would be really great!! I hope you come here in Rio de Janeiro!! Let us know about it, ok? best regards for you guys and your families!!
I was already there. From December 3 through 10 I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil meeting with believers from all over the area. Who knows if I’ll come back some day? That is in Father’s hands, but I was truly blessed to meet my brothers and sisters in Brazil and catch their passion for the Father I love.
Responding to Courtney;
I’ve been struggling with much of the same stuff for the past 3 years or so (my wife struggles less than I do…she seems to “get it” a lot faster than me). At times I find it difficult to determine if I’m more frustrated with Wayne-and-Brad or Frank Viola ;o)
Frustration does have the effect of causing us to seek the focus of our frustrations and troubling and that focus tends to shine a light into our own personal “warped-ness”.
“Why does the journey feel so hard sometimes??” The hard aspect to which you are referring is not so much the “fellowship with the Lord” journey as it is the “one another” part of the equation. My simple explanation is that we’ve been led to believe that “Spiritual community” is something that we can shop around for then “join”. That presupposition is most exemplified in the shopping mall like facilities of the mega-church paradigm. Our culture—“Christian” and otherwise–is constantly pushing us that direction. The truest reality of Christian community is one that is created by the Sprit of Christ who lives in us; we participate with that Sprit speaking to spirit, but we don’t “create” it. In his little book Life Together Bonhoeffer rightly points out that Christian community is not a given, rather, it’s the exception. Not all Christians are blessed with a fullness of Christian community—and there can be many reasons for that some of which are totally out of the individual’s control. Personally, I’m seeking to follow the Spirit into communion with both Father and His people and doing all I know to do or not do to get in the way of that. That’s the best I know to do. Be open to relationships; God is always working in relationships.
I sometimes think that Wayne-and-Brad and Frank Viola should be taken in equal doses. IMO they represent polarities of the same spectrum. I appreciate and benefit from both “poles”. Like all mystery it’s necessary to hold seeming contradictions in tension.
IMO Frank Viola, in all his abrasiveness (reminds me of Amos), is telling us things we need to hear. His message is meaty, but at times the steak has a lot of gristle. He rightly identifies the organic unity of the Godhead, calls us to re-examine our organizational suppositions, then pleads with us to actively recognize Jesus the Christ as our rightful head—and to do so as a COMMUNITY! Where I get frustrated with Frank is that he does such a great job of yelling that message (boOYAH!), then he tells us that we’ll never come to find that kind of community without the assistance of an “apostolic worker”. Then you say, “Ok, give me a phone number for an AW.” Answer; “sorry, not enough of us to go around…get to you later.”
Wayne-and-Brad (not meaning to be disrespectful by hyphenating our Bros together…just trying to identify them as an entity for the sake of this discussion) are also helping us to see the beauty of relationship with our Father and exemplifying ways in which that is lived out. They have also done a wonderful work in challenging our understanding of Father and how our warped perspectives have produced fear, manipulation, and efforts at control. I think that the fruit of their work will have benefits well beyond their and our lives. However, one of the frustrations that emerges is the same frustration produced by Viola; “DANG!! I WANT THAT AND WHERE DO I FIND IT!!!” Wayne-and-Brad respond by saying, “Father will bring you into relationships and community” which is true, but still frustrating—especially so when we still have the vestiges of our shopping mall religion. And, it’s especially frustrating when we observe Wayne-and-Brad actively engaged in communities of Believers WORLDWIDE, and we’re pining away here in the ‘hood just wanting a little local taste of that.
So, do I have any answers to these frustrations? Perhaps, but you be the judge;
1. We, you and I and all of us either “on the Journey” or still in the IC, will only find our Sufficiency in Christ. If I don’t get that first everything else will be incomplete.
2. Take risk. Sometimes God takes us into a place of community which wouldn’t be our preferred choice.
3. Seek out the “twos and threes” and as “twos and threes” watch for what God may do, but don’t loose sight of the “twos and threes”. (That reads more esoteric than it really is.)
4. Pay attention to Wayne-and-Brad. Pay attention to FV. Pay attention to everyone who honors our Lord and Savior. Be skeptical (literally, “look closely”), but read promiscuously.
So, there’s my diarrhea of the keyboard. In community we must exercise a heap of forgiveness.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I really appreciate it.
I don’t know who you are or where you hail from in the world but in your reply to Courtney you have just answered so many of the frustations and questions I have after leaving th IC some 3 yrs ago. I love the God Journey and have read all of FV books and found so much that is helpful but like you I guess, am left with more questions than answers. I long to be part of the meaningful community (church?) that is spoken of but I’m often heard shouting ‘where is it?’ So for the moment I keep looking and keep trusting that God will one day lead me into such relationships. The ‘two’s and three’s’ are good and meaningful but there is an incompleteness about them.
So thanks again for your comments……I guess we may be on a similar page on the journey and would value ongoing dialogue with you!
I have been following the God Journey for about 6 months now and have read some of the books, and I find that we are all wanting to share what we have found in Christ and are looking forward to in this adventure. What I am curious about is, with out laying down guidelines that will become minimum requirements, what are some of the readers and writers here habits of reading Gods word and praying and fasting in our pursuit of, or efforts toward hearing God or Knowing him and the one he sent(John 17:3) I have always had a problem with having my daily devotional follow some book someone put together being the best for me to hear for my day. I have always wanted to feel like this is what God has for me right now, and I don’t know how following some other mans pre packaged book be the end all for my daily walk.
What a great discussion…I so appreciate the heart behind everyones thoughts. Thank you for the civility…actually, the love.
In response to Mike question regarding Bible reading/devotionals, after years of satiation on study / proof texting / principle making / doctrine correcting and just plain killing people as I “rightly divided the word of truth, I had to take a break from Bible reading. Like de-toxing from the IC part of my pharasectomy has been the de-idolizing of the scripture. (I wouldn’t even have my Bible re-bound because I couldn’t function without it for the week) I recently came across a book by Scot McKnight , “The Blue Parakeet”. It is a wonderful read and focuses on the Bible as Story rather than a text book to be picked apart to prove your point. I am now seeing my life as a “mini-story” within God’s big Story. I will say I have no idea who Scot McKnight is other than I saw his book and was blessed by his perspective.
Hi, I,m reading so you don’t want go to the church any more, I’m blessed with all the answers I found on it, confirm all the thougths I have, we are a missionary family living in Cd. Juarez por about 8 years, the Lord support this ministery for 30 year now, he aways supplied everything, we have a tons of testimonies, every day are life is a miracle, thank you Lord somebody send me this book, inspired my faith, thank you Jesus, for the blessings He gave me troughout this book, God bless you guys, we don’t have a building, we teach the Bible in buses, streets, parks, schools, hospitals, jails, horphanats, etc. etc. every where, the Lord lid, I heard many people, condemin us for that. God bless you guys.