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Archive for the ‘Shaping of Things to Come’ Category

From Shaping of Things to Come page 73: “These partnerships would demonstrate that Jesus is pleased with the good works of not-yet-Christians…”

Here is where I the discernment alarms began flashing. The next several looks at this book will deal with subjects in which I was in clear opposition to the authors.

What happened to works being like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)? What about abiding in the vine? No! Good works don’t please Jesus when they’re not for Him. Motives matter. How did He reward the Pharisees, experts at good works who rejected his salvation? He rebuked them, strongly and loudly. He didn’t stand at their side and tell His disciples “These men are doing good work here; help them out.”

Matthew 3:7-8, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:”

Romans 4:4, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”

Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”

Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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From The Shaping of Things to Come page 65 – “Now we are seeing such a dramatic fracturing of Western society into a range of subcultures, even in the suburbs, that one-size-fits-all is increasingly outmoded. This is called the subculturization or tribalization of the West… But we are forecasting what most Western social commentators are saying – that even the suburbs are now splintering into myriad subcultures. Churches, like missionaries, will need to understand subcultural mores and folkways and incarnate themselves into the rhythms of each specific people group or “tribe” to which they feel called.”

This observation on culture was new to me, and yet resonated as a good explanation for what I see in the world around me. I believe there is an economic cycle that first draws people together into big cities, then gradually disperses them back out into more neighborhood-focused lives.

Last night I was watching a debate originally aired on ABC, featuring the hosts of The Way of the Master (an evangelism-training TV show). On this debate an atheist asked whether Christians are not projecting their cultural image into a being they call God. The answer from the Christians was that Jesus’ salvation is not a cultural thing. It is not Western, though it shaped Western culture for many decades. The need for a Savior is universal. The Bible’s message of blood being shed to pay for our sins is universal. Community is need felt by all the subculture splinter groups. And the Word of God is relevant, and powerfully alive, to all of them.

To God be all glory.

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From The Shaping of Things to Come page 49 and 50:

“No one is considered unworthy of belonging because they happen to be addicted to tobacco, or because they’re not married to their live-in partner. Belonging is a key value.”

At this point I become concerned. We are offering community to the unsaved, community defined by Jesus’ atonement. There is no place in regular fellowship for the habitual, unrepentant sinner. Paul wrote about this problem again and again, rebuking church communities for tolerating behavior that defined them when they walked in ‘darkness,’ and also specifically describing a practice like excommunication in 1 Corinthians 5.

Page 50 presents another concern: “Conversion is a process that does not begin and end with the profession of faith in Christ but begins with the Holy Spirit’s prevenient grace on the person’s life and continues through repentance for a lifetime – kingdom comes.”

This one quote incorporates the most dangerous limits of doctrines implied by the ancient enemies of theology: the Calvinists and the Arminians. Saying that conversion is a process lays the responsibility for accomplishing conversion on us (Arminianism), the human. This fact is immediately qualified, even countered, when they emphasize grace. Well, it’s God doing it (Calvinism), and He takes a lifetime. Still, there is no mention of evangelism as preaching the gospel, of the gospel including calling on the name of the Lord. Ephesians 2 is faded into an imperceptibly slow process, until at the end you can see, “Oh yes, once I was dead.” But right now you’re just in a struggle. Everyone is just in a struggle. There is not so much a line between the enemies of God and the quickened instruments of righteousness. This is the heresy of every cult ever invented.

To God be all glory.

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From pages 12-13 of The Shaping of Things to Come:

“How could a bunch of Christians running a pub in Bradford be a church? … They don’t always meet in the same room on a Sunday for church services, but they are worshipping God, building Christian community, and serving their world. They meet the biblical criteria for a church, but they don’t often look like church as we are used to thinking of it. A helpful way of looking at the post-Christendom church is to see not disorder but a diaspora.”

My argument has been for some time that Awana and some Bible studies were more accurately ‘church’ than the Sunday morning services/congregation. The “parachurch ministries” themselves deny this, encouraging you to attend a traditional church as well. Perhaps they, while recognizing the need to be more New-Testament, have failed to shake off the Christendom custom-entrenched mindset.

Also, I like the imagery and associations of describing the missional church as diaspora. Right after the start of the church in Acts, persecution began with the martyrdom of Stephen. The immediate result was that the disciples of Christ dispersed and carried the gospel with them wherever they went. Is something similar happening again? Is this new house-church movement one of evangelism?

My friend who recommended this book to me was chatting with me the other day, and we wonder why we call the Sunday morning meetings “worship services.” There is more going on in these Sunday morning meetings than just the “worship” part. There is usually preaching, which when biblical is usually evangelistic. In our contexts sermons are styled as teaching, just not in a mode described frequently in the New Testament. We’re supposed to be worshiping God everywhere and always, and praise is only part. The songs we sing are about praise, and this is more the instruction in the Bible than to be worshiping in our congregations. And a lot of the songs we sing, besides the praise hymns and choruses, are testimonial or inspirational or prayerful. So what should the meetings be called?

To God be all glory.

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From page 12 of The Shaping of Things to Come:

By apostolic we mean a mode of leadership that recognizes the fivefold model detailed by Paul in Ephesians 6 [sic].” I venture to guess from the context that they meant Ephesians 4. Also, ‘apostle’ means messenger, and would fit well with the ‘missional’ definition of church the authors, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, advocate.

It abandons the triangular hierarchies of the traditional church…” (which would be, I suppose, a ‘senior pastor’ overseeing elders or associate pastors who oversee the congregation – or some more complicated model based on this) “…and embraces a biblical, flat-leadership community…” Flat-leadership community is an awesome way of describing the associate elders depicted in the Bible. Several qualified men with different gifts weave their gifts together in a mutually discipling, teaching, learning, and accountability community to form an umbrella of unified leadership, oversight, and protection of the church. In this there is no ‘buck stops here,’ no ‘lonely at the top,’ no competition, and no one man shouldering the world of expectations a church has for its leader.

“…that unleashes the gifts of evangelism, apostleship, and prophecy as well as the currently popular pastoral and teaching gifts.” I want to say that the word ‘unleashes’ is exactly what I discovered while leading the spiritual gifts study last year. Proper implementation of church unleashes all of the gifts, many of which are suppressed in the bottom-heavy leadership and institutional structure of the traditional church.

I would argue on the Greek, however, that pastoral is coupled with teaching, as indicated in some translations “pastor-teacher” leaving Paul’s description as the four-fold model of leadership.

To God be all glory.

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From page 11 and 12 of Shaping of Things to Come: “The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.” and “The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.” I like this definition (as opposed to membership of an institution or regularly attending church or ministering in a charity…) for how we stand out from the world. I’m delighted with the concept that everyone who is really saved is a part of this, and is involved and growing (this is the definition of Church to which everyone agrees, but how many good Baptists do you know who wouldn’t in practice add regular attendance or ‘coming forward’ or membership?).

Without being more described, though, I fear that point the following would drown out the discipleship indicated above: “Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future.” While the truths about worship indicated in the terminology are refreshing, I hesitate at the word ‘central,’ worrying that worship (singing, or from a Christendom perspective, ‘worship service’) would be elevated in these emergent/missional congregations above teaching and prayer and fellowship, which are much more obviously taught as the activities of the New Testament Church.

To God be all glory.

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Look forward to a series of short posts on a book called The Shaping of Things to Come. Recommended by a friend who is about to do a church plant with her husband, the book deals with what is popularly called the “emergent church.” I’m skeptical of this movement in that it abandons a strict view of the gospel and caters to the emotional/experiential, pushing for tolerance and variety in worship. I believe God tells us how He wants to be worship, and in a corporate Church setting, it does not involve incense, video, or painting.

This isn’t the central issue, though. What I hope you’ll see in this series is that while the authors, Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, insightfully recognize a lot of true problems in the Church and realities about the Western cultures today, instead of going to the Bible for pure instruction, they take a pragmatic, experiential – even openly experimental – popular direction at fixing these problems.

So point 1, addressing page 9: A theme in The Shaping of Things to Come is the Christendom Era and establishment, representing Catholicism and the institutional church as we know it today. It began, they say, in Constantine’s reign around A.D. 313. Buildings, they say, became “central to the notion, and experience, of church.” Why do we need a building to ‘experience’ church? What does the fact of a building contribute to the ‘experience’? What was the experience before?

To God be all glory.

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