Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Apologetics... of sorts

A few days ago I received this from a friend...

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Came across this.

Trying to understand the Emerging Church Movement a little.

Any input?

http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/Articles/read_articles.asp?ID=122

This is the pastor that I grew up under. His affiliated with the same fellowship of churches that I am affiliated with.

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MY INITIAL RESPONSE

Our gatherings are more ancient church (i.e. New Testament) than medieval (Catholic - as the article points out). We worship from house to house.

We are very concerned with method & message. I believe the method can and should change (like Paul - 1 Cor 9:19-23 NIV Message). We believe that the message CAN'T change (the author of the article hints at the fact that even the message will be flexible). Our message is that salvation is through Christ alone. Repent, be baptized, then become the hands, feet, voice, and heart of Christ wherever you are. We are about a 24/7 faith, not Sunday's & Wednesday nights.

What's interesting is that a good number of the critics of this movement (if you can call it a movement) happen to be dependent on the traditional church structure for their livelihood. I honestly feel that they may look at what we do as a threat. If what we do (and thousands of others like us) continues to grow and continues to pull people out of traditional church environments, their jobs could be at risk.

Our model has no overhead. We have no paid pastor, no mortgage, no building fund, etc. and one of the most freeing things has been the way we give our tithes & offerings. Each family prayerfully considers which ministry, missionary, poor family, evangelistic outreach, etc. that they believe God is asking them to support and then we give. 100% of the money goes. I don't believe there is another church model that can claim that. At the traditional church we left, 83% of the total money put in the plate ($2.5M annually) was spent inside the walls of the church (salaries, curriculum, programs, etc.). This left only .17¢ of every dollar for ministry outside of the church structure (community ministry, foreign missions, etc.).

I personally see this as signs of a self-centered church where people tend to be much more concerned about there own "spiritual growth" than in truly being the church in the community around them.

Please note that I have not arrived yet. In the past I have been accused of being a gnostic and of turning my back on the church. The truth is, many traditional church members and ministers don't understand what we are about. From a distance they will throw stones, but what's interesting is that when they talk to us or see us up close, they leave challenged to live a deeper faith. That alone could be reason enough for our existence... then I remember the people that are connecting to their Father in heaven and to each other and to their community through what we do and I'm reminded that we exist for many, many reasons.

I'll try and reply to more of the article later.

Best,

Kent

4 comments:

Timotheos said...

Having read your response and continuing to research the whole 'emergent church' concept, I find myself just a little perturbed.

Those critics that you mentioned. The ones that have a monetary attachment (my words, not yours) to the livelihood of the church. That would include me. Is that to say that I have no say in critiquing, simply because I am a pastor. I would think not. From my perspective, the very men that you disregard are the same men that have served humbly and ably through the years. They are continually and consistently studying the Scripture to determine what the Scriptures have to say. For some reason, many of these same men have a disagreement regarding the nature of the church than say, Barna, Mclaren et al.

In regards to your assessment that the church that you were apart of used 83% of its income for inhouse kind of left me wondering as well. Why aren't more in the church tithing? On the average 10-15% of the people in any given church tithe (my figures). And, I can appreciate that you see a glaring problem with so high a percent going inhouse, but is this a response that is biblical?

In a previous post you noted that 'your new church would not be like your old church.' I can appreciate that. The church in many ways falls far short of the biblical model. In fact the church (global) that we are a part of today more closely resembles the church of Laodicea (Rev 3) than it does the biblical ideal. However, though the present church falls far short of the biblical model do we simply jettison the church because we see its failings?

Could it be that the problems that we see have more to do with preference, perspective and expectations rather than biblical instruction? Might we be better served by being a part of a different congregation?

Kent C. Williamson said...

Tim -

I would not say that Pastors (like yourself) who are paid by a local gathering of believers "have no say in critiquing" the things of this movement. I think their input may be critical. At the same time, it may be like telling someone to get investment advice from a Realtor... they may be a little biased toward real estate investments over other options. It's not that they may not have good advice, but that their true interests may be in preserving and promoting the real estate market.

I do think that pastors like yourself that have other avenues of income will be best positioned to adjust to any Revolution (to use Barna's term) that may be taking place. You'll be much more ready and able to take the Gospel to people outside the walls of your current structure knowing that you're not totally and 100% dependent on the income derived therein.

Know that I don't "disregard" the very men that have served humbly and ably through the years... I have some good relationships with pastors in my area where we discuss, dialog, and debate these vary issues. I don't think we should look at "debate" as a bad word. It can be good and healthy (even though perhaps uncomfortable) for us to stir the pot on occasion.

I don't know what the percentage numbers of my former congregation tithe... the budget is nearly 2.5 million and there are +/- 800 that attend, maybe double that on the rolls, I don't know, but you bring up a good point. If only 10-15% of the people tithe (your numbers) shouldn't that be an indication that something is wrong? If only 10-15% of our physical bodies we're functioning properly, wouldn't that be an indication that we should be rushed to the hospital for immediate care? Instead, most every Sunday morning at 11AM we trudge along thinking, pretending, and perhaps even deceiving ourselves that everything is okay!

You mentioned Laodicea (Rev 3). I would agree in the similarities to today's climate. So do we "jettison the church because we see its failings?" and "Might we be better served by being a part of a different congregation?"

"No" and "Yes" respectively. We don't jettison the church, because we are the church, but we might jettison some of the traditonal methods! Might we be better served elsewhere? Yes, and that's exactly what we've done. We've voted with our feet, so to say, and our new landing spot has no overhead, no paid pastor, no etc., but it does enable people to have a vibrant, dynamic, faith & worship experience.

Perhaps you should make a trip out here to see it with your own eyes.

Best to you, Tim!

Kent C. Williamson said...

I received this the other day...

"Could you please clarify what you consider the ancient church? Does it include the apostolic fathers up to medieval times or just the new testament record of the church? I have heard many times this desire to mirror the new testament church."
Peace, C.

Here's my reply...

In the mention of "ancient church" that I believe you're referring to (http://www.paladinpictures.com/httpdocs/2006/05/apologetics-of-sorts.html) I use the term synonymously with "new testament church". This may have been a poor word choice, but my point with it was that we are meeting house to house. One week we gather at our place, the next week at someone else, etc. Which makes it difficult for people not in the loop to find us.

It definitely doesn't foster the "come and join us" approach the traditional church has offered for the last 50+ years. But it also serves as a continual reminder that we must actively GO with the intent of engaging others in regards to faith throughout our week. I believe this approach does allow us the opportunity to be more intentional about the great commission than the more passive approach of "we're here! come and join us!".


Kent

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