Saturday 8 October 2011

Delving Deeper with Frank Viola

Pagan Christianity is totally enlightening because as Frank states,most Christians have the subconscious idea that many of the acts of contemporary Christians have a very questionable history, but as he found, no one had really studied it all in depth and compiled one easily readable book from the material.
You will find the history of
The history of liturgy.
The history of professional ministry.
Many of the questionable practices.
And it will all confirm that uneasy feeling, when having met the risen Christ, you go back into BOTH denominational churches and even independent churches.
That subtle interior question : "Where is the Christ I actually know, in all this?" is answered full on. He ISN'T. It was so often Pagan Man's Creation, or at best the one off instruction of the Holy Spirit, which then got enshrined as a repeatedly rehearsed mindless act.
Now, I am hoping that I will not offend Frank, but also entice you to go out and buy the book by  copying here two inoffensive small print sections of his book, that serve as kind of appendices to the rest of the material. These  sections appear after chapters to aid with discussion groups. So churches, who like these things, and are brave enough to question their own existence, may love to invest in these books.
Frank has just reminded me to tell you that Pagan Christianity is a deconstructive work, but is part of a series which includes more constructive works find them all here  
Delving Deeper
Some Definitions
As you read this book, we feel it is important that you understand how we are using the terms below.
We are using this word to indicate those practices and principles that are not Christian or biblical in origin. In some cases, we use it to refer to those ancients who followed the gods of the Roman Empire. We are not using the word as a synonym for bad, evil, sinful, or wrong. A "pagan practice or mind-set ' refers to a practice or mode of thinking that has been adopted from the church's surrounding culture. We believe that some pagan practices are neutral and can be redeemed for God's glory. We feel that others stand in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles and thus cannot be redeemed.
The term organic church does not refer to a particular model of church. (We believe that no perfect model exists.) Instead, we believe that the New Testament vision of church is organic. An organic church is a living, breathing, dynamic, mutually participatory, every-member-functioning, Christ-centered, communal expression of the body of Christ. Note that our goal in this book is not to develop a full description of the organic church but only to touch on it when necessary.
This term refers to a religious system (not a particular group of people). An institutional church is one that oper­ates primarily as an organization that exists above, beyond, and independent of the members who populate it. It is constructed more on programs and rituals than on relationships. It is led by set-apart professionals ("ministers" or "clergy") who are aided by volunteers ("laity"). We also use the terms contemporary church, traditional church, present-day church, and modern church to refer to the institutional church of our day.
These terms do not refer to a particular form of church. We are instead speaking of the church of century one that we read about in our New Testament. (In this book, first-century church is used as a synonym for New Testament church.) We do not advocate a primitivistic return to a particular model of the early church. Instead, we believe that a return to the spiritual principles, the organic practices, and the spirit and ethos of the first-century church, along with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, should guide our practice of the church in our day and time.
These words are used first and foremost as source statements and secondarily as value judgments. Biblical or scriptural refers to whether a practice has its origins in the New Testament Scriptures. References to unbiblical or unscriptural practices do not automatically imply error. These words can refer to the fact that a certain practice does not appear in the New Testament (in which case it should not be treated as sacred). But they can also refer to a practice that violates the principles or teachings of the New Testament. The context will determine how these words are used. We certainly do not agree with the doctrines of "the silence of Scripture" and "the regulative principle," which teach that if a practice is not mentioned in the New Testament then we should not follow it.
Delving Deeper
Questions and Answers about Church format
1. Isn't it true that the Bible's description of church gatherings seems to allow fora lot of latitude in how our worship is structured? My church's order of worship contains almost all the practices mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14. What, then, is so wrong with a standard order of worship?
Most gatherings in institutional churches do include singing and teaching; however, they're done in an atmosphere far different front the one prescribed in I Corinthians 14. This passage describes a gathering with open participation by every member to bring a teaching, a revelation, a song, an exhortation, etc. (verse 26); interjections by the members while others are speaking (verse 30); and spontaneous prophesying by everyone (verses 24, 31).
If your church gathering possesses all of these elements, that is wonderful. We just would not describe it as a "standard order of worship" since it is not the standard practice today.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul admonishes the believers to do things in an orderly way. How does an organic church keep their worship time from becoming a free-for-all—or dominated by one or two individuals? Doesn't an organic church's style lend itself to disorder?

This is an excellent question. The fact that Paul admonishes the believers to meet in an orderly fashion clearly demonstrates that an open meeting does not have to be a tumultuous free-for-all. To Paul's mind, there is a wonderful synergy between an open meeting and an orderly one. If God's people are properly equipped on how to function under Christ's headship, an open-participatory meeting can be a glorious event with harmony and order.
Let's ask ourselves: What happened when Paul faced the frenzied morass in Corinth? The apostle did not shut down the meetings and hand out a liturgy. Nor did he introduce human officiation. Instead, he supplied the church with a number of broad guidelines to facilitate order and edification in the gatherings (see I Cor­inthians 14).
What is more, Paul was confident the church would adhere to those guidelines.
This sets forth an important principle. Every church in the first century had at its dis­posal an itinerant apostolic worker who helped it navigate through common problems. Sometimes the worker's help came in the form of letters. At other times, it came during personal visits from the worker himself. Such outside help can be highly beneficial in keeping an organic church centered on Christ and focused in its meetings.
3.    You question the church's focus on bringing lost souls to Christ. Yet until people come to Christ, they cannot partake in god's great, eternal purpose, which Paul discusses in Ephesians 1. There­fore, isn't it critical that churches make the gospel's proclamation a priority?
Yes, it is. In fact, we believe that embodying the gospel in life and proclaiming it in word is a natural outgrowth of the life of a healthy organic church. If God's people are learning to love their Lord and one another with greater intensity, they will naturally want to share Him with others in both word and deed.
4.  You imply that Finney and other Revivalists began using such things as the altar call strictly because they were pragmatists who invented certain practices to win converts. But how can we say for sure that these men weren't led by the Holy Spirit to employ new methods that would help people recognize their need for Christ?
Our point about Finney was simply that the Revivalists made salvation God's gov­erning purpose. Salvation was turned into something that took on a life of its own, often isolated from a holistic Christian experience, and thus many innovations were created to facilitate a conversion experience but not a full Christian experience. God's eternal purpose was not in view at all.
As far as modern pragmatism goes, Christians should decide for themselves whether a particular practice is of the Holy Spirit or if it is mere human ingenuity at work. We leave such judgments to the individual reader.
5.  You seem very critical that Moody was so concerned about bringing lost souls to Christ. Yet as an evangelist, wasn't it natural that that was his focus?
We certainly commend Moody for bringing souls to Christ. However, we believe that by viewing redemption as God's ultimate purpose, he failed to communicate the scope of God's complete plan.
No evangelist or apostle in the New Testament brought souls to Christ simply to save them from hell. Such a thought was unknown to the early Christians. The early Christians won people to the Lord to bring them into God's community, the church.
In the first century, people were saved with the idea of adding them to the ekklesia. Conversion and community were not separate; they were inextricably intertwined. In the words of Gilbert Bilezikian: "Christ did not die just to save us from sins, but to bring us together into community. After coming to Christ, our next step is to be involved in community. A church that does not experience community is a parody, a sham.""'
B2 In this regard, mainstream evangelicalism has made the profound error of di­vorcing soteriology (salvation) from ecclesiology (church practice). The message conveyed is that soteriology is a required course, while ecclesiology is an elective. So church practice does not really matter. But this thinking does not reflect God's curriculum. The church is not a footnote in the gospel. It stands at the center of God's beating heart.
In fact, when the church functions as she should, she is the greatest evangelism known to humankind. When God's people are living in authentic community, their lives together are a sign to the world of God's coming reign. 172
6. You say that "neither Catholics nor Protestants were successful in allowing Jesus Christ to be the center and head of their gatherings. " / must disagree. In my church, the songs we sing, the Scripture we read, the message that is proclaimed all center on Jesus. Furthermore, we are given practical instruction on how to make Christ our Lord every day of the week.
The central issue we were addressing is not, "Is Jesus talked about and given honor in the service?" We agree that in many institutional churches, He is. The issue we were addressing is, "Is Jesus Christ the functional head of the gathering?" There is a significant difference between making Jesus the invisible guest of honor and allowing Him to be the practical leader of the gathering.
Let's suppose the authors of this book attend your church service. And let's sup­pose that the Lord Jesus Christ puts something on our hearts to share with the rest of His body. Would we have the freedom to do so spontaneously? Would everyone else have the freedom to do it? If not, then we would question whether your church service is under Christ's headship.
You see, a meeting that is under the headship of Christ means that He may speak through every member of the body in the gathering. This is the very argument of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Paul begins this section by saying that Jesus Christ is not speechless like the idols the Corinthians once worshipped. And through whom does Christ speak? He speaks through His body using the various gifts and ministries granted by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). In the next chapter, Paul says that believers' gifts and ministries are to be used in love, as love seeks to edify everyone else (rather than to take for itself). Paul then moves on to the specifics of the church meeting where "every one of you hash" something to bring and "ye may all prophesy one by one" (1 Corinthians 14).
In this connection, if you were to attend an organic church gathering that met
in New Testament fashion, you would have both the right and the privilege to share whatever the Lord laid on your heart in the manner in which the Spirit led you. Not only that, but you would be expected to. In other words, Jesus Christ would be the functional head of that gathering.
7. You often use the phrase headship of Christ to refer to Christ's leadership and authority in the church. I read somewhere that head in the New Testament means "source" rather than "author­ity. " What do you think?
It actually means both. We are using headship of Christ to refer to the idea that Jesus Christ is both the authority over the church as well as the source of the church. There is good scholarly support for this usage.' 73
8. Didn't the early church hold their services in the synagogues? I remember reading that the apos­tles went to the synagogues to preach. And didn't Paul and Peter preach to a passive audience?
The apostles, as well as gifted people like Stephen, visited the synagogues for evan­gelistic purposes. But these meetings were not church meetings. They were not for believers. Rather, they were opportunities for the apostles to preach the gospel to the Jews. (In that day, a visitor could visit a synagogue and preach to the audience.) Yes, Paul and Peter preached in certain settings, but again, these were not at church meetings. They preached at apostolic meetings designed to evangelize the lost or to equip and encourage an existing church. Apostolic and evangelistic meetings were temporary and sporadic, while church meetings were normative and ongoing.
9. Are you saying that just because the first-century church had open-participatory meetings, we should too—even though we live in the twenty-first century?
No. We are suggesting that open-participatory meetings are rooted in New Testa­ment theology, namely the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and the every-member functioning of Christ's body. We are also suggesting that Christians have a spiritual instinct to share what God has shown them with others for their edification. And we are raising three key questions: (1) After exploring where the modern Prot­estant order of worship came from, is it really successful at transforming people and expressing Jesus Christ? (2) Is it possible that open-participatory church meetings are more in line with what God had in mind for His church than the Protestant order of worship? (3) Would it be worth our time to begin exploring new ways to gather and express Christ in our church life together?

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