Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Questions and Answers

What is church? What about the structures? Where do we go from here?

Greg Austin has some excellent answers to those questions. If you haven't read his stuff yet, you can find him here.

"While some folks (who shall remain nameless) want to assign you to the religious scrap heap, believing that you're just "backslidden" or part of the prophesied "great falling away," some of us see something else happening. Something frightening and at the same time encouraging and hopeful."

What is church?

The church is literally “The body of Christ.” It is first, Jesus Himself, and then by extension, every human being who has experienced the New Birth and has become a follower of Jesus.

Did you know that the church – the true embodiment of Jesus – the Vehicle of God’s revelation and grace in the earth – the church of the living God functioned and thrived and grew for nearly four hundred years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven without ever owning one, solitary “church building?”

It’s true! The “church” experienced incredible growth, vitality and life without ever possessing the property of a building!

What about the structures?

The Reformation, while it changed the focus of theology and abandoned some of the practices of the Holy Roman Church did little if anything to change the structure – the governmental form, liturgical practice and the hierarchical form of the clergy. So there was a Reformation of Theology, but a Reformation of Structure was (and is) still needed.

We must be patient while pointing the way. We must allow God to do what man cannot do. To attack the institution of the church is to waste away precious time and energy and faith, and to bring injury to the Body of Christ. Use your zeal to point to the future and not to denounce the past.

Where do we go from here? What is the future?

The One Who promised, "I will build My church..." is at work fulfilling His promise. We see what others may not yet see. We hear what others cannot perceive. We envision the change. We have touched God’s heart and He has touched ours and has shown us the way.

So we lean upon Him. We desperately reject old ways and old systems – not out of rebellion or out of caustic anger – but out of desperate desire to know Him, to see Him, to abide with Him.

We must, if we are to know the “there I am in the midst of them” promise as reality, cling wholly and only to Him, and waiting hearts until He comes and reveals to us His ways and His order that is without confusion and is filled with peace.

What things have become like millstones around the churches neck?
What things do we have to let go of to make our vision a reality?

Unimpressed with our liturgy and our architecture and our flowing gowns and extravagant ventures, God chooses to fill simple and plain human beings with Himself and send these “agents of heaven” into the world to preach good news.

God is at work in us personally and in His church corporately wrestling away our comfortable conventions so that He can replace them with a Living, Breathing, Life-Giving Church that will shine His light into the lives of men everywhere.

I hope you hear the encouragement and affirmation in Greg's words that I hear.


Bob said...


Greg has some really good stuff here. I was musing about structures a few days ago. There's a podcast on The God Journey about structures that's pretty good.

One of the things they brought out was structure's tendency towards permanence. I don't think there's anything wrong with structure (hierarchy, roles, schedules, agenda) per se. It's when the structure takes on permanence that we run into trouble.

Now, you will be the leader forever. We will meet here forever. We will interract this way forever (new folks will have to conform to our pattern). We will need a building to support it and, in turn, we will have to support the building.

Why can't we meet, walk together for a while, work in the Kingdom, disband when the work is done, reform when a new task presents itself?

Regina Clare Jane said...

Boy, this is such interesting stuff- especially to a person like me who is so new to this idea of the EM. What stands out for me is that I am the Church, You are the Church, We are the Church- individuals, not buildings, groups, not buildings... exciting for me, to hear these words... and yes, encouraging...

grace said...

I need to listen to some of those podcasts.

That's a really good point. Do we serve the structure? or Does it serve us?

I think many of the current structures consume too much resources, both time and money. Their rigid nature demands to be supported.

Thanks for your comments.

It is a breath of fresh air, isn't it.

Robbymac said...

I'm wondering if YWAM is more "church" than church.

Missional. Relational. Community. Some level of continuity (they've been around for 45 year, after all), without the drive towards permanence.

I'm just sayin'...

David Cho said...

grace, tagged!

Bruce said...

Tried to comment earlier and blogger locked up my Firefox. Bummer.

Love the quotes. I really see God working in strange and mysterious ways...and it's pretty exciting.


allison said...

Greg's comments resonate wholly with me. Amazing someone else is out there, many are out there, thinking just we are, going through what we are. Kinda makes you think that the Spirit could be moving, or something... ; )

Thanks for this post...

grace said...

I totally agree with you.
I think it is time for a clearer definition of community, mission, worship, gathering, and service, rather than this one hour spot on Sunday morning that is considered by most to be church.

I've had some trouble with blogger lately too.

It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

Traci said...

Great post. I know you will miss your kindred spirit friends. It is so hard to find people who get it. And it means anything you have in common. I'm still looking for those in the vacinity to commune with.

grace said...

Yes traci, finding those people with a similar passion is difficult. I hope you find some in your area also.