Conclusions on Rethinking Church / Paul’s Idea of Community 2

Posted: February 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Paul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural SettingPaul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting by Robert J. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Banks asks us to lay aside our preconceived notions of what we have always thought church o be, and instead ask the question what did those who created it think it was. When one begins there and refuses to let prejudice get in the way, some pretty large paradigm shifts come into light. First, he asks us to realize that we are not primarily saved to be in a personal relationship with God, but rather we are saved to be part of a community. Secondly, he asks us to consider the fact that there are no real ecclesiastical offices named, voted for, or instituted by those who would have done so...were it the primary goal for organizing our religious lives. Thirdly, he defines the words we translate now as pastor, elder, deacon etc. as they first appear in Scripture, and as they later slightly shift in meaning in the pastoral letters. Banks contends that most of the words we think we know so well, we really don't know at all. Take for instance the idea of elder being someone, in our time and space, who is wise and a good business man with upright moral the texts it simply is presented as a older person albeit with those same attributes. Likewise the words for shepherds is more closely linked with navigation of ships. In short the naturally occurring populace of a gathering has giftings of teachers, and mentors, and servants, and teachers, and vision casters etc. The gifts are sprinkled throughout the gathering and carry no stipulation that they are in any way institutionalized. However there is an authority structure in that certain gifts carry within themselves an inherent authority. For example an elder, because he is older, commands respect and attention to his direction not because he is somehow superior to the community or holds an office, but rather because he is older and we naturally respect our elders. Because of the understanding of the gathering as a family with a strong group identity, these men would have been seen as father-figures...and consequently listened to and obeyed. This idea of family is not just a pithy analogy, but is rather a fact. Jesus told us that those of us who do his Father's will are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters...not as analogy but as a fact. As such then, our gatherings should be groups where all the gifts are present but that operate along the same rules of conduct as a natural family would operate. Paul's Idea of Community is largely a textbook of sorts and the research and technical aspect are, admittedly, tedious at times. However, as we see church changing across the American landscape with no amount of money, time, or effort changing the droves fleeing traditional congregations, it seems prudent to ask why. Could it be that it is because the Holy Spirit himself is authoring the change because we have missed the mark of what our gatherings are supposed to be so widely? Given the supposed dangers for errancy of thousands of little groups meeting all through the world, and taking into account the miserable record of organized religion, it would seem we are left with a cost benefit analysis. Is it more dangerous that the gatherings, that have now supplanted organized religion on Sunday morning (according the Barna Report), is the danger greater to Jesus and his Kingdom that people will slip into heresy, or that traditional church will end up strangling the little life left in the American church today? Those are the questions raised by Robert Banks' book, and one we had better find the answer to quickly.

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  1. Kevin says:

    David- Does this book refer that what we call the church has missed the mark to that Jesus meant it to be?

    • davidmullenmusic says:

      Kevin, I believe it totally does. We have treated our faith in general as if it is some kind of personal experience. That’s even the language we use…a personal relationship with Jesus…that’s how we refer to our faith generally in the U.S. But the authors point is that we are primarily saved into a new family and this is the language Jesus uses and Paul enlarges upon. The idea of a strong group dynamic, as opposed to one of rugged individualism, is largely lost…and so we have big ol churches in which nobody knows anyone. His point is that church as put forth by Jesus, and confirmed by the apostles was one in which a group of people walked, taught, disciplined, as a group…not as a one man speaking to the rest of us operation. It makes sense. I mean, how can someone speak to the issues in their (and my) life if they really have no clue. In the normal church environment the organization is simply to large to function properly as a body of believers. It is, however, ideally suited to function as a neo-synagogue …where lots of believers gather periodically to see and hear what other groups of believers are doing.

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