[Listen to post here.]
I recently posted a fairly lengthy comment on the blog of Kathleen Ward, Church in a Circle, (update: blog no longer active) in response to a post she published called, “Bringing back balance – the benefits of monologue.” Kathleen’s reply to the comment began, “David – great comment, this would make a great blog post in itself.” In considering it, therefore, in that light, I’ve decided to follow her suggestion and post it here. Except for a few typo and punctuation corrections, I’ve posted it as it is on her blog. Much more can be said along these lines, but for now, I hope this will plant some seed thoughts and maybe be a conversation starter.
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I really appreciate this post, Kathleen, and the comments it has generated so far. It stirs a passion in my heart that I’d like to share, and trust it will add to what has already been said concerning balance and the Church.
Balance has everything to do with keeping our center right. If our center gets out of whack, then we have to over emphasize something else in order to counter-balance the off-centeredness. I think understanding this helps us to see how we got into the situation in the Church today that is so filled with imbalances and pendulum-swinging counter-balances.
As I see it, in the BIG picture, the Protestant Reformation sought to counter-balance the off-centeredness of Catholicism by placing all of its weight on the Bible and its exposition; so much so, that the Bible, and Bible (monologue) preaching, became the new center of Protestantism. It still maintained the clergy/laity divide of Catholicism, however, and simply gave the priest a Reformation makeover, making him the pastor/preacher. So instead of the priest ministering the eucharist as the central feature of Catholic worship, the pastor now ministered the Bible, through the sermon, as the central feature of Protestant worship. That model, by and large, has shaped most of Protestant/evangelical Christianity to this day.
The Bible as center, as good as that is, still falls short of God’s ordained center, though, which is Christ Himself, “that in all things He might have the preeminence.” Col.1:18. Only in Him is all spiritual fullness and all Truth in complete balance! Bibliocentrism, for all of its great benefits, has inherent weaknesses as well which tend toward division on the one hand, for the Word is by nature a “sword” which divides, and towards spiritual deadness on the other, for, apart from the Spirit, the Word is a “letter” that “kills”. Protestantism/evangelicalism, for all of its good and godly characteristics, is also rife with these twin characteristics because of its fundamental Bibliocentrism and the resulting shape of the Protestant/evangelical worship service and expression of the Church.
In order to counter-balance the “off-centeredness” of Bibliocentrism, therefore, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement came on the scene placing its primary weight on the Holy Spirit and His gifts and manifestations. The Spirit brings greater unity across denominational lines and also brings life to that which is dying from being “lettered” to death. So now, we have another way of “doing church.” Still keeping the basic Catholic/Protestant/Evangelical pulpit/pew, clergy/laity form and format, the Pentecostal/Charismatics began to place much of their emphasis on anointed worship and prayer. The worship team and altar ministry took center-stage with the emphasis on the manifest presence of God, charismatic gifts, miracles, prophecy and the like. All of this is fantastic and great, but it still propagates the mentality of the performance of the few and the passivity of the many…only now on steroids.
Again, a new (multi-branched) movement arises, this time to counter-balance all of the above off-centerednesses: the “organic”, “simple”, “house”, “missional”, “emergent”, etc… church movements emphasizing a flatter, more participatory, relational, shared-life community expression of meeting and church life. All of this, again, is fantastic and good, but, as good as that all is, if it becomes merely centered on “how to do church”, or “mission” or “discipleship”, or “social justice”, etc… it will end up with its own set of imbalances, and the next “thing” to come down the pike will seek to compensate for it with yet another counter-balancing emphasis. And on and on we go!
The answer to all of this… that which the Father ultimately wants to center and settle His Church on, is her coming back to her first love and becoming fully centered on and in His Beloved Son. He is the One who is ordained to have the preeminence in all things. He is the One in Whom all Fullness dwells. He is the One in Whom all Truth and Life are found in balance and in all purity. He is the One in Whom all Unity dwells. Only He can bring the Church back to the place of fullness, balance, purity and unity in all things.
In practical expression, when the Church begins to make HIM the Center of its gathering, we will find that the central feature of our gatherings will become the Headship of Christ working through His many-membered Body. All of the aspects of interactive ministry, participatory meetings, relational discipleship, etc… that you, Kathleen, and many others, have been advocating, will come into their rightful place. All of the aspects of “equipping ministry”, functioning in both monologue and dialogue, will come into balance to serve and equip the Body to function. All of the manifestations, gifts and miraculous workings of the Spirit will find their rightful place as well, along with the anointed ministry of the Word and the sacraments. The balance in all of these things will come when we truly get our Center right. I believe that is where the Father desires to bring His Church in this last day! He is summing and heading all things up in His Son, and He is calling the Church to be the firstfruits of His creation to manifest His eternal purpose in this regard. In all of the many aspects of truth that we seek to minister to the Body of Christ, we should always make sure that we are presenting them centered in and summed up in Christ.
As to this matter of monologue and dialogue, we see that Jesus employed both in His ministry. He is our model and example, and so the Church should employ both in their proper place and for their proper purpose. Only in Christ will we discover what those actually are, however. May we explore and discover what they are together as we seek Him first!
Thank you, Kathleen, for being the voice that you are to the Body! I am greatly blessed by your words.
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So, there you have it! I’d be interested to know your thoughts in regards or response to this as well!
Centrality and Eccentricity
Centrality and Expectation
Christ the Center – Pt. 1: “Centering the Clay”
Our Deepest Convictions
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
Excellent sharing(s) and I agree: with Christ at the Center, all things are possible — even balance. A very helpful posting. Thank you both very much — and thank You, GOD!
I’m happy to say it again David – this was a great post outlining some of the counter-balancing movements in the church. You are so right – Jesus must always be the center of any healthy expression of church.
Excellent post bro!
I often say that “the heavens declare the glory of God”, and so like the sun is the center of the universe, and even the slightest dislodgment would result in chaos, disorder, and death; so is Christ.
Thanks David! In fact, I think you’ve got a book here, not just a blog post. (You can call it Blessed are the Balanced: The Forgotten Beatitude). I’ve been experiencing a strange nausea lately that has made blogging and even reading blogs very difficult for me (I’ll probably end up blogging about it…). My Blogostritis seems to stem from simply too many voices that are saying too many things. Imagine thousands of books around you coming alive and screaming for your attention… It’s a bit like that. Strangely, posts like yours above have exactly the opposite effect on me – like being out on a sailboat and feeling the fresh ocean breeze on your face. You are so right: We need more of Christ, and less of us. Bless you for your wisdom.
WHITNEY – Thank you for your comment. Indeed, even balance is possible with God. The answer is oh so simple too, isn’t it! …profoundly simple, and simply profound! Yes it is!
KATHLEEN – Your encouragement was the motivation to do this as a post, so thank you! I also thank you for your follow up comments here. Amen! We are on the same page! (I hope you also have some new visitors to your blog as a result of this. :-))
I greatly appreciate your voice to the Church!
TREVOR – Thanks, bro. Yes! the truth written in the very heavens for all to see! We all, and especially the Church, are without excuse! (You may be interested in an earlier post, “Christ the Center – Pt. 2: ‘A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution’” that explores that “parable”.) Keep your hand to the plow, my brother!
TOBIE – Wow. Your comment was also a fresh breeze to me. I love your expression of “Blogostritis”. Yes, I get it! As for the book you mentioned, please pray for me because that book is in me and has been struggling to come out. In fact, I have about 3/4’s of a rough draft done and I feel like I have hit a wall. This post is really the tip of the iceberg. I appreciate your encouragement and fellowship in Christ. Keep pressing through the Blogostritis! I look forward to your posts when they come out! Grace and peace in Him!
This is my favorite part of what you wrote: “In practical expression, when the Church begins to make HIM the Center of its gathering, we will find that the central feature of our gatherings will become the Headship of Christ working through His many-member-ed Body.”
That statement is pregnant with triplets of biblical wisdom, vision and challenge.
A lot of folks want this but don’t know how to get the church from here to there, moving beyond rhetoric and into daily reality.
I wrote a post in April touching on this and Id like to enlarge on it a bit here, because we’re in danger of engine stall if we don’t take advantage of momentum. Its here: http://oneanotherdaily.blogspot.ca/2013/04/learn-to-live-or-live-to-learn-does.html
Sheep need food, shelter, companionship and safety, but without a shepherd they scatter and become food for others, among other dangers. We have a shepherd crisis in the church in that ours devour the sheep, or fleece them, or otherwise feed them with starvation rations.
In a few short years it seems that everybody in the churches has come to realize all at once that we’re all in the same kind of pasture, with the same kind of leaders, feeding times and means, and most notably, we all share the same disease.
That disease is me-ism, and its in danger of morphing into us-ism if we don’t, as Kathleen, you, me and others are writing about, explain exactly how to get back to balance, with Jesus as our center.
The universal symptom of this disease is dis-unity, and the evidence that we’ve beaten it is unity in the faith. Not unity in doctrine, ortho-praxy or life-style but unity in a growing collective likeness to Jesus human character qualities of love, joy, peace, goodness, long-suffering, meekness, self control and faith.
It used to be that leaders were followed by demonstrating those qualities, but now all one needs to lead is a few yrs of bible college, or for the more demanding, a degree. Actually, if u write a book you can move to the head of the line as well.
All this to say that us dumb sheep have a very poor selection of shepherds to follow and we tend to follow the loudest bleaters.
So, if we cant follow, we should lead with what we know.
And that’s my point today.
Not only should we teach others about the centrality of Christ, we must train them as well.
That type of leadership is what Jesus did, as well as Paul, Peter, Timothy et al.
They risked ridicule, and life on a daily basis to step out and do what they taught.
Most had no credentials other than passion and purpose, and yet they started a sea change, and it wasn’t by teaching as much by sacrificial example.
We who know better must dare to call others to follow us, as we follow Jesus. It’s not enough to tell them that He is the center, and only King, and then leave them to figure out how to translate that into real daily life. They want to, but they’ve been weakened by a steady diet of spiritual junk food and busy work in the kingdom. We’ve all been conditioned for centuries to wait for others to lead us, but He’s leading his people at this time from the synagogues and temples out into the marketplace, homes, mountains and public areas, to share our simple lives and resources with anyone and everyone, but especially the lost sheep of His family.
And, like He did the first time, He’s not asking current leaders for permission or help.
I’m afraid I have to challenge your notion that our gatherings will evidence His headship, because they wont without first achieving His headship in our daily lives.
Our gatherings must be the aggregate of many individual lives lived that resemble Jesus life, because we don’t get our life from one another, but from Him. Sure, we do learn from one another (and often we learn bad habits) but not if we are not daily being chipped off on each other, and that doesn’t happen in gatherings. That only happens if and when we’re living in close and usually uncomfortable proximity to one another, and going beyond our human limits of love and tolerance for each other.
Many organic churches have already become a replacement idol for the old models, by their very architecture of remaining meeting centered, rather than daily life together in Christ centered. Using family as the model, meetings are rare, but daily interaction is common. By focusing on meeting and teaching, rather than life and training, we’re still trying to reform the church as if its a monolithic entity rather than a family. Healthy families begin with teaching but then move right away to training younger members to obey and meet daily goals. If left to teaching, children will usually decide if they will obey, but when trained, with accompanying hand holding by practiced adults, they quickly mature.
That, by whatever means necessary, must become the modus operandi of the new generation of Christian church, or else we will see the status quo resurrected.
At one point in Jesus short ministry, He made a public break with the established church, and their stubbornly resistant, poor quality discipleship methods, announcing that He was there for the sick and that the wise and whole already had their reward. Paul did the same thing.
Somebody, and by that I mean a group of somebody’s, must announce, with their feet, in faith to the general Christian public that God is moving camp, and if you stay behind where the pillar of fire and cloud used to be, you’re going to wake up and discover you’re in an abandoned and fruitless desert.
So, we can shift our emphasis from teaching to training, to show the less imaginative and experienced how to give to the poor, care for the weak, heal the lame, support the widow and orphan, defend the unjustly judged from false leaders and generally lay down our lives in what ever capacity we have means. We’re pretty good at doing kingdom work as divided family but it takes imagination, guts and often, extreme sacrifice to do this same kingdom work with other believers who we share nothing in common with, let alone agree with. And the humorous part of this conundrum is that in practicing kingdom living daily on one another, we become the very disciples we dreamed of being.
Leadership isn’t needed to do this as much as humility, long suffering, patience, pure hearts, courage and a teachable spirit. In essence, everyone follows everyone as we all follow Jesus, and by consensus determine His ways and will, and in that process, we become united in Him.
He and His life must be trained into us and every one until we forget how to argue, divide and defend ourselves, and that will take at least a generation. It would be great if a few apostles and prophets stepped out of the flock and led the way like Moses, but in their absence, and until they emerge from among us, we can do better with what we have than we’re doing now.
So, wed’e better get on with it and just do it.
Thank you for your rich comment. I feel your heartbeat and resonate with your wisdom. There is much to process here, and much I could comment on. One section that sums up for me what you are saying is:
“Many organic churches have already become a replacement idol for the old models, by their very architecture of remaining meeting centered, rather than daily life together in Christ centered. Using family as the model, meetings are rare, but daily interaction is common. By focusing on meeting and teaching, rather than life and training, we’re still trying to reform the church as if its a monolithic entity rather than a family. Healthy families begin with teaching but then move right away to training younger members to obey and meet daily goals. If left to teaching, children will usually decide if they will obey, but when trained, with accompanying hand holding by practiced adults, they quickly mature.
That, by whatever means necessary, must become the modus operandi of the new generation of Christian church, or else we will see the status quo resurrected.”
That is profoundly true. The blueprint for the new creation is found in the old creation. God’s creation mandate to man was. “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” Genesis 1:28. The essential “wineskin” for that mandate to be carried out through was the family. Man is created to be born into, cared for, raised, trained, matured and equipped to fulfill their destiny and calling in and through the family. When it comes to the new creation, the blueprint is the same, only now, in and through the context of spiritual family. Jesus modeled this with the Twelve, loving, raising, shaping, training and equipping them through shared, layed-down life, family relationships. It is truly in this context that we become matured sons and daughters. Meetings are a part of this new creation family, but an integral, naturally-developing part, and not the essence and defining nature of it. The centrality and headship of Christ has got to be wrought into the very nature of the individual members of this family, as well as in its vital relationships, for it to also be manifest in its gatherings for (family) worship and mutual edification. We are in agreement on that. Most believers are meeting-oriented today, however, because of the corporate culture that has been handed down from our forefathers. So, some come into shared-life through the setting and context of meetings, as that is all they know. Others, on the other hand, come to shared-meetings through the setting and context of life. As with the matter of dialogue and monologue, this is, likewise, a matter of balance, which can only be found and maintained well when Christ is central and supreme, our Example and our Life.
I appreciate you taking the time to speak and to challenge those who read this blog, including myself :-). “Speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head!”
Love you brother,
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