I recently posted a fairly lengthy comment on the blog of Kathleen Ward, Church in a Circle, 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.
(If you prefer to listen to this post, an audio version is available here.)
I also want to encourage you to visit Kathleen’s blog and read the original post, along with the other comments that are there.
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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!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~Related Posts and Pages: The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church Christ the Center – Pt. 1: “Centering the Clay” Shaped by God’s Eternal Purpose