Tuesday, June 02, 2009

TRANSFORMING TRADITIONAL CHURCHES

My good blogging buddy Guy Muse, IMB-SBC missionary in Guayas Ecuador, posted this on his always thought provoking blog. You could enjoy him regularly here...http://guymuse.blogspot.com/. I use his material here with his permission. I'm wondering what you think!!
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*Victor Choudhrie's 15 essential steps for changing traditional churches into New Testament churches.

1. Replace professional clergy with Priesthood of all Believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. (1 Peter 2:9)

2. Replace Church building with "House of Peace." (Luke 10:5-9; Matt. 10:11-13)

3. Replace programmed Sunday service with daily informal gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day and not just for a couple of hours a week lest she become unfaithful. (Acts 2:46-47; Hebrew 3:13)

4. Replace tithing with sharing the enormous financial resources and goodwill available in Christian homes. (Deut. 8:17-18; Acts 5:32-34)

5. Replace the "Crumb and Sip" Holy Communion with simple "Community meals" eaten together with gladness from house to house. (Acts 2:46; 1 Cor 11:20-23)

6. Replace loud music with speaking to each other in psalms and spiritual songs making melody in your heart. (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16)

7. Replace the spectator church to participatory, interactive, prophetic and Missionary sending church. (1 Cor 14:26-31; Acts 13:13)

8. Replace organizational and denominational churches with citywide network of house churches. (Romans 16:3-15)

9. Replace barren church with multiplication. The Bride must not remain barren, but reproduce and fill the earth. (Acts 1: 8; 1 Cor 9: 19-30)

10. Replace submitting to one man - by submitting to each other. We must encourage, comfort, exhort, edify and serve one another. (Galatians 5: 13; Eph. 4: 2, 15)

11. Replace purposeless church with a goal oriented mandate to disciple nations. (Romans 15: 20; Matt. 28: 19)

12. Replace powerless and fruitless church with militants who heal the sick, raise the dead, expel the demons, bind the ‘strongman’ and plunder his possessions. (Matt 11:12, 12:29)

13. Replace all presidents, directors, chairman, secretaries and all the other non-biblical titles with apostles, prophets, and the fivefold ministry gifted elders. Change from a dead organization to living organism. (Eph 4:11; Titus 1:5-9)

14. Replace all Sunday schools, Bible schools, and prayer cells and cottage meetings and call them full-fledged churches. So that they can disciple, baptize, break bread, equip and send missionaries. (1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15)

15. Replace all selfish goats who are members for hatching, matching and dispatching with sheep who take care of the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and the prisoners. (Matt. 25:31-46)

*Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a senior Fellow of the American and British colleges of surgeons. He quit his job as the Director (CEO) of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana in Punjab, India in 1992 to take up full time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife Bindu is also in full time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house church leaders and trainers.

God has blessed this ministry abundantly. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained who have planted thousands of house churches all over India as a result.
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Interesting, wouldn't you say? Thoughts?

Paul B.

33 comments:

Chris Ryan said...

It is an interesting set of suggestions. I think that a lot of those are right on target with what needs to be done. A lot are a whole lot easier to say we should do than to actually do (after all, even house churches have records to keep and what biblical gifting is used to replace the secretary. I don't think it is about the title so much as the role. Call it whatever you will, the same function is being accomplished).

I always hate it when military language is applied to the church, so calling for militants is very discouraging. I think that encourages a "culture war" mentality that has completely sidetracked the church.

I would further argue with Choudhrie that the traditional church does not have to "change into a NT church." The traditional church has all the abilitity to do everything he asks of a church. We just have not done it. I believe that the traditional church can be more informal, participatory, and intimate while still being a traditional church. I believe far more respect can be shown for the Eucharist than the traditional Baptist church shows it while still being a traditional Bapist church.

All of this either/or, neither/nor stuff really bugs me. The traditional church has some great insights on what it means to be church. The house church movements have some great insights on what it means to be church. Why must we act as though the other is completely corrupt or bankrupt of Biblical fidelity and purpose? Why can't we learn from both worlds?

Paul Burleson said...

Chris,

Two of your comments stand out as exceptional to me. One is the military [militant] language being inappropriate, I TOTALLY agree. Somehow the language when used from scripture [Whole armorof God etc.] seems to have a different spirit to me. Maybe it's because I hear it used today so much in anger or fear, as you said, against the supposed enemy culture.

The other is the either/or and neither/nor idea. Agreed.

I'm even of the opinion that there ISN'T a sacred WAY of doing things except that any way we do things should involve all the people excercising their giftedness and building relationships.

All that said, I like what I read by the guy as it challenges me to think. Sounds like it did you too. Thank you for some good stuff.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Just finished a book by Frank Viola and George Barna called "Pagan Christianity" It says essentially the same thing Choudhrie is trying to say.

Basically the book points out that most practices in the modern church do not come out of the NT.

In fact they goes further in suggesting that some flatly contradict the basic principles/practices that can be gleaned from what little information we have about church practice withing the first 150 years of Christianity

They are quick to point out that just because something is not Biblical does not mean that it is ungodly and just because something is biblical it can still be unChristian! (ie slavery, animal sacrifice, polygamy, etc)

However, when a practice has been absorbed in the modern church (regardless of it's source) and it hinders the "organic growth" of the church then something in wrong and change must happen.

It was sombering read.

Paul Burleson said...

Rodney,

I haven't read the book you referenced but I've heard a great deal about it. I like what I've heard and what you've said. I also think if something hinders the purpose and true function of the church it has to be deemed as harmful. I know you agree.

I'm not so sure that is not the greatest indictment of much of our present day SBC activities and even our SBC churches. I'm going to watch as we converse and say a little of what I'm thinking as we go along. I hope the rest of you will do the same.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Must be the bald pate! We even think alike. As you say and I would have, "I'm even of the opinion that there ISN'T a sacred WAY of doing things except that any way we do things should involve all the people excercising their giftedness and building relationships."

As a much younger man I was convinced of these matters but, much to my shame, allowed myself to be pressured into denominational conformity ("We cannot recommend you to a congregation if you develop this line of thinking").

I generally agree with Victor Choudhrie's 15 essential steps with minor reservations.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Paul,

On a practical level at least in smaller churches...the two top resource drains are buildings and staff.

Such is the case our church. We have about 110 active members.

I just eyeballed our budget. We have a budget of 170,000 dollars. Out of that amount 115,500 goes to staff and building costs!

When I came to NZBC, I (factoring in cost of living differences) I took a 25% paycut. Yet this church is still paying me more than they have ever paid a pastor (About 49,000 dollars as a total package). We have a part time music/youth 14,500
a part time secretary 9,300; a part time custodian 4,500.

We have a building note that cost us 25,200 annually and untilites cost us around 13,000 a year.

That is a total of 115,500 out of a total budget of 170,000. Granted we give to associational/state/national causes on a percentage basis and through special offerings and this is not reflected in the budget numbers but....what if....

We had no building debt or no buidling at all?

All of out staff were bi-vocational or completely volunteer?

I wonder how the dynamics/perspective/ministry of the church would change?

Rodney Sprayberry said...

What if success in the church was not defined by the three Bs?
(Buildings, Butts, and Bucks)

What if the giftedness of each believer was cultivated and put into use?

What if the priesthood of all believers was actually embraced?

What if leadership training/theological training was not relegated just to the experts and the seminaries but done through mentoring within the local body by seasoned, mature believers?

What if we were guided by grace saturated generosity in our giving to various needs and causes (in/out of the local church) rather than legalism and guilt?

What if our worship and Bible study times were more infused with more participants and less spectators?

What if leaders could see themselves as humble conduits of God's work without the need to control or be at center stage?

I could go on and on....

GuyMuse said...

Rodney,Great questions. If more of us would begin asking these kinds of questions, we might begin to see a true spiritual awakening in our churches. Instead of a handfull of "called" professional ministers doing 90% of the work, we'd have an army out there bringing in the harvest!

Paul,Thanks for the link today. Some good dialog going on about what Victor writes.

I join the others in past days congratulating you on your anniversary there!

Paul Burleson said...

All, There are some great thoughts being put up on this. I thank you all.

I have to confess that I'm in a bit of a conundrum as to the Body life experience of the local church. I travel from church to church and have for the past thirteen years. You can see I've experienced it all to a great degree.

I know the scriptures teach much more than a one senior pastor leadership even in preaching in my judgment. I know freedom in praise/worship is biblical. I know women are NOT to be excluded in real ministry. I know the gifs are to be experienced. I know people are to be able to relate to one another REALLY and not simply shake hands at a welcome time. I know we are to REALLY experience koinonia and prayer and words of wisdom, knowledge and much more.

I know all this. But I am, it seems, locked into a time warp that refuses to grab hold of biblical reality so much of the time in many of the churches where I go.

I'm not saying some of the services I attend don't enrich, feed and touch lives. They do. I'm not saying I don't love the people in every church where I go. I do that to.

But, somehow, we are going to have to have a new generation of leaders who give up personal agendas and become committed to whatever it takes to be a true local body when we gather.

I do think it begins with conversaion and discussion about the whole thing as we are doing here and on other blogs.

I even wonder if it might not take some kind of national/world-wide calamity that would render cars, travel, communication, comfort and business as usual impossible.

Difficulties have always, historical at least, purified and brought about a course correction to the Church spiritually and biblically.

I'm not asking for that. But I do long for a measure of revival and reality that is somehow missing in much of what we do.

Thanks for indulging me for a moment. I think I'm expressing the hunger of everyone who has comment here.

Bryan Riley said...

It sounds like life on a YWAM base.

GuyMuse said...

Paul,

Your last comment indeed expresses the hunger of a growing number of believers longing to see a realignment of today's church with what we read about in the NT.

Thanks for sharing.

Lin said...

I highly recommend Pagan Christianity.

Think about ONE item: Pews.

I know this as a corporate trainer. We never had seats facing the speaker. We wanted interaction so we set up the room for interaction among the participants.

I thought a lot about this after reading Pagan Christianity. The introduction of pews was just one but very important factor in the make up of the church. We went from being participants to being spectators.

It is hard for 500 people to interact not to mention 2-10 thousand so I understand the problems with going there. But it is a huge problem and limits the exercising of the gifts.

We do see in Corinthians that Paul recommended that several are to speak and the others judge. The typical NT church had probably 30 people which made this easier to do. People also learn more doing it this way. Make Bereans out of everyone!

I long for such an environment and like Paul see the problems in going there from where we are now. Many are opting for small informal groups that meet at home to pray, worship and edify one another in the Lord. These are in addition to attending church. It does not always work out but more and more are craving it.

traveller said...

Paul, thanks for posting this. I find it interesting that all who have commented here are in some way or another in agreement. I have been on a similar journey going back as far as 15 years, but with greater intensity the last five years.

While I agree with much of what Mr. Choudhrie expresses I would agree as well with some, but not all, of the reservations expressed in the comments. The thing that continually troubles me is that everyone seems to have "the answer". Even Mr. Choudhrie is saying he has the answer. If a group just does what he suggests then automatically there will be a "NT church". A group could follow all the suggestions in his ideas and still have a dead and lifeless group. What he does capture well is the idea the the ekklesia is an organism alive and relational with God and each other. Nevertheless, there certainly are some common aspects to what that will look like if there is true community among those following Jesus.

Paul, I understand your frustration with the churches you have visited over the past years. On that I would suggest two thoughts. For some people, even those, perhaps dysfunctional, group of followers are truly the ekklesia....probably not many but some. Second, I see the period we are in as one of great transition for the church. By definition transition times are a mix, the dying, the birthing, the still not yet conceived, etc. For my children who will probably be observing the situation in fifty years I believe it will look radically different than today. I suspect most, if not all, of these institutional churches will have disappeared completely. There may not be one form that predominates, but many. So, I am enjoying watching the change. The only somewhat sad part is that those who are at the edge in their thinking on this are often isolated and frustrated as you expressed in one of your comments. On more than one occasion I have been either thought of as crazy or a heretic (or a crazy heretic) for such ideas. It is not an easy path. But there is some pleasure in seeing the Spirit work to bring about life in the church, even if it is slow and painful.

Chris Ryan said...

Traveller,

I agree with you that we find ourselves in a time of transition. As a curious kid, what do you think has prompted the transition?

Aussie John said...

Paul,
I like what Traveller had to say. I also believe folowers of Christ are in a time of transition, but I do not believe that we will see the traditional church scene change to a more N.T. model.

I think we need a spiritual revival of such magnitude that we will see it as a new Pentecost, a new beginning.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

I, too, recommend Pagan Christianity, the second edition.

Paul Burleson said...

Guys,

I've had to get with the tree and shub planting yesterday, today and will conclude it tomorrow. Three crepe myrtels, five Lombardy poplars among some other thigs we're doing to the yard.

The conversation is carrying on quite well without me..but.. I never like to post and disappear which is what I've had to do. Sorry.

I do wish to say that I trust no one will see what I said about my experiences in local churches as anything but a love for the people that are those local churches. I, as all of you have expressed also, have a longing for a fresh work of the Spirit but since 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 are verses that are almost my life verses, I believe this specfic time and condition we find the Church in are MINE and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'll never wish for something more and miss the realness of God even in difficult or dark times. I think God often grows His best fruit in the shade anyway. I can hear everyone of you shouting "AMEN" to that.

traveller said...

Chris,

I think there are probably many contributing factors to this transition. In my view one major cause is the cultural transition from Modernity to Postmodernity. Postmodern's propensity to deconstruct has spilled over into the church. Frankly, I believe this is healthy since it questions and challenges. Of course, the problem with Postmodern thinking is that it questions, deconstructs, but offers no solutions.

Likewise, I find it interesting that the church in many respects has been captured by Modernity and Enlightenment ways of thinking, while decrying that this very type of thinking has brought about a secular society. In other words, I think much of the church has been secularized in various ways without recognizing this has happened. But people on the outside do see it and a growing number inside see it as well and are disenchanted.

At the same time an increasing number of people are very interested in spiritual matters. The disenchantment generally with Modernity and Enlightenment thinking has caused people to search for deeper meaning in life. Science, reasoning, progress are all now seen as inadequate for life meaning. Indeed, in my life span of 57 years I believe these last few years have been the most open for spiritual conversations with people. It is truly marvelous. What people are not interested in is the pablum, lifeless, meaningless experiences they have in churches today. Those who are not yet followers of Jesus are not interested in us trying to convince them of the truth. What they want to see, and experience, is the truth lived out in our lives. Our orthopraxy has to be consistent with our orthodoxy.

In my view, these are a couple of the major causes of the transition. People outside the institutional church have no desire to enter because they are just going to another form of clubhouse. Those inside are abandoning it because they do not find any true meaning there. People are not looking for rules, rituals and regulations but another 'R" word: Relationship.

Others may have additional ideas which, as a curious kid myself, I would be interested in knowing.

Paul Burleson said...

Traveller,

If the SBC would understand this statement as you've made it and mean it... "In other words, I think much of the church has been secularized in various ways without recognizing this has happened. But people on the outside do see it and a growing number inside see it as well and are disenchanted."...I believe we would be more open to change and the need for it than possessing an inordinate fear and militancy against culture itself which is being operated under in many quarters of baptist life today.

Good stuff all the way through this comment section guys.

traveller said...

Paul, yes, I agree with you. Sadly, far too many inside the SBC are so afraid of culture invading the church without recognizing the fox is already in the hen house, so to speak. We have turned the scriptural admonition to be in the culture but not of it completely around so that the culture is in the church and the church looks like the culture. When we tried to build walls against the culture ironically it failed.

I think being in the culture is the best protection from being of the culture. The first one hundred years of Christianity had no problem being in the culture, as a minority no less, yet maintaining its distinctiveness. Indeed, many pagan observers marveled at the love, holiness and caring example of those followers of Jesus, even in the face of persecution. Christianity's real problem with culture, in my view, began in the 4th century when the church was largely co-opted by Constantine and incorporated into the power structures of the day. We are only now beginning to escape the clutches of those power structures, with many kicking and screaming against it.

Chris Ryan said...

Traveller,

There is another Baptist who thinks that postmodernity is an opportunity and not the devil incarnate?!?! I agree with you about both the good and bad postmodernity offers to the church. Further, I think the comment you made to Paul on power structures is absolutely key. Not only do I think we need out of these political entanglements if we are going to allow ourselves to be biblically faithful, I think we need to dissociate ourselves from those structures of power to have a meaningful witness in postmodern society.

I agree that we have missed the fox in the hen house, too. My senior research paper was on postmodernity and its relationship with the church. I concluded that the church had no more to fear from postmodernity than it did from modernity to which it had already largly capitulated.

My question after all this is, why are we so afraid to interact with the change? Do we somehow think that by trying to do things the way we have always done them and ignore every thought that didn't originate in the last 300 years (but before the 60's) that we are doing ourselves a favor?

Or is it just that we, like most institutions, afraid of change? And if that is the case, then I think Paul's post matters all the more. Because it is suggestions like these that lead us away from the institutional and into the relational. And in our close relationships we are more willing to explore ideas and beliefs, unlike our institutions who fear that exploration.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Your reiteration of Travellers words is so true of the Baptists (and the church scene in general)of this country, and has been so for 40 years or more. To make such a statement is to be, at the very least, regarded as "unfaithful" to the "cause", or to be labelled as rebellious and become the subject of inventive gossip.

I sometimes wish I lived on your side of the worls where there seems to be more realization, as Traveller said, that "the fox is already in the hen house".

The evangelical church is far too busy building fortresses to maintain their "holiness" and religious politics, than even consider Johns words, "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

traveller said...

Chris,

Yep, we do agree that postmodernity is an opportunity.

Your questions are excellent ones.

My thoughts are that, generally, people are fearful of change because it brings uncertainty. Most folks are uncomfortable with that uncertainty because it at times brings about unpleasantness.

Plus, having to adjust means effort and learning new ways.

Over the past 20+ years I have personally been involved in organizational change in both businesses and a church. Many just fail to grasp the need for change. Inside the institution everything seems to be going along fine. This insularity creates a false sense of security. There is also a curious thing that happens when organizations are very successful with a certain way of doing things. They think it will always be successful so they continue doing it even in the face of the fact circumstances have changed. They just keep trying to do the same things only in better, more efficient ways even though what actually needs to occur is a complete change. There are numerous studies in the business world around once successful businesses that fail because they are unable to change with the circumstances. GM is only the latest in a long line of businesses of this sort.

With regard to the church I think you are exactly correct. Relationship that has a degree of intimacy allows much more freedom for the exchange of ideas that actually facilitates change.

What are your thoughts?

traveller said...

Aussie John, it is a pretty weak faith that fails to understand the scripture you quote. Thanks for sharing that as a good reminder to us all.

May I ask in which city in Australia you live? I traveled there often about ten years ago.

Aussie John said...

Paul,
After reading the comments on Wades blog this morning I retract the desire to move to your side of the world. What on earth disease afflicts Baptists?


Traveller. I live 30 minutes north of Brisbane on the coast.

Paul Burleson said...

Guys,

I finished another day of outside labor with a quick view of the blog a time or two along the way. I REALLY am enjoying the conversation.

Aussie John, I too was almost taken aback by some of the comments on Wade's blog. He's got a lot of patience with some that I'm afraid I wouldn't have. But he's strong in that category...patience. It is, after all, produced by tribulation. Wade's living proof.

Chris Ryan said...

Traveller,

Do you think that the church has been too "insulated?" Do we really think that "everything seems to be going along fine?" If everything is fine then why are churches closing and baptisms dropping? Why is our back door so incredibly wide?

Or if the issue is people thinking we need to "do the same things only in better, more efficient ways," why is all the church-growth talk about making more programs and more complex forms of entertainment to masquarade as worship?

Maybe it's my youth. I'm just to young to understand how this is wisdom. Or maybe the church just needs to realize that it is a time where what is needed is not renovation but innovation. I think that if we don't (to a much larger degree) wake up to that fact then we are headed down a road to trouble: we will not be able to communicate in terms and concepts people understand, and we will not relate to them in forms they can appreciate. We will find ourselves defending positions nobody cares about and institutions nobody think matters. There are certainly some positions that are timeless, but I don't think those are the positions we are so busy defending.

traveller said...

Chris,

It is only in the most recent years that anyone inside the church has begun to acknowledge the problems. But the problems of not adjusting have been there for several decades. In addition, for me just changing from one program to another program is not doing something different, it is the same thing. It is the search for the program that will work, when we live in a situation now where programs do not work.....period. Maybe we fooled ourselves into thinking they did when they never were good. Many so-called emerging churches have this same disease. They dress up their programs in "postmodern" garb but they are still programs to keep the institution going, not be the community of followers of Jesus that live out individually and collectively the coming kingdom of Jesus.

If I understand correctly you are concerned that the institution wake up and change. Your concern is well placed but you can expend huge amounts of energy trying to change the course of the ship or be that person and find others who are as well to live in community. This may be something outside of an institutional church or it may be with a subset of some within an institutional church.

My basic view is this: The institutional church may, or may not, survive. It frankly does not matter. The ekklesia will survive. Be that ekklesia wherever you are and do not worry too much about the structures. Find others who will go that path with you in community with God. If you are within an institutional church you will likely find many who will question your failure to support all those programs and other aspects of the institution but what matters are people. Focus on people.

Many people your age are ready for this. One of the great pleasures for my wife and I is living in a university community where we meet many young adults. We had five young ladies in our home this weekend who are good friends from when they were in university here. They range in age from mid 20's to early 30's. They live in different places now but when I talk with them and see their lives I am confident that God's work is being done on earth as it is in heaven. Yes, they struggle with some of the issues you raise but my heart soars to see the Spirit at work within their lives. They understand we cannot go on as we have so far.

May you find others that will join you in community with Father in a way that the world sees his kingdom by the way you love and care for them.

traveller said...

Aussie John,

Nice area. I have enjoyed Brisbane several times. If I make it again I will let you know. I would enjoy having a meal with you and your wife.

Paul/Aussie John, I, too, marvel at what is said at Wade's blog. One of the reasons I do not comment there is that it is impossible to have a civil conversation.

Aussie John, we have our share of stinkers here but, as my comment to Chris, indicates we have some folks I admire greatly. I am sure it is the same in Australia.

Paul Burleson said...

Traveller,

Bless you my brother. I say again, bless you.

This is as fine a statement as anyone could make or read when speaking of current conditions and problems in the Church....."My basic view is this: The institutional church may, or may not, survive. It frankly does not matter. The ekklesia will survive. Be that ekklesia wherever you are and do not worry too much about the structures. Find others who will go that path with you in community with God. If you are within an institutional church you will likely find many who will question your failure to support all those programs and other aspects of the institution but what matters are people. Focus on people."

I say again bless you.

Whatever institutions there are in church life are there only to help accomplish relationship. Those relatioships are to be growing, ministering, sharing of giftedness so all the church [people] can function as a body.

However, while it is true that any chosen institution [program/ organization] can help there, such organization/program or institutions must be seen only as good but not sacred. Perhaps culturally sensitive but never culturally driven, and, as I said, they might wind up being kind of helpful.

But when those institutions cease to be helpful they become harmful and when one sees that and goes a different direction many will see it as abandoning the Church. Quite the contrary, it is really being more committed to the "Church." [True Church]

Thanks Traveller.

Chris Ryan said...

Traveller and Paul,

Thanks. Between the two of you, you helped me to make sense of a great many questions I have been trying to sort out. I think that I have to agree with you both: the structure isn't sacred, but the ecclessia is.

Good comments and good advise. I'll have to figure out what I can do here to follow it.

traveller said...

Paul,

George Barna has been doing research directly related to spiritual issues for about 25 years. One of his latest surveys relates to our conversation. (He also likes to use this to sell his books, which I am neither endorsing or not endorsing.)

Here is the link to his latest
http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/270-americans-are-exploring-new-ways-of-experiencing-god

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Barna's comment, referred to by Traveller, was very illustrative of where I see the church today, but, I must confess that I am not easily impressed by statistics, which, of course are Barna's forte.

On the other hand,the writing on the wall, which, in my opinion, is becoming less faint every year, in the institutional church scene, is the horrible declaration, "Ichabod!".