Thursday, August 28, 2008


There have been two comments made recently that have caught my attention. One was made by Jon Zens as he answered a critic of the book by Frank Viola and George Barna entitled 'Pagan Christianity.' Jon said, in effect, that the New Testament knows nothing of the primary purpose of the gathered church being one of worship. [Not an exact quote] Someone else I read said "Show me a single verse in the NT that states the purpose of the church is to worship." Well I looked. That verse is not there. In fact, worship, according to Romans 12, is the purpose of living. All of life is worship.

The gathering of the church is for "one another" according to the only passage in the NT that speaks specifically of a place where the church is gathered. That passage is Hebrews 10:24-25 where it is made clear the purpose of the church gathered has to do more with the provoking 'one another' to love, good works, and exhorting 'one another' as we approach His return than it does worship. [Not that such activity is not worship since all of life is worship.]The word 'assembling' in Hebrews 10:25 is not ekklesia but a word that references a place. The only such reference in the NT. It is the Greek word from which we get 'synagogue.'

Certainly other passages such as in Acts speak of what is to happen when the church is gathered. Things like receiving a word from God, fellowshipping, eating, and sharing life's needs with 'one another' whether that gathered group is meeting in houses or an upper room some where. But the point of all those passages is an emphasis on our horizonal relationships far more than an experience of worship. [Not that such activity in our relationships is not worship.]

Another comment that has grabbed me is where someone stated that much of the teaching, talk, and thinking on church life in our day is falsely based on a model of the Temple and Prieshood of the Old Testament. I don't remember the exact quote but that pretty well summerizes it.

I thought about it. I concur. I DO think a false basis for church life to follow is one based on the Temple and Priesthood of the OT. But present day traditional worship experiences seem to be just that.

This is evidenced by those worship experiences being built around a special place like a church building, [the Temple] and when you are there your are "at church." [Thus able to worship] That is of course contrary to that earliest group after Pentecost who went from house to house. Then, special people become prominent [Pastors] and are the only ones qualified to lead us in worship just as the Priests of the OT were necessary for the people. "My Pastor" is the language we use to reflect that specialness. [Why we don't say "my Prophet" or "my Teacher" or "my Evangelist" may reveal more about our misunderstanding, if not our misuse of scripture, in establishing offices to be held by special people instead of experiencing Spiritually gifted people in the Body.] We don't often comprehend that the body gathered is to be ready to excercise gifts to edify all. Were we to honestly follow an Old Testament "Priests are to lead in worship" way of thinking ALL would have to lead since ALL are Priests in the New Covenant. But I digress.

Add to that special place and special person the need for special things and special days and times and you will soon get the picture. For example, the pulpit, the organ, the communion table, [special things] and a few other things become what I used to call "sacred cows." You don't touch them, move them, eliminate them, or change them in any fashion. They are not unlike the vessels in the Temple except Aunt Suzie or Uncle Charlie donated or made them thus making them as sacred as the vessels King David dedicated and were used in Solomon's Temple upon completion.

Special days and times? Sunday at 11:00 am and Sunday evening at 6:00 pm IS the day and time of worship. Monday through Saturday are days of work. [The six days shalt thou labor thing] But come Sunday, that special day, and we go to our special place to be led by a special man who uses special things all to bring us into the the special presence of God for a special event. Worship. [Forgotten is the fact that Sunday isn't the sabbath or a day of rest or worship for that matter but, for believers, every day is a Sabbath in Christ for all of us rest in Him.]

May I say it? Somehow I think we've missed the New Testament concept of church life and particularly the worship aspect of it. I'm not saying anything I've listed is, in and of itself, evil or wrong. But if we make an idol of any one of the things mentioned it becomes wrong if not evil. No standard or procedure was given in the text of the scriptures that would guide the methods we use in church life but what is fulfilled in ANY method is mandated scripturally.

We're wrong to make worship a Sunday thing only because we're mandated in scripture to present our bodies [all of our life] a living sacrifice which is the beginning of real worship.

We're NOT wrong in worshipping on Sunday at 11:00 am unless it becomes an idol we bow down to and refuse to let anyone touch or change.

We're wrong to make one man the center of all that is spoken or done in a gathering of believers because we are mandated scripturally that it is to be a "one another" time.

We're NOT wrong in hearing a message on Sunday morning unless it becomes an idol and we bow down to it and refuse to let anyone touch or change it.

We're wrong in making the pulpit, the hymnal, the organ, the choir loft, or anything else a sacred thing because we are mandated by scripture that people are sacred and any tool can be legitimate as it aids in building relationships.

We're NOT wrong in using any tool that enhances body life unless they become idols and we bow down to them and refuse to let anyone touch or remove them.

We're wrong to think of the church building as sacred because we're mandated in scripture to see our physical bodies as the true Temple of God.

We're NOT wrong to take care of any property we, as a church gathered, might own or use unless it becomes an idol and we bow down to it by refusing to use it for ministry and instead protect it from damage.

It seems to me we may be at a time in history where new wine skins are needed for the fresh wine of the Spirit to flow through the Body of Christ and the need is bigger than just adapting to a new style of worship. It may be that some of our old school thinking about a lot of things biblical may need investigating afresh. This will not mean the text has changed but our understanding of that text is an ever deepening and comprehending thing.
That's my thinking at least.

Paul B.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I'm still delayed from having much time at the computer. I'm not sure when it will change. But til then there is no sense in the two or three [:)] who stop in here occasionally not being able to see something worth reading. You will today. I'm sure Molly won't mind my posting the whole thing since my abilities at linking are atrocious and she's such a nice person. If I'm wrong on this Molly let me know.

You can catch other things Molly says here.

Paul B.

The Upside Down God (An Egalitarian Muses)

The complementarian John Piper says (in his book, What's the Difference) that the essence of femininity is to affirm, respect and follow the leadership of a man. This means that as a female, Piper believes I find my femininity only in so far as I affirm that godly men, as opposed to godly women, are my leaders---and that I encourage and support them as such. Another way to think about it might be to say that because I do not affirm Piper's model, Piper does not believe I am feminine. If Piper's opinion mattered to me, I might find that a bit offensive. Ha.

The egalitarian model rightly affirms that men and women are complementary, yet also, and rightly (in my opinion), does not spend a lot of time laying out how and when and where those complementary features lie. This is because men and women are firstly humans, a name for creatures infinitely diverse and unique in and of themselves, gender notwithstanding.But women are certainly different from men, even if only in terms of body parts. Women have sexual organs that men don't have, and vice versa. Most of us believe there are more differences between the sexes than merely uterus and testes, but this student would like to know how to tell which differences are culturally derived definitions of "true" manhood and womanhood and which differences are actually hard-wired traits?

Many historically American held "gender differences," for example, have proven to have more basis in popular stereotype than fact. The idea that women talk more than men do, for example, has been proven inaccurate. The Victorians accepted the "fact" that women were easily frightened creatures and wont to fainting spells, but that had everything to do with tight corsets restricting airways than it did women actually fainting due to legitimate female gender differences. (This article from the BBC news scientifically explains the 78 genetic differences---funny).

Perhaps another top reason that egalitarians tend to shy away from forming a checklist of gender differences is because we've seen differences between the sexes used to bolster the idea that men should be in charge of women. One recent blog post seemed to suggest that because a husband was more likely than a wife to fend off a burglar, the husband is obviously designed to be in charge of the wife. Yet these reasons often fall flat, because the same sort of reasoning can be used to shoot male leadership in the foot.My husband, who has plenty of hair on his chest, fights residence and forest fires with the Emergency Services team, and who's known for his throaty male cries at sporting events, shrieked like a baby last week when a bat flew overhead in our living room. While he cowered in a doorway, I jumped up with glee (having always wanted to see a live bat up close) trapped the bat in a glass dish and expressed true sorrow that the children were asleep and therefore missing such a rich opportunity to observe a wild Alaskan bat.Does this prove that I was designed by God to lead our home? Or does it just prove that Jeff and I are human beings, having both innate and environmentally derived differences, unique yet also complementary to each other, as all humans are? Does being different prove authority? Or does being different just prove that...well, we're different.

Consider the fact that women tend to be more global thinkers, generally able to consider multiple sources of information at once and to think and reason from a broader interconnected place than most men. This fact clearly proves that women should lead men. Or perhaps the fact that girls tend to speak earlier than little boys do. Aha. Another proof that women were designed to rule. No? Seems silly, doesn't it---almost embarrassing for me to type. Stating one way that men and women often differ is simply stating a generality---in no way does it "prove" that anyone should rule over anyone else.

For those scratching their heads, let me try and explain. This egalitarian tends to think that in the community of God, everything gets turned on it's head. For many who view the Scriptures like me, it's those who walk in the fruit of the Spirit who are spiritual "leaders," for in God's economy, rank, social status, appearance, education and other worldly avenues of authority aren't acceptable tokens for true spiritual leadership. Some egalitarians, myself included, feel that the males in New Testament times, having much more power than the females, were being instructed by Paul to love their wives as their own selves: ie, even though your social structure gives you the power to command obedience, consider whether or not you would want to be in her shoes and how you would want to be treated, and then love her accordingly. This is the way of Christ. The world's strong stood on the backs of the weak and still do to this day. Christ, the strongest of all, went straight for the weak and lifted them up, despite the horrified gasps of those in power around Him. Just as Paul didn't command Philemon to release Onesimus, but hinted rather strongly that Onesimus was now Philemon's brother and a co-equal heir in God's sight (See Philemon), so Paul did not command husbands to release wives from their legal position of submission. But he did command husbands to think of their wives in the same way that they think of themselves, "as your own body." Paul commanded Christian husbands to love their wives in the way that the Jesus he describes (in that same letter to the Ephesians) loves His bride: giving all for her, giving her His identity, raising her up to His level to rule with Him.

Who is this Jesus who turns everything upside down? In the worldly system, leaders lead in order to lead. Those in power like to stay in power, because that means they get what they want, they get to do things their way, get to be on top. But in God's economy, those in power use their power to come under. The biggest leader is the biggest server, and vice versa. Leaders lead that they might help others become leaders.The complementarian Piper appears to define the feminine women as those happily under the authority, in one way or another, of masculine men. In other words, from birth all the way to death. She will never mature out of that place, by virtue of her gender. But for most egalitarians, spiritual authority exists that those being led might be brought into maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). Those who have power are to use their power to bring others up to where they are. Yes, this is upside-down thinking, compared to what goes on in the world. But that is what the One we follow has done.

"But God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us, brought us to life withChrist even when we were dead in our sins; it is by His grace you aresaved. And in union with Christ Jesus He raised us up and enthroned uswith Him in the heavenly realms, so that He might display in the ages to comehow immense are the resources of His grace..." ---Ephesians 2:4-7a TNEB

Monday, August 11, 2008


It's been far too long since I've put something up on this blog site. I realize that all too well. I will get the Old School/New School thoughts completed eventually. But this summer has been as eventful as any I can remember for the Burleson household. Writing a blog post has really taken a back seat to other things, especially of late.

It all started with surgery in June. I thought I would be up and going in two or three days. It has been two months or more and I'm still struggling with the aftermath of it all.

Without going into the gory details just know that the lower part of both jaws down to the base of my neck is an area that feels exactly like your mouth feels after two or three hours in the dentist chair. It doesn't feel at all. It's as dead as a hammer. My speaking ability has been affected though my awareness of it is more than the awareness of those who hear me speak. I did have to cancel a final Sunday at Wade's fellowship and a pastor's conference in Portland Oregon in July. Suffice it to say it has not been a pleasant ordeal and I've discovered I've a long ways to go in the development of patience.

You can add to all that the construction that has gone on because of a dream coming to fruition. With our home paid for, we decided to put in a small pool and patio area in our back yard. Our pool builder told us to remember that to get an omelet you have to break some eggs. I thought at the time that it was a cute statement but discovered it wasn't cute at all. Broken eggs are not cute. But the omelet is done. It includes a small pool, a fire-pit on the north end of the pool, a rather large concrete patio area as well as a brick retaining wall because we're in a flood plane area. It is beautiful. But the eggs breaking to make it all included dust, dirt, people by the dozens around all day long, heat, problems, personal involvement, [I made several trips to the grocery store for ice, chips, coke and water for all the workers because of record breaking heat of 107 degrees for one thing] dealing with the city on codes, and, generally, a mess of a time. But it was well worth it all as the pool builder said it would be. Mary and I swam yesterday afternoon. We hosted friends last night. Our married kids [those who can] and our grand kids will be coming labor day for my famous hamburgers and a day in the pool. What more could you want?

I'm not ready to write a post yet that takes concentration but soon will be, I promise. Thanks for being more patient than am I.

Paul B.