Church as we know it is over…
Once again Pete Rambo has raised some interesting questions and opened the way for serious discussion on what the people of God should be doing in these very strange times. His post, “Church as we know it is over. . .”, is a follow-up to “…the land thou abhorrest shall be forsaken…”, which The Barking Fox reposted last week. The catalyst, of course, is the June 26 announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges which made same-sex marriage the law of the land. This is but the latest, and perhaps greatest, in a series of developments considered disturbing by those who hold to the Bible as the standard of conduct for humanity. Consequently, Americans of faith are asking serious questions about what to do now, with an expectation of increasing persecution of those who cannot compromise on God’s established order.
One of the first comments on this in a national forum comes from Rod Dreher, whose article, “Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn to Live as Exiles in Our Own Country”, appeared on Time.com on the day the Supreme Court’s decision was announced. Another is Kevin DeYoung, who wrote “40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”, published July 1 on The Gospel Coalition. Still another is from Michael Payne, a good friend and fellow blogger who has posted several bold observations on the spiritual state of our nation and the church at his new blog, A Call to Order. And yet another is from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. On July 5, Leo Hohmann of World Net Daily reviewed Cahn’s Independence Day address at Messiah College in Pennsylvania in which he declared that the end of Christian America is here. These commentaries address the condition of the American church, and all point out to some extent that this building crisis of faith is largely a result of God’s people failing to live like God’s people.
One might consider this commentary an indictment of Christianity, particularly American Christianity. In part it is, but there is much more to it than that. Everyone who claims to be a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob shares the blame. All of us have fallen down on the job, whether we identify ourselves as Christian, Jewish, Messianic, Hebrew Roots/Ephraimite, or any other tradition claiming to uphold the standards of righteousness established by YHVH. Mostly the problem comes from our stated willingness to defend and even die for a Bible which we do not bother to read. If we would do as our God commanded, and as Yeshua reminded us, we would make His commandments the focus of our daily lives and ensure our families live by them (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). That, however, is a very hard thing. It requires effort to read, study, internalize, and live out the principles of Scripture, and for that reason we have tended to out-source this aspect of human existence to spiritual professionals – rabbis, priests, and ministers whose job is to study the Bible and tell people what it says. The result is what we see today: an increasingly irrelevant professional clergy, and an increasingly worldly people of God. Clearly we cannot continue this way, which is why Pete ponders whether church as we know it is over.
Posted on natsab, July 5, 2015
“Church as we know it is over. And, maybe for the best…. “
In a recent post, I wrote the above quote as part of my thoughts concerning the recent Supreme Court ruling. I have been pondering a number of aspects and this weekend, one of them came into sharp focus.
We had the good pleasure of hosting a couple from the lower part of the state who came to fellowship and spend Shabbat with us. Our prayer at the beginning of the weekend was that Abba would lead us and give us some direction as we considered options before us. The Balak portion was interesting and provided good fodder for conversation considering some of the discussion on the table, but it was not until a late Shabbat afternoon conversation under the pecan trees that I felt a sense of clear direction.
Besides considering personal and family options and the very real possibility of becoming an expat, I have wrestled quite a bit with how to reach and help those being called out of the Church and into a closer walk with Messiah.
As we sat under the pecan trees in our backyard with a cool breeze and unseasonably nice temperatures, we began discussing home fellowships and discovered that we were very much on the same page with many common ideas and thoughts. So much that I had studied a few years ago began to flood back to my mind and I realized excitedly that the leadership in the Messianic, and the Church at large, has a definite need to begin making a very active and concerted shift toward home fellowships in preparation for the coming persecution.
Even if thousands or tens of thousands of American Messianics were to exit the country, there would still be a larger number who, for whatever reason, do not leave and will need to be prepared to stand as an underground network of fellowships. How then do we begin to prepare for this eventuality?
Part of the journey that led me to the Torah was a deep and abiding sense that something was terribly wrong with the Church and how most local churches traditionally operate. In an effort to better understand what the problems were, I spent a great deal of time reading Acts as well as a number of books. The two I best remember were Jon H. Zens’ The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ Centered Ekklesia and Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. In hindsight, neither book goes far enough, but they began to open my eyes to the decidedly unBiblical model of traditional clergy based church with a resource sucking building and staff.
Our discussion began to turn to the need to begin encouraging and educating the Messianic body in some of the many aspects of home fellowship building, worship and growth. Further, as we discussed, it dawned on me that in all of our discussions regarding community on this blog, I have failed to see the natural place of home fellowships between the family block and the desired community result.
My hope is that in the coming couple weeks I, along with someone I invited to begin writing for the blog, can begin exploring this topic and sharing some thoughts that will benefit the larger Body as we encourage a shift from the usual building/teacher centric model to a more organic home-based network of fellowships that encourage and support each other while growing in the most normal place for fellowship and intimacy with the King: in homes.
I would love to hear thoughts and input and hope this will be a topic of interest through which we can all grow.