Wednesday, March 18, 2009

chapter 2 : Reimagining the Church meeting

"Neither "going to church" nor "church service" appears in the New Testament," states Viola.
There are, however four types of meetings found in the New Testament....Apostolic, Evangelistic, Decision-making and church meetings.
Apostolic Meetings- When an apostle is planting a new church. The Apostle speaks to an audience who is interact with him. These meetings are temporary and are meant to teach believers how to function under the headship of Christ.
Evangelistic Meetings- these were also held by an apostle (someone sent out to plant churches) in public areas where non-believers frequented. These were also for the purpose of planting a church or adding numerically to existing churches in the area. This meeting is also temporary and irregular.
Decision-making Meetings- Occasional meetings held to make important decisions in the church. These are open-participatory meetings with the help of elders. All believers gathered there would come to a decision together under the headship of Jesus.

Church Meetings- regular gatherings, at least once a week of a local body of believers. This is the meeting that is discussed in this chapter. These meetings look incredibly different from the present day church services that many attend, normally on Sunday morning or Saturday evening.
To begin with, these meetings are not held in buildings, there is no pastor at the center of things, there is no sermon, no worship leaders, no 'professionals' at all. No paid position is held in the church. In this chapter viola focuses mostly on the reality of no human officiation.

The purpose of the church meeting is mutual edification. Mutual being key. The meeting is marked by everyone in the gathering participating in the mutual edification of everyone in the gathering. This contrasts with the institutional styled church where one person (pastor, bishop, father, whatever) is primarily responsible for the edification of the entire passive audience sitting in the pews, facing the leader standing on the pulpit.
To see the beautiful picture of the New Testament gathering read 1 Corinthians 11-14. Viola comments, "Freedom, openness, and spontaneity are the chief marks of this meeting. "One-anothering" is its dominant feature--mutual edification its primary goal." Taking from Paul's explanation, the picture is of each and every person in the gathering bringing a song, a teaching, a word of knowledge, etc. Believers in the early church frequently even wrote and sang songs for the edification of the Body.
Although the meeting is not officiated by a human, nor is it necessarily planned out, it is not marked by disorderliness either. Respect for one another, attention to each other, and speaking in order is the ideal. But most importantly, following the leading of Jesus through the Spirit will lead to the orderliness of the meeting.

Christ as the head of the church and the head of the church meeting is free to use whomever he chooses in the gathering to say whatever He (Christ) wants to say. Without this feature, viola points out, you may never know whether Christ is present or not. In a church that is being handed over to Spirit for leading, you know if the Spirit is present. In an institutional church, whether Christ is present or not, the service steams ahead forward. The worship leader leads songs as usual, the sermon is preached as usual, the benediction and offering are still done. The point is that in an institutional church does not need Jesus' presence in order to function. The New testament model of the church meeting does, or else it does not function.

There is NO biblical precedent for one man to dominate the church meeting (as does the pastor, etc.) Nor is there precedent therefore for anyone to forbid the use of a believers gifts in the body. I personally have heard pastors call the people in the church, "my congregation" or "my flock." This is not the picture we find in the New Testament. The believers are Gods People, we are all His flock and he is our shepherd, our pastor. Furthermore we are all called Priests, a part of a royal priesthood. There is not one man who offers up prayer to God on behalf of the rest and tells everyone what they ought to do. We are all priests, enabled to speak to God and minister to one another.

There are a lot more points i wanted to hit, but i will leave it at that. At the end of the chapter Viola admits that he cannot simply put into words exactly what its supposed to look like, but does tell a story about a personal experience he had with a house church having no leader and being lead by Jesus. I recommend reading it.
Food for thought. tell me what you think.

Next chapter is entitled, Reimagining the Lord's Supper. sounds good. peace be with you.



  1. The Quakers seem close to this.

  2. On another note. Is calling for reform in the church of the "establishment" similar to Wilberforce or King calling for reform in government? In both instances it is reforming a system or to put it bluntly an archy. It is addressing an institutional structure, rather than the people's hearts. In your opinion what is the difference between working within the church of the establishment to bring change and working within government to bring change?

  3. My chosen method of reform rarely has to do with actually reforming a bad system. I choose the route of "embodying the alternative." This is why i have chosen to leave the established institutional church, and join up with a church community.
    As far as the difference between working in the institutional church and the government... there are great differences at this point in history where there is relative seperation of church and state. For instance the church does not have the right to use violence like the government does. But i would stil say that working within the institutional church is both ineffective to bring about genuine change and not rooted in scripture. does that answer your question? probe further.

  4. I greatly respect you for asking me to probe further. And like I have said before I usually let you figure things out and then I just follow them. Anyways, this comment is in regards to Viola's use of comparison of the trinity to the church. First let me say I greatly enjoy Viola. But don't you find it ironic that he would beautifully describe the anarchistic and organic nature within the first century church and compare it to the trinity, which is not a first century church idea? I should probably just call you.

  5. nah, go ahead and finish that thought...Discussing it on here gives room for others to chime in and share their thoughts as well.
    As far as the Trinity goes, I think what Viola is picturing here is, you have the Trinity, the Triune God, who has always been. In genesis 1 you hear of it...."let us make man in our image." And even though the doctrine of the Trinity was not articulated until after the early church era, the Triune (anarchistic)God has always been there, and was expressed in certian ways even before the early church.
    I think the idea is that we can look back upon the teachings of Christ, and upon the revelations of the Spirit in the early church and see how the people of God are a meer extention of the Triune God. Not that we become God, but we are called the "Bride of Christ." So in a sense we are adopted into the communion of the trinity, which would mean operating as the Trinity does. You know more about these mystical matters, share with me your thoughts on that.

  6. IM not sure either that we can say that the doctrine of the Trinity was not worked out well in the New Testament church. We are told to baptize in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. Matt.28:19 I know the word of "trinity" was later on, but the concept was definately there.

  7. The problem I have with trinity is it is taking a anarchistic concept and making it a dogma or an institution. It is an attempt to make something that is suppose to remain mysterious into something that is controlled and explained. In the words of Lao Tzu "When people lose their since of awe, they turn to religion." I whole heartedly belive, Brandon, that when Tertullian coined the word trinity, christians started being tempted by "religion," or man made ways of approaching the sacred, rather than an organic journey of following the God-King.

  8. Yeah i hear ya. I would ask if the word "trinity" was coined first, causing a temptation towards religion, or if the temptation towards religion caused the coining of the term. religion has always been the temptation of the masses for sure.
    How do you thoughts on this relate to your work as a missionary to Muslims? and how do you feel about the term "Triune God"? Does this term hinder a muslim understanding of our perception of God, or does it serve to help?