Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mike's "Perfect Church" -- Part VI - Substance

Having established that The Church (as well as the local church) is God's gift to Christians, and the entire world . . . we start looking at the content or how that church would look.


A building is totally optional and should be only a tool for accomplishing the above purpose. In many places a building would be a hindrance. In some places, where the local church had a lot of people, and they wanted to meet at one time and other physical locations were not available, then a building would be okay. But the building is not part of the purpose itself nor should it interfere with that purpose (via the temple mentality). But, since this is "Mike's" concept of the perfect Church, then I would say no building. I've seen buildings get in the way of the goals.

One example of the hindrance is the expense. That money could be used better, in my opinion, to "bless the world" . . . for example feeding the hungry or combating HIV-AIDS.

NOTE: I don't have space here to give all my Biblical arguments for my statements below, but if you want to see where I'm coming from I suggest you read the old Howard Synder book The Problem of Wineskins.


My view is that scripture gives historical record of church leadership, but I see them as examples rather than mandates. As I read (Ante Pacem, The Church Before Constantine) I saw that the church had a wide variation in their leadership models during this early phase. But, as the historical account in scripture, a group of elders (even as small as two) is a good model. Most churches fail in this part, including some of the house churches I've visited, and the emerging churches I've read about. While claiming to have elders as the arch-type leader, in reality, it is the one person, the founder or pastor, who acts like a dictator in all practical terms. I've seen the same pratical model in my own church.

So my ideal church would have at least two people (notice I said "people") who were true elders and leaders, and actually had the responsible of leadership. These would not only be "token" leaders while the pastor or founder is in the background controlling everything. The founder, and the Teacher/Pastor may also serve as elder, especially if the group is small . . . but neither as dictator.


The Church is God's gift to us. One key purpose of this gift (the teacher), is to give us knowledge. Of course this should be knowledge about scripture, but also knowledge outside of scripture. This is where the monist may differ from the dualist. The dualist believes that God only speaks through scripture and everything else is trash. A monist believes that God has spoken in his word, but, also speaks through His wonderful creation. But lessons from his creation (and I use the word "creation" in a very broad sense here meaning not just nature but secular topics such as psychology, sociology and science). But, we have to use caution when we take information from creation, just like we do when we study scripture. This world is tainted by the fall. Some non-Christians (just like some Christians) speak truth and some speak lies. So discernment is very important.

This is were things can get tricky. My perfect church would have a wonderful teacher, who has been trained well. The problem is, all good universities, which teach scripture in their natural languages or teaches theology, are branded schools. They are Presbyterian, Baptist or other denominational schools. This is regrettable because the learner is then indoctrinated in that brand. It would be the same as if all medical schools were owned by one of many drug companies. The doctors coming from those schools would each be tainted in the way they view reality.

As a monist, I believe that our brains and bodes as well as this world are all important, I also realize that our brains, emotions etc are tainted. I have much less confidence in the obscure doctrines (the ones that separate most denominations) than graduates from branded schools of theology. They have been taught (via their scholastic-thus Aristotelian, influences) that reason can help you know all obscure truth to the point of making it dogma.

One way around this need for good teaching, especially if my church was small and could not attract a good teacher, is the use of electronic media. There are many, many excellent lecture series out there on scripture, theology, philosophy current issues etc (by Christian thinkers). Using these resources would be no different than how the early Churches, which was scattered in Asia Minor (who did not have well-educated teachers locally) did rely heavily on Paul's letters. He was their teacher in abstention.

So, at this point my perfect church would not have a building, would have at least two elders for leadership and great teaching (maybe via DVD, tapes etc.).

More in future postings.

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