Archive for the ‘Foundations’ Category

Foundations 4 – Group or Meeting?

Monday, March 6th, 2006

When I was a young Christian, the question ‘Group or Meeting’ was an easy one. I was brought up in a church that I perceived as having a meeting mentality, where people met each week, but did not really know each other. After my ‘conversion experience’ I was convinced by a theology that said that Church is a community of redeemed people working out how to live out Christ’s way together. Accompanying this was a sense that outside the Church there was only evil and false dealing, but inside we work things out together under God’s appointed leadership. I think/hope that most churches have rejected some of that attitude. For those that have not, consider the following:

  • The maximum time that the average churchgoer spends with the church is seven hours per week as opposed to 35 plus hours at work and a similar amount of time with the family
  • The nature of churches generally is that time in church is mainly not spent relating to people, and when it is, it is generally about trivia. The nitty gritty is in home life and family life.
  • When you have experienced your first church split, it becomes difficult to rate church leaders as effective arbitrators

Even after you have filtered out the rhetoric about Church communities you are left with problems. Groups tend to quickly develop an ethos, derived from the interests and personalities of those involved. Groups develop around one or more people who had the initial vision. New initiatives are approved or rejected according to their conformity to the initial vision. In these ways, the establishing of groups within the wider church and society retards diversity. It would be better if we claimed less and set up meetings to pursue particular interests. You could see the current church model as a soviet-style planned economy, in which all the product is commissioned and authorised by the church commisars. There is a growing black market in spiritual materials, but the restructuring of the economy to enable local entrepreneurs is yet to happen. What is needed is a free economy, where initiatives can be launched and live or die based on commitment and response.

In this context, launching a group is counter productive, but developing and holding meetings, becomes my contribution to the market place.

Foundations 3 – The Gift of the Spirit

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006
In many ways this repeats some of what I said about unity in diversity, however, I still think that it is profitable to view things in the light of this core theological concept.
At Pentecost, Christ poured out the Holy Spirit on a diverse bunch of people. Out of the interaction between each individual and the Holy Spirit, a variety of expressions of God emerged that we refer to as gifts, but the Bible refers to as ‘spirituals’.  

 

What causes the variation in expressions of God? In the interplay between how God gives his Spirit and how he is received, variety is produced. The interplay between the Spirit of God and man is a mystery. In Genesis, God breathes his ‘spirit’ (breath) on a statue of mud. The breath from heaven combined with the creature from the earth produced the living soul which is man. Each expression of the Spirit is ‘incarnational’ and, as such, is a product of both the Spirit of God and of the person involved.

The Bible tells us a number of things about these gifts.

  1. They are diverse
  2. They vary in degree
  3. All are necessary
  4. All are partial, imperfect expressions

From these foundations, we can see that there must be a forum for the expression of Christ in diversity and there must be humility about our own gifting and careful listening to others. Paul intimates that the correct handling of gifting will lead to a corporate maturity. This is the goal we are aiming at.

Foundations 2 – Diversity in Unity

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005
Diversity in Unity is one of the great ideals of the British multi-cultural society. I also happen to think that it is an ideal with Christian roots. The whole concept of the body of Christ with it’s members, points to a situation of a diversity of task with a unity of goal.The question is, ‘To what extent should we expect a variety of belief and opinion to form part of the diversity aspect, and to what extent should it be subordinated to unity’. In this post-modern age the point should be moot. We have churches full of people of diverse opinion and theology who sit silent as a party line is preached. At some stage there is a disconnect, as churchgoers develop their ‘in-church persona’.  

In order to reconnect, church must embrace the diversity of opinion and spiritual experience of all it’s members. This is why a gathering that celebrates and explores diverse opinion is fundamental to my model for church.

small voices Foundations 1 – Purpose

Monday, October 3rd, 2005
Having started to post small voices resources on the net, I realise that, in many ways, I have put the cart before the horse. There is a lot of background to discuss. First, what is my purpose in doing small voices?        

  1. To get post-evangelicals, church leavers and spiritual seekers together.
  2. To stimulate and validate thinking, belief and spiritual practice.
  3. To facilitate the beginning of new spiritual expressions.
  4. To provide resources for others to do the same

To be honest, I expect that post-evangelicals and church leavers will benefit the most from my resources because that is what I am. However, the basic format and some of the materials may be useful to others. I acknowledge that, to some extent, this is a deprogramming exercise for disillusioned churchgoers, but I also feel that there is plenty of positive stuff that will encourage such people to find a suitable path, rather than throwing out faith altogether.