The Church No One Wanted to Join

by David Black, (Whoa, read his teaching vita): Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He has also taught courses at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Lancaster Bible College, Fuller Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, Simon Greenleaf University, Criswell College, Freie Hochschule für Mission (Germany), Tyndale Theological Seminary (Holland), Bibelschule Walzenhausen (Switzerland), IEM Bible College (India), Chong Shin Theological Seminary (Korea), Faith Theological Seminary (Korea), Cosin Theological Seminary (Korea), Evangelical Theological College (Ethiopia), Meserete Kristos College (Ethiopia), and at other institutions. In addition, he has lectured at the Complutensian University in Spain, the Areopagus in Timisoara, Romania, and the Universities of Oxford and Leeds in England. [He has been around and has several Greek texts out, so although I have a hard time figuring out how it will all work, unless one belongs to a house-type church, I have to take his words and ponder them.]

Whereas many of our churches will do practically anything to draw unbelievers to their services, the earliest Christians were so committed and so radical that few if any unbelievers dared join them. In New Testament times the early disciples came together not for evangelism or even for worship but for teaching, for fellowship, for the Breaking of Bread, and for times of prayer (Acts 2:42). The Lord’s Supper was not an addendum celebrated quarterly or monthly but the main reason the church assembled on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7). Jesus was front-and-center, not a pulpit.

~  The Church No One Wanted to Join

Then this other challenging article (excerpted): What I learned from the Anabaptists:

It seems from history that the Anabaptists tried to restore biblical Christianity. The reformers and traditionalists persecuted them for that.

Although they shared many theological concepts with the Protestant Reformers, the Dissenters parted company on several crucial points including the separation of church and state (the church must reject all ties with princes and magistrate), believers’ baptism (the church consists solely of voluntary members), and restoration rather than reformation (the only valid model of church life is the early church as revealed in the New Testament).”…

At their gatherings great care was taken that all things were done decently and in order and that all the members had an opportunity to exercise their gifts for the edification of all. Congregations were small enough so that all the members knew each other and could offer any assistance that was necessary.” A classic case in point: today we find congregational participation in our gatherings squelched by an unbiblical emphasis on the “clergy” and a corresponding passivity among the “laypeople.” The motivation behind limiting congregational participation is undoubtedly noble (to ensure “quality,” to protect against heresies, to maintain order, etc.). Still, such motivations seem biblically unsustainable. For example, quality can be just as low in a church that practices monological preaching as in one that encourages mutual participation. Besides, the worst heresies in the Christian church have not been promulgated by laypeople but rather by professionally trained theologians.

Finally, only a form of corporate ministry in which all believers are free to exercise their gifts and share their insights would seem to comport with the New Testament. Along with Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 14 teaches that the church is a Body comprised of many members, each of which has something important to contribute to the whole. Apparently Paul believed that God may speak or act through any member of the church for the benefit of the entire community. The result must have been a richness and diversity scarcely known today in many of our churches that every member ministry entails either the participation of all believers in every gathering or the abolishing of leadership. Rather, it involves a wide participation by those who are Spirit-led.

A communal approach to ministry would seem, then, to be a core value of the church and should be encouraged by the leadership, whose role is more facilitative than dominant. Common dangers must be recognized and avoided (e.g., over-participation by some, fear of being criticized by the group, passivity). When it is felt that the conventional monologue is appropriate, it will be helpful to stop for questions and interaction with one’s hearers, if not in the middle then at least at the end. Jesus’ own teaching was frequently characterized by verbal interaction, while the apostle Paul clearly engaged in dialogue with his Christian audiences (dialegomai). Even the famous Christian orator Chysostrom interrupted his discourses frequently to ask questions in order to make sure he was understood. Every believer is a priest, and although congregations certainly benefit from the theological expertise of some, the New Testament knows no cult of the expert who ignores the gifts of the people.

~  What I learned from the Anabaptists

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