I’m finished with reading Pagan Christianity. Done. I swallowed the red pill…* [Gulp. I’m done in]. I encourage you to take a look and to give it a serious read if you dare…* ‘Cause it confronts us with this possibility: that institutional “gatherings” clearly miss the mark when set along side the called out gatherings of the early Christians, and, that the institutional church in it’s modern cultural setting has largely been built upon the customs of men. The examples in the book are many, among them, churches today paying salaries within a hierarchical infrastructure patterned after this world and not after the kingdom; The maintenance with tithes and offerings of a place where people go; Maintaining a building and infrastructure which drains resources rather than pouring them into nurturing and providing for the needs, both spiritual and physical, of the living stones who make up the real building/temple of the living Godhead, i.e., a people in community who are gathered in the name of Jesus; The questioning of the sermon/eucharist as the center piece of the church gathering…
The early church gave freely to the needs of people (as contrasted to the required and burdensome tithe given to the religious infrastructure of the old testament era). The early church had no split between clergy [Titled as: Pastors/Bishops/Priests…] and the [so called] laity; all were a participatory priesthood of believers equal in Christ, with Jesus (who warned us to give no one Titles) acting as the functioning and only Head of the gathering under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Today institutionalization causes most believers to think church is a place where they go, to [mostly] watch the show and listen to the display of what someone [else] knows. Participating together within the active giftings of the Spirit in the early church gathering stands in startling contrast to what we call “using[or not]” his gifts today when we gather.
Add to that this reality: We have been taught, for the most part, to think and act: “WWJD”. Birthed by the book of the late 1800’s “In His Steps” , and popularized in the 80’s by the bracelet, we think and act upon what we know about what Jesus would do and not what Jesus actually did. Jesus didn’t wear a bracelet that said WWFD: “What Would Father Do”, he instead lived by the life of his Father doing only what his Father told him to do and say. We have the same call on lives, to live in Christ Jesus, because, apart from him, as he tells us in John, “…[we] can do nothing.”: we cannot live the Christian life in our Post Christian culture without the realization of “Apart from [Him]…” , just as the church will not reflect Life, to that same culture “Apart from [Him]…” if wrapped up in it’s own customs and ways.
Those are just a small portion of the institutional and cultural customs that are entrenched in “church as we’ve known it”. It is the product of 1700 years of the traditions of men.
When juxtaposed along side the gatherings of the early church, today’s “church gathering” does leave the one who has “been there, done that”, wondering, ultimately, what the real point of that kind of gathering is. It left this one who has “been there and done that” realizing there is something amiss; it left me searching for a better answer.
Is there an alternative? A better [Biblical] alternative answer? I do believe there is. What if there is a purpose to the gathering beyond what we have been shown and known? What if there really is a better reason to be gathered, so that rather than just watching the show, we are instead called, as a complete and properly functioning body, into the show, showing Jesus through one another by participating with one another as the fellow ministers and priests of Christ, in the ongoing revelation of Jesus Christ himself to his body through his body; participating in gatherings that truly are under His headship. With the Holy Spirit properly at work within the gatherings, with Jesus as the focal point, maybe we just could better discover the height and length and breadth and depth of the love [and joy] of Jesus.
It looks like our trouble is, we have been removed from the reality of what that looked like in the early church, by the forms and customs of our day; we are so loaded down with the baggage of our own traditions that we have difficulty grasping what “normal” might look like for a “church” gathering today.
That is, until we let the Spirit crack open the Book and give us another look. To do that we may first need to lay down a whole lot of baggage loaded with the presuppositions of many years of tradition, move beyond our comfort zone, and be willing to let the Living Word speak the Truth to our version of “normal”.
* In Pagan Christianity?, “Have We Really Been Doing It By The Book?”, by Frank Viola and George Barna, the opening challenge is this:
“Warning: If you are unwilling to have your Christianity seriously examined, do not read beyond this page. Give this book to Goodwill immediately! Spare yourself the trouble of having your Christian life turned upside down.
However, if you choose to “take the red pill” and be shown “how deep the rabbit hole goes”… if you want to learn the true story of where your Christian practices came from… if you are willing to have the curtain pulled back on the contemporary church, and have it’s traditional presuppositions fiercely challenged… then you will find his work to be disturbing, enlightening,and possibly life changing.”
Well… even before I read that book, I was confronted by the choice of taking either the red pill or the blue one. There is a choice. Take the blue pill and everything goes back to what we believe to be “normal”. So church as you’ve known it will remain (at least for a time) comfortable and normal (in an abnormal and strangely uncomfortable way?), but, if you take the red pill, your Matrix dreamlike church world norm will be forever changed, because, as Morpheus said to Neo in the movie,The Matrix, “There is no going back.” If you crack open the Book and take another look, the The Spirit of the Author of that Book just might confront you with the choice.
The choice has been made for me.
I took the red pill.
The “normal” dream is now fading, and a new reality is beginning to settle in…
…I am now beginning to have a new dream: I am dreaming that a true and complete Reformation is yet coming before Jesus does, when as the acting and functioning Head of his church he will renew his church, his very own body, to it’s former state and thus receive upon his return his purified bride, the bride that he has prepared for himself, who has finally learned how to truly live in Him, just as he lived his own life through his Father’s life…
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”