Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Archive for April 2009

Servants That Became Rulers: Preacher Dress

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The next aspect of the institutional church that I would like to draw attention to is the tradition of the pastor/preacher dressing up more than the congregation.  This is related to the last post, but I wanted to draw special attention to it.  Here are some reasons, I believe, the pastor/preacher (if you feel the need to have one) should dress like everyone else.

1. For the pastor/preacher to dress up shows an un-biblical distinction between “clergy” and “laity”:  In the Scriptures, all Christians are priests and there is no “clergy” or “laity”.  When the pastor/preacher dresses in more expensive clothing (or in robes), the congregation is made to feel lower than him.  This is unscriptural. 

2.  The myth of the “super-Christian”:  We have made a class of “super-Christians” that most Christians don’t feel they can live up to.  When the “clergy” dresses in special clothes, this just feeds the myth.  In actuality, the Church is made of people who have gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit.  We all have different functions in the body and no one part is greater than any other part.  The fame that the pastor/preacher takes for himself is undeserved and, most importantly, sinful for him to take.

Servants That Became Rulers: Dressing Up For Church

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The next thing that I want to look at (also from Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity) is the idea of dressing up for church meetings.  It may be assumed that Christians always dressed up when they went to church meetings but this isn’t the case.  It is actually fairly recent.  Until just a few hundred years ago, most Christians were not wealthy enough to buy expensive clothes.  Here are some of the reasons I think this should be abandoned.

1.  Dressing up creates a separation between the rich and poor:  Some people cannot afford the newest trends and those that can show their affluence at church meetings.  You may not think that this is so, but that is because everyone in our meetings has the wealth to dress up.  Those that don’t have this wealth don’t feel welcome at our meetings so they don’t come.  We can make everyone feel more comfortable (in more ways than one) by dressing in normal attire.

2.  Dressing up is a “mask” we use to hide ourselves from each other:  We use our “Sunday best” to create an illusion of the kind of people we really are.  We want everyone to think that we have the perfect marriages, the perfect kids, plenty of money, a nice house with a white picket fence, an obidient dog, and everything else that describes the affluent American family.  But, in the real world, this isn’t the case and we shouldn’t create the illusion of it with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Our Christian family needs to know our real selves.  That is how a family really works.  It is messy, but it is real life in Christ.

3.  God looks upon the heart, not the clothing:  When we dress up for church meetings we are telling each other and the world that God cares about the same superficial things that we seem to care about.  If God truly cared about how much we dress up for meetings than He would be incredibly shallow indeed.  He would fit in comfortably in our world where people are evaluated by the cars they drive and the houses they live in.  But God doesn’t fit in this world.  He transforms it.  “Dressing up for God” is truly dressing up for others and to benefit ourselves.

Written by freeinchrist

April 27, 2009 at 4:43 am

Servants That Became Rulers: The Pastor/Preacher

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From my last post about the elimination of the sermon, you likely guessed that I would take my next look at the pastor/preacher (also, if you have read Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity you may have noticed that I am using the same topics as he does in the same order).  These are the reasons that I think the pastor/preacher should be reconsidered.

1. The pastor/preacher prevents Christ from being the head of the meeting:  The pastor/preacher tries to take this role for himself.  Instead of letting the Spirit lead the group, the pastor/preacher leads it.  Instead of mutual edification, the pastor/preacher seeks to edify the group himself.  It is no wonder that Roman Catholic bishops (same word as pastor in the greek) see themselves as the head of the Church on earth and see the bishop of Rome (the pope) as having a particular headship role.  Christ is the head of the Church and of all its meetings and work.

2.  The pastor/preacher is a practical denial of the priesthood of all believers:  Even in meetings where the priesthood of all believers is taught, the pastor/preacher acts as the priest while the people sit in the pews.  We teach one thing and practice another.  Our doctrine doesn’t square with our practice on this issue.  We have traditionally said that all believers are priests but have only allowed one to practice.  The pastor/preacher is the #1 enemy of mutual edification.  There is no point in teaching the priesthood of all believers if we refuse to practice it.

3.  Hiring the pastor/preacher is a waste of money:  We should be giving to the needy, not to a person that we have hired to be a Christian for us.  We pay this man (it usually is a man) to feed us when we should be feeding ourselves.  We pay him to visit the sick when we should be doing that ourselves.  We pay him to evangelize in the community when we should be doing it.  We pay him to do all the things that we don’t want to do.  Behind the church building, the pastor/preacher salary is the largest expense most church organizations have.  That money should be going to people who need it, not to an office that hurts the Church.

Servants That Became Rulers:The Sermon

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The next thing on the proverbial chopping block is the sermon.  Most of us can’t imagine our lives without sermons but many of us are wishing that we could.  These are the main reasons.

1. Sermons stop every member from functioning:  This is the same reason given for eliminating the order of worship but it is just as important here.  When only one person is allowed to speak, it stops the other teachers in the meeting from using their gifts.  The meeting becomes a one-man show instead of a place for mutual edification.  When one man speaks, its not mutual edification.

2. Sermons are not effective:  Pastor/Preachers know that most of what they say on Sunday morning won’t be remembered after lunch, much less for weeks, months, or years after the sermon is given.  Sermons are not effective in equipping the saints for good works because they only tell us about things while never showing us anything.  I have heard countless sermons on evangelism (for example) but have never had someone show me how to share my faith with others.  I had to learn that on my own by watching evangelists greater than I work with real people, in the world.  That begs the question, however:  If the sermon couldn’t show me how to share my faith, what was the purpose of the sermons on evangelism? 

3.  The sermon creates an unhealthy association with the pastor/preacher:  When one person is given most of the meeting to share their beliefs about Christ, that person is often the only source weaker members have in learning about Him.  This often creates an unhealthy association between the member and the pastor/preacher in which the member NEEDS the pastor/preacher in order to discern truth.  The member should be being equipped so that they can discern truth for themselves.  We are not to follow a man, but follow Christ.  Many pastor/preachers have become a replacement for following Christ to their listeners.

4.  The sermon does not allow the pastor/preacher to be questioned by the listeners:  This is very important.  Since tradition dictates that the listeners are never to speak during the sermon, the pastor/preacher has free reign to teach whatever they want without question.  You may say, “you could talk to the pastor/preacher or the elders after the service about any problems” and you would be right.  But would that stop the teaching from taking place?  No.  I have found in discussion-based classes that a pastor/preacher that is about to make a mistake can be easily redirected if the listeners have the ability to gently correct during the class.  I have personally changed the outcome of many lessons simply by making short, respectful comments when I was allowed to do so.  I can also think of many sermons that I could have contributed to if I had been allowed to speak.

5.  Sermons are boring and many would be greatful to be rid of them:  The Scriptures do not tell us to give sermons, the Apostles did not give sermons, Jesus did not tell us to use sermons, the early church did not have them either.  If most Christians knew these facts, the sermon would be gone.  The reason that most meetings have sermons is that the people don’t know that they have the right to be rid of them.

Servants That Became Rulers: Order of Worship

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The second servant that became a ruler (Cecil Hook doesn’t mention this one in his chapter but Frank Viola does in Pagan Christianity)  is the order of worship.

Most institutional churches have an order of worship that varies little from week to week.  There are usually five things that are done: teaching/preaching, prayer, singing, taking communion, and giving.  These are often called “the five acts of worship”.  I really think that we need to reconsider having a set order of worship and this is why:

1.  Stops every member from functioning:  The body of Christ is made up of people with various gifts and these gifts are currently in the seats in the institutional churches.  These gifts were meant for the edification of the body and this doesn’t happen if we leave the gifted out of the worship service.  Some people get to edify others in the traditional churches, but we are supposed to be meeting for mutual edification.  When the “clergy” edifies the “laity” that is not mutual edification.  You are supposed to edify and be edified.

2.  The order of worship (and its acts) are mistaken for true worship:  Worship is not preaching, prayer, singing, Lord’s Supper, and giving.  These are ACTS of worship.  They, also, are not the only acts of worship.  Any good work can be an act of worship when it is done from the heart.  Worship happens in the heart and can happen at any time (not just at a worship service). 

3.  The order of worship, sometimes, replaces true worship:  The order of worship can be done without any real worship taking place in the heart.  It can be fake.  It becomes a routine that is done regardless of whether the people are worshipping in their hearts.  It becomes a law that the people keep so that they can feel good about keeping it.  It distracts from true worship.

4.  The order of worship requires that things be done that may not NEED to be done:  Sometimes we can meet and not need a sermon.  Sometimes we don’t need to sing.  Sometimes prayer is not on our hearts.  Sometimes their is no needy who need support, so no need to give to them.  Sometimes our hearts aren’t in the Lord’s Supper.  In these cases, wouldn’t it be better to not do these things at all than to do them inappropriately?  Isn’t it better to use the gifts and leading of the Holy Spirit to decide how we meet than to determine it beforehand and quench the Holy Spirit from working in a different way if He wishes. 

5.  The order of worship makes our meetings boring and predictable:  I probably don’t need to explain this one.

I think if we were to look at it carefully (with the knowledge that the order of worship is made up by men so can be eliminated) we will reconsider the use of our long-held order of worship and replace it with the leading and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Servants That Became Rulers: Church Buildings

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I don’t believe that it is wrong to have a church building but I do think that they come with many problems that would be best to be avoided.  I spent two years in a house church environment and did not miss the building one bit.  Not having the building even helped me to see the problems with it.  These are the reasons I think it would be better to go away from it.

1. Is not the proper setting for the family of God to meet:  Families don’t meet in structures like our common church buildings, they meet in homes and in other public venues.  These places are more natural and conducive to family living.  When you meet in a building, you can end up more like a business than like a church.  The church is an organism, not an organization.

2.  The church building tempts Christians to compartmentalize their faith in a way that organic church does not:  When we meet in buildings, we sometimes attach all or most of our spirituality to the building.  This creates people who are Christians when they are at the building and don’t think of it at any other time.  This also buys into the idea of a split between the sacred and secular.  Following Jesus was never supposed to be a religion, we are to follow Him all of the time in every area of our lives.

3.  Too much overhead.  Church buildings take needed money away from the poor and out of the hands of missionaries who need it to spread the Gospel.  The amount of funds lost to the church building is astronomical but, more importantly, the amount of work that was never done because the funds weren’t there is impossible to calculate.  We must care more about the work of the Church than the facility where it meets.

I think if we keep these things in mind we will be hesitant to put any more money into church buildings.

“Servants That Became Rulers” is a chapter in the book “Free In Christ” by Cecil Hook.  It is available at http://www.freedomsring.org

Can I Just Follow Jesus?

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You may have noticed a shift in this blog from writing about the institutional churches of Christ to writing about following Jesus outside of the institution.  Well, that’s where I am right now.  I have little interest in churches of Christ (although I keep getting sucked right back into it by current situations).  I just want to follow Jesus.

All the 1st century church did was to follow Jesus and live in His life and love.  That is all we must do. 

Why do I need to find a church home?

Why do I need another sermon that has nothing to do with me or my life?

Why can’t I just follow Jesus?

Written by freeinchrist

April 22, 2009 at 5:23 am