Tag Archives: church life

A Shift in My Ecclesiology

I recently revealed that I’m experiencing a shift in my ecclesiology. For the sake of clarification, I do still agree with much of what Sparks, Nee, Viola, and others have written about Christ in “organic” community. I don’t want anyone to think I believe a little institutionalism is cool or that the church is nebulous in nature. I think both miss the mark for Christian community.

As for the nebulous church idea, I really appreciate the work of Wayne Jacobsen, but his view of community is a bit loosey goosey for me. Knowing Christ in community requires people in committed relationships—that’s the very nature of a worshipping “community.”

I agree that the church should function as an organism in its familial context. But I also think it’s possible that it can at times look like an organization–depending on the season and the context of the church. That’s the great thing about an organism. It can do that. Nevertheless, it will always adhere to Christ in community, regardless of the changes in culture and context.

That means that I don’t think it is possible to fully know Christ in community when the center of church life is a one-hour weekly service (or Sunday school) where only a few function and there is little interaction among the saints. That isn’t to say larger gatherings with music and teaching are off limits to us. That would be prohibiting something that can and does edify folks. I have heard this time and again, “We miss the music and teaching.” I hear a longing to receive these gifts.

The problem for a lot of “organic” church folks is that’s all they had ever experienced. After having experienced face-to-face community, it’s easy to then voice criticisms of the large corporate gatherings. In some minds there was abuse there in that setting, therefore, everything that resembles that sort of thing should be rejected. I have also met folks who have experienced pain and abuse in small groups and house churches. So they run to the isolated pew or leave the church altogether. It’s all reactionary thinking.

Constantine did not invent large gatherings involving worship and teaching. The Jews, and later Jewish Christians, were doing that in the synagogues long before the great dragon polluted the church and set a full-blown priesthood in place to rule over church services.

No matter what order you adopt, some great stuff can happen in a larger setting, but the rubber hits the road in the face-to-face community. Unfortunately, most folks view church life as a teaching time or two during the week, not a shared life together in and outside church meetings.

What I intended to communicate in my last post is that I am disassociating myself with a strict order and calling for a redefining (or clarification) of the NT pattern, which is Christ alone. The church is free to edify and structure their life together any way they choose. As long as “Christ in community” (which at the heart means every-member functioning) is being known in their practice, not just in rhetoric and theory, there is freedom to allow the Spirit to mold that local ekklesia into a unique vessel for God’s glory.

If a church chooses to have a larger worship and teaching time for the exercise of those gifts, an event that the early church was likely not able to do on a regular basis, that’s awesome! But I believe this should only be seen as the dessert, not the main course—a great thing, but not the main thing. Discipleship plays out in relationships through Christian community.

The challenge is building a church life centered upon Christ in community, not upon a one-hour service. I may write on this later, because I think there are things that a church could do to see to it that the body of believers steers away from taking on the trappings of an institution that works only to maintain its overhead. That’s where my thoughts are currently going.

I suppose I’m exploring the many ways Christ can be experienced in community apart from a rigid order or trying to reduplicate the same context and experience of the first-century church. That might be easier for Christians in Mexico or China to relate to in their political and cultural context, but most folks in the US know a different context.

That’s not me shirking the NT pattern of church life, that’s me seeking to uphold it in the pattern of Christ.

Therefore, we should not envision any set order for any church. The Spirit will shape every community of believers each according to their gifts and context—always at the same time holding them to the pattern of Christ. The Lord sees in color, not in black and white. And the Lord may show us colors we have never seen before if we are open to receiving them with joy.

It’s not about finding the right church order or the secrets of the first church for a new book. It’s simply about learning to appreciate the many ways God is able to work his power through faithful followers of Christ.

D.D. Flowers, 2011.

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The Community Life of God (Book Review)

The God Who Is Relationship

A Book Review of “The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships” by Milt Rodriguez

“God is not an individual” says Milt Rodriguez.  “He is a fellowship of three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (p.14).

In The Community Life of God, Milt Rodriguez weaves together the story of God’s desire to plant himself in His people.  God’s image is a “communal” image.  The Lord created man in His image of community.  And taking from the Tree of Life (i.e. Christ) is to take from the relational God.

It was in the Garden of Eden that the serpent sought to keep God’s image from becoming a reality in the hearts of men.  The enemy of God presented man with individual living out of his own soul-life (i.e. will, emotions, intellect).  Instead of man pursuing spiritual living after taking from the communal life of God, he experiences separation from God and other men.

Rodriguez proposes that much of Christian activity today is spent furthering the individualistic mindset that is so popular in our culture.  Even when believers come together corporately there is not an understanding of God’s image among us.  Church life ought to be more than socializing and individual Christian ministries.

Milt writes, “Personhood and identity can only be defined by relating to others. You will never truly “find yourself” until you are living in the community life of God” (p.62)

What is the sort of fellowship the Lord desires among his ekklesia?

“This fellowship is the place where there is nothing to hide. Complete truthfulness and complete honesty rule here.  The Father, Son, and Spirit do not hold back anything from one another… there is no fear of loss” (p. 116).

As Christian Smith has written, “Community means more than having lots of meetings. It means jointly building a way of life, a group memory, and a common anticipated future.” (Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal, p.2)

In order for us to experience the community life of God, we must embrace the cross.  Rodriguez says there “will be one brother or sister who rubs you the wrong way.”  It is there we embrace the cross and learn “they are part of the same body as you. You belong to them and they belong to you” (p.152).

Finally, this community life of God cannot work in meeting once a week.  We all know this to be true, but still we place other things before God’s heart.  We sacrifice the church on the altar of family, jobs, and personal ministries.

Milt says, “He (God) wants you and me and every other believer to be actively involved on a daily basis. This is why we were born.  This is why we live on this planet” (p.170).

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to participate in God’s eternal purpose, we must be intentional about our relationships within the local ekklesia of Christ.  We must give and receive sacrificially in order that we might know the God who is within Himself, relationship.

There have been many books written on the church being rooted in the Triune image of God, but this one delivers in a simple and easy-to-read presentation.  I recommend this book to all of those who are longing to discover that the church is born out of the very heart of the relational God.

What others are saying?

“This little book provides a clear window into the ultimate source of authentic body life. Delve into its pages and meet the God who is beyond what most of us have imagined, the God in whose collective voice all genuine churches echo.” –Frank Viola, author of Pagan Christianity, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church, www.frankviola.com

“I was deeply blessed, refreshed and challenged by this book. The author casts the spotlight on the reality and wonder that “God” is really the community life of three persons – a fact virtually untouched in traditional theology. Milt shows from various angles how the community life of God is the foundation of our organic ekklesia life together in Christ.”–Jon Zens, Editor, Searching Together; author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile and “What’s With Paul & Women? www.searchingtogether.org

Milt Rodriguez

Milt Rodriguez has been living in and planting organic expressions of church since 1990. He has also authored several books including The Butterfly in You and The Temple Within.  He currently lives with his wife Mary in Gainesville, Flordia.  He is a dear brother in the Lord and I am happy to call him my friend.


Sanctorum Communio

Thank you Lord for letting me see

A vision of your Bride — unchained and free!

Shackled for so long and caged up by men

Her beauty was veiled and the world was her friend.

Betrothed to a God who prepares her a home

Though she doesn’t see Him, she is never alone.

Empowered by the Spirit to keep herself pure

By the hope of His coming and by faith she’ll endure.

The devil and demons with the power of hell

Try to destroy her, but will not prevail!

The Bridegroom is coming in the clouds to see

The wife of God, the church, she will be.

So let us now pray for community, dear saints

The day is almost over, let not your hearts be faint.

The Son is victorious and the marriage is near

Stand firm dear saints, there is nothing to fear.

Thank you Lord for letting me see

A vision of your Bride — unchained and free!

 
open armsNote: This little poem “Sanctorum Communio” (Community of the Saints) was written in my personal journal of prayers and meditations on February 4, 2007. It represents for me a song of victory in my own personal exodus from institutionalized Christianity.


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