Tag Archives: home church

Organic Church Life: Doctrinal Issues

How do you treat doctrinal concerns in an organic house church? The following was initially written in response to someone inquiring about the doctrine of the Trinity.

Q: A person in your group denies the Trinity. How do you respond?

That’s a great question and one to work through slowly in prayer.

There have been situations that we have known in experience and through the stories of others who are further along in the journey. It is so very important to wait upon the Lord and seek his patient heart.

Every situation is different and I don’t believe there are uniform answers for the problems that may arise in a local ekklesia.

First, let me give a preliminary note about dealing with doctrinal differences. This question about the Trinity really calls for a careful response over handling doctrine in general.

If any person comes into the fellowship and begins sharing or teaching something that the group feels is biblically unfounded or a bit speculative, everyone should feel free to express their concern to this person in an appropriate time and manner.

In a gentle and respectful way, with the Lord’s heart, there should be an open discussion in an atmosphere of freedom.

This might be something that the entire fellowship discusses together. Depending on the person and the situation it might be something best left in discussion with the brothers only, or even the eldest among you.

However the fellowship decides to handle their own unique situation, the church should always move forward in love toward one another.

I do want to be clear about this. Everyone in your group comes from a different place. There will be theological differences.

If the nature of your association is built upon every piece of doctrine you think is important, you will see these differences as a threat.

If you’re not getting all your life from Jesus, you can count on there being division among you because of these differences.

Differences in theological opinions and biblical interpretation can be a very healthy and edifying thing. I don’t think these differences are serious concerns, unless a person is doing any of the following:

  1. challenging the biblical presentation of the person and work of Christ;
  2. relentlessly pressing their doctrinal position on others; or
  3. purposely being divisive with their theological opinions.

If you are meeting in an organic church, which means your smaller meetings are probably open, you do not have to worry about someone pulpiteering and leading everyone to the gates of hell. Everyone is encouraged to think on his or her own and intentionally enter into discussion.

We must lose the attitude of fear and distrust—where we are always suspicious of one another.

There is an elder brother I know who told me of a situation in their fellowship a few years ago. Another brother came in with a doctrinal / missional agenda and he was very adamant about it.

Eventually the brothers agreed that they would set a time aside for him to share his views that he felt so passionate about. It would then be left to the whole church to decide if they agreed with him and wanted to move in the direction he was proposing.

No matter what their decision, they agreed to hear him out and drop it after he shared. So he shared and they listened. The church expressed that they did not desire to accept his views. They lovingly rejected his beliefs which they felt moved them away from Christ and the man never came back.

At no time was frustration or anger expressed to this person. They reached a consensus and agreed with one another in the Lord.

The Lord has his own way of pruning his church that doesn’t involve a trial or hearing.

It’s unfortunate that we often don’t trust the Lord to express himself in the Body this way. In organized Christianity it is usually left to a few men to guide and “protect” the flock by meeting in secret with those who are perceived to be a threat to the spiritual life of the church.

I certainly agree that there are shepherds/elders and teachers that need to pastor. The actions of these members will be a tremendous help to the Body during this time, but we must believe that the Lord’s people are able to discern the Lord’s heart in community with each other.

I believe it is the example of those shepherds that help the flock to discern the Lord’s heart if there be any confusion. You do this by meeting around Christ and the Scriptures together—prayerfully seeking the Lord’s heart on the matter and not being ruled by your emotions.

We should not be alarmed by theological differences.

Like the example I have shared above. I believe some of the members knew the Lord well enough to discern truth, and those who were unsure leaned upon the discernment of the elders who have proven themselves over time to be people of sound heart and mind.

I do think there are some beliefs that are clearly peripheral and the church should spend little to no time discussing them. However, I don’t think it’s all so cut and dry. There are plenty of spiritual and biblical insights that are truly edifying. It is not wrong to set aside time for Bible study.

The church should not run from theological inquiry and biblical discussions, but welcome them when the need arises.

The church should not mistakenly think that there is no room for deep biblical discussion. The Beareans understood the benefits of finding Christ in biblical exploration (Acts 17:11). This sort of thing can be a wonderful building project! It all depends on your center.

Jesus did not condemn the Scriptures, he rebuked those who abused it through careless interpretation and poor handling of the biblical text (John 5:39-40). Our biblical exploration should lead us to Christ. It ought to benefit us in our knowing of him and our learning to do his kingdom work.

It’s unfortunate that many folks who have received a fresh revelation of Jesus have concluded that we are no longer in need of discussions about the Scriptures. They have set Christ up against the biblical text. I’m sure that we have all seen both extremes.

We may make some mistakes in dealing with these issues, but I do believe that as long as you move forward in the love of Christ, the Lord will honor the efforts of the church.

Then there are other beliefs that we would consider essential to our faith in Christ. It is upon the essentials that we must all agree.

Q: Is the doctrine of the Trinity essential?

This may seem a bit fuzzy at times, but I do believe that there is a standard by which we judge what is essential. What we say about who Jesus is matters most. We can disagree about many things, but this one thing we must land firmly on both feet together as a church (1 John 2:22; 4:1-6).

It’s only matters of faith which are directly connected to the person and work of Christ that are essential.

Every confession in the New Testament and in the early church reflects a basic recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as the unique Son of God who was born of a virgin, crucified, buried, and raised (1 Cor. 15:3-5).

What is necessary for belief in Jesus (salvation)? I remember a professor asking this once. I remember him asking something like, “Is it necessary to believe in the virgin birth?” Likewise, we could ask if it is necessary to believe that God is Triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

I understand that a person may genuinely come to Christ without a full theological and biblical knowledge of God in Christ. However, regardless of what they may or may not be aware of at their receiving of Jesus, they are indeed receiving the God that became a human being and was born of a virgin Mary. They are embracing Jesus (the Son) that is the second person in what was dubbed the “Trinity” by Tertullian in the third century.

What’s really crazy is the little knowledge we do have at our first confession, but the Lord saves us still. That’s the key: It’s the Lord that saves! He sees into a man’s heart. He sees what a man is truly doing with Jesus. We should not be quick to judge.

I don’t think a denial of the Trinity is necessarily a denial of Christ. It could be the case, but only the Lord knows the reasons.

I do agree that many things unravel at the decimation of the doctrine on the Trinity. It presents a lot of problems on many levels, but this still doesn’t require a frantic move to straighten that person out or form a lynch mob.

My inclination would be to go to the root and see if this person is confessing the same Spirit. What do they believe about Christ? It may just be that their ideas about the Triune God are only muddled in their understanding of the God who is three in one.

Remember, the doctrine of the Trinity may just be the most mysterious of all Christian doctrines. It’s not irrational, it’s just mysterious. It doesn’t go against reason, it simply goes beyond it. So, tread softly.

In closing, relax a little. Get to know the people in your church and learn to listen better—be teachable. Humble yourself as you recognize that nobody has arrived. Above all, love each other.

I’m willing to bet that through learning to accept one another you will discover that having theological differences will keep you on your toes. In this way you will be always growing in your faith, learning to love like Christ, and being enriched by the spiritual journey of others.

In the essentials let there be unity–in the peripherals let there be freedom–and in all things, love.

Revised and expanded from a facebook note dated April 2010.

You may also be interested in reading other posts in the Organic Church Life series: The Beginning; The Sunday Gathering; The Lord’s Supper; and Visiting an Organic Church.


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.


From Eternity to Here (Book Review)

from eternity picGod’s Love Story

A Book Review of “From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God” by Frank Viola Reviewed by David D. Flowers

Growing up I remember hearing folks call the church the “Bride of Christ.” I only believed it to be one more way to speak of “heavenly” things.

Like many things within institutional Christianity, it was nothing more than a metaphor in a line of many metaphors that were used to talk of God’s love for his children. Viola explains in his book that it is more than a fanciful, nice way to speak of the church… it is “God’s central purpose.” Paul called it “the eternal purpose” (Eph. 3:11).

From Eternity to Here is the fourth book in a five-book series on radical church restoration. (Fifth book is set to be released Sept. 09)  Out of all the books Viola has written, this volume reveals the driving passion behind his life and all of his work. He writes, “in beholding God’s central purpose, I found my own purpose. In touching His passion, I found my own passion” (p.13).

Viola effectively communicates this passion in three parts. The first part is entitled “A Forgotten Woman: The Bride of Christ.” Viola begins by pointing his readers to the “hidden romance” between the great lover (God) and his beloved (the church).

This story begins with Adam and Eve and continues throughout all of Scripture as the true lover is seen through foreshadowing. Viola beautifully describes in detail this great love story between the lover and the beloved that will one day be the wife of God. The story of Adam and Eve is a picture of a greater story. Eve came out of Adam after creation… she was a “new creation.”

Viola says, “There was a woman inside of God before time” (p.41).

Viola is a master storyteller. He has been captivated by God’s love story and is able to wonderfully reveal “the mystery” of Christ to a new generation. “The Holy Spirit must open the eyes of His people in every generation for them to grasp it” (p.25).

“Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come” (Rom. 5:14).

Out of Christ comes his Bride! Finally, a woman for the Lord to love. Viola writes, “All love stories, whether intentional or unintentional, are patterned after this heavenly romance” (p.91).

It is not that God was lonely or that the Trinitarian community was inadequate. It is because “God is love” that he is not content to keep this love to himself. Viola states that the “superabundance of God’s love required a receptacle that was not within the Trinity” (p.40).

God always intended to share his community with his creation. The nature of God’s love is that is given, received, and returned to him. Without God’s creation, he is a “frustrated lover” (p.58). God is sovereign and in control of the future, but indeed frustrated.

Part II is entitled “An Eternal Quest: The House of God.” The chapters within this section look at the divine passion from another perspective. God is homeless and he desires a house that he and his Bride may have a family.

Viola traces God’s quest for a house throughout the Scriptures. As he traces God’s search from Adam to Jesus, he says, “The house of God is not a thing… it is the Lord Jesus Christ” (p.155).

The last half of this section gets personal and compares our own journey to being like that of Israel’s history. Like Israel, as members of the Body of Christ, we must make a choice as to which house we will dwell in. Put another way… what kind of house are we going to be for God?

Egypt: the world system that is driven by pleasures and places earthly pursuits above pursuits of our heavenly home and King.

Babylon: organized religion that is a mixture of fallen humanity and the divine; characterized best by hypocrisy and described best as the “counterfeit of the New Jerusalem.” Babylon can be compared to the institutional church of today. Many of God’s people live there and they will only find themselves building a community centered on man and not Christ and his purposes.

The Wilderness: this is the place where those who leave the world and organized religion will find themselves. It is a place of transition. “To sift us, to reduce us, and to strip us down to Christ alone” (p.191). This is a time of detox. Yet… it is not our home!

The old wineskin must be done away with so that the new can come. The home for which we were made is a land of freedom and one that flows with “milk and honey.”

Part III is entitled “A New Species: The Body of Christ & The Family of God.” This section speaks of Christians being resident aliens. The Bride of Christ is to remain pure and holy as she awaits her bridegroom.

The church is a “new species.” Viola traces this language through the New Testament. A language that many Christians have failed to recognize and apply to their lives.

Viola simplifies Body life as an act of gathering around Jesus Christ. This is our purpose. Likewise, it should be our passion. Yet, the Body of Christ has been forced into an institution and she has forgotten God’s eternal purpose. She has lost sight of the bigger picture and the great landscape of God’s love story. She has been preoccupied and polluted by a theology that leaves out the ageless purpose of God.

How does the church live out the ageless purpose of God? Viola writes, “Very simply: by loving the Lord Jesus as His bride and learning to live by His indwelling life” (p.288).

The book closes with a brief glimpse into Viola’s journey and a call to return to the Headship of Christ in the church that is reflective of the divine image and God’s eternal purpose.

frank-violaViola writes, “Recognizing that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of all spiritual things will change your prayer life. It will change your vocabulary and the way you think and talk about spiritual things. And it will ultimately change your practice of the church” (p.303).

If we seek the centrality and supremacy of Christ and know that our riches are in a Person and not in things meant to further our individual pursuits… we shall be fashioned into that beautiful Bride and usher in the Kingdom. At last… God will dwell with his people when heaven comes to earth at the marriage of the Great Lover and his Beloved.

I recommend this book, especially for those who have been lost in our narcissistic evangelical ecclesiology.

For the brave… I suggest:  Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices

For those who know there must be more to Body Life than you are experiencing… I encourage you to read:  Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity

I also recommend reading:

Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal
Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition

OTHER BLOGS PARTICIPATING IN THE “FROM ETERNITY TO HERE” BLOG CIRCUIT

Today (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Viola’s new bestselling book “From Eternity to Here” (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com: From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God

For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A:

Out of Ur
Shapevine (June newsletter)
Brian Eberly
DashHouse.com
Greg Boyd
Vision 2 Advance
David D. Flowers
kingdom grace
Captain’s Blog
Christine Sine
Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network
zoecarnate
Church Planting Novice
Staying Focused
Take Your Vitamin Z
Jeff Goins
Bunny Trails
Matt Cleaver
Jason T. Berggren
Simple Church
Emerging from Montana
Parable Life
Oikos Australia
West Coast Witness
Keith Giles
Consuming Worship
Tasha Via
Andrew Courtright
ShowMeTheMooneys!
Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer
Jason Coker
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Home Brewed Christianity
Dispossessed
Dandelion Seeds
David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck”
Chaordic Journey
Renee Martin
Bob Kuhn
Living with Freaks
Real Worship
Fervent Worship
Julie Ferwerda
What’s With Christina?!
On Now to the Third Level
Irreligious Canuck
This day on the journey
Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity
Spiritual Journey With God
echurch
The Jesus Feed
Book Disciple
My Journey – With Others
On Now to the Third Level
Christine Moers
Breaking Point
Hand to the Plough
Jon Reid
Weblight
D.L. Webster
Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life


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