Tag Archives: institutional church

How Have You Changed?

When was the last time you took a glance back over your life in order to reflect on how you have changed in your beliefs and practices? It can be truly rewarding to see how the Lord has been working in your life.

Do you embrace challenges and reexamine your beliefs with an open heart and mind? Is the truth (which sets us free) worth it to you?

In the following video blog, I share a little of my own journey and encourage my readers to seek the truth above all things.

Brothers and sisters, I implore you to never be afraid to change your mind or the direction of your life for fear of what others might think of you.

Have you have ever been passionate about something, only later to discover that you were wrong? How did you respond? Are you sensitive to the ways God wants to move you along and grow you up into Christ?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

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Reassessing Church Leadership

I just read “The Dirt on Organic” by Brian Hofmeister. It appeared in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal (April, 2010). Brian talks about his experience of planting and leading organic churches.

I don’t know Brian, but I think he makes some excellent points in the article—while I don’t agree with everything—points that those who are still reacting to the abusive top-down leadership in “institutional” Christianity will fail to see. Why? I believe it’s primarily because they’re still caught up with trying to weed out “pagan Christianity” and doing their best to re-imagine a church utopia on the earth.

Many well-intentioned, Christ-loving folks are still stuck in the world of ideas. I could say it’s a bit of cynicism and immaturity (I guess I just did), but I don’t want that to sound arrogant or rude. I’m not trying to be. But I do think that’s what was going on in me when I once believed organization and pronounced leadership was the real problem.

I don’t believe that anymore.

In the end, it’s jumping from one extreme to the other. I think it needs to be realized that there is nothing wrong with more of a pronounced leadership (e.g. the Jerusalem church). As far as I can tell, from being on both sides of this, you will not grow (spiritually or numerically) beyond a certain point without more of a pronounced leadership. And I don’t see that there is anything inherently wrong with this.

The “Gentile” leadership, which Jesus spoke of, was heavy-handed, power-over, carry a big stick kind of ruling (Mark 10:42). Pronounced leadership doesn’t have to be that way. It just doesn’t. I don’t care how many bad experiences a person has had in the organized or even “institutional” expressions of the church.

Based on my study and reflection, I think the reason you don’t see more pronounced leadership in the first century is because the churches were young and dependent upon the leadership of apostles. What happens when the eyewitness and first-followers are gone? Well, naturally there is leadership that rises up to meet the challenges of the church. You can read about this in any church history book. That leadership organizes quickly after the death of the apostles.

Was every development of that leadership good? No. For example, I don’t think that adopting Roman governmental hierarchy as a model where bishops have absolute authority is a good idea. It turned out to be a terrible move by the second century church. But I do understand how it happened. And no… you can’t blame it all on Constantine.

For all of its ugliness, it did help in the defense against Gnosticism and the articulation of Christian theology on behalf of the illiterate mass of Christians at that time. This was a church trying to respond to explosive growth (approx. 5-10 million by 325 AD) during intense persecutions and poisonous heresies.

I’ve written on this before. I don’t think Paul’s practice and instructions are prescriptive, I believe what we see in the NT is de-scriptive. We do not have a church manual. There is room for some development, though not outside of Christ. I don’t find this being unfaithful to the Gospel. In fact, I think we have been guilty of restricting the Gospel of Jesus instead of being creative and expansive in our implementation of it.

So, while I don’t support the abusive power-over tyranny of some pastors and “clergy” members, or the wasteful spending of “mega churches” in America, to move from that to imagining that all leadership must be from a guy who denies he’s a leader, shuns monetary blessing as being satanic, and is under the delusion that a form or model of church is going to magically solve all the dilemmas that face us now is just idealistic jargon.

What happens to these folks who aren’t willing to grow out of that? Well, I think it ends up just like the author of this article reports. We’re back to square one. I have seen and personally heard the same things from those who have followed the “Finding Organic Church” blueprint. There is much to learn from familial fellowships where leadership isn’t as pronounced, but let’s not imagine that pronounced leadership is the enemy.

Here’s the way I see it. You can keep trying to implement these idealistic views of leadership and church life, or you can move forward rejoicing wherever others are seeking to know and imitate Christ in community. I recommend simply following Christ as faithfully as you know how, and to enjoy him in deep Trinitarian community.

Let’s keep that in mind when reassessing church leadership.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


An Organic Church Challenge

For those who follow my blog, you know I’ve been reassessing my understanding of “organic” church life in the NT. As I mentioned in a few recent posts, I’m finding that it’s not really helpful to use the term, especially since it has gone viral.

I agree with much of the contrast that is drawn between the church as institution vs. organism. So, I’m currently opening myself up in order to imagine a church life that does not grow out of reaction to the abuses of the organized church, or from the neglect of the NT by those who believe they have obtained something of Christ that others have not.

Here are some thoughts I’ve been having.

It is entirely understandable that many people hear what some “organic” folks are advocating (as I have also advocated) sounds like an abandonment of all ecclesiastical structures. It then becomes confusing for folks to hear them say that it’s OK to have some sort of skeletal structure, you just need to find the “balance” in it all.

What does that look like? We can all say, “It doesn’t look like this or that…” but I don’t see how it’s possible to judge one church from another on whether Christ is truly reigning in their meetings based off our prescriptive readings of the NT. I’m fine with saying there are things the NT does not explicitly teach, advocate, or allow—even prohibits—things that are antithetical to every-member functioning. But beyond that I think we need to be careful how we proceed in setting boundaries.

It seems to me that the “organic” promoter viewing another person’s practice of church life (with all of their biases, interpretations of Scripture about church practice, good/bad personal experiences, etc.) could make many wrong judgments about many churches because they don’t fit their own vision of NT church life. This concerns me.

Something else that troubles me is the constant downplaying of teaching and doctrine. At the same time I hear “organic” advocates affirming that teaching and doctrine are good for the church. Huh? Which is it? Naturally, folks in and outside of these house churches hear this and think that doctrine can only divide and that it’s not conducive to “gathering around” Christ.

I don’t think that’s what the “organic” leaders mean, so I think it really needs some clarification if they’re going to help others hear what they’re trying to say about Christ and the church.

I also think it assumes that we have a prescriptive church life, instead of a descriptive one contained in the NT. It might at times be necessary for a church to become a forum for discussing doctrine. Just like there are times the church needs to adapt for other concerns facing the community. I believe the unveiling of Christ can happen during these times as well.

Could it be that assuming Christ can’t be unveiled during these times is also a reaction that equally leads to wrong conclusions?

Having spent a few years in “organic” church life, I’m beginning to think that we should keep a big vision of Christ and a small vision of the church, as far as our ideas and expectations are concerned.

We can learn this from those who first pioneered the house church movements within China and the United States.

This would require us celebrate Christ in community wherever we find it (calling others to that), and say less when it comes to critiquing the church practices of others who sincerely love the Lord and are being faithful to him where they are.

I hear more lines touching on what church life is not, than what it is. Which seems to translate that there are tons of things that folks serious about church life will not do if they want to meet around Christ. I don’t think that’s what is intended, but I feel that’s what those on the outside hear. I heard that on the inside, and I’m now hearing it as I have put a little distance between myself and the “organic” folks.

I tend to think a generous ecclesiology that is Christ-centered in community, is not continually preoccupied with denouncing what may be “pagan” Christianity, but rather it is concerned for sharing the Christ you know and leaving it at that. Are “organic” folks OK with that?

Some days I’m not so sure.

I don’t think this means there isn’t a place for deconstructing the church, (cause I do!) especially among those who are asking questions and are open to rethinking the wineskins. However, if we’re not careful, we can easily set ourselves up against those that don’t meet like us or share the same vision for the church. We can easily build more walls than open up doors.

We can forget our visions of Christ at this point… they will only edify those that agree with us. Though in the end it’s not edification, just spiritual narcissism nicely contained in elitism masked as dreams and visions.

Since it is a “balance” that we seek (one that is hard to reach and know when we’ve reached it), I don’t see how it’s honest and edifying to talk like we know exactly what the church is supposed to look like when we’re getting it right (or when we think we are). Lord, help us!

In a nutshell, we need more humble recognition that the Lord moves through the church in more ways than one. Then we may rejoice with others receiving their own revelation of Christ and being faithful to their calling.


Religion’s Chains

Man creates the “order of service” within religion.  Christ is the order of service within true Christian community.  Christ is the head of the church and we are the many members with different functions.  Not so in religion.

In religion, man is in charge and he uses the Scripture to support the false dichotomy of “clergy/laity.” In religion, there exists a hierarchal leadership reflected in “offices.”

In Christ’s church, there is equality among all believers and everyone brings something to the table of fellowship. In the true church… the Holy Spirit is free to direct the affairs of the Body. In religion, man uses the wisdom of the world to do as he sees fit.

In protestant denominations religion can be seen in man’s predetermining of who God is and how and when God will work among his people.  God is worshipped at certain times and in certain ways;  ways in keeping with man’s tradition. Jesus is presented only from that particluar sectarian viewpoint and it is only in that viewpoint that the congregation may express its Christianity.

At this point, people are no longer seeking Christ free from man’s agendas and cultural bend… they no longer seek the Christ of the New Testament.  They seek a Christ that is Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. Even when they read the New Testament they read through the lenses of their denomination and cultural upbringing. 

You may only view Christ and his church a certain preordained way that has been decided by man in these religious institutions. You may only see the Lord and his Word in the way that had been predetermined for you.  On top of that… we are all influenced by momma, America, and Santa Claus!

We not only perceive Christianity through these cultural influences, but we perpetuate the influences and continue to cause harm to the Gospel that is presented to the world.  Of course, many can’t see this is what they are doing, but nevertheless, it is in fact what they are doing and have done for centuries.

Has anything really changed since the 16th century “Reformation”?  I submit to you there was only a reformation of pagan catholic doctrine and practice, not a revolution back to the heart of God. Luther’s “Protestant Reformation” was only a half-way reform.  He even admitted that he never intended to break off from the catholic church, only reform it.  He only wanted to tweak it a bit and keep the religion!

I strongly encourage you to look at the facts of history. Do we not understand that this is the model most Christians practice today?  They are hand-me-down models from the catholic church.  Almost every “new” version of church today is only that same religious system tweaked for the pleasing of man. 

Many Christians today are not seeing authentic Christian faith and practice, but only a revised version of a pagan religion!  With Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli… we only saw a return to Sola Scriptura (i.e. Scripture alone). Now it is time for a return to Sola Christus (i.e. Christ alone).

This is the purpose of denominations and divisions, is it not?  It prides itself in what it believes and doesn’t believe; in what it sees and doesn’t see; in how it appreciates things others do not. It does not seek Christ alone and unity among all believers. How can it when it wishes only to enrich its traditional heritage all the more and maintain its ‘distinctives’ from other Christian groups.

How can Christ be pleased in this? Can a Kingdom stand when it is divided?

This religious denominationalism (i.e. divisions, factions, sects) is rooted in the prideful hearts of men. It is proud of those who follow Apollos, Cephas, and Paul. It is determined to continue this way of life by attempting to hold on to this thinking and at the same time pretend to get along with others who are priding themselves in their own denomination.  If you doubt this… attend an annual denominational convention.

Does God work within religious institutional Christianity? Yes. However, his Spirit is only able to work in pockets of ministry. The Lord will never be free to move as he desires in the vehicle of religion that man has adpoted. This is why man will forever be hoping, praying, and waiting for a “revival” that will never come in institutional Christianity. 

Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is not truly welcome. Man demands that the Lord meet him on his terms within his religious rituals. The Lord says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock… you have pushed me out of my church and turned my house (i.e. my people, my Body, my Bride) into a house of desolation!”

I believe this is at the heart of the religious Christian institutions: celebrating man’s way and widening the gap between Christ and his people. Man has gotten so carried away in his “tweaking” of the Christian religion… he has given the religious person many different versions of Jesus.  They may choose from a long buffet of divisions. 

For example… the “conservative, liberal, charismatic, liturgical, King James only, independent, non-denominational, free will, Holy Ghost, post-modern, emerging, mystics!”  just to name a few.

Sure, there are deep problems with the anti-Christ models of leadership within the church. Yes, the institutional church does not match up to the church in the book of Acts. Church history testifies to the 1700 years of pagan accumulation and that the institutional churches reflect Constantinian paganism more than it does New Testament Christianity.

Anyone who cares about historical facts can observe this.

However, I believe the greatest problem of all–the starting point to leaving behind the religious and breaking free of its chains–is returning to the Person and the work of Christ. The church must learn the way of Christ all over again. The church must embrace the centrality and supremacy of Jesus before she can experience genuine community and the power of the Holy Spirit on the earth. 

Let’s not concern ourselves with trying to unravel the mess that has been made these last 1700 years.  Let’s scrap it all!  Push these religious models aside and start again with Christ. We do not need these chains!

We were set free from these chains by the cross. Do not become a slave again to the ways of the flesh. I believe you and I both can see that the religious games of pop-culture Christianity are getting us no where fast! We have been purposefully driven in the wrong direction long enough. May we be willing to start over again like the religious leader Nicodemus.

It is time to gather around at Jesus’ feet and listen to the words of our Lord.

D.D. Flowers, 2008.


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