Tag Archives: woodland hills

Greg Boyd on Anabaptist Mega-Churches

Yesterday over at ReKnew.org, Greg Boyd responded to a common objection. Can you have an Anabaptist mega-church?

Some may claim that a church can espouse an “Anabaptist” theology (or partially), but if they are large enough to be considered a “mega” church they can’t really be an Anabaptist congregation.

I’ve heard this skepticism before. In fact, I have personally discussed this objection with Greg, since Woodland Hills Church has evolved into an Anabaptist congregation, and because I entered the Mennonite USA back in June of this year to pastor an Anabaptist church in Virginia.

Here’s an excerpt of what Greg had to say in his post:

Ironically, those who argue mega-churches can’t be Anabaptist churches are assuming, in the process of raising this objection, a non-Anabaptist definition of church as a weekend gathering. If the leadership of Woodland Hills thought that our “mega” weekend gathering was “the church,” the objection would indeed be valid. But we don’t think this, precisely because this would be a very non-Anabaptist position to assume!

I was encouraged to read Greg’s response because it reflects my own thoughts, and my personal experience as well.

After leaving vocational ministry within the SBC in 2006, and meeting in “organic” house churches for five years, I became very critical of organized churches, especially mega-churches. And for good reason. Mega churches have a tendency to base their success on attendance in their corporate gatherings, and have little to no concern for real community.

Meeting in homes for several years, deconstructing and reconstructing my understanding of the church, was necessary for me to see the benefits of face-to-face community, as well as the larger “mega” gatherings.

It was during that time that I was becoming an Anabaptist. And I deeply resonated with this concern that Anabaptists have for community and keeping it simple. Historically, they’ve done it better than most.

Anabaptist theology and practice rightfully recognizes that face-to-face community is essential in being the Body of Christ in any given location. So, there is a legitimate concern that community might be lost if a church grows beyond a certain point. Some would say it will be lost.

But is this necessarily so?

Again, listen to Greg’s response:

What Woodland Hills Church (as well as and the Meeting House in Toronto and other mega-Anabaptist Churches that may be out there) demonstrates is that we don’t have to chose between embracing the church as community, on the one hand, and holding a large weekend gathering, on the other. There’s nothing intrinsically anti-kingdom about large gatherings. After all, large crowds flocked to Jesus, and the early Christians in Jerusalem met in large groups in “Solomon’s porch” (Acts 5:16-19). The key, however, is to always remind people that the primary expression of church is not the large group, but the smaller communities that come together in houses to share life, study the word, worship and minister together.

I’ve discovered that it is possible to grow in number (corporately) and maintain real community. With it will come challenges, but they’re opportunities to build the Kingdom. We should embrace them.

It may be that the maturity level of some believers has them seeing a weekend “mega” gathering as church. They are just passive receivers of sermons. I think you’re always going to have people who think that way. I’ve even seen them in house churches. They just come, sit, and leave.

So it’s like this. If the leadership and core members hold fast to promoting and practicing sincere relationships in face-to-face community, the church will stay the course of vibrant Kingdom community and outreach.

I appreciate Greg helping us to see the way forward.

Are you a part of an Anabaptist church? How has your church responded to the idea of growing into a large congregation as you reach your community? Do you believe it’s possible to grow numerically and maintain a deep level of community? Please, share your thoughts.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read Greg’s entire post here at ReKnew.org.


Reflection on Open 2013

 

I attended Open 2013: Open Theology & the Church in St. Paul, MN last month. The main speakers were Greg Boyd, Tom Oord, and John Sanders. The conference was held at Woodland Hills Church and hosted by the ReKnew team. I had a great time and wanted to tell you about it.

I flew up early on Thursday and hung out with a couple of old college buddies until the first session that evening. It was nice getting to catch up with my friends, Josh Crain and Samuel Holder.

The conference began that evening with Greg Boyd talking about the History and Hope of Open Theology in the church. Greg talked about the growing attraction of the open view and discussed its historical roots in church history. Q&A followed.

The next day Jessica Kelley gave a very moving message about the recent loss of her 4 year old son, Henry. Jessica shared how the open view made all the difference in her family’s experience of losing Henry to a brain tumor. I was already prepared to cry. I had read Jessica’s story a couple weeks before, and as a new father, I wept through the entire thing.

Unfortunately, there was a mix up and her talk wasn’t recorded. But you can read Jessica’s story over at her blog, Jess in Process. I expect that God is going to continue using Jessica and her family in some spectacular ways (even more so) in the days to come. I even told her myself.  🙂

John Sanders gave the plenary address on Friday evening. He lectured on The Virtues Inherent in Open Theism. John fashioned his message to show that the open view allows for the best portrait of God over other views, especially that of classical theology. Q&A followed.

Tom Oord delivered an interesting informal classroom-styled message on Openness & Moment-by-Moment Relation. He even used the dry-erase board to draw his illustrations. Tom’s talk was stimulating as he made a case for holiness and “perfection” coming through our choosing from the best options among a world of possibilities.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the table discussions on Friday and Saturday (during the day). I had the privilege of leading and moderating a group. It was encouraging to see and hear from so many people around the country (and globe) that are embracing the open view and learning how it is shaping their lives and ministries.

It’s still unclear if the conference will be annual, or every other year. One thing is for certain, the entire weekend was encouraging and uplifting to all in attendance. There is definitely a movement taking place within the church.

Finally, check out this video reflection of Open 2013.

THANK YOU to all those who put the conference together and had the vision to make it happen. I also want to thank our local congregation for assisting in the expenses of the trip. Thank you, Church at Birnham Woods. And a special thanks to Greg and Shelley Boyd for letting me crash at your house my last night in St. Paul. Your hospitality was a blessing.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Jumping Over Jesus

Do you see any conflict with Yahweh as portrayed in the Old Testament with the God revealed in Jesus?

I recently shared what I believe to be a Christocentric hermeneutic that not only places Jesus at the center of the salvific story told in the Bible, but that also requires all Hebrew perceptions of God in the OT to be understood in light of Christ, the final self-revelation of God.

It’s a radical hermeneutic that the Anabaptists used, which I also believe was being used by the NT writers themselves in the first century.

Whatever happened in the OT, and however you interpret the seemingly darker sides of God at work within the history of Israel, the buck now stops with Jesus. Plain and simple. While that may not solve those areas of character conflict between Yahweh and Yeshua at this point, it does settle the matter for the sake of discipleship and obedience to Christ’s commands.

Therefore, accepting that Christ is what God is like and has always been like demands a fresh reading of Scripture.

Before folks think this is “cherry picking” to suit our fancy, it ought to be recognized that Jesus did this with much of the Hebrew Scriptures. He reinterpreted the Law and the Prophets in a way that set himself up as the promised “non-violent” and peace-making Messiah—not the Messiah they expected by any stretch of the imagination.

Jesus’ interpretations bewildered and even ticked people off, especially the gatekeepers of Judaism. We need to remember that.

Those who subscribe to my blog may remember that I did a Q&A with Greg Boyd last year. Greg is currently in the process of leading his church through a sermon series on why their church is most closely aligned with the Anabaptist tradition. (Read the Anabaptist Core Convictions.)

Woodland Hills has plans to soon affiliate with an Anabaptist denomination. Greg has been sharing this radical Christocentric hermeneutic with his fellowship. This past Sunday he continued with “The Twist.”

In the following sermon clip, Greg talks about how many believers “jump over Jesus” to support their “biblical” agenda. He says they’ve not embraced Jesus as the full manifestation of God’s good will for their lives.

What do you think about what Greg has said? Do you agree or disagree?
Do you agree that we’re often guilty of mushing the Testaments together?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


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