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  • Why was this site started?

    slide06.jpgLet us begin with a very important fact. The goal of the site is not to criticize traditional or institutional churches. Yes, some of the articles make comparisons and some of the writers do strongly question traditional practices. However, those of us who have created this site did so for several reasons:

  • Our Best Articles

    bestartikle.jWe have over one hundred articles available on our site, so if you are a new visitor, you may be overwhelmed. Where should you start? Here you will find some of our best articles that we have posted since the s...

  • Incarnational Practices

    slide05.jpgYou are church before you do church. This is one of the fueling insights of the missional church movement. This isn't a new idea...but it is pretty provocative, especially when one considers its implications. If we take Jesus at his word when he says (as recorded in John 20:21) "as the Father has sent me, I am sending you," then we realize that our being sent is the basis of our "doing" church. In oth...

  • What is an Organic Church?

    slide04.jpg Organic Church. I've been using this term for around fifteen years now. Today it's become somewhat of a clay word, being molded and shaped to mean a variety of different things by a variety of different people.

    T. Austin-Sparks is the man who deserves credit for this term. Here's his definition:


The Kingdom, the Church, and Culture PDF Print Write e-mail
Sunday, 04 August 2013 13:23

The Kingdom of God is the rule of God. And it rests upon the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God produces the church . . . the community of the King.  The church, in turn, submits to the sway or rule of the Kingdom. As it does, the church expresses, represents, and advances God’s Kingdom on the earth.

Properly conceived, the church is the community of believers who possess Divine life. This community joyfully enthrones Jesus Christ, expresses His sovereign rule in the world, and as a result, enjoys the blessings of the future age here-and-now (Rom. 14:17; Heb. 6:5).

According to the New Testament, the church is not a building. Neither is it a denomination, a religious service, nor a non-denominational organization. The church is a living organism. It is simply this: A community of people who possess the life of God’s Kingdom and who express it together.

Your New Testament contains the epic saga of the early church. That saga centers on how God the Father has made Jesus of Nazareth both Lord and King of the universe. According to the Gospels, the master thought of Jesus was the Kingdom of God which is "at hand." The book of Acts continues this thought and tells the story of how the Kingdom made its introduction in Jerusalem and spread to Rome.

The Kingdom of God is a dual reality. It is "already," but it is "not yet." The Kingdom is present. At the same time, it is future. The Kingdom is today; but it is also tomorrow. In effect, the future age of the Kingdom is present on the earth even though it is a future reality. With the coming of Christ, the Kingdom that belongs to the future age has broken into this present age. Consequently, those Christians who gather as community under the Lordship of Christ are living in the presence of the future.

The Kingdom of God is also a mystery.  It does not set out to destroy human authority in this age. Instead, the Kingdom destroys the powers and principalities in the spiritual realm. Its enemy is the kingdom of darkness and the ruler of this age (Satan). Put another way, the Kingdom of God does not seek to change the political order of things by fleshly effort. It rather makes changes in the spiritual order that affect the lives of men and women at a deeper level.

The Kingdom works quietly and secretly among men and women. It is not a forceful power that cannot be resisted. The Kingdom is rather like a man planting a seed. Its success depends on the type of soil in which it is planted. Like a mustard seed, its growth is slow and imperceptible. Yet at a future day, the Kingdom will be manifested in great power and glory. The fact that the Kingdom is fulfilled today, yet it is waiting to be consummated, is indeed a mystery.

In all of Paul’s letters, the theme of the Kingdom of God appears. However, Paul’s letters were primarily written to Gentile audiences. Thus he speaks more of the Lordship of Christ than he does of the Kingdom of God. For Paul, Jesus as Lord is a synonym for the Kingdom. In addition, terms such as "reigning," "rule," "majesty," "Lord Jesus Christ," "King of kings," "Lord of lords," "Christ the Head," "the age to come" are all Paul's shorthand ways of describing the Kingdom.

Tragically, the saga of the early church has been obscured for centuries because our New Testament books are arranged out of order.  The present arrangement of the New Testament books has created a seedbed for the very damaging "cut-and-paste" approach to Bible study, where out-of-context "proof-texts" are lashed together to support man-made doctrines and practices.

In Greek mythology, a man named Procrustes owned a magical bed that had the unique property of matching whoever laid upon it. But his bed was not so magical. Procrustes had a crude method for creating his "one-size-fits-all" bed. If the person laying upon it was too small, Procrustes would stretch his limbs out to fit the bed! If the person was too large, Procrustes would chop off the person’s limbs to make them fit!

The modern concept of "church" is a Procrustean bed. Scriptures that do not fit its shape are either chopped off (dismissed) or they are stretched out to fit its mold.

Many of the practices of the contemporary church are without Scriptural merit. Yet we justify them by our "cut and paste" hermeneutic.  These man-invented practices  are at odds with the organic nature of the church.  They are also contrary to the Kingdom of God. In fact, they hinder the Kingdom from advancing. They do not reflect the rule of Jesus Christ, nor do they express His Headship nor His glorious Personality (the very things the church is called to bear). Instead, they reflect the enthronement of man’s ideas and traditions, smothering the church's natural expression.

Regrettably, many people today justify these practices by saying that the church is different in every culture. Therefore, in our culture, God accepts the clergy-system, the performance-spectator order of worship, the single pastor (or bishop), the practice and mentality of church being a place where you "go," and a host of other practices that were created around the 4th century as a result of Christians borrowing from the Greco-Roman customs of their day.

But this argument is severely flawed.  Let me explain. I will borrow from Paul when he said, "does not nature teach you?"

It is clear from the New Testament that the church is a living organism. It's a new biological entity. To borrow C.S. Lewis' language, it's a "new species" (Eph. 2:15; Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 10:32; Col. 3:11; 2 Cor. 5:17). This organism is produced when the living seed of the gospel of Christ is planted in the hearts of women and men, and they are allowed to gather together.  Interestingly, the organism of the church has a DNA which produces certain identifiable features. Some of them are: The experience of community, the fruits of the Spirit, a familial love and devotion among its members;  the every-member functioning of the Body of Christ, the centrality of Jesus Christ, open-participatory gatherings, etc.

Now . . .  while the seed of the gospel will naturally produce these particular features, how they are expressed may look slightly different from culture to culture. For instance, I once planted an organic church in the country of Chile. The songs they write, the way they interact with each other, their meetings, what they do with the children, all look different from an organic church born in England, or the United States, or Australia. However, the same basic features that reside in the DNA of the church are all present.  Never did any of these churches produce a clergy system, a single pastor, an order of worship that rendered the majority passive, a hierarchical structure, etc.

In nature, we have a flowering shrub called a Bigleaf Hydrangea. If you took the seed of that shrub and planted it in the soil of Indiana, it would yield pink flowers when it blooms. If you took that same seed and planted it in the soil of Brazil or Poland, it would produce blue flowers. And if you took the same exact seed and planted it in another kind of soil, it would yield purple flowers. (The reason has to do with the different ph levels in the various soils.) However, the Bigleaf Hydrangea will never produce thorns or thistles. It will never bear oranges or apples. Nor will it grow tall like a tree.  Why? These features are not within the DNA of the seed.

In the same way, the church of Jesus Christ . . . when planted properly and left on its own without humanly-devised interference . . . will produce certain features by virtue of its DNA. Like the Bigleaf Hydrangea, it may look different from culture to culture, but it will have the same basic form wherever it is allowed to flourish. However, when man introduces human traditions into this living organism, the church loses her organic features and produces foreign elements that run contrary to its DNA.

Another example would be the basic element of human life. Humans who are native to China appear different than humans who are native to North America. Humans who are native to Sweden look different from humans who are native to North Africa. However, the human DNA is the same for all, and the basic features of humanity are present for each one. By contrast, I once saw a man who had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery to make him look like a cat! This is a violation of the natural DNA of humanity. It is unnatural and artificial.

Consequently, the culture may slightly change the appearance of an organic church depending on where it is born. However, the culture should never be allowed to govern its expression by violating its genetic code.

The church expresses and advances the Kingdom of God best when she is allowed to express herself the way that God created her, and when she refuses to be co-opted by the traditions and organizational systems of fallen humans.

By Frank Viola

http://www.ptmin.org/articles/culture.php

 

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