Monday, July 26, 2010

The Spirit at Work in Community Settings

Recently, I had an opportunity to take a seminar under Dr. JD Payne at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He has a book out on Missional House Churches, which essentially studies what by one definition would be successful house church groups. On his blog, he recently posted a link to some major news articles on their movement. Here is a link. Here is another. The goal of Dr. Payne's book is to isolate a certain kind of church: house churches. Furthermore, he wants to find ones which are growing in a healthy way and see what they are doing right, and Scripturally. This in turn would benefit those in the house church movements with ways to improve their ministry. Payne provides some helpful advice for change in those movements, including better supports of missions and associational work. He endorses having pastors (whereas most house church people seem anti-pastor (though they would predictably deny this claim)). My main goal is not to endorse house churches here. Personally I am more of a regular (i.e. read 'weekly') both corporate and small group balance type of leader. The large and small settings go hand in hand to match the NT model. While some house churches come together or associate, many honestly do not. This is a weakness as the New Testament presents both elements, the large gathering and the small intimate one (Acts 2). Both represent church ministry.

What I do want to bring out is the element of community that is genuine, rather than sterile and boring like a classroom. The home setting / apartment setting that these gatherings offer is stellar, in that with less than 15 or so believers, much real ministry (real accountability more than a typical Sunday morning, 'how are you doing?') can take place. This is just how people are, they open up in a smaller setting, to encouragement, admonishment, helps, etc. Moreover, those who are reticient to join a larger group at first, or who would not open up in a larger group about a sin struggle; may do just that in a setting with people they know. This is a huge doorway for the church to evangelize and to see the gospel break into lives it would otherwise not meaningfully touch. When people speak truth into each other's lives at that level ( open up in a gathering of ideally 12 or less), they gain much more spiritual strength to fulfill OT models and wisdom, and NT commands to grow in just that manner. Iron sharpens iron. This does not only happen between individuals in a smaller setting (it could in theory happen in an impersonal larger setting off to the side or among friends after 'church'), but without a smaller setting it is a near certain fact that not much spiritual maturity will be added to Christian believers. In light of this, there is a lesson from that movement: smaller settings of 12 or less are also part of the church. Persons will grow in greater Christlikeness as they are related to in that way, bringing the Word of God to bear in each other's lives.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Happened Back in the Garden?

There is an interesting article on some of the nuance to Adam and Eve's sinning in the Garden of Eden. You might take a look for your own Bible knowledge to be sharpened:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/03/14/feedback-first-sin

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dividing Wall of Hostility Down

It is somewhat unexpected, but the spiritual truth is present about the dividing wall being broken down between Jew and Gentile in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 15. While it may not be as clear as the Apostle Paul later makes it, it is certainly at the least foreshadowed. Jesus in Matthew 15:22 begins to dialogue with a Gentile woman who requests Jesus to have mercy on her, because her daughter is cruely demon possessed. After clarifying her motives in a 1st century way (to make sure she knew the Messiah's mission), he agrees to set her daughter free because of the request asked in faith. Then after this, Jesus is healing people in a large crowd on a mountaintop that includes both large numbers of Jews and Gentiles. And after three days of being with these crowds, he provides for the 12000-16000 people there with a miracle of multiplying. In each of these cases, the gospel of Matthew which often traces Jewish audiences need to see things about Jesus, shows that Jesus is Lord even over the nations/peoples. This is a clear message of how the Lord Jesus broke down the dividing wall so that even Jews and Gentiles could eat together, when they were focused on Him. Even a Gentile could express great faith in Jesus as "Son of David," ie Jewish Messiah, and have deliverance for her daughter. Even great multitudes of Jews and Gentiles could go out to meet Jesus where He was working to see healing of the sick, blind, lame. What a great picture of the peace He restores through the power of the kingdom of God unfolding among men and women!