EWCC Blog

EWCC Blog

Diverse, respectful theological dialogue.

Welcome To Our Blog!

March 21, 2011 | 6 Comments

Click HERE for a Welcome Video

One of the major goals we have for this blog is to generate interest in our dialogue group that will one day evolve into a church.

Our goal is to begin and grow a church, most likely in the Brooklyn Park/Brooklyn Center, MN area that is diversified in thought, culture, race, gender, socio-economic levels, status, and age.  Our hope is that people at this church would feel comfortable asking the hard questions; they would embrace new and unfamiliar experiences, and have a hunger to do God’s work.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable asking the hard questions?  When you did, were you treated like an outcast as though your question was sinful?

Has the idea that one church has all the right answers all the time turned you off to church?

Have you ever grown weary at the idea that church time is more segregated than many people’s work time?

Are poor members, elderly, or female attendees less valued than their counterparts?

Our dialogue group began meeting Easter weekend of 2011.  We will even be setting up online access to the meetings via skype.  When we meet, we love to tackle these and many other issues.  For this reason, our dialogue group is not to be confused with a bible study.  Although we’ll do some of that, we’ll also spend a considerable amount of time on theology and church planning topics such as vision planning, worship strategies, role fulfillment, and more.

At some undetermined date we will have our first church service.  By that time, our dialogue group members will have grown, people will have naturally migrated into roles they are talented and led to do, and we are prepared to take the next step in God’s plan towards serving His people.  In future posts we will be talking about what we mean by diversity of thought and diversity in general.  Our blog contributors may post a paper they are writing for seminary or toss out a random thought or two.

Our hope is that this blog would be academic.  What we mean by that is simple.  As a seminarian in the technology age, I, along with my peers, am often asked to post to various class discussion boards with my ideas.  I’m also asked to respond to the ideas of others.  We all do so realizing that a professor may be reading our comments.  So, knowing there is a grade at stake most people have no trouble remaining constructive and respectful.  So, we don’t mind if you think a post is incorrect but we’re hopeful that you’ll humbly comment with your own convictions.

Finally, please let us know if your interested in joining our dialogue group.  We have no membership commitments.  So, if you’re interested in church leadership, healthy debate, or you just have unanswered questions, we’d love to have you.  Just check out our “Become A Participant” tab.

Brian Bram – Blog Contributor

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6 people are talking about “Welcome To Our Blog!

  1. Cool, I have a controversial question.

    Is it biblical to practice church in the current American format?

    Churches in America have some traits that didn’t come from scripture…

    Lead Pastor: There’s no lead pastors in the new testament. Even the apostles made suggestions and left decisions up to the different church groups. IE: Paul wrote in a letter that they should kick someone out. He didn’t declare the man banished, he said they should do it. For big decisions, they gathered an “assembly” or Christians to cast lots instead of one authority figure telling them what to do.

    Homes: They met in each others’ homes, not expensive buildings. A popular argument is that they had to meet in homes to avoid persecution, but Paul plainly says that as Saul, he would raid homes to kill Christians, so that would not have been terribly effective.

    Participation: They all participated and discussed the topic as opposed to the Romanized formula in which we file into pews and listen to one person pontificate (“did the gospel come to you alone?”).

    Salary: Paul denied any payment for preaching, and in 1 john we have a suggestion that missionaries shouldn’t be funded except from the church, but other than that, I’ve been unable to find any suggestion that elders/shepherds/pastors were ever earning a salary.

    So if we say we believe the bible is God’s word, does He intend for the American church to be formatted the way it is? Why so?

    • Zach,

      You’ve raised some good questions here. I’ll tackle as many of them tonight as I can and finish up any others ASAP. Sorry it’s taken me this long but I had a paper due on salvation.

      Your initial line I’m sure is correct. Since there are no perfect churches, from home churches to mega-churches, all of them are up to things that are unscriptural.

      I myself don’t like the title Lead Pastor. I don’t prefer a church that is set up with a business model feel to it. What I’m getting at is the Lead Pastor title looks a little too similar to the CEO title. However, it’s very difficult to set up a church just right to avoid all possible issues. For example, there are some who think a voting model looks a little too much like politics. So, if we set up a church one way we turn off those leery of looking too much like the corporate world and another way looks too much like the political world. Regardless of what model we choose, there is always the potential for conflict no matter how careful we are in the initial setup.

      But, we still have to make decisions. Also, as the church, which is not a business or a political entity, we want to remain unique. So, here is what we’re trying to build at Eagle’s Wings. Ideally, we’d like to have a diverse group of qualified leaders who come together and make decisions based on text, the living Spirit, theology, and leader and church member input. Hopefully, this will allow us to work effectively and uniquely in doing God’s work. If we need to, we’ll probably vote but we hope to make most decisions based on mutually respectful dialogue and prayer.

      The Lead Pastor model can be effective at developing and executing a vision and it can be very rewarding when it’s done well. After all, there may not be any requirement to consult with others at all if the Lead Pastor has all the power. However, it can set the church back when it’s not done well, too. What we hope to do is to display an example of a church that is unified in the midst of diversity. Our hope is that we’ll be effective by default of our own unity.

      One of the big problems I see with some churches set up this way is that often the Lead Pastor has to be gifted in so many areas that it becomes unrealistic to think he or she can do it all well. Let me explain with a scenario. I think I’ve observed situations where the leader had great ability to administer but little ability to exegete scripture. It seemed to me that they would have been better off running a secular business than pastoring people. However, if I understand the hermeneutical methods to properly exegete scripture, I can always find someone with an administrative gift who can help me run the “business” of the church. We do this all the time in our home life. I myself have an accountant and a financial advisor to help me with a subject I know little about: money! Since I don’t have the time or interest to learn about the deep inner workings of money, I outsource it. Ha. The title Lead Pastor almost assumes that they are the ultimate expert and final decision maker for everything within that local church. However, to give them credit, I’m sure that most Lead Pastors don’t always get their way and that many of them humbly agree to submit themselves to other member’s desires.

      In the end, I just like the idea of 3-5 diverse pastors who conference with many other church leaders and lay members on various subjects in order to make decisions. I don’t even like the title Preaching Pastor because I don’t like to be pigeonholed nor do I like to pigeonhole other people. However, we do need to have titles so people can quickly identify who to go to when they have a need. It follows then that all 3-5 pastors would be preaching pastors. That way, the congregation would learn to “hear” more than one charismatic leader who, when he or she dies or leaves, leaves the church in a critical state. These churches often split because they are not used to hearing another speaker with different ideas.

      I’ll cover homes, salary, and participation in detail latter but I will say a quick note or two on them since some of my thoughts on the topic of Lead Pastor hint at my take on these subjects. When I was in the Navy, I had the opportunity to visit a number of locations where Paul preached. Many of them were stone auditoriums built on hills that looked down to a stage area where the apostle preached. However, there were many times that the early Christians gathered for discussions rather than sermons. For this reason, I don’t ascribe to an either/or but a both/and when it comes to the topics of homes and participation. That is a part of why I came up with the idea for having a discussion group. I think that is a part of church practice that has been neglected or altogether abandoned. Likewise, I wouldn’t say that the home church model is the only model but it certainly is a model. I always try to see the positives and negatives; the risks and rewards. So, I’ll talk a bit more on those topics next time.

      Whew! See what I mean? I can get a bit long winded. I hope this helps. I’ll tackle the rest soon. God Bless.

  2. Well thanks for responding, I think the part about visiting the locations mentioned in the NT is very compelling.

    I think the issue I still am having with Americanized church organization and method is that there are so many decisions about it being made which are based on perceived results rather than direct exhortation from scripture. Now, it’s true that we’ve been instructed to judge each other’s spiritual health, and even told how to reprove, with scripture through love. In light of that, I can understand being partially “results-based” in determining which things are likely to produce fruits of the spirit and to chase after those things. What I’m unclear on, and have been unable to find, is any reasoning for how the current American format is contributing to spiritual health.

    I find it more likely that (in general, in many churches), man is once again trying to do things his own way.

    Countless times in scripture man decides what to do based on what he thinks and is sent to the time-out chair for his lack of faith. Jericho, Jonah, loaves and fishes, Jesus sleeping on a boat in a storm, over and over God shows us how to depend on Him by not trying to determine on our own what we should do, or what to expect as a result. Instead, He gives us His Word to guide us. So when scripture is watered down and apologized for by big corporate churches to get more people in the door, I think maybe it’s possible the spirit could be working despite them, but maybe not. As Jesus told Nicodemus, those that feel the holy spirit have no idea what just happened. There’s nothing we do to save ourselves or anyone else. God allows people to be used to carry the gospel to unbelievers when they surrender to Him. I’m just throwing this out there, but just maybe part of surrendering to His will means doing what he says even when membership dwindles! If we believe what Jesus said, that the spirit is what turns hearts, then who are we to say there is or isn’t enough people being saved?

    There is, however , some interesting things going on in Ohio, that I just might visit to check out… still on the fence though. They have a home church network called Xenos that hosts discussion based seminars and raises elders from within the community. I mostly mention it because you brought up lectures that invite discussion and not because I’m necessarily pro-home church format. I did visit a home church recently and it was very uplifting. But my wife and I won’t be committing to a group unless we have seen both sides of the argument, so we’re still looking to find a scripture based pro-Americanized church stance IMHO.

    Again, thank you for responding previously, please feel no obligation to further humor my contention! It’s not my blog, so I recognize that I’m essentially coming into your house and spouting some potentially upsetting things!

    • Are you kidding me? This is great! We love this stuff. This is the whole reason we started this blog, discussion group and church. In fact, it’s crazy timing. This week in class we’re studying church polity and the various ways of structuring the “government” of the church. Your recent questions actually bring us into the next topic, home churches, very nicely.

      Xenos, from what I can see, is a very well-organized ministry. Like me, they appear to have a passion for both small and large group congregations. They have some very similar goals in mind and have likewise decided to go a unique route towards reaching those goals. I especially like that they haven’t claimed that home churches are the only biblical way. In fact, they point to Acts for support of both home and non-home churches. They have a large assembly of about 4,500 people and they also meet in homes with each home having about 15-60 people. That’s just the kind of thing I’m interested in.

      In the planning phase of starting my church, the first thing I did was ask myself, “Why start a church rather than applying or joining another church for the purpose of being a church planter through them?” Of course, there were many reasons. The biggest reason, however, was the goal of being very diverse, but not in the way we normally talk about diversity. Diversity of thought was to be a key theme because I felt we have done a horrible job at actually building an ecumenical (unified) church. Unfortunately, what we call unity doesn’t seem to be what God calls unity. What we do is get a bunch of people who think just like us on every doctrine and build a church. I call this division. We divide ourselves off from everyone who doesn’t think exactly the same way we do on every topic. Of course, we have to maintain a certain amount of division. The church is distinctly God’s people. However, what we hold as doctrine regarding communion, for example, divides us. Really? Isn’t that what Paul was chewing out the Corinthian believers for? They were taking the thing that was supposed to unite Christians and using it to divide by way of rich people refusing to eat with poor people. Nowadays we instead refuse to eat with those who have a different conclusion regarding whether it’s really the body and blood, whether it’s God’s presence, or whether it’s symbolic.

      My idea was that if we could start with a discussion group that embraced diversity of thought, we would get all the possible kinds of diversity by default. That was exactly the reason why I went away from the popular church planting method where a mega-church provides a bunch of people and financial support to a seminary trained leader. Homogonous mega-churches that split to grow another mega-church have a terribly difficult time becoming diverse.

      I also decided against the school district church model because I felt that they had a very difficult time developing community. Oh sure, they try to make up for it by having small groups. However, in visiting several during my college years, I quickly realized that if I wasn’t already in a small group there was a good chance no one would greet me. I actually left several mega-churches because I felt that after going there for 6 months without anyone ever saying hello to me, that that was not what I was looking for.

      However, I always strive to be well-rounded in my thinking. So, over the years, I’ve seen a lot of things done well by the large churches. It can be very beneficial for large groups to sit under the teaching of someone who is well-trained. This wasn’t a concern in the same way as it is now for the early church because they lived in and understood the nuances of their own culture. They spoke the language and they were able to talk to people personally trained by Jesus himself. We don’t have those advantages and we have several disadvantages that lead to the necessity of having trained people. Even still, Paul discusses the need for trained people to Timothy in the first century.

      This brings me to another reason for beginning with a discussion group. I wanted to bring the seminary experience to the church. I thought, “If we can have diversity of thought in class, diversity in culture in class, and expert teaching in class, why can’t we have all those in the church?”

      My goal is to find 2-4 people, other than myself, who are very diverse in thought especially, to be co-leaders of the church. Right off the bat we would begin to discuss and make decisions together about all kinds of church functions. So far, we’re discussing the non-negotiables such as the divinity of Christ and the resurrection. At some point we’ll explore how worship should be done, how to build community, etc. Our hope is that during those discussions we would identify people with three things. Those things are passion, gifts, and character. We hope to see what someone with good character is good at and loves so that they can naturally settle into the vocation that God has called them to.

      Most importantly, our discussion group is a place for believers and unbelievers to ask questions. My observation of most churches is that many questions get pat or clichéd answers. In fact, just a bit ago I chatted with an old high school friend that, like me, was an unbeliever. He was frustrated because he started attending church with his wife and had a lot of questions. Unfortunately, as he put it, they just keep telling him to “have faith.” I talked with a girl recently who told me she gets into a lot of trouble at her church because she doesn’t always think the way they do. When she asks questions she gets the evil eye. These things shouldn’t be and they indicate to me that the church has a great need for both small groups or home churches and large group meetings.

      Looks like I just have salary left to deal with in the next post. Lastly, I’ll say that you’re just the kind of thinker we need in our group. We sure would love to meet for coffee/tea/ cocoa or something or have you check out our discussion group. We’re pretty small right now but that’s what you get when you start with no money and no people. Just like Jesus!

      Blessings to you and your family.

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