Friday, January 23, 2009

Creation, Take Two

Genesis 1 begins with an account of creation, one that begins to define what it means to be the people of God. Then, it doubles back to look at God’s creation of Man from a different angle, focusing on the experience of the first individual man, Adam.

In Genesis 1 the creation of human beings emphasizes their innate community. Man “as male and female” reflect the image of God. Genesis 2 God recognizes the “not-goodness” of the man’s solitude. We are to be members of “a People”, not isolated individuals who commune only for necessity or convenience.

“People-ness” is inherent to our created nature. In many cultures one almost wouldn’t have to say this. Billions of human beings understand what it means to be part of "a people", so they instinctively understand what it means when God calls them out to join in the “People of God.”

But American Christians naturally read Christian faith through the lens of individualism. We emphasize personal salvation, personal spirituality, and personal devotion. We can even disparage the life of the Body of Christ as unnecessary because what really matters is that we each have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

But although like Jesus we approach the cross alone, we rise together in newness of life. “One body, one Faith, of God and Father of all.” We are joined in the presence of God at one Table, and we drink eternal life from one Cup. If we read the bible and heed the Spirit, we know that living personally in fellowship with God through Jesus IS a corporate thing. We are one Body in him.

What a difference it would make if Jesus-Followers and our churches really grasped this! We’d understand that we’re not to live out our faith in the poverty of isolation, but in the richness of fellowship.

It wasn’t good for the man to be alone in the garden, nor is it for you.

The unChurch is in open rebellion against the zeitgeist of suburban isolation. Loving is the foundation of knowing God, because God is love. So we "throw our lives in together". For real. We share meals and prayers, hopes and fears, wins and losses. And we throw open our collective life for all to see and share.

Across barriers of time, space, privacy fencing, and parochialism…the glow of faith spills from the open doors of unChurch Abbey.
JB

This post was shamelessly snatched from my hero, Mark D. Roberts. I hacked it down and botox'ed it, but he is the man. Go read the whole series here!

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, February 1, 2008
Part 3 of series: Being the People of God

21 comments:

scott said...

I fixed a typo for you. I'm nothing if not helpful.

The interesting thing is that some Catholics seem to grasp the "collective" notion of Christianity better than evangelicals. The evangelical in me wants to stand up and defend the need for personal salvation, personal spirituality, and personal devotion. And of course, all of those are needed. (See? I couldn't help but defend it just a little.)

But again, we live in SUCH a different culture than 2000 years ago. How many hundreds of 1st century Jewish families could you pack into one suburban American block that houses maybe a dozen families? There's a huge variation in our sense of what "community" really is. Shoot, when your entire town only has one or two copies of the scriptures, you've got to spend a lot of time together if you are going to hear any of it!

Mark Roberts sounds like a smart guy. It's all sounding very Shane Claiborne-esque. Down with the poverty of isolation, up with the richness of TRUE fellowship.

Joe B said...

Mark D is the man. But as it happens, that "poverty of isolation" line is pure Joe B. Part of the Botox treatment. (Mark's gonna kill me!)

No need to defend individual salvation, we can just flat party in it. Jesus is able (and eager) "to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by him." Boo-Yah! God defends his Word, and it ain't no house of cards. :-)

You know, the Catholic, high-Protestant, & low-Protestant all agree on the need for individual faith. They difference in what is the machinery by which it occurs. Some claim they are the machinery of salvation, some of us believe that there is no particular machinery beyond obedient faith in Jesus.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."

Boo-Yah!

Jan Kelley said...

This whole unchurch thing is scary. Me and my friends, we like going to our church real reglar like. There we can sing, pray with the others and give our money and someone else can determine the way my offering is going to be used for His glory. I can say "Hello, How are you?" and hurry on to my pew. I am able to leave the services feeling spiritually renewed, whether i really am or not, I feel good when i leave. I can mark it off my list of necessary things to do weekly. After all i want to be counted among the faithful. The leaders of my church do hold me accountable because whenever I miss three Sunday mornings, I get a call from someone asking why, or at least a card sayig tht I was missed. So I am accountable to someone, wouldnt you say? The whole idea of the unchurch takes me too far out of my comfort zone, not to mention my reglular pew sitting, and i really dont have time to be more dedicated to others. I am dong all I can do to keep me and my family in regular church attendance. I prefer my church...it feels a lot more comfy and it is way easier for me to feel good about my self. I support missionaries to take the word to the lost and i am sure i am influencing someone. You know, we never know who we are influencing. I just know i am influencing everyone who sees me sitting in my pew each
Sunday and remember, I do give, and quite liberally, i might add. The commitment of the unchurch is scary. After all, I have been doing church like this for many years and my mother and daddy did it like this too. There's a lot to be said about following our fathers.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jan Kelly!

It seems to me that you and I met...at CHURCH!

I like church more than you. The unChurch is just those other 165 hours every week. And those other 4.5 billion people.

It's the church, unSide out.

Jan Kelley said...

Anonymous, It is "e y" Kelley. If my name is on a role that someone is keeping track of, I want to be sure it is spelled correctly. Especially if you met me at church... it is K e l l e y.

Adam Colter said...

So here I go wanting something to be done about it. How can we who believe the relational way, while hardest, is best, influence oters to see it the same? I guess the idea of unChurch is doing that to some extent, but it doesn't seem to be a very proactive effort to enrich the lives of all believers - only those who already get it. What about everyone else. If we really believe there's a better way to be the church, how do we draw in the pew sitter and comfy church complacent?
I'm glad Joe B has a group he "does life" with in Christ, but what about those who don't?
Wait while I raise my umbrella to shield me from the showers of wisdom about to rain down...nah, forget the umbrella - bring it on.

Jan Kelley said...

Adam, What if I believe in what I perceive the unchurch to believe. I perceive the unchurch to believe that there is an absence in the traditional church of individual accountability to demonstrate and manifest the scriptual love and all that that love entails. My desire is for the love that is described in the scripture to be evident in and possibly, flourishing, in our regular churches. If i also believe in the importance of combined-believers-gathering-in-a-large-facility (regular church), then it is up to me to form a relationship with the comfy church goers so the philosophy of individual involvement in the lives can osmosis" them to the "hands-on" belief of the unchurch, which appears to me to not be trying to supplant the traditional church, but rather to ignite it.

Adam Colter said...

That makes sense Jan. Does it work? Is it happening? If so, it seems slow - which is o.k.; relational is slower than the "big show". But is there a way to spread the love both deeply and quickly?

Larry Gwaltney said...

This whole unchurch thing is scary. Me and my friends, we like going to our church real reglar like. There we can sing, pray with the others and give our money and someone else can determine the way my offering is going to be used for His glory. I can say "Hello, How are you?" and hurry on to my pew. I am able to leave the services feeling spiritually renewed, whether i really am or not, I feel good when i leave. I can mark it off my list of necessary things to do weekly. After all i want to be counted among the faithful. The leaders of my church do hold me accountable because whenever I miss three Sunday mornings, I get a call from someone asking why, or at least a card sayig tht I was missed. So I am accountable to someone, wouldnt you say? The whole idea of the unchurch takes me too far out of my comfort zone, not to mention my reglular pew sitting, and i really dont have time to be more dedicated to others. I am doing all I can do to keep me and my family in regular church attendance. I prefer my church...it feels a lot more comfy and it is way easier for me to feel good about my self. I support missionaries to take the word to the lost and i am sure i am influencing someone. You know, we never know who we are influencing. I just know i am influencing everyone who sees me sitting in my pew each
Sunday
and remember, I do give, and quite liberally, i might add. The commitment of the unchurch is scary. After all, I have been doing church like this for many years and my mother and daddy did it like this too. There's a lot to be said about following our fathers.




7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!
9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

Joe B said...

Thanks Larry. Could you kind of put that in context for me? Is it about the original post or something else?

Christi R said...

"because what really matters is that we each have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

I am guilty of this. It can be very easy to put yourself in the mindset of me, me, me. Of course as both Scott and Joe B said a persaonal relationship with Christ is important but it shouldn't be the only thing.

I've always understood the importance of fellowship, but (and let me say this carefully so no one misunderstands) I haven't seen this really at the churches that I have been exposed to. What I mostly see at church is people doing exactly what Jan said - going through the motions because they are expected to. Where is the joy in that? And truly where is the worship in that? When I go to church I want to leave feeling overwhelmed with the Spirit! And, unfortunately I haven't in the past found that. But you do find that if you are hangin' with people who are so enthusiastic about Jesus that it fills everything they do - people like Joe B and I would imagine like Scott. I get a good feeling just thinking about the unChurch and being a part of that. I wish I lived in Indiana so I could be a part of the unChurch and play, but I'll just have to settle for being like a distant cousin and enjoying the unChurch blog.

Larry said...

Thanks Larry. Could you kind of put that in context for me? Is it about the original post or something else?

Sure, Joe. It's about the post I quoted within my post, not the original Creation post, which is the kind of thing that I appreciate, at least.

On the other hand, the post I quoted I find problematic. It not only seemed dismissive of church attendance, the writer seemed dismissive of how much she(?) owes the Church: "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" And I'm still trying to figure out what that post had to do with the Roberts article.

There's nothing about the Church today that couldn't have been said about the church in Corinth, and in fact more so. But I just can't picture Paul encouraging people to relate to each other, at the expense of the Church - making sarcastic remarks about the people who attend there, but who may not want to meet in homes, for whatever reason.

Sure, there are problems with the Church, but those who dismiss it as something optional fail to realize that meeting in homes (as just one example) has its own set of potential problems.

Joe B said...

"My desire is for the love that is described in the scripture to be evident in and possibly, flourishing, in our regular churches." -Jan K

You interpret that as "relating to each other at the expense of the church", or ingratitude, or dismissiveness of attendance, or even sarcasm?

Jan K is just flat yippee stoked about her church. Why all this scalp hunting?

I'm not hearing the voice of the shepherd here, folks. I hear axe-grinding.

Larry said...

Jan K is just flat yippee stoked about her church. Why all this scalp hunting?

Well, put it this way - there are some men who are faithful to their wives, love them, support the family, love their children, etc. But they sarcastically badmouth their wives in public settings, for the sake of humor, perhaps trying to make some kind of point.

Would I be out of place if I said I don't think husbands should do that?

I don't know why, and cannot understand, why a ministry can only be successful if accepts this sort of thing. If indeed this is the sine qua non of the "unChurch," then I guess I have a problem with the unChurch.

A modest proposal, Joe - if you have Skype and a webcam, maybe you, I and Scott can get together and talk this over "face to face." There is too much at stake here to let this go quietly into that good night.

Jan Kelley said...

Larry, prior you going to the web cam with Joe B. and Scott, I have some questions or rather some perceptions that i dont know if they are misperceptions or if they are "on the mark". It appears to me that you do not approve of my thoughts or possibly "me", nor would you wish to associate, or rather to interact with me in a fellowship. What point are you trying to make regarding me with your second paragraph? I do not understand what you are trying to let me know. I apologize to you for anything I have said that has indicated to you that I do not cherish my faith and the sacrifice that was made for me to be able to communicate with my Lord and to bring in the sheeves to His kingdom.

Jan Kelley said...

Larry, this may be a slam, but right now i dont mean it to be a slam. Here goes: You used Latin or Greek or whatever language is in the italics, and then you make a grammatical error in the last paragraph. It doesnt jive with you being a Greek/Latin user. When speaking of yourself and others, you should always name yourself last. So in your sentence regarding getting to "cam " with Joe and Scott, you should have written "Joe B. Scott and I". Always name yourself last. This is not just manners, it is correct English grammar. Perhaps in Greek, one names themselves second, but in English, one should always name themselves last. I think that last sentence is sort of mean. I think I am offended at the manner in which you referenced me, and my sinful-self desires to "get back at you". I need prayers,honestly.

Larry said...

It appears to me that you do not approve of my thoughts or possibly "me", nor would you wish to associate, or rather to interact with me in a fellowship.

That's probably going a bit far. You likely don't intend to sound elitist, but it comes off that way to some of us who read this board. Imagine if someone wrote something along the same lines you did - only sarcastically talking about people who meet in small groups. I don't think that would be fair or edifying either.

What point are you trying to make regarding me with your second paragraph?

Hard to sum up briefly, but it relates to the basic premise ("big picture") behind the whole Bible. When we are asked to "love the LORD with all our heart, soul, and mind," that refers less to our modern concept of an emotional feeling than it does to the concept of patriotism. Or loyalty.

The Bible assumes a suzerain/vassal relationship between God and His people (that was the framework that ancient people read Scripture through). Old Testament prophets served as "covenant emissaries," much in the same way ancient kings would send their emissaries to distant lands incorporated into their Kingdom. OT prophets were sent to warn the people that they were in violation of their covenant stipulations, and when the people ignored or mistreated them, the prophets would invoke what theologians call a "covenant lawsuit," in which God in effect would "sue" his people for breach of the covenant. You can see these lawsuits all over the OT, once you know how to look for them. The entire book of Isaiah is a covenant lawsuit, for example.

Eventually the King would come and execute judgment. In the ancient world that meant killing them and dispossessing them from their land (which eventually happened to the Israelites when they were conquered by Babylon.)

Insulting a king's emissaries was understood as the equivalent of insulting the King to his face. If you read II Samuel 10, you'll then understand why David got so angry when his emissaries were insulted by the Ammonites. It went far beyond David's concern for their embarrassment.

In the New Testament, the Apostles are the equivalent of OT prophets in the sense they had "power of attorney" to act and make decisions on Christ's behalf (and write Scripture, or endorse the writing of Scripture). This authority (not as profound, to be sure) was passed on to the Elders appointed in every town they visited. So even today, when the Church's leaders are publicly rejected (by refusing to submit to them, or holding them up to ridicule) this is much more serious than Americans with a 21st century perspective realize. But of course, the Bible does not take a 21st century perspective. This of course does not mean we can't ask questions and compare their decisions to Scripture, but it will not do to say "I don't submit to people, only to God," as some here have done.

In addition, Paul's theology in his epistles stresses a concept of "Union in Christ." He often refers to it in the matter of suffering, reminding his readers that Christ suffers when His church suffers. But it's also true that Christ is insulted and ridiculed when His Church is insulted and ridiculed.

Many here draw a distinction between the physical institution of the Church vs. "ekklesia," but the visible institution, government and structure of the Church IS the Church, as much as you and I are the Church. That's why John was careful to mention the 24 elders in his vision of heaven in the book of Revelation. And remember what I wrote about the King killing people and dispossessing them of their land in the ancient world? Jesus does the equivalent, or threatens to, in his address to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, when he threatens to remove their "lampstand."

The Church today is the provisional government of the Kingdom of God in preparation for its assumption of the Church's rule over the entire Earth.

This is just the tiniest fraction of what could be said on this matter. Once people understood the relationship between the Garden of Eden and the Tabernacle/Temple, as just one example, I can't imagine they would refer to the Temple in a reductionist fashion as a mere "box" that God never wanted in the first place.

I'm sure you and others here would never knowingly insult the King to His face, and because God is gracious he is patient with all of us when we do so (myself included, as I've come to realize over the years).

There are so many positives to Christians meeting or relating in other ways outside the four walls of the Church that I just think this ministry doesn't need to invite trouble by casually accepting disloyalty.

Larry said...

Here goes: You used Latin or Greek or whatever language is in the italics, and then you make a grammatical error in the last paragraph. It doesnt jive with you being a Greek/Latin user. When speaking of yourself and others, you should always name yourself last.

You haven't been reading my posts carefully enough. You'll find typos and misplaced articles as well. I just rush through when I write and it's a minor miracle that anything comes out as well as it does.

"Sine Qua Non," by the way, is Latin, and literally means "without by which route not" or less awkwardly, "that which without," and refers to an essential component or quality of something.

Anonymous said...

The official count:
18,500 letters and spaces.

7,691 related to the original post...you know, that crap about rising together in newness of life? (41%)

10,899 related to Larry's mounting case "that your "unChurch," despite what you claim, is really an enemy of Christ's church." (58.666%)

8,831 written by Larry (47.5%)

Doesn't this stupid blog have an ADMINISTRATOR??

Jillian said...

i am extremely blessed to be a part of a church where community is a vital part of who we are. the corporate worship gathering on sundays is seen as merely that - a corporate gathering. the church leadership is very quick to say that real church is done outside of the building's walls during the week. i have a community of people in my house church. we eat dinner together, struggle through our doubts and sins together, support each other when life is hard, and rejoice together when life is happy. we help each other move, watch out for each other's well-being and chew on life's many many questions together.

while the holy spirit can and does speak to me through my individual time with God and through my own reading of the Word, i gain so much insight and knowledge through his other followers around me. he lives and breathes through our community as we stand shoulder to shoulder to build each other up with the Word and with prayer, and encourage each other to face outward and spread love all over the world.

there is nothing that replaces this kind of communion. god designed the church specifically in this way because he knows the power of living life together with other worshipers. it may not be a sin to not participate in this design, but it certainly is highly beneficial to do so. i'm pretty sure that God knows best.

scott said...

That's fantastic, Jillian. That's exactly what the church should be.