6 thoughts on “Rethinking Church

  1. This is so anti-western church philosophy. I dig it but it means people need to change their idea of what church should look like, their comfort of being passive rather than being active with the gospel and their overall need to being challenged with new ways of doing church. I’m speaking mostly about myself! That’s difficult because sometimes we don’t know what new looks like so we stall or maybe even right it off as nonsense and continue what we’ve always done. And you know what that gets us.

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  2. Leave it to you, Carlo, to get me thinking on something this deep over my lunch break! (Actually, do so more frequently–thinking about this and parsing through this was the most enjoyable breaks I’ve had in a long time!)

    I’ve got only limited familiarity with Chan, and I liked a *LOT* about this video–his passion for Christ and for outreach is obvious, and I love his desire for a conception of church that’s rooted in Scripture. There are some other things going on in here, though, that I think are more a hindrance than a help.

    I start to get concerned about Chan’s vision when he identifies the four goals or marks of authenticity of a Christian church. He lists them as:

    1. love
    2. proclamation of the gospel message
    3. worshipful assembly and communion
    4. training/equipping

    I think that these are all well and good, and I certainly wouldn’t deny that any of them are necessary for healthy church life, but the rest of his message here seems to presuppose that God has required THESE things, but has left the means and the methods for ACCOMPLISHING these things totally up to us. Why doesn’t Chan see any of the leadership roles or gifts as constitutive of a healthy church? That has to be their purpose–or at least that’s what Ephesians 4 seems to be saying: that Christ gave certain leadership gifts to the church for the purpose of helping to establish it as His body. And isn’t it telling that one of the first problems the newborn church encountered was one of leadership structure (see Acts 6)?

    Most of Chan’s message here sounds like a desire to find the easiest, quickest path to achieving the goals mentioned above–but as you pointed out pretty recently, Carlo, pragmatism isn’t always the best mindset for the church to have. I said it in that post and I’ll say it again now: What if the highest calling of Christ’s church is something OTHER than finding the path of least resistance to the goals that Chan identifies above?

    I’ve also got some concerns with Chan’s strategies–mostly just quibbles, but #2 strikes me as deeply problematic: Chan’s vision is for a small house church to commit to staying together for “no more than 6 months, a year max,” so that it can then split off into another group, and so on, and so on, etc.

    In the first place, I’m not sure that this is the New Testament model at all. Again, take a look at the earliest problems of the Acts church–if the issue there was that it was becoming so unwieldy that the apostles were being too bogged down by administrative work to focus on preaching and teaching, that suggests something OTHER than a 6-12 month small group that then breaks up into other small groups. The picture there seems to suggest something bigger and much more centralized.

    Think also about Paul’s letters–specifically his pastoral letters. He establishes a church in a city, and then leaves guys like Timothy and Titus there “to put what remains in order.” (Titus 1:5–also note that one of Titus’s specific jobs was to appoint other elders and overseers.) The picture there, again, seems to be more evocative of an established, visible, structured group than a tiny cell that then divides to create more cells.

    In the second place, though, I’m concerned about what this would look like from a discipleship standpoint: is 6-12 months REALLY enough to take somebody brand new to the faith and equip them sufficiently so that they could then go out and begin discipling others? Jesus’ followers had THREE YEARS with their Teacher–why would 6-12 months work better for us now?

    Finally, if part of the cultural problem attacking the Western church is a perpetual fondness for novelty and if boredom and routine are cardinal sins, how exactly does a church body that changes so radically every 6-12 months work to resist that? And specifically given your background, Carlo, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on how well a 6-12 month period together works in terms of passing on and developing a profound and meaningful sense of what we might call “unit integrity”?

    See, I think the problem here is that on some level, Chan seems to want it both ways: he says early on that he doesn’t see the sort of “family love” present in most churches he’s seen that he identifies with priority 1 of the biblical church…but then he doesn’t seem to realize that family unity of THAT kind isn’t forged over the period of 6-12 months among people who aren’t actually already related. That takes a lot longer than I think his model allows for. I also think the 4th goal–a true equipping/training ministry–is one that requires a LOT more time than Chan is willing to give, and my concern is that he’s advocating a dynamic that might *APPEAR* richer and more vibrant in the short term, but which lacks the God-given structures of leadership and accountability that would give it the sort of constancy and stability that would allow it to take root and develop healthfully. Given Chan’s model, I’m concerned that as future splits continue to occur, the theology that’s supposed to be foundational for Goals 2-4 will become shallower and shallower until the “love” that serves as the primary goal becomes only superficial at best.

    Great post, Carlo–what do you think?

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    1. Its important to remember that this a “a” model and not “the” model. I think he is clear that he is not claiming to have it all figured out. “People often don’t know what will or won’t be effective until they experience it.” – Ed Stetzer

      I do think that 6-12 months is a bit idealistic…if the methods of man are the primary form of development. However, if one believes that the Spirit is the one who causes the heart transformation that leads to behavior modification, then 6-12 months might not be that unrealistic. Your statement that the disciples had 3 years with their teacher seems to imply that there in an end to the discipleship process. I would argue that while it is true believers mature and grow, the process has no end this side of eternity.

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      1. Thanks, Carlo! I think I agree for the most part with what you’re saying. I wasn’t trying to suggest, though, that the 3 years the disciples spent with Jesus suggest an end to the process of discipleship–the point I was trying to get at is probably better expressed in 1 Tim 3:6, wherein Paul tells us that overseers should not be made of men who were “recent converts.” I don’t think Paul is at all suggesting there that discipleship ceases after a given point and then we’re somehow “qualified” (as though discipleship is like earning a college degree or a technical certification)…what he IS definitely saying, though, is that the men the church needs as its leaders ought to be well-seasoned and time-tested.

        Thanks for the killer food for thought, brother!

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