Friday, July 31, 2009

More on Pagan Christianity


So the book breaks down the 'sacred cows' of Christianity (protestant... although much of what we do comes from the catholics of course) and it really takes a hard look at the 'scriptural' basis of our 'church expressions'. Here's a big one:
Church buildings: non-existent in the early church of course... meeting in each other's homes for teaching, meals and prayers... open courtyards and marketplaces for evangelism etc...
The breakdown on the amount of money we spend on buildings for 'the church' is crazy.. it's embarassing. I remember a trip to Zambia where I was speaking to some Zambian salvationists who were expanding so fast they couldn't keep up with the buildings necessary to 'house their church'... I told them they shouldn't worry about the building because they are the church - this they understood well... then I told them that we (in the west) had big huge buildings with NO people.. and they couldn't believe it. Neither would the early church... what on earth do we need buildings for????
In Vancouver, we experiemented with a cell based community... we met in homes, bars, coffee shops etc.. and we tried really hard to not just 'do church' but the 'be church'. We thought up t-shirts that said 'I'm a living stone'... and everytime my mother called to ask me if I went to church on sunday I'd say, 'mom, I am the church'. Although we were living in a part of the city where conditions were against us (transient population, excessive drug use, etc..) we grew... much faster than we thought we could... and the growth was organic... because there was no building we had to make room in our places.. because there was no central 'foodbank' we had to make meals in our homes and share them with our friends etc... the lack of building actually forced us to be what we said we wanted to be. It was a much harder experiment than I thought it would be... the reality of being the church is a 24/7 surrender to the Lordship of Christ. But it was worth it. It created a living, breathing, people of God... no fancy building but a great bunch of surrendered lives and people sharing their lives on the journey towards transforming a city... it's incredible what an organic church can do. The early church modelled this well... I'm not sure why it's so hard to let go of structures that seem to limit our potential and suck up all our resources... if every church got rid of their building and started to do church organically - what would we do with all the money??? The early church idea was to give it to the poor... wow. revolutionary thinking.

4 comments:

Bernard said...

Hi Danielle,

You have clearly highlighted the disadvantages of churches owning their own buildings, and I'm sure you're right that historically there have been many times when church-owned buildings have become stumbling blocks in various ways.

However, it is interesting to note that in the UK, what was originally known as the House Church Movement has to a large extent ended up moving back into buildings. (Depending on the point of view, this could be seen as a valid development, or a sad departure).

Regarding the church in the New Testament era I think it is fair to say that churches did not meet in their own buildings (apart from homes of course). However they did use other buildings when needed (synagogues, the Temple, and such as when Paul was at Ephesus and used the Hall of Tyrannus). The use of buildings for specific church use appears to have been a post New Testament era development.

However, does this mean that churches should never own buildings? I would wonder whether the issue is not whether churches should own buildings, but if they own them do they solely use them to serve and glorify God. Buildings, like everything else are tools that can be used well, or mis-used.

If we have buildings, may we only use them for God's glory (which may include selling them and giving the money to the poor of course).

Regards.

Bernard

Colin said...

Hey Danielle,

I have to say that a large part of me agrees having unfortunately been a part of a corps that could condure up money for a new grand piano but couldn't finance or back a fundraiser to introduce the youth of the corps to the realities of poverty. It's sad because when I first started going to that corps, the house ministry was booming. Any new person who came to the church was at least invited to join a home bible study and the results were very evident. I must say, though, that I was very happy to know that there was a corps, a HQ for all those small groups to come together and as a large, united group proclaim the glories of God. Although some serious attention should be brought to the fact that both homes and corps alike are empty (both physically and spiritually) I'd hate to think you were advertising the complete discarding of central buildings. Perhaps that's the answer; The difference between a central HQ and a grandious sanctuary is quite a large one...

Anonymous said...

‘Pagan Christianity’ is largely a deconstruction of what most churches refer to as “biblical” practice. is not making a case that we need to return to the explicit practices of the first century church, as though there is some transcendent prescribed model there to which we must conform. There isn’t. My concern with this book is that it is not what it claims to be. Viola argues that he has presented a careful and thorough exploration of Scripture and Church history. He simply hasn't. Paladin

Anonymous said...

‘Pagan Christianity’ is largely a deconstruction of what most churches refer to as “biblical” practice. is not making a case that we need to return to the explicit practices of the first century church, as though there is some transcendent prescribed model there to which we must conform. There isn’t. My concern with this book is that it is not what it claims to be. Viola argues that he has presented a careful and thorough exploration of Scripture and Church history. He simply hasn't. Paladin