Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Donald Miller on Church and Christian Agency

Last month Donald Miller stirred up the blogosphere when he wrote about his church attendance habits. I wasn't offended -- I can relate, actually -- but many Christians expressed concern and disapproval. A few weeks later, RELEVANT posted an interview with Miller, in which he clarified his earlier statements. Miller also explained his personal vision for Christian community:

I think one of the problems with the current model of evangelical traditional whatever-you-call-it that we’re doing is a lot of people walk into a church and they feel the agency to be an apostle, to be a disciple of Jesus is given to one person in the room, or maybe five or six—and that’s the pastoral staff. And I would love to see a model of church where the pastor stands up and says “you are all pastors.” Just buy a box of sheriff badges and give it out and read Hebrews and say, “you are a pastor, and this Sunday meeting is time to equip the thousands of little churches that will leave here and take place in your homes around your dinner table.”
That, I think, would terrify most evangelical audiences. We don’t want that kind of agency because it gives us responsibility. If I’m a disciple of Jesus, a real disciple of Jesus, I can’t give my pastor the agency for me. I have to take it in my relationships with my neighbors and the way I do communion.
So I guess what I’m saying is I’m willing to consider other models—as messy as they might be and as flawed as they might be. Not only am I willing, the reason I feel so confident about that is because Jesus is there. So as much as people are mad at me I’m like “Well as long as that guy is still in the room, I feel OK, I really do.”

Read the full interview here.

Miller is right -- the lack of Christian agency is a real problem in our contemporary church culture. I'm not quite sure that it's the Evangelical model of church that is to blame, though -- Protestant Evangelicals mainly carry on the structures they inherited from the Roman Catholic Church. I wonder if the problem is rooted, rather, in the wider Christian tradition that birthed this structure -- the tradition that separated sacred and secular, that distinguished between the clergy and the laypeople. Viewed in the context of church history, Miller's desire to create a different, deeper kind of community is not entirely unlike the desire of many early monastics, who left the traditional church of their time in search of something more. 

Perhaps this controversy is not so new after all. 

2 comments:

  1. Truly, the problem with much of the Church as it is today, is the lack of the love of Christ Jesus. More than anything else, the love of God and the love of people should be the first thing that people notice about a church -- not about how great the lighting is, or the sound, the seating, how well put-together people seem to be, how professional everything looks, etc. (although such things are of some value) -- it should always be about the redemption that we have in Him and wanting to share His Love with others. As it is written in John 13:34-35 "'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'" All people should know that we are Christ's disciples by our love for one another.

    So many churches I have been to have staff seemingly fulfilling each position needed, yet they lack the love of Christ about them. This, unfortunately, turns away many hurt and broken people that are not looking for people all put together or even someone that can give them all of the "right" answers -- they just want someone to accept them for how God made them and to genuinely listen to them.

    I am probably in the category of one of the most "un-churched" Christians, even though I have been a part of the church, because I do not carry much of the current "church's" culture. Unfortunately, especially in the U.S., there has developed a very worldly culture within the church where people will joke about practices or people in the Bible as though they are above them or will add extra-Biblical text to stories or about people in the Bible that is both un-Biblical and insulting to what God intended in the text.

    Regrettably, this detracts from the seriousness of the Bible as it is God's Word. It can also turn others astray to take lightly the things written in the Bible, which then spreads itself in how people behave and treat others. It reminds me of how, after Christ was resurrected, that this incident in itself did not necessarily change the lives of others; however, it was once others knew and put their faith in Christ's resurrection that their life was changed.

    In others words, being familiar with the Bible will not necessarily change someone's life -- it is the belief and putting one's faith in God's Word (Jesus) that will change someone's life.

    Having said all of this, I will say that there are a few small handful of churches that really do seek after Christ, want to see His Will done, and really do love God and others as the Lord calls us to. Through their relationship with Him, God has changed people's hearts, healed people, and performed many of the same miracles written in the Bible -- today.

    The "vehicle," if you will, of God's Love is what is supposed to be driving everything for God is Love as it is written in 1 John 4:7-8:

    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

    ...

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  2. ...

    This love is what will then also drive the church in the way that it was supposed to such that all of the spiritual gifts will manifest themselves as none of the these gifts are truly fulfilled without love as written in 1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:1-10,13:

    "But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. [...] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

    My hope in prayer is that the Church would continue to strive in following after Christ and would readily cast out the false practices, attitudes, and beliefs that, lamentably, can plague the Church even as it did in the early Church (see Galatians 1:6).

    But, alas, all will not be fully restored until Christ comes back, though my hope and prayer is that we never stop in our pursuit to fully know, understand, and love Him as well loving others.

    So, where does this leave the believers who are currently seeking a church of other believers? Find a church that has both of these qualities:
    1) They truly love God and love people
    2) They proclaim the Message of Truth from the Bible and do not deviate from the Word of God as written in the Bible (the Bible must be the absolute authority from which all teaching is derived)


    If for some reason, you are in a situation where #1 and #2 are not available, then, if the Lord calls you to this, with much prayer, guidance, and, approval from the Lord, start your own church as Priscilla and Aquila did (See 1 Corinthians 16:19)


    1 John 2:5-6 "But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

    I pray that the Lord Christ Jesus blesses you!

    In Christ,
    Christian

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