“Pagan Christianity”

The above title is the name of a relatively new book co-written by Frank Viola (no, not the former MLB pitcher) and George Barna (yes, the church trend expert).  It is a fascinating read.

It is all about a twenty-first century call to go back and just be like the first century church. Sound familiar? According the authors- in some circles- there is already what we in the Churches of Christ/Christian Church heritage might refer to as a second Restoration Movement underway.

Only the one they propose in this book would rock our world.

Indicted as Pagan Christianity are church buildings, professional clergy, modern worship style and order, the sermon-as-central to worship, the sinner’s prayer, and a host of other commonly accepted traditions and practices in all kinds of churches.

Their premise is that none of these things have any historical or biblical connections to the very first church we read about it the New Testament. Viola and Barna document how these customs evolved out of pagan religion and were adapted by the Catholic church to then subsequently shift over with some changes into all brands of Protestant churches.  

Here is just a little teaser about what they have to say concerning the modern worship assembly:

Every Sunday you attend the service to be bandaged and recharged, like all other wounded soldiers. Far too often, however the bandaging and the recharging never takes place. The reason is quite simple. The New Testament never links sitting through an ossified ritual that we mislabel “church” as having anything to do with spiritual transformation. We grow by functioning, not by passively watching and listening.

In one area their conclusions may excite some of us within the fellowship of the Churches of Christ/Christian Church. They take a very strong stance on the essentiality and immediacy of baptism. Again, here are their words:

In the first century, water baptism was the outward confession of a person’s faith. But more than that, it was the way someone came to the Lord. For this reason, the confession of baptism is vitally linked to the exercise of saving faith. So much so that the New Testament writers often use “baptism” in the place of the word “faith” and link it to being “saved.” This is because baptism was the early Christian’s initial confession of faith in Christ.

What they are calling for in restoring the New Testament church is basically a dismantling of the institutionalized church with all its accrued bells and whistles. They claim that the church as it stands today simply cannot be the transforming agent God established it to be. Their idea is to go back to the New Testament- meet in homes as they did then- enjoy spontaneous and participatory worship not led by professional clergy (something they see in the text of 1st Corinthians 14)- rediscover the Lord’s Supper as a part of the joyous “love feasts” of the early church and not as a subdued ritual- and the real development of a sense of “priesthood” by every believer.

In our history (Churches of Christ/Christian Churches) the plea of restoring the New Testament church has been a central theme, but these men are taking it two or three steps further than we ever have. Now- according to them- we are a part of the institutionalized church they are calling people away from.

Are they right? Is their call valid? Do those of us in the Restoration heritage even take our traditional call seriously any more?

Read Pagan Christianity. It will challenge you. Already in many circles it is highly controversial. While I am not endorsing it and do not agree with everything Viola and Barna are saying, some of their ideas of a second restoration are intriguing.

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51 Responses to “Pagan Christianity”

  1. […] lduncan wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIndicted as Pagan Christianity are church buildings, professional clergy, modern worship style and order, the sermon as central to worship, the sinner’s prayer, and a host of other commonly accepted traditions and practices in all kinds … […]

  2. Tom says:

    I think that most people in the Restoration heritage will greatly appreciate this book since it’s so much in line with the thesis and challenges us to go further. People can get multiple copies at a huge discount at http://www.paganchristianity.org

  3. Donna says:

    You know…I need yet one more book to keep me stirred up. Of course I will order it!

  4. Cecil May IV says:

    Great intro for this book, Danny. It sounds very interesting. I do think it is very true that some of the traditions and “rituals” (if I can call them that) do come from the catholic church. The Catholic church changed the way the religious world works drastically. Of course, the restoration movement was a great thing for Christians/Christianity. We should always strive to be as much like the church God intended us to be. You know when I read things like this, one thing comes to mind. As much as we would all like for all Christians to be able to worship together it will just never happen. There are too many people that will disagree with the way things are done and people that won’t be able to accept someone with a different point of view. Thank God for his saving grace, because there has never been nor will there ever be a congregation that will get to worship God in the exact way he intended to be worshipped, at least until the church joins Him in heaven. Then we will truly worship in purity and perfection.

    At least that’s my opinion. ha! Again, great post!

  5. dannydodd says:

    Thanks C4 for your words- glad to have you posting here. We need your generation’s insight.

    Donna, this book is somewhat of a stirrer.

    And thanks for the link Tom- and thanks for dropping in. I agree that those who within the fellowship of the Restoration Movement would enjoy reading this book

  6. Cecil May Jr. says:

    I appreciate, of course, the re-discovery of the biblical stance on baptism.
    Buildings for large gatherings are certainly not necesary and probably often become as much a hindrance as a help, but not necessarily. I find that many non-building types are often wanting to borrow a meeting room or hall someone else has built and maintained.
    I take exception to the comment, “The New Testament never links sitting through an ossified ritual that we mislabel ‘church’ as having anything to do with spiritual transformation.” My expereince is not that of “sitting passively thorugh an ossified ritual.” I sing. I say “Amen” to the prayers because I have made them my prayers. I find the Lord’s supper to be an excellent reminder of Christ’s sacrifice, sharing it in communion with other people in the assembly. I listen to the sermon and interact with its ideas in my mind as I listen. And I have known many people spiritually transformed, sometimes immediately, often gradually over months and years, by such services.
    I have worshipped in small churches and in homes, and I have had proportionally as many blessings and “busts” in large as in small.
    It seems to me that Paul in 1 Corinthians 14: 34, “If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home,” is removing the Lord’s Su[per from the context of a common meal. John Mark Hicks and LeGard Smith are probably right in saying that the Corinthian church combined the two, but Paul corrects that rather than endorsing it. If he did not mean to say that we cannot eat a common meal or have a love feast in the same building as where we worship, which I certainly do not believe, then what else is he saying in “eat at home” other than that the common meal or love feast is not a part of the assemly in which the Lord’s Supper is eaten?
    I am reacting only to the summary of the book; I look forward to getting it and studying it further.

  7. dannydodd says:

    Your reaction is appreciated Cecil.

    Grandfather and grandson posting. What a blessing! and honor! (Now where is Cecil III?:))

    There is no doubt that in my reading of the book that some of their conclusions and suggestions seemed oversimplistic and not well thought out. Ideally we should go into our worship experience engaged and involved in every aspect of it, but we all know that for many that is not the case- and they blame the weekly ritual and sameness for it. I think that does contribute, but participation- in any kind of worship setting- is my responsibility. It is naive to think that just because we change settings that people will automatically plug-in.

    As for the Lord’s Supper- I have long yearned for a greater emphasis on this precious time. I would enjoy getting out of the time-sensitive method in which we normally partake and see us dedicate more of our worship time to it. Whether or not that includes a meal is another story.

    Even so- in whatever practice we eat the Supper- it still gets back to heart matters.

    Thanks for your input Cecil.

  8. Tom says:

    Does Lagard Smith have a website or email address? didn’t he do a bible version?

  9. dannydodd says:

    I am unsure about all of your questions Tom.

    Maybe someone else will know those answers and share them with us.

  10. Steve Lavin says:

    He wrote The Daily Bible

    He does have an email address and he was kind enough to correspond with me a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I have misplaced his email address. 😦

    Steve

  11. William McDaniel says:

    An interesting post Danny. Sometimes it takes a new way of looking at things (right or wrong) to get us out of our personal spiritual “ruts”. Controversy stirs us as citizens and as christians to delve where we often would rather not. By this I mean our innermost being wherein resides the spirit of god that is one of his gifts to us when we are baptized. Our daily rituals define who we are and how the world sees us. I pray that our”american standards” do not take precedence over our “Spiritual standards”.

    Mac……….

  12. lesjr says:

    if a group could have the Lord’s Supper in the context of a full meal, would we violate Paul’s command in 1 cor 14? Or would the command only come into play if there was a violation of the spirit that should prevail in any meal among God’s people?

  13. dannydodd says:

    Steve- thanks for your help.

    Mac- great to hear from you. Very glad you posted. I join you in that prayer.

    Les- I am not quite sure I follow your line of questions here.

  14. dagwudandblondy says:

    I’ve been preaching recently about “Back to the Heart of Worship.” In this series I am calling individuals to have proper focus; to worship with body, mind, and heart; to come with a contrite heart; and to deliberately be transformed through the experience. I know, as Danny and Dad know, that we have been led to powerless worship before; but we can and must individually reach higher. I confess that there have been times when I have been led to powerful worship, but my own crummy attitude sunk me low. Worship leaders have a calling to excel, but at the end of the day, my experience is mostly up to me.

    Now for the questions you asked…lol.

    I think that Paul was less concerned with separating the common meal from the Lord’s Supper as he was separating a desire to eat from the Lord’s Supper. Neither class division, getting full, nor quenching thirst is the goal of the Lord’s Supper. Class division is out everywhere, but if you are hungry (or thirsty), the Lord’s Supper isn’t your solution; eat at home.

    Perhaps the Corinthian church needed a total separation get it right; but I don’t think that is necessary from what Paul wrote. I have a real hard time believing that a significant number of people in our modern churches wouldn’t face the same struggles if we re-introduced love feasts into our assemblies. I will get to my wife’s crock-pot corn before you!

    The Barna group has seven questions to ask regarding transformation in UnChristian. I mention them on my blog and I will mention them in my sermon in 10 days.

    I’m not C3, but I hope one an uncle will suffice for now.

    Richard

  15. odgie says:

    Danny asked, “Do those of us in the Restoration heritage even take our traditional call seriously any more?”

    In a word: no.

  16. dannydodd says:

    Another generation of May posts with some very good thoughts. Rich, I particularly liked your observation about how the modern church might react to communion taken as a part of a meal. lol I think you are right!

    Odgie answers my question in the negative. Any other thoughts on this?

  17. gkirkendall says:

    I find your blog and the premise of the book extremely interesting and consistant with other institutions in our modern world. Education, welfare, IRS, transportation, energy, security, and many other political (cultural) institutions have also strayed so far from their original intent that they are barely recognizable and in desperate need of restoration. But do you really think that a “flat tax” has any chance of becoming reality, or that Social Security, Health Care, Education, or Welfare will experience any real fundamental changes?

    Among our circle (COC/Christian church) there have always been those who believe that we are attempting to restore and those who believe we have acoomplished restoration. Even so, both sides share a common thread that is also at the root of our cultural institutions that are so difficult to change — they all have created their own economies that must be protected at all costs. Churches, universities, schools of preaching, periodicals, camps, campus ministries, workshops, publishing companies, and a host of other interests and industries all tend to represent “special interests” within our religious circle. I think that this has a lot to do with the denominational reality that exists among restoration groups. Becasue this is true, change cannot take place on a an institutional level. Only a full blown revolution will alter the religious systems in place

    Change is so hard becasue money follows loyalties.

    Reformations, restorations and revolutions all have to take place from time — if not, all we will accomplish is to replace one denominational system with another. Few would argue that we are already there.

  18. preacherman says:

    The question I have is what do we restore? Should we restore anything at all? Does it matter? I think the problem with the Restoration Movement is that we pick and choose what we want to restore. Have we tried to restore NT Christianity or our version what we think it was and have lost the real heart of the gospel message to our time and place. We need to relevant to our culture. You hear so much: “We need to be like the 1st Century church. Do we? Or should we be the 21st Century Church. Striving to fullfil our purpose in our time. In our place. In our culture. I think we should restore: grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, gentlessness, self-control, perseverance, faithfulness, devotion to God, knowing who God is and what he want from our lives. I think we have focused to much on the form or what we think is the form or “pattern” of the NT Church. Have we neglected the function? I believe it is the function that makes disciples and changes lives. The function is what Kingdom living is all about. I pray that we will be 21st Christians making a difference in our world today. I believe if we are going to really restore NT Christianity then lets really do it believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, Spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirits involvement in our worship, lives, lets share everything (cult) Acts 2:40-ff). I mean lets really restore it. If not then lets move on and be the Christians we are in this time and place. Let pay to God and ask Him to help His church make a difference in world now!

  19. Steve Lavin says:

    lesjr asks, “if a group could have the Lord’s Supper in the context of a full meal, would we violate Paul’s command in 1 cor 14? Or would the command only come into play if there was a violation of the spirit that should prevail in any meal among God’s people?

    My questions are much the same. Do we treat Paul’s command, to eat in your homes, as an absolute prohibition against having the Lord’s Supper as part of a common meal? And if so, what is our justification in allowing women to ask questions during bible class? It seems to me, in the case of the later … rightly or wrongly … we make a distinction between the regulation Paul gave (women should ask questions of their husbands at home) and trying to honor the spirit of his intent.

    Danny, it is the tricky particulars that will always assure a lively discussion when visiting the restoration plea.

  20. Adam G. says:

    Wow. That’s nice. I saw the book at Borders last weekend but didn’t have time to look it over. It’ll have to go on my reading list now.

    I for one still take the Restoration plea seriously, but now view it differently that before. For the most part, sadly, I came to accept many historic conclusions of Restoration leaders and scholars without sufficient reference back to the actual text of Scripture. The main problem was that I wasn’t open to being wrong, and to the Bible saying something radically different from what I expected it to say. That, however, is a problem we all face.

  21. dannydodd says:

    Gary, you have a unique gift of cutting through a lot of rhetoric to get at the heart of an issue- as you have done here with your comment. I do think that we spend a great deal of time and energy protecting our institutions because we have so much invested in them. So any call such as this book makes- makes us nervous. You are right too, that not much is going to change on a large scale, but within hearts that is a different matter.

    The kind of things Kinney talks about restoring- that starts in the heart- and once we are transformed by Christ from the inside out we will have our own personal restoration going on- and that can and will influence others.

    Steve brings up the other line of discussion going on- intent or letter of the law- tricky indeed.

    Adam, I do not know what you were taught about the Restoration Movement but I was taught Stone and Campbell thought exactly alike, shook hands and walked united off in the sunset together and that all was well and uniform within this movement until 1906 when those terrible instrumental folks split us. Uh, well, turns out things were never as uniform or as rosey as that.

  22. Steve Lavin says:

    This book could be an interesting read, BUT, I have to wonder if Jesus would have spend any time discussing a Restoration plea.

    He regularly participated in a much more rigid form of religion than the one he paved the way for. We know he was frustrated by so much of what he saw within the religious establishment. And no doubt, Jesus was a radical restorationist! And yet, I see little ink in the gospels indicating that the corporate assembly consummed much of his though or energies. He seemed content to let so many rituals go unchallenged. What I do see is that he always dealt with the heart of the person as it related to these rituals.

    Mostly he focused his energies on trying to get his disciples to act as God’s agents in all aspects of their lives. Perhaps the real, meaningful, and God centered, ‘reformations, restorations and revolutions’ have little to do with changes in the assembly and more to do with how we spend the other 167 hours of our week?

    As long as Satan keeps us focused, and fightn’, about the form of the assembly, we don’t have the time or energy to take the fight to his turf. I think Jesus understood that.

  23. Dee Andrews says:

    Danny –

    I’ve been keeping up with the growing comments and love both the post and all of the commentary and questions. Good discussions going!

    Hope you have a good weekend!

    Cheers & Blessings to you all today!

    Much love,

    Dee

  24. benoverby says:

    Interesting indeed! My son (works at local Christian bookstore) just put a copy on hold for me thanks to your blog. I noticed that lots of the responses focused on restoration, but I think that word is preloaded with Stone-Campbell concepts. Restoration isn’t determining whether or not we can eat the Supper in the context of a meal (and I think Paul never intended any such prohibition. He prohibited the selfishness that refused to wait on the whole group). It sounds to me like the authors have their finger on the important issue; that is, do the present institutions offer an environment where spiritual transformation can happen. Jesus came to transform us and the world, and churches that don’t embrace this vocation become sad parodies of the real thing.

    In terms of spiritual formation, it’s been my observation and experience that churches (the people) are content to be discipled and productive. To be discipled is to be Peter prior to the cross. To be productive is to experience some ministry success. Our focus is on “community,” small groups, etc. Community is the buzz word. We get in community and we get productive and we feel good about being religious. And NONE OF THAT REQUIRES SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION. The Stone-Campbell restoration plea, at least in its 20th century expression did not call people to be Christ-like. The emphasis generated a religion of externals. Discipleship meant the right answers to religious questions (especially about the plan of salvation and the acts of worship). But becoming productive isn’t even halfway up the spiritual mountain, a mountain that always includes what Hagberg and Guelich refer to as The Wall (see The Critical Journey). It is only by going through the wall that we move into an inward journey, then an outward journey and finally find the self lost in love; that is, we lose our life, growing detached from things that shouldn’t matter very much as we become like Jesus—acting primarily out of love having learned something deep about God in the dark and by hanging on to the Spirit’s lead.

    External, productive people aren’t supposed to hit walls. Value is on doing and production (whatever the ministry happens to be). We think someone’s broken if they’ve hit the wall and have doubts, or some personal crisis. We haven’t been prepared to help each other through the wall and we have hardly any guides who can help us through the inward/outward journey. We get stuck in “productivity,” a stage wherein we learn to do one of two things really well; we fake it and we manage others. We hide our crisis because we think it portrays weakness. We stifle our own growth and whenever someone is brave enough to attempt to go through the wall our reaction is to help them with more “doing.” We can’t imagine why a gifted person might have to give up their role in the church’s ministries in order to take time to examine the inward self and learn of God through the inward struggle of faith. We see doubt as disease and try to get each other counseling (we’re sent to the preacher whose growth is equally stunted) which does little more than keep the whole mob stuck on “this side” of the wall. And in the unlikely event someone is actually spiritually transformed, they typically leave us. Those stuck in the productive phase will not like those whom God has transformed to the outward phase. Jesus was three stages ahead of the Pharisees (productive). They couldn’t relate to him. They hated him. So, ministers have every reason to remain merely productive. They’ll be safe and secure and others will relate to them quite easily. They will not pull others toward anything dramatic and church will “feel” flat and dead and it will go on and on and on. But thankfully the productive don’t need much more than that. Being performance-centered, all they really need is some occasional communal validation to keep them in the deadly fog that pushes reality out to a safe and unfocused distance.

    I’ve worked with churches of Christ for 15 years and have yet to come across one in which the primary goal of the leaders was spiritual transformation. There’s plenty of talk about becoming Christ-like, but that chatter always gets reduced to whether or not we can eat the Lord’s supper in the context of a common meal. Being restored becomes a matter of performing, doing the right things in the right way. To the extent that church leaders don’t wake up to the reality, they will continue to lose people to this ancient/present trend toward simple church. Unfortunately, house church doesn’t insure an environment for spiritual growth either. It can be little more than an escape from what’s becoming increasingly impotent—-the institutional church. The cure, therefore, may be no better than the disease. What’s needed is spiritual guidance at whatever level we’re talking about—a house church or a more traditional church. And it’s these spiritual guides who will be the target of most persecution. Satan has a vested interest in continuing to develop “productive churches.” They pose no threat to his kingdom. But a little group of 11 men who’ve suddenly hit the wall and who’ve been dragged into an inner struggle . . . that’s the sort of thing that worries him. They have a tendency to ignore expectations of performance driven religion as they engage life as if they really think Jesus is king. They come through the inner struggle and begin a journey outward, and they say things like what you read about in Acts 2, or Acts 7, etc. They can turn the world upside down, but their greatest threat will always come from the “establishment.”

    I’ve got to stop reading your blog, Danny! It seems to always get me to rant about something. : )

  25. dannydodd says:

    Don’t stop ranting Ben! Your rants include a great deal of practical wisdom. I think you have captured the essance of this book- and honestly assessed the fact that just because we do something different- home church. eat commion with a meal, etc- than the institutional church doesn’t means we necessarily will recapture the true spirit of the first church. (I think Steve also has arrived here judging by his remarks)

    And if there is a failure in this book- it is in solving the problems they bring to light. To me, like you mentioned Ben, it is about true transformation. At Gateway I am currently preaching on our 2008 theme of Creating a Cross-Culture and the entire thrust of this series is true transformation and renewal in Christ’s image. I honestly do not know if folks are getting the message because week after week I still see us caught up in layers of red tape, distractions over small concerns, etc. It goes back to protecting the institution- which I am beginning to think is what most church leaders are primarily concerned with.

    See Ben, your rant led to mine!

    Dee- I hope your weekend is blessed too! Mine has been taken up with my kids. Terri is at Gateway’ ladies retreat. So far so fun!

  26. benoverby says:

    Danny, I think if you keep teaching such truths people will get it. Not everyone. Not even most. But some will and that’s the best that we can do. You can take some of the mystery out of the effect you’re having if you can convince the shepherds to conduct an annual spiritual assessment like the one the Pantego Bible Church uses. I think Pantego developed the assessment from a Barna study, or else Barna did a study using the Pantego model (can’t remember). They evaluate 30 core competencies having to do with practice, belief and virtues. It may not go deep enough, but it’s a start, and something like it can help you tweak your messages. Anyway there’s more info at pantego.org

  27. Steve Lavin says:

    Ben, I don’t know you. And I will need to spend some time…perhaps a few days…reflecting on what you said…but I think I like it! If what you suggest is a level of mentoring that is unwilling to accept superficial externals (productivity) but rather seeks discipleship that calls for selfless love, then I am in agreement.

    I also believe that the conflict, that often arises around religious traditions, is the result of ‘discipled’ and ‘productive’ Christians that are not, as you say, “even halfway up the spiritual mountain.” (Not throwing stones here, for my own shortcomings often reveal I am nowhere near the summit.)

    One of my favorite questions to ask of Christians is this, “What was the difference between Saul (of Tarsus) and Paul? The answer is so simple, and yet so profound, that it makes the struggle for the answer worth the time. (Note: the change occurred only after he hit the wall.)

    Danny, you know I am a big believer in small group mentoring. But as you stated, “just because we do something different- home church…doesn’t mean we necessarily will recapture the true spirit of the first church.” As Ben pointed out, “a little group of 11 men who’ve suddenly hit the wall…can turn the world upside down, but their greatest threat will always come from the “establishment.” If I am understanding Ben (and Gary) correctly they believe real change will occur on a level outside of typical religious structure and traditions (for many reasons already stated in this blog). To this I can only say, AMEN!

    So keep preaching, Danny! Jesus also spoke to the masses, and Luke lets us know that he often had great impact on the most unlikely of listeners. But his greatest impact was not as preacher to the masses but as mentor to 11 men … about to hit a wall.

  28. preacherman says:

    Danny,
    I am going to get the book.
    I think this a great thing.
    I enjoyed this discussion.
    I just have a lot of questions regaurding the Restoration Movement.
    I hope you have a great weekend.
    Thank you again for letting us know about this book and topic.
    Great discussion.

  29. Adam G. says:

    Danny,

    I remember almost nothing of what I was taught at Harding regarding the history of the Restoration Movement. My earliest knowledge came from reading the texts of Campbell and others from the Web (this was in 1996 or so) and then from various histories I either borrowed from Central Christian College of the Bible’s library or else bought (like Garrett’s “Stone-Campbell Movement.” To my knowledge, I was always aware that Stone and Campbell thought differently and that the present-day movement, especially as it exists in three branches in the United States, is considerably different from what either of them envisioned.

    Not that their opinion would matter. 🙂

  30. benoverby says:

    Steve, I’ll go even further and argue that Jesus led those men into the wall. The pain of that longest of Sabbaths, the total dismay that must have sat on them like a sleeping elephant as they hid behind a door trying to make some sense out of the fact that they had apparently bought into the notions of yet another failed Messiah; that was “the wall.” All the fine teaching Jesus did, all the examples and mentoring he’d lavished on the disciples had not transformed them. They sat in that lonely room defeated. The transformation came in little spurts as it became increasingly apparent that the king was not cooperating with Satan—rumor had it he was up and able, totally alive with a new sort of physicality. The principle seems to be that there can be no transformation—neither physical nor spiritual, without a death. Eleven men died when it became obvious that King Jesus was on the throne after all. They would never be the same, as we all know. Jesus allowed the crisis of faith. He expected it. He predicted they’d all turn tail and run. But he didn’t give up on them or declare that they were weak. He knew they had to go through the dark in order to see the light. He had his own Gethsemane (and much earlier, the crisis in the wilderness). He knew the benefit of the wall—assuming of course that one moves through it rather than allowing it to become a road block to growth.

    And our churches are full of leaders who attempt to grow people into Christ-likeness without doing the things he did (a dead giveaway that something’s terribly wrong). We try to avoid the wall, or else fail to see it as a part of the journey, hit it and go no further. As Jesus guided the disciples through the wall each in his own way (Thomas and the evidence; Peter and the confirmation that Jesus still needed and expected him to feed his sheep, etc.), we too need to learn the value of these experiences. We need to face the dark head-on and trust that our king will pull us through. When we progress on the journey we do discover the transformative power of the inner journey; then the king moves us forward into an outer life which is as different from the productive life as Paul’s was from Saul’s or productive Peter the denier’s was from the Peter the martyr.

    Institutional churches will never take this project on because of the pride of its productive leaders. One cannot put new wine in old wine skins. Well, actually you can, but the whole thing will blow up. Whether house churches take Jesus any more seriously remains to be seen.

  31. J D says:

    What a fascinating discussion. I don’t think I have anything additional to add. I’d love to see Steve and Ben in the same room, knowing both of them. It would be an education to hear them discourse together! There are many great things said here both in the orginal post and the comments. We seem to be stuck on that word “restore” – as Ben noted early on, it is a loaded word for us.

    Dan Kimball has started posting on this book as well … he makes some good points.

    One good thing is that this book has started people talking about disciplieship, and that is much needed.

    Thanks, Dan!

  32. benoverby says:

    Danny, my son brought Pagan Christianity home Saturday night. I read it yesterday morning. What a “smack down” of some of the institutional baggage! If time allows I’m going to do a short series in review of the book at my site. As you pointed out there are some problems. I think it makes some sense to throw water in faces in order to help folks see that many traditions (pews, pulpits, alter calls, etc.) owe as much to pagan practice as anything else. At the vey least it should devalue some of our less meaningful and less practical traditions. Long before I read this book I was begging the church at Lawson Road to remove the pews (what a losing battle that was!). I actually took the pulpit down myself. It found it’s way to the podium a few times, but I kept hauling it off to the closet, insisting that it symbolized something tragic—i.e., that I (the preacher) was somehow elevated over the congegation. I refused to climb the steps of the podium to speak. I did it as symbol. A week after I was gone, the pulpit was back. So based on my experience I do believe the authors are on to something important. But the authors are at least a little nieve about a few things and totally miss passages related to teachers, financial support, etc. They do very little in terms of giving specifics to fix the problem—that is, they don’t offer much to chew on for anyone desiring to develop a group capable of true spiritual transformation.

    Thanks for the heads up on a very provocative book. I hope the weaknesses don’t kick the legs out from under the strengths. I’ll try to begin a brief review in a day or so (as time permits).

  33. Ilia A says:

    Very interesting post and discussion! I read and heard papers about Restoration Call to go back to become the church like the church in the 1st century. That’s great but I have always believed that it is in the sense of the sound doctrine. To take the sound doctrine of the NT and preach it today.
    But to have complete resemblance with the 1st century church seems not very much possible for our 21st century. The first church had Apostles, miraculous gifts of the Spirit, prophets and revelations. Can it be restored? But the sound doctrine can and should be restored in 21st century churches. God has been saving people and will save regardless of big churches or small home churches.
    Paul said, “And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. (1 Kor. 2:4). Yes, the communion is the center of worship but we should not diminish the power of sermon as an edifying tool. I believe that one of the major vector in the restoration movement is to preach in the Spirit of God.

  34. Ilia A says:

    “Every Sunday you attend the service to be bandaged and recharged, like all other wounded soldiers. Far too often, however the bandaging and the recharging never takes place.”

    I can’t speak for others but I can say for sure that I do not come to church every Sunday to be “bandaged and recharged” but to encourage, edify and support others, to give. The Christianity is about giving and not only getting. (I think everybody knows it). Jesus said, “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two”. (Matt. 5:41). It is about giving. Jesus said, love your God and love your neighbor, and this is also about giving. Because when you go your “second mile” then you receive your blessings from God. It is then you are bandaged and recharged.

    “We grow by functioning, not by passively watching and listening”. Amen to this.

  35. dannydodd says:

    Ilia, not everyone is in the bandaging and recharging need. That is why we need folks like you who are there to do the bandaging and recharging! Thanks for your input from Vilnius!

    Ben, I look forward to reading more about all of this on your blog.

    JD, thanks for stopping in from Monroe.

  36. Steve Lavin says:

    Danny, you need to screen your mailing list a little better. It seems you are attracting disproportionately large numbers of radicals! (Like me!)

    There have been so many good comments stirring so many thoughts – well, just bear with me.

    First, JD, you said, “We seem to be stuck on that word “restore” – as Ben noted early on, it is a loaded word for us…One good thing is that this book has started people talking about discipleship, and that is much needed.” Very well put! In fact, seeing the way you placed the two in contrast to each other has helped me (for the first time ever) to be able to articulate my feelings concerning both.

    The Restoration Problem…at least the problems so often associated with it during my life-time in the Churches of Christ…is that IT seems to have become the overriding focus of almost all we do. (Don’t get me wrong – I honor our restoration heritage.) But the holy grail of attaining the New Testament church has, for far too many of our people, become the key to salvation! Get it wrong and hell surely awaits! And for those who don’t hold so tightly to every assembly nuance, they too often seem to think that doing something different in the assembly will suddenly cause the dam holding back the lost to suddenly burst and our numbers to swell beyond measure. We generally are gracious, and forgiving, when it comes to personal failings but I have witnessed little grace, tolerance, or forgiveness, when it comes to either group’s particular preferences in the assembly. And make no mistake, a restoration plea places emphasis on the assembly.

    In contrast, discipleship (becoming Christ-like) has almost nothing to do with assembly particulars. On the other hand, Ben states that a call to become Christ-like results in “chatter always get(ting) reduced to” a discussion of assembly preferences. I, however, do not believe this has to be the case. People that confuse the two are trying to wrap their restoration preferences in a “Christ-like wrapper” but they are not the same. They are often polar opposites!

    Ben, I agree with much of what you said to this point and from what I can tell I agree with your conclusions. I would however suggest that an approach short of, “throw(ing) water in faces in order to help folks see that many traditions (pews, pulpits, alter calls, etc.) owe as much to pagan practice as anything else,” would be more productive. Take that advice for what it’s worth, and consider the source, but my experience has been that sheep are nervous creatures that don’t respond well to shock treatment. Nervous sheep become fear biters and eventually leave for pastures where they aren’t threatened. Long before they leave you will also note that they will quit inviting new members into the flock.

    There is a difference between ‘restoration’ (assembly focus) and discipleship (Christ-like focus). We get in trouble when we confuse the two. And, as has been stated earlier, a change in the manner of assembly (small groups, no podium, etc.) will not assure an atmosphere of greater maturity. I understand your frustration of seeing people who believe a God ordained assembly must include pews. But removing the pews… without the flock first being discipled…only scares the sheep. The irony here is that, once they are discipled to maturity, you won’t need to remove the pews because their security is no longer tied to this tradition. Removing them first assures only one thing, most of the sheep won’t be able to hear your words because you have taken away their security before they were ready.

    As to the idea that “It is only by going through the wall that we move into an inward journey, then an outward journey and finally find the self lost in love; that is, we lose our life, growing detached from things that shouldn’t matter very much as we become like Jesus—acting primarily out of love having learned something deep about God in the dark and by hanging on to the Spirit’s lead,” I am not so sure of that. I believe that may be the case…and it may be absolutely the case, as you state… but I will have to weigh the merit of what you say a little longer. The difficulty I have is that ‘hitting the wall’, if I understand it correctly, is totally out of our control. ‘The wall’ as you describe it, is a life circumstance that God controls and orchestrates…just like Jesus did for the eleven. I do see your point in the value of this experience to challenge and refine a person’s faith, but does that mean that all who have not yet experienced…or who might never experience…a wall, have no hope of attaining spiritual maturity? I would consider John the Baptist a dedicated disciple. I would classify him as ‘productive’. But I would also say he was probably motivated by selfless love. And yet, he didn’t hit his wall until he was about to be beheaded. When he asked of Jesus, ‘Are you the one or are we to expect someone else?’ it was because he hit a wall. But I have to believe his efforts (productivity) prior to this time still revealed a spiritual maturity.

    I generally see three classes of spiritual maturity revealed, in Christians, by the following attitudes. “Lord, bless all that I do today.” “Lord, May all that I say, and do, today be a blessing to you.” “Lord, whatever it is you would have me do today…WHATEVER THAT MAY BE…let it be so.” (Possible answers, “Sell everything you have and follow me,” “Whoever isn’t willing to give up everything and follow me is not worthy of me.”) Scary stuff!!! How many among us have attained level three? I know a lot of level two’ers, but that level three guy? Rare! Well, I read about a couple of those, (Rich Mullins was one) but they are very rare. And I am striving for level three, but you know, I still live smack-dab in the middle of comfortable America, so I have to wonder did I not get the call? Or have I not been listening with the ears of a third level disciple?

    Anyway, the point of that last rant is that (no slam to most sermons, but) a sermon call probably won’t be too effective in getting me to level three. An effective call to level three will in all likelihood come from some form of discipleship….and that has absolutely nothing to do with overheads, praise teams, or anything else like that. If it has a chance it will come from a friend who sits across the kitchen table from me and has the courage, and relationship, with me that will allow him to ask some serious questions of me. Ask the questions from the pulpit and I can avoid eye contact or pretend the preacher is talking to someone else. Those are the dynamics that I can’t avoid in a home church setting. Those are the questions that involve true discipleship. Can we have home-church and avoid those questions? You bet. We do most of the time. But if radical revolution is ever to take place it is much more likely to happen in this setting than in the assembly. This is why I believe Jesus would not spend time talking ‘restoration.’ It is also why I believe we miss the mark as we try to change hearts by changing the assembly. Hearts first, assembly second. Isn’t that the order in which Jesus approached these same issues in his day?

    Well, I guess I sufficiently caught the ‘rant’ bug and I am sure I have done a disservice to the ideals I was trying to convey. It is a deep subject to be sure…one without easy answers. I just believe that it is the personal dynamic that is needed to change hearts. A restoration plea, while interesting, worth-while, biblically based, and admirable, may just be the biggest distraction we face in our quest for maturity as a people.

    Amen! Ilia !!!!! If only more came to serve, rather than to be served, during our assembly. As surely as the Lord’s second coming our assembly preferences would suddenly fade in significance.

    Danny, you might need to screen my rantings in the future.

  37. dannydodd says:

    Now, Steve, why would I want to screen your rants.

    It is dialogue! (see next post)

  38. benoverby says:

    This has been one of the more interesting threads I’ve read in a while! Let me add another word or two, Steve, to some of your thoughts.

    As to throwing water in the face of folks, the place I’m coming from is my experience following Jesus very closely through the gospel of Mark last year. I’ve talked about this on my blog so I will not go into the boring details, but after preaching Mark slowly and carefully last year it became increasingly obvious that Jesus’ approach to rescuing people out of the clutches of religion required words and actions too impolite and shocking for our kindly spirits.

    Our problem is parallel to that in the first century. That is, our heritage has become an externalisitc religion obsessed with defending a way of being the church that has much to owe late traditions and little to owe Jesus and his early disciples. He forgave sins, a thing that was supposed to be done at the temple. He didn’t insist that his disciples wash their hands even though he knew how important it was as a “tradition.” He didn’t fast regardless of the traditional expectations. He touched lepers, a distinct violation of the conventional thinking. He allowed and impure women (she’d been bleeding) to touch him—another violation of religious expectations. He ate in the house of a tax collector. He went up on a mountain and called 12—a very dangerous reconstituting of Israel. He violated the sacred cow of the Sabbath day. He pushed and he shoved and he was nailed to the cross because of the threat he represented to the status quo. And when he got up out of the grave he said “as the Father sends me so I send you.”

    He was up against the same sorts of attitudes that we face and his approach seemed to be 1. Violate the tradition and then 2. Explain why the tradition was wrong-headed, and 3. When necessary tell a parable that might go over heads immediately but sink into hearts later. People who are locked in tradition are really locked in tradition and sometimes there’s not a single thing we can say or do to help them out. They will, after all, murder in a good cause. Or else fire a preacher in a good cause. I think our strategy to take it slow because sheep are jumpy hasn’t proved itself to have much merit. To the extent that churches of Christ have budged at all, it has much to owe a few brave trailblazers who were willing to violate our sacred cows, suffer the consequences, while helping to free God’s children (Is 61). Rubel Shelly, for example, was talking about grace when it wasn’t part of our tradition and he paid a heavy price. But a couple of months ago the Gospel Advocate published an article that embraced the truth that we are saved by grace alone! Someone once said a controversial things isn’t accepted as truth until it’s denied, violently opossed and then finally accepted as an assumed fact. The slow approach, in my opinion, leads to a slow death. Problem is, we don’t know how long we have. Like Jesus, I believe we have to teach and (as importantly) live or do the truth with a radical sort of intensity.

    I totally agree with what you’ve said about spiritual transformation. It doesn’t happen via sermons. It happens when we get deeper into each other’s life, obsessively peer into Jesus’ life, and open ourselves to the work of the Spirit. (2 Co. 3.17) In the emerging New Genesis Communities I’m encouraging our participants to embrace three gatherings; 1. Sunday Celebration. 2 Community Gathering on Mission. 3. Huddle Groups. It’s explicitly stated on our web site that the huddle groups are 2 or 3 getting together in order to stimulate spiritual formation.

    As to the wall, everyone goes through it. Too often we see it as a curse rather than a blessing, so rarely is it even recognized as a way God can grow us (James 1 and the trying of faith; Ro. 5 and suffering, etc.). I have no doubt that John the Baptist had hit the wall long before he was beheaded. He was a Nazarite living in the wilderness. He lived a life of extreme discipline—the sort of life that screams for “the wall.”

    And yes, I do believe that God orchestrates the wall (see He. 12.5f). He gives all of us lots of opportunities to stop the productive tower building project of Babel in order to embrace the less sexy and suffering-filled life of Abraham (they are set next to each other in Gn 11-12). We don’t just hit the wall once and then we’re done with it. We can slip back and forth in the journey. Today’s success in God’s kingdom might be tomorrow’s failure. And so in humility we just learn to let go. We take up our cross and follow Him. If we suffer with him, according to Paul, we’ll be glorified with him. But if we value external production we’ll see “wall” experiences as a threat to our “image,” and we’ll learn to smile right through pain, stunting our capacity to grow, and never breaking through to the reality that the best life is the life that is lost as Jesus raises something out of the dust.

  39. Steve Lavin says:

    Ben, WOW! Good stuff! I admire a man who knows what he believes AND why he believe it!

    As a sat here quickly (I have to get my son to a youth activity) scanning your latest comments, I could not help but think. You are a minister. I, on-the-other-hand, have served as shepherd. Both jobs are God ordained and not dynamically opposed, but not necessarily always the same either. Rightly or wrongly, perhaps that has some bearing on our approach to the flock. And perhaps, in God’s wisdom (and if men in these positions are willing to see that both fulfill God’s purposes) that is why He allows for both positions.

    Good stuff. I will comment more later. And to be sure, I expect to learn much as I reflect on your comments.

    God bless,
    Steve

  40. dannydodd says:

    Man, you guys are rough on the preacher! What do you mean spiritual transformation does not happen thru the sermon? lol

    Again- Ben- you are on a roll bro!

  41. Brad Adcock says:

    I am new to Danny’s blog, and I’ve got to tell you, Good stuff…fueling my journey for a good long while with all this. I ordered the book yesterday after finding the link in the comments. One thing I will say about some of the comments however: Several people fault the book for not giving a solution to all the problems it brings up. Wouldn’t a book that – according to what I’ve read about it so far – is decrying the fact that so many of our beliefs, practices, etc. are not drawn from the NT be inherently saying that the solution is to draw those things from the NT (i.e. – the solution they suggest IS the NT)? Just a thought.

  42. dannydodd says:

    Welcome Brad! Your points are well made.

    The NT should give us the solutions, shouldn’t it?

  43. Steve Lavin says:

    Ben, you made some good points in your last comment but it also left me with a couple of questions. (No long rant this time)

    One: The examples you gave of Jesus behavior, which led to his persecution, all seem to have occurred outside the assembly. Of the top of my head the ‘Money Changer Incident’ was the only time I can recall that he dealt with religious things on religious turf. We can agree that he never compromised his teachings, or positions, but it seems to me he was content to let the assembly alone and did his teaching apart from the assembly. He was discipling individuals, or groups, when the establishment would seek him out. Do you see a distinction in his approach? Coincidence or Purposeful? Do you believe I am reading too much into this?

    Two: Paul seems to be very specific in his letters. One guy wants a special day, another does not. One guy wants to eat meat, another does not. One guy wants to get rid of the pews, another does not. Paul says in essence, “Leave the other guy alone. Each does what they do in order to glorify God. Which position they hold does not matter, but each will begin to sin if they are forced, by the other party, to do something against their conscience. Keep your beliefs about such matters between yourself and God.” How do you decide between the Jesus you describe in Mark and the instructions of Paul?

    I would love to hear all comments in sorting through this.

  44. benoverby says:

    Steve,

    I think you ask a good question. A couple of quick thoughts. First of all, Jesus wasn’t content to leave the assembly alone. He blistered his hometown synagogue so completely, via a sermon preached from Is. 61, that they literally ran him out of town and attempted to toss him over the edge of a cliff (see Luke 4 and Mk 6.1). Then, while sitting in the synagogue he noticed a man with a crippled hand. He knew the “tradition” of the religious, yet he violated it when healing the man. The Pharisees immediately got together to discuss how they might destroy him (see Mk 4). In fact, the first miracle of Mark is found in ch. 1.21f, wherein Jesus goes into the synagogue and cast out a demon. Some of the teaching that Jesus did in the temple as recorded in Mk. 11.27, ch. 12.1f, is so provocative that the religious bosses wanted to arrest him immediately. The elite were sick to death of Jesus and by ch. 14 they were fully engaged in their plot.

    As for Paul, his allows for us to co-exist in matters of scrupple as per Ro. 14. But when you read his instruction to Timothy and Titus you realize that co-existance isn’t possible when the “circumcision” party is at work destroying the body (and we have our own present day circumcision party). The principle is such that imatters of opinion must be left aside so that love can prevail. If you want to sing with a guitar Paul says I had better not judge you nor divide the body over such an issue. If, however, you insist that the only way we can be justified is by worshipping with a guitar, well, that rendors the cross of no effect; we don’t need the cross plus the guitar, nor the cross plus acapella, nor the cross plus Sunday clothes, nor the cross plus 5 so-called acts of worship, nor the cross plus a 5 step plan. Paul wants us to be so caught up in the life of Christ that we don’t allow the other stuff to divide us. The two things Paul doesn’t tolerate is rebellious immorality (1 co 5, 2 Thess 3) and a form of religion that rejects grace by insisting that we need group of social identifiers in order to be justified; the identifiers could be dietary laws, sabbath keeping, and purity regulations, or it could be acapella singing, a particular name, a peculiar form of worship, and a five step soteriology. The prideful quest for social identity rips the body apart and conflicts with God’s eternal plan to bring all things together in Christ (as per Ep 1.7f).

    I think Paul and Jesus would both be OK with pews and pulpits. What they wouldn’t tolerate for a moment is the mindless attitude that suggest you can’t be faithful without that symbolic furniture (and, O, yes, I’ve heard arguments that insist on both those symbols if we’re to be “religious. Heard one person say in a meeting on the subject, “What will people think when they come in and see us sitting on regular chairs. They won’t think we’re a church”). Jesus and Paul would no doubt be OK with brick and mortar churches or house churches; what they wouldn’t tolerate is the belief that we need the cross plus a church building (or house church) in order to be justified. I think Jesus would challenge the bosses today by speaking and acting as if the identifiers didn’t matter. Of course, neither he nor Paul would ever be hired by a church of Christ anyway. Neither was married. : ( Seems most think we need the cross plus marriage to be effective ministers. AAAARRRRRGGGGG!

  45. Steve Lavin says:

    Ben, you say, “Paul doesn’t tolerate … a form of religion that rejects grace by insisting that we need (a) group of social identifiers in order to be justified; the identifiers could be dietary laws, sabbath keeping, and purity regulations, or it could be acapella singing, a particular name, a peculiar form of worship, and a five step soteriology.” But he does make some of these very allowances! Not in his positions or teachings BUT in his actions. He refrains, and instructions others to refrain, from behaviors that weaker brothers find offensive…all the while teaching that to bind these things is to remove ourselves from grace and again fall under law.

    I feel your frustration more that you know. I have been in the same situations arguing the same points. I have begged for spiritual maturity, and screamed for a biblical position, from my brothers. Those who know me well know that I am not known for backing down or running away. I know what it is to lead the charge in a battle surrounded by Pharisees!

    I have also seen the aftermath of these situations and that is why my approach has been tempered over the years. I now use teaching (discipling) moments (classes, small groups, individual conversations, etc.) to try to address these situations. Why the new approach? Two reasons: One, my experience has been that this group never listens as long as their spiritual security is threatened. It is unlikely that I can convert many in this group but removing their traditions before they are ready has always resulted in zero converts. They simply cannot hear once they perceive their salvation is threatened. And for them these are salvation issues!

    I also don’t believe this is something unique to the churches of Christ. If you walked into almost any denomination and removed their traditions, without first laying the groundwork, I think you would receive the same reaction.

    Second, I have seen what these struggles do to the flock. Typically, twenty percent of a congregation is made up of hard-core Pharisees, another twenty percent make up the Freedom Fighters and the remaining sixty percent are sheep that will slowly, but eventually, follow the leadership. Much like in real battle it is this last group that typically gets hurt in these situations. Military leaders on both sides make command decisions, but it is the corpses of the foot soldiers that line the battle fields. I have seen too many shrapnel laden sheep, bleeding and dying, because one general or the other decided to take a stand, pro or con, over a tradition issue. These battles absolutely devastate a congregation. At the end of the day, few of the forty percent ever change their minds. One of these groups will typically leave for another congregation (another real problem because multiple congregations end up serving as enablers). Then another interesting dynamic often takes place. The forty percent, on both sides, become embolden and take ever extreme positions (biblical or not) until another rift begins. My experience has been that is a losing proposition for all sides. I see a lot of pride, but it is hard to see love at work, in this dynamic.

    Paul admonishes us to “consider others before ourselves.” That is difficult for a hot-head like me. My pride says, ‘crush the opposition!’ But Paul also warns, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” He also said, “(he) became all things to all men, so that (he) might win some.” And so, I try, as imperfectly as I might apply it, to put down the swords of overheads, praise teams, neck ties, pews, and any one of a hundred other things, so that my brothers and sisters might hear my words. And while I may never convince the twenty percent that oppose me, I can assure you the weak, frail, needy, and generally sweet, sixty percent of the congregation are watching and willing to be influenced. It is their soul’s that determine how I approach the Pharisees among us.

    I believe there is no absolute right or wrong to the points either of us is making. Each of us must weigh the dynamics, and unique personality, of their individual congregation to determine the best course of action. But just so you don’t get the wrong idea. I am not advocating compromise with legalism! Continue to argue as you must and as Paul often did! I still do! All I am saying is that it is probably more effective to argue that ‘eating meat is OK’ without chewing on a steak while doing so.

    This has been an interesting discussion. The more we – dare I say it – dialogue, the closer I sense our positions really are to each other. And I would also say each of us could probably list endless scriptures and examples of righteous indignation versus tempered responses as justification for our comments. I have to admit, you have made some excellent points that I will reflect on for some time. One thing I have come away from this believing, you are faithful to your call to proclaim truth from the pulpit and I believe I am also being faithful to my call to disciple smaller groups of people. I know we are both soldiers in the battle against legalism, guiding souls to spiritual maturity.

    God bless, Steve

  46. benoverby says:

    Steve, thanks for such a thoughtful, encouraging post! I know the tension you describe. I suppose most all of us do. And as you pointed out, there’s no absolute right or wrong way to handle most of these situations. I don’t consider myself a pulpit preacher any longer. I quit that “work” a few months ago and now work fulltime with small businesses from Rochester down to the Pennsylvania line. My vocation is church planting. I found that I had to get out of the religious box in order to actually be faithful to my calling as an evangelist. I lead a discussion each Sunday at New Genesis, but it really is a dialogue not a sermon.

  47. dannydodd says:

    I have known Steve for a long time and seen in him the struggle of growth and an expansion of biblical discernent- and I love and appreciate him and his family.

    I have known Ben for a couple of years only through an exchange of ideas from his blog to mine and I have come to respect and appreciate his heart for ministry and outlook for Christ.

    But are you sure you guys are not related? 🙂

    All kidding aside- your discussion is only enriching those of us reading this blog. Thank you.

  48. Steve Lavin says:

    Danny…Danny!? Of course, Ben and I are related. We were adopted into the same family!

    An interesting post script: I was reading about Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma yesterday and they seemed to have been success at navigating the mine field associated with introducing change in the assembly. I can hardly begin to imagine the trials they must have gone through but they seem to have found a solution somewhere between the points of view expressed by Ben and myself.

    Anyway, you can read the statement they read to their congregation on their website at QuailChurch.com, under the Sermons tab and then looking for “Statements from Mark and the Shepherds.” Or by going directly to http://media.app3.net/qscoc5/files/Media/208fileNotes.pdf

    In the statement they used a quote from Andy Stanley. It reads “We made a fundamental decision early on that we would be more committed to reaching people than to keeping people. And when we come to these decision points, it isn’t about keeping anyone; it’s about reaching someone.”

    Statements like that concern me somewhat because I believe we must be equally concerned about the flock that God has placed in our care AND the one He would have us reach. Anyway, to me, the very fact that they were successful in moving forward, with most of their current membership in place, tells me they were indeed equally concerned about both groups.

    Bottom line: It appears they spent a year discipling their congregation and then had the courage to move forward in spite of the resistance that I know they met. So Ben, it appears they took into account the unique dynamic in place at their church and blended a combination of our thoughts. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting case study that dealt with restoration, discipleship, and reaching the lost.

  49. benoverby says:

    Steve,

    I agree. Given that God gives the increase, I think it highly suspect that He’d call His lost sheep into the fold of a group that could not nurture those already “in.” I’ll check out the link. Thanks.

  50. dannydodd says:

    If you are interesting in continuing a discussion on this book head on over to http://benoverby.wordpress.com/.

    Ben is having a series of posts on this book.

  51. Tom says:

    R. Birkey is doing a series on the book. This one is the best I’ve come across. It has art work too.

    http://www.birkeyblog.com/2008/02/23/my-introduction-to-pagan-christianity/

    http://www.birkeyblog.com/2008/02/24/pagan-christianity-introduction/

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