Monday, December 14, 2009

Church Movements and Rhetoric of the Spirit

I'm reading a book on house churches, or what some people might call "liquid churches," "simple churches," or "organic churches." Much of the information is good, but it is difficult for me to get past the authors' language. You'd think it was rebellion to church any other way. Here is a sample of what I am talking about. In talking about the cultural move from large churches to house churches, the authors write:
But it does appear that God is also doing something new. There is no location, no city or town to which one can travel to find the center of this movement. There is no superstar whose conference we can attend. But all across the nation, the Holy Spirit is speaking to His people. And everyone seems to be hearing the same thing: church as we know it has changed. Many believe this current move of God will prove similar in scope and impact to the Reformation of the sixteenth century.
Now, I like the philosophy of ministry that the authors are describing. I am drinking the Michael Frost/Alan Hirsch Kool-Aid (with some helpful correctives found in Jim Belcher's Deep Church). But do you see the implications of the above quote? God is doing something new. . . .The Holy Spirit is speaking to His people . . . . [C]hurch as we know it has changed. What, then, of all the faithful followers of Jesus who are not operating according to their philosophy of ministry? Are they not following the Spirit? Is God not speaking to them, or is He keeping His new plans a secret from them?

And why is it that when God is doing something "new," it is always going back to Acts? Why not go back farther? Why doesn't anyone ever say, "God is restoring us to the original church like we saw in 1 Corinthians. There are contentious divisions. People are having sex with their step parents. They're suing each other. They're getting drunk on the communion wine. They're visiting prostitutes, forbidding each other from getting married, and denying the resurrection. It's just like the early church!"

I like the house church movement. But let's keep it in perspective. God works in a variety of ways. The Spirit has been at work for 2000 years, not just for a couple of hundred early on and a hundred more recently. Today's "movement of the Spirit" is tomorrow's "remember when churches used to . . . "

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