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Posts Tagged ‘Frank Viola’

Change is hard today and I doubt it was any easier at the height of the Roman domination over Judea. After all, codified Judaism had been around for 1250 years since the time of Moses. And Jesus wanted to do what? Build a new structure? A new type of temple? No way.

I Peter 2:5
[Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.
[Amplified]

I have written about this before, but it keeps coming up in the epistles. When it finally dawned on the disciples what Jesus was offering, what he was asking of them, it was hugely shattering to their world. One of the reasons the priests and scholars were in an uproar sooner than later was probably due to the fact that they understood exactly what Jesus was proposing. And they would have none of it: blasphemy!

The temple structure would be torn down under the new way. Animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary (the entire commerce that was wrapped around this procedure would fail). The authority of priests would be diminished, their extended families and tribe would be undermined. The temple was a huge operation; it kept a lot of people working and fed.

Jesus, as the cornerstone of a new and “living” way, was rejected for a lot of reasons. It was not about “dullness” of mind or a hard heart.

So, now, it’s been 2000 years plus, and all this time, those who have followed Jesus and spread his message of a new structure, a new way, were supposed to be getting people into the building of spiritual houses where spiritual sacrifices were being made daily. Is this happening? Did we get off the road somewhere?

I look around and it appears to me that we’re building a lot of brick and mortar, just as expansive as the temple of old. Huge budgets, salaries, and programming. People in these settings would be equally reticent to “change.” I’m pretty sure these structures are not particularly necessary to building a spiritual house.

Here’s a list of the types of spiritual sacrifices that are mentioned in scripture (copied from a sermon outline website):

TYPES OF SACRIFICES TO BE OFFERED BY CHRISTIANS…
1. Our bodies, as “living sacrifices” – Ro 12:1-2
2. A lifestyle characterized by sacrificial love – Ep 5:1-2
3. Praise and thanksgiving, which we do in prayer and song – He
13:15
4. Doing good and sharing with others – He 13:16; Php 4:15-18
5. Even in the way we die for the Lord! – Php 1:20; 2:17; 2Ti 4:6

There’s nothing in here about building buildings or huge organizational structures. It’s about our personal behavior, our commitment, our giving of time and energy to God. Now, I know, some people consider their contributions to a local church as the expression of these sacrifices and may be it is.

But I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. So much is put on the leaders of these organizations while the “body” merely pays for it. We are losing our real roles as priests and builders of the structure within.

There are a lot of young and exuberant believers (see tags) who are calling for the same revolution that Peter espoused: to rebuild our spiritual houses on the cornerstone of the Christ.

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Just as the early Jews got hung up in the first covenant, today’s believers have created a version of the second covenant that resembles the first: earthly sanctuaries, regulations and time-honored traditions.

Hebrews 8:13 – 9:1
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.

Of course, it’s even more complex in our religious world of today. There is not just one version of the tabernacle, but many, depending on the sect or denomination. The worship regulations are more rigid if one is affiliated with a high church but even the seemingly “free” new churches have developed mores and practices that eventually become similarly rigid by repetition.

Until I read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna a few years ago, I considered contemporary churches as spontaneous and unrestricted by “ritual.” But truly, haven’t these services become equally predictable and patterned in structure? Isn’t there still a type of “call to worship,” music, prayer, announcements, and sermon structure every week?

Is that necessarily bad? Of course not. But I do wonder if we’re missing something by our focus on buildings and “ministries” and committees of various authority.

Several months ago, my family made a huge leap and ventured away from our church of twenty years just to see “what else is out there.” We visited several other churches, some larger and some smaller. We would attend for several services in a row if we felt attracted to the service. It usually takes longer than a visit or two to get a sense of a place or the priorities. In one case, we were intrigued by a very high-tech, seemingly culture-relevant church. Only to be turned off a few Sundays later when the price tag for this type of savvy “presentation” was revealed as their next “strategic” goal was announced: $14 million!

I don’t have any answers, just a lot of questions. What is important to the Church: the body of Christ? Who really requires weekly “discipleship” with state of the art video and music? Are we competing with the world? Or can we simply stand in within our culture like Jesus among the tax collectors and prostitutes and be agents for change by our steadfast faith and Holy Spirit presence? Does a Christ follower of 10 or 15 or 30 years need to hear sermons every Sunday or should he/she be the one equipping the poor and lost. . . out there?

Shouldn’t prayer and worship be a constant companion? Shouldn’t every gathering of people be a celebration of God with us, Emmanuel?

I have just started reading Brian McLaren’s new book, Naked Spirituality, and I cannot recommend it enough. He uses a single word in each chapter as an exploration into the faith journey. The first word is “here.” And I re-discovered that “here” is about “here I am.” I can choose to be aware of myself in God right now, right where I am: sitting at a computer or taking a shower or getting ready for work. Call to worship isn’t me asking God to show up, it’s me telling God I am present and ready to listen and learn and experience God in the moment.

There are no regulations for “here.”

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