Rethink Church

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New Year Resolution

2016, happy new year

This year we plan to intentionally form fellowships in which we can study and discuss:

  • what it means to grow and change as individuals and families
  • how attending to our strong emotions can help us discern our path toward wisdom
  • how we can nurture loving relational bonds
  • and how we can work together in faithful communities

One way we hope to cultivate these relationships is through blog posts as a conversation starter.

Another way we hope to cultivate these relationships is through sharing stories of transformation via a quarterly newsletter, and through discussing the practices that lead to wisdom, love, and faithfulness via small group gatherings.  Please consider becoming a Friend of NGFCC by subscribing to our mailing list so that you don’t miss any part of this exciting journey that we will share together.

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Imagine Church as an Ancient Galilean Village

Holy multiplication

 

Galilean Village Christianity was primarily domestic. It took place in the small rural Hebrew villages in the pastoral land around the Sea of Galilee, and for the most part Jesus did not disrupt the rhythms of ordinary life, fishing, farming, tending flocks, cleaning house, raising children. Instead he saw the Reign of God occurring in terms of those ordinary interactions.

Jesus’ parables arise from the language of home life in ancient Galilee, and are best understood in contemporary life through the language of family and home and neighborhood.

Jesus was an itinerant Galilean Rabbi, going from village to village, teaching in their gatherings/synagogues, praying for their sick, and comforting them in the face of their losses. He seems to have joined families as they went out to gathering places for day long picnics. He went about with the boats and fishers on the Sea of Galilee. And while the Galilean ministry was the nest within which Jesus began to form the deeper relationships that would come to be known as discipleship, Galilee was not the setting for discipleship. It was centered in village life. You might say that in this early phase of his work Jesus joined the life around him. Immanuel.

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

There is room today for Galilean village church. If the contemporary church would imitate Jesus, then it must embrace his Galilean ministry as a foundation of all that followed. Pastors must learn to be village Rabbi’s who go into the homes and businesses of the people. They must join people in their play, in their loves, in their losses. They must comprehend the struggles of ordinary family life, and must see the Reign of God in ordinary terms. The Galilean church must come to see the parables of its own life as the terms through which the reality of God’s loving and creative presence is both hidden and revealed in our midst.

The structures of Galilean Church must embrace and enhance the village life of ordinary humanity. We must eat together, raise children together, share life with each other.

The sacramental life (baptism and communion) makes sense as part of village life where baths and drinking water and stormy weather all have a certain resonance with the presence of God, baptism. Meal time and food costs and what we eat can easily be seen to reflect the love of God, or the absence of God’s love, communion.

“These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.  When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.  When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:27-30, NRS)

The village is a cluster of homes, not only dwellings, but also relationships. The village is a level of society more complex than individual families, and the village must be a healthy container for family life.

Rethink Church by Remembering Jesus

Old Prairie Church

 

 

I am told that we live in a postmodern era when the simple homogeneity of cultures has all but disappeared into an ocean of diverse and conflicting humanity. Most of us are “not from around here,” so to speak. So, what does postmodern Church look like? The short answer is that it will not likely be a parochial white clapboard sanctuary, or perhaps even a steepled spire in the middle of town.

It will be a circle of relationships.

The postmodern Church may be a post-institutional matrix of relationships bound together through common interests, distance learning, and digital social networks. In the postmodern era we are witnessing the collapse of traditional institutions, like city based symphony orchestras, and even traditional church congregations. But at the same time, new music is springing up, and new models of church are emerging as the old purveyors of social capital give way to new cultural processes. Small town economies went through such a collapse after superhighways were built to carry traffic around them, and superstores replaced local businesses. Now in many places, the new small town is emerging. In the same way the local church as a parochial unit, especially if the parish continues to be understood in terms of geographic and cultural homogeneity, may simply evaporate.

Meanwhile the issues requiring theological community have only grown deeper and more complex, and theological community will emerge like a Phoenix from the ashes (resurrection).

The church does not need to be a clapboard sanctuary, or even a steepled spire, but it does need to be faithful to Jesus. Its mandate is to faithfully follow Jesus in every culture (Matt 28:16-20), and in order for the church to be a faithful reflection of the life of Jesus, it must take a variety of forms in the world.  No one expression, form or function, is adequate to express faithfulness to the life of Jesus.

If we remember Jesus as he is presented in the Gospels, then a Niebuhr inspired paradigm (Christ and Culture) suggests at least three different expressions are warranted by the church’s desire to reflect the life of Jesus in the world.

  1.  A form that reflects the Galilean village which Jesus loved (a church within culture).
  2. A mobile gathering of disciples on the way, i.e., a wilderness church centered in baptism and holy meal (a church outside culture).
  3. A prophetic church that speaks truth to power and addresses the complexity of the social, religious, and political world (a church that transforms culture) — a Jerusalem church.

Person PrayingNeither the Galilean village, nor the gathering in the wilderness across the Jordan, is the full expression of the church, since the great passion of Jesus was only reflected in Jerusalem. Galilee and wilderness are both penultimate and preparatory for Jesus’ life in the City of God. In the same way, the Jerusalem mission of the church can only emerge from the arduous life-journey that is made in the transitions from Galilee through the wilderness to Jerusalem. It is when the church has been able to embrace all three expressions in a living and dynamic paradigm that the life of Jesus has been faithfully revealed in the world.

The contemporary life of the people of God is at such a juncture where we must rethink what it looks like to remember Jesus, to love as God loves, and to create the transformation of the world as the Reign of God, the City of God.

Christians around the world are entering the season of reflection on the life of Jesus, the times between Christmas and Easter, an annual invitation to the Holy memory of Jesus.