Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is the Return to Rome Worth It?


Disclaimer: in this post I'm strictly dealing with church issues and not with the gospel itself. Additionally, for the purposes of this piece I could also have selected Wittenberg, Geneva, Canterbury, or any other place largely associated with institutionalized religion.


If you are convinced that the biblical model of church life is correct but cannot find it, what would it require for you to return to the institution? I've been pondering this a bit lately, but have never truly considered it as an option. It is interesting to think about.

Numerous Christians that we know here in Savannah are content in their church lives. They are convinced that they are edified through good fellowship in their institutional settings. It's difficult to know how much of this is a case of "ignorance is bliss," but nevertheless these believers appear happy.

I long for that contentment and happiness. Could it be found within institutional walls? I believe it can, as long as someone is not fully convicted about the model presented in scripture being the model for church life today. If I actually started visiting institutional worship services and small groups I believe I would feel ill, even if I enjoyed it, because I'd be violating my convictions. It's just not worth it.

If Rome is not an option, then what is?

The option currently for my wife and me is to find fellowship where we can and when we can. It also means gathering in our home with just our family for the time being. It means interacting with all sorts of folks online through this blog (not an ideal situation I admit, but better than nothing).

Simple church life is, almost by definition, life on the fringes. If church history tells us three things, it is that the institution does not change, is not inviting to those who want change, and will reject those who hope for change unless they bow the knee to institutional practices. This being the case, there is no reason to try to significantly alter the organization from the inside. If you seek fellowship within the institution, what you will get is institutional fellowship.

I cannot think of a solid reason to return to Rome. I may be lonely at times, but convictions are strong things.

What about you? What would or could make you go back to institutional church? Why?

8 comments:

abmo said...

I think you can go back, but will probably not serve in the structural hierarchy of the congregation. We've been mostly out for the past 20 years, but have on occasion been involved in some of the work congregations do. Cooking for camps, starting a fellowship for teens, missionary support etc. We tend to go back to support a specific couple or person as we form new friendship with them. We are currently involved in a small congregation because our youngest(son)(11 years old) wants to be there with some of his friends. And in the process we have made new friends. That is why we go back from time to time. For the people...

You've talked about your convictions and violating them. This is our story in that regard.... When we left the institutional church, God impressed one thing on us, that we cannot trust our "correctness" of "how things should be". If we trust our convictions, then our convictions will separate us from others and if God wants me to do something that goes against my convictions, I will not hear Him, because I have my convictions. Two Bible examples will probably be Jonah and Peter's vision. Because God will never challenge our convictions, will He? :-) So we had to make peace with the fact that our experiences and convictions may be as broken as the institutional church is broken. This helped us the past 20 years to serve where needed. There is no barrier to big when it comes to God's love.

That said, I believe the institutional church does a lot of harm to the body of Christ. Mainly because believers can not mature spiritually. There is no discipleship. Worst case scenario, its a machine which uses believers to maintain its own life and spits them out when not needed. We need to acknowledge this, but I've seen God working in broken systems... not to fix the system, but to bring Love and Life to people who desperately needs Him.

Eric said...

abmo,

Thank you for your wise words. I appreciate the fact that you are not only willing to but are actually working with other believers on specific ministry issues even within the institutional framework. I could do that as well. My convictions have more to do with the actual joining, attending, and giving money to the institution.

abmo said...

Hi Eric, with the actual joining, attending and giving money, I'm with you. We left a long time ago because we could not reconcile the hour(2) a week as Christianity. The passiveness, the "machine", the "system", the discarding of the "least of us" and a lot of other stuff eventually got to us. There had to be more!! We got out and thus far, the journey is definitely worth it. The Mystery of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our Father is frustratingly beautiful.

Thanks for your blog and God bless :-)

Unknown said...

Not Either Or, But Both And

After being enormously blessed in house church worship for over six years I have made various observations; some positive some negative. I take this blog to share some of them. As you consider these observations please know that they are from my own personal experience.

I have concluded from Scripture that ecclesiology (the study of church) is not an essential of faith, thus there is liberty in where, when and how one worships and "does church", so long as sin is not in ones worship.
Worshiping God in Spirit and truth is the guideline.

We are urged (by Augustine I think) to be charitable in all things. I think that would include being charitable to those who worship whether in traditional ways, the New Testament model, or any other respectable formats, realizing that, "Where two or more are gathered together in My name there I am in the midst of you."

My experience has been that some house church types look down un-lovingly on those who prefer the traditional model, while some in
traditional churches treat house church types with disdain even to the point of judging them as probably not saved. A well known theologian has public- ally stated that if one is not a bonafide member of a traditional church he probably is not saved.

Either position seems a matter of sin.

Those truly passionate followers of Jesus Christ however, wherever,or whenever they "do church" are brothers and sisters and are commanded to love one another and accept each other as such, welcoming each other into each other's venue. It is not a matter of either or, but of both and.

It is my opinion that in whatever format we find ourselves growing more loving, more Christlike, more obedient, and more intimate with Him, it is there we must meet. And if it is both, traditional and house, so be it.

And as has always been my principle, whether you choose one or the
other format and have searched the Scripture to support your conclusion, in light of the illumination you have received from the Holy Spirit, be prepared to stand before God on that day in judgement.

This being said, I firmly believe the New Testament model to be the one that draws me into closer intimacy with God. Our New Testament Model, called "His Church", is small in number but we too desire a connection to a larger assembly. Until God provides it we will fill that relational need (as challenging and distracting as it may be) with brothers and sister intermittently at a Bible based reformed community.
Gus Supan.

Tim A said...

Your blog is a strong ministry to those God brings to your site. I have been to many organic sites and yours is one of the freshest and most well written.

The body of Christ is present in the Rome system. You can be with them without being being dirtied by the system. I know it's hard to sit and listen to a boring dumbed-down Bible lecture. Maybe skip that part and join in with some of the smaller group options. Some saints are blind and want to stay blind. Others are starting to open their eyes. Watch for those on the outskirts of relationship. Ask questions about their spiritual story to see if there is a hunger for something better. I ask "What did God teach you during the sermon?" There are many trails of penetrating questions that can flow from that depending on their answer. God will connect you. This is a perseverance race that we are in.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

Abmo is in a fortunate situation. Most church groups in this country look with suspicion upon someone who isn't a member who regularly attends etc.,but offers to work in their activities.

Eric said...

Tim,

Thanks!

Eric said...

John,

Agreed. I suppose it depends from particular situation to situation.