I’m following an interesting discussion started by Frank Viola (author of Pagan Christianity, Reimagining the Church, From Here To Eternity). It started over at Out of Ur, a great blog to keep up with, and continues on some of his own blog sites. The comments are as interesting and insightful as the posts themselves.
“There is a growing phenomenon in the body of Christ today. Alongside of the missional church movement, the emerging church movement, and the house church movement, there is a mode of thinking that I call “postchurch Christianity.”
The postchurch brand of Christianity is built on the premise that institutional forms of church are ineffective, unbiblical, unworkable, and in some cases, dangerous. Institutionalization is not compatible with ekklesia. So say postchurch advocates.
But the postchurch view goes further saying, “any semblance of organization whatsoever . . . any semblance of leadership…is wrong and oppressive. Church is simply when two or three believers gather together in any format. Whenever this happens, church occurs.”
I made the mistake of posting a comment suggesting that “post church” was the logical conclusion to Frank’s writing in Pagan and Reimaging. He took exception with my remark (in a kind way) and asked how I could come to that conclusion when he spoke against “post church” in his writing. I told him I should have said, “inevitable conclusion” rather than logical. And I don’t think it’s so much what he wrote but how what he wrote has been used by people who’ve been hurt by church or who have become bored with church or who have always wanted to be “in charge” of a church.
There are some issues here that I don’t think Frank really gets because it’s so far from where his heart is. He wants to draw a distinction between me meeting with my friend at Starbucks for a coffee and calling that “church” and me getting friends together in my living room on a regular basis for worship, prayer, etc. Clearly there is a difference to Frank but for those who’ve been burned, abused or hurt by church or are just pissed off and don’t want to deal with that reality, the distinction is completely unclear.
Frank says, “In my personal judgment, the postchurch view fails all six tests. The postchurch paradigm is rooted in the attempt to practice Christianity without belonging to an identifiable community that regularly meets for worship, prayer, fellowship, mutual edification, and mutual care.”
The problem is that Frank is working from his definition (which he would insist are biblical) of all of those criteria) but others who I’ve talked to or read who are very “post church” would feel they do all those things (even at Starbucks) they just wouldn’t apply the same definitions that Frank does.
Is there a difference between 2 or 3 and 12? If so, then is there a difference between 12 and 100? Or the 500 that followed Jesus to hear his final words and see his final appearance before ascension? The problem in this conversation is that we don’t all use the same words to mean the same thing anymore. Neither English or Greek. A quick read through the comments on Frank’s posts reveal that we all may be reading the same thing but we don’t seem to be reading the same thing.
It’s startling to how a question so easily becomes an attack in this discussion. But then, that’s nothing new in Church is it?