Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A word of caution

I read an interesting review of The Shack by Dan Walker at the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, a group I think has a lot of important ideas to offer to the simple/house church conversation. What I really like at the NTRF is that they seem to strike the right balance between core doctrines and Biblical ecclesiology. As Dan points out in his review with the catchy title of Shack Attack — One More House Church Disaster, the author of the Shack is a "house church guy" but that doesn't shield him from criticism. I have found that the "house church" or more broadly the simple church movement is a lot like the Reformation era Anabaptists. We run the gamut. Many of us are orthodox in theology like the mainstream leaders of Anabaptism. Some of them are more like the Zwickau Prophets unfortunately.

Please note I have not read The Shack and have little interest in doing so. Nor is this post even about that book. I am more interested in what you think about this statement:

But there are far too many house church Christians who don’t know where to reign in their criticism of the institutional church. When house church Christians start throwing bombs at the foundations of orthodox belief, when they deny Hell, when they use the one-man pastor’s unscriptural appropriation of authority to himself as an excuse to start chiseling away at all hierarchy and authority, when they pooh-pooh the Holy Scriptures as a guilt-edged rulebook, when they embrace a leveling egalitarianism and feminism that would, were mankind dumb enough to embrace it, destroy life on the planet, that is when I feel sorely tempted to write a check to Bob Jones University, along with an apology for all the bad things I’ve said about them for fifty years.

I think there is some wisdom here and some vital cautions. Maybe a bit over the top but nevertheless. There are many, many things that are wrong about the institutional church but not everything the institutional church believes is wrong because it is taught from a pulpit. As I said, there is a pretty big tent that people who question the institutional church fall under and I often am concerned that major deviations from orthodoxy seem to spring up in our circles. Granted that is true in the institutional church as well (see: Protestantism, Mainstream) but there is a real danger that when you start tossing rituals and traditions overboard, you might also start tossing orthodoxy aside. I don't care how swell your fellowship is if the Gospel gets lost along the way.

What do you think, is this criticism/concern warranted or is it over the top?


Joel Zehring said...

I like throwing stones. It's easy and fun and it stirs up all kinds of wonderful anti-establishment sentiment inside me.

I need to acknowledge when something doesn't resonate (institutional church), define it concisely, and then move on.

I'm much more loving and humble when I acknowledge that God can use whatever vessel he wants to advance his kingdom, no matter how I feel about it. I don't have to buy in to every expression of church. I just need to confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that if God can raise Jesus from the dead, he can animate a 501c3 organization through his spirit.

Don Litchfield said...

About a week ago, I had an insight into this debate about traditional vs. home church:

The setting does not make the people; the people make the setting!

Interpreted: God has had His men and women of faith and "fire" in every imaginable setting, exemplifying the true faith, living out salt and light, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing exploits for the Lord. Faith is not restricted because of the setting. It is restricted by "Christians" filled with unbelief and disobedience, more motivated by carnality and fellowship with the world than by fellowship with the Father and Son Who are One and Who intend the Church to one with God.
God's eyes roam the earth looking for hearts who are pure, not just in homes where the "true church" meets. So many people (me, too, in the past) have disparaged the traditional church, crying out, "denominationalism" in an attempt to discredit the work just because it was organized and pointing out the many denominations as proof of the division they bring (yes, I know there are problems there). I have witnessed the "denominational" spirit and attitude exhibited by the very people who point the finger at denominations and traditional churches.
God is seeking for people who will endeavor to keep the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" and who are willing to be those who work for the "unity of the faith" (Eph. 4).
Again, it is not the setting that makes the people (although it can have some influence), it really is the people who make the setting. As my father-in-law has stated:

We need to be thermostats that regulate and influence the environment rather than thermometers that only register and reflect the environment!
May God help us to turn up the heat!!!

Arthur Sido said...


It was good meeting you this week. We would love to get together with you and your group on a more regular basis! I certainly agree that God can (and does) use all manner of gatherings to accomplish His work. Of course I also think that some forms of the gathering are more conducive to discipleship, fellowship and community than others. My goal is and always hopefully will be to encourage other Christians to look beyond the sterile, institutionalized version of “church” that they have come to assume and start asking questions and seeking more than an hour a week with the church. Again, I try not to suggest that there is no value in any of the traditions that surround the church but rather there may be ways that are better and more conducive to discipleship.

We should grab coffee some evening!