Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Yesterday I sent out my weekly [Subversive Underground] article to the subscribers of my little e-newsletter. It was entitled "The Reluctant Radical" and it was something I have been working on and thinking about for some time now.

(You can read this article by clicking on the [Subversive Underground] link at the left-nav).

Already I've received several responses which tells me several things. One, that some people actually read those things, which is a relief. It also tells me, based on the email and comments I'm receiving, that I need to clarify a few things.

Below I have pasted some of my correspondence with my good friend Ben V. and also with fellow blogger Adam on the subjects of church history, practice and leadership.

Here ya go:

I hope that people who read my articles still get that I'm not against traditional churches or those who attend them. I've tried to balance what I'm saying with the idea that I still have many friends who are traditional pastors and parents who still attend, and love, their mega-church, etc.

My high-wire act is to share what I'm learning with everyone and allow them to draw the conclusions, allow them to fill in the "Now What?" blanks for themselves.

Yes, I have my opinions, and I try to share them as graciously as possible, and yes, sometimes people get offended by what I share and that's ok too, I guess.

I am pretty open about the fact that our family has decided to enter the house church arena, and I hope that people get more light than heat from my articles. I hope so, anyway.

To answer your questions:

A) "when I actually read Acts and realized the Believers were still meeting in the Temple daily for prayer."

Well, not exactly. I mean, yes, at the beginning of Acts we read that they met daily in the Temple Courts. But this stopped pretty much instantaneously after Stephen was stoned to death and Saul started going from house to house to round up these Followers of The Way. After this is was pretty much the house meeting exclusively to avoid arrest.

It's important to note, however, that the decision to meet in houses didn't come up after the persecution as a way to protect the Body. It was something they were doing from day one. What they did was eliminate the more public and Jewish-based meeting in the Temple Courts, but the house meetings were ongoing from Jesus, into the Upper Room meetings and throughout the New Testament church.

I'm not kidding when I say don't read the history of the early church unless you want to have your concepts blasted apart. The less you know about these things he easier it will be for you to stay safe and happy the way you are. I'm just sayin'....

B) "It talks about the church hierarchy and it seems similar to what we have today"

Again, not really. We tend to read into the New Testament these patterns because that's how we've always been taught to see and understand things. But there was no hierarchy in the early church, not until late in the Third Century when newly converted pagans became leaders and brought their ideas of Priest and Bishop into the fold. Before this the church was lead mainly by Elders who were self-identified by the rest of the Body and sometimes by one of the Apostles.

The word "Pastor" only appears once in the Bible. We have no formal explanation of what someone with this gifting did, other than to trace the root of the word as it relates to "Shepherd", or one who cares for the flock. To me, it's significant that the only way to lead a flock of sheep is from behind. Jesus modelled a very different kind of leader for us, and for his disciples, which they took to heart.

At any rate, those with pastoral giftings in the early church certainly didn't look or act anything like the one's we have today.

I recently engaged in a Q & A with a guy (ADAM) over this on the [SU] so rather than re-type this here's what I said to him about the idea of leadership within the early church:

ADAM SAID: "...having been in the corporate world a while, one truth I have found regarding human nature is that people WANT to be led."

KEITH'S RESPONSE: Yes, people do want to be lead, but what I've learned is that leadership doesn't have to look like what we're used to seeing in the church.

The traditional church models a CEO leadership and takes its cues from the business world, but there are other forms of leadership that don't take the "I'm the boss" approach.

The form of leadership that Jesus modelled was to wash the feet of his followers, and then he commanded them to do the same, especially pointing out that when they lead others they were not to "Lord it over people" as the pagans did/do.

Leadership, as modelled by Jesus, is by example, based on servant hood and facilitates dialog, cooperation and teamwork, not a professional clergy class.

ADAM SAID: "But what about Romans 12:5-8 which I was always taught about spiritual gifts?....there is a Leadership "gift.""

KEITH'S RESPONSE: You're correct, but again, we cannot assume that "leadership" means what we've come to know it as simply because that's the model we've grown up with. Does the Bible show us a different model for leadership? Yes, it does. My argument is that we, as followers of Jesus, need to adopt the model that Jesus gave us, not the one we've borrowed from Bill Gates and Starbucks, etc.

ADAM SAID: "...this passage insinuates a multi-member, multi-function organization with people in leadership roles. If the pastor is not designated the "leader" then who is?"

KEITH'S RESPONSE: You're getting it. The Bible gives us a model where function within the Body is shared and relational. Each person contributes something that no one else can using their unique gifts.

ADAM: "Just curious, how does your house church operate?"

KEITH: Glad you asked! I've got several articles I could send you which describe this in greater detail, (and I'll email those links to you if you ask me at "elysiansky" at hotmail (dot) com), but essentially I facilitate our share times together and try not to dominate the dialog, allowing everyone (even the children) to share insights into scripture, communicate a testimony, provide an insight, etc. to encourage the rest of us in our walk with Christ.

There are times when I need to exert my "Pastoral Authority" but usually everyone plays nice and most of the leadership you'd expect to see is done behind the scenes, in private and one-on-one with those who need a loving rebuke or a nudge in the right direction


Ben - I'm glad to hear you're re-reading through the book of Acts. I'd encourage you to go to the library and pick out pretty much ANY book on Constantine and/or early church history. It will change your mind about a lot of things.

As you say, "It would be truly terrible to find out one day that, like our Catholic brothers, we've been getting things wrong for centuries. Of course, that may be the case . . ."

Yes, that would be truly terrible.


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