October 19, 2017

The Liturgical Gangstas 9: Church Planting

UPDATE: Alan Creech has joined us.

Welcome to IM’s popular feature, “The Liturgical Gangstas,” a panel discussion among different liturgical traditions represented in the Internet Monk audience.

Who are the Gangstas?

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Rev. Peter Vance Matthews is an Anglican priest and founding pastor of an AMIA congregation.
Dr. Wyman Richardson is a pastor of a First Baptist Church (SBC) and director of Walking Together Ministries, a resource on church discipline.
Alan Creech is a Roman Catholic with background in the Emerging church and spiritual direction. (Alan’s not a priest. If he is, his wife and kids need to know.)
Rev. Matthew Johnson is a United Methodist pastor.
Rev. William Cwirla is a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) and one of the hosts of The God Whisperers, which is a podcast nearly as good as Internet Monk Radio.

Here’s this week’s question: What is the status of church planting in your tradition/denomination? What’s your view of the place of church planting in Christianity as a whole and the future of your own tradition/denomination?

Father Ernesto/Orthodox: Church planting is alive and well within the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, as well as within other Orthodox jurisdictions. Since 1988, we have grown significantly. We have more than doubled in size.

Having said that, I cite 1988 because that was a year of change among the Antiochians. Frankly, before that the Antiochians were all too focused within themselves and their ethnicity. This despite the fact that Orthodox missions began in North America in 1794 in Alaska when the first Orthodox missionaries arrived. But, that early missionary spirit was lost into ethnicity by the mid-1950’s. At that point, it could have safely been said that the Antiochians were Orthodox Christians from the Levant area of the Middle East.

The change came from outside. In the 1980’s, a group of evangelical churches came to Metropolitan Philip and asked to become part of Orthodoxy. The process of discernment became the crucible of the Holy Spirit to call Orthodoxy back to its missionary history. That group was accepted in, and the Antiochians became mission minded Orthodox again. Right now, if you were to ask any of us, we would answer that the Church has no choice but to plant churches. But, we would also emphasize that mere evangelism is insufficient. Unless the evangelism is aimed at the planting of parishes or aimed at bringing people into the Church, we would be in danger of leaving orphaned believers around. That is, we do not believe in evangelism as separate from church planting. We cannot even imagine the possibility of teaching someone adequately about Christ without, at the same time, teaching them about the Body of Christ.

I would argue that this is one of the biggest mental changes that needs to take place within American Christianity. The emphasis on purely individual conversion, the lack of a catechetical process, and the failure to give importance to the “wineskin” within which a new believer is to be placed have led to a Christianity that has behavior patterns that are little different from society at large. It is little wonder that Christianity is seen as a “sweet by and by” religion by American critics, and they have a point.

So, to answer iMonk’s question, I have mixed feelings about the place of church planting in Christianity. If by church planting one means a continuation of the modern methodology, then I see little place for that. It would simply be a continuation of what has not produced lasting change and what has led us to be labeled a “sweet by and by” religion. Church planting that does not lead to any discernible change in behavior is the warehousing of individuals who are simply participating in a cultural exercise. If by church planting one means evangelizing people, catechizing them (we take a year before someone is admitted as a member) so that they have a sound doctrinal and practical basis for their Christianity, and making sure that they are placed into a wineskin that will provide a sound structure to their relationship with Christ and a connection to the Holy Spirit, then I would say that, yes, America desperately needs that type of church planting. Let us remember that those who wrote against Christianity in the Roman Empire were nevertheless impressed by the changed behavior that they witnessed, not simply a result of an “encounter” with Christ but also a result of the catechetical process through which all Christians had to pass and of being placed into a wineskin that provided the structure and support that a Christian needed in order for change to take place. We need more of that in America.

Matthew Johnson/United Methodist:I can’t talk with much authority on a denominational level but I can tell you that several years ago our Conference made a commitment to plant churches in the state of Arkansas. I am fully behind this because I think we need to plant new churches. We’ve probably seen more failures than successes at this point but I’m glad that we are trying. Could we do it better? Sure, and I hope we’ll look at other denominations or movements to help us see church plants grow and thrive.

I am a United Methodist and I’ll confess, I’m smitten with the Acts 29 church planting network. I’ve read their material, listened to their podcasts, and tried to pay attention to what they are doing which seems to be a lot. In the scope of catholic Christianity, these guys are doing what I wish we would/could do because it is in our DNA. There was a time in our history when circuit riding preachers were establishing churches in communities up and down the frontier of the nascent United States. That’s a piece of our history that is badly missing today. I’m not that aware of what other traditions or movements are doing in my area right now, but I encourage and pray for church plants. I pastor in a town of 4,000. I’d guess that we’ve got 1,000 people in church on any given Sunday within the city limits. That means we have around 3,000 not going anywhere. I’d love for them to come worship with us and maybe some of them will but if a church plant came in here and reached some people that the other churches weren’t I would celebrate that.

As far as my view of the place of church planting in my denomination, I’d like to see more priority given to church plants but we’re going to have to get over our sense of territorial entitlement. There are times when a good church plant might encroach on the territory of another UM church. Established churches see it as a threat which makes no sense to me. If the existing church had made evangelism and church planting a priority no one would be having a conversation about territorial boundaries. This from a denomination whose founder snubbed the religious authorities of the Church of England and said “The world is my parish.” As you can see from the Wesley Report, we don’t always play nicely when it comes to church plants. (http://www.wesleyreport.com/2009/03/gracepoint-what-really-happened.html). I accept that I don’t know all the details and I might be unfairly characterizing those involved, but it cannot be denied that it was a mess and that territory had a place in the conflict no matter whose side you were on. That kind of stuff is not going to expand the Kingdom of God into the hearts of unbelievers.

Peter Vance Matthews/Anglican: I am a member of the Anglican Mission in the Americas which is an outreach to North America from the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The reason our denomination exists is to plant churches. I am a church planter. The church I pastor now is the third church plant I have worked with. Part of my role in the AMiAs is to recruit, resource and place new church planters. I believe in church planting.

Anglicanism is a parochial tradition. When the Church of England separated from Rome, the nation was thoroughly churched. Reformation did not involve church planting; it involved reforming the existing life of the church – its structures, its doctrine, its clergy and its liturgy. However, in the 19th century, as Anglicanism spread around the globe, the missionary impulse entered the Anglican fold. To some degree in the United States (there is a robust history of church planting by the Episcopal Church in the 19th century) but mostly in Africa and Asia, Anglicanism has taken on a missionary DNA that has led to church planting and church planting movements. One of the classic texts on church planting was penned by Anglican cleric and missionary Roland Allen entitled The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes Which Hinder It. In the 20th century the church planting impulse has become part of global Anglicanism. In Rwanda, the Anglican Church has all the classic structures – diocese, bishop, parish – one finds in the Church of England, but the aim of these structures is to facilitate evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

I believe the church is a missionary movement. I believe this missionary reality touches all aspects of life, but I believe church planting is at the heart of its purpose. While I do not believe church planting is a sufficient means to foster a renewal of classical Christianity in North America, I do believe it is a necessary and central part of this work.

Sometimes people argue that there are already enough churches in North America. This can seem right if one drives down the streets of a city and sees what looks like a lot of churches. But looks can be deceiving. I live in Lexington, Kentucky. There are roughly 300 churches in the city. The population of the city is roughly 300,000. If one is generous and assumes the average attendance of all the churches combined is 200 per church, then 60,000 people attend church in Lexington. That means 80% of the city is unchurched – and Lexington is Bible belt country! Again, one might argue that these churches need to grow. But that won’t happen. Most churches are under 100 in attendance. This is not because they are all dead. It is because natural human groupings are small. The mega-church model is a large exception to the rule. Thus, I suggest, the best way to evangelize a city is to plant more and more churches.

I am looking for church planters. If you are Anglican, or have an interest in being Anglican, and sense a call to plant a church, let me know. I want to talk to you! Heck, I don’t even care if you aren’t Anglican, I still want to talk!

Alan Creech/Roman Catholic: Church planting in the Catholic Church – hmmm. To begin with, I’ll say that I can only answer this question based upon my own personal knowledge and experience. I am not any sort of official representative of the Roman Catholic Church. Yeah, I tried to get hold of the office in charge of all this in Rome, but alas, no return. 😐

As I was saying, hmmhmm, church planting in the Catholic Church (and I can also only speak for America) – uuhmm, say what? church what?? Planting? Are you talking about a garden or something? Sorry. Honestly – very honestly, the most I’ve heard about anything close to this concept is the effort to close as many churches as possible in recent years. Not that we want to close them, but that’s just how it’s shaking down. It’s about viable numbers and paying bills and facilities and yes, a lack of Priests. Parishes are being consolidated all over – you know, shut down two and move both their numbers into another one nearby. It’s a painful situation.

Now, there have certainly been some church plantin’ missionary wild folk in the Catholic Tradition. The Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits (among many others) have set the world on fire with missionary zeal in their day. Have you seen the movie “The Mission”? That’s Jesuit hard-core stuff right there. And the Blackrobes were martyred a many in the early Native American and Canadian wilderness. They went among the native peoples, taught them the Gospel, baptized them, and started churches. I was amazed at the number of Franciscan enclaves there are in Ireland when I was there, and the age of some of them – not long after Francis kicked the earthly bucket – those boys were travlin’.

There are “missions” today too, in outlying areas. In Eastern Kentucky there are very tiny Catholic “missions” set up in trailers or rooms here and there, run by more established churches in towns not far away. That’s a kind of church planting. There are small groups of Ordered Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters who live in areas you just don’t move to, ministering to the people there, many times in the inner-city where no one sees them except those who live there. Is that “church planting”? Not per se, but it is “the presence of the Church” among the people of the world. These things are coming to mind as I think about this.

These things are great. What I don’t see, though, is an attempt to do what my good friend Peter up there mentioned – trying to reach people in a city the size of Lexington through planting multiple churches instead of trying to grow the ones we have bigger. Bigger, as I see it, is not always better. Could there possibly be some kind of effort to develop new ways of establishing Catholic faith communities in a place like this, or any place for that matter, which might possibly tap into the missionary Christ living inside the great masses of the un-ordained? Maybe? One huge disadvantage I see (my perspective is perhaps a bit unique due to my mixed background) is the lack of simplicity where it comes to what constitutes “a church.”

There is also an, as I see it, unfortunate idea that when we build church buildings, somehow we need to spend waaay too much money on a facility that is “worthy” enough to house the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist — as if God is overly concerned with the grandeur of houses built by the hands of men. His Sacramental Presence in the Eucharist is indeed beautiful and deeply nourishes us, helping to transform us into His Own Image, but God is not a man that he needs a 9 million dollar edifice to live in. I would imagine that if His earthly tabernacle had to be a hollowed out space in a tree in the forest in order for His Life to enter a softened human heart, then so be it and He would be glorified.

How about a ton of small, quasi-monastic, base ecclesial communities scattered around a city or a rural area for that matter, who build relationships with one another, pray together on a regular, systematic basis, have some sort of leadership to help with spiritual direction, and who are connected to a larger local parish church. That’s a thought that I could flesh out a lot more, but for such a thing, there wouldn’t be need for highly educated clergy, not at that level. I’m not saying anything like “do away with clergy” so don’t even try it. I’m talking about new ways of being church together in a Catholic context without having to build a bunch of buildings or have a bunch of Priests that we don’t have. There’s a lot that could be done and no real need to dismantle anything in the process. OK, that’s all I’ve got. Peace to all in this house.

Wyman Richardson/Southern Baptist: The planting of new churches is a huge emphasis in the Southern Baptist Convention. The statement on the SBC North American Mission Board website provides a pretty accurate reflection of the rationale for this emphasis: “Believing that anything healthy reproduces, the Church Planting Group works with our partners to plant healthy, reproducing churches with evangelistic passion as part of the New Testament church planting movement among all people groups in the United States, U.S. territories, and Canada.” To this end, the “Church Planting Village” was created for the purpose of providing (caution: cringe alert!) “Your One Stop Shop For Church Planting” (http://www.churchplantingvillage.net).

This is but one example of what is, again, a massive push for the creation of new churches in the SBC, an push that is at least verbally present in virtually every area of SBC life.

There are quibbles: I’ve heard many pastors complain about what they perceive to be the non-strategic planting of churches in saturated areas without appropriate communication with the existing churches. This comes across to these pastors as pompous, myopic, divisive, and harmful. Furthermore, some question the motives and the rationale of the emphasis.

That being said, I am in general agreement with the NAMB assumption “that anything healthy reproduces.” Perhaps I would phrase it a bit differently, given that there have been many a “healthy” disciple or ministry that has faithfully tried to see the gospel spread and “reproduce” but has met with very little or no signs of outward “success,” for lack of a better word. In other words, is the faithful believer who is genuinely seeking to be salt and light but who has not seen the conversion of people to Christ “unhealthy”? I think not.

But, with that caveat, I agree. The planting of new churches is, in my opinion, biblical, right, and good. It is also logically necessary as the gospel even now continues to spread into unreached groups and locales. I have some questions, again, about the planting of new churches in so-called “saturated” areas, and yet the state of many of our churches as well as an absurd and ever-encroaching tribalism that keeps too many churches from genuinely trying to reach their community renders the creation of new churches unfortunately necessary even in these areas.

I agree with Michael’s assessments in his “Collapse of Evangelicalism” article and think that new church starts will become increasingly important (crucial, even) in the ruins of this collapse. But the creation of these new churches will need to mean much more than the creation of new gathering places, and the motivation will have to be much more than denominational expansion, the replenishing of dwindling denominational coffers, the sustaining of denominational church-growth bureaucracies, etc. The motivation will have to be a renewed commitment to the gospel, a renewed understanding of its power to transform human hearts, and a renewed conviction that the stewards and propagators of this gospel are the people of God. As such, the creation of new churches will likely come less from denominational entities and more from conviction-driven local congregations. This would be, I think, a welcome development.

William Cwirla/Lutheran: he language of “church planting” is not native to my Lutheran confessional tradition. The Lutheran Reformation was a reformation of existing, established churches in regions where Christianity was the dominant, if not exclusive, religion. Since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) that ended the Thirty Years’ War, Lutherans have operated quite comfortably with a regional or state church institutional model.

On the other hand, my own denomination, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), has church planting at its foundation. The LCMS grew by gathering scattered German immigrants living on the western frontier of 19th c. America. Language barriers limited much of these efforts (a fact often misunderstood or ridiculed by others). CFW Walther, the first president of the LCMS and pastor of the “mother church” in St. Louis, intentionally divided his large congregation into four distinct but related congregations and seeded these new church plants with members from the mother church. Many LCMS congregations followed the same pattern. The LCMS sent seminary trained traveling preachers (Reisepredigern) all over the western frontier to gather new congregations. Congregations also freed their pastors to travel during the week to plant new congregations.

This church planting activity continued through the mid-20th century during the post-war boom years of the LCMS. Often a church plant resulted inadvertently out of a congregation division, for wherever two or three Lutherans are gathered there will be a split. Sometimes congregations relocated when they had lost touch with their surrounding community. I grew up in such a church plant on the southwest side of Chicago; I was baptized in the local elementary school’s gymnasium, since our congregation did not yet have a building.

Things seemed to have changed in the 1960’s and 70’s as urban congregations declined and suburban congregations were smitten with the “church growth” bug and the temptation to become a “mega-church.” I believe that our synodical fascination with the church growth movement did more to hurt the formation of new congregations than any other single factor. Instead of looking outward to generate daughter congregations, congregations looked inward to grow ever larger in numbers, property, and programs.

Church planting seems to be on the front burner once again in the LCMS. Our synodical missions department has set a goal of 2000 new church plants by the year 2017 and currently reports 498 new church plants since 2002. My own district, which encompasses southern CA, Arizona, and southern Nevada planted 7 new congregations last year and 20 in the last five years serving a wide variety of languages in an ethnically complex region.

Certain aspects of Lutheranism are challenged by recent trends in church planting. As a sacramental confession, we hold to a sacramental view of the pastoral office as a unique, divinely established office that functions within the Church with the authority of Christ. No one is to preach and preside in our churches apart from call and ordination (Augsburg Confession XIV). No one can set himself up to be a pastor or church planter simply because he has the itch. In our circles, church planting tends to be pastor-driven and top-down in our circles. I will be curious how this compares with my Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox gangstas.

Lutherans in general, and the LCMS in particular, place a high value on the local congregation, respecting existing congregational boundaries and treating each congregation as though it were a little regional church, much like a diocese or geographic parish. Church planting activity within the vicinity of an established congregation tends to be frowned upon if not discouraged. This is especially problematic when the local congregation is weak or dying or has lost meaningful contact with its community. The increased mobility of people and their willingness to travel to find a church that suits their needs, makes geographic boundaries largely irrelevant.

Lutheran congregations tend to institutionalize rapidly, turning them inward and closing them off to newcomers, who are seen as threats to the status quo and the power structure. I recall my field work days when I served in a church plant in semi-rural Missouri. The character of the congregation completely changed when they built their first building and rapidly began to take on institutional concerns. Ironically, they were a much more vibrant, outreach-oriented congregation when they gathered in a borrowed music room at the local middle school.

Another factor that is potentially limits our church planting today, in my estimation, is our increasing diversity in doctrine and practice. Whereas LCMS church plants of the 1950’s resembled congregational “franchises” with everyone more or less on the same doctrinal and liturgical page, today’s church plants reflect a broad diversity that makes many Lutherans uncomfortable. Today, an “LCMS” branded church may look and sound Evangelical, Emergent, semi-Baptist, quasi-Orthodox, or darn near-Catholic depending on who’s paying the bills. I suspect that our concept of unity in doctrine and practice is going to be seriously tested by those 2000 church plants by 2017. It already is.

Comments

  1. Georgia peach says:

    I have been a member of what some refer to as a “classical pentecostal” church for the last 34 years (Church of God (Cleveland, TN)). Recently our congregation took communion by intinction for the first time, although several smaller groups within the congregation (choir retreat, home prayer meetings) have been taking it that way for some time.

    We don’t have vestments and liturgy yet, but give us time….we even said the Apostle’s Creed a few months back (one time only), and spontaneous applause broke out afterward. We never said it again….

  2. MAJ Tony says:

    I think due to historical factors, “Church Planting” in the Roman Catholic Church meant either an already expanding membership mostly from natural growth due to family growth or people already Catholic moving into an area. My home parish was literally a home church with a priest riding circuit out of St. Meinrad (IN) monastery until the late 1800s when permission from the Bishop of Vincennes (a now-defunct diocese) was gained to start a new parish. Prior to the erecting of the Diocese of Evansville, IN, and Owensboro, KY, most of the churches along that part of the IN/KY border were mission churches of St. Meinrad.

    The erecting of new parish churches in certain diocese is most likely a result of influx of existing Catholics from other dioceses. I don’t see a significant change in that unless we a. start to seek more new members whether it’s from unchurched sources or people looking for something they’re not getting wherever they currently are; and b. we get more good vocations to the priesthood. As a decidely NON-cafeteria Catholic, I don’t believe changing the rules is going to affect those numbers. In fact, the evidence seems to show that in RC dioceses with (small o) orthodox bishops that teach faithfully the doctrines of the Roman Church, vocations to the Priesthood, Diaconate, and religious orders are on a decidedly positive trend.

    With respect to church architecture, artwork, etc. I believe that, at least with respect to Roman and Eastern Churches, a certain level of grandeur, though not “needed” by God, is firstly DESERVED by God from us, and secondly needed by us as a sign that this is HIS house, and not just a barn. Churches SHOULD be PERMANENT EDIFICES, regardless of denomination. The Italian POWs at Camp Atterbury, IN, where I work, built a small chapel that stands to this day. http://www.campatterbury.in.ng.mil/pow_chapel.htm It is quite ornate given the lack of materials they were able to acquire to work with in the 1940s, but it stands as testimony that for GOD, only the best will do. To do otherwise is to make the offering of Cain. Put it this way: would you house great masterpieces of art (i.e. the Mona Lisa) in a barn and call that building a museum of fine art? Of course you wouldn’t. You would build something like the L’ouvre that was befitting of such works.

    Now, with respect to Roman Catholicism, you are building the house for God where you not only celebrate the sacred mysteries, the rites of worship, but you also are going to house the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our beloved Lord, and you propose to do it in a mere building? Even the most austere monastics such as the Carthusians (watch “Into Great Silence”) built a grand edifice (the chapel) to honor God, even though it wasn’t particularly ornate within. This is not to say we need to spend extravagant sums of money on a small to medium sized parish.

    In the past, Catholic churches were built one of at least two ways. In the country, they often started with a small temporary wooden frame church, and when sufficient funds were available, they started the permanent brick church from brick that was fired on-site. In the cities, due to lack of space, they often built a “crypt church” (the basement of the main church) and used it for liturgy until the main church above it was finished.

    As far as parish size, I would agree that there has been a move toward “mega-parishes” which I agree is a negative thing, but I think it’s been driven mostly by the lack of new priests. I think the solution to that problem is for Catholics to trust God and therefore be better Catholics. We are going to be hard pressed to plant new churches before we are able to take care of the ones we already have.

  3. To throw in a comment – in my opinion the “sweet” spot for parish size is 150, with 100/200 being acceptable outliers. This size is A) Enough to support one full time priest, B) Has enough people to give diverse fellowship (i.e. everyone is guaranteed to find someone else whom they have enough in common with to talk with at coffee hour) and C) is small enough for everyone to pretty much know everyone else’s name. In the Orthodox church size gets limited by two practical factors, 1) A priest can only give communion to so many people because either he gets tired or people revolt because the long communion line makes the service too long (or both) and 2) A priest can only celebrate one liturgy a day. Of course, this is supposing that the majority of the people commune every week, if they don’t, the parish can get bigger, but then they usually also spiritually contract (is it because the parish is too big? or because they don’t commune? or underlying factors which cause both problems?) So, from my point of view, a parish should plan to house/minster to about 150, but once they go over 200 they should decide “you people driving in from Distant City X, you’re getting a parish in your town, we’ll help you build it” and just keep on doing this over and over again until, literally, kingdom come. I believe that if there were multiple small churches not only would our witness be stronger (in the “old world” each village had it’s own little church, what if today each subdivision had its own little church?) but discipleship and community would also be stronger.

  4. Bingo, Sarah. I think you’re right on. And there are statistics to back up that 150 number too, as relate to relationships in a group of people, leadership’s ability to deal with them properly, etc. Generally speaking, beyond that number, things change – it becomes a different kind of animal. I love that “subdivision”-“village” comparison – if only.

  5. Giovanni says:

    I tend to disagree with Alan’s if I may call minimalistic ideas as far as Chuch buildings. Obviesly when a mission is set out one must be humble and use the resources available to make it at least attempt to make a worthy house of God.

    However once there is a community set up it is rather “proper” to build a Church that represents the best that community has to offer in both architecture, art and liturgy. Call it a way of building a church with a “first fruits” theme.

    I think in some ways you misunderstand the idea of the a beautiful building. These are not monuments to the ego of men but rather buildings that set them selves apart from the world in order to convey that which is most loved that being God.

    The building as a rule must set it self apart from the rest of world because what is celebrated there is not of this world. It can not be simply a continuation of fallen world but must be set apart as God’s house.

    The church building is part of the liturgy they are the organic construct of history of Christianity not only there to admire but to teach of the word of God.

  6. I’m just a Catholic country boy, what do I know, but you guys are confusing me with all this planting stuff.

    I mean, sure, corn or apple trees or even evil stuff like tobacco needs to be planted but that’s just the start. It’s the howing, fencing around and keeping bugs off that take most of the work.

    Shucks, even the planting part mostly depends on preparing the soil beforehand, that’s just natural law.

  7. Well, I re-read my answer up there and, as I suspected, I didn’t really say anything about men’s egos or monuments to them. I know I wasn’t thinking that when I wrote it. We all may disagree – alrighty – but we may as well disagree about what I actually said, which was about whether God was overly concerned with the kind of buildings we worship in, or even in which His Sacramental Presence is kept. And my studied consideration is that He doesn’t have a high concern about such things, that He is beyond that.

    We, on the other hand, do. That is not to say that our concerns and efforts in such things are done with bad motives or to make monuments to ourselves. I don’t think that’s often true. I do believe, though, that over the years, in our common brokenness, we have gotten a little mixed up about what does and does not honor God. Don’t get me wrong, I am no iconoclast or anti sacred space guy. I love beautiful sacred space. Now, I’m not drawn to a heavenly mindset by gold-covered gaudiness. Things get to be over the top after a certain point. It can become a little ironic when we are using that which the world views as valuable to separate ourselves from the world. I’m just saying we may need to rethink some of those things and move back to some of our more simple, ancient roots.

  8. MAJ Tony says:

    “+” Alan (I’m taunting you 😛 )

    (Sorry for this getting off-topic. I’ll refrain from further postings, but alas…)

    Understanding where you come from, I can certainly see why you may see things the way you do. One of my old Battalion Commanders went on after retirement to teach JROTC in Harlan. I agree wholeheartedly that at some point, things do go a little “over-the-top” but look what that left us with: Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Couer in Paris, Speyer and Cologne Cathedrals in Germany, among others. Our “simple, ancient roots” are a result of having to stay underground and not draw attention to the Church. Once that was no longer necessary, the Church naturally gravitated toward more grand facilities to honor the “King of Kings.” It’s leaders also tended toward the wear of clothing that identified them as holding high office. The bishops could not meet with the nobles and royals in common clothing, hence mitres, croziers, and other ceremonial garb. Likewise the facilities had to speak rather loudly “God is here!” and reminds not just the people, but also, and more importantly so, it reminds the temporal authority that ultimately, God is in charge.

    One a purely philosophical level, I would disagree that God doesn’t have a high concern about such things. I would agree that He does expect us to keep all things in perspective, and is more concerned with the temple of the heart, but on a certain level, the temples we build are an indirect reflection of the temple of the heart. Everything in the world is part of God’s creation. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Man sees beauty in certain colors, gems, metals, artforms. God must have written that in man’s heart for a reason. We are to glorify God in all things. The way I look at it, how we adorn His houses is one of the important things.

    End of Hijacking

  9. I hope it did not come as an attack Alan if I did I apologize.

    One must remembered that those beautiful Churches took several life times to build. Not only that but each generation added to them.

    I guess to a certain extent we do disagree I don’t think you can add enough to a Church to make it look worthy of his presence.

    I do understand the point of bad taste though and that is why one must be guided by what the Church has done in the past and build upon it, rather than re-invent the wheel.

  10. We cannot even imagine the possibility of teaching someone adequately about Christ without, at the same time, teaching them about the Body of Christ.

    A hearty “Amen!” from this corner (Lutheran at that 😉 ).

    I also agree with what Radagast said above re. “poaching.” Maybe it’s all semantics, but for me a “missional” approach differs from the kinds of “church planting” strategies that seem to be so popular in evangelical circles today.

    Thanks muchly for hosting this discussion, iMonk!