Tuesday, March 28, 2006

[subversive underground] RISEN?

*sent to the faithful subscribers of the [subversive underground] newsletter on Monday, March 20, 2006

[subversive underground] RISEN?
by Keith Giles

We as Christians have an unusual fascination with the death of Jesus. I know that what Jesus did for us, on the cross, is an astounding act of love and sacrifice. Without this, none of us would have any hope, and yet Paul the Apostle declares that, "..if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (I Cor.15:17)

I wonder if our fascination with his death has something to do psychologically with our view of what it means to be a Christian?

For instance, the modern church, especially in America, can't seem to go on enough about the death of Jesus. It seems that all the television preachers can talk about is the fact that, "Jesus died on the cross for your sins".

When a Christian person is interviewed on television or stands to talk about Jesus, inevitably the only thing they can find to say is that, "Jesus loves you and he died on the cross for your sins".

At times it all starts to sound monotonous and cliche. I can almost hear the lost saying, "So what?"

The message we send most loudly to the world is the idea that Jesus died.

Even the most prominent media message in our lifetime, Mel Gibson's mega-evangelistic "Passion Of The Christ", which was dubbed "The Greatest Evangelical Message in Two Thousand Years", was all about the death of Jesus. The resurrection scene at the end was so vague and quick that most of us, even those of us who know the story, were left going, "Huh? What just happened?"

At Easter this overt focus on the death of Jesus is most noticeable. For me, when we spend those two weeks before and after Easter talking about the irrefutable fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it almost seems strange. Like, "Oh yeah! He DID rise from the dead, didn't he?", as if this most historically provable event is something we need to be reminded of, but only once a year.

This has got me thinking. Why is it that we focus so much on the death of Jesus and very little on the resurrection of Jesus? I mean, why isn't the resurrection the main thing we talk about? Why don't we go around proclaiming that "Jesus is Risen!" and argue with people about the fact that there's no refuting the fact of Easter?

Here's my theory.

We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We are the physical representation of Jesus in the world today, and I think we're more comfortable being the "Body at Rest" than the "Body in Motion".

As the Body of Jesus, we're more comfortable in the dark of the tomb, wrapped in our own shroud, meditating on this death of our Lord, with the stone rolled shut across the door.

We ignore that what we are called to do, as the living Body of Jesus, is to go out and proclaim, demonstrate and testify with our lives the awesome miracle that "Jesus is Alive!" and that we are living examples of this fact.

What I long for is the day when we are bold enough to declare, as one people, with one voice, that Jesus is Alive, and that our conduct in the world would bear witness to this fact.

Our inactivity, our apathy, our aversion to serve others and live out the compassion of Jesus, sadly proclaims that Jesus is dead.

It's when we live for Him, when we continue to love the way He did, when our lives are in sync with His, that we proclaim by our actions that, yes, indeed, Jesus is really alive!

Is Jesus really alive? Has He really come to live in your life? And how would anyone know this to be true if you never actually demonstrated the life and love and ministry of Jesus in your own life?

Do we, as individual followers of Jesus, feel safer within the quiet of the tomb? Or are we willing, even eager, to roll away the stone and begin to live the truth of the power of the Gospel?

If we, the Body of Jesus, do not act as a living Jesus would, within this world, loving those He loved, sharing with those He spent time with, continuing His ministry of transformation, then we do not demonstrate that Jesus is alive, we simply testify that He has died.

What we must do is to wake ourselves from our slumber, shake off the apathy, and begin to proclaim, with our own lives, that Jesus is truly alive.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing."- John 14:12

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."- 1 John 2:6

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!


Monday, March 13, 2006

[subversive underground] MODELS

*Originally sent to the faithful 56 who currently subscribe to the weekly [subversive underground] newsletter on March 9th, 2006

MODELS by Keith Giles

After my last underground (HOUSE) I had several responses from a few people I highly respect who were questioning the source of my passion, and my undue fascination with models.

I do want to clarify that the model isn’t necessarily the “answer” in itself. I affirm that church can take place under a tree, in a restaurant parking lot, or a gymnasium, or even, (yes), in a traditional church building or service.

What matters is, of course, how much the Holy Spirit is really in charge, free to move, and whether or not the people are being discipled, or whether or not there is true communion taking place (between people and God…at the same time).

Still, I do think that the model does play a large part in facilitating this dynamic. I do still feel that meeting together to share a common meal, spending time in fellowship together, allowing the Holy Spirit to move, allowing everyone a chance to share according to their gifting, etc., is best lived out in the House Church model.

I admit it. I’m biased.

Granted, this sort of thing can be fostered within any form of church, in addition to what happens on Sunday morning…and several churches do this very well.

I suppose I’m still biased. Forgive me.

Seriously, I do want to be open-minded and to share my convictions without making my friends in the traditional model of church feel blasted or undervalued. Help me to do this. Pray for me.

I fear I am becoming a radical. I don’t want to get so far off the map that only other radicals can relate with me…or me to them.

To make things worse, I'm currently reading a book called "Constantine, The Great" by Michael Grant which is a real eye-opening book to me about how the modern church was shaped by this one person into what it is today. Fascinating stuff, and a little disturbing to be honest.

What's also fascinating to me is that, even after Constantine stepped in and protected the Christians, gave them the pagan temples to worship in, and stopped the persecutions, many kept meeting in homes and eventually Constantine actually had to make it illegal for them to keep doing this in order to
funnel believers into his “new way”, his new model, of gathering.

I've not written anything yet on the effects of Constantine on the practice of the Church, but this is a pretty fascinating subject for me.

I mean, yes, God has used this form of doing church for over 1,700 years now. And, yes, God certainly "allowed" this change to take place and to remain up until this very day, predominantly around the world...but it still troubles me that our modern forms of worship are built upon setting up a
sort of royal clergy, handing them a castle, creating a peasant congregation for them to "tax" and support the royalty and the upkeep of the castle, etc.

This just doesn't seem right to me...or Biblical either.

We try to make connections between this modern form of church and the OT synagogue/temple form of worship...but clearly this was not Constantine's intention. He simply removed pagan priests and installed Christian priests, adding a cross to the back of the room and changing the subject of the worship to the Christian God.

So, to this very day, do we have a paganized form of Christianity? I guess I never noticed before, but now it does trouble me. This book points out how, previous to his “conversion” Constantine worshipped Apollo, the Sun God. After turning to the Christian God, he ordered that the feast of Apollo, on December 25th, become an observance of the birth of God’s Son, Jesus. This kind of creeps me out.

I'm not so sure that Constantine himself really "got it". At least according to this book on his life I'm reading now, Constantine had a problem with the crucifixion and the weakness of Jesus, rebuked his own sister for worshiping Jesus, and mainly wanted to re-define the Christian God as a warlike "Zeus" figure, a god of war and power and victory, not a God who, as Jesus suggested, was like Him, a loving, compassionate, merciful God.

As if this weren’t bad enough, Constantine murdered his second wife, his own son, and many of his friends and advisors, all after his apparent “conversion” to Christianity.

We call this guy a saint?

See? I am becoming a radical.

What does this mean for my faith? Honestly, it strengthens my faith in the Biblical Jesus. The Historical Jesus we see in the Gospels becomes my solitary focus, not the traditional church practice, or the liturgy, or the religious mainline.

However, it also puts me a bit at odds with the universal Christian church, and that’s what I don’t want to happen.

I’ve grown up in the mainline church. I’ve been blessed, I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve had great fellowship and I’ve received the power of the Holy Spirit in my life through this “paganized model” of church.

It is a good thing. God loves His Church. His Bride. All of the Church. The entire Bride.

I cannot condemn the traditional church. I cannot judge my brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to feel this way of church is “home” for them. Up until a few months ago, not even a year ago, maybe six or seven months ago, I started feeling that, for me, there was a “better way”. Not better in the sense of being more holy or spiritual, but better in the sense that it scratches the itch I have for holistic spiritual life, discipleship to Jesus, communion with others and with God, and all the rest.

While washing the dishes the other night, and thinking on this very subject, it occurred to me that I could just decide to accept these historical facts about the early church, Constantine’s impact on the church today, my own convictions about house church, and just let it go. I mean, just accept this is the way things are and not let it freak me out so much.

Maybe there is no fire to put out? Maybe I’m feeling revolutionary about something that requires no revolution? Or maybe the revolution is within my own life and I don’t need to thrust it upon others in order for it to be acceptable?

So now the question I ask myself is, “Can I just let this go?”

I don’t know yet. This is a work in progress…just like me.

More later.



NEW BLOG UPDATE: “Closed Windows, Open Doors” (New article online now at the main blog: www.keithgiles.com)


Thursday, March 09, 2006

[subversive underground] HOUSE by Keith Giles

[sent on 2/27/06 to the faithful subscribers of the subversive underground newsletter]

HOUSE by Keith Giles

As I’ve been studying the practice of the early church, both historically and scripturally, I’ve learned quite a bit about how these first disciples of Jesus gathered, shared, and lived out the Gospel in their everyday lives.

What’s come as a shock to me has been the wide range of reactions from other Christians when this subject comes up.

My favorite response, so far, has to be this one: “It’s not Biblical”.

No, really. Someone actually said to me that what we’re doing, meeting in homes to share a common meal, study the Scriptures and minister to one another in the Power of the Holy Spirit, isn’t Biblical.

So, just to set the record straight….The House Church is the Biblical Church. No other form of church is described in the New Testament.

There are more than 21 references to House Churches in the New Testament.

While the early part of the book of Acts suggests that the early believers “…used to gather…” at Solomon’s Porch (or Collonade), it is clear that, even at the time Acts itself was put to paper, this practice had already been abandoned.

Early on, those who followed Jesus were mostly Jews, and they were welcome to gather in the temple and in the local synagogue to worship and to read the scriptures aloud, even have their own “Rabbi’s” teach that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

However, soon it was too dangerous for the Jews to continue to worship alongside the Messianic Jews. As persecutions of Christians intensified, Jews and Messianic Jews were lumped together, and soon the same Jews who crucified Jesus began to apply pressure on the followers of Jesus.

Most likely it was the execution of Stephen that prompted the Jews to close the synagogues and temples off from the Messianic Jews, as their persecution of them intensified.

At any rate, specific references to the gathering of Christians in the homes of fellow believers is cited, in part, below:
House Church in Caesarea: Met in the house of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:7-12)
House Church of the Collosians: Meeting in the house of Philemon (Philm. 1-2)
House Churches in Corinth: The house church of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7); The house church in the home of Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11); The house of Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15); The house of Gaius (Rom. 16:22-23).
House Churches in Ephesus: The house of Aquila and Priscilla (1Cor.16:19); various un-named house churches referenced (Acts 20:17-21)
House Churches in Jerusalem: Various house churches (Acts 2:46-47, Acts 5:42, Acts 8:3); The house church of Mary (Acts 12:12)
House Church in or near Laodicea: The house of Nympha (Col. 4:15)
House Churches in Rome: The house of Aquila and Priscilla (Rom.16:3-5); The house of Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10); The house of Narcissus (Rom. 16:11); The house of Asyncritus (Rom. 16:14); The house of Philologus and Julia (Rom.16:15); The house of Paul (Acts 28:16, 23, 29-31)
House Church in Thessalonica: The house church in the home of Jason (Acts 17:1-9)
House Church in Troas: The house with an upper room (Acts20:7-12)

Therefore, let there be no doubt that, Scripturally, the early Church met in the homes of the believers and had no central building of worship for over 300 years.

I always like to remind people that America hasn’t even been a Nation for 300 years.
Historical documents support this as well.

The practice of worship in the home, gathering together as a family of God, breaking bread, exercising the gifts for the building up of the Body, the priesthood of the believer, etc., are all concepts which developed out of and flourished because of this model of church.

I personally feel that it was not an accident that the form of church inspired by Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit, and intentionally modelled by Peter, James, John, and Paul the Apostle, was based on the concept of family. It wasn't something arbitrary. It wasn't because they couldn't afford a large building, as if they would have met in a mega-church format if they could have.

I believe that the early church made a conscious, intentional choice to meet as a family, in homes, to facilitate a strong sense of community, build disciples, freely exercise all the gifts of the Spirit, and evangelize in a more organic way.

Their fruit in these areas (community, service, discipleship, evangelism) is legendary. The system worked. We ourselves are living evidence of this.

Not to say that God isn’t using the traditional form of Church. He is. I remain a firm and loyal supporter of all expressions of worship, but as for me and my house, if I am offered the choice of something built on a corporate business model, or an organic, family-based form of church that sets people free to engage one another and facilitate community, discipleship and spiritual growth, not to mention evangelism based on relationships, then my choice is the same as that of the first disciples of Jesus.

Just had to get that off my chest.


I feel better now.

More later…

UPDATE: So far this little e-newsletter has grown to over 55 people. Wow. Thanks to all of you for making this work. I hope these articles and bits of info are encouraging to you in your walk with Jesus.

"TWO OR MORE" by Keith Giles
My newest article online at Seed Stories here:

Be sure to check out the groovy website now online here:

I'm on Chapter three of my book so far. Thanks for helping me stay on target for this little project. Hopefully this will be available in a bookstore near you in time for Christmas.