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