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In Which I Make Two Intemperate Remarks

I was talking to a friend the other day. Our main topic was church and the way it was done. In the course of our conversation I discussed what I feel is the 1 Corinthians 14 church, you know, the one Paul was trying to correct. (I discuss what I think about it in my post 1 Corinthians 14 Worship" href="http://www.deepbiblestudy.net/2011/01/the-problem-with-1-corinthians-14-worship/">The Problem with 1 Corinthians 14 Worship.) I was also discussing handling of incorrect statements in church, whether these are off-the-wall interpretations of Bible passages, or people claiming to speak a prophetic word that is truly not from God.

In summary, I believe the Corinthian church was active and alive, and everyone came in with a message. There would be multiple messages given to the group, and there would be discussion. I believe the New Testament model would be for people to speak and then for others to affirm or correct as necessary. I acknowledge the problems, and in our conversation I mentioned how many friends of mine who are pastors are not too happy with my view. They’d prefer to check the message before anyone hears it, so none are led astray, and they’d also prefer not to have to affirm or correct any statement in a public setting.

I acknowledge that I am not a pastor and thus may be less sensitive to these problems. I also know that telling someone they are actually wrong in a public place is very much against our cultural norms. We really prefer to keep the face of things happy and affirming, and take care of any questions out of sight. But I don’t think a church modeled after the ideal presented in 1 Corinthians 14 (and elsewhere in the NT) can function in that way.

In our discussion, this brought forth my first intemperate statement. After we’d discussed these points, and both agreed about the difficulty of accomplishing this, I said: “It had better be possible. If not, my life work thus far has been in vain.”

It was out of my mouth before it passed through my brain. But it has stuck with me, and I haven’t found much reason to back off of it. To me, the church, if it is to be the body of Christ, must have input coming from everyone, and must have everyone involved. We are all baptized into the same Spirit (read all of 1 Corinthians 12-14 to get this picture), and we all have gifts. These gifts are to come together. That, to me, is church. If church doesn’t work, I have truly been wasting my time.

I would note that I don’t mean spreading people’s private issues and problems in public, where they can be kept private. I don’t mean gossip and tale bearing. I mean every member involved in the theological thinking and practical visioning of the church body on a regular and constant basis.

What do you think? How intemperate was I?

Then there was the second intemperate statement, which needs more qualification on further thought. My friend asked me which seminary I would recommend a young person go to in preparation for Methodist ministry. My intemperate answer? “I wouldn’t.”

Yet there are things I like about various seminaries. My problem here is that I don’t like the professional education approach to preparation for pastoring. In fact, I don’t like it much for anything at all. I think our educational system is well-designed to prepare people to live in the 19th century. it’s not completely incapable of preparing people for the 20th century, but it’s not fully equipped for that task. Unfortunately, none of us have the option to live in either of those centuries.

I may really stun my friends in educational institutions, but I think the traditional university is a surviving fossil. It’s going to go away over time, or at least become a very minor factor. The reason is that technology and information is developing too fast for one to dedicate a certain percentage of one’s life to going to school, then assume education is complete, except for an occasional refresher in some continuing education program.

We’re going to need to find a way to work and further our education simultaneously. We’re also going to want to benefit from scholars from around the world in any educational program, not just those who happen to be in the local area. This is a long subject, and I’m sure people will be very annoyed as things progress. There is already a great deal of prejudice against distance learning. Some of this comes from growing pains. Some of it is completely unjustified. Note to critics: You need to do more than point to problems with distance/online learning. You need to realize the imperfections of resident learning as well.

So again, how intemperate was I?


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  1. Some interesting points there Henry.

    At our church we have a time of sharing, and normally up to 5 people, sometimes more will share…sometimes its fairly banal. Other times its really to the point. We then have our morning tea break and talk to each other for about 20 minutes or so and then go back and have the sermon and finish the service.

    I think the problem with our seminaries is that we allow too many young people to go there. I believe there is a need for a few years break between college and seminary… and within this maturing process much can be learn’t. … of course like all things there are exceptions.

    My issue is that if we don’t allow for seminary training; our preaching will become overly simplistic and full of proof texting. Coming from a Charismatic stance; the Pente movement has been truly impacted by the likes of Fee and Yong and many more…if we don’t allow for this good solid teaching to infiltrate our churches…we will be left with word of faith type preaching left unchecked.

    My soap box angst is not so much about preparing a person for pastoring; its the present church culture that is intermeshed in leadership… and leadership is the catch cry.. I don’t want to go to church and be led; I want to be pastored. I don’t want to lead a church; I want to pastor. … I seems to me that the emphasis on leadership is that people are treated as a commodity to reach a goal… whereas pastoring makes people the goal.

    1. I don’t think the problem with seminary is so much the content–I want our pastors educated. The problem is that in 3-4 years (or 7 or 8 depending on where one starts) of a largely academic environment I think it’s possible to get separated from one’s calling. In addition, there is the huge expense of living away at seminary. I think all job training is going to have to be ongoing, with the basic informational portions offered online, but with additional times in the academic environment, anywhere from a weekend to a full year in length. Rather than see such a large time at the beginning, work time for additional training into the work schedule.

      Your worship services sound interesting. That’s certainly at least going in the direction of what I’m thinking. Thanks!

      1. I agree in the ongoing training but pastor’s are required to have CEU’s the problem with that process is that they are not held accountable. My worship service is very passionate. I love the Lord and I love to Worship him. I think that is what keeps me going in spite of the struggles with the Methodist Church. Wesley believed in an ongoing learning atmosphere. I think we are getting to caught up in the things , and going into places where God has not called us to go.
        As far as losing our calling, I think the process is a major factor. I love education, I love studying theology, I am currently deciding my focus leadership (which I love) of theology ( which I find loving even more). We are the leaders (clergy) to guide and push people like me. To help us stay focus even when you have an appointment. Where have the shepherds gone?

  2. I am a course of Study student with plans to become an Elder. I have witnessed the Charismatic movement within the church. I recently had an Elder told me they had enough theology when they was in Seminary and they do not do theology. This was an Elder. There is a need for learning systematic theology, there is a need for somewhere in the structure of the conference for someone to have received formal training such as the seminary. It just seems to me that in the past ten years the formal education has left out the reason for our becoming pastors. I do not think the seminary can change that I believe that it is left up to us to say enough is enough.
    It is unfair that many of us who want to serve God and his church but are denied because we are not Elder’s. I found that when Elder’s do get their church they forget the mission’s purpose is to “Make Disciple’s [for who] Christ. Instead they push to the side the ministry God used to call them to the place where they are now. Finally, I do not believe age has much to do with anything it is more about answering the question… Who do you want to serve?
    Today, we have more young people coming to become pastors and not fulfilling the role they are called to especially in the Methodist church. Why do we have so many because the conference place’s an emphasis on the benefits? Those benefits are receiving the parsonage, health, salary. Not the benefit of mission, pasturing, and building the Kingdom. What do we do? Where do go from here?

  3. The comment by an elder that he doesn’t much want to do theology points where I’m thinking. Theology that is serious and ultimately connects with one’s ministry should be a lifelong pursuit. The attitude now is that we do our education and then we do our job. I think the path of the future will be doing our job and getting educated on a constant basis. I don’t mean this in the informal sense we often talk about life-long learning, but rather in the sense of actually spending a certain amount of time per year (or whatever) in study, but also starting one’s work in church earlier for the same reason.

    1. I agree I do not think that we can ever stop learning, if we do that is when we have more knowledge than God. He is always teaching us. I also believe to be effective in ministry requires the process of working in ministry then education or the combining of the two. We have many pastors who have never worked in ministry.

      Here is a word that you used [job] many see it as that instead of a calling, I see it as a calling and not a job. Maybe that is the problem here many see it as a job. The pastoral role is a job not an office. But pastoring is so much more than that it really is… it is a rich life. In my own discernment I have come to understand this calling as something unique, it is a love relationship, a marriage to the Kingdom, if pastors or students do not see as that it will be a viewed as a job. Then we fail , and the people we lead suffer. Do you think so?

  4. Hi Craig, the whole process in the Methodist church is designed for people to search. It seems like a long process before you are even certified. Maybe some type of eary field study would help in the age. People need to get the feet wet, they need to walk on the dirt road. They need to serve first. It takes a person 11 years to become a Rabbi do we need to go that route?

  5. As an iconoclast myself I would rate your “outbursts” as infinitesimally intemperate. Of course my scale on this point is distorted from that of most people due to how much science I’ve done, where people challenge the claims of others almost without mercy, and my experience in liberal religion, where I have rejected many traditional ideas, sometimes needing to get a little angry to do that.

    For about 10 years I attended both a UMC church and a Vineyard Fellowship, depending on which way I was feeling. At the Vineyard the leadership regularly cautioned people from getting carried away with prophecy, instead asking people to consult the pastor about their experience first to be clear on where that experience came from. There were some veteran attendees who were trusted, though, so someone would stand up and shout a prophecy between 0 and 2 times in a service, whenever it came to them, sometime expanding on the message or whatever else was happening at the time. Then the service continued.

    It looked decent and in order to me. I never heard any shocking content within a service. Some prophecies were full of imagery, to which one could adapt just about any theology you want. Others referred to aspects of the end times that were dead wrong, I thought, but I had a minority opinion.

    I can’t say the content of these prophecies added anything to the service except to say it’s OK to be this weird. I’ve never heard words to broadcast, but as the Spirit built up in my prayers that I resumed at age 34, I found myself getting help with what to pray, then words that answered my prayer immediately and other words. I did find the Vineyard a useful place to learn to accept that I could pray in public, in the pre-service prayer group, and unplanned words would pour out of me effortlessly in a way I couldn’t duplicate just anytime I wanted, either in fluency or in the power of their meaning. It is a valuable experience to know that it’s at least possible that God can help us this much.

    Unfortunately God is often misquoted. I hear words enough that I read several books in the nineties where the author quoted God directly, either New Age or evangelicals such as Joyce Meyer. These are disappointing books. The God of these books doesn’t even know what I know. Everything is so simplistic. It sounds like the author speaking to me.

    Some of that stands to reason even if God really is contributing something to these words. Anyone who genuinely hears from God will not only hear that in his own language, but can only hear from God using concepts that person understands. I’ve seen that in words I hear from God. It’s one source of a healthy skepticism for this experience.

    So this is a problem for the church Paul described. It’s still garbage in, garbage out. Where is a church in which everyone has surrendered to God enough for their collective consciousness to draw them closer to God as opposed to just restating what everyone already believes?

    I’ve long wondered what a 1st-century church was actually like. Charismatics like to think they are duplicating the early church, but are they? What was Paul doing when he baptized in the Spirit? Were his churches in fact more spiritual than modern ones?

    My basic belief is that God is whoever and whatever God is, not what any physical being says God is. I’m happy to let a consciousness greater than mine build on that, be that super-human or collectively human, but what is necessary for that to happen? I know what I get when I have church with just God and me. I can have a chapter 14 church that way. What additions to just God and me would enhance that? What additions would diminish that?

    I’ve been experimenting with that for years and haven’t found a lot that’s hopeful. Garbage in, garbage out. How intemperate is that?

    1. Henry, I went and read your blog regarding Corinthinans, It sounds as though the text is taken out of its context. as a lecture you are aware that order is only what we see on paper. Even when we preach if God [ says go in this direction we must leave what we wrote and go] right? Were there not times when Jesus had to change his plans?

      When people want to stay with the same routine that is a signal of fear. We have a lot of that in the church. What do not understand is that rules are made to keep us from going astray. If the Holy Spirit is in the Worship Experience then we are moving in the right direction. You know people do not like change. People like to be in control.

      We also have to be careful of our language “manage” is a secular term. Jesus never managed He led. In Corinthians 14:26 the key verse is Let everything be done for building up the church. Remember we are the church in partnership with God.

      I am enjoying this conversation. Thanks

      1. Yes, I agree on 1 Corinthians 14. Besides getting it in the literary context of 1 Cor. 12-14, and that in the context of the book, which would give us some idea of the direction Paul is trying to lead us, we need to see what the Corinthians were doing before Paul corrected them. It wasn’t that someone deviated slightly from the order of worship. It was much more than that. “Order” should not be construed too narrowly.

    2. Oh, if we’re going to compete on being intemperate, then perhaps you have won, but I’m not sure. Yours sounds like a pretty tame response as well.

      The problem is, I’m not sure what to do. I think church should work with many contributors and discernment exercised by all, but seeing that actually happen may be another thing.

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