Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                        October 13, 2008
The Reformation that has "Yet" to Happen
My Reflections
Feast of Tabernacles 2008
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The Feast of Tabernacles begins tonight at sundown, October 13

I often get these kinds of emails and love it! They say something like, Hey Traver, can we hang out over coffee or something? I found The Banqueting Table website and, as a result, I feel so relieved. Could it be true that I'm not going crazy? There really are other people doing church differently?
No friends, you're not going crazy. A reformation is, in fact, going on and it's biblically legitimate. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).
In this week's excerpt John Howard Yoder, one of the most respected theologians in evangelicalism, predicts (or calls for) such a reformation. Although John didn't live to see it, his prophetic voice still speaks to us today.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Am I crazy for wanting to do church differently?
The Reformation that has "Yet" to Happen
Excerpt from Body Politics by John Howard Yoder
john_yoderOf the five practices we are studying, this fourth one is the first that has not yet had its reformation. It is the first whose adequate concrete form has still to be retrieved. This specimen should make us aware that the New Testament contains resources for critique and renewal that have not yet been tapped. It should serve to warn us against the notion that there is one specific right model of reformation that, although it keeps getting lost, is always the same when it is found again.
Historically, in fact, there has been a striking degree of similarity in the renewal experiences represented by the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century, the Friends and Baptists of the seventeenth, the Wesleys of the eighteenth, or the Churches of Christ of the nineteenth. Still, though the notion of "restoring a biblical pattern" has an abiding appeal, it is too simple.
There is no one finished pattern of which particular free churches have the franchise. As the Puritan preacher John Robinson said, seeing off a shipload of his "pilgrim" brothers and sisters from Plymouth, England, for Massachusetts, "The Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His holy Word." The Pauline vision of every-member empowerment is one fragment of the gospel vision that has yet to find its reformation, and it might be, by the nature of the case, that if it did happen it could not sweep across the map as some other reformations have.
The transformation that Paul's vision calls for...would be to reorient the notion of ministry so that there would be no one ungifted, no one not called, no one not empowered, and no one dominated. Only that would live up to Paul's call to "lead a life worthy of our calling" (1992:59).
My Reflections
There's an interesting conversation going on over at Lk10.com. Here's the clip I got via email:

How do we relate to the IC (Institutional Church)? I love it that Dan Lacich (Orlando, FL) is part of this conversation!  Dan serves one of the 75 largest churches in the country. He said:  "... what often naturally happens is that the IC then gets painted with the brush of ones own negative experience (by SC - Simple Church people). On the other side, leaders of IC congregations are often befuddled and threatened by people leaving for the SC. They can't get their minds around the validity of it all. It just doesn't fit their definition of "church." This spirited conversation starts here (Traver's note: you'll have to become a member of the online community to actually view the conversation).

Here's what I like about this conversation. Although a "reformation" is taking place, this isn't an us-verses-them kind of thing; instead, it's a whole-bunch-of-people-who-are-wanting-to-follow-in-the-way-of-Jesus kind of thing. The rub, of course, lies in one's fundamental understanding of the church and how one arrives at that definition. In my case, for example, I arrived at my understanding by way of theological conviction and an honest desire to make disciples. For others, they've grown weary of the church's apparent marriage to consumerism. Still others have made a switch due to abuses of power.
Although the last two reasons I mentioned are legitimate concerns (and other arguments like them), they won't hold up long-term. So, although I contend proponents of "simple" or "organic" church are not crazy, it's important that proponents of the organic do so for the right reasons: namely, theological (i.e., sound biblical theology).
Here's why I say this. As a researcher, I've found that consumerism and issues of power affect those involved in organic forms of the church just as much as those participating in an IC. True, it manifests in different forms, but it's true nonetheless.
So, although you're not crazy, many who participate in an IC aren't crazy either. In many cases, they too are appalled by the ills of consumerism and abuses of power. What's more, they're concerned about discipleship and mission.
My recommendation is this: proceed. Proceed in the way of Jesus. Make disciples. Lead a life worthy of your high calling. Be an advocate for the priesthood of believers. Know your Bible. And here's something vitally important to the current conversation: lead, don't pull. Although I am a proponent of simple church, I have plenty of God-fearing friends who don't see things the way I do. And in most instances, they're confortable with the tension, even respectful of my "radicalness." I think it's appropriate we do the same while, at the same time, holding to our convictions. After all, some reformations need to take place.
Feast of Tabernacles 2008
Just a quick reminder that Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, starts at sundown on October 13 and continues through October 20. Sukkot's emphasis on ingathering is unmistkably bound to the fulfillments of Messiah's Kingdom promises (Zech 14:16-19). Moreover, the theme of God's sheltering tabernacle is most fully expressed in Revelation 21:3: "...Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and He will dwell with them..." (Glaser 2008:4).
Sukkot has a special meaning to friends of The Banqueting Table: just imagine how wonderful it will be to eat with Jesus during the millenial kingdom at the marriage supper of the Lamb: the Lord's banqueting table!
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table