Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                               March 23, 2009
Working Through the False Realities of Church
My Reflections
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Dear ,
When I speak to groups or share with individuals about organic church principles, one of the concerns I hear most often is the possibility of theology running amuck. "We need trained and ordained pastors to rightly dissect the Word," I often hear. Although I think the concern is a good one, I contend getting theology out of the hands of a privileged few and into the many hands of ordinary Christ-followers makes for better theology, not worse.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Why organic church is good for theology
The Language of the Gospel
Excerpt from Listening to the Word: Studies in honor of Fred B. Craddock by Gail R. O'Day and Thomas G. Long 

BibleIn As One Without Authority, Fred Craddock drew attention to "the theology implicit in the method of communication." The Bible, he wrote, "is rich in forms of expression; poetry, saga, historical narrative, proverb, hymn, diary, biography, parable, personal correspondence, drama, myth, dialogue, and gospel, whereas most sermons, which seek to communicate the messages of that treasury of materials, are all essentially the same form. Why should...the multitude of needs in the congregation be brought together in one unvarying mold, and that copied from Greek rhetoricians of centuries ago? An unnecessary monotony results, but more profoundly, there is an inner conflict between the content of a sermon and its form" (1993:17).

My Reflections
Dr. Paul Kaak, a friend of mine and professor at Azusa Pacific University, once told me that there are books, or thoughts, that were originally intended for conventional church life, but probably speak more to the organic. Dr. Craddock's thoughts above would probably qualify. Dr. Craddock, by the way, wrote the preaching book most people studied in seminary; it's titled Preaching and is still used in many seminaries today.
Craddock's quote above, I would argue, is so very true. Here's why. The word theology generally intimidates people. Simply, however, theology is nothing more than one's thoughts about God. Yes, theologians can do it, but so can loan officers, janitors, computer programmers, medical doctors, stay-at-home moms and dads, and whoever else musters the courage to chime in. Actually, chime in or not, everyone holds to some theology.
Now, just because so-and-so has a theology doesn't make it a biblical theology. That's why it's important, as the Scriptures say, to "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15).
Regardless, why do I contend organic church forms fare better or, at the very least, as well as conventional forms of church with trained pastors?
First, pastors aren't necessarily better theologians. Yes, most are very good studiers, but they're human. They, too, have time restrictions. They, too, are susceptible to heresies. But even this is beside the point. The fact of the matter is the best theologians are not, necessarily, extraordinary public speakers. Because this is true, most are not paid pastors. Instead, they're often sitting right next to you.
Second, the dialogical format afforded by most organic expressions allows for checks and balances. Group think aside for a moment, I've found that most people really want to know what the Bible says. So, when someone says something that doesn't make sense another gets to pipe up with a "Hey, I don't think that's right." In lecture formats, that doesn't get to happen (Don't believe me? Try it once and see how it works).
Third, we get a better picture of God (and, therefore, a better theology) when many process the Bible through their own personalities and experiences. Yes, I concur, there is only one truth, but that one truth can be articulated in a multiplicity of ways. Just ask Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (especially John).
No, my fellowship isn't perfect, but there are a handful in my community that would, hands down, beat most pastors (myself included) in a friendly game of Bible trivia. Will heresies occur in organic forms of church? Of course...just like it does in conventional churches and seminaries. And therein, by the way, lies just one of the beauties of smaller communities; when a heresy does overcome a community, it's confined to a group of, say, twenty as opposed to hundreds or even thousands.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table