Individuals, Not an Institution – Part 2 (May 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Edward Fudge

Someone might ask why it matters if the distinction suggested by the title to this gracEmail is valid or not. I suppose that the emotional and logical thinking parts of the brains of many believers are so wired that they are never tempted to ponder such subjects. I have encountered a few folks who apparently are allergic to thoughts of that genre and also to the eccentric (in the literal sense of the word, as a wheel “out of circle”) thought processes that produce statements of the kind that got this sentence started.

Still, I cannot stop it, don’t think I need to, and would not want to do so if I could. My brain does its own thing, and I amuse myself and bemuse my wife whenever we go anywhere together in the car–and without having to buy a ticket to anything for the pleasure. We just get in the car and take off. Automatically my thinking organ begins to percolate, and soon it is sending out a steady stream of assorted puns, allliterations, wierd riddles and other (so I am told) “unusual” bits of information. Whether the present gracEmail subject falls in that category or not, I will leave for someone else to decide. But it is a thought that has visited my mind off and on now for at least fifty years.

In the beginning, the idea was straightforward and obviously not complex. To be a part of the church, as portrayed in the New Testament, is to be aligned with other people who love and trust Jesus and are committed to try to live so as to make him happy. In our day and place, we do “church” in a special building, engage in activities that we don’t do anywhere else or any other time, and sometimes even speak in a particular tone of voice, as though God doesn’t hear our prayers until they clear security, and the security system involves a voice recognition program.

No,I say, none of that uniqueness is necessary–we can be “church” in a city park, beside a mountain stream or on a beach. We can gather in a home, a business-place, a shopping center or a renovated barn. I was part of a group once that did all the above. Of course, that confuses some people. Like the poor widow in the country to whom our “church” donated a truck load of coal one winter and she could not get her mind around this kind of church. She asked our representative, Dan was his name, several times what kind of church this was, until finally in a rush of holy frustration he exclaimed, “Just say it’s a gift from Jesus and he’s sorry he couldn’t send more!”

A SECOND, SMALLER SERVING OF RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE CHURCH AS INDIVIDUALS AND NOT AN INSTITUTION — Someone might ask why it matters if the distinction suggested by the title to this gracEmail is valid or not. I suppose that the emotional and logical thinking parts of the brains of many believers are so wired that they are never tempted to ponder such subjects. I have encountered a few folks who apparently are allergic to thoughts of that genre and also to the eccentric (in the literal sense of the word, as a wheel “out of circle”) thought processes that produce statements of the kind that got this sentence started. Still, I cannot stop it, don’t think I need to, and would not want to do so if I could. My brain does its own thing, and I amuse myself and bemuse my wife whenever we go anywhere together in the car–and without having to buy a ticket to anything for the pleasure. We just get in the car and take off. Automatically my thinking organ begins to percolate, and soon it is sending out a steady stream of assorted puns, alliterations, weird riddles and other (so I am told) “unusual” bits of information. Whether the present gracEmail subject falls in that category or not, I will leave for someone else to decide. But it is a thought that has visited my mind off and on now for at least fifty years. In the beginning, the idea was straightforward and obviously not complex. To be a part of the church, as portrayed in the New Testament, is to be aligned with other people who love and trust Jesus and are committed to try to live so as to make him happy. In our day and place, we do “church” in a special building, engage in activities that we don’t do anywhere else or any other time, and sometimes even speak in a particular tone of voice, as though God doesn’t hear our prayers until they clear security, and the security system involves a voice recognition program. No,I say, none of that uniqueness is necessary–we can be “church” in a city park, beside a mountain stream or on a beach. We can gather in a home, a business-place, a shopping center or a renovated barn. I was part of a group once that did all the above. Of course, that confuses some people. Like the poor widow in the country to whom our “church” donated a truck load of coal one winter and she could not get her mind a round this kind of church. She asked our representative, Dan was his name, several times what kind of church this was, until finally in a rush of holy frustration he exclaimed, “Just say it’s a gift from Jesus and he’s sorry he couldn’t send more!”

Copyright 2012 by Edward Fudge. You are urged to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1583 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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Comments


    Juntak
    February 29th, 2016

    Regarding the Anglican’s taking a path bewteen Catholic and Reformed theology, I can’t claim much expertise. Here’s what little I know. Over the centuries, they’ve struggled with their theological identity, as the Church of England was originally about the power of the state vs. the power of the Pope, with Henry VIII deciding the archbishop for England should answer to him. In the 18th Century, the church swung toward Reformed (Calvinist) theology. Since then, there have been efforts to push both more toward Catholicism (Oxford Movement) and more toward evangelicalism (going back to the Puritans). Today, the Anglican communion is a big tent religion, and includes charismatic, near-Catholic, and evangelical adherents. They are fond of saying they are held together by a common liturgy: the Book of Common Prayer. The Anglican communion has produced C.S. Lewis, F.F. Bruce, and N.T. Wright (and, evidently, a fondness for initials rather than first names!) And these men have all been major influences in American evangelical churches and I suspect that their books appear on the shelves of most Church of Christ ministers. Nowadays, I find the Anglican communion largely Arminian (in the sense of “not Calvinist”), although Wright steers a course bewteen traditional Reformed and Arminian thinking.

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