Lesson 40: How Do We Determine God’s Word – Community 2

As Juan observes about history not being objective fact but a story continuously retold to make sense of our present and future, so too custom is an ever-changing guide to the Christian life. The community is continuously retelling it to find both the continuity and the creativity she needs. I find the best model for how this is done in Acts.

“Those who welcomed Peter’s message were baptized…They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Read the entire passage in Acts 2: 42-47.)

The fellowship described in that First Church is what I mean by community. The baptized gather around a meal to converse about what it mans to follow Jesus, and they check what they think by the teaching of the apostles who were there during the ministry and the resurrection.

The challenge is how to do this in our time. We have made the Church more and more an institution with leaders who control it as managers control corporations. We defer to them as the experts who are the only ones who know the true Word of God. However, when we find they fail to speak to our real life, we simply cut and paste what they say, trying to find something that relates to the lives we live.

Some of this stems from being uncomfortable with conversing with people who are unlike us. We have been taught to be tolerate by never speaking about religion or politics.

Perhaps the first thing we have to do is acknowledge until the Kingdom comes we shall always have diversity in the Church. That is what we are about, bringing together the disparate. The glory of the Bible is it retains all the differences of opinion from the ancient past. The prophets insisted the Word of God was about ethics; the priests believed ritual deserved that spot; the kings just asked us to accept their word as God’s; and the scribes, well the scribes played the role for which lawyers are ridiculed in our day. They took no positions; they simply pretended to analyze old absolute laws.

We see the same thing in the New Testament as the Church preserved four versions of the Gospel rather than one. Paul was obviously constantly calling for unity, because his churches lacked it. And Jesus himself never asked us to adopt one definition of how things are. When asked to define something, he always told a story that began with “It is something like this…” and then went on “On the other hand, it is something like this as well…”

The second thing we have to do is make sure we have plenty of small groups in our churches where people can converse honestly. Many say the secret to the growth of mega-churches is their building community around small groups.

Next week I’ll like to suggest some ways we can involve the community in the decision-making of our churches.

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