New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

July 30, 2001 Vol 01 : 042
Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Cultural Christianity and expression

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Cultural Christianity and expression

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Cultural Christianity and expression


Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2001 21:13:49 +0700 From: "Link"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Cultural Christianity and expression

1. All expressions of family relate around the table (meal times). It does not matter where you go, people gather and eat and fellowship around the main meal of the day. That is usually the evening meal. At that time exchanges and dialogue about the day takes place. It is a time to vent, reflect, and express how the day went. It is a time where relationships are strengthened and deepened. It is an intimate family moment that is shared over a meal

I've been thinking some similar thoughts.

But it's interesting to know that in some cultures, the family doesn't talk much during the meal. I found that out when I went to Korea. Many people eat quietly. It's uncomfortable for me. In many Asian cultures, it is considered impolite to talk while eating.

My wife is Asian, and when we first started dating, she was a little bit too quiet from my perspective, while we were eating. Some say it's bad manners to talk while eating. It's like you don't appreciate the food.

A friend of mine is from Irian Jaya, Indonesian Papua. If his brothers and sisters talked while eating, they could get slapped upside the head.

But a lot of cultures _do_ talk while eating. And even some of those who don't talk while eating know what it is like to go over to Grandma and Grandpa's house on Sunday or whenever they get free time and sit around and chat with the members of their extended family.

My wife is Batak. I don't speak Batak, but enough Indonesian is mixed in for me to have just a little idea to know what's going on. The Batak are really serious about the cultural traditions. When my wife and I went through a cultural ritual related to our marriage, the extended family clan sat around on the ground discussing issues related to the ceremony, giving advice, etc. The older members of the family, her father and his brothers, did most of the talking. My adopted Batak parents did some of the talking, along with some of the older representatives of the family. A few others made comments. Whenever anyone said certain things, perhaps a blessing on our marriage, everyone would say 'emangtutuk' which is like Batak for 'Amen.'

I've been to a Batak adoption meeting, and some other family meetings where they make decisions. Weddings and adoptions either include food as a part of the ceremony, or food is eaten afterward. A Batak wedding involves 'honoring' relatives of both families and other family representatives by distributing pieces of pork or water buffalo and, for parents, goldfish.

The Batak were evangelized by a German Lutheran, and many still belong to a church that has ties with the national church of Germany (though the are probably more conservative in some ways.) The Batak Lutheran church tends to be really liturgical, with everything written down on the bulletin. Some preachers read their sermons even.

I hear that Nommenson, who started the first Batak churches, followed Batak cultural patterns. I don't know if he gave them their liturgy or if later German missionaries did. But it seems to me that Batak family meetings and liturgy provide a good framework that might help Batak understand how a house church meeting could function. The Batak are used to a lot of 'preaching' and advice from older relatives to the younger in their meetings anyway.

About a quarter or a third of Batak are 'cousins.' (They cut up goats, beef, or water buffalo, and not pork.) Maybe whoever reaches these clans can set up house churches that resemble family meetings.

My neighbors across the street are a part of a 30+ million unreached people group, with maybe a couple of hundred believers in it. they are unbelievers. But every week, on Sunday no less, the family goes over to Grandma's house for a big family meeting. They also eat together.

A church meeting doesn't have to be set up in such a way that it's foreign. I've read that in India, many Indians are interested in Christ, but church turns them off. The meetings look foreign to them. They don't feel it's polite to wear shoes into a building like that, and other cultural issues. In house churches, people can take their shoes off at the door and sit on the floor just like they normally would in anyone's home. Visiting someone else's house is not a foreign and strange custom. Sharing an encouraging word is not foreign or strange. Church meetings have a different element involved, the gifts of the Spirit, and the fact that the meal is a memorial meal remembering Christ and a participation in His body and blood.

Locally, some m's want to use the mosque as a model for how to have a meeting. I think it would be better to look at the family as a cultural universal to help relate church meetings to new converts.


------- <><><> -------


Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 16:34:44 +0200 From: "Deborah"

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Cultural Christianity and expression

Sam wrote: I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the context of our

Christian expression.?

Now, please consider this:

The Christian life is like being in a family: "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Mat. 12:50).


The Christian life is like serving in the army: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:3, 4).


The Christian life is like working on a farm: "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jam. 5:7, 8).


The Christian life is like being a slave ... or is it? "For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men" (1 Cor. 7:22, 23).


My point? For Sam to take one metaphor (family) for Christian expression and unwittingly make it definitive for the whole of our experience is reductionist since there are many "SNAP"shots of the Christian life found throughout the NT. The Church is after all a complex organism. Such a reductionist concept ultimately leads to problems with the outward expressions of our faith to the point that we may, for example, want a "non-religious" Lord's table. I presume that means without hype or ceremony-- like a normal north American family meal. Sam's position that "[a]ll expressions of family relate around the table (meal times)" is problematic enough. At least it doesn't work that way at my house. But then to suggest we may want to substitute a meal, diluted or expunged of its liturgical elements (a meal which, as you know, had its very origin in the Passover Seder: a _highly_ "religious" [ceremonial?] acted-parable involving all the senses) for the real thing is to run the risk of distorting the ritual's true meaning. I like that word "ritual," don't you? ?

It is about gathering as a family around a table and eating, true enough. But it is more than that. The Lord's table is a covenant renewal ceremony which binds us afresh to our Lord (his death, burial, resurrection, and parousia) and to each other as mutually forgiven members of his Body. Family. Army. Farm. Slave Quarters ...

I think what Sam is attempting to steer us toward is regularity ("at least weekly") and intimacy, "where everyone ... participates in the meal and expresses the fullness that Jesus came to bring". He wisely desires that we not content ourselves with merely running through the motions of some half-understood ceremony, neither touching the Lord nor each other. And I am all for that thrust. But to reduce the Eucharist to a "low key interactive meal celebration" is to rip the rite from its biblical context in favor of American culture's general aversion to pomp and majesty. That would not only be a shame aesthetically, but more importantly our co-participation in the covenantal aspects of our faith would be compromised since the Bible reveals that rites are truly a part of the whole package. We can and must secure the intimacy of true "body life" while preserving the ceremonial aspects through Christian expressions that are both personally salient and biblical.



------- <><><> -------


Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 11:18:37 -0700 From: jferris

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Cultural Christianity and expression

Dear Michael,


Coming down the hill from some time with my neighbors, something occurred to me concerning the veil. It was rent from the top to the bottom. In the first instance, and in its narrow sense, this veil represents "the law". Certainly this is the first instance of my understanding. One way of looking at the law is that the law represents external authority. The veil then, understood as external authority, can represent a number of possibilities. External authority can certainly be external commands, and written regulations, but it can also be authority structures, "hierarchy".

As an external authority structure, I am reminded that judgment begins with the household of God, and in Ezekiel 9, it begins with the elders in front of the temple. There is an interesting scene in the Mel Gibson film, THE PATRIOT. The British general is objecting to the patriot and his men shooting the British officers first. Understood in this light, the rending the vail from the top to bottom, would indicate that the rending begins with the leadership.

On a more personal level, the rending of the veil has some implications for the "futility of Gentile thinking" or those with a religious mind set. In this case, rending the vail from top to bottom means being set free from faulty thinking rooted in our own heads. Jesus, in his own flesh, not only rent this veil of preexisting external regulation, thus making possible real intimacy with God, but he rent every such veil, past, present and future. This is to say, we don't have to tear anything down. He tore it all down on the cross. Institutional Christianity has already been torn down, all we need do is walk through the rent curtain into the life which He has made available in its place.

Pursuing this in a little greater depth. One way of looking at external regulation is to see it as a kind of Paradigm. According to Webster, paradigm means, "a pattern, example or model." Contemporary usage has it more in the sense of a grid or filter on perception and understanding. A Paradigm is a kind of filter that we look through. That filter acts as a kind of external pattern or structure which governs how we act and react toward the world around us including other people. The word pictures in the Bible are paradigms, designed to indicate facets of who we are as God's people. There are many such paradigms, Biblical analogies which can help us in our understanding of who we are.

The following list is not exhaustive:

Ambassadors - Representatives of a foreign government Body - The functional expression of Christ in the earth Branches - The place where God's life results in fruit Bread - One loaf, ground together, and baked. Bride - A people in intimate relationship with God Building - A structure according to plan Church - Those gathered by life, out of the world City - A protected place of great variety in relationship Family - The life structure of the children of God Field - A place to raise crops Fig Tree - God's provision for the healing of the nations

Garden - A place where variety grows House - A place to live Household - Those under one roof Israel - Having prevailed in struggle, those fit to rule Kingdom - One people under one government Living stones - Divine building material Mount Zion - A place of joy Nation - A distinct people among peoples New Creation - Those with a fresh start and eternal future New Jerusalem - A city with Godly foundations Olive Tree - God's anointed Priesthood - Those who represent others before God. Servants - Those who embody Godly authority Sheep - Those who are totally dependent Soldiers - Those equipped for war Temple - The dwelling place of God Vineyard - A place to grow grapes for crushing into wine Wheat - A crop sewn by God and looking toward harvest

The summary statements are not finally definitive, but this gives us, at least, a taste of the various facets on the truth of who we are in Christ.

There is a paradigm in the heart of God that transcends all of these. It is in the passion of the heart of God that all the rest come together. The mind of Christ is a kind of paradigm, a kind of way of looking at things and people, a perspective on reality. In fact reality is found only in Christ, in the mind of Christ.

To get to the mind of Christ requires what, in the current vernacular, is described as a "paradigm shift". When the veil was rent, there was a divinely initiated paradigm shift. We were given a lot more than that, but the paradigm shift is what is necessary for us to appropriate what we have been given in Christ. There are a number of passages which come to mind as I think about it in these days, even in these "last days".

The author of Hebrews puts it this way: "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, (veil) that is his body,..." Hebrews 10:19,20

Mark puts it this way, "With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain (veil) of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." Mark 15:37, 38

Paul puts it this way in Ephesians and Colossians 2, "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace." "...having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Ephesians 2:14,15, Colossians 2:14

In the Most Holy Place is the heart of God. We get a little glimpse of the heart of God in Song of Songs: "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal over your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned." Song of Songs, 8:6,7.

Exodus puts it this way: "Do not worship any other god, for the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." Exodus 34:14,

Song of Songs speaks of the seal of God's love. This brings to mind Ezekiel 9: 4, 6 where the judgment of God followed the seal "...Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it..... So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple."

Judgment, not only begins with the household of God, it begins from the top down.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Matthew 23:13-15

There is a passion in the heart of God. He wants us to enter into, and share that passion. What does that passion look like? For us who believe, or claim to believe, it looks like Jesus on the cross. "This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other." God redefined "agape" on the cross. Until then, it was only good for friends, after that it was also good for enemies, Romans 5:10

The heart of God, the love of God, the passion of God is the reactor that empowers the doing of God, Isaiah 9:7 It must be the reactor of our doing as well. In inviting us to embrace the "bridal paradigm", Mike Bikle warns against a carnally minded preoccupation with the paradigm of human sexuality, and having made that disclaimer, is quite correct when he says, "workers are limited, they will go only just so far, but lovers will go all the way."

The relationships of Jesus, had their source in His Father. For us who believe, Jesus is Lord of Relationship. Faith works by love. A "church" without relationships that come from God is no church at all. Relationships that are not energized by the passion of God, even the passion of God in our own hearts, are no relationships at all. God's kind of passion lays its life down for enemies. What is the content of our own hearts even for each other??

In general our inability to get along as Christians has something to do with the violation of our expectations. Expectations certainly come in great profusion and variety. Expectations are largely determined by the paradigm through which we are seeing and responding to the world around us. There is a set of expectations in every one of the paradigms mentioned above. Somehow there is a paradigm in the mind of Christ which sets us free from being compartmentalized, free to love, and love with the very passion of God.

The day Jesus said, "I love you", His expectations were nailed to the tree. Even our expectations are a kind of external authority structure determining how we act and react. Jesus should be Lord of both action and reaction. If this is going to happen the veil of our own expectations must be rent, and it must be rent from the top down. Judgment begins with the household of God, and it begins with the elders in front of the temple. Let us not be numbered among the satanic gate keepers, those who maintain the barriers to intimacy with God and each other, but rather let us plunge into the passion of God's heart through the veil of rent expectations even our own. They are only images anyway. The reality is found in Christ.

Oh yes, and again, we don't need to tear anything down, we are too late for that, Jesus tore every barrier down almost 2,000 years ago, all we need do is plunge boldly through it all.

Are we the army of God? yes we are, but without relationships that come from God, there is not much to go to war about.

Yours in Christ,


The End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #42

house church eldership servanthood lord's day lord's supper world missions