This chapter has a title that I’ve never seen in a book before…I’ve had wedgies but I’ve never imagined what it would be like to have a “1700 year wedgie”. Of course, that statement alone should raise your curiosity. Essentially, this chapter is about “shooting yourself in the foot”…it concerns itself with taking a quick look at what occurred when the movement of “The Way” or what has for many centuries been called “the Church” transitioned from being an organism to an institution – in other words, the chapter takes a peak at Christendom. Now, you can read many other books about Christendom (its rise and fall) by taking a look at what is available on the Net and on Amazon. Even so, Hugh and Matt give the reader in this chapter a snapshot take on this crucial topic.
The point is this – it is time to “return” to a pre-institutional Christianity. The chapter summarizes some of the “highlights” of the lifestyle that many followers of Jesus lived prior to the Constantinian era. To sum:
“They were persecuted, on the run, without buildings or financial resources. They didn’t have a bible or paid pastors to help guide them. They were held together by community, the teaching of the apostles and the Holy Spirit. This type of church sounds great in some ways but it was also riddled with strife, doctrinal struggles, ethnic disputes, and that pesky problem called “martyrdom”. This ancient church was, for many reasons, a marginalized people, a “counter-cultural” movement."
The authors take these historical facts and insights and spin a very compelling argument regarding the values that were embodied in this early movement of Christ followers that need to be embedded within our faith communities in the present. They discuss sacrificial community, communal transformation through loving confrontation, and the value of being a ‘sent’ community. In this last instance, Hugh and Matt outline the “talk” that they give to people who seek fellowship in their own faith community and how the passion, persistency and non-negotiable focus on “mission” shapes every conversation. This part of the book (page 54) is worth a meditative look.
As they bring this chapter to a close, the authors repeat the issue that has kept the Church stuck for centuries:
“…Church suddenly became a place you went to instead of a people you belonged with. Imagine if you will, the president of the United States building all of our churches, appointing all our pastors, and then giving them a hefty benefit package. That’s exactly what Constantine did…”
The contemporary perception of the Church is still being shaped by that which needs to be put to rest for good. How many of us have had to deal with people who are confused about the role of the Body of Christ? The Church is rarely, if ever, defined as a “people who” but almost always as a “place where”. We still are stuck…the wedgie is still there…
“…we’re still entrenched in Constantine’s Christendom way of church. Church is a place you go to, and the commoners don’t have much to do in the way of mission because the paid pros do it for them. We show up to church to get what we want (which is feeding from the leader), not what we need (to feed ourselves and others). And if we don’t get what we want, we head to the basilica next store because that chaplain is better at giving us what we want”.
A bit tough huh? Sometimes you have to confront the truth…even if it is bit hard to swallow!
More to come…