Unlearning what we have learned. – Tim Whitaker

Disclaimers: Rob is probably going to disagree on many points. Sorry 🙂 You can blog about it later. 😛

There is a challenge a lot of us face.  By “us” I’m referring to the people that are re-thinking what it means to be a Christian.  I’m referring to people who are not content with the state of the church.  I’m referring to people who want to be known as disciples of Jesus not just “Christians”. People who want to go deep in to their faith, and who are willing to change their mindset in light of new truths when it comes to Scripture, Jesus, and the Church.  When I refer to “us” this is who I’m referring to.

So there is a challenge for us.  Most of us have grown up in the church and we have been brought up with mindsets that are not completely Biblical.  We have grown up thinking that church happens Sunday mornings, we meet at a “church” building, every service has the same format, we can’t change the format, and being a Christian means being morally right as much as possible.  We have grown up with a limited knowledge of Scripture, Judaism, and how Christianity and Judaism are so closely connected.  We have grown up with the answer (Jesus) without knowing the backstory to the answer.

And so there is a challenge because as we get closer to Jesus and the Kingdom, the more we are loosed of the traditions we grew up with.  Before I go any further let me be clear there is nothing wrong with the traditions we grew up with in and of itself.  I am a product of the traditional church, it is there that I learned who Jesus was, I met great people, and I had a basic community.  But now looking back, I can’t help but see the legalism I was rooted in, the legalism my family was rooted in.  And looking at the church now I can’t help but see how our tradition has become our prison.

The Bible I believe is intentionally vague on what a church body actually looks like and is crystal clear on what the structure of a church body should look like.  We see in Scripture that there are to be teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, and leaders in the church body, but what we don’t see is how that is fleshed out. Granted we have books like Acts, Corinthians, and Galatians, which show what church bodies looked like.  But you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t do much writing in regarding to how the church meeting should go.  He instead spends much more time talking about how we as the body are to live as people.  We see certain key things such as preaching of the word that are talked about in the structure of the meeting, but even that is not specific.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see Paul say “Here is what every church meeting should look like, songs for 20 minutes, preaching for 30 min (make sure it’s 3 points), alter call, and offering”  That is just not there in Scripture.  The problem is that the church is deeply rooted in this structure and is afraid (it seems so) to step out of that tradition.  It’s interesting to me because singing songs, sunday school, youth groups, alter calls, are nowhere in scripture, but we cling on to them like they are the foundations of church.  Then when someone talks about maybe removing one of those things, or changing the format of what we do every Sunday, people get defensive and will say things like “that’s nowhere in Scripture”.  This amazes me.

So the challenge for us is what do we do?  Well what we do is we allow God to free us from comfortability.  The first time I heard a church meeting in a bar in Belgium I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought it was completely unbiblical and I didn’t want to be a part of that body for the month we were there.  By the end of the month I couldn’t get enough of the community, the people, and what they were doing.  We have to be ok with being uncomfortable.  It is difficult to think about church meeting in somewhere other than a church building.  It is difficult to think about a church “service” not including worship music, or an alter call but we have to.  We have got to go back to the scriptures and realize that the church design is meant to be flexible.  The church body can most definitely meet in a church building, but it can also meet in a movie theatre, coffee shop, basement, or bar.  The church meeting once a week can definitely include worship  music, a sermon, and an alter call.  But it can also exclude those things.  A church can meet with talk, discuss, and be lead by the teacher in a discussion about a certain piece of Scripture.  That is just as Biblical as what we do every Sunday.

The most difficult thing for me these past several years have been unlearning all that I have learned.  I have had to unlearn that i’m not a “better” Christian because I go to church every Sunday religiously.  I’ve had to learn that it is ok if there isn’t a three point sermon during a church meeting, and I’ve had to learn that maybe creating a consumeristic atmosphere on Sunday morning maybe is not the best way to get people to own their faith.

Let me sum this up.  There is nothing wrong with what the church has been doing in our culture for years.  It has changed many people’s lives, and it has done a great work.  However there is nothing wrong with changing it.  Those traditions are not doctrines, they are not salvational issues, and honestly a lot of the things we do are not in the Bible.  The structure of the church body is clear in Scripture, what that looks like is not, and that’s a good thing.

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6 responses to “Unlearning what we have learned. – Tim Whitaker

  1. Hi Tim,
    One of the scriptures I like to go to on this is Acts 2:42. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Seems like a foundational statement for some important things going on in the early church.
    Blessings to you,
    Mark

  2. Mark!! great to hear from you. I completely agree! The question is what does that look like? Can it only happen in a church building? Can teaching and fellowship, and breaking of bread, and prayers all happen in a different setting? My point is that those things do not have to be limited to just what we’ve grown up in regarding attending church.

    Tim

    • As Jesus told the woman at the well, “…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” It isn’t about the location, it’s about what’s going on in people’s hearts.

      Hopefully the physical setting will help the participants focus on the truth of what’s going on.

  3. The other point of Acts 2:42 I noticed is “they devoted themselves to”, “they persevered in”. The gathering wasn’t a flippant part of their lives. The church was an important, regular happening, vital to their lives.

    • Completely agree Mark and that’s why I’m baffled at the fact that MOST (not all) church goers do not bring their faith outside the church walls.

  4. Another thought is the exclusion of things that are clearly stated in scripture in the “modern church”. Too many people try to explain away things that are not to be explained away or add things in that are not to be added in. Mark, you are absolutely correct in going to Acts 2:42. I would refer to that as the “Magna Carta” of “Church Doctrine.”

    The local church I am a part of has no instruments in any of its meetings. I have been criticized by MANY people for attending a church that is “missing out.” Really? Show me in this New Testament I am holding here (no, not the Old Testament) where there is ANY reference to a musical instrument being used. As you said Tim, there is a tremendous connection between Judaism and Christianity, as God established both, did He not? The OT is full of foreshadowing of Christ and the new covenant is MUCH BETTER than the old (Hebrews 9). But since that old covenant is set aside for the Church age, the laws and traditions do not apply. We can take principles and lessons but not laws and traditions. The New Testament church doctrine was left up to Christ’s disciples to give, thus the reason in Acts 2:42 it is “the apostles doctrine.” Christ gave them that responsibility.

    Now I would like to just flat out say that I DO NOT believe God is done with the nation of Israel. Tim, you and I have talked about this a little bit. The majority of Revelation is really for them! After Chapter 3 the church is not even mentioned again until the marriage supper of the lamb. Looking at the weeks of Daniel, this church age is a parenthetical hiatus of those weeks which will continue again at the rapture of the church.

    All that to say, I have been attacked by Christians because we don’t have musical instruments in our worship service and because the women in our church wear hats. Yet, there is Biblical support for head coverings and silence of women (which is never even hinted at being something to “pass away” because it is set up as displaying headship) and none whatsoever for musical instruments.

    I think every single person could use a good reality check to step back and say “why do we do this or that” and see what the scripture actually says. Church is foremost about bringing God glory. Period. Church is NOT about what I want, like, feel, or do. It IS about what God wants. Period.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you Tim, and I would like to go on this journey with you to discover what the Bible teaches. Yes, the book that we all love to say we love to read but don’t really care what it actually says if it is interfering with how I like to do “church.”

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