It has been interesting to observe a national discussion on churches with video campuses and a local discussion within my own church about how money for ministries should be obtained. It seems that in the broadest of generalities the camps, as usual, are divided along the generational lines. While that may obvious to everyone involved, what may be a little more under the radar is that one of the main reasons for the constant disagreements is the measuring stick used for successful ministry.
Today, I want to look at those I will call “traditionalists.” When a traditionalists determines if a ministry or church is successful they evaluate it on two levels: 1. does this involve a change and 2. does this change appear specifically in Scripture. Traditionalists are resistant to change of any kind. An easy way for them to justify their resistance is to point out that the new method is not outlined in Scripture. While this may sound super-Biblical and ultra-spiritual, it is really very dangerous.
If we take that line of thinking to its logical conclusion we could not use the internet, television, radio or even cars to aid us in doing ministry since none of those were around when Paul was walking and sailing all over Asia Minor. God has given us new tools that it would be foolish of us to not use to reach people for Him.
Of course there were no churches that meet in a movie theatre and watched a message broadcast on the big screen during the New Testament church. However, you do see instances of Paul preaching all across the region and sending letters to be read by various churches. Some will argue that Paul is not a pastor, but rather like a traveling evangelist. That may be the case, but most regard Titus and Timothy as pastors.
In Paul’s letter to Titus in Crete and Timothy in Ephesus, he gives them instructions on appointing overseers and deacons. That strikes me as being similar to the methodology being used by many video campuses of having an onsite pastor even if the sermon comes from someone else. It may also better support the use of spiritual gifts in churches. Some pastors may have the gift of shepherding, but may not be a gifted teacher. A video campus would allow them to be a pastor without having to be a preacher. It may also allow a preacher who is a fantastic teacher, but struggles with the pastoring side of ministry to use his gifts more effectively.
But now is where I may get in trouble, even if the Biblical case for a video campus church cannot be made does that automatically disqualify the methodology? I don’t think it does – let me explain before someone shouts “Heretic!” and runs for the torches.
The Bible is our guidebook for everything we do. I believe it to be totally inherent and the infallible Word of God. What I don’t believe is that the Bible and the description of the New Testament church was meant to be a noose around the church from that point forward. (I’m scaring myself as I type this, but hang with me.)
Most churches pass offering plates around during the service. Do we have any evidence that they used that methodology to collect tithes and offerings in the first church? No, in fact in the only instance of tithe collecting in the New Testament I know of people brought money forward and laid it at the apostle’s feet. I don’t think that passage should be taken as a command on how offering must be taken up.
Does anyone want to argue that the descriptions of services in the New Testament church are meant to be rules on the specific order of our service today? No more projection screens and three-point sermons with two jokes and an illustration. How many churches still sing Jewish psalms with period specific instruments? I don’t think they had a piano and pipe organ back in the day.
I think we are to use the principles laid out in the New Testament and capitalize on the new methodology God has given us today to reach more people for Him. If a practice is forbidden by the Bible then it should forever be off limits to us. If we ever deviate from the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus by God’s grace then we will cease being a true “church.”
There are things that are non-negotiable and on those issues we should never question. But why start spreading the list of “essentials” into “non-essential” territory? It cheapens the essentials of the faith by dictating and elevating non-essentials. I’m all for using the Bible as our measuring stick, but let’s not turn it into our handcuffs when it shouldn’t be. Why are you coming towards me with a lot of rope and …. is that fire I smell? 😉
Next, I’ll working on angering the other side. They might not burn me at the stake – that’s not their style. But they may pour hot Starbucks all over my body and bust my eardrums with Techo music. We’ll see.