I’ve been slowly reading through Frank Viola’s latest book Reimagining Church. So far, in my opinion, this book has been much better than Pagan Christianity. In fact, I think this book should have been published first in the series.
But, before I write a full review, I thought I would share this quote because it expresses my own view on the church meeting as well:
Perhaps the most startling characteristic of the early church meeting was the absence of any human officiating. Jesus Christ led the gatherings by the medium of the Holy Spirit through the believing community. The result? The spirit of “one anothering” pervaded the entire meeting. It’s no wonder that the New Testament uses the phrase one another nearly sixty times. Each member came to the meeting knowing that he or she had the privilege and the responsibility to contribute something of Christ…
Some may object and say, “But in my church, I’m allowed to do some ministry.” My question is, are you allowed to carry out such ministry in the major gatherings of the church when all the members are present? Are you free to stand up at any time and give a word of testimony, a teaching, an exhortation, a song, or whatever else the Lord has laid on your heart? More importantly, are you encouraged to do this?
Let’s be honest. The idea of mutual ministry envisioned in the New Testament is a far cry from the pinched definition of “lay ministry” that’s promoted in the typical institutional church. Most organized churches offer a surplus of volunteer positions for “laypeople” to fill. Positions like cutting the lawn of the parsonage, ushering the aisles, shaking hands at the sanctuary door, passing out bulletins, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, participating on the worship team (if you make the cut), flipping transparencies, turning PowerPoint slides, etc.
But these restricted “ministry” positions are light-years away from the free and open exercise of spiritual gifts that was afforded to every believer in the early church gathering. An exercise that benefited the entire church when it gathered together. (pg 55-56)
Like I said, I agree with this statement. I think we have lost the desire and opportunity to truly serve one another through the gifts of the Spirit when the church meets, and we have tried to delegate our own responsibility to others – primarily our leaders.