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A Scholar’s Convictions Concerning the Church

Posted by on Jul 10, 2012 in blog links, definition | 26 comments

A Scholar’s Convictions Concerning the Church

Some of you know that I’m a PhD student in biblical theology (or if you didn’t know, you can just read the little blurb about me in the right-hand sidebar). Some of you also know that I’m studying under David Alan Black. If you don’t know him, check out his blog and search for his name on amazon.com.

He has written books covering many areas of New Testament and Greek studies. And, these are the kinds of books that anyone can pick up and read and instantly use. He has a knack for explaining difficult concepts in a way that anyone can understand.

So, what does this New Testament scholar think about the church? Well, he shared some of his “convictions” yesterday on his blog (Monday, July 9, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.):

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.
  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent making leadership.
  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.
  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.
  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient — efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.
  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.
  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.
  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.
  • I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.
  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.
  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.
  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.
  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.
  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.
  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.
  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.
  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.
  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.
  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.
  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry. The fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

I truly appreciate Dave sharing his “convictions” with us. I also appreciate that these convictions come out of years of study and life serving others around the world in the name of Jesus Christ. But, more than all that, I appreciate that he continues to work with, to serve, and to co-labor with brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with his convictions.


26 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-10-2012

    I like a lot of what you are saying, very likely, because it jives with the six years of research I did in church history with particular reference to the ekklesia. You might be interested to know that I think K. Schmidt’s article on the ekklesia in Kittels is wanting, because he never saw J.R. Graves’ Intercommunion where the latter discusses the ekklesia and the oklos in Acts 19. Also, I found the Landmarkers could not hold up on exegeting I Cors.12:13. But then again you might not. I have a web site, and I would like to take with you about it some time.

  2. 7-10-2012

    I think this evolution of the revelation of what church should be is very progressive for all who accept the premise of church to begin with. However for all of those who have not been, or hopefully shall never be churched, these ideas are arcane useless religiosity. Church and all that it is understood to be in the Western mindset has been forever corrupted and therefore cannot be redeemed. Nor should we ever make the same mistakes as Luther and the other “reformers”, for a half step in the spiritual kingdom matters is no step at all. Church for all of its corruption is proven by the scriptures to have never been God’s creation. As I have quoted before “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit”,and “Touch not the unclean thing”. It was very popular for a while for some protestants to think that perhaps the Roman Catholic Church was the harlot Babylon, the truth is the whole entirely of church based religion is the harlot Babylon. Church and all of its tentacles is the enemies highest achievement here the west. Consider this, in China the visible “church” is represented as the government approved three self patriotic movement. This church teaches fundamentally sound doctrine; their current theological emphasis is on “a protection and promotion of the five basic tenets of Christian faith – the Trinity, Christ being both human and God, the Virgin Birth, Death and Resurrection and the Second Coming.” Nothing wrong there, right? But all who love and would follow Jesus, and His kingdom rule say that this church is not a real representative of Jesus at all. But a fake, an impostor presented to the lost world as genuine. The tail of the tape here is, reality, and power. There have been precious few real saints inside of the church movement. When they do appear it is by sheer grace, and the fact that in spite of participating in the harlot church system, they sought Jesus with such sincerity that Jesus would not deny them His presence. When they heard His voice and proclaimed His revelation, new converts appeared. Unfortunately these new converts had so little light to walk in, with a few exceptions, they fell prey to the harlot church system. Self promotion, idolization of men, errors upon errors, taught where? In church. So intellectualize all you who care to, it will not change the tidal wave that is coming, and everything that bears the name of the harlot will be swept away in the coming storm. Let him who as ears to hear, let him hear.

  3. 7-10-2012

    James,

    Thanks for the comment and for bringing in your thoughts on other articles about the church. Feel free to email me at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

    Marc,

    With my understanding of the church as the body of Christ, I can only hope that all find themselves welcomed by God as his child and part of his church. Your comment doesn’t describe my understanding of the church and completely misses the point of Dave’s descriptions. Instead, it seems to push your own agenda without attempting to understand someone who is your brother in Christ.

    -Alan

  4. 7-10-2012

    Hey Alan,
    I think I am clear in my writing, but you rarely seems to address my points. I do hear you, and I applaud your perspective, as well David’s. It is a remarkable evolution of church thought.So much ado about words, but words are very important. I did not miss David’s point, he sees a radically reformed church, and I say good for him, and you for that matter. However, as I point out, you can not reform this prostitute. You can put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig, and 1800 years of history has proved that.
    So, I will ask a question that I have failed to ask you up until now. Why won’t you leave this false representation of Christ at the chapel door? Why will you not acknowledge the ruination of millions of souls at her wicked hands? Why will you not answer the bad fruit issue? What is the church system, and the christian religion for that matter? What if I am hearing the Lord on these matters? What if this message is HIS message of salvation and deliverance before the whole false church and christian religion gets washed away in the coming distresses?

  5. 7-10-2012

    Marc,

    Are you listening to me? Then do you realize that you called the body of Christ a prostitute? Or, perhaps you were not really listening to me, but were instead focused on your own understanding of the term “church” and not how we (Dave and I) were using the term “church” in this post?

    -Alan

  6. 7-10-2012

    Thanks Alan and Dave Black for sharing. A lot to chew on there. This one in particular made me stop and think for awhile:

    “I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient — efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.”

    I think this statement holds true in politics, business, education, family life, and church. Except in politics and business the goal may not always be to equip.

  7. 7-10-2012

    The body of Christ, is not the church, by Jesus’ definition, your and my definition doesn’t really matter. You want to perpetuate, and guard an untenable position, why? Something as worldly and evil as the Nazi’s, took over the public practice of the ekklesia a long time ago. Can we now say, just because we like the word Nazi, say well they really were a christian organization all along they just went wrong, they had some bad leaders, yes they killed and tortured millions, but so what, I like the word Nazi. So we like the term so we just say the word Nazi is a great term. Nazi this and Nazi that. Do that all you want, but the guys on the street corner, especially if they are Jews or are sympathetic to the Jews, or humanity for that matter, will not buy it. So say it all you want, the world who needs Jesus will not listen to your arguments, and the church people, who have no or little relationship to Jesus will not hear the clarion call, come out of her and do not share in in her sins.

  8. 7-10-2012

    Jon,

    Yes, that is a good one. Thanks!

    Marc,

    I think you misunderstand the way I use the English term “church.” I use that term in the same way the NT authors used the term “ekklesia.”

    -Alan

  9. 7-10-2012

    That list was thought provoking. As a member of a large church and the wife of an elder and a pastoral counselor, that gave me a lot to ponder.

  10. 7-10-2012

    Jean,

    Thanks for the comment. Were there any specific points that you found thought provoking?

    -Alan

  11. 7-11-2012

    Alan,
    As I mentioned when I shared your post on my FB, I truly enjoyed and profited from reading it. The internal dialog that this generated in me was also profitable, and I hope to share some in upcoming gatherings. In reading through a few of the comments, I was reminded of this passage in James 3, which might be timely. From all I’ve seen of you, dear brother, you are desirous of a harvest of righteousness. May the Lord of Righteousness continue to strengthen and direct you in His path.

    13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

  12. 7-11-2012

    Maybe someone is selling a book. :)

  13. 7-11-2012

    James,

    That’s always a good reminder. Thank you.

    Hutch,

    Yes, he does sell books through a few publishers, but I don’t think this is part of any of his books. In fact, he’s one of the few authors who actually publishes this type of information on his blog for free.

    -Alan

  14. 7-11-2012

    Wasn’t talking about Black much respect for Black. :)

  15. 7-11-2012

    David’s list of convictions reminds me of Martin Luther’s list of articles in the sense that both attempt to make a complete description of essential truth.

    It’s a superb list and I’ve been wondering if it really is complete and self consistent. I can’t fault it. I wonder if others can suggest useful additions or changes … anyone?

  16. 7-11-2012

    Hutch,

    Ah. I’m not sure. Perhaps.

    Chris,

    I’m not certain if Dave intended his list to be complete or not. There are a few that I’d love to hear him flesh out or expand. But, I love the passion for Jesus and for the body of Christ behind the list.

    -Alan

  17. 7-12-2012

    Black’s list brought to memory how scholarship is able to unearth a few things, if carried honestly. Still, much is [can be] missed or misunderstood via scholarship. as example, there is no report or sound evidence of “the normalcy of tent making leadership” from New Testament writings. So I am reminded, scholarship can serve slave to cultural ideals or even wishful thinking. There is no N.T. report or instruction that an elder be appointed as an elder in the ekklesia. Instead, elders may be recognized in service as overseers/bishops, shepherds/pastors,… No confirmation that “every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ”. More wishful thinking? No prescription for any established “goal of leadership” other than Christ. No confinement by way of “pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation,” except by modern imagination working the thesis and study regime. and so, etc., etc.
    A serious confession in the limitations and potentially vain usage of scholarship is on the horizon.

  18. 7-12-2012

    Marshall,

    I think Dave’s list comes from much more than scholarship, although his studies of Scripture have been a big part of it. Since I’ve heard him say as much, I’m sure he would agree with you about the limitations and potential vanity of scholarship. In fact, he writes about that often on his blog.

    It’s interesting that you mention several items in his list for which you find “no report or sound evidence.” However, I do find “report and sound evidence” for some of the things that you mention. Perhaps the difference is in interpretation and/or nomenclature.

    -Alan

  19. 7-12-2012

    the “difference”, Alan, (as from the title header of this post) is to reliance/leaning upon scholarship and other human means to arrive at interpretation or understanding. When a man comes to the place where his learning; his PhD is counted by him as dung/rubbish [ref: Philippians 3:8], there is much further opportunity for the Light of Christ to prevail in & upon that man and those with him.

  20. 7-12-2012

    Marshall,

    I think I understand now. The title of this post was for identification. Some people weigh the views of scholars higher than the view of others, especially when it comes to biblical studies. I think you would find that Dave Black is not one who relies on his PhD. In fact, many other scholars question his credentials as a scholar because his views do not follow the scholarly path.

    -Alan

  21. 7-14-2012

    Nothing needs to be said about this. Well communicated. What I would like to see is a brief but more comprehensive explanation/study on all these convictions. Would be good to publish this on paper – just my opinion.

    I wonder…considering this list of convictions and what I have read among your blogs, Alan…what are your thoughts in ministerial licensing? I know it is not necessary for ministry or for someone to pastor. But, for example, it is necessary for marrying people in most states. So, what say you?

  22. 7-14-2012

    John,

    Well, if someone wants to perform marriage ceremonies that the state recognizes, then that person should follow the state’s requirements.

    -Alan

  23. 7-15-2012

    Hate to be the one that has to throw some cold water over the party …

    The continual use of the words ‘convinced’ should sound warning bells – who among us can claim spiritual superiority?

    The Church is not a microcosm of democracy – and I note the apparent contradictions on this point contained in the ‘thesis’.

    The leaders of the Church are appointed and their responsibility is something which is beyond most of our collective capacity and skill. If our leadership is faulty perhaps such says more about our present state of our spirituality than it does about anything else.

    Scholarship is important – without it the Church would never have made it past the second century.

    Besides, I am not ‘convinced’ that Jesus’ intention was ever to start a Church.

  24. 7-16-2012

    John,

    I don’t think I understand your “cold water.” I didn’t get “spiritual superiority” when I read Dave’s post, but perhaps that’s because I know him. Instead, I read “convinced” more like Paul used it in Romans: “Each one be convinced in his own mind.” Jesus is certainly building his church, if we are using the term “church” in the same way that the NT authors uses the term “ekklesia,” which is how I’m using the term “church.”

    -Alan

  25. 10-5-2012

    Very good and in line with my own convictions.

    I’m not sure I fully understood this point:

    “I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation,”

    given the preceding statement about “pastor-teachers” (plural).

    Does he equate pastor-teachers with elders? What is his point about this being a “settled ministry”?

    Thanks for your post!

  26. 10-8-2012

    Rick,

    Although Dave Black would have to answer your question about what he means by that, from talking with him I would assume that by “settled ministry” he means that the pastors-teachers are those who are “settled” into a community/area, not people who travel from place to place (church to church). I would think he also means by “settled” that they have a job and source of income.

    -Alan