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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED

Written by: on May 18, 2017

SHAPING THE CHURCH,  THE PROMISE OF IMPLICIT THEOLOGY

Dr. Percy approaches the Churches’ views and practices of Implicit Theology.  He identified ‘Implicit Theology’ as “examining the basic theological habits of the daily life of churches, congregations, and denominations and guessing at the hidden meanings in structures and practices that on the surface appear to be benign and innocent.” (2) This book intrigued by interest as it relates to the religious views of the establishment religious institutes and including the new church movement effect on the establishment teachings. I drew close to Part I, Sacraments – Spiritual Life as it relates to my dissertation.  I focused on Part II, Chapter 4 – Fresh Expression A Critique of Consumerism in this blog.

Some churches are stalled in their spiritual growth, relationship with God and attendance. Malachi 3:6 has been used by preachers for years, “For I am the Lord, I change not.”  Church denominations use it to support their polity, maintaining their views, traditions, authority to name a few. Haven’t you heard, “We have always done it this way!”  “That’s just the way it is!” “It worked well for our ancestors (parents and their parents).”  Dr. Percy referenced Woodhead and Heelas using Luke 10:2-28 as a response to the Fresh Expression movement’s methodology by saying “Jesus did not reply to the rich man inquiring about eternal life saying, ‘well, what works for you?” (77) These Church Christians may be responding in fear to the unknown and what they believe to be a threat to their longtime beliefs and traditions.

There are believers (unchurched) who challenge the heart of God because of the heart of church folks. Many individuals don’t want to be churchy or religious but look to be spiritual. Their disenchantment with religion, church polity, hypocrites, and stale teaching/worship has fueled the success of “churches of hope.” The Lead Preachers speak of love, hope, forgiveness, and having a personal relationship with God. Dr. Percy refers to a movement in England as “Fresh Expression.” I believe that is a good term for the Christian church movement in America.

These new church movements could be defined as a church which provides a haven that relates to the culture of the current times and reaches to the people who are not interested in the traditional way of worship and serving. Dr. Percy states the Church of England Fresh Expressions websites defines a “Fresh Expression as a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church…” (67)  These churches do in fact have a structure similar to the church institution, for example, providing worship service, bible study, and fellowship. Some preachers criticize their methodology but defend their personal presentation of the gospel to a traditional preacher as the same message but presented in a different way.

Let’s not misunderstand; I am not promoting that all new movements are great, nor am I saying all old establishment religious groups are bad. We all have faults. The Fresh Expression movement in England focuses on gathering in small groups, similar to the New Testament church where the people met in their homes, caves, etc. Dr. Ronald Morgan addresses the New Testament Theology as ‘Implicit Theology.’ He stated that “New Testament theologians interpret these writings by rational methods; they attend to the letter, aware that only the Spirit can convince anyone of religious truth.” [1] The new movements in America (Houston) are large assemblies with cell groups. They have rapidly grown to multiple locations. They do not promote membership in the church but he referred to it as associated with or belonging to the church.

Another point presented in the Chapter was the effect of the movement on “legitimizing support for preferred causes with the promise of immediacy, and a clear return on a focused investment; whilst undermining the organizations that sustain our social and spiritual capital.” (77) There are numerous prosperity preachers connected to establishment religious denominations who transformed into a different dimension of gospel teaching. We, the people of the established traditional religious churches have weekly supported Malachi 3:10 to financially support the church, ‘give of your tithes as commanded in the Old Testament and see won’t God open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing you don’t have room to receive. If you don’t, you are stealing from the church.’ We also say, ‘Ask in the name of Jesus, and you shall receive.” These are a part of the gospel that is preached from the traditional church pulpit. Yet, we challenge the prosperous teaching of other preachers. Our focus should be on the intent of the message including our own.

I have visited and viewed several of these new movements in Houston, and I have found some of their methodology alarming and informing. Most did not offer the invitation to a Church membership but an invitation to Christ. They spoke on “being a cheerful giver.” One lead pastor said to the visitors they were not required to give an offering but could if they wish. We do want to ensure your salvation. He asked them to consider making Jesus their Lord and Savior. If they do, then their next step is baptism.” There’s no longer the walk down the long aisle and shake the pastor’s hand ceremony.  They ask them to text their contact information to receive a one time link to resources to help them with their walk with Christ. This new environment in my limited observation does not promote relationship with others in the church setting. Where is the fellowship among believers? I am still open to understanding by interacting with the new movement churches more than once to see what the newness is all about.

Dr. Percy concludes with the Fresh Expression movement can be seen as “an implicit theology based on its form of faith that expresses contemporary “secular’ preoccupations…” (78)

 

[1] Morgan, Robert. New Testament Theology as Implicit Theological Interpretation of Christian Scripture, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 2016, Vol. 70(4) 383–398, accessed May 17, 2017, www. sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav,DOI: 10.1177/0020964316655106.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

5 responses to “WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Lynda, I appreciate the way you grappled with the pros and cons of the established churches vs. the fresh expressions churches. I can see the need to go out to where people are, but I am concerned as you are about “Where is the fellowship among believers?”. What do you think, maybe small groups could help new believers as they mature and get plugged into the larger fellowship?
    Really thoughtful post.

  2. Stu Cocanougher says:

    In my circles, the debate used to be against “seeker sensitive” churches. Now, the debate seems to be around “Satellite churches.” The question has do with with the definition of a church. If a church has a “site pastor” who cares for the needs of the local people, but the preaching happens via video–where the preacher is in another state, is it truly a “church.” I think so, but others would argue that it is not.

  3. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Very true Lynda – “Our focus should be on the intent of the message including our own.” What messages are we sending that are explicit and implicit in nature? Great reminder. I appreciated the comparisons to the England churches and the movements in the US. Insightful and helpful. Thank you.

  4. mm Chip Stapleton says:

    ‘There are believers (unchurched) who challenge the heart of God because of the heart of church folks’
    Lynda – this is definitely – and sadly – true, regardless of the kind of church.
    I think our goal should be to ensure that both our explicit and implicit theology are aligned in service to the Gospel: inviting and welcoming all with the love and grace of Christ and calling all to follow in the way Jesus.

  5. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Lynda I dont think Dr. Percy was advocating for Fresh Expression communities, He wanted to acknowledging that they exist. Percy was giving them “credit” for the fact that they have been attempting to engage the faith community and relate in a way that most have failed.

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