I stumbled upon this blog somehow. I think this Man of Depravity is maybe somehow connected to…Ben, whose blog I’ve also been reading. I have read this “Church Manifesto,” as the Man of Depravity calls it, several times now. If you have the time to read it and the comments, I would encourage it. There are some great thoughts and ideas therein.
So what do you think? Is the Church headed toward a small-group, in-home focus? Is the role of the pastor evolving into more of a facilitator and less of a preacher?
Many churches seem already to have gone that direction–but certainly not in place of a weekly corporate gathering. I am not sure why the Man of Depravity seems focused on the idea of exclusivity in this matter. Surely a body can function best when both of these two things are in place. The problem, as I see it, with replacing a Sunday service with a Sunday home-group on a regular basis is the distance from the pastor. By this, I mean a couple of things.
First, the opportunity for a major lack in doctrinal accountability. Remember, most pastors have studied extensively and have been ordained. I certainly don’t think this MUST be true of a pastor or teacher; but I do find it concerning that we would seek to shift away from his direct teaching toward a secluded setting. There is enough doctrinal upheaval in the Church today. And for those who think wrong doctrine is something to roll your eyes at, I upheave in your general direction. As one who was distance from the Body of Christ for some time due a lack of doctrinal accountability, I can tell you honestly that this is a dangerous situation–especially in a society that lauds relativism, as ours does. Don’t mistake me here: I am not criticizing the ability of Christians to lead Bible studies adequately. I am criticizing the idea that this should and can replace the accountability of having a trained, studied pastor.
Second, under such a structure of home church, a person would have an incredible opportunity to get plugged into a church without ever knowing a pastor. This distance is unsettling for me. Again, I won’t pretend that only a pastor can counsel or encourage people. But I also won’t pretend that lay persons are qualified or accountable to interact with people the way a pastor is. “Oh, Sarah!” you will exclaim. “If there were a situation that required the pastor’s involvement, we would get him involved!” Oh, I know this. But not everybody who needs a pastor’s involvement is going to jump up and down at your home group, crying, “Introduce me to your pastor!” And even on a very basic level, the relationship between a pastor and his sheep is crucial to the Body of Christ. How will a home-group facilitate this in a realistic and functional way?
Third, although trust can be developed with those who are not pastors preaching from a pulpit on Sunday mornings, the office of pastorship is sacred. We expect, innately, that a pastor is speaking truth to us. We trust his position. This trust, in my opinion, is indispensable. If it weren’t, why would we have such gut reactions to stories where a pastor violates the trust of his congregation? I am not convinced that you can build this trust between a pastor and a congregation without the position of the pastorship as it is today. If you remove the pastor from the congregation, and remove the congregation from the pastor, you drastically alter their relationship–including the matter of trust.
Aside from the relationship of the pastor to the congregation, my biggest concern is that of worship and minisry. Surely these things can exist in smaller settings. But I see this as being detrimental, especially in churches that practice the Gifts of the Spirit. The church relies, yet again, upon the leadership of the pastor. If something is out of line or “off,” the pastor is obligated to lead the church away from it during a service. Who accepts that responsibility in a house-group? And is that leadership trustworthy? Perhaps it is. I wouldn’t count on it.
I don’t deny that the role of the pastor is changing. I am supportive of this. I agree that the pastor will become more of a facilitator. I think Pastor John (from Water’s Edge) is a great example of a facilitator. It’s been awhile since I’ve attended that church, but he has stepped out of the “pastoral spotlight” in a lot of ways–allowing Ed and Charlie to preach some services, encouraging the growth of ministries, training and producing training resources. Yes, Pastor John is far more than a “preacher;” He is a trainer, an equipper, and a provider. But the congregation is not removed from him. The gatherings that occur during the week happen alongside a corporate Sunday gathering. He is accessible to the congregation, and he sits under the same worship, the same preaching, the same ministry that he has set the body under. This allows for correction and accountability and, thus, trust.
Now…I know my words here may indicate that I am opposed to the ideas proposed in Man of Depravity’s blog. I am not. I do think the Church needs to return to smaller settings, focused on personal growth and community outreach. I do not, however, think that this needs (or should) occur at the expense of a corporate gathering.
I have more thoughts on this, especially pertaining to worship. But I must digress for the moment, as Joel & Erin have arrived and we are firing up the grill.