Do you really want a ‘biblical’ church?!
Frank Viola begins his book, Pagan Christianity, by arguing, “the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does.” He has left “the institutional church to begin gathering with Christians in New Testament fashion.” That pretty much sums up the message in this manifesto against the contemporary church. Everything from having a “professional pastor” to meeting in a church building are “extra-biblical practices” adopted from “pagan culture.”
Hmmm? My little mind got thinking about what a truly “biblical” and “New Testament” church would actually look like.
A Bible with only one Testament
First, the Old Testament would be the only Scripture since the early church didn’t have the New. Paul didn’t get out pen and papyrus to jot down a note to the Galatians until circa AD 50 and Mark (or the mysterious Mr. Q) didn’t write the earliest gospel until circa AD 55. Second, having only the Old Testament would lead to . . .
Limited menu at church carry-in
And since we’re following the Old Testament’s dietary restrictions, no ham sandwiches or roast pork at biblical, New Testament carry-ins (Deuteronomy 14:8). And—horrors—no bacon!
Again, using the only available Scripture, an unexcused absence from morning worship—stoning (Numbers 15:32-36). Johnny lips off to his parents in church—stoning (Exodus 21:15, 17). The pastor has an affair with the church secretary—stoning (Leviticus 20:10). Not good for “seeker-friendly” ministry!
Using early church models would also lead to . . .
No formal education for clergy
Rats, I wasted four years at school (and four summers putting raisins in Raisin Bran to pay for it)! I could have spent three years in the Holy Land learning directly from Jesus if I wanted a biblical and New Testament education! (Acts 4:13) Okay, so He’s not bodily present in the Holy Land right now—major detail—but I could have adapted Paul’s educational program: three years in the desert of Arabia (Galatians 1:15-18) or, as I prefer, three years on Daytona Beach.
Pastors chosen by lots
And what’s the biblical and New Testament way to chose leaders? Matthias was chosen as the replacement for Judas by drawing lots (Acts 1:26). Unfortunately, we never hear about Matthias again, so there may be some kinks to work out in that method, but it’s definitely NT.
No personal property
To be truly biblical and New Testament, everyone would bring in their pay check, put it in the community purse and then everyone’s expenses would be paid out with any leftovers going to the poor (Acts 2:44-45). I think Karl Marx tried this once and it was a disaster.
And, of course, don’t forget to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” If I was still single, this would be reason enough to get out of bed on Sunday morning! When I was college pastor, we had a Bible study that traditionally ended with “give your neighbor a hug.” We had a disproportionate number of male computer majors who came to Bible study!
So, I’m not sure I really want to attend a biblical, New Testament church. Maybe biblical isn’t always “Christian.” For instance, here’s a verse—right out of the Bible—that I’m surprised hasn’t shown up in the “Jesus Junk” section of my local family book store, beautifully illustrated on a framed print by Thomas Kinkaid: “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19).
It’s “biblical,” but probably not a good idea to base one’s life upon.
I guess I’d rather belong to a “Christian” church, the adjective meaning, of course, Christ-like. One in which the Body of Christ creatively adapts and ministers to the culture in which it finds itself—even if among “pagans.” And definitely a church with the New Testament—and ham sandwiches at the carry-ins!
Copyright © 2008 James N. Watkins