Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Revolutionized Church of the 21st Century

The title of this post sounds terribly pompous, doesn't it? It's actually the title of a book I'm reading by Russell Burrill, a professor at the Andrews University Seminary and the director of the NADEI. The Revolutionized Church, the latest in a series Burrill rethinking the way Adventists "do church", focuses on the importance of relationships and small groups. These two paragraphs caught my attention:
The children of Cain build cities. Cities originate as people rebel from God and the community He wished to establish among His children. Broken relationships do not build community--they build cities where people are distant from one another. A city as defined here is not the literal city, although it can include that. Rather, a city is defined as any place where people are living close together but not in community. Many "country" churches in this sense are cities, fortresses where people hide from each other rather than live in dependence upon each other....

Unless a church develops small relational groups where people can find community, it is still partaking of the spirit of Cain in building a city rather than seeking to help people find real community. Cities are pseudo-communities. Millions of people are controlled by people in power. When this happens, there is no community, either in the world or in the church. The gathering of people into smaller groups results in the building of community. Churches that exist in the city, then, must concentrate on building community in the city rather than attempting to accumulate power. (The Revolutionized Church of the 21st Century, 34,35)
Properly functioning small groups distribute power. They make people participants rather than spectators, and when that happens those in charge loose some of their control. This is threatening for people who want to accumulate power in the church. They see "church" as people lined up in the pews listening to them, rather than people empowered to do great things. I pray that God will help me, as a pastor, to avoid the spirit of Cain.

To read the story of Cain click here.

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