The book should be read as a project not just a book. It is probably a good idea to read it a bit at a time and give yourself some time to chew on it between chapters. It will be a hard grind for some Christians, it is very theological in nature. But is well worth the read.
I have studied Church History in the past so enjoy the detail in the book.
It goes far beyond complaining about Christmas, Father Christmas, and Easter bunnies to expose the roots on paganism in Christian practises.
I completely agree with the authors. But I do think thou that the churches here in the UK, even faced with the truth in this book will not necessarily make the changes needed. The problem is not just a problem of religious practises but cultural practises, and the basic fact that money talks.
Most British people will be shy to open their home for ‘home churches’. Cultures where people are more social will definitely benefit more. If churches in Brittan start with dropping the ‘sermon’ and encourage participation in their church meetings and church buildings with their current leadership, it might be a great start.
I think the danger of reading a book like this one can easily neglect the daily / weekly gathering of other Christians. Because you might realise that the ‘traditional church’ is not biblical. What this book MUST do for you, it must make you understand that YOU are responsible to be spiritual. You can use every unofficial meeting or friends getting together; to honour Jesus. Pray together, pray for each other, discuss the bible. You ARE the church. Be it.
The books website is http://www.paganchristianity.net/
Here is the summary of what the books says:
Excuse my short hand; hope you can read between the lines.
In the New Testament (NT), believers met in houses.
Ekklesia – was seen as a body of believers.
‘Go to church’ coined by Clement in (150 – 215AD)
NT Christians had no temples, church buildings etc.
Church buildings only really took of in 4th – 5th century
Constantinople (a sun worshiper) (285 – 337AD) institutionalise Christianity and build many churches.
Christianity conquered Rome, and Rome conquered Christianity.
Constantine introduced Sunday worship 321AD
Constantine became (Pontiflex Maximus) which became the title of the pope in 15th centenary.
327AD Constantine big church building project, build churches over tombs and cemeteries (to honour dead, saints)
Inspire awe, house a passive, docile crowd, separate clergy and laity.
Bishops and thrones, pastors had special chairs.
Music, coloured glass, majestic splendour of the buildings inspired by Egyptian obelisks, Roman and Greek architecture attempted to duplicate the heavily and spiritual experience.
Main message: God is transcendent and unreachable.
16th Century Reformers, made the pulpit – for preaching sermons – the centre of the church, kept the pews, kept the steeples and spires.
Buildings have a high cost of overhead 50-85% of money coming into church.
Sundays morning worship was/is done in a specific order.
Greeting, Prayer and Scripture reading, Song service, Announcements, Offering, Sermon, Benediction.
Singing, Prayer, Sermon, Admonition, Lord’s Supper, Singing, Post Communion prayer, Benediction.
Prayer, Singing, Confession, Prayer, Admonition, Sermon, Arms, General prayer, Communion, Benediction
NT is not silent on how we should meet together.
Where Jesus is the leader, the Holy Spirit inspire all, all participate naturally and freely. One start a song, the other follow, another share a testimony the others listen, one read a scripture another confirm God’s direction. All participate.
Protestantism’s sacred cow.
- Sermons are regular – once or twice every week.
- Done by the same person
- Has a passive audience
- Done in a cultivated form of speech.
In the OT:
1.Listeners participating actively
2.Prophets talked out of their present burden or specific word from God
3. Never was regular
Today’s sermons are heavily influenced by Greek rhetoric.
3rd Century called sermons homilies
Study of homiletics: How to preach and persuade.
Turns the ‘church’ into a preaching station.
Where the intelligence of one person is on display the other is passive listeners.
It is a one-way affair, freezing and imprisons the functioning of the Body of Christ. The body of Christ needs multi functioning to mature.
The ‘Clergy’ de-skills the ‘laity’ it makes church distant and impersonal it is the biggest road block for a health functioning church.
Sermons are often impractical; the preacher has not practical knowledge what he is talking on, like teaching a swimming lesson on dry ground.
Much is preached little lands.
Greco-Roman rhetoric causes short term stimulant but causes long term damage.
Christians has been sermonized for decades but are still babes in Christ.
The word ‘Pastor’ used only once in the NT (Eph 4:11)
The word relates to ‘function’ as on of many functions listed.
Not and ‘office’
Current role of a pastor in Reformed churches are inherited from Catholic Church priest system.
Since the beginning, man had a desire to have a person standing between him and God. Israel demanded a king in the time of Samuel.
The sinful nature of man wants a medicine man, shaman, rhapsodist, miracle worker, witch doctor, soath sayer, wise man, priest, pastor to stand between him and God.
NT deacons and elders where not an ‘office’ but a recognition of a functional person in the body of Christ.
As time progressed after the death of the first apostles, leadership in the church become more and more official. Eventually the top priest became involved in politics and the pope was introduced.
The Reformation restored the priesthood of the believer soteriological (as it is corresponding with salvation) NOT ecclesiological (as it corresponds to the church)
Luther and Calvin both believed in the clergy/laity separation.
Anabaptists where killed (by protestants and Catholics alike) for believing the believer should be participating in the church service.
‘Professionalism’ in the church steals the right of Christians to function in the body.
As one pastor said:
I majored in Bible in college. I went to seminary and I majored in the only thing they teach there; the professional ministry. When I graduated, I realized that I could speak Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and the only thing on earth I was qualified for was to be pope. But someone else had the job.
Damage of clergy:
Gives the impression that some Christians are more privilege to serve the Lord than others. Every member should be a functional priest (1Cor 12-14, 1 Peter2)
Singing songs in pews, setting out the chairs, backing a few cakes, running the overhead projector is not being a functional priest.
‘Pastors’ struggle, they burn themselves out, fall into depression, emotional breakdowns, stress etc. No man can take the burden that is supposed to be Christ’s to carry.
Dressing up of the masses to ‘honour God’ started in the 19th centurary.
It gives the impression that church is the place where you hide the ‘real self’. You hide ‘real people’ with ‘real problems’.
NT Christians did not ‘dress up’
Clergy started dressing differently from the laity during Constantine.
As modern society changed their dressing code in time, the clergy still wore the middle ages dress forms.
Lutheran pastors started wearing ‘Black scholar gown’.
1865 Anglicans adopted the ‘dog collar’
Different clothes created 2 classes.
Professional / Non-professional
Luke 20: 46 say:
Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets
Music in the NT church was spontaneous.
During the Middle Ages music was more and more done by choirs and professionals.
John Huss (1372 – 1415) Brought back congregational singing.
It reached its peak under Wesley in the 18th Centurary and replaced the choir.
Calvin viewed musical instruments as pagan.
Choirs started wearing robes in 1920/30
Today’s churches like Vineyard are lead by professional worship teams.
In 1960/70 became ‘Praise and Worship’ and guitar replaced the organ.
(1Cor 14: 26, Eph5: 19)
Tithing and Clergy Salaries:
In the OT tithing was for supporting the Levites (they didn’t get any land from God to farm on) and to sponsor religious festivals. Every 3rd year tithes was to support the local Levites, orphans, strangers.
In the NT there is not tithing. But voluntary giving according to a person’s abilities to provide for the poor, the widows, sick, prisoners, and strangers.
Malachi 3:8-10 is God opposes the suppression of the poor.
300 years after Christ. The clergy was started to be financially supported with tithes.
Tithes give the impression, the some are paid professionals others are passive members.
Fear of God’s punishment is used to encourage to tithe.
OR promise of financial blessing is used to encourage tithing.
Many pastors abstain from preaching certain topics for fear of upsetting the main tithers in his/her congregation.
Pastors feel stuck in their pastorate since they are not employable in other ministries or in the secular world. Many pastors unemployable in the secular job market therefore can not tell their congregations the truth about tithing.
Ushers started in 1662 to collect money in the churches with plates.
Baptism in the NT an act of faith and expression of faith in Christ. (Like the sinners prayer today)
In the 2nd century baptism was separated from conversion where converts had first to be ‘taught, scrutinised, give instruction and fasting’
This evolved into a ritual where the water had to be blessed, creeds read, anointing with oil and honey and milk given.
Sinners prayer came back in 1950’s with DL Moody in the and found it’s peak with ‘Peace with God’ with Billy Graham and 4 spiritual laws by Campus Crusade
The Lord’s supper was a whole meal, a ‘love feast’ it changed into the ‘Eucharist’ where the break and wine was separated and ‘offered up’ (130-200)
Quote: ‘Properly conceived and practiced, water baptism is the believer’s initial confession of faith before men., demons, angels and God. Baptism is a visible sign that depicts our separation from the world, our death with Christ, the burial of our old man, the death of the old creation, and the washing of the Word of God.’ (page 196)
Following headings are discussed:
4 Stages of Theological Education
The Youth Pastor
Exposing the heart of the problem (page 216):
Quote: ‘Contemporary theological teaching is data-transfer education. It moves from notebook to notebook. In the process, our theology rarely moves below the neck. If a student accurately parrots the ideas of his professor, he is awarded a degree. And that means a lot in a day when many Christians obsess over theological degrees in their analysis of who is qualified to minister. Theological knowledge, however, does not prepare a person for ministry’.
Reapproaching the New Testament:
The Bible is not a jigsaw puzzle (p221)
P223- Meet Marvin Snurdly
Is the story of a man who wrote multiple letters to many people for marriage counselling. 9 survived, many years later people base their doctrine on it.
The order of Paul’s letters in the NT was ordered in the second centurary was ordered by descent in length
If you arrange them by chronological order..
Chapter was added 1227
Versus was added 1551
P230 – Ways people read their bible – laughable true!!
Basic problem, people read their bible verses out of context, preachers ‘cut and paste’ verses to ‘build’ their sermon.
A Practical Remedy
Understand the whole story in context, the questions that was asked, the answers by Paul. Ect.
P244 – Jesus often (always? ) offended the tradisionalist, religious leaders of his time. He was a revolutionary.
A rebel – wants to change the past
A revolutionary wants to change the future.
Ways of new approches..
P257.. Managing resources
You are a portfolio manager of God’s resources, are you doing a good job, are you getting a good return?
By: Frank Viola and George Barna