This just in from our Africa affiliate, Dennis Tongoi:
In the first two centuries Church was more of “family”- people gathering in homes eating together and fellowshipping as key activities. As the Church grew and the Greek culture embraced it, church became more of a philosophy- with the focus on logic and defense of the faith. After Roman culture embraced the faith the church became an institution with the focus on systems, titles, positions and power.
In the last fifty years or so, the Church under the huge movement of missions from the west and in particular America became an enterprise- complete with the pastor (or Bishop) as the prime mover or CEO. With the resultant focus on programs, reports and results, relationships began being defined on a contractual basis; as partnerships often with one partner dominant or dictating the agenda.
The centre of global church is now acknowledged to have moved south. A prominent Church leader has proposed that we in Africa, model “church as a body”. In the body there is no dominant or dependant member- the primary relationship becomes interdependence and the focus is on service. Even the least honorable member is given honor. We need to remove the focus from individualism that is the dominant value in the secular western culture and survival that dominates the African mind. This will enable us move to mutuality and interdependence. How can we do this? Mutuality will not be accomplished through debate and agreement on doctrine- the only way we can do this is as we serve, not ourselves but others.
Alex AraujoApril 22, 2009 - 10:26 am
Thank you, Dennis, for this clear and succinct statement. Your perspective from Africa reinforces our need to re-evaluate our current models for being church.
Bob EvansApril 22, 2009 - 10:13 pm
Thank you for this wonderful perspective and challenge. This view of the Church calls us back to Paul’s wonderful “mystery” of unity in Ephesians; That in Christ all dividing walls are removed, that in Christ various roles serve each other. The body model of the Church calls us back to being the reflection of the Trinitarian mystery. The [natural] body, like the Trinity, is both an entity (a single unified whole) and a community of diverse, mutually serving parts. It is time that the hand no longer say of the foot “I don’t need you” or the eye say all must see to be of value. thank you for this simple exhortation and call to be who we were redeemed to be.
Dave HackettApril 23, 2009 - 11:48 am
Dennis, I agree with the other comments. Insightful, thought-provoking article. It reminds me of the observation that the Church is concurrently Cause, Community and Corporation.