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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2016 4:48 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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So I am reading Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. While I do not agree with everything they say, it has been an interesting read so far. It challenges many of the practices of modern day churches (well, really, any church from about Constantine onward). Again, I'm not one who gets wigged out because we celebrate Christmas the way we do with all of those pagan elements. Or whether there are candles or stained glass windows. ;) However, they raise some intriguing points that correspond well with my own experience, particularly my recent experience in leaving my Baptist church. (As you know, I haven't been Baptist in my beliefs and doctrines for years and years now, but I digress.)

They contend that the early church (which means the people, btw, and not any kind of a building) was an open meeting with anyone able to participate. I think they make a good case for that based on the Bible. There was no clergy and no distinction between clergy and laity. (I can get into the details of that if anyone is actually interested, but, for the sake of time this morning, I'm just cutting to the chase.) The past two chapters have been about how the sermon was not the focus of the meeting, and there wasn't even anything like that in the early church meetings. (They contend that it's a practice adopted from the Greek sophists.) There also was not a single priest or pastor, and they build a convincing case for that, including how what we expect of a pastor is soul-crushing. (This is very true in Evangelical churches. They are expected to do everything and be everything to all people.)

I experienced this priesthood of all believers in my own way when I baptized my best friend. That was one of the most amazing, sacred things I have ever gotten to do, but I remember being scared beforehand. "Am I allowed to do this?" That's an ironic question given how the Baptists go on and on about the priesthood of all believers, but we have always been taught that it has to be a pastor who baptizes someone. When I asked our associate pastor (at the time) about whether or not I could do it, he pointed me to Jesus' words for the Great Commission and how Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.

We've been meeting now for awhile with a few families. At first, we were at our friends' house (the former associate pastor); now we're meeting at the FOP lodge, and we've opened it up to a few other families (or, really, anyone who wants to come--except my mom :roll: who is trying to weasel her way in). We've adopted this open meeting practice, and it has been very cool. The kids speak up; they put on a puppet show for us and created a video one night. When we sing, some of them dance. We pray, we share Scripture and thoughts and ask questions and discuss. (I led the Scripture time the first night, in fact.) If someone doesn't want to speak, that's fine. Some share how God is working in their lives. We eat a meal, and we share the Lord's Supper. And we serve together, too.

Anyway, all of this has me thinking about what I know of the Friends gathering times. And all that I don't really know about it. But I would like to know more if any of you are willing to share.

(And, of course, anyone else can jump in with their thoughts.)

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 1:51 am 
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Throw me a rope.
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I can't contribute anything intelligent to this discussion but I'm very interested indeed in following it, as I'm very curious about the society of Friends.

Thanks Lali.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 9:13 am 
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Just Keep Singin'
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Lali, I was a member of a Friend's Meeting for many, many years and still find their philosophy and way of worshiping very comfortable for me. I will try to come back (soon) and answer your questions in a coherent fashion.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 2:25 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Thank you, Jewel! I was hoping you'd be able to weigh in at some point. :)

And, Impy, I hope you know that I always welcome your thoughts.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:45 am 
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Elvendork
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Lalaith wrote:
The past two chapters have been about how the sermon was not the focus of the meeting, and there wasn't even anything like that in the early church meetings. (They contend that it's a practice adopted from the Greek sophists.)


How, exactly, would Viola and Barna know this? :scratch: (I'm not a church historian or a theologian, just a lay minister, so I don't know either. :blackeye: ) But the Jewish believers would have been steeped in Torah instruction, and Paul would have wanted lots of biblical instruction for the Greek-background converts.

Sometimes I think we read into the early church accounts what we want to see ... whatever Christian tradition we're from. But I do think that simplicity and non-authoritarian-ness are very Jesus-like. 8)

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There also was not a single priest or pastor, and they build a convincing case for that, including how what we expect of a pastor is soul-crushing. (This is very true in Evangelical churches. They are expected to do everything and be everything to all people.)


Oh, I think team ministry is completely biblical, and obviously modelled, in a first century context, of course. Also, having rejected papal authority, some evangelicals have been very good at creating lots of little popes instead. :roll:

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We've been meeting now for awhile with a few families. At first, we were at our friends' house (the former associate pastor); now we're meeting at the FOP lodge, and we've opened it up to a few other families (or, really, anyone who wants to come--except my mom :roll: who is trying to weasel her way in). We've adopted this open meeting practice, and it has been very cool. The kids speak up; they put on a puppet show for us and created a video one night. When we sing, some of them dance. We pray, we share Scripture and thoughts and ask questions and discuss. (I led the Scripture time the first night, in fact.) If someone doesn't want to speak, that's fine. Some share how God is working in their lives. We eat a meal, and we share the Lord's Supper. And we serve together, too.


Sounds great. :)

:wave: at everyone.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 5:10 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Pearly Di wrote:

How, exactly, would Viola and Barna know this? :scratch: (I'm not a church historian or a theologian, just a lay minister, so I don't know either. :blackeye: ) But the Jewish believers would have been steeped in Torah instruction, and Paul would have wanted lots of biblical instruction for the Greek-background converts.


It's not that the believers gathered together didn't share scripture with one another. It's that one person stepping up in authority to dominate the gathering time for half an hour or more doesn't seem to be the norm in the beginning. I'll try to summarize their contentions:

They begin by contrasting what we see in the Bible to what we experience now, i.e., a weekly sermon vs. sporadic, delivered on special occasions to deal with specific issues or problems; delivered by the same person each week, usually the pastor vs. shared by anyone in the gathering (Romans 12:6-6; 1 Corinthians 14; Colossians 3:16); delivered to a passive audience vs. active participation, challenges, interruptions; and a cultivated form of speech vs. extemporaneous, no rhetorical structure.

I'm not going to be able to argue the case as convincingly as they do, so keep that in mind as I'm giving the highlights here.

They say that the sophists were, of course, quite popular, with orators being like celebrities, honestly. As the mutual ministry aspect of church gathering disappeared around the third century, the clergy began to emerge to fill this void. So instead of conversation in gathering together, it shifted to oratory with only those "qualified" being allowed to speak.

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Sometimes I think we read into the early church accounts what we want to see ... whatever Christian tradition we're from. But I do think that simplicity and non-authoritarian-ness are very Jesus-like. 8)


Yes, that is true. You should consider reading the book; it has made me quite pissed off in a few places where I think they are being way too nitpicky and extreme. However, it has also made me really stop and think. Sometimes the point they are trying to make can get lost under their extreme criticisms, but the points are still worth considering.

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Oh, I think team ministry is completely biblical, and obviously modelled, in a first century context, of course. Also, having rejected papal authority, some evangelicals have been very good at creating lots of little popes instead. :roll:


They take the team ministry concept and break it down even further into no separation of clergy and laity. It's the concept of the priesthood of the believer, which we've all heard as Evangelicals but I'm not sure many of us have actually gotten to live that out. Baptizing my friend was one of the first ways I experienced that. And it's the idea that gathering together with other believers should be open, allow active participation by all, not involve any distinctions between "clergy" and "laity," (having someone be a facilitator makes sense), and be fluid with room for God to work as he wants, whether through personal sharing, scripture reading and discussion, prayer, singing, etc.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 5:14 pm 
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Quakers! Yay! I'll be back as soon as I've gotten through teaching this second "first day of class".....

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:39 am 
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You're Gonna Carry That Weight
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I was raised in a Friends meeting: unprogrammed and universalist/Hicksite, part of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and therefore associated with both FGC and FUM. I stopped attending in my teen years after I left the faith, but part of the reason for my disillusionment was the loosey-goosey attitude most people seemed to take to the basic concepts of the religion. Even a lot of adults running First Day (Sunday) school classes were totally clueless about, for example, the idea of meeting for worship with a concern for business, aka business meeting. (Quakerism is popularly associated with the idea of consensus, but business meeting is supposed to be people coming together in a worshipful manner with the purpose of ascertaining God's will for the meeting.) I still like a lot of the ideas of Quakerism, including the priesthood of all believers, though I know that Conservative Friends have ministers, which weirded me out as a kid.


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