Biblical Ecclesiology- Dr. Alan Carr
Dr. Carr teaches church planting at Golden Gate Theological Seminary. He also has a Canadian or Minnesotan accent.
He began his talk by discussing this quote-“The church is the bride of Christ and each one can be individually beautiful.”-Linda Burqhuist. He gave several illustrations of brides in different cultures looking different and being beautiful each. He described his view of this Scriptural analogy- “one groom, one universal Church-bride expressed in a multitude of beautiful congregation-brides, all robed in the Gospel robe, but every wedding celebration and feast being culturally distinctive.”
Dr. Carr also picked up on the “Body” analogy- the church is alive! It reproduces, breathes, grows, etc. The popular children’s rhyme, “Here is a church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people”- this is heresy! The church IS the people.
His Definition of the church:
A group of transformed followers of Jesus, who perceive themselves to be the Body of Christ in their community and to the nations, and live as such.”
There were some key parts to this definition:
-“perceive themselves to be the Body of Christ in their community”-Difference between house church and Bible study- Bible studies do not consider themselves churches!
-“If you make disciples, church happens.”
-Reason the definition does not include baptism and Lord’s Supper (common in Protestant church definitions): if disciples are being taught to follow Jesus, then they will do those things He commanded. Why exclude “loving one another” and only include the two “ordinances” in church definition?
He then gave some “First Century Shifts perceived in 21st Century Ecclesiology”: (organized into “alive” categories of “breathe in/out”- I may have switched some of these in my notetaking)
1. “Breathe in”
From Extrabiblical traditions to Biblical minimums. We as children of the Reformation claim to desire to hold to “Scripture.” Sola scriptura. However, all those guys in that era didn’t change everything about the church they inherited. He describes his own version of “The Zwinglian Crisis”-Zwingli wanted to go back to the Book, but stopped after infant Baptism was not found in there. He started killing these “anabaptists” who had been his friends and even took a small army to make each church district convert to Reformed Theology. Carr realized that much of his own work was of a reformer who often times still wasn’t really grappling with extra-Biblical traditions. IN Southern Baptist life, “the Conservative Resurgence told people to study the Bible. Thank the Lord. Now they’re going to start asking some tough questions.”
From Institutional Church-based to Kingdom of God-based Ecclesiology
There are many Southern Baptists who can’t see the larger Body of Christ in the world. Jesus told us though to “Seek the kingdom of God.” His message was the kingdom and the church exists to be a living expression of the Kingdom.
From a regional focus to a neighborsphere/local community focus.
From an organizational maintenance focus to an Incarnational Community Transformation Focus
Dr. Carr gave the great example of his wife growing up on farm. Illustration of how dumping a huge load of manure in one section of field to fertilize it does not work! As the church, “we are the poop!” (that’s a quote). Christians should be the organic material scattered in the world. Instead we pile all Christians in one corner of the field and assume we’ve fertilized it. Filling committees at church is not the only service for Christians!
From Hierachical Structure to Shared Leadership
He knows this is the most resisted by many. “I still think people are called to role of pastor—not always from an institutional status though.” (There was some push-back on this during the Q/A time.)
From “going to church” to “being the church”
Going to church is a no-brainer because they are doing life together. His own example of taking in Burmese refugee children into his family (based on James 1:27).
From a focus on a main gathering to “doing life together”
Is 3-hours a week all that we are the church? NOPE. All the time the body of Christ. (Here he used the “as you go” fallacy from Matthew 28, though I don’t disagree with the point in general.)
From “Right Belief” to living out sound biblical doctrine holistically
“All my life discipleship meant “knowledge-based” stuff. Seminaries are panicking b/c the product being offered is not what is being used as much today.” There will be a rise of field-based education models. (I’m thinking of the rise of pastoral intern programs like Capitol Hill in D.C., etc.)
From efficiency driven strategies to collaborative relational efforts.
1950’s saw the rise of the business model infiltrating churches. However, collaboration is not as efficient. Mix in the soil. Don’t be the poop on the corner.
From strategies of the “flesh” to a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Growing up with John Wayne as indicator of manhood- self-reliant, sufficient, etc. Strategy was to take care of things. But if you rely on hard work more than on God, that’s flesh. It looks real good to people around us, but it’s not. I still believe God does miracles. If we don’t believe he works, why do we pray? It’s not just about making us feel better or get our emotions in the right order. I pray because there’s a living God who really hears our prayers and is really really powerful.
There were some good thoughts here. Primarily, “if we make disciples, church happens.” And “we are the poop.” Both reflect the need of the church emphasize the disciple as goal and send disciples into culture to make more disciples rather than using them to build our programs and church empires. I was surprised that a session entitled “Biblical Ecclesiology” spent little time in the Bible. I think a lot of the ideas were very good, but I want to see how (or if) ideas are drawn from the Bible if we are to use it as models for the church. This probably was a time-constraint issue, though. Dr. Carr’s Q/A time was shared with the next speaker’s, so more on that in the next post.