Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ryan Bolger on George Barna's "Revolution"

Ryan Bolger at Fuller Seminary has written a follow up to his review of George Barna's book "Revolution." His follow up post is called "From little c to Big C church." In this post he makes the following statements,

"In terms of community, do we experience community within our “official” local church, or do we share connections with many others, including friendships, occasional gatherings, and online
conversations? Indeed, we are formed by the many activities of which we are a part – and our connections of church are global and go beyond the 'brick and mortar' of Sunday morning."

"Christians continue Jesus' mission in diverse ways, both locally and globally, through face-to-face and faceless commitments. To call one 'real' church and the other secondary belittles the significance of the global body of Christ."

I think he makes some great points here. If we only subscribe to the church being lived out in an "official, local" sense, then I think we will miss out on much that God has to teach us through the "Big C church." I know I have learned much through reading what others, who I may never meet in person, have written. In response to the quotes above: Is a local/universal church distinction seen in Scripture? If so, how would "local" be defined scripturally? If not, how does the Scripture view the church?


Alan Knox said...


This is a huge question. For a while, I considered doing my disertation on the topic of local vs. universal church. I honestly think it is too big of a topic for a disertation... I could be wrong though.

I cannot find Scripture that tells us to limit our interaction with those who "join" a certain "local church". In fact, I do not even think there was a strong break between "city churches". I think that when believers came into contact with one another, they immediately considered themselves part of the church (not "my" church and "your" church, or "this" church and "that" church, but THE church). Thus, they had responsibilities toward a believer that they met in passing, just as they would toward those they saw "daily".

Could I be wrong? Certainly. However, I haven't found the distinctive, exclusionary practice in Scripture that I see today.


Dan said...

can't we just say there is the whole church and then the part of the church we know?

Gary Harris said...


I do not believe that any distinction should be made between the so-called "local" and "universal" church. In fact, I believe that the terms should be dropped altogether. What would be lost if we never distinguished between the two again? If a person is a believer, he or she is a member of the body of Christ.

The only reason the terms are even used is to distinguish between the believers who meet at your building and the believers who meet at all the other buildings. It's worthless baggage that only results in an "us and them" attitude. I think it's ridiculous that a mile from our building full of believers (I'm being optimistic) is another building full of believers whom I have never met and have no relationship. Two houses down from me is a brother in Christ with whom I have never had genuine fellowship, primarily because we don't go to the same building. Ridiculous.


Theron said...


Thank you for the comment. I agree, I don't think the terms are helpful in describing the church and they have a tendency to promote division.




Theron said...


I agree, it is a huge question and one that affects how we view our responsibilities toward others in the body of Christ. In light of this lack of evidence from Scripture, should the practice of believers "joining" a "local" church be eliminated altogether?


Elder's Wife said...

Interesting question. Maybe we could draw some parallels between the churchChurch and the familyFamily. I think we are looking at the nuclear church vs. the extended Church, in much the same way we view the family and extended Family.
It does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family.
In my personal experience, it seems that the best nurturing/teaching/serving/accountability relationships are within a stable nuclear family. Our own family has formed relationships in our neighborhoods, larger communities, and throughout the world, but we all need a home to come back to. Maybe that's the way I view my "family church", too. One that isn’t threatened by other churches and has formed some partnerships with them. We do have a responsibility to interact as much as we can with other believers in our community and to demonstrate Christ’s love to unbelievers. I don’t find that Scripture grants any of us a “hermit license” or siege mentality.
From a purely practical standpoint, the nuclear church seems the most stable environment for teaching and discipling—especially for children and new believers. It’s a safe place to ask questions and (ideally) to form accountable relationships. And it’s a good place for those of different ages to learn to serve together.
BTW, while you are dis-assembling the church, you might want to number the pieces. Never know when you might want to put it back together! :)

Elder's Wife said...

Oops! Sorry, I just identified my comment as an answer to Alan, but I guess I was really commenting on your answer to him re: believers joining a local church.

Theron said...


Thank you for the comment. I think I understand what you are saying. It seems that we are both saying that as believers we have the same responsibilities toward all the believers that God brings into our lives (i.e. loving, taking care of, encouraging, edifying, etc.). If this is true, then then question I am seeking to answer is what purpose "joining" a particular group of believers serves. In other words, does this "joining" have a positive effect or a negative effect on our relationship with the other believers in our life? Thank you again for the comment and if I have misunderstood what you have written please let me know.