Week 39: Vintage Faith, 28 September 2008

I always feel bad for women with large feet–they have to fight transvestites for the few size 11 and 12 shoes that any given store carries, and they always have to pay full freight for their footwear–but neither transvestites or tender men threaten my existence as a woman. For that matter, I don’t find competent, manly men (or competent or manly women) threatening, either . . . which is probably why I find the position of Vintage Faith and the Acts 29 Network on women in church leadership fascinating . . .
From the booklet “On Becoming Men”:

And his instructions are particular: deliver this sacred trust to faithful men who will be able to pass it on. Men. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul instructs Timothy to find men who can be elders, pastors, teachers, and leaders in the local congregations. In fact, as you step back and look at the Old and New Testaments, you see a theme: God calling men. It is blatantly true that when God has something he wants to accomplish, he almost always calls men like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ezra, Nehemiah, Peter, or Paul. God is looking for a few good men. But the sad reality is that there are few to be found who have the character and the qualifications to lead in God’s church, and they few that are qualified have often done a poor job of passing that on to the future generation. And so our generation, especially in the American Church, is one of effeminate men who don’t know the first thing about responsibility, authority, or leadership.

Or, from the Acts 29 piece on the qualifications of a church planter:

Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that when God wants to get something done He starts by selecting a man to lead that change. Examples include sparing humanity (Noah), founding a nation (Abraham), liberating a nation (Moses), establishing a throne (David), building a Temple (Solomon), preparing hearts (John the Baptizer), and redeeming all of creation (Jesus).

And, church planting is no different. Simply, before God can build a church plant He must build a church planter. Acts 29 exists to find the men who sense that God has called them to plant a church, assess those men to see if they are indeed qualified for God to begin His work with, train those men and help them to plant a church that will, in turn, plant other churches. Therefore, we are very particular in seeking a particular kind of man and this article is intended to clearly articulate what type of man we are seeking.

First, we are seeking a man who is qualified to be the founding elder of a church plant who is so exemplary that God would be happy to then have other men in the church aspire to be like that man. Elders are the male leaders of the church who are also synonymously called pastors, bishops, and overseers throughout the New Testament (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 5:2). The elders are men chosen for their ministry according to clear biblical requirements (I Timothy 2:11-3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

How fascinating it is to predicate being “real men” on first eliminating half the competition for leadership on the grounds that God so ordained it. This isn’t anything new . . . it’s just a new version called “complementarianism” . . . it’s like “polygenesis” or “separate but equal” . . . euphemisms that deny the full humanity of a group of people (in this case, women). Complementarians are the first to argue exactly the opposite: that they in fact are championing something women have lost (in most cases, their femininity or some feminine essence), it’s just that women can’t preach, teach, pastor, guide, lead, or hold positions of authority in the church . . . because that makes the church too feminine.

So the sermon last night, part four of a four part series that focused on Christian Identity as [family, missionaries, servants and] learners was hard to take seriously . . . not because it wasn’t pretty good stuff . . . in point of fact, much of it was quite compelling . . . but because it was predicated on first discounting the role of women as fully human.  (A serious complementarian would be incensed at my characterization of his position as such . . . the focus for a complementarian is like that of the bigot . . . on the “equal” part of “separate but equal” . . . despite the clear historical fact that “separate” created, enforced, and maintained the inequality.

And it’s not that I think every woman ought to be in every position of authority in the church . . . I don’t.  I just don’t think that the happenstance of having a dick should be the basis of decisions for leadership.  It is this kind of phallocentricism that got the RC into the position of recruiting, keeping, and protecting pedophiles as clergy while excommunicating women and the bishops who ordained them for following the call of God to serve.

And a good portion of last night’s sermon sermon was about how to be church, instead of just attending church. For that matter, the pastor, Steve Hart, started by saying that he wanted last night to be the last time those in attendance “attended church.” One of the things the Vintage Faith community is doing to achieve that, is to occasionally not have the Sunday gathering, and to encourage the congregation to get out and do the work of the church . . . to meet with their Missional Communities and pray for their neighbors, or have them over, to eat together, to practice community.

It was all pretty good stuff . . . but he seems to be struggling with how to put these great principles into practice. For example, while he acknowledged that there were probably a bunch of people in the congregation who were new, and weren’t part of a missional community, he didn’t take the next step to say, “Okay, so come to my place and meet with my group next Sunday,” or “After the service, the leaders of the different missional communities will be available in X place, so you can find and meet them.” He talked extensively about the things that we could learn from each other . . . he noted that the Vintage Faith community wasn’t that great about meeting new people and making connections . . . and that there was a need to have someone teach this to the congregation . . . but he didn’t make the leap from the principle to facilitating . . . to making it happen. (For one thing, this might have been a great time to stop, and get people interacting specifically with each other).

But this disconnect (between principle and praxis) permeated this church. Throughout the sermon, he elicited responses from the congregation . . . but the room was set up for a lecture style sermon: the room already set the expectation that the focus of the service would be band music and a sermon. If you want people to talk to each other, to engage, and to have the give-and-take style of a seminar, you have to set a different physical expectation.

If you want to set your congregation free from being church attenders . . . you need to stop setting up performances for them to attend.

* * * Original note * * *
We’re going to go to Vintage Faith tonight. I haven’t told Michael yet, but it seems to be aligned with Mark Driscoll, instead of Dan Kimball, which he was kind of thinking, based on the name. The inlaws are here visiting, so this is probably the best fit . . . the mil twitched a little when I suggested hitting the Zen meditation service.

More later, or perhaps tomorrow . . . after we’ve gone, anyway.

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