The concept of Christian biblical theology is rooted in this. Although biblical theology – the investigation of the scriptures that speak authoritatively into the faith community – is foundational for systematic theology, their relationship with one another has often been inverted. Systematic theology has come to be viewed as the official voice of the church, with biblical theology useful only for finding texts to support its tenets.
We are entranced by seemingly strong leaders like Dr. Schuller, and their public bravado: blasting ahead, around, over and through the tedious organizational structures that the rest of us have to endure. Yet in the wisdom of God, the church of Jesus has been led by elders from its earliest expressions (Acts 14:23).
We tend to be very pastor-centered in our church life. Pastors are often viewed as spiritual CEOs, and “things fall apart” when none is around. But the New Testament concept of Christian congregation finds its strength in elders, not pastors. Pastors, in fact, were understood to be “teaching elders” (1 Tim. 5:17), collegial equals with the rest of the elder team.
While our cultural addictions tend toward “Bigger is better,” there is much to appreciate about Small Is Beautiful.
That is sometimes the way we see the Kingdom of God, sifted through the world like the kings in a deck of cards. The King of Heaven may have a kind of power when we play a certain game called religion, but for the most part it is a rather invisible and private authority, one held closely in your hand so no one else sees, and played as a trump card when you run out of other options.
There is something wonderfully paradoxical about the Christian church. Its origin as a unique social phenomenon clearly dates from the Pentecost events described in Acts 2. Yet at the same time, Jesus’ disciples would say that this “new” community of faith was simply part of a centuries-old already existing people of God, stretching back all the way to Abraham and his family.
Reforming is a part of life, simply because deforming inevitably follows upon forming in nearly everything that humans touch. So the Reformation continues, regardless of one’s personal affiliations or theological persuasions. As the great hymn soberly put it: “Change and decay in all around I see. . . .” The great comfort is that the One who most specializes in Forming (creation) is also the God of Redemption and Reconciliation, two very Reforming activities!