I finished teaching another term for B H Carroll last night. The course was New Testament II, Acts and the Pauline Letters. Try completing all that in eight, 2.5 hour settings! 14 people registered for the class, and all but two completed the majority of the classes.
I get inspired and enthused as I walk through the inception and growth of the Jesus movement. Last night, as we walked through Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus I was reminded how we have institutionalized what were real-time, need-based instructions from an experience church planter to a wide-eyed neophyte who did not know what to do with false teaching, divisive people, widows, or rich people. Paul's quick time personal letters addressing his proteges' questions and concerns have become the basis for doctrines and practices that limit the church's growth rather than enhance it; the reason Paul wrote it in the first place.
We forget that the church, ekklesia, was an underground, illegal, grassroots movement. Not until the Emperor baptized it did it become an official religion with officials with credentials. We forget the ekklesia met in homes and public places, and it was not until the Empire adopted it as its own did the worship and practice of the church take over buildings built for the worship of pagan gods to become as part of the culture as the previous inhabitant.
We must remember that what we read in the New Testament are battle field notes, not doctrinal treatises. The letters were hammered out in real time by real people trying to fit their new-found trust that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah/Christ and his way of life into what they had known all of their lives. It was messy and undisciplined, yet mysteriously guided by the Holy Spirit.
I'm pleased the ekklesia is waking up to its roots again, and I am glad I get to be part of some of that. I only hope that what we do as the church reflects more of our pioneering ancestors than our institutionalized predecesors.
I teach NT III, The General Letters and Revelation, in August. Want to join us?