Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Emergent plus Messianic II

Another major component of Emergent is community. Church isn't defined by the Sunday meetings or the "church building", but by the believers wherever they are, seven days a week. When a group of believers meet, be it in a pub, or by accident, and begin to have fellowship in Messiah, that's Church. Judaism says that where 10 male Jews are present, they constitute a congregation, or a minyan, and they can have a worship service regradeless of whether they're in a synagogue building, or on a flight from New York to Mandalay and are otherwise complete strangers. Buried in Matthew chapters 16 and 18, we see definate parallels to the Jewish concept of congregation in Yeshua's description of church authority ("...bring it to the congregation..."). I would not restrict the number to 10, nor to only male believers, but I believe that a Jewish understand of Matthew 18 can be a valuable underlying philosophy for an Emergent congregation.

In modern Judaism, the rabbi doesn't hold authority in a congregation, but rather, is something like a hired consultant/teacher, sort of the same as with the presbyterian style of congregation in the Christian community, with the board having final authority, and an elected president. Jairus, whose daughtor Yeshua brought back to life, was a synagogue president (or nasi, or in our modern English translations, "synagogue ruler").

The big difference between first century Judaism and modern, is while it still followed the presbyterian style, the rabbis weren't necessarily paid by the congregations they served. At least those of the school of Hillel, didn't believe in earning money from their spiritual work. Rabbi Hillel, one of the most respected of early rabbis, was a water carrier. Rabbi Shaul (a.k.a. Apostle Paul) was a tent maker. They were probably just as likely to be members of their local synagogue presbyteries, but they also functioned as judges. Whenever there was a row, or a suspected minor violation of the Torah, a group of three Torah experts would be called on to sit as both judge and jury (compare this also with Yeshua's statements in Matthew 18, regarding the "two or three"). If it was a capital offence, the number would be increased to 12, or 23 as in the case of the local sanhedrins. The Great Sanhedrin had 72 members. Of course, they also taught. They'd give a comentary on the Torah for their local congregations, and they'd teach their own pupils or apprentis rabbis. A good example is Paul, who taught Timothy by this method. The pupil lived with their rabbi, and not only listened to his teaching, but witnessed his life in action, and did what they were told to do.

As a Jewish rabbi, Paul is an excellent example for an Emerging congregation. He refused to accept financial renumeration for his apostleship, but rather found work to do wherever he went, so as not to be a burneden on his new congregations. He raised a number of pupils, such as Timothy and Titus and others "the hard way", so that they became as expert as himself.

In our seminaries, we learn to "sound good" when we're preaching, because that's exactly what our professors do. We don't witness their lives in action, so we miss a lot (though chances are we're not missing much as they may just be "good talkers" themselves).

What distinguished the rabbis wasn't their credentials so much as the fact that they were trusted for their experience and track record. They were chosen to sit on a panel of judges because they could be trusted. People wanted their sons to emulate them, so they sent them to become their pupils.

While I've very loosly defined church in the first paragraph above, I also see the five-fold ministry fitting in with it in exactly the same way as the tested and tried rabbis of the first century did with their local communities. -- However with one difference. As Yeshua stipulated, he who his the least shall be first. Those who are the most expert at humbly serving others and performing the menial things like the washing of feet, will be the recognised leaders of the community.

No comments: