During a previous discussion S: wrote: “However, I see the ‘new church movement’ as missing out a key component of what is means to be church” … “I like your idealist approach – I am somewhat inclined that way myself. Yet I think structure has a role. Those outside of structures will come up with 1001 reasons why they are outside, rather than inside some form of structure of visible church unity”.
Our communication often suffers in that we come from communities tracing their concepts in long histories and see things quite differently. I think I have the general shape and context of what we might call institutional churches relatively clear, while S: is launching towards our charismatic planet to search out new worlds exciting or otherwise? (I’m a Sc-Fi fan).
The observations by S: prompted me to briefly outline the history and structures of various streams of the ‘British New Church Movement’ and its concepts – so here we go.
Origins of the British New Church Movement
The Charismatic movement of the early/mid 1960’s led to the expulsion or exclusion by distancing of many, often unsought, from former generally non-conformist churches. These people met in house churches, leaders emerged and networks/streams with trans-local leaders developed. Alternatively the leadership of a local church accepted the charismatic renewal grew, planted sister churches and attracted a network of churches that associated with them or a gifted teacher/evangelist was asked by a few believers to form a team and lead them in evangelizing and church planting with similar end results. Most of these streams are now international with full time workers and short term missions in many nations.
Sadly some of these movements early leaders were not up to the spiritual challenges; there was the development of what became called ‘the shepherding movement’ with restrictive dictatorial attitudes and in a few cases abuses use of power. The result of which was a quick return to institutionalism and the hierarchical power recently left behind. All streams did not fall into this problem and these matters have generally worked themselves out amongst those who did or the stream in question broke up with churches finding new alliances.
These churches have a high view of the corporate nature of the church. Generally the greater problem in the ‘British New Church Movement’ was this over emphasis on authority and the consequent structures rather that the lack of them.
These churches in some cases bridge divides that evangelicals traditionally preferred left as they were. This resulted from the effects of the charismatic renewal across the denominational spectrum from RC to Salvation Army or Plymouth Brethren.
The definition of ‘Local Church’ in many ‘New Church Streams’ can be expressed as “All those in the locality gathered around Christ – whatever their denomination or none”. The visible unity of this church can only be built amongst true disciples through relationships of mutual respect and love. The basis of such relationships is the shared life of Christ rather than any particular denominational ‘light or perceived lack of it by one or the other’. The future hope is to see the visibility of this type of church unity to continue to increase and for churches to be mutually supportive and concerned for fruitfulness in each other’s participation in Christ mission.
Amongst these ‘British New Church Streams’ there is generally two structures of charismatic team leadership that serve and lead the churches the ‘trans local’ and the ‘local’. Leadership is relational, ideally servant orientated, inspirational, charismatic in the sense its base on proven spiritual gift and calling, it is plural.
Trans Local Church Leadership
Trans local leadership might openly be understood as an apostolic team or function in that manner and carrying a sense of responsibility for the churches established or associating with the team. If I were to use a Latin term and say the UK is in desperate need of a vast number of ‘Missionaries’ to re-establish the Christian faith in darkest Britain few would disagree. However if I were to use the Greek term ‘Apostles’ for these companies that we need the Lord to raise up and send out eyebrows will rise in many quarters.
The apostolic gifting to the church illustrates the first consideration for inspirational/charismatic churches which is that every ministry can only be ordained/commissioned/sent by the Lord Himself. The church simply recognizes and acknowledges them rather than ordains them.
Local Church Leadership
Local congregations will generally have a plurality of elders (Biblically synonymous with overseers or bishops), of which one may be a first among equals but not always recognized as such in an official manner – all local leadership is recognized by the local church and in some cases officially acknowledged by the trans-local leadership such recognition in both cases will be a function of relationship and discernment.
Models of Church Gatherings
Church may have a two or three tier model of gathering
a) i) House churches with responsible individuals and ii) periodic gathering of the whole church or
b) i) House churches, ii) gathering in area congregations, with a main emphasis to organize evangelism into their area and iii) periodic gatherings of the whole church.
The church may receive ministry from gifted Ephesians 4:8-12 type servants who may or may not carry responsibility as elders in the church – whether they be home grown leaders or visiting from other churches within the same church stream or from another stream or institutional denomination. A church I was in of this type for 20 yrs frequently received ministry from a charismatic high Anglican Priest and a church my wife and I were instrumental in initiation had the benefit of an evangelical Anglican prison chaplain as a church member following our calling on him the day he moved into our city.
Frequently within the house church setting the ministry is from the body of believers which may also be so at times in larger gatherings.
The Emergent Church and Deconstructionism of the Church
This is another phenomena being advocated – while some meet in house churches their ideas are dissimilar in relation to structure from the movement I have described.
‘Robes or Overalls and Servant Leadership by Roger T Forster & Marian Marticek – available at http://www.ichthus.org.uk/’ This small concise booklet provide an understanding of the church leadership of those churches that reject the concept of ecclesiastical ordination.
‘Restoring the Kingdom by Orthodox priest Dr. Andrew Walker’.
Walker was born into a Pentecostal family his book is an examination of the ‘British New Church Movement’.
‘The Normal Christian Church Life by Watchman Nee’ Watchman Nee – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nee To-sheng of Fuzhou 1903 – 1972 initiated local churches throughout China during his thirty years of ministry, founding one of the largest Christian groups in Chinese history. Following the communist revolution Nee was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith and spent the last twenty years of his life in a Chinese labour camp until his death in 1972. The numbers of Christians in underground Chinese churches tracing their faith to the movement is probably in its millions see Watchman Nee and the Little Flock Movement in Maoist China.
Nee’s numerous books were generally produces from lecture notes and transcribed messages to his students. Many English titles resulted from translations by Angus Kinnear a member of Ichthus Christian Fellowship London. Nee met T. Austin-Sparks in the 1930’s at the church later attended by Roger Forster the founder of the Ichthus movement with which I am associated http://www.ichthus.org.uk/, Austin Sparks was still in ministry and so influenced both Nee and Forster. ‘The Normal Christian Church Life’ presents a view of ecclesiology held by many in the ‘British New Church Movement’.
AKA John Galt said:
Reblogged this on U.S. Constitutional Free Press.
David B. Monier-Williams said:
What a strange compositus compositum. There is leadershio, there’s no leadership, there’s authority, there’s a camel designing committee.
It’s all very strange. It reminds me of pasta fasul.
That’s an incredibly strange assessment. Leadership was clearly stated and its nature explained just goes to prove my point you fail to understand others concepts of leadership if they do not match those of the ‘kings of the Gentiles’.
Yet such leadership is motivating growing churches throughout the world and particularly in some place in face of extreme persecution.
St Bosco said:
Smoke and mirrors
Bosco exactly what are you referring to as smoke and mirrors I’m interested?
St Bosco said:
Good brother Rob, all this leadership stuff is nothing but smoke and mirrors. These orgs(televangelists) and religions with their leadership are the blind leading the blind. Its sad to watch. No one believes a word i say though. Who hath believe our report? The wicked continue to do wickedly. The unsaved refuse to ask the Lord to save them. And if the unsaved had a hole in the ground, they would gladly drop me in it. They tire of me telling them to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. They want tales of men and what they say. They want men in shiney costumes and fish hats. They want man made creeds, they want indulgences, they want slogans like….our church is gods true church, they want a virgin queen to rule over them, they want rows of graven images and mostly, they dont want anyone pointing out the rampant vice in their religion. And if you do, you are a bad person. A hater.
Dear Brother Bosco,
Well I finally understand, you are the only saved person left on planet earth and when the rapture takes place the fanfare will be just for you.
I suggest (with the greatest of love and respect) that you read all NT scriptures related to leadership and various types of ministry – cross check the nuances of meaning in Greek and get back to me with you findings. You will then be far more advanced that me and I’ll be waiting bated breath to be taught by you, till then I have little interest in any further comments from you on the subject.
Carl D'Agostino said:
All of us have potential for Christian leadership. All we have to do is live by example. I did not know anything about the movement you present but I see it as another effort repeated throughout history to get back to what we perceive to be that earliest and basic Christianity. Happy New Year Rob.
Yes Carl I agree and would add that in a general sense all people do lead by their example whether good as bad.
The British New Church Movement (BNCM) may be viewed as an “effort to get back to what we perceive to be that earliest and basic Christianity”. However that would not be the opinion or attitude of those in the movement considering the question. It was not its original motivation of the movement and most would explain it as having originated in experiences of the Holy Spirit. The motivation then is forward rather than backward and for the re-evangelization of UK and wider afield. Many would have a vision of the church ultimately superseding the NT church and completing the mission of Christ.
A backward look to NT would not be to reproduce static forms or structures as if they were obligatory / prescriptive but to recapture wisdom from the past. One stream of the movement took the name ‘Restoration’ this would have referred to a restoration of gifting and ministries seen in the NT church. Space to allow the operation of such gift and ministry results in a change of forms of operation rather than a static past model being mimicked.
Whereas the 1850s Plymouth Brethren – saw a NT pattern which they determined to to reproduce, the BNCM began with spiritual experience that they sought to make room for – which resulted in patterns reflecting NT practice and principles. This explanation is a bit simplistic as the two processes cannot be divided so neatly – but I’m trying to give you a fell of the movement from the inside.
There is currently resurgence in USA and Europe of ‘The House Church Movement’ which is much more focused on the value of the model of meeting and may advocate it as the way the church ‘should meet’. Whereas in UK the 1960s such ‘House Churches’ embraced the value of gathering in homes but it was spiritual experience that initiated them.
My view is that we will not find answers for the completion of the mission in patterns of church without the experience and guidance of the creative Spirits leading.
In UK we now have churches that gather in cafes and pubs while the business caries on as normal – its a subjective matter as to how this is viewed.
Carl D'Agostino said:
I did not know anything about it. Great post re contemporary dynamics.