- Bulletin Nº 34 May 16, 2021 -
Formal Church or
by Rev. Renato Souza Prates
There is a dilemma, almost a theological discussion, that divides the modern church into two main groups: formal and informal.
It is generally understood that the formal church is more traditional, that it keeps ancient practices cast in liturgy and church dynamics. The believer in the formal church even dresses more formally, wears a suit or dress with appropriate shoes, sings hymns from the hymnbook, has services conducted at the piano or organ, prefers hymns from the hymnal, makes carefully elaborated prayers, is more attached to organic laws of the church, and religiously goes to Sunday services, while contributing your tithes and offerings. However, this conception can be considered somewhat distorted and even unfair with the formality of a church, whose most basic sense would be the practice of previously established norms, which can be newly created traditions or customs and customs, simply for a better organization of a ecclesiastical work.
On the other hand, the informal church is often understood by that idea of cults without a liturgy previously elaborated, with participations and voluntary interruptions by members to speak at any time. Sometimes they have biblical messages, improvised contemporary readings and songs, voluntary prayers and informal clothing. It is understood that this church is not concerned with fulfilling its statutes or the laws established by the denomination or state, because they would be mere human laws. Leadership relationships - believers and believers - believers are always informal, allowing nicknames instead of ecclesiastical titles and lots of jokes and jokes. In this church, believers have no assumed responsibilities and do not feel obligated to contribute financially, besides considering Sunday as any day of the week, and not as the Lord's Day. This also seems to be a very stigmatized interpretation that it would be a church or an informal ecclesiastical activity, since even a traditional church must also promote social environments of interaction between believers and visitors, obviously previously organized.
As Protestants that we are, we need to answer the following question: What does God want us to be as his church? Formal, informal, the two or neither?
Once, one of our Seminary colleagues declared in one of his sermons that God is not demanding. Obviously, that statement was not left unanswered by the teacher who criticized the sermon, correcting our colleague through the Scriptures.
When we look at the Word of God, we can perceive an extremely organized and demanding God. When He created the universe, He put everything in its place, organized: He arranged firmament, stars, constellations, black holes, portions of earth, fresh and salt water, each species with its peers including the human, each plant and type rocky, each gaseous type, each particle, each atom, each cell, everything with its function and in its proper place in six days, and then rested to contemplate the organization of His creation.
Later, when he decided to stop the advance of human depravity, the Lord ordered Noah to build an ark, which was not invented by Noah, but was carefully designed by God, who gave the hero of the faith a complete architectural plan, as the most ingenious architect of all! (Gen. 6.11-22).
When God's people began their journey through the desert towards the promised land, God established the first and only biblical legal code, which serves as a basis even for today's civil codes, the 10 Commandments. He set up an administrative meeting with Moses at Mount Sinai and ordered him to write the code on stone tablets, so that it was perpetually enforced by his people. From the 10 Commandments, other laws were also created by God, almost as an internal regulation so that his people could be indoctrinated and disciplined in their journey through the desert. (Ex 20-24).
In Exodus 25 and 40, God decides to order the construction of a tabernacle to serve as a place for the personal worship of his people. For this he provides a clear and detailed list of all the material to be used in the tabernacle, as well as the plan with the divisions between the hall, the holy place and the holy of holies. All the utensils of worshiping the Lord were ordered by Himself, in an organized and intelligent manner. There was a formal record of all the utensils in the tabernacle, by a team appointed by God Himself. A kind of heritage book.
The number of Leviticus records numerous laws that were not created by men, but exclusively by God, for the smooth running of his works among his people. Again, many of them still serve today as the foundation for civil and criminal codes of diverse cultures around the world.
David was prevented from building a temple to the Lord, but he insisted on passing on to his son Solomon the clear and precise orders of God himself, so that he could build the House of the Lord, including ordering Solomon to carry out God's orders and receive prudence and wisdom from him for such a construction (1 Chr 22) . Before his departure from this world, old King David made a point of reorganizing the entire administrative structure of the House of the Lord, with the scales of priests, musicians, porters, guards of the treasury, officers and judges and the shifts of general services, as administrators and advisers to the king. In 1 Chronicles 28.11-21 David gives Solomon the temple plan and in verse 19, David openly declares that it was the Lord who commanded that plant! Fabulous!
When we look at the New Testament, we can also see an ecclesiastical organization, from the ministry of Christ Jesus, when he chose 12 disciples. Do you know why Christ chose exactly 12 disciples?
In the books of the Old Testament we find the number 12 in the nomination of the 12 tribes of Israel. In the book of Revelation we find the elders are 24, that is, 2 X 12 (Rev 4: 4). Those who will be saved (Ap 7.4) will be 144,000, that is 12 X 12 X 1000! Finally, we can consider the total number (Ap 21,12-14). Many even think that Jesus chooses 12 disciples (apostles), to show that with the group the New Israel, the new People of God, was being born. Jesus was strategic and organized in forming his group of disciples (apostles) with 12 people.
In Luke 10, Jesus organizes the mission of his disciples, giving them clear guidance on how each pair of disciples should behave throughout their missionary journey. A kind of Mission code of conduct. The Early Church started its work informally, but soon realized serious flaws. The first was in social action and in the overload of the elders of the church. For this reason, the first Diaconal Board in history was organized (Acts 6).
As the church progressed, doctrinal problems began to arise, so once again the ecclesiastical organization entered the scene, at the first Jerusalem Council, which was a formal meeting with apostles and elders, to decide whether the new Gentile Christians should be circumcised or not. . The democratic decision of the council was written in a formal document and sent to all the churches at that time. (Acts 15).
The greatest missionary of all time after Jesus Christ was the Apostle Paul. Was he organized?
Yes he was. In addition to being organized and strategic in his various mission trips, which had a script, he also guided and supervised the organization of the churches he planted: He gave the Corinthians clear instructions on how financial contributions should be organized (1 Cor 16) and how to minister and participate in Holy Communion, which, because it was informal at first, promoted serious problems of communion and disorder (1 Cor 11) .
To his children in the faith and pastors Timothy and Titus, he gave clear instructions as to how they should shepherd the Lord's church, and how the church should behave. Just read these letters. In Titus the first chapter, verse 5 Paul declares: I left you in Crete, to organize what is still missing and to be elders in each city, according to what I commanded you (v. 5).
To the elders and deacons of the church, the Apostle Paul left clear orders as to how they should behave and how to administer their ministries. (1 Timothy 3). And so we see that, both in the Old and New Testaments, the Lord's work must be done in order and decency, as he declares (1 Cor 14.40).
The answer to the initial question of this reflection on whether the church should be formal or informal finds only one answer in the Scriptures: The church is a formal institution of God. This is God's will for her.
Obviously, the church can and must have moments of social relaxation, which includes informality, as occurred in several meetings of the early church, especially since it started in homes, where the atmosphere was more informal. In this sense, the church can and should have social gatherings, parties, events, outings etc.
However, even for these informal events to be successful, it is necessary that administrative measures are always taken. In doing so, we will walk by the will of God and fulfill his mission with zeal on the face of the earth! God bless us!
On Sundays, we bring high quality messages from other sources. There are many things about God that our finite minds cannot grasp. Today, R.C. Sproul considers some of the mysteries of Scripture.
For the arrival of Rev. Renato and Juliana.
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