Critics of the “Two Structures” Theory. How One Denomination Expelled a Pastor for Joining a Mission Society (5th of 5).
One morning I spoke to hundreds of missionaries and pastors in central Texas. My topic: Lightning and Flint: “Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission.” First, the Holy Spirit sends missionary teams to establish in “the regions beyond.” Second, the Holy Spirit gathers believers into ekklesaie (what we normally call “churches”). These two kinds of Christian organizations were patterned on familiar Jewish organizations:
1) Havurot. Wandering bands of Jewish missionaries. Jesus Christ invited men to join his hevrah. So did Paul and Barnabas. The most well-known first century Jewish missionary bands were the Pharisees, as we wrote about here.
2) Synagogues: Any ten Jewish men could assemble on the sabbath and voila! they had established a synagogue. The synagogue and the hevrah. Jews accepted both of these structures and no rabbi worried, “If only the synagogue were rightly organized we would not need the hevrah.” Christians made use of both of these kinds of organizations.
I restore a couple’s joy. I stepped from the platform and looked for the cookies, but the director said, “I need to talk with you.” He and his wife took Jan and me to a place we could talk in private. “Your message has changed my life,” he said. He looked at me with tears in his eyes. “Years ago, I was a pastor and district superintendent for my church, the Assemblies of God. But when my brother-in-law asked me to help him start Youth With A Mission, my church denomination cancelled my ordination and removed me from membership.” This man said, with considerable feeling, “Because of your talk, I realize that my ministry with this mission agency is biblical and normal.” He felt reassured that he had obeyed the Holy Spirit on that long ago day. His joy was restored.
I furrow a couple’s brow. That afternoon I spoke a second time, then stepped down from the platform, making my way to the cookies. But a woman came up to me and asked, “Did you just criticize the church?”
“I beg your pardon?,” I replied.
“My husband is a pastor. I will get him over here. We want to talk with you.”
When he joined her, she gave her objection to my message. “What about Acts 13,” she asked, “when the Antioch church sent out the first missionaries?” “Well,” I replied, “We should look at Acts 13 and read what it says. The Holy Spirit spoke to five men, who were fasting and praying. The Holy Spirit said to them, ‘Set apart for me Saul and Barnabas for the work I have for them.’ The men laid hands on Saul and Barnabas and released them (ἀπέλυσαν), the way men release the ropes from a man’s ankles and let him go. That’s all they did. Then, ‘having been sent by the Holy Spirit (ἐκπεμφθέντες ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος), they went down to Seleucia and sailed for Cyprus’ (Acts 13:4). Therefore, the Holy Spirit sent them.” She replied, “The church is God’s agency for all of mission.” “Yes”, I agreed, “but the Holy Spirit established separate administrations, one administrating the church, the other administrating missionaries going to the regions beyond.” Time was up and I stepped up to the platform to speak a third time. She and her husband stared at me like I had a tree growing out of the back of my head.
Blincoe: I would rather sift through kitty litter than make trouble for other people. “Lord, hear my prayer. I am tired of being chosen to bring your contentious message to Christians.” Yet I keep my eyes on the reward, for I believe we will send ten times as many missionaries to the regions beyond when we repair the breach that has opened between churches and mission agencies.
Conclusion. Albert Einstein said, “It is the theory that decides what can be observed.” Does Ralph Winter’s “Two Structures” theory enables the reader to “see” what is really there in the Bible? For the reasons offered here and here and here I think I have answered the objections offered by J. Eckhardt Schnabel and Bruce Camp and Mark Dever. Thank you very much for reading this blog.
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