The Open Church examined


The Open Church:
How to Bring Back the Exciting Life of the First Century Church

by James “Jim” H. Rutz
The SeedSowers; 1992/1993
ISBN: 0-940232-50-2

“Ever feel like quiting church?” This introductory question from Jim Rutz solicits our participation in how to make an institutional church “more exciting.” Amid squirrelly re-tells of history, Jim brings to print a seminar's price in people-powered, form-to-substance repair vis-à-vis motivational psychology. From page 3, Jim claims that, “you can probably finish the Reformation in your church within a year or two…” Are we to understand Jim Rutz as extending a truth or dare to the IC's.? Can an open pulpit & lay participation truly restore “the priesthood of the believer?”

 “OPEN” PROBLEMS:

p.3  In coaxing us to finish the Reformation, Jim writes, 1. Convert those mild-mannered pew warmers into spiritual warriors with clear goals and a total loyalty to your church.
A total loyalty to whose church? [Acts 20:28]

p.31  You're not a layman or laywoman. … Why do I want to wipe out all Christian laity? Four reasons. The category of “layman” (and laywoman) is: Unscriptural… Dead wrong… Negative… Offensive…
  While just 2 pages later, lay-language and lay function return to Open Church context:
p.33-34  Open your pulpit. In addition to launching open worship and body life segments in your Sunday service, take two more steps: 1. Each week, feature one or two 5-minute messages from your laymen. “Sermonettes” or whatever. 2. And when your laymen become skilled enough, have a “laymen's Sunday” every two or three months, featuring full sermons by laymen.

p.34  …the Corinthians didn't have much in the way of ritual, so that wasn't mentioned. Today, we have ceremonies and officialized customs, so perhaps we need to kind of write them into I Corinthians 14:26.
Perhaps not. [I Corinthians 10:31]
Somewhat in contrast, Jim later writes…
p.56  The institutionalization of the church was not a step up, but a step off the precipice into a chasm of slavery to unbiblical traditions.

p.39  Every pastor knowns the admiration and adulation that goes with the job. (It helps compensate for the long hours, heavy demands, and never-quite-enough salary.) Watching him in the pulpit is emotionally like going to a play and identifying with the main character. I am not decrying this psychological process. It's healthy. It's needed. But it must be spread around.
  It's idolatry. We identify with Christ. [John 10]

p42.  Want to do your faithful pastor a little favor? Fire him. Then hire him back --- as your minister. Or chief equipper (Eph 4:12) Or enabler specialist. Or consultant in spiritual husbandry. Or liaison between heaven and earth. Or anything that emphasizes his spiritual ministry.
  Written in jest, we do hope. [I Timothy 2:5]

p.62  Over the centuries, movements and denominations have split off and set up shop by the tens of thousands --- mostly for fleshly reasons. But in today's mobile societies, people choose a denomination mostly for reasons of psychological fit.
  “fleshly reasons” may also include “psychological fit”.

p.68  He [Martin Luther] changed one particular Catholic duty, that of "hearing confessions." This gave way, thankfully, to spiritual counsel and preaching from the Bible.
  Yet to note (though somewhat short of psychological fit), while practice of spiritual counsel(-ing) and preaching for/in the church both come shy of reference from the New Testament, some confession is prescribed. [James 5:16]

p.70  Today's version of Protestantism rests on the concept and practice of the pastor, but he exists nowhere in the New Testament Scripture. Yet, ironically, he's the fellow we hire and put in the pulpit to call us all to be faithful to the Bible! O Consistency, where are thy children?
May we all provoke one another in good acts; ever faithful to Christ.
And still, the reader may observe some measure of two Rutz minds for the pastor…
p.42  Tell him [the pastor] you only expect one thing of him: to turn everybody into a spiritual giant. …Then get busy and make that possible. …Oh, and give your minister a little raise. I guarantee you'll be getting more results for your money.

p.136-144  The Secret of True Greatness examines civil achievement as exemplar for the church, and antidote to compound mediocrity. A human-engineered solution for a man-made problem?