Excerpts from 1700 Years is Long Enough by James H. Rutz
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Excerpts from 1700 Years is Long Enough by James H. Rutz

Posted: 2007-02-03 17:29:34

Excerpts from  1700 Years is Long Enough  by James H. Rutz, 1990,  Open Church Ministries, Costa Mesa, CA      (1-29-07) 

P. 1  If you’ve ever felt lonely and unimportant in church, there’s a good reason: you are alone and unimportant. From 11:00 to 12:00 on Sunday, you’re just another pretty face in the crowd. Though surrounded by others, you’re cut off. You are walled off in your own space and your voice is silent. The service would be exactly the same without you. You know that. Your input is like another gallon of water going over Niagara Falls

The heart of your church is the Sunday Service. No matter what you have on your heart—the greatest joy or deepest sorrow—you are not allowed to share it during the service. Ever. Fellowship is confined to the foyer afterward, please. Unless you’ve figured a way to fellowship with the back of someone’s head. Try to talk, and the ushers will push you out. Post haste. This, my friend, is not Biblical. St. Peter would have wept. In fact, many of the early churches almost demanded you share something every week.

P. 5  Within 30 years of Christ’s ascension the gospel was being preached in every outpost of the Roman Empire. Unencumbered by mortgages, committees, staff salaries, the conflicts between choir rehearsal and church softball team practice the “followers of the Way” blazed a trail of stunning successes. 

P. 6  What really killed the Church was the bricks. In the biggest blunder in her history, the church began constructing lots of buildings (after 300 A.D.)…and ending forever the warm, precious meetings in someone’s living room.

P. 7  Modeled after the Roman forums, the new buildings held hundreds of Christians. Of course, you can’t have intimate, easy interaction with that size of crowd. So from the first Sunday it was opened, a new sanctuary put limits on free expression. Imagine you were living in that time. (1) You may have felt at ease confessing a sin to a couple dozen friends over at Joseph and Johanna’s house. But in front of 500 strangers? Whoa! (2) If God taught you something this week and it lay strongly on your heart, you wouldn’t hesitate to stand up and spend ten or fifteen minutes sharing it in Joseph and Johanna’s living room. But here in the new hall, there are probably at least a dozen men and women with a message burning in their hearts. So forget it!  I could go on, but you get the idea. Without modern acoustics or roving microphones, open meetings became difficult. Not too difficult, mind you, but difficult. So closed meetings took over. All speaking became centralized in a pulpit. And order was maintained (it seemed like a good idea at the time). At Joseph and Johanna’s you were a participant. Here, you’re a spectator, a passive listener.  At first you don’t mind it. The change is all so exciting. And being with 500 believers at once—wow! Paradise! Not until years later does it dawn on you that you’ve been turned into a pew potato. But now, with 1,000 eyes focused on the pulpit, the man behind it becomes extremely important. He’s very, very good, of course—probably the best speaker in the area. His warmth and wisdom and skill defuse any latent objections to the new state of affairs. Certainly, his polished sermons beat the sandals off the impromptu teachings you used to hear—and give—at Joseph and Johanna’s. 

So, it doesn’t take long before every local church from London to Alexandria has its own building and its own professional Christian standing up in front every Sunday, doing most of the talking.

P. 8  1700 years ago the church became an audience. P. 9  But in New Testament times whenever a healthy house church got too big for its living room it had to split into two living rooms. New leadership was thus always being sucked upward through the ranks. 

P. 10  Even though we acknowledge the common saying. “everyone has at least one sermon in him” almost no one is ever encouraged or even allowed to deliver that one sermon. This practice is a horrendous exercise in quenching the Spirit.

P. 17  If your own church is typical there’s no opportunity for people to share their grief or joy or even the deepest needs of their short lives. They may die without anyone in church knowing the burning hopes and fears in their hearts—simply because the pastoral staff always has the spotlight. Most Christians (including many in the ministry) seem (opposed) to the free-form revival that open sharing (in a church service) can create. I’ve been in a number of churches where a pastor has experimented opening the floodgates just a crack by opening the floor to the laity for part of a meeting. It seldom fails: I see a torrent of pent up emotions, confessions, praises, tears, new commitments, lumpy throats and wide eyed amazement. Instant revival! But it is unplanned (therefore “out of control”) so the pastor quickly reverts back to the closed format. 

P. 18  When response is forbidden until the end of the service (in the foyer) you can’t expect people to get up and respond. Suppose for instance, someone gets up in the middle of the sermon next Sunday and says, “Hey, great point pastor! The Lord’s been teaching me a lot about that lately, in fact, this week I experienced an amazing example of what you just described. On Tuesday morning….” In the New Testament times “laymen” were free to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and speak up when they had something to say.

P. 19  When you come together everyone has something to contribute: a hymn, a lesson, etc. 

P. 29  A very important quote from Paul Tournier (ought to be read twice): “Even the most saintly and humble person—the revered and much loved leader of a devoted congregation—inevitably makes his followers dependent upon him like little children. It is not his faults, but his virtues, his fame and his richness of spirit, which hold them back and prevent them from growing up themselves. They will do so only when he is gone.”  The greater the pastor the more dependent the laymen. The greater he becomes, the wider the gap. His followers will remain hunched in his shadow and they like it there (as time goes on).

P. 30  If someone can sit in church for 60 years and no one ever comes to them and says, “I really appreciated what you said in church today,” then we are creating spiritual midgets, they are starving to death in the pews. What a tragedy that so many never achieved even a fraction of the potential they were created to have, and now they are 80 and their life is almost over. The only one ever congratulated was the pastor. How sad, and what a state of affairs that must be remedied.


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