For those interested, I like to post drafts of my current research and writing. Here is the introduction to my up-coming paper that I will present at the November (2016) annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta, GA.
The full title of the paper: Domesticating Church Growth (Eph 5:18-6:9): The Spirit-Filled Church-Temple Architecture (Wives-Husbands, Children-Fathers, Slaves-Masters) and Outcomes of Personhood
Church growth is completely dependent on what one means by “growth.” Typically, a church’s growth is measured by defining growth as numbers of people either in attendance or on a membership role. Conversely, a definition can lead a congregation to church growth goals that promote outcomes that are actually contrary to the nature of the gospel. However, does the concept of biblical church growth offer other classifications to measure successful church growth? Other potential outcomes that would indicate church growth that reflects the very implications of redemption that initiated by the cross of Jesus, the Messiah?
Our focus on numbers as church growth, that is the average tallied attendance in one room on a Sunday or totaled at congregational annual meeting’s reading of a membership roll, creates a social reality for a congregation that promotes “church” attitudes and resulting habits that are hostile to the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, potentially creating space that can dehumanize individuals, foster inequality among populations and demographics, and envision people as consumers to be targeted and the gospel as a product to be marketed. Church growth outcomes related solely to numbers of people in relationship to a building-centered church experience limits potential outcomes that reflect the imagery and trajectories presented in Scripture, particularly as imagined through the text of Ephesians. Paul’s reference to the “filling in the Spirit” (5:18) and the following Haustafel creates space to think biblically, even exegetically, about “church growth,” for the sacred space(s) currently in place (i.e., the typical building-centered church experience and business-centered bureaucratic church models) can be barriers for reimagining from the text a different narrative for church and church growth.
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians presents the local congregation as God’s expanding (growing) household-temple in the Spirit (Eph 2:21-22), making the filling in the Spirit command (5:18) related to (local) church growth, not misapplied toward privatized spiritual growth. Commentators note that the household code (the Haustafel) that follows in Eph 5:21-6:9 is related in some way to the command to be “filled in the Spirit.” This paper takes into consideration that the household code, or domestic relations in the Lord, following the filling command is the expanding structure of God’s Spirit-filled church-temple. The re-oriented domestic relationships in Paul’s Haustafel (Eph 5:21-6:9) are the church-temple’s architecture: the expanding sacred space created by the filling is the household code of wives-husbands, children-fathers, and slaves-masters. This suggests potential church growth outcomes related to “personhood.” The paper will develop this thesis through (I) showing how “sacred space” impacts our concept of personhood; (II) connecting the “filling in the Spirit” to the church-temple imagery in Ephesians; (III) developing a contextual reading of the “filling of the Spirit” command (5:15-6:9); and, (IV) demonstrating how the Haustafel suggests a trajectory of church growth outcomes beyond mere numbers.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.