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Three types of church By Lynn

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Note: The following essay was written in response to a question proposed to Dr. Ridenhour regarding the nature of the “true church.” As a Baptist minister, Dr. Ridenhour makes some parallels between the present-day Protestant movement and the restoration movement. The word “Mormonism” is used in its broadest sense; the author does not limit its usage to the LDS Church.


In a recent post you write...
“....I have to admit that you have me wondering....

I agree fully with your words that the higher message of "join none of them" is to not start a church either.

Can you elaborate?....”


As I briefly mentioned earlier, you have asked a fundamental question—if not one of the most fundamental of all. Anytime we approach the question, “where is the true church,” we’re approaching “heavy stuff.” And more times than not—unintentionally we turn up the heat rather than share our light.

We have a custom down home where I grew up (I grew up in the country). When a neighbor would come and visit (or vice versa) we would usually sit out on the front porch and visit. After an hour or so of gently rocking back and forth, reminiscing—or whatever, my dad would say, "....well, why don’t you come in and visit for awhile.” Then we would all go inside—after we’d been invited. In other words, we started out on the porch, and then went inside.

That’s what I want to do—start on the porch and then go inside. I’m going to give some background information (which I believe to be pertinent information) then address your question—how I believe there are some parallels between today’s Protestant church and today’s Restoration movement.


I. The Household of God:

Years ago (1955) an Episcopalian Bishop Newbigen published a marvelous little book entitled “The Household of God.” The book, for the most part, has gone unnoticed by the Body of Christ. However, I find the Bishop’s thesis to be quite fascinating and very enlightening. Bishop Newbigen basically stated, there are currently three main tributaries of Christianity:

One branch says—where the gospel is proclaimed and preached from the pulpit, there is the church. The Protestant model of the church.

Another says, no—where the Spirit is present, there is the church. The Pentecostal/Charismatic model.

And another says, no, you’re both wrong—where the proper authority is present (i.e., the Bishop) there is the church. The Catholic model of the church.

These are the three main streams, the three tributaries that run today throughout the Body of Christ—Protestant, Pentecostal, & Catholic.

Whether or not we agree with the Bishop’s summary, it at least gives us something to hang our hats on--a launching pad, a place to begin. The Latter-day Saint movement, I would say, fits the “proper authority” model. Generally speaking, I see in America these three types of churches.

Paul, in his writings, makes an interesting statement:

“....For I will not dare to speak of any of those things, which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” --Romans 15:18,19

Paul says to the church at Rome, “....I have fully preached the gospel of Christ....” and then identifies what the fullness is. It’s the gospel....

“…by word” – kerugma (preaching)
“…by deed” – koinonia (fellowship)
“…by signs and wonders”— charisma (power)

The gospel is kerugma, koinonia, and charisma. It’s all three. Not one of the three; not two of the three.

Paul also unintentionally identifies the three types of churches in our day. Primarily…

1) Word Churches (kerugma)
2) Fellowship Churches, (koinonia) and
3) Charismatic Churches (charisma).

I would say, essentially the “Bible belt” churches, such as Jerry Falwell’s, are the “word” churches. They’re strong on preaching. And proclaiming the pulpit message--the kerugma gospel.

I would say, churches like Robert Schuller’s are the “fellowship” churches. They’re strong on “bonding” and church growth and brotherly love--the koinonia gospel.

I would say, churches like Vineyard are the “charismatic” churches. They’re strong on moving in signs and wonders--the charismatic gospel.

Paul says, we’re not fully preaching the gospel unless we’re combining all three—Word Churches, Fellowship Churches, and Charismatic Churches. In other words, the Jerry Falwell-type churches need the gifts of the Spirit and the Robert Schuller-type churches need to be grounded in the Word and the Vineyard churches could use a good dose of fellowship. Too much exclusivity.

I know these are generalizations, but I believe fairly accurate generalizations. Again, according to Paul, the gospel consists of: kerugma, koinonia, and charisma. Preaching. Fellowship. And signs & wonders. So....

Where is the true church? In one sense, we could say it’s where all three—kerugma, koinonia, and charisma--are present.

Proper Proclamation,
Proper Fellowship, and
Proper Authority.

By the way, I believe we can apply the above model to the restoration. As Latter-day Saints, we’re not “fully preaching the gospel” unless we’re witnessing in our meetings: 1) a strong proclamation of the Word of God, 2) brotherly love and “bonding,” and 3) a manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. The early restoration saints, as well as Primitive Christianity, manifested the fullness of the gospel—all three. And we’re to do the same.

I like the words of Richard Price:

“....The Lord will move in His own due time to set in order His only true church and He will do it in an unmistakable way! One way we shall know the Lord is leading is that there will be a return of the spiritual gifts like those enjoyed in the Reorganized Movement in the 1850s and 1860s. There will be marvelous outpourings of the Spirit, and the saints shall feel the spiritual burning within their bosoms, evidencing that God is moving in their midst.”
--Vision #35, Remnant Church News, p.18

Well said.

Which brings us to....

II. Primitive Christianity:

As stated in a previous post, we must not forget--Christianity in the plan of Joseph Smith goes deeper than church-going and an allegiance to a doctrinal agenda. Christianity to Joseph was not to be a church, a religion, or a sect, but a complete change of society. Or more precisely, a society within a society. That's a different mindset. In other words, the social, the economic, even the political, were undeniably commingled with the spiritual. All of life for Joseph Smith and the early restoration saints was under one umbrella--the Lordship of Christ. Some would say--that's a new paradigm for most churchgoers today.

Example: the saints got run out of Kirtland, not because they built a temple, but because they built a bank. Not because they created secret ordinances behind closed doors, but because they created an entire new society right in their own backyard. It was a new bank, a new society (a new “ecclesia” if you please) that got next to their non-Mormon neighbors. Not church attendance. So really, where is the true church? It is where the “ecclesia”—the “called-out” ones—are. The word “church,” in other words, never refers to a building or a place, but always to a people, a “called-out” people.

That's different. But that's Christianity. Or shall I say--that's primitive Christianity. Exactly what Joseph felt he was called upon to restore in these last days.

And Primitive Christianity, I believe, is a combination of: good soteriology, pneumonology, eschatology, and cosmology. Soteriology is the study of that grand biblical theme, Salvation. Pneumonology = the study of the Spirit of God. Eschatology = the study of Last Things. And Cosmology = the study of the universe.

The above is exactly why I love Joseph Smith. The gospel (if I may say so) according to Joseph Smith embraced all of the above. Today’s Christianity is so fragmented, embracing parts of the above. Protestants, for example, are excellent stewards of soteriology, that scriptural theme of salvation. Pentecostals and Charismatic churches have pneumonology down. Certain prophetic groups are good stewards of eschatology. And a few other groups include cosmology. But no one group embraces all of the above—except Latter-day Saints!

Joseph’s gospel embraced soteriology, pneumonology, eschatology, and cosmology.

Take, for example, cosmology. Protestantism does not go far enough when it concerns the cosmos. In fact, Protestant theology says very little about the nature and relationship of the cosmos in regard to our personal faith.

Cosmology is central to Mormonism! Only the restored gospel of Jesus Christ answers what some would call those “dreadful questions”; i.e., Where did we come from? Who am I? And where am I going?

We must remind ourselves....

Christianity is a cosmic religion! Jesus is Lord of three worlds: heaven, earth, and hell. Jesus Christ even holds the atoms together. He holds gravity together. And he holds my heart together. Our faith is cosmic. Protestants didn’t teach me that. Joseph Smith taught me that.

Christianity also includes a study of the doctrine of Last Things—eschatology. That’s one of the main reasons I am a member of this discussion group. This group is alive with the spirit of eschatology! But I think it’s also a good time to throw in my 2 cents--I wouldn’t mind branching out a little. Perhaps have a discussion or two on pneumonology—the study of the Holy Spirit. Share some personal experiences. The early restoration saints walked in a world of miracles and faith. I would enjoy hearing a few stories out there from some of you regarding a miracle or two.

That’s one of the main reasons I was attracted to the gospel according to Joseph Smith—the restored gospel. I thought—my God, this man has it all! He’s got what the Protestants have (soteriology). He’s got what the classical Pentecostals & Charismatics have (pneumonology). He’s got what the current prophetic movement (Vineyard) has (eschatology) and he’s even got what the Jehovah Witnesses have (cosmology)—the study of the universe and answers to those dreadful questions. No one group embraces Primitive Christianity quite like Joseph Smith embraced Primitive Christianity. And quite frankly, that’s why I’m a Latter-day Saint.

I want it all!

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:37  

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