Friday, June 29, 2012

our only problem: churches become congregations-Delbert Wiens

It's a shame when classic, provocative quotes by the classic, provocative Delbert Wiens are tucked away in publications with limited readership.

For example, try on the following  1995 quote from his chapter in Mennonite Idealism: The History of the Fresno Pacific College Idea (Was I right?  You don't have that book?).  The chapter is titled (classically, provocatively), "The Christian College as Heresy".

What a shame that it is nowhere online.....until I finishing playing scribe and hit "publish": Paul insists [in Romans 12:3-5], this concrete unity that is the Body of Christ is graced with the different gifts given to its members, which bring knowledge and all the other needed fruits to create a holy and healthy society.

That brings us to the most troubling paradox of all.  A Christian college is a special creation of the church.  It is designed to play a specific role in the larger mission of the church.  But modern churches are becoming congregations.  They too are succumbing to the abstracting, functionalizing spirit of the age.  So those of us who are inspired to call to serve the various levels of a concrete people of God are increasingly driven to create here the halig  that no longer characterizes the congregations from which we come.  But how can the abstraction that an abstracted church creates to do an abstracted job with young members who are abstracted from their abstracting communities for a brief four years abstracted from their lives become a concrete community?  Until congregations again become churches that seek to become concrete parts of the Kingdom of God, we can hardly help them or their youth even if we "succeed" at our own mission.  To the extent that we try to do so, we may even turn out to be at odds with the congregations we are called to serve,"  -St. Delbert Wiens,  "The Christian College as Heresy," in Mennonite Idealism: The History of the Fresno Pacific College Idea,.p. 64

Wiens has amazingly articluated something I could only intuit, as both a pastot of a congregation (oops, I mean CHURCH), and a teacher at the very college Wiens speaks of and writes to.

More ?

On more on  what he means by "concrete," see  this article...

For more fun..

See  his seminal "From The Village to City: A Grammar of the Languages We Are"

...And his  insanely creative book, "Stephen's Sermon and the Structure of Luke-Acts"
Here is an  online article that came out before, and eventually became, the book.  ( If this were written by anyone else, I would assume this book is a case of hopeless chiasmania, but since it is Delbert, it's just someone writing from a higher dimension altogether...and his view up there can catch chiasm better than the rest of us who are mere mortals).


  1. I must disagree with his words. Our local groups ARE congregations. The "Church" (if we use this non-biblical word) is not just one group here or one group there, it is meant to be an aggegate, all of us are the ekklesia (the Greek word "church" is meant to translate), no matter what congregation we may attend.

  2. In current NIV, "congregation" is used 4 times in the Bible
    "church" is used 114 times
    Church is used to mean local: "the church at Laodicia" and as corporate worldwide body
    Please explain further Rabbi Adam...
    posted by a friend and a spy, who doesn't like to sign in to comment


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!