12 Key Questions & Answers About BILD International

12 Key Questions & Answers About BILD International

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*Note:  This document has been sent for review to numerous certified leaders within BILD (both inside and outside the denomination) and to BILD international itself. All necessary corrections have been made, but this remains an open document so please add, nuance, or correct any assessment you deem necessary in the comments below.  There has been a great deal of confusion surrounding BILD and its philosophy and it is my prayer this clarifies the matter helpfully regardless of whether one remains a proponent or opponent of their unique system.   

1.  What is BILD and their vision?
2.  Can you define, “the way of Christ and His Apostles”?
3.  How can BILD speak of “the way…,” aren’t there many ways?  Isn’t this arrogant?
4.  What is the BILD pedagogical approach and why does this method matter?  
5. Why does BILD employ “Socratic discussion”? Isn’t that of Greek origin?
6. What Is BILD’s biblical hermeneutic?  It seems minimalistic.  
7. What is BILD’soverall philosophy?   
8. Why do BILD advocates talk so much about “paradigm change”?  What is it and why do I need it changed?
9. Doesn’t BILD promote a prescriptive hermeneutic with the book of Acts instead of descriptive one?
10. How is BILD’s philosophy different from other CPMs (Church Planting Movements)?
11. Can the BILD philosophy co-exist with other Philosophies/biblical models?
12. What do BILD adherents mean when they speak of, “the fragmentation of Western Education”?

1.    What is BILD and their vision?  

BILD International (The Biblical Institute for Leadership Development) is a parachurch organization created by Pastor Jeff Reed of Oakwood Road Church in Ames, Iowa to provide a philosophy and resources to aid in making God’s church central and equipping every believer with the Gospel and teachings of Christ, as well as how to articulate them, defend them, and digest them for meaningful life work.  They do this primarily through two subset branches:  

(1) BILD Institute aimed at training the leaders within the church (i.e. First Principles Series), and

(2) Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development aimed at training leaders who will be sent out in a more formal capacity (i.e. accredited degrees; see brochure for more details).  

From their website:  Our vision is to see well established church-planting movements (CPMs) in each of the nine major civilizations, led by leaders, fully trained in "the way of Christ and His Apostles", who are designing and implementing effective strategies for civilization-wide progress of the gospel.  Indeed, their goal is to train 40 million leaders by 2030 (and they are well on their way!).

2.    Can you define, “the way of Christ and His apostles”?  

The term was coined by missiologist Roland Allenin a letter he wrote from Kenya after traveling around East Africa.  It was brought to light by Lesslie Newbigin in the forward to the 1962 edition of Allen’s landmark work Missionary Methods:  St. Paul’s or Ours? It is meant as a summary statement describing how Christ empowered His Apostles by His Spirit to carry the Gospel throughout the ancient world (i.e. start to fulfill the Great Commission).  Their methods, exemplified mostly by St. Paul, were bathed in prayer, dependent on the Spirit, efficient, effective, bore long term fruit, empowered each local church in its gifting and call and grew exponentially throughout the Roman world through a series of networks(see BILD’s Growth Of The Early Church).[1]  Allen questions why we think our modern methods supersede or even equal the New Testament model.[2]  Key quotes are:

 “… All I can say is, ‘This is the way of Christ and His Apostles.’ If any man answers, ‘That is out of date,’ or ‘Times have changed,’ … I can only repeat, ‘This is the way of Christ and His Apostles,’ and leave him to face that issue” (ii, Missionary Methods).  

“… People have adopted fragments of St. Paul’s method and have tried to incorporate them into alien systems, and the failure which resulted has been used as an argument against the Apostle’s method … The truth is that they have neither understood nor practiced the Apostle’s method at all” (ibid. p. 5).  

“The churches of St. Paul established new self-supporting, self-governing and self-extending churches like themselves in the nearest towns and villages, not by fissure, but by spiritual procreation(The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church & The Causes Which Hinder It, p. 11). 

“I delight to think that a Christian traveling on his business, or fleeing from persecution, could preach Christ, and a church spring up as the result of his preaching,”(ibid. p. 7). 

“He trained them in the work, not outside of it; in the world, not in a hothouse,” (on Christ’s training of the disciples happening in situ not in an academy).[3]

Newbigin’s assessment appears quite astute when he says it was never Allen’s intention to convince missionaries of the rightness of this or that “method” but, rather, to urge “the resubmission in each generation of the traditions of men to the Word and Spirit of God.”[4]

There is confusion about the precise referent of “the way…” with many outside of BILD understanding this as referring to the institute itself, i.e. “BILD is theway,” or “only way” they may hear.  First, BILD follows Allen’s approach in challenging churches to submit their current ideas/practices/programs to the Word of God.  Second, it should be noted that BILD wants to forge alliances with other institutions and in no way excludes them (see sphere 3 of the Grand Plan at the bottom). Third, the referent is to the philosophyof which the curriculum is merely an expression of. Hence, “the way of Christ and His Apostles” is for BILD church based theological ministry education spreading out through a network of churches focused on character training rather than grades, and resulting in identifiable competencies demonstrated rather than papers passed in.  

BILD identifies four components that make up “the way of Christ and His Apostles,” which result from a complete study of the New Testament but especially Pauline theology:  

·      #1 The Pauline Cycle of Church Planting. 

·      #2 The Early, Middle, Late Letters of Paul as establishing tools for churches.

·      #3 The Didache to Establish Believers and Families (including the kerygma).

·      #4 The Paul/Timothy model moving from novice to apprentice to master.

Church based ministerial training is not unique to BILD mind you, as others such as Eternity Bible College associated with Francis ChanGrace Bible SeminaryNorthern Seminary, and the C-BTE Commission in New England, etc. all offer variations of it in some way.  What makes BILD unique is its underlying educational theory (especially dialogue in community, ordered learning, and competency focused evaluations). In this sense they would label these other attempts more along the lines of church hosted, but not necessarily church based.[5]

For a fuller treatment see

·      Church-Based Theological Education:  Creating A New Paradigm by Jeff Reed

·      The Churches of the First Century:  A BILD Encyclical by Jeff Reed esp. p. 1-17. 

3.    How can BILD speak of “the way…,” aren’t there many ways? Isn’t this arrogant?  

The short answer: It is helpful to distinguish between referent, sense, and significance:

·      Referent: “the way…” refers to the way the Apostles (esp. Paul) went about building Christ’s church, not to the plethora of modern ways we do so today.   

·      Sense: If an apostolic method/strategy can be deduced from the New Testament then “the way…” is a historic reality that describes how the apostles built the church. Similarly, if we were to talk about, “The way General E. Lee fought at the battle of Antietam,” then the referent and meaning is to a specific historical strategy by a particular historical person. Whether we should or should not employ his tactics today would concern the next category.    

·      Significance: While most can come to agreement that the first two things are true, many will differ as to the modern value of employing the apostle’s method to evangelism, missions, and church planting arguing along a spectrum with some staking their claim on one side that this is the only way, and others arguing on the other side that it is merely one way among a sea of alternatives no more or less important but to be weighted by its pragmatic value (see long answer for more).    

The longer answer– perspectives on significance:  exclusivist, inclusivist, relativist, and pluralist:   

A.  Exclusivist– There is one meaning, but many interpretations.  If we seek the author’s intended meaning in the any given text and employ valid biblical hermeneutics we can travel the hermeneutical spiral, or, merge the hermeneutical horizons (whatever nomenclature you want to employ) and arrive at the author’s intended meaning.  If done correctly we can then speak objectively about this one true meaning so that this one meaning is THEmeaning and all others are wrong.  

·      Summary charge: The way the Apostles sought to fulfill the Great Commission (hereafter GC) is the onlyway to do it.        

B.   Narrow Inclusivist– While there is one meaning, but many interpretations of any given Scripture text, we cannot always know for sure the author’s intent if it is not stated explicitly and because of gaps in time, geography, language, culture, etc.  The best we can do is determine the most probableinterpretation based on the textual evidence and logical reasoning from the many possibleinterpretations suggested. From there we can be confident, even maintain strong convictions on the matter, yet we cannot be dogmatic about all theological areas all the time especially without direct imperatives to guides us. This view maintains the supremacy of the apostolic method as something intentional not haphazard while also making room at the table for other systems that are able to make a solid biblical case for their expression of the principles and practices of the New Testament church and denying the one’s that cannot (e.g. snake handling churches, Prosperity Gospel churches, etc.).    

·      Summary charge: The way the Apostles sought to fulfill the GC is the beststarting point and typically the wisestway to do it.     

C.   Broad Inclusivist – The Pluralist:  We are not referring to religious pluralism, but methodological pluralism. The ecclesiological pluralist sees all forms and expressions of New Testament principles as valid paths up the mountain of church.  No one way or method of e.g. church planting, church organization, body life, is any better than any other way as long as all are bathed in prayer and done in the sincerity of love.    

·      Summary charge: The way the Apostles sought to fulfill the GC is one of many valid ways to do it no better or worse than any other way if based on biblical principles and done in love.      

D.  Broad Inclusivist – The Relativist:  Here we do not mean the moral relativist but the methodological relativist. The relativist agrees that there really is no one model that takes priority over another.  While Jesus certainly had an end goal in mind when he said, “…on this rock I will build my church…”(Matt. 16:18), he did not have a meansintended to actually do so. The Apostles would just have to figure it out, presumably through trial and error and the Spirit’s leading taking into account their own first century social structures, Jew-Gentile relations, convenience and simple economy.  They followed the subjective leading of the Spirit and did what was right for them and we must do the same today.      

·      Summary charge: The way the Apostles sought to fulfill the GC was right for them, but we need to find a way that is right for us today. 

Summary conclusion:  With the exception of the person who says,“there is no actual apostolic model, method, way or even New Testament principles laid down that can be determined reliably,” all other views can maintain the historic reality of “the” apostolic method revealed in the New Testament and thus can speak of, “the way of Christ and His apostles” though each will assign different value judgments to it. 

Where does BILD fall on the continuum?  In terms of theory, I would say the BILD material/curriculum presents the narrow inclusivist view on the apostolic methods of church life and expansion recorded in the New Testament (this is not stated anywhere mind you, but comes across through the training and articles/scholars selected for readings, etc.).  As Reed commented during the 2016 BILD conference, “we believe we have the closest approximation of the truth.”  However, because of their strong belief in the church as a hermeneutical community they also believe that each church must decide for itself the significance they will assign to the program.  In terms of praxis, both BILD and those who adhere to their system do tend to lean more exclusivist in their assessment of the apostolic way especially compared and contrasted to any and all western models which are seen as deficient or lacking.  However, this exclusivist leaning does not keep them from working with other institutions, denominations, colleges or seminaries as partners.[6]   

Arrogant? The mere fact that over the years I have heard this charge from a diverse group of people in separate geographical regions speaks to a common thread.  While I have conducted dozens of interviews, so far, no one is able to pin point where this impression directly lies.  I have long wondered if the BILD tag line, “THEway of Christ and His Apostles,” is the stumbling block.  If the tag line were the more specific, “The way of St. Paul,” one wonders if people would have the same knee jerk reaction that often accompanies this motto.[7]  After all, the natural response would likely be, “Well, you follow Paul, I follow Apollos, but God brings the growth,” (1 Cor. 3:4-7), and the discussion would not get bogged down in absolutes and normative practices, but might rather focus on best practices. Then again, it may be that some are talking to BILD adherents who assign an exclusivist significance to the Apostle’s methods.  If so, are they put off by their deep conviction on the matter and subjectively perceive this as arrogance, or are they accurately discerning an arrogant attitude in their interlocutor?  I have been unable to determine the answer as of yet, but hopefully, the categories above will help to eliminate that confusion a bit.

4.    What is the BILD pedagogical approach and why does this method matter?  

The BILD pedagogical approach consists of two main ingredients designed to bring about wisdom not merely the acquisition of knowledge.  They are: (a) Ordered learning, and (b) dialogical teaching.  

(a) Ordered learning– 1 John 2 portrays spiritual growth in life stages writing to those in his church at each level, some as “children,” others as “young men,” and the mature “fathers.”  Paul, likewise, reminds the Corinthians, “I gave you milk, not solid food…”(1 Cor. 3:2).  It is natural for learning to come in a particular order for optimum maturity, and the goal of discipleship is godly maturity.  Yet, ask the average Christian, “How long does it take to get to spiritual maturity?” and they will likely answer, “all your life.”  That simply is not biblically accurate.  The author of Hebrews chastises his congregation for their lack of spiritual maturity since they have had enough time, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child”(Heb. 5:13-14).  This tells us there is a difference between getting to maturity and growing in maturity.  We are to get there rather quickly (Jesus got the disciples there in 3 years, Paul got the church of Ephesus there in 3 years, the First Principles are designed to take 3 years) and grow in them the rest of our life (2 Pet. 1 esp. vv 5-11; 3:17-18). 

For this reason, the First Principles teaching series e.g. not only follows an orderly method (text, questions, personal journaling, discussion, consult the scholars, etc.), but tries to model itself after the very same order the first New Testament Christians were exposed to historically:  the kerygma (Gospel proclamation; i.e. the indicatives) then the didache (Gospel teachings concerning life and morals that flesh out the kerygma; i.e. the imperatives).[8]  

Some have noted a conspicuous lack of systematic theology in the First Principles and the articles throughout the courses. That is because, following Kaiser, the author’s intention is sought first through exegetical studies, then framing that within biblical theological studies of each book/author, followed by practical theological/ethical applications for one’s personal life and ending by consulting historical studies (e.g. early Church fathers, theologians, etc.) as a check and balance to one’s overall interpretation.  In true Reformation spirit, BILD wants the Word of God to confront every believer so that they have to wrestle like Jacob with the angel, with the text of Scripture until it yields a blessing both doctrinally and personally.  This is a different approach then say, beginning with the final product of systematic theology produced by someone else and then imposing that structure, and those categories upon Scripture to map its meaning.  The BILD philosophy wants every Christian, every new generation, to produce their own biblical theology from the ground up rather than relying so heavily upon those who have gone before.  In this sense we can say that the goal of ordered learning is for every Christian to experience God in the cleft of His Word beholding for themselves His naked glory without the garments of another covering His form (Ex. 33:20-33).[9]   

(b) Dialogical teaching- The western paradigm of education tends to focus on the final product (the what), that is, getting the right answer, whereas BILD tends to focus on the process (the how) that leads to the product (the what). BILD cares about the final product and making sure the student is competent in both ministry skills and biblical intelligence to wield truth, mind you, but they care equally about how that wisdom is acquired.  Students must learn howto think biblically so they know whatto think biblically. Whereas a typical Sunday school teacher may begin a class with the truth statement, “Jesus Christ rose from the dead,” and then try to prove that premise by citing various Scripture verses, the BILD philosophy would place relevant Scriptures in front of the student first and make them converse with the Word of God directly asking questions concerning howwe know whatwe think we know.  This question/dialogue approach follows the example of our Lord who used this means to grow in wisdom and stature (Lk. 2:46-47; 52).  The spirit of the rabbinical method was often to answer a question with another question (something Jesus also seems to do in the Gospels).  It finds its truest expression in the methodology of the Apostle Paul who reasoned, persuaded, and dialogued in conversation with the community of saints he was forming and establishing in the truth.  Paul was a rabbi, his father was rabbi, and so it seems a most natural method, yet it was also an intentional one to force the early Christians to digest, defend, and intimately know the truth for themselves.  

It may strike some as fascinating that modern research into the most effective pedagogical models indicates that dialogical discussion moves upward through all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy until it bears the fruit of higher-order learning, assimilation, critical thinking, and creative expression, therefore providing something deeper and more lasting then the student could otherwise experience on their own or through passive lectures. 

5.     Why does BILD employ “Socratic discussion”? Isn’t that of Greek origin?  

Jeff Reed, the architect of BILD International, tends to choose the most noteworthy exemplar of any given topic as his launching pad.  Research into rabbinical teaching methodology traces circa 200 AD, well after the time of the Apostles, but the Socratic method promoted by Socrates existed hundreds of years prior to the Apostles yet it partook of the same Hebrew wisdom tradition we associate with Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. The point is that “Socratic method” is more mainstream with more research behind it and more schools, universities, and colleges having employed it over the last two thousand years allowing for a testable and reproducible model.[10] Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”  This is sometimes referred to as the flame of intelligence, that “aha” moment.  This is what teachers prize, that moment when a student internalizes a biblical truth deeply planting the Word in mind and heart and watching it prayerfully grow them into mighty oaks of righteousness planted by streams of living water. 

6.     What Is BILD’s biblical hermeneutic? It seems minimalistic.    

BILD’s philosophy is anchored in and driven by the author’s intended meaning in every pamphlet, course, research paper, etc.  This concept is most clearly elucidated, they believe, by Walter Kaiser’s work which forms the bedrock foundation for their entire hermeneutic.  If every Christian were to focus on seeking the author’s intent as the primary locus of meaning instead of the received traditions of man (in whatever theological form they are formulated be that Creeds, Systematic Theologies, etc.) they may discover a Gospel unity, or, at least, a Gospel tolerance for alternative thinking patterns.

Is it too minimalistic?  BILD’s resources both through the First Principles and Antioch School curriculum are not particularly Reformed, Confessional, Dispensational, Emergent, etc.  Placing the hermeneutical water mark low allows for greater application of the program in diverse settings and allows churches to customize according to their own traditions/ theological perspectives.  Whether this is a weakness or strength will be greatly determined by the facilitator using the material and their ability to craft and create additional resources for their people (something every facilitator is expected to do!). 

7.    What is BILD’soverall philosophy?  

From their website:  There are two basic principles:  

1.     The Church is at the center of God's redemptive work during this age, and God has revealed an administration for the Church (Ephesians 2:11–3:12).

2.     Every aspect of Christian ministry (evangelism, discipleship, missions, theological education, theology, etc.) needs to find its identity and purpose in building up the Church and to align itself with the revealed administration of Christ.  

Missions and Evangelism: Missions is the multiplication of local churches, not just the multiplication of individuals. Local churches have an obligation to network and support the ongoing sending of apostles (missionaries) for expansion into unreached areas and to provide a living testimony of Christ's love in their own local geographical area.

Theological Education: The context of theological education must be the multiplying and establishing of local churches. In that way, character, skills, and academics are integrated into a hands-on, apprenticeship type training and development under a qualified and proven minister of the gospel within a community context.

Theology: Theology has become institutionalized. It must be returned to the activity and sphere of local churches, and not as a field of Christianity delegated to scholars in institutions. For theology to become fresh, engaging, and applicable, it must again return to the living and ministering local church.

Discipleship: Discipleship is not a one-on-one function, but is a community exercise, building upon the strength of families, not just individuals, and is shepherded by a qualified team of spiritual leaders. Discipleship prepares all Christians for an active and integrated individual, family, and community walk and service to God and His people.

Recommended Resource:

·     For a fuller understanding please read the SIX BILD Encyclicals.

8.    Why do BILD advocates talk so much about “paradigm change”?  What is a paradigm and why do I need it changed?  

A paradigm is a frame of reference that we accept which determines how we look at the world.  The 16thcentury followed Aristotle in subscribing to a geocentric paradigm that once adopted would be used to explain all the movement of the heavenly bodies.  Galileo suggested a different paradigm, a heliocentric one, arguing that it makes better sense of the evidence.  Changing from one way of looking at the world to another is called a paradigm shift.[11]   The primary originator of the idea was Thomas Kuhn who argued in his work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that rather than the prevailing view which saw science as a slow linear upward progression over time, in fact, it was marked by cyclical times of bursting scientific revolution that challenged the prevailing paradigm until it came to replace it and would be eventually challenged again by some future paradigm that makes more sense of the data and wins a hearing, all of this hopefully circling the drain and getting closer to the closest approximation of reality.[12]

Likewise, the postmodern paradigm begins with the self and views the world in individualistic terms so that making disciples, let’s say, is an induvial responsibility for all Christians often practiced in a one-on-one setting with little sense of order or progress.  BILD argues for a Church-centric perspective whereby making disciples is the charge to the whole church collectively and so leaders train leaders and then plant house church networks who challenge and hold one another accountable to grow into maturity in Christ until new leaders are formed and then…lather and repeat thus nurturing multiplying disciples living in community and the spontaneous expansion of God’s church in the process.  

This paradigm shift has tectonic implications for all aspects of ministry when fleshed out into a philosophy (for an expansive treatment see Reed’s Paradigm Papers).

9. Doesn’t BILD promote a prescriptive hermeneutic with the book of Acts instead of descriptive one? 

First, since this has been a prevailing and contentious misunderstanding that appears to be poisoning the well for many people let us address it head on and thoroughly.  The most straightforward answer is “no.”  Instead of assigning students to read, say, charismatic scholar Roger Stronstad’scase for the prescriptive nature of Acts,[13] the key note article in the Acts course is instead, The Case For The Historical Precedent by Fee and Stuart whose main purpose was to warn againstcreating historical precedents without direct commands.  Randy Becketassociate dean of BILD, concurs saying, “We know something is normative [in the book of Acts] when it can be backed up from clear commands from the Epistles.”[14] As with Fee & Stuart BILD maintains the principles are binding, but not their culturally conditioned practices.[15] BILD does not provide a list of all these principles believing that each church has the responsibility to let the Scriptures confront their worldview and then deduce these principles for themselves (though of course there are lots of written materials). 

Second, one should be cautious of committing the either/or fallacy when in fact more gradations are available with Acts:  e.g. prescription, persuasive precedent, paradigmatic, and principlism to name a few.  We covered these in part 3 of Theological Fragmentation under “Problem #2 for Acts”.  A brief summary is provided below:

Prescriptive: Luke intends for future Christians to follow the principles and practices laid down by the Apostles as they relied on the Spirit and these practices are binding and authoritative for all Christians in all times and all places everywhere.    

Precedent-Binding: Only the principles and practices tied to the author’s intention must be followed by the church today as normative.    

Precedent-Persuasive: Luke intends for future Christians to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles as authoritative trail blazers who role model all aspects of a Christ infused, glory centered, Spirit driven Church.  

Principalism: This is how Apostles did it, therefore we must apply the same underlying principles as faithfully as we can allowing for some variation, but seeking the best expression of those principles which are themselves normative for the church today. 

Descriptive: This is how the Apostles did it in the past and it holds no weight or obligation on the modern church to do likewise.   

If you are curious how these concepts connect to or complement our previous terms concerning one’s perspective using the BILD curriculum we provide a simple graph:

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 10.35.13 PM.png

Lastly, bear in mind we have not discussed the place of typology in historical narrative nor the insights from narrative theology or why the typical description vs. prescription debate is a misrepresentation.  In other words, interpreting the book of Acts is more involved then saying a few magic words, “abraprescription/descriptioncadabra” (or for you Potter’ fans Evanesco!) and watching the interpretive issues just disappear.   

10.  How is BILD’s philosophy different from other CPMs (Church Planting Movements)? 

BILD’s philosophy contends that Jesus did not simply give us the ends (Church) he gave us the means (make disciples) and the ordered process to accomplish that means (i.e. apostolic teams planting small interconnected multiplying communities that grow in maturity primarily through dialogical teaching).  This relationship of the church to itself is unique in the world of CPMs.  Small groups, for instance, are set within the attractional church and tend to view themselves as parts of the whole which meet on Sunday morning for the main event.  These churches typically are filled with programs to attract the community. The house church movement sees itself as fully independent house churches working with other independent house churches much like billiard balls on a table.  BILD does not promote the house church movement as typified by much modern practice.  

The BILD philosophy exemplified at Oakwood Church, Reed’s main hub, is described more accurately as a “family of families” (one single whole, i.e. the local church) made up of other single wholes (households), much like a puzzle where the larger triangle is made up of other smaller triangles put together. They are then held together by the frame of the apostolic team which maintains connections, accountability, discipline, and provides instruction, training, and equipping of leaders.  

The oikos church model typified in the popular Training for Trainers shares some similarities to BILD as it focuses on training leaders in a Bible study group who are expected then to go out and begin their own Bible study in order to raise up leaders and multiply through this process while they stay connected to a home based local church or split into their own church.  Here BILD is distinct in the means by which they both accomplish this task (e.g. ordered learning, kerygma/didache, dialogical teaching).

The missional model maintains a sense of collective identity on Sundays as well as multiplying home fellowship meetings.  Some missional churches do not meet on Sunday at all and instead use that time for personal outreach in the community.  Their main emphasis is on home fellowships, every believer active, and going to the community to exemplify social justice and love in action. Here BILD can accommodate a missional mindset, though a key means of growth for BILD is not so much the going out into the community (they do have this idea with bivocational elders who oversee the house churches), but especially inviting non-Christians into the kerygmatic community as a means of practicing hospitality i.e. home evangelism (see Kerygmatic Communities Evangelism and The Early Churches Encyclical).

Frank Viola and George Barna’s concept of the “organic church” in their book, Reimaging Church (as well as Pagan Christianity? From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church), is similar in spirit as BILD’s emphasis on empowering the average Christian to participate in the mission of God in small spontaneous groups, though it lacks both an orderly process, the need for an apostolic team, and a clear understanding of how these organic groups are supposed to relate to one another.

11.  Can the BILD philosophy co-exist with other Philosophies/biblical models?

It appears to depend on the hermeneutical community of the local church.  BILD can co-exist alongside other programs and visions though over time small churches will find these programs competing for valuable resources and decisions will have to be made as to priorities, energy expenditure, and funding to keep them viable.  Since BILD is more than a program, it’s a paradigm shift, it will demand more attention (i.e. the difference between bringing home a baby vs. bringing home a puppy, we might say) though it will also, I believe, bring greater rewards.  

For those that accept the full vision it will mean moving towards a decentralized structure of church (i.e. multiplying house church networks or missional communities that meet in the evening around a shared meal), revamping the Sunday morning service into a full dialogical teaching time with preaching relegated to special events, and training leaders from within the church according to specific time tables and benchmarks (e.g. it takes 3 years to move through First Principles until leaders are trained enough to be elders or house church leaders).  If one seeks this path within an existing institutional church paradigm (rather than church plant in new soil) we predict moving through at least four major phases over the course of 10 years (Reed suggests laying out a strategic plan with that time line in mind):  

Phase 1 – Compromise (transition period):  Someone hears of BILD, gets certified, introduces First Principles to their church as a small group study and sees people developing an inner fire for God’s word.  Not much else changes.  Here BILD is viewed as a program and folded into the life of the church.  However, over time the previous study topics/Bible study materials used in small groups, Sunday school, etc. are slowly replaced with First Principles which begins to lead to the next phase as it becomes more dominant in the life of the church.  

Phase 2 Conflict (tension period):  Leaders are not content to just study the material anymore they are challenged to come up with real life projects that will contribute to real change in their community.  New ideas are tried, new schedules, new events, new styles of preaching perhaps introduced, and a desire to be a faithful representation of the NT church begins to boil over.  But not everyone has gone through the full process of First Principles so there typically remains a group or groups on the outside who do not understand the nomenclature, vision, purpose, design, trajectory.  This is the result of the clash between what Reed calls, “conflicting systemic foundations.”  Hostility is present, but it need not be a critical attitude towards one another, rather the goal is to acknowledge  the competing & conflicting systems trying to co-exist in the same habitat with limited resources. However, the burning passion some feel to return to the New Testament church may put others who enjoy the status quo off thus adding to the tension.       

Phase 3 – Clash (tear period):  Noticeable changes are being implemented ideally based on the people’s conversations and desire for authentic NT church community.  Medieval communion practice may be replaced altogether with evening agape feasts.  The sermon perhaps becomes more infrequent replaced with dialogical teaching times. This all becomes too much for some and they choose to jump ship.  The 10-year strategic plan is meant to mitigate against this loss by introducing change gradually.  However, it is inevitable simply because every leadership decision divides, yet the goal is to limit this natural tendency.  In the end, only one foundational ministry philosophy will survive because church cannot be built on two separate competing systems.        

Alternatively, if the desire for change erupts from the people rather than the leaders, and if the leaders do not get out in front of it to channel this new fire, it is possible that some small clusters of home meeting groups may break away from their home church to start a new work. This would be especially true if the group believed their new formed convictions were not being heard.  Good leadership at this stage can attenuate the losses here.  Focus on your leaders and those who are buying in, fan that flame!  Trust that the Lord will add to your numbers daily those whom who are being saved (Acts 2:47).                           

Phase 4 – Cool down (transforming period):  At this point a typical attractional church has turned inside out.  The main meetings take place in the evening, people think of their respective house church or missional community as “church” proper and people enter into the church with those new expectations.  In addition, there are a great deal of discussions, community fellowship, community evangelism through these Gospel-centered networks, and participation of gifts, talents, skills, is near 90% of those who attend, etc.  Sunday mornings may be used in a way the apostolic team deems fit for training, teaching, occasional special events, occasional corporate worship, but even so it does not exactly match anything it was before.  During this time leaders are raised up, trained, and sent out to be planted, resulting in spontaneous multiplying communities of faith which begin to pop up like flowers in the Spring.  The network grows and spreads and the churches are established with deep roots “praising God enjoying the favor of all the people”(Acts 2:47).

12.  What does BILD mean, “the fragmentation of Western Education”?  

Short answer:  Friedrich Schleiermacher, the German theologian and oft referred to “Father Of Modern Liberal Theology,” perpetuated his enlightenment paradigm which later became a fourfold schema for Christian education: biblical studies, historical studies, systematic studies, and practical theology.  Open the course book to any Christian College or Seminary (be they liberal, neo-orthodoxy, confessional, etc.) and one will see separate departments of thought on these matters following this fourfold distinction.  The New Testament professor is not a systematic theologian, and the Historical professor of the early church does not discuss practical theology.  Each has its own specialties with sub-specialties underneath them, each defined by its own body of literature.  But the Bible is one seamless woven grand story and like Jesus’ own garment it should not be torn into pieces.  The goal of biblical study is the acquisition of wisdom that brings one closer to God and builds up, equips, and expands God’s church, not the accumulation of technical information in one particular area for the purpose of becoming a professional minister.    

Long answer:  See What Is Theological Fragmentation Parts 1-4.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit was crucial to Allen’s entire system and cannot be separated from it.  John E. Branner wrote, “It is my thesis that his methodology must not be divorced from his theology; to do so is an affront to the intentions of this man.  His theology, particularly the emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, permeates his methodology and lays an indispensable foundation for it”(p. 5 in Roland Allen:  Pioneer in a Spirit-Centered Theology of Mission).  The danger in putting too much stock in a method is that we lose focus on the man, Christ Jesus, and His message.  At the end of the day we must always put our full confidence in dependency on Christ through prayer and fasting over against any “methods” we deem infallible whether real or perceived (this was Roland Allen’s intention as well; see John E. Branner, Roland Allen:  Pioneer in a Spirit-Centered Theology of Mission).    

[2] Allen existed during a time when the mission station model was both expected and demanded for all international missions and missionaries (think Hudson Taylor who at his death had over 200 mission stations with over 800 missionaries). These mission stations functioned as orphanages, schools, sometimes hospitals, but Allen was concerned that the heart (i.e. Christ’s church) was unnecessarily removed from its chest and that nationals were robbed of the taking leadership and ownership within their own contextualized church (i.e. indigenous church planting). Most people rejected or ignored Allen’s thesis yet today nearly all church planting movements employ his insights (for an excellent review of the landscape since Allen see Paul’s Missionary Methods:  In His Time And Ours by Robert Plummer, review at TGC).      

[3] Quoted in Roland Allen:  Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion by J.D. Payne, p. 23.

[4] P. ii (see Newbigin’s Foreword in Allen’s Missionary Methods:  St. Paul’s or Ours?).  

[5] Not everyone will readily accept this distinction.  After all, in both situations the local church leaders are relying on outside experts for help (videos of professors, a seminary course, or articles in the BILD courses).  Yet, there is a point to be made between the difference of church hosted curriculum with the streaming of lectures from a Seminary professor into the local church context where the students perform all the normal duties of being in class (quizzes, tests, papers, etc.) and the BILD C-BTE model which actually empowers local leaders to teach and train their students themselves (which means learning it themselves too!) and evaluates them based on character and competency. The former puts the church in the passenger seat, the latter places the church squarely in the driver’s seat (no small difference!).    

[6] To be fair, all the views are exclusivist to some degree since they all exclude the exclusivist viewpoint!  It is the nature of study to eventually arrive at a place where we believe our understanding is the best understanding on a topic and to preach, teach, and act in accordance with that perspective.   

[7] Since the only mention of “the way of Christ and His Apostles,” in any of the works of Allen is this preface (that I can find to date), one wonders if it is the best tag line to communicate the core of Allen’s theology which was exceedingly focused on the Apostle Paul’s method, practices, and Spirit intuition. This would actually make more sense given the fact that Jesusdid not follow the Pauline cycle of church planting nor did he plant a network of churches at all (he does suggest his own person of peace strategy though).  Peterdid not follow the Pauline cycle or methods either as he stayed mostly in Jerusalem venturing out only to establish believers in the faith as new churches emerged (e.g. Samaria, Antioch) and then returned and oversee his home church and its growth.  Did any of the 11 apostles follow the Pauline method per se? In bits and pieces perhaps, one might argue, but Paul remains the fullest expression of his strategy. Allen of course knows this saying, “The Apostles followed Christ in this, they established a society, a spiritual society on earth.  The establishment of this society is most clearly seen in the work and writing of the Apostle Paul.  He recognized a Church; he established churches”(see n. 3 p. 25).  

[8] See also BILD’s “What We Believe” page for a concise summary.

[9] Of course, hermeneutically and epistemologically speaking this is strictly impossible.  Every interpreter brings hidden presuppositions and erroneous preunderstandings to the text.  But the point is that BILD’s approach is quite different from the customary Western model that so often begins with one’s own personal systematic theology and then tries to find support for those propositions in Scripture.  If Moses’ encounter is analogous we might say that God refuses to use an intermediary or interpreter when He reveals Himself to Moses. He reveals Himself as he truly is and Moses sees God firsthand.  This side of the kingdom the only way to do that is to study the Word fresh without all the accouterments of others getting in the way.

[10] See Session #4 of Teaching The First Principles by Jeff Reed pp. 32-35.

[11] Another major revolution was the change from Newtonian physics where gravity is a force that pulls to Einstein’s concept of gravity as acceleration caused by the bending of the fabric of space and time so that objects technically fall and are not pulled or pushed.  This created a paradigm shift that lead to quantum physics. 

[12] While the basic concept of “paradigm” is understandable, the exact definition of what Kuhn meant by “paradigm” is open for more clarification.  Margaret Masterson identified 21 distinct senses in her 1970 paper

[13] Roger Stronstad carried on a debate with Gordon Fee about this very topic both in private and in print:  Roger Stronstad, Spirit, Scripture and Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective (Baguio City, Philippines: Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Press, 1995); Gordon D. Fee, Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1991). Stronstad’s case for the prescriptive nature of Acts is laid out most clearly in his book The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1984).

[14] Phone interview 3/27/2018.

[15] While BILD is typically characterized as a house church network movement they maintain that the driving principle is not on the building (i.e. the house vs. church vs. mall vs. storefront), but the missional community that meets around the context of a shared meal.  While most of their curriculum falls into the persuasive precedent category, they would argue that the Pauline cycle ought to be considered a binding precedent upon the church (n. 10).  Yet, even here they principlize the typical 10 steps down to just three (i.e. evangelize, establish, entrust), thus showing that it’s the principles they view as most binding rather than the specific step by step practices of St. Paul.

 

 

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