This last couple months have been a point of transition for me in my work on the Dinner Church Movement. Previously, I was kept busy identifying and sharing the Dinner Church sites that were popping up and also in continuing my reading on the two recent Biblical threads of research that relate to the DC (Dinner Church): namely the Greco-Roman meals and the significance of the Roman Empire on the New Testament writings and the early church.
However, the DC sites are popping up with less frequency. I will, of course, continue to keep track of new Dinner Churches. And, though there are continuing to be more books written on the two biblical threads, I’ve read a good share of those available. This includes a pleasurable amount of time using the facilities of the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. There are still material in the two threads that I will be blogging about.
But recent reading I’ve done has made me begin to see other areas of research that are a follow-up to what I have done so far. Though this research is helpful for the DCs, it has relevance for any congregation. When one becomes aware of the effect of Empire on the followers of Jesus in the early centuries, it raises questions: 1. In what way is the early church’s struggle with the conflict between between Kingdom of God and Empire relevant today? 2. If it is, then what is the nature of Empire today? 3. Next, how can congregations today be moved to see themselves as alternative communities in today’s world to the pervading Empire? 4. Finally, how many congregations see their major role already as in opposition to the Empire in the name of the Kingdom?
I’ve already posted blogs on the Empire theme on the Dinner Church blog site.
First, there is the extensive bibliography I have assembled of over 100 books on the Kingdom versus the (Roman) Empire. (here)
Then there are the posts about some of the books in the bibliography. There are two on Warren Carter’s “The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide”. (here and here)
Another blog looks at two collections of articles which cover the influence of the Roman Empire on distinct books of the Bible, “In the Shadow of Empire” and “Empire in the New Testament”. (here)
Several different reading resources have moved me in this present direction. One was the book “Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now” by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther. They not only did the first century work of pointing to the Empire as foreground for the Christ groups then. They also draw conclusions about the relevance to the twenty-first century church. Certainly more that many of the Empire critique books on my list have done. Most of them are written by academics who, pretty much, write for academics. While reading their book, I was introduced to the name of an author I had not known: David Korten.
Where ‘Unveiling’ and the many other books helped me to understand the early church’s attempts to negotiate the Roman Empire, Korten’s focus is to help his readers get their minds around Empire today. He is an activist as well as an academic.
One of his early books begins the picture: “When Corporations Rule the World”. It is in the global corporations of today, he says, that we see today’s Empire. I know I’ll be spending time writing about one of his later books “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.” His thesis in that book is that the last 5000 years of human history is the story of empire, one after the other, where competition, not cooperation, has been the approach.
Also, I have been rereading books and watching videos of lectures by Robin Meyers. Robin is minister of Mayflower UCC church in Oklahoma City. He has written “The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus” and “Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance. (The latter contains his Lyman Beecher lectures at Yale.) What the church needs today are other pastors who will move their congregations to become communities of resistance. What we all need is to know what it takes to move a church that is “of but not in the world” to become “in but not of the world”. I’m interested in developing a list of ministers and churches that have reclaimed the subversive way of Jesus. I’m interested in learning from these ministers just how they were able to change their congregations.
For clarity, I’m planning to keep the Dinner Church Movement Facebook group page focussed on dinner churches and the Greco-Roman Meal biblical research that undergirds them. At the same time, I am beginning a new Facebook group page and a blog that will focus on Empire, which I title “ Subverting Empire”. I invite you to join that Facebook page found here: