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While Miller accepts that these new churches are doctrinally conservative simply because of their biblical literalism, there are certain ways they express themselves from the pulpit. The Bible is the central feature of the worship service, verse by verse exposition of the scriptures is the norm, consecutive teaching of the scriptures is encouraged and the music is always contemporary.  Miller listened to countless testimonies which reflected on conversion stories, visions and healings all highlighting the personal nature of Christian commitment.

He reflected on the small groups set up for fellowship and discipleship and how these groups help people share and grow spiritually.  Shepherding or pastoral responsibility for small groups was an important part of the new paradigm church development.The use of the gifts of the Spirit were important in the fellowship, especially in small organised groups.  Miller reflects that these churches were “pastored by people who were hungry for the Holy Spirit”.[1] 

Miller identifies through his interviews that the changing point “conversion” was not only a changing of beliefs but significantly a decision “where one through the use of the will turned from being self centred to being God centred.” [2]  He establishes that the post-conversion lifestyle of the converts was driven by the Bible “which becomes the normative lens through which the world is viewed.”[3]

Psychologically conversion then becomes the “centre of value” and the Bible and the power of the Holy Spirit becomes direction for life and eternity.  In short, Miller understands these new paradigm churches as structures for “radical conversion and self transformation”.[4]Miller identifies a deep commitment to “historical realism” by the new paradigm churches as opposed to “symbolic realism” of the liberal theologians.[5]  He sees their expressions of faith driven by their Biblical literalism which provides the room to believe in miracles, visions and ultimately many differing expression of the Holy Spirit.[6] 

Their commitment to understanding selfishness and all its expressions not as sociological challenges but as sin creates the environment where all social problems are but the effect of a sinful cause.  Therefore as Miller concludes, those who make the journey from serving sinful self to serving God have been “born again”. [7]   He goes on to suggest that when this born again experience happens, the new believer goes on to seek to bring order into their world which according to their teaching, suggests is struggling to find meaning for its existence. 

Miller identifies that the newly born believer psychologically needs to carry out a ministry that offers solutions to the poor and needy.  He suggests that these new churches need the “poor more than the poor need them”.[8]   Ultimately, truth realised in the heart and life of the new believer, needs opportunity to express the intensity of that inward change in right and good actions.Miller suggests, as does Peter Drucker that “every organisation of today has to build into its very structure the management of change”. 

Miller identifies this innate ability of the new paradigm churches in that they are able to change when ever necessary, whereas the traditional church finds that experience too difficult and the reality of decline is much easier to countenance. For Miller the clash of the might of the institution of the church having to cope with the upward movement of the new paradigm churches, created massive challenges.

In periods of spiritual awakening, sociological and religious change takes place and for Miller what is happening in North America today reflects such an awakening. “Populist movements were reclaiming religion from the educated elites and giving it back to the common people”.[9] 

Miller compares the similarities of the Great awakening from the history of the church with the growth of the new paradigm churches by indicating the extent of the parallel between them.  New Paradigm pastors saw the confusion between “true spirituality and religion, the need to restore the Priesthood of all believers”,[10] and the challenge of communicating the gospel to the common people, expressing the possibility of a personal relationship with God. 

[1] Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 48-49.
[2] Miller, RAP, 75.
[3] Miller, RAP, 75.
[4] Miller, RAP, 79.
[5] Miller, RAP, 109.
[6] Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 108.
[7] Miller, RAP, 109.
[8] Miller, RAP, 110.
[9] Miller, RAP, 177.
[10] Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 180.
[11] Miller, RAP, 186.
[12] Miller, RAP, 190.
[13] Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, 177.

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©2008 Church Education Trust