June 15, 2001 Vol 01 : 011
Re: House Church Introduction (was Quit My Job? - WAS: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Fishing?)
Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Household Finance in the KoG [J Ferris]
Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Biblical pattern
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 17:14:36 -0400 From: "Clarence Kirkpatrick"
Subject: Re: House Church Introduction (was Quit My Job? - WAS: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Fishing?)
That was very educational Link. My introduction is forthome churchoming.
- ----- Original Message ----- From: Link To: <ntchurch planter> Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2001 6:57 AM Subject: House Church Introduction (was Quit My Job? - WAS: [New Testament Church Planting] Fishing?)
Maybe half the list or more have some connection with the house church movement. Some of you might not be familiar with house churches. I thought I'd give you a general introduction to house church.
Meeting in houses these days is fairly common. There are plenty of churches that start in homes that grow into traditional churches with buildings. Some start churches in homes with the objective to eventually get a church building and be a 'regular church.'
But there is also a house church movement in many countries that thinks meeting in homes is normative. 'House Church Movement' isn't really descriptive, since a lot of the principles house church people hold to don't have much to do with houses. Author Frank V. has labeled the movement 'a Return to Biblical Primitivism.'
If we look in the Bible, and based on what we read, try to determine what the apostles and early believers considered was important for the church, and compare it to what a lot of church people think is important,
1. Pews. 2. Carpet. 3. Big sounds system. 4. Organ and/or piano 5. Pulpit 6. Sermon as the highlight of the meeting. 7. Hired Clergyman 8. Church building.
These are some of the things that many people associate with the word 'church.' Let's consider what the earliest Christians thought of these things. The early church met in homes and ate a meal together.
* Pews- Since the early church met in homes, it's unlikely that they had pews. Pews became common in churches under the influence of Rome, and became common among Protestants. Early Christians would probably not have thought of pews when they thought about the church.
* Carpet, pews, big sound systems, organs, pianos- These are things that came to be associated with 'church' over time. The early Christians clearly didn't think these things were essential for the church.
*Pulpit, sermon as the highlight of the meeting-
I Corinthians 14 describes the meetings the Corinthians were having. Everyone one of them had a psalm, doctrine, tongue, interpretation, revelation. Paul didn't tell them to listen to one person speak. Rather, he gave them instructions on how to take turns prophesying and speaking in tongues and interpreting in an orderly manner.
The sermon as the center of the meeting is something that really became a strong tradition during the Reformation. Where does the Bible teach that the main focus of church is to listen to one man give a long discourse?
If we read how Jesus taught, he did give long discourses to crowds, but He also asked and answered questions and held discussions over meals. Some give Acts 20:7 as an example of Paul preaching a sermon all night long, but the word for 'teach' there is the Greek word we get 'dialogue' from, and he may have had an interactive discussion with the people all night long.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells believers not to forsake assembling together but to exhort _one another._ Many overlook this, and think that church must follow the traditional pattern of songs, sermon, song. This type of liturgy only allows one person to function in his gifts. We see in I Cor. and Hebrews that church meetings involved mutual edification.
The author of Hebrews writes in chapter 5, 'for the time ye ought to be teachers.' He believed that when his readers reached a certain stage of maturity, they should be teachers. Paul also wrote that all believers may prophesy. His example of a good church meeting in I Cor. 14 that convicted the sinner was one where all prophesied.
Some have a very narrow view of who can minister the word. Some think only pastors and evangelists can do it. Some think that only 'five-fold ministers' can do this.
But others believe that 'five-fold ministers' are regular members of the congregation who develop their gifts.
The first century synagogue may have had something like a lecturn. Synagogue services allowed many people to speak. The meeting centered around the reading of the Law. In a Hebrew synagogue, the reading of portions of scripture could be divided up between 7 people. Another might translate into Aramaic. Someone would give a sermon, and he might even have someone interpret his sermon to the group. Different people could give the sermon. It wasn't always the same person every week. There was also some kind of venue for discussing the sermon and questioning the speaker. Because of this, Paul often discussed or disputed about the Gospel in the synagogue.
Synagogues had plural elders, with one man called the archisynagogue in an administrative role. Some traditional aspects of church liturgy probably evolved from the synagogue's. The Bible doesn't command churches to follow synagogue liturgy, however. And the NT shows us that the early church meetings had an aspect of interactive use of spiritual gifts that differed from the early synagogue.
*. Hired clergyman
Paul and Barnabas planted churches without elders at first. These churches were able to function for some period of time before the apostles returned, perhaps because they had meeting for mutual edification rather than meetings that required only one man to speak. appointed elders, plural, in the churches the founded. Paul listed some requirements for overseers. One is that he should be apt to teach.
The Bible doesn't teach that _only_ elders could teach. In fact, we see that in church meetings, believers ministered their gifts to one another.
Also, 'elder' means older man. It could be that the apostles appointed overseers from among the older men. We see in Acts 14 that the apostles appointed elders from within the congregations. Since overseers were not to be novices, it makes sense that they would grow up spiritually within the congregations, exercising their gifts, and eventually being given oversight responsibility.
* Church building.
In the first century, Jews built houses of worship. Pagans built temples. But the Christians just met in homes. They did this for a few hundred years. Why? Persecution was sporadic. They could have built some churches if it were important to them. Those Christians believed that _they_ were God's building. God does not live in buildings built with human hands.
Also, one of the things they did in their meetings was eat a meal together. A house is a good place to eat. It's a good place to meet with your family and fellowship and discuss important issues.
Here in Indonesia, most of the country doesn't even pretend to be Christian. Imagine trying to build a church in every village (a mission's strategy one network has) if you have to build a church building in every village. Church buildings expensive, and villagers are poor. Why bother building church buildings?
Here in Indonesia, you can buy a nice house in a subdivision for about US $12,000. Many office workers make between $50 and $100 a month. One church sent out a proposal trying to raise about 1 million dollars to build a huge sanctuary. Right now they are meeting in a rented facility in a mall.
One mission's director here says that when church planters go out, there is good ev. at first. But then, the congregation gets to a certain size and decides to build a building. At that point, the focus changes, and the evangelism goes way down.
Gifted church planters are gifted to plant the word of God and lay a foundation of Christ. Why should they be burdened with a cultural expectation to build buildings?
Christians can meet in homes. The homes are already paid for, or are being paid for by the owner. Some church planters recommend an occasional 'celebration gathering.'
home church's versus Cell groups
A home church is seen as a church within itself. Generally leadership is there on the home church level. Many decisions are made on the home church level.
The cell group is usually different. Usually, it's decisions are made by programs from the central church. The members of the cell group support the central church building. If the congregation outgrows the building, they raise funds for a new one. House churches don't have the burden of paying for a building and can spend money on the poor and ministry.
Some church planters suggest home church's have a celebration gathering with other home church's. This can be done in a rented hall or in an open field. There is something good about Christians meeting in large groups from time to time. Both cell churches and home church's get their big meeting idea from Acts. The saints in Acts met from house to house, and also in the temple.
Notice that the home church's were what continued on among the Gentiles. The meetings in Jerusalem weren't exactly cell church meetings either. They were meetings for the city level of church. We don't know if their focus was 'celebration' either. They were being taught by the apostles- maybe they were more like teaching seminars.
home church on he Miss'ns field
There is a fuzzy line between home church and cell church. The number of Evangelical sin Mongolia has grown from nearly non to over 10,000 in a decade. On of the methods for church planting there was to have house meetings with leaders raised up on the house meeting level. I think communion and baptism were done in the home meeting level. These people met from time to time in celebration gatherings. As time went on, celebration gatherings became more common. (A YWAM COR coach who helped with that is on this list if your interested.)
I don't know if that if home church or cell model. Communion was held in homes. Notice that the early believers broke bread in home meetings. (Paul wrote about not having leaven in the feast, and Jude wrote of spots on the love feasts. If we break bread in our homes, we are more likely to be able to avoid eating with an unrepentant brother in sin.)
home church's have seen success in India, Cuba, Honduras, Vietnam, China (of course) and many other countries. In Ind'nesia, they were starting to have moderate success among a difficult to reach UPG. home church's depend on people actually obeying Christ and using their gifts. Meeting in a home doesn't guarantee growth or community.
Community and the Lord's Supper
Many home church Christians emphasize fellowship. There is a lot of fellowship in their meetings. Meetings can last a long time. But since much of the meeting is just like going to someone's house for dinner and to fellowship, it's easier to sit through than a four hour meeting sitting in a pew.
I John says if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Wow. Notice the importance of fellowship.
Acts 4 puts fellowship right there in a list with the apostles doctrine, breaking bread, and fellowship.
Many home church Christians fellowship around the Lord's table. A careful study of the Bible and church history shows that early Christians actually ate a real meal together. The 'eucharist' was or was a part of the Love Feast. Later, the Eucharist got separated from the Love Feast, and the love feast, without its significance, sort of got phased out. Many home church Christians celebrate the Lord's Supper as a meal which includes bread and wine/juice. That is the example Jesus left the apostles, and it should be no surprised they ate Communion as a meal later on. The practice of having tiny round host and tiny plastic glass of wine evolved later.
home church Movements,
There is a lot of variety among home church's in the US. There are really fundamentalist types. There are Third Wave Charismatics, Sabbatarians. Some home church people are bitter about the 'Institutional Church.' (IC) Some home church people are rather exclusive about house churches. Others aren't.
The Southern Baptists now accept house churches into their denomination. Some SBC church planters are interested in that method of church planting. (I think we may have some SBC home church'ers on the list.)
home church in History
I saw a web page once about the Anabaptist's early house churches. Some Amish have church in their homes. I've heard that family leaders speak.
The Quakers were originally a home church movement. They were sort of charismatic and very anti-institutional. Some home church's now have very similar views to early Quakers. The Quakers may have been more exclusive than even the exclusive home church's, not only considering denominations to be Babylon, but considering themselves to be practically the only true Christians. Good place to go for lessons to learn from history about home church.
The early Methodists had home meetings where discipleship took place. Regular believers with gifts ministered. They also went to more traditional meetings.
Wolfgang Simson wrote an interesting section on historical house church movements.
home church a Wise Thing
In a lot of cases, home church is a wise type of COR to start. If you are working with an unbelieving people group, and trying to start a rapidly expanding people movement for the Gospel, you should give the people you are working a model they can follow. Home church is Biblical. It's low-budget. Church buildings started going up in the 300's. The early church got along fine without them for several hundred years. Since church buildings are non-essential, why not consider church planting in homes, and never have a goal to build a building. When they meeting gets to large, start another meeting in another home. If people are coming to Christ in droves, it sure would save a lot of needless hassle caused by thinking a 'steeplehouse' is necessary.
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Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 17:40:31 -0400 From: forwarded
Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Household Finance in the KoG [J Ferris]
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From:(jferris) Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Planting] Household Finance in the KoG
Here is a little more on Household Finance in The Kingdom of God:
CARE FOR WIDOWS
I Timothy 5:16:
"If any (woman) who is a believer has widows in (her) family, (she) should help them, and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need." Except for the widows, the passage would appear to be gender neutral, so we have added the parentheses.
Here we find that The Lord wants to meet needs at the point of greatest intimacy, of closest relationship. If needs can be met in spiritual households, then they do not need to be met in the relative anonymity of the church at large.
LIFE LESSONS, A CLOSER LOOK
I Timothy 5:8:
"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
We believe that the focus of this instruction is the closest relationships of the old creation. Caring for the needs of our own is basic to life. Now Jesus has brought us a "more abundant life", and caring for our own is still basic, "... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part is honored with it." 5.
As a doctrine, this is impossible to live by, but as a matter of life, it is a fact of life. This is to say, when it's life, it is real, when it is letter, it is superficial, artificial, and useless.
In a growing family, the children are included, and covered by the contribution of the parents. Within the family, the needs of the children are met by the love of the parents. Where their interaction with the outside world is concerned, the parents pay the dues, but the children get to participate. Whether it's the rental or ownership of the house in which they live, inclusion in the community of which they are a part or, in today's context, visits to the doctor, the clubs to which they belong, the schools
5. I Corinthians 12:25,26 -5-
which they attend, or any other rights of citizenship which they enjoy, it is the parents, in the first instance who pay the price. As Paul puts it, "So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." 1.
To make this perfectly clear, we should say that, parents do not preach and take tithes of their children from the moment of birth. Rather, life teaches us that financial responsibility comes on the children progressively as they learn and are able to make their own contribution to the economy of the household. This is a vital part of their preparation for being reproductive. At birth, they are not responsible, next, they must become self-responsible, and finally, if everything is working right,and there has been healthy parenting, they become other-responsible.
John writes to little children who have experienced a father's love, which is to say, they have been on the receiving end. He also writes to young men who are able to stand on their own against the devil. Finally he writes to fathers who know what it is to be responsible for others. 2. Whether in the old creation or the new, this is a progression which goes on or should go on from house to house.
As the church has been traditionally structured, this is not possible. There is no room for growth, no room for the "doing of the word". On the contrary, these structures have resulted in the institutional retardation of the saints.
II Corinthians 8:19-21:
"What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord, but in the eyes of men."
While the mark of maturity among the saints is that they not keep accounts , that they "... keep no record of wrongs."3. , they don't keep track of debts, the debts of others, they are still accountable for their own doing so as not to be a stumbling block to those whose faith is week.
Even from house to house there needs to be accountability. There is not much of a problem when a household of faith is young and the children are not yet making any significant contribution. When there is growth in numbers and maturity, so that those who meet in a given house begin to make a contribution to the economy of the household, care needs to be exercised to avoid even the appearance of evil.
There can be a great temptation or pressure to "organize" at this point. The result can be that we come out of institutional Christianity which meets somewhere else only to wind up in institutional Christianity in our own living room. In such a case our latter condition is worse than at the first.
Even where no contribution from the saints is spoken about or sought, it is possible
1. II Corinthians 4:12, 2. I John 2:12-14, 3. I Corinthians 13:5,11 -6-
to grieve the spirit or provoke the children to wrath, if we are not sensitive to their maturity of faith. Given prevalent teaching in the institutional church, it is quite possible for someone who is weak in the faith, 1. to come out of institutionalism, wind up in your living room, and want to "... give his tithe where he is being fed." If this is being done in weakness of faith, such a one may later come to a different understanding on the matter and feel like he has been taken advantage of by a household head. There needs to be sensitivity toward the children, whether they are your own in the Lord, or just under your spiritual guardianship 2. for a time.
In one such case we were led to accept their tithe, because that was their faith, but, sensing the possibility of future difficulty, we put it in a saving account, and gave it back to them at a later, and more mature date. If they had chosen to leave it with us at that time we would have had a clear conscience in receiving it.
Short of appointing deacons and elders within the context of a spiritual household, there should be someone or even others who, together with the household head are aware of, and accountable for the flow of material resources.
Where external accountability is concerned, see the appendix, GOD INC. For now may it suffice to say: "This is a bit more problematic. The kingdom of God is in us, or in our midst, or among us.3. The borders of the kingdom are between soul and spirit in the lives of the believers.4. The Kingdom of God is in the Spirit.5. The government of the Kingdom is on Jesus' shoulder.6.
When we, as believers, earn money in our secular work, in us that money enters the kingdom. At the border (between soul and spirit) taxes must be paid to Caesar, for God does not owe any man anything. Once the taxes are paid at the border, the "transactions" which go on in the church are none of Caesar's business. The truth in God is that the believers are one, as Jesus and the Father are one,7. Therefore, the flow of assets in the body, are not transactions between separate individuals, but only the provision of the body which is building itself up in love.
This is why the church must not be tax exempt. In Malachi, the people of God are spoken of as being His jewels, His treasure,8. Tax exemption invites the ambassador of Babylon into the treasure house of The Lord.9. Indeed, tax exemption gives the tax authorities of this world a right to enter into the treasure house of the Lord. When Hezekiah, an otherwise righteous king, did this, the consequence was that the people of God were carried off into captivity.10.
Tax deductibility requires that contributions to the church be made known to the authorities, in order to be credited as deductible. Jesus said "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."11.
While it is likely that the people of God would be in trouble if intra-body transactions
1.Romans 14:1-12, I Corinthians 8, 2. I Corinthians 4:15, 3. LUK 17:21, 4. HEB 4:12, 5. Romans 14:17, 6. ISA 9:6, 7. John 17:21,22, Ephesians 4:4-6, 8. MAL 3:16-18, 9. 2KI 20:12-18, 10. II Kings 20:13-18, 11. Matthew 6:1-4,
were not reported for tax purposes, but that is another matter, and not unanticipated by the Scriptures. Certainly the doing of alms before men for credit, a requirement of tax exemption, is not the will of God according to the clear teaching of Scripture.
As the people of God, we must face up to the clear teaching of Scripture. Matthew tells us that we, "... will be hated by all nations..."1. Tax deductibility, in light of our high calling, unshakable position, and destiny at the hands of the nations is ridiculous on its face.
MECHANISM FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
The Lord knows about accountability. Paul also knew about accountability.2. But, there is no indication that a corporation is required for that purpose. In fact, in the hostile environment, which Scripture suggests is normal to the church, a corporation is an obvious liability. 3.
1. Matthew 24:9, 2. II Corinthians 8:16-21, 3. See Appendix under GOD INC.
A WORD ABOUT THE COST
In warning about the cost of discipleship, Jesus spoke of family conflict. He made it very clear that, within any given family, it was possible, even probable that everyone would not necessarily come to faith, at least not at the same time. The result would be alienation between those who believe and those who do not.
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in- law."5.
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.6.
1 Hebrews 3:6, 2 Acts 2:46, 3 Acts 4:34,35, 4 I Corinthians 16:15, 5. LUK 12:51-53, 6 LUK 14:25-27* * See also MAT 10:34-39 -6-
The passage in Matthew which parallels the two above, does not speak of hating one's relatives, but rather loving them less than Jesus. In either case, in the end, the conflict can go as far as betrayal and even murder:
You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me.3
NEW CREATION FAMILY
Even while Jesus was still in the flesh, He indicated by promise and example that there would be compensation for the loss of flesh and blood relatives.
Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."2
Here, as though to disown His own family, he makes it plain that He has a new family, and the new family was made up of those who hear and do God's will. In another context this perspective on things was reinforced by the rebuke of a complimentary blessing of His mother, pointing out that blessing belongs to those who hear and do God's will: CAUSE OF BLESSING
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."3
Jesus goes on to make clear that He is not the only one who is to receive a new family, that this is the promise for all who are willing to let go of the old creation, including their relatives:
Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."4
Elsewhere we have spoken of these verses in connection with foundational truth about structure and authority in the Kingdom of God. Here we would only like to pause long enough to see the underlying conflict, not only in the persecutions
1. LUK 21:16,17, 2 MAR 3:31-35**** See also MAT 12:47-50, and LUK 8:19-21, 3 LUK 11:27,28, 4 MAR 10:28-31** See also MAT 19:29, and LUK 18:28-30 -7-
which accompany the promise, but in the pain associated with unbelieving loved ones.
UNBELIEVING LOVED ONES
For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.4
It is generally acknowledged that Jesus was 30 years of age when He began His public ministry. Certainly, even before He went public, His life was a testimony and witness to His own family. His mother had a good idea of who He was, even if only a partial understanding. His Mother's cousin Elizabeth, had the same understanding as His mother. Elizabeth's son, John the baptist, understood who Jesus was. Yet, in all the years of their exposure to the truth and His sinless witness, His own brothers still did not believe.
Clearly, "faith... is the gift of God, lest any man should boast." If there is no boasting in the presence of faith, than neither is their any condemnation for the faithful, whose loved ones have not yet come to faith. If thirty years of having Jesus in the house was not yet enough to bring his family to faith, then the words of Paul are especially meaningful:
"How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"2
Paul goes on to say: "Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches."3
His summary of the matter comes in the wake of his explanation concerning a believer's responsibility not to leave an unbelieving spouse.
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.4
While the unbelieving relatives in our lives are free, from a relational point of view, we as believers are not free. As for our part, we are called to live up to our relational responsibilities.
Now the overseer... must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)5
1. JOH 7:5,6, 2 1CO 7:16, 3 1CO 7:17, 4 1CO 7:12-15, 5 1TI 3:2-5 -8-
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.5
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.6
An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.7
THE FIRST CHRISTIAN WIDOW
Even if your family has not come to faith, even if they want to walk away from the relationship, and are free to do so, a believer is not free. While it is not certain that they will ever come to faith, the door to relationship must be left open, because that is the way God is. Where there are children, just like our heavenly Father, a believing parent has an ongoing responsibility to discipline his children, if possible to bring them to faith. Certainly, a believer neither grasps nor rejects his unbelieving loved ones.
FIRST FRUITS OF THE PROMISE
New creation versus old creation relationships were not just a matter of theory, but of real substance:
"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.1.
Mary, a believer, received a new creation son. John, a believer, received a new creation mother. The relationship was substantial, more substantial than that which remained between Jesus' brothers and His mother. Jesus brothers, apparently not present at the cross, and not yet believers, received nothing.
Viewed from one perspective, the life of a believer is like a Divine appointment. In the Gospel, Jesus has sent an invitation to "whomsoever will". The life of a believer is a point of entry for those who respond to Jesus' invitation. "Both the Spirit and the bride say, Come," but we as believers are not the ones who choose. Even Jesus "only had the ones that the Father had given Him."2.
Without much understanding of these things, as new believers, we opened our home to whomsoever would. The extent of our understanding was that the early church met from house to house, and we wanted to experience that part of our inheritance in the Lord.
1. ITI 5:4, 6, ITI 5:8, 7 TIT 1:6, 1. JOH 19:25-27, 2. JOH 17:6-12 -9-
Our door has been open for the better part of 23 years. We did not choose who came. The meetings were never closed in the sense of invitation or exclusion. The experience was priceless, though costly. The values that we embraced for ourselves and hoped to instill in our children, were not necessarily the values of those whom The Lord brought into our lives.
It was not until years later, that we discovered the confusion that our natural children experienced as a result of these mixed signals. On the one hand, we had one standard for them, and, on the other, a different standard for those who, to them, seemed to be our choice of friends.
In our subsequent efforts at repairing the damage to the children, we withdrew for a while from encouraging new Kingdom relationships. This made no substantial difference in the establishment of their own faith, and may even have been counterproductive due to the reduced power of our witness.
It is now clear, that a better course would have been to clarify the nature and source of Kingdom relationships, so as to avoid the mixed value signals that our own children were receiving. The problem at the time was that we were not aware of the confusion until after our doors were closed as a result of moving overseas for a year in connection with business. It was only after four years had passed, during which time we learned of the children's confusion, that we reopened our home, our lives, and our family to the household dimension of the Kingdom once again.
We should say, however, that the greater damage to their faith was done by broken relationships. Over the course of ten years, many deep relationships were formed and broken. "...and with them persecution..."** See Malachi 2:10-16. This breaking of faith with one another is the most painful aspect of life in the Kingdom. It is also the most difficult to understand for young children.
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Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 01:18:31 EDT From:
Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Biblical pattern
"If it works and it's moral, it's OK."
Maybe examining what it means for something to 'work' is critical, then.
Not all methods are equal; some are simply counter-productive...in virtually any age/place. Why, for instance, did Jesus tell the disciples not to go door-to-door? While this may not have been a prescription for the ages, there is a hint that Jesus was indicating something of human nature and responsiveness, granted maybe limited to 1st Century Palestine--or maybe even just that mission, but is there something more there? (don't tell this to the JWs).... :) Simson deals with this point a bit in his helpful treatise.
Saving some by all means--according to Paul--must be counterbalanced, I believe, partly due to our rather jaundiced contemporary parachurch ministry lens, with the fruit of Paul's ministry, i.e. not just getting hoards of Asia-Minor'ans 'saved' but planting a string of reproducing cells of believers from the cities and on through the entire region.
The reason far more people know who John Wesley is and far fewer know George Whitefield is most likely because although Whitefield was--by all accounts--the better evangelist/preacher/winner-by-all-means in their day, Wesley insisted on staying in the communities he was 'evangelizing' until all 'converts' were incorporated into a small fellowship, centered on the Word, with local-lay leadership.... Wesley started a church-multiplication movement; Whitefield did a lot of 'saving.' Whitefield cannot be faulted in the least for his saving-method/means; it just fell short of a solid Pauline missiology of moving people beyond the evangelistic saving-event and into the lifelong discipling-process--something which cannot be done without the presence of the church (whichever form appropriate).
"Follow-up" in my opinion is a dead giveaway of a ministry's priorities. One "follows up" whatever was antecedent and of a greater priority than that which 'follows.' And 'follow-up' is almost always the gotcha with evangelistic ministries, the area of most dubious results, for the same reason: it is not seen as the priority activity.
Saving some by any means--in contemporary or ancient patterns, must, in my view, be subject to the grand purposes of God in calling a people for himself that will reflect the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in all the earth, something which cannot be accomplished by putting our eggs in the 'evangelism' basket and trusting that ours or someone else's "follow-up" will achieve the longer-term results we all hope for. Studies have repeatedly shown, from the very best crusade/tent evangelists in the past half-century, that the ones who have registered "decisions for Christ" through these methods and who can be found in any kind of corporate Christian experience a year later, usually number about 1 in 20: 5% of all those who have made the 'most important decision in life' can be found 12 months later following through on this weightiest of matters. It may not be the method itself--again--which is at fault here, but a profound lack of continuity between the event and the possibility of genuine corporate Christian experience thereafter. Are we "winning people by any means" if we cannot find them in any state of growth or fellowship months hence? John Wesley was a 'crusade evangelist' of sorts, but the fruit of his ministry was garnered through intentional, movement-orchestrated processes which are very hard to find among the bulk of 'crusade/tent' style ministries even today.
Am certainly willing to be corrected on these generalizations. The one stat I cite has been borne out in multiple studies, especially at the peak of the crusade phenomenon: 1960's - 1980's. Taking another method, the showing of a very popular film, has yielded, in multiple reports I've been exposed to from the ministry involved, outcomes that were dismal at best. If I show a highly response-proven medium to 1000 people, and 400 decide to 'follow-Christ' through indications like raising hands in a first-ever group meeting, 100 are then enrolled in some kind of effective follow-up campaign, and then 30 are enfolded into new or existing fellowships of believers, how many have been 'evangelized,' 'saved,' 'reached,' discipled?' 1000? 400? 100? or 30? or does it really matter? or are these the results we should expect? (Notice, this is all highly individualistic language/figuring)
Another small note here: that if 'crusade' style evangelism is a good thing and needs to simply improve in some of these other arenas (we know of those who are working hard to turn the corner in terms of incorporation and continuity between the work of the evangelist and that of the apostles-prophets-pastors-teachers), then we at least need to change our terms (and our organizational names) AWAY from "crusade," period. If there is one inflammatory term which affects a good billion or so of the people we long to win, this is it. It's amazing to me how long this term has persisted against all the overwhelming evidence we have against its use. e.g. I graduated from a Christian high school overseas (in the mid-70's); our mascot was "Crusaders" complete with the masked, Medieval horseman.... What were we thinking? ...taking the world for Jesus the old-fashioned way? ...almost anything is better than a cccccrrrr.... :)
God is doing great things in these days. What a joy/kick/blast.....to be included in this ride.
Steve M Spaulding
End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #11