New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


June 21, 2001 Vol 01 : 018

 

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Greetings / Intro

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Low-budget Church Planting

[New Testament Church Proliferation] FW: Re: A Definition Needed

[New Testament Church Proliferation] shots heard around the world.... again and again

 

Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 21:08:44 -0400 From: Bruce P Gordon

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Greetings / Intro

To the brothers & sisters on the NTchurch planter List: I met Link after writing to him regarding a very fine posting he'd sent to another list we were both on. He's a very thoughtful and insightful brother and I am glad that he took the initiative to get this started. Intro...

I am 46, married to Eileen and father to Stephen & Jonathan, who are 7 & 6 years old, respectively. Gotta day job in an insurance office and live in the comfy suburbs of central Connecticut.

Came to faith in a house meeting... the members prayed me in to the Kingdom. Always loved home groups. Started reading about Cell Churches a couple of years ago, then discovered the House Church movement.

Last July started meeting at home with my family; expected others to join us by now, but that hasn't happened yet. As we have heard, there are many styles of house church; I stress three distinctives:

1) All ages worship & minister together, Acts 2:17

2) All people are priests unto God and can minister as the Holy Spirit enables, 1 Cor. 14:26

3) We have a general plan for the meeting, but the Holy Spirit can interrupt at any time. 1 Cor. 14:30, 31

I am blessed to meet you all online and look forward to what God will do as this virtual community takes shape.

Bruce Gordon

South Windsor, CT


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Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 19:53:55 +0700 From: "Link"

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Low-budget Church Planting

Many of us would like to see churches planted all over the world, but in some cases, there is a lack of funds. I often hear of churches in developing countries that are trying to raise funds to build church buildings. Mission agencies see funds to hold Gospel crusades.

But if we look in the Bible, we can see that the apostles preached and planted churches using some very inexpensive strategies.

1. House Churches-

So much money is raised for building church buildings. But, from the Bible, we can see that we are not commanded to build church buildings. The word for 'church' in Greek, refers to the congregation of _people_ not buildings. When Jesus said He would build His church, He was talking about us, not buildings.

The early Christians met in homes for hundreds of years. No wonder the church was able to grow so quickly. They did not feel compelled to spend their time and effort building structures to house their meetings.

Meeting in homes is a low-budget way for church plants to grow. Believers do not have to spend huge sums of money on church buildings. Instead, then can meet, like the early church, in the homes of fellow believers. Private homes are already paid for by the owner of the home. There is basically no expense to the church as a whole for the use of the private home. If a congregation outgrows a believers house, it can peacefully split into two congregations, or find a bigger home to meet in. The congregation doesn't have to worry about buying expensive things like church buildings, pews, sound systems, stages, etc. Baptisms can be performed in rivers, streams, swimming pools, or bathtubs.

A church doesn't need a church building to be a 'real church.' The early saints met in homes, and they were 'real churches' without a church building. Some thing that it is strange to have church in homes. The apostles did it. Why should imitating the apostles feel strange?

The tradition of building church buildings is deeply ingrained in many countries. A church planter should seriously consider the advantages of letting go of this tradition. New believers follow the traditions left by the church planter that established their church. If a church planters teaches new congregations to build halls, every time a congregation splits into two, a group of believers will feel the financial burden of building a new church. One can see how this would slow down a rapid church-multiplication movement. Believers who meet in homes can spend their time ministering to people rather than raising funds to build buildings.

2. Hospitality

Hospitality is an overlooked teaching in many Christian circles. The Old Testament saints saw hospitality as an sacred duty. The New Testament also teaches believers to offer hospitality.

Christians should take in fellow Christians who are traveling in our area. We should take them into our homes, let them stay the night, feed them, and send them on their way. Those who evangelize have a special right to receive food and drink among the church in the area where they are ministering. We should support those in our area preaching the Gospel as they travel, and help them go on further to other areas so they can preach the Gospel there was well.

On some mission fields, teaching new believers to practice hospitality, as a part of the discipleship process, can help create conditions where the Gospel can spread more rapidly. Indigenous evangelists can spread the Gospel, staying in believers homes and eating the food provided for them as they travel.

When Jesus sent out the 12 and the 70 on preaching missions, he sent them out without scrip- a bag for carrying money and other things. The disciples didn't finance their own mission. Instead, they were to receive hospitality as they traveled, eating what was set before them. We see specifically in scripture that the 12 did not lack anything on their journey. God's method of provision may have took a lot of faith, but it was effective, and did not require a lot of fundraising.

Some indigenous evangelists can follow the apostles' example of staying in the home of a 'man of peace,' even if that man is not yet a believer.

3. Elders

Some who plant churches feel that it is important to immediately hire a full-time pastor for any church. But Paul and Barnabas preached, left churches behind, and returned after a long time to appoint elders.

In many cases, it is wiser to leave church plants without official eldership for a period time. Let the older men mature spiritually. When some of them meet the Biblical qualifications, under the guidance of the Spirit which works in the congregation, the church planter can appoint those who are willing and qualified as bishops in the church.

In I Timothy 5:17-18, we see that elders are worthy to be paid for their work. But we also see in Acts 20:33-35, we see that Paul left his example of hard work to support himself and others as an example for the elders. Elders are also to work because they are willing, and not because they are money motivated.

Rather than hiring one full-time pastor to handle all church duties, churches can be planted without appointed elders at first. Ministers can come to the area and help temporarily to keep the church on track while elders are maturing, Barnabas did in Antioch or Apollos did in Corinth. The congregation can also learn to get along together and determine the will of God for themselves.

When some elders have matured spiritually, they can oversee the church. Elders can continue their secular employment, and also receive offerings from the congregations they serve. Some elders, like Paul, may wish to support themselves by working. The church may see the labor of other elders and offer to support them full-time. This can be done gradually. A young church in a church planting movement may be able to plant several other churches before it even has appointed elders.

If a new church is planted in an unreached area, we do not have to rush to hire a full-time pastor. If God put men in the first missionary journey churches that had the potential to be elders of the church, then he is able to do the same today.

4. Educating Leaders and the Saints

In some circles, in order to become a Christian leader, one must get a degree in theology. The practice has become to send young men to a religious training school, and hire them as pastors in the church.

But the practice of Paul and Barnabas was to take the knowledge of God to the churches, and to appoint leaders that God had prepared from within those churches. The church, rather than the seminary, was the training ground for elders.

Mission agencies and other ministries can help churches educate themselves by providing Christian education materials that can be legally photocopied, or that are designed to be used by a group without making many photocopies.

Studying systematically through the Bible is an excellent method of educating believers. Small group discussion can be an effective part of a discipleship process. Believers can study the _facts_ of the Bible, and also focus on making application of the teachings in their own lives. Bible studies can be made simply and cheaply by compiling Bible studies to be read along with thought-provoking discussion questions. Illiterate people can especially benefit from reading and discussing the Bible in a group setting.

New church plants may also benefit from books to explain Biblical culture (like who the Pharisees were,) how to evangelize certain groups of people, the geography of Biblical lands, church history, and various practical issues like how to handle church finances.

If every believer in a church receives a good Christian education, then educating the leaders in a seminary is not a big issue. All believers in the church would be educated. Those who meet the scriptural requirements can be appointed as bishops in the church.

Notice the apostolic method for passing on doctrine from one generation to the next.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

One generation of church should educate the next. The elders of the church should train up younger believers, some of whom may become elders someday themselves.

In New England several hundred years ago, schools were started so that young people could be able to read the word of God. Churches in areas with high illiteracy rate can see to it that the children are educated and learn to read, so that they can study the Bible. A church planter can set help set this vision in the hearts of a new church.

Traveling ministers can follow the example of Paul, who took gifted younger men along with him, and taught them what he knew.

Seminary education is expensive. In some countries, some people actually borrow money in order to get a seminary education, to later get a job as an overseer in the church. If churches do pay to send their ministers to seminary, this is also a financial burden. In the New Testament, ministers of the Gospel brought knowledge and education to the people, in some cases for free.

5. Biblical Financial Priorities

If we followed these simple, early-church techniques of church planting, what would we do with all the excess funds we received from our offerings? If we didn't spend a lot of money on church buildings and seminary educations, what could we possibly do with all the money churches would have?

In Acts, we see that early believers took up collections, and gave money to those among them who were in need. There was special attention paid to providing for widows, an area of great financial need at that time.

We also see that supporting those who preached the Gospel was a financial priority in the early church. The early Gentile churches sent money back to Jerusalem for the poor saints there. We could certainly spend more money take care of the poor among us and in other churches, and to provide for those who our out there and ministering the Gospel to others.

Conclusion:

After nearly 2000 years of slowly-evolving tradition, a lot of traditions have been added to the way we do church. Some of these traditions actually slow down church planting. If we return to many of the simple methods of church planting used by the apostles, churches can be planted more easily, and without financially burdening new congregations.


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Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 16:35:58 -0700 From: Dan Snyder

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] FW: Re: A Definition Needed

Link, this was from another list, but it seemed to relate to some things we've been fellowshipping on NTchurch planter so I thought I'd send it over. Hope that's okay. Dan

- -----Original Message-----

<< Here is where I think a definition is necessary - What is a 'healthy' church? How do we define a healthy church/body? >>

Good question, Mike.

How about this... a church where all the saints are functioning according to their measure.

I think Eph. 4:11-16 gives a glimpse - where Paul describes God's way to build His church.

As the resurrected and ascended Head, He gives some gifted members to the Body (not to each local church... but for the whole Body). What do they do? They perfect the rest of us unto the work of the ministry so that the Body builds itself up in an atmosphere, and environment, of love.

In verse 16 there are the joints of the rich supply (the gifted members) and the operation of each one part (the rest of us) according to our measure. What a beautiful coordination!

If the gifts are doing their part... visiting the churches and perfecting the saints. And the saints are doing their part... receiving the perfecting and functioning according to their measure (not more, not less), then the churches should be very healthy.

There should be some traveling to new places, based on the apostles' perfecting. Some speaking for the Lord based on the prophets' perfecting (you can all prophesy). Some preaching of the gospel based on the evangelists' perfecting. And a lot of mutual shepherding and teaching the truth as a result of perfecting by the shepherds and teachers.

The traditional way of one man (a pastor) speaking every week in the church meetings (a sermon) may give some instruction or inspiration, but it really hinders the functioning of the members. It's possible to listen to messages for years and not grow an inch!

This is why I really believe the Lord is recovering the matter of meeting house to house among His people. The homes are the best place for meeting in mutuality and for caring for each other in mutuality.

For example, last Saturday night a new sister came to be with us. She's having some family problems and talked for quite a while. Eventually someone said we need to pray for her. We did, and we also sent an apple pie home for her husband who didn't want to come to the meeting. I believe she and her husband both got some shepherding.

As far as teaching the truth... suppose a new believer asks: "I read about baptism... what's that all about?" Then one by one the saints share....

A young one may share their experience "I got baptized last month and it made the Lord a lot more real to me!" An older saint may share something from the Bible about the significance of baptism (not a long message though). Then various ones share. What a wonderful teaching by everyone!!! (much better than a sermon... for everybody).

What a glory to the Lord to have His members functioning... and the Body building itself up in love.

Hallelujah!!!!!

Dan S.


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Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 02:22:12 -0400 From: David Anderson

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] shots heard around the world.... again and again

Dear Kingdom Seekers and content providers of ntchurch planter,

Your excellent posts are being archived. Digests 1-8 are already on the web.

Your email addresses were removed, of course.

Hope to be caught up soon and to have a speedy search engine for the archives going asap.

Who says that great email has to expire? :)

David Anderson


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #18

 




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