New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


June 25, 2001 Vol 01 : 020
 
[New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places (from Jay)

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places

 

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 08:48:31 +0200 From: "Deborah"

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

I keep reading some people on this list claim that house churches are _the_ way the early church met together. In past posts I have provided both scriptural and historical evidence that there were times when NT believers met in buildings:

1) The earliest believers met in synagogues. We know this because James (by most accounts his was one of the earliest letters composed) wrote: "For if there come unto your assembly [Gk. sunagoge] a man ..." (James 2:2). That is a "synagogue". This Greek word (with various inflections) appears 56 times in the NT. In the other 55 places it refers unequivocally to a Jewish congregational assembly-- usually with a building. I think it is clear enough that the same is true for James 2:2. I have been in or on the ruins of several synagogues in Israel which date directly before, during the time of Jesus, and right after. The Jews in Judea and the Galilee (the first Christians, of course, being from these two regions) either constructed _buildings_ specifically for the purpose of prayer and study or renovated older ones to the same end.

2) There is growing evidence that the traditional Upper Room/David's Tomb edifice in modern Jerusalem was built and rebuilt over an ancient synagogue in which was discovered Christian "graffito" from the 1st century in the downstairs portion of the building near the bedrock. Also, the niche for storing the Torah (Law) scroll-- always oriented toward the Temple in synagogues of this period-- was instead in a direct line toward the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, the best documentation indicates, our Lord was buried and rose again. This, and other evidence, has led some to infer that the synagogue was the meeting place of the Jerusalem church shortly after the destruction of the Temple. And possibly before. (see BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, 16, May-June 1990: 16-35).

3) Jewish people in Rome, during the time when Paul wrote his epistle to the church there, most often met for prayer and study in modified private homes and/or tenement rooms which could accommodate no more than 20-40 persons per meeting. There exists no evidence of Jewish basilica structures during the infant stages of the Roman church, though more modest _buildings_ existed for worship (Rutgers, Leonard V. "The Jews in Late Ancient Rome: An Archaeological and Historical Survey on the Interaction of Jews and Non-Jews in the Roman Diaspora," Dissertation, Duke University, 1993; Meyers, Eric M. and L. Michael White. "Jews and Christians in the Roman World," ARCHAEOLOGY 42 March-April 1989. 26-33). The important thing to remember here is that the historical evidence suggests a church-- at the VERY least during Paul's time and before-- still operating as a subdivision of the Roman Jewish synagogues' loose but affiliated hierarchy, with Christian Jews and gentiles meeting regularly for prayer and instruction with their larger Jewish congregations [sometimes within specially made buildings], then privately in homes for more specifically Christian teaching, partaking of the communion meal/agape feast, and the exercising of spiritual gifts. Etc. Not only that, but the Roman Christians maintained close ties with local synagogues, even up until the third century A.D.-- burying Christian dead in shared Jewish/Christian catacombs, sharing hymnals and prayer books, and displaying the reciprocal usage of technical language and idioms common to both communities (Rutgers, Leonard V. "Archaeological Evidence for the Interaction of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 1992, 96:101-18.; Charlesworth, James H. "Exploring Opportunities for Rethinking Relations among Jews and Christians," JEWS AND CHRISTIANS: EXPLORING THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. New York: Crossroads, 1990. 35-59).

And just Friday evening I came across this information:

4) Epiphanius (392 A.D.), drawing from earlier sources, recorded that when Emperor Hadrian first set eyes on the then ruined and desolate Jerusalem (130 A.D., just 60 years after its destruction), he saw that "... there [was] nothing where the city had stood but a few dwellings and one small _church_ ..." (Epiphanius, ON WEIGHTS AND MEASURES, Dinddorf ed. vol. 4, pp. 17, 18). The "church" was seen by Hadrian on the western side of what used to be the city, on present day Mt. Zion, where the "Upper Room" (see point #2) is located. In all likelihood, this "church" was the Christian "synagogue" that is still evident there. I have not yet found it but I think I remember the anonymous "Bordeau Pilgrim" (333 A.D.), who chronicled his (or her?) journey through the Holy Land, mentioning a "church" or "synagogue" building on this same location. If I find the reference, I will post it as well.

First, please hear what I am _not_ saying. I am _not_ saying that the early church did not meet in houses. Or that they did not even _usually_ meet in houses. They did.

Now please hear what I _am_ saying. I'm saying that there were _instances_ when members of the early church _did_ meet in buildings built for worship. Hence we _cannot_ be rigid with one paradigm and insist that house churches are the only Scriptural model. Or even the _best_ one in all circumstances. This promotes needless division. I know most people on this list would not say that houses are the _only_ or _best_way. But some would. I keep reading various people's posts which refer to house churches as _the_ biblical model etc. Let's review the evidence then make allowance for some in the body of Christ who feel the need, desire, leading to build a building in which to meet together. To the glory of God. Okay?

Michael

Jerusalem


------- <><><> -------

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 07:42:36 -0400 From: "Samuel Buick"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

Hi!

The debate about structure is just that a debate about structure. I think the distinction that needs to be made here is that:

1. The church is people and _not_ a building, be it a house or another physical structure. In and of themselves they are non entities in the debate. The buildings only serve a purpose.

2. I will have to get you the quote later, as I am at the office presently, but I have several historical sources that decry the early church for being peculiar in _not_ have temples like the other pagan temples. So there were early distinctions between even primitive Christianity and Judaism.

3. Let us not forget the synagogues were "imported" to Israel and wherever Jews lived from their days of captivity. Even when the Temple was rebuilt they still retained their synagogues which prior to their captivity the home had been the primary place of family and tribal/clan worship. Just because there were synagogues it does not mean they were to be _normative_.

4. The basic premise is that the building _should_ be condusive to the _spiritual structure_ of the church. The main spiritual activity is to be an environment that is intimate, a place where one can be intimate with God and intimate with other believers. A place where interaction can take place, dialogue, discussion, a meal shared (including the Lord's table as part of the meal), personal ministry, singing, spontaneous joyful activity. All this is very intimate, and _familial_ in its distinctive characteristics, and this is why _homes_ were and still _are_ the most condusive to the _spiritual structures_ that all house church advocates hold dear and cherish.

Large buildings just do not cut it when it comes to being: - - a place of intimacy with God and other believers - - a place of transparency and accountability - - a place where common family life expresses the deepest spiritual realities and life - - a place where _all_ people can participate and contribute to the _body life_ as it develops under the spiritual headship of Jesus through the Holy Spirit

Given the choice, between _large_ gatherings (40 people plus) or small intimate gatherings in homes (10-11 people), every time I will take the smaller gathering, and for _one_ reason alone. It is the _only_ structure, both physical, as in a home, and spiritual, as in the quantity of people and the activities involved, that _allows for_ and _encourages_ New Testament _body life_.

The bottom line is _body life_. If the physical structure limits the _body life_, then we have a problem. Yes, we have more people that can come to larger gatherings when we have larger structures, but the point is the _spiritual structure of New Testament body life_ is the issue, and not the building!

Sam Buick Waterloo, Ontario

From: "Deborah" Reply-To: ntchurch planter To: <ntchurch planter> Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 08:48:31 +0200

I keep reading some people on this list claim that house churches are _the_ way the early church met together. In past posts I have provided both scriptural and historical evidence that there were times when NT believers met in buildings:

1) The earliest believers met in synagogues. We know this because James (by most accounts his was one of the earliest letters composed) wrote: "For if there come unto your assembly [Gk. sunagoge] a man ..." (James 2:2). That is a "synagogue". This Greek word (with various inflections) appears 56 times in the NT. In the other 55 places it refers unequivocally to a Jewish congregational assembly-- usually with a building. I think it is clear enough that the same is true for James 2:2. I have been in or on the ruins of several synagogues in Israel which date directly before, during the time of Jesus, and right after. The Jews in Judea and the Galilee (the first Christians, of course, being from these two regions) either constructed _buildings_ specifically for the purpose of prayer and study or renovated older ones to the same end.

2) There is growing evidence that the traditional Upper Room/David's Tomb edifice in modern Jerusalem was built and rebuilt over an ancient synagogue in which was discovered Christian "graffito" from the 1st century in the downstairs portion of the building near the bedrock. Also, the niche for storing the Torah (Law) scroll-- always oriented toward the Temple in synagogues of this period-- was instead in a direct line toward the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, the best documentation indicates, our Lord was buried and rose again. This, and other evidence, has led some to infer that the synagogue was the meeting place of the Jerusalem church shortly after the destruction of the Temple. And possibly before. (see BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, 16, May-June 1990: 16-35).

3) Jewish people in Rome, during the time when Paul wrote his epistle to the church there, most often met for prayer and study in modified private homes and/or tenement rooms which could accommodate no more than 20-40 persons per meeting. There exists no evidence of Jewish basilica structures during the infant stages of the Roman church, though more modest _buildings_ existed for worship (Rutgers, Leonard V. "The Jews in Late Ancient Rome: An Archaeological and Historical Survey on the Interaction of Jews and Non-Jews in the Roman Diaspora," Dissertation, Duke University, 1993; Meyers, Eric M. and L. Michael White. "Jews and Christians in the Roman World," ARCHAEOLOGY 42 March-April 1989. 26-33). The important thing to remember here is that the historical evidence suggests a church-- at the VERY least during Paul's time and before-- still operating as a subdivision of the Roman Jewish synagogues' loose but affiliated hierarchy, with Christian Jews and gentiles meeting regularly for prayer and instruction with their larger Jewish congregations [sometimes within specially made buildings], then privately in homes for more specifically Christian teaching, partaking of the communion meal/agape feast, and the exercising of spiritual gifts. Etc. Not only that, but the Roman Christians maintained close ties with local synagogues, even up until the third century A.D.-- burying Christian dead in shared Jewish/Christian catacombs, sharing hymnals and prayer books, and displaying the reciprocal usage of technical language and idioms common to both communities (Rutgers, Leonard V. "Archaeological Evidence for the Interaction of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 1992, 96:101-18.; Charlesworth, James H. "Exploring Opportunities for Rethinking Relations among Jews and Christians," JEWS AND CHRISTIANS: EXPLORING THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. New York: Crossroads, 1990. 35-59).

And just Friday evening I came across this information:

4) Epiphanius (392 A.D.), drawing from earlier sources, recorded that when Emperor Hadrian first set eyes on the then ruined and desolate Jerusalem (130 A.D., just 60 years after its destruction), he saw that "... there [was] nothing where the city had stood but a few dwellings and one small _church_ ..." (Epiphanius, ON WEIGHTS AND MEASURES, Dinddorf ed. vol. 4, pp. 17, 18). The "church" was seen by Hadrian on the western side of what used to be the city, on present day Mt. Zion, where the "Upper Room" (see point #2) is located. In all likelihood, this "church" was the Christian "synagogue" that is still evident there. I have not yet found it but I think I remember the anonymous "Bordeau Pilgrim" (333 A.D.), who chronicled his (or her?) journey through the Holy Land, mentioning a "church" or "synagogue" building on this same location. If I find the reference, I will post it as well.

First, please hear what I am _not_ saying. I am _not_ saying that the early church did not meet in houses. Or that they did not even _usually_ meet in houses. They did.

Now please hear what I _am_ saying. I'm saying that there were _instances_ when members of the early church _did_ meet in buildings built for worship. Hence we _cannot_ be rigid with one paradigm and insist that house churches are the only Scriptural model. Or even the _best_ one in all circumstances. This promotes needless division. I know most people on this list would not say that houses are the _only_ or _best_way. But some would. I keep reading various people's posts which refer to house churches as _the_ biblical model etc. Let's review the evidence then make allowance for some in the body of Christ who feel the need, desire, leading to build a building in which to meet together. To the glory of God. Okay?

--MICHAEL

Jerusalem


------- <><><> -------

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 21:36:23 +0700 From: "Link"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] First-century meeting places

Hi Michael,

A very thought provoking post. The information about the Upper Room synagogue is very interesting. I'd like to ad a comment about James 2:2. If in Rome, Christians were gathering in the synagogues amongst unbelieving Jews, and then gathering in homes for Christian worship, perhaps the Diaspora that James was writing to did the same thing. He might not have had in mind these people discriminating against a poor man in a 'Christian synagogue' but rather in the regular synagogue, where Jews, believing and unbelieving, may have gathered to hear the reading of the Law.

I have a question about the cultural background. You mentioned the book that argues that Christians were still connected with the synagogue in the first century. I would like to know the legal situation for God-fearing Gentiles. If a Gentile had not been circumcised, but visited the synagogue to hear the Law read, would he be obligated to offer sacrifice to the emporer, etc? Would being circumcised (becoming a Jewish proselyte) protect a Gentile from Roman persecution to some extent, by allowing him to take advantage of the legal exemptions given to Jews?

Btw, if a source in 390 recounts a record of someone talking about a 'church' in 130, could that be anachronistic wording on the part of the writer from the 300's? When does the word 'ekklesia' begin to refer to a building?

I don't believe the theory that church buildings were invented by Constantine. Armenia was Christianized and started work on a cathedral before Constantine's endorsement of Christianity. There may have been church buildings built before that time as well.

Watchman Nee makes a case for the city level of church. In Acts, we see that the Jerusalem church is called a 'church' singular. So are various other city churches. The Jerusalem church may have been too big for everyone to gather at one time.

Big church meetings are good. Crowds of Christians gathered to hear the apostles teach on Solomon's porch. But the early church also met from house to head. The broke bread in these house meetings. We definitely need intimacy and fellowship. But it looks like the church organized feeding widows and other large group efforts on a city-church level as well. A bunch of independent, non-interacting house churches doesn't seem to fit the scriptural model, imo.


------- <><><> -------

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 18:41:11 -0400 From: forwarded

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places (from Jay)

(From: jferris via an alternate address)

Dear Link,

I would like to echo the perspective of Sam, where the early use of buildings is concerned, and go quite a bit further

As we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we are in transition, hopefully progressing from domination by the old man, the man we used to be, (gender neutral) to the new man, the Man we would become, and will become, God being faithful. First the natural, than the spiritual. The problem is that while in transition, if you take a snapshot anywhere along the way, the old man tends to appear in the picture more than the New Man. The New Man doesn't come by appearances. The problem is that as we look at the pictures, we often come away from the viewing with the impression that there is something valid about the old man.

The old man is dead or ought to be, the trouble is that we don't yet see it that way. The old buildings are also dead, and they were dead the minute that Jesus died, and confirmed dead the minute he rose from the dead. Then as now, it took a while to get the point.

Under the best of circumstances, the buildings create a limited liability mentality. In Christ, the liability is unlimited. The control problems that develop in living rooms are already quite substantial. With special buildings they become intolerable. A pulpit alone, or even a guitar, is enough to create control problems.

It is love of the brethren, that expresses and validates the gospel. We need love without buildings. What we have is buildings without love. And what else can we expect if Paul could say, "I have no one like Timothy who loves you with his whole heart..." The problem was epidemic well before the canon of Scripture was closed. Why can't we just admit it, and repent? It's love we need not buildings. More often than not the buildings are monuments to our failure to love. As such they are a fraud, not only on ourselves, but the unbelieving community we claim to be trying to reach. If we really loved each the other, the buildings would disappear, because we would no longer be content to be together by appointment, we would be in life together in Spirit and in truth.

The building group, like the circumcision group, seems to want to cling to the building as normative for the same reason as the circumcision group in wanting to make circumcision normative, alienation. Gal 4:17 In almost thirty years of loving and nurturing without benefit of a building, I have to say that the warfare that we experienced at the hands of the building group has been, and continues to be merciless. Or as Paul might have said, "Brothers, if I am still preaching buildings, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished."

Until we learn how to love one another where we live, we don't deserve to have buildings, and we only bring attention to our lack of love.

Having said that, I am tempted to say, "For in Christ Jesus neither building nor unbuilding has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Again, the problem then as now is that the building group tends to make war on the unbuilding group. Sad to say, that the unbuilding group tends to deserve what it gets as the same agenda tends to predominate in the "house church" movement as well. God Help us!

Finally, where your observation about Nee's ecclessiology is concerned, I need to say the following about what I would call SHAMELESS DIVISIONS:

I have a continuing problem with our failure to obey the cardinal truth of the Scripture, "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one God." With all of the certainty of my salvation, I believe that Ephesians 4:4-6 is an elaboration of this truth, and that God has provided the Church with leadership, "... apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers..." to work it out in this present age.

If the present organization, or lack thereof, even division of the Body of Christ is acceptable to God and man, then there is really no compelling reason for the leadership of the various divisions to come together. Certainly, the present priorities of leadership make it very difficult for them to do so.

If, on the other hand, the present division of the church is unacceptable to God and man, and especially God, and unity among the leaders is foundational to the healing of the broken Body of Christ, then unity among the leaders must be their highest priority.

A broken and divided Body does not witness the truth about God. And it is past time that we repent of our attempts to present the world with a lie, in the Name of the Lord.

It is apparent that there is real concern among local leaders, about the further division of the Body of Christ, and especially as their own congregations are effected.

At the very least, we would like to see an end to the fractious practice of coming into an area and setting up a new "church", "work", call it what you will, and doing so without contacting existing leadership in the area. As for me, I am convinced that anyone who thinks that his trans-local associations and credentials are license to establish a new division in a local body, "thinks more highly of himself than he ought."

For too long the approach to ministry has been to seek a position out of which to serve. At some point or other, institutional training has supplied the mark of authenticity where the attainment of position is concerned. Not only is this not Bible, it is contrary to the Bible, and Gentile in attitude, approach and style,*. New Testament ministry is service out of which comes position, not position, out of which comes service.

The irreducible mark of authenticity, therefore, is not institutional credentials, it is maturity and service. While institutional credentials do not disqualify, neither do they establish. In too many instances they have no bearing on spiritual life or death. This must be understood if meetings of Christian leaders are to be properly inclusive and exclusive.

I would like to take this concern a few steps further, both in its logic and its implication. I have a real concern for corporate cover for pastoral ministry at the household level. For many years, I have tried to articulate the importance of unity among leaders as foundational if this cover is going to be provided with out the further and terminal division of the Body of Christ.

Once this takes place, It should be no problem to make perfectly clear the basis on which Godly eldership affirms ministry at the household level. Not to see this, is to be a party to the division of the Body of Christ from street to street as house groups which are extensions of the present, and even further divisions, are unable to get along at the neighborhood level. "Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'; and "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Leaders are concerned that those with ulterior motives will use this household dimension as an opportunity to start new "churches". They are also concerned about the appearance of new, and independent ministries in their area, but not enough to repent of walking independently themselves. In any given place, otherwise godly men preside over the broken Body of Christ, calling the parts the whole, and failing to preach the whole council of God. They are upset by new division, but indifferent to the old.

All of this is to say, that unless leaders see the problem and repent of perpetuating it, get the beam out of our own eye, so to speak, we will continue to be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, and will certainly be in no position to deal with those who would further divide the Body of Christ.

For lack of vision, our major concerns seem to be earthly, employment, position, income and reputation. Presupposing professional clergy, leaders get paid to meet together, may or may not show up for such meetings of local leaders as presently exist, and ignore the financial and time constraints of others who must work for the support of their families and to have to share with those in need. The net result is that professionalism is self-perpetuating, and otherwise mature and gifted ministries are precluded from meaningful participation in the leadership of the Church. In many cases, very junior ministry, carrying little if any real weight, is supported at the expense of the church, while very senior ministry, carrying great weight, fails to be given even single honor, where the Church is concerned.

From top to bottom, the Church appears to be blind sided where Biblically appropriate objects of submission and giving are concerned. The leadership, as it is presently constituted, has little if any inclination to address these issues, among themselves, let alone from the pulpits which they so jealously guard. Like sheep without shepherds, the people are left in relational and structural darkness and the leadership appears to love it this way.

If the leaders do not know the truth or teach the truth, or care or worse, knowing the truth, do everything possible to keep the people from discovering it, then the Church is in a very bad state. Some years ago now, a brother from Kenya went so far as to say that "The Word of God is so clear, you have to have help to misunderstand it."

Jay


------- <><><> -------

Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 13:52:30 +0200 From: "Deborah"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places

Sam Buick wrote:

I think the distinction that needs to be made here is that:

1. The church is people and _not_ a building, be it a house or another physical structure. In and of themselves they are non entities in the debate. The buildings only serve a purpose.

No argument there, Sam.

2. I will have to get you the quote later, as I am at the office presently, but I have several historical sources that decry the early church for being peculiar in _not_ have temples like the other pagan temples. So there were early distinctions between even primitive Christianity and Judaism.

I'm sorry Sam, I don't follow you here. Is the issue that the "early church" (this technically refers to the church during the time of the Apostles) did not have "temples" _similar_ to the pagans' temples (ie., a different style), or that they did not have temples at all? Either way, I'd be interested to see the historical sources you've mentioned.

Now the last sentence above is the one that most confuses me since it seems to shoot out of nowhere. You were talking about "pagans" then suddenly made some kind of application to "Judaism," a non-pagan religion. And what kind of distinctions are you suggesting other than the obvious: (1) the early Jewish believers followed Jesus as the Messiah; other Jews did not. (2) the early Jewish Christians allowed (at least ideally) gentiles into full fellowship provided they abided by the four commands laid down at the Jerusalem Council (Act 15). (3) the early Christians (Jew and gentile) experienced and manifested the power of the Holy Spirit. Etc. But the evidence I have studied thus far leads me to conclude there was not a whole lot of difference in congregational style. Nor was there a lot of difference between Jews who followed Jesus and those who did not when it came to gathering together in their synagogues.

3. Let us not forget the synagogues were "imported" to Israel and wherever Jews lived from their days of captivity. Even when the Temple was rebuilt they still retained their synagogues which prior to their captivity the home had been the primary place of family and tribal/clan worship. Just because there were synagogues it does not mean they were to be _normative_.

The retention of synagogues after the Babylonian captivity leads me to conclude that all three of the above expressions were acceptable means for their individual purposes, particularly since Jesus took active part in the Temple cultus, synagogue worship, and family life. Therefore I'm confident that each had its place in the life of the early church in Judea as well. Even the so-called "imported" ("developed" would be a better word) synagogues lent their rituals, liturgy, and, yes, architecture to the Church, in and out of the land. If synagogues were used by the early church, and they were at least _some_ times (Jam. 2:2), then a scriptural case cannot be made for an exclusive house church model.

4. The basic premise is that the building _should_ be condusive to the _spiritual structure_ of the church. The main spiritual activity is to be an environment that is intimate, a place where one can be intimate with God and intimate with other believers. A place where interaction can take place, dialogue, discussion, a meal shared (including the Lord's table as part of the meal), personal ministry, singing, spontaneous joyful activity. All this is very intimate, and _familial_ in its distinctive characteristics, and this is why _homes_ were and still _are_ the most condusive to the _spiritual structures_ that all house church advocates hold dear and cherish.

Chapter and verse for each point, please? Sam, these seem to be opinions derived from your own culture and your own experiences-- positive and negative-- with various worship structures. Other people might cite different, but equally culturally-derived reasons why they prefer mega-churches or gothic style buildings which likewise have no firm grounding in Scripture. Neither position is in itself authoritative. If both house churches and buildings are modeled in the NT then both may have a place. At least neither could be called "wrong".

Given the choice, between _large_ gatherings (40 people plus) or small intimate gatherings in homes (10-21 people), every time I will take the smaller gathering, and for _one_ reason alone. It is the _only_ structure, both physical, as in a home, and spiritual, as in the quantity of people and the activities involved, that _allows for_ and _encourages_ New Testament _body life_.

Well, if given your "druthers," I guess you would have missed the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost since that intimate prayer meeting featured a group of 120 believers, though it's true they were gathered in the upper room of a _house_ ... John Mark's mother's house in the ritzy upper west end of Jerusalem if church tradition on this topic is correct-- later rebuilt as a synagogue if other evidence is to be believed (BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, 16, May-June 1990: 16-35). Yet the "New Testament body life" in that crowded building was nothing short of miraculous! Agreed?!?!

My only point in writing my last post was to highlight what you said at the beginning of your most recent one. _We_ are the church, not the buildings we might meet in. The buildings or houses, as you say, only serve a purpose ... so let's not further divide an already fragmented Church by insisting that our way is the _only_ or _best_ way when the Scriptures present patterns which allow us a little more leeway than that.

MICHAEL


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #20




house church eldership servanthood lord's day lord's supper world missions