New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


June 28, 2001 Vol 01 : 022
 

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

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

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

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

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Wineskins... and the Wine

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Wineskins... and the Wine

[New Testament Church Proliferation] 'Man of Peace', church planterM's

 

Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 18:01:33 -0400 From: forwarded

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

From: jferris via alternate address

MICHAEL wrote:

Jay Ferris tried to make a case for the superiority of house churches based on analogical use of the Scriptures bordering on the allegorical. I would reiterate, the central issue is not what we want, what we think is best, etc. The central issue is: does the New Testament allow for the construction of buildings for the purpose of worship? And I would have to say "yes". It is modeled in the early Church. Whether this has been taken to excess in today's ecclesiastical structure is another thing. I think it has. But we must allow for what the Scripture allows for if we are truly Bible-believing Christians. A radical polarizing on this issue will only cause needless division and further grieve the Lord and the people we are supposed to love.

Dear Michael,

Just a note to clarify the matter of analogies and allegories. Reality is found in Christ. He is the point of everything. including the Old Testament buildings. "We are His house,... the fullness of Him who filleth everything in every way."

It is not the Scriptures which are allegory, it is the old creation. The old creation is a flannel board, and the Jews are God's magnifying glass on that flannel board. The question is, "How does God do life?", and the answer can be seen in the old creation, so that we are without excuse. The point is Christ, and the life is in Him. We don't need special building in order to live somewhere else. We are His building, and we can live right where we are, from house to house with with joy and gladness of heart. This was Jesus answer to the woman at the well who was preoccupied with place. Our life in Christ is not a matter of meetings and appointments, it is a matter of being in life together, a together resulting from His being Lord, and not the result of being man handled. The "builders" are always rejecting the Stone, so maybe we should give some serious thought to retiring from the building business.

Yours in Christ,

Jay


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Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 20:46:32 +0700 From: "Link"

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

Replies to and Jay Ferris. and Mike Millier

Jay,

Do you realize that the name that your name on your emails is 'forwarded?'

I'd like to comment on some of your views about buildings.

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.

I think your focusing too much on externals. Buildings aren't evil. Neither are guitars. If there is a problem with humans becoming controlling, I don't think buildings have much to do with it.

Some people who saw the extremes of the shepherding movement who happened to meet in houses could probably testify to the fact that a living room setting doesn't prevent problems with control. In fact, being in a small intimate group with a plurality of very controlling elders might be a lot more intimidating than being in a big church building with one controlling pastor. It's probably more difficult to have a lot of people lording over you than one. If the group is small, then the controlling people can spend more time picking your life apart. That type of control is the result of bad teaching or human faults. It doesn't come from the building we meet in.

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.

If buildings are bad, we shouldn't meet in homes either. We should meet outdoors. Pretty rough if it rains.

If we are going to use scripture a little loosely, how about this one. I sometimes think of the quote from Paul when I see house church people who are so anti-church building. 'Touch not. Taste not.'

It's like some house church people think that church buildings are unclean. I even read a post from a man who didn't' want to go to a wedding because it was held in a church building. He felt like he was going into a pagan temple. Church buildings aren't evil or unclean.

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.

Some buildings are monuments to preachers or congregations. That's a problem. But monuments to the failure to love? I don't follow your reasoning.

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.

On the first day of the week, when the saints came together to break bread.

It seems likely to me that the early saints made appointments to be together at certain times. If we have a lot of 'community' then we may meet each other a lot informally. But there is definitely a place for meeting together by appointment.

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

This type of reasoning really bothers me. I don't believe these two situations are analogous at all.

This circumcision group, dogs as Paul called them, were tempting people to fall from grace. The people they deceived were putting their faith in circumcision and keeping the law of Moses, rather than trusting in Christ's work on the cross, for salvation.

I've never met anyone who claimed to be a Christian who taught that you had to meet in a church building with a steeple to be saved.

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.

A lot of people who do house church get ignored. There are plenty of people who meet in buildings who have no problem with the idea of Christians meeting in homes, too. Some "IC's" start as house meetings these days.

What about all the house church people on the Internet who go around saying those who meet in buildings are a part of spiritual Babylon?

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."

Come on. What is the connection? Is anyone teaching something about church buildings that threatens people's salvation? Is anyone replacing the cross in their teaching with the church building?

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."

Unbuilding? If you believe like that, then you should allow for church buildings and meeting in homes. If it truly doesn't matter, why make a big deal about it?

Btw, in response to your comments on division: I see a lot of house church people on the 'net who seem to have a divisive attitude toward those who meet in church buildings.

I like the idea of house churches. People get so caught up in the traditional way of doing things that hey think in order to evangelist an area, you have to build a bunch of church buildings. A lot of money gets spent on buildings, and in a lot of cases, the buildings are monuments to a preacher's career or a churches social standing. A private home (with a table) is a good place to celebrate the Lord's table. The Jerusalem church broke bread from house to house. There are plenty of good arguments for meeting in homes. But meeting in a church building doesn't make one a Judaizer or an enemy of the cross.

To Michael:

Some early Christians met in synagogues. At least this is likely in Acts- that believers that Paul evangelized met in the synagogues at least until most of the synagogue rejected Paul and he tore his clothes at them.

If in areas where Paul did not preach, Christians went to the synagogue as either Jews, proselytes or God-fearers, and the actually _church_ meetings were in homes, is there a real solid scriptural precedent for church meetings?

Btw, do you know how long the legal privileges for Jews lasted? If God-fearers were exempt from emperor worship, and could be buried in plots with Jews, and we see that Christians were buried in Jewish plots for 300 years in Rome, then perhaps some Christian Gentiles did maintain a relationship with the synagogue, going as God-fearers to hear the law read.

Did the Jews lose their legal rights after the Jewish War?

On the other hand, from what little I've read from the 100's, it would seem that Jews and Gentiles were starting to drift apart at least by the time of Justin Martyr in the 100's. After Bar Kochva, would they have been considered part of the same group? The Jews made up another Greek word for 'Anointed One' to refer to the Messiah, so that they would not have to use 'Christos.' As Christianity became more and more Gentile, didn't the distance between Jews and Gentiles grow apart. Based on what you know of the second century, do you think it likely that Gentiles still hung around at synagogues listening to Moses, and taking the legal privileges of Jews? After all, a lot of Christians were persecuted for not saying Caesar is Lord and for various other reasons. Also, you would probably know some of the earliest anti-Semitic sounding stuff in patristic writings. Was any of this written during the first 300 years. Would it have been likely that unbelieving Jews and Christians would have had such a close relationship when leaders were saying this kind of stuff about the Jews?

Maybe the Christians were buried Jews for some other reason. Maybe Christians bought burial plots in those areas because many Jews buried without pagan rituals or trappings.

Link


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Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 10:16:42 -0400 From: David Anderson

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

Jay,

Do you realize that the name that your name on your emails is 'forwarded?'

Hi Link and Jay,

Jay's message was sent from an address other than his s*bscription address.

(If we were an open list rather than a closed one, it would be spam city.)

Jay's message was "bounced" to me for review and I sent it in from my "forwarded" address so that it would not appear to be from "David Anderson."

As always, I noted in the subject line that it was forwarded and in the first line of the message, I gave the reason why. I do not edit forwarded messages, of course. Nor do I necessarily approve of their content. I'm just the sender-inner. :D

I am not able to check my email very often. There may be a long lag time for bounced messages.

David Anderson ntchurch planter mail forwarding agent


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Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 11:45:53 -0400 From: David Anderson

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

Greetings to all saints,

Sam and I were thinking along these same lines just a few days ago...

Yes, the church met in large and small groups but the emphasis is clearly on the smaller ones, imo. One, normal; one, occasional. Regular and irregular. Both needful and desirable.

Here's that quote from "Secular Use of Church Buildings," JG Davies (no relation :>D ) wrote in 1968:

"We have no temples or alters." This statement, referring to Christians, comes from the pen of the apologist (defender) Minicus Felix, c 200, and all evidence supports its accuracy. Throughout at least the first two centuries there were no church buildings as such, and this was so remarkable that to the pagan population, it was considered grounds for accusing the Christians of 'atheism.' In a world notable for the number of its holy shrines and the rivers of blood that flowed daily from the sacrificial victims, Christians were conspicuous in that they possessed neither the first nor engaged in the second." page 1.

Do you not know that ye are the temple of the Lord?? Living stones? Pillars in the house of God?

David Anderson

Bristol, TN


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Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 08:55:41 -0700 From: Dan Snyder

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Wineskins... and the Wine

<< There are plenty of good arguments for meeting in homes. But meeting in a church building doesn't make one a Judaizer or an enemy of the cross. >>

Amen Link.

You reminded me of Paul's word to the elders in Ephesus about laboring with them "publicly and from house to house".

Seems like Paul took every opportunity to perfect the saints.

Here in Anaheim we have a meeting hall, but to tell you the truth I rather prefer the gatherings in our homes. But in either case we need to enjoy Christ... and be perfected to mutually shepherd and care for one another so that the Lord's Body builds itself up in love.

For those interested in planting churches... what better place to start than in our homes. If the Lord adds such numbers so that we sometimes need to rent or use a bigger place then so be it.

But... I too hope that we can get past the externals to fellowship about the content - the wineskins have their place... but our real "cargo" is the wine.

How do some of you planters help the new believers learn to experience and enjoy Christ as the new wine?

I think that might be a useful subject for us to fellowship.

Your fellow learner,

Dan


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Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 12:42:43 -0400 From: "Michael Gastin"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Wineskins... and the Wine

- ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dan Snyder" To: "NTchurch planter - Posts" Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2001 11:55 AM Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Wineskins... and the Wine

(snip)

But... I too hope that we can get past the externals to fellowship about the content - the wineskins have their place... but our real "cargo" is the wine.

(snip)

We should get past the externals! Good point, Dan. I would only say that both the wine and the wineskin are important as used in scripture, as the wineskin refers to us, not a building.

That is one of the big paradigm shifts of our faith. We need no building, house, rented hall or tent, for we are the living temples of the Holy Spirit. God dwells within us. We meet together and fellowship. We *are* the church. It seems that the western church has come away from that realization, in that we emulate the old pagans in clinging to our *place* of worship. It is the classic issue: all the lands around us have a king, yet we have none. Choose for us a king! I wonder if our need for buildings does not stem from that same motive that the Children of Israel had?

Again, the issue has nothing to do with a building. Buildings are merely temporal amoral things. It is what we make out of them. So, a church building can stand between a believer and the Lord. BUT, the same can be said for meeting in a home, if the believer makes the home church his or her focus.

Lord, give us hearts of flesh, I pray.

Mike


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Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 19:30:23 -0700 (PDT) From: Link Hudson

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] 'Man of Peace', church planterM's

Jesus sent His apostles out to preach. The apostles were to go to a village or town. They were to inquire who in the town was 'worthy' and go stay there. If a 'son of peace' was there, they were to let their peace rest upon that house.

From what I understand, in Jesus day, a visitor could request hospitality from a resident of a town. Perhaps it often worked the other way around. A righteous person would request that a visitor stay to his home. It seems the Lord is telling the apostles to actually request hospitality.

The pamphlet put out by the IMB of the SBC tells about some church planterers in India that used the 'man of peace' strategy for planting churches. There were 26 churches, if I remember correctly, that hadn't reproduced in a quite a long time. A church planting coordinator came, trained up 6 people to preach the Gospel, sent them out, and they were all martyred.

The church planting strategist was shocked, of course, and came up with another method, based on the book of Luke. He helped train new church planters. Each went to a 'man of peace' in the village he was trying to reach. The 'man of peace' was not necessarily a believer.

The church planter would focus on discipling the man of peace and his family. Often, the man of peace would repent. His family would serve as a core group of Christians for the new church in the village. Often, the man of peace would become a leader in the new church later on. The household would generally repent with the head of the house, and many were baptized at the same time.

This strategy was very successful. In about a decade, the movement went from about 26 churches to 1,200 churches.

This movement outgrew the Baptist denomination. The small churches that developed weren't all in the denomination, but were united by a common faith

Think about some of the advantages of the 'man of peace' strategy.

1. The church planter has a place to stay. 2. The church planter is connected into the community.

Think about an evangelist that goes into a village that is resistant to the Gospel who knocks on doors or stands in the village and starts preaching. If he doesn't know anyone, what will happen to a group of people who decide to beat him up or hang him? If the man has no contacts in the area, and the judicial system isn't very strict in that area, maybe nothing.

But villagers might be less inclined to harm someone who is a guest in the home of another villager. An offense against a villagers guest could be taken as an offense against that villager, his family. One who harmed a guest may have to face the villager, his extended family, and his friends.

Being a guest is a friendly way of entering a village, too. The church planter can find new people to minister to through the contacts of the man of peace who hosts him. Wolfgang Simson suggests that a church planter to make it know that he will pray for the sick in the name of Jesus. When invited over, he insists that the whole family be present so that he can explain what he is going to do, so that no one thinks that he is a magician. He then explains that he will pray in the name of Jesus, and what the significance of this is. After ministering to the sick, he offers to come back and teach the family more, and waits for an invitation.

Some Comments on Hospitality

There is an underlying assumption in the Bible of hospitality as a moral duty. Abraham took hospitality seriously. When he went to fetch a 'little morsel,' he killed the fatted calf. Lot also considered it important to protect the angels under his roof. He offered to give his daughters to the crowd for their sake's.

Hospitality was important in Ancient near Eastern culture. I've read that some of the Arabs considered it their duty to give hospitality to any traveler who so much as touched the cord of their tent- even if the man were an enemy. If they refused, this was a serious moral offense.

It seems that Jesus instructed his apostles (and the 70) to go looking for a peaceful person in whose house to stay when they preached in a city or town. They were instructed to eat whatever was set before them, because the laborer is worthy of his hire. It sounds like the apostles were going out and requesting hospitality to be provided for them.

Jesus even told a tax collector, Zaccheus (sp?)that He was going to eat at his house. How would that go over today. Imagine if an evangelist said, 'Today I'm going to eat at your house.'

One of the ways that early Christian preachers were supported was through hospitality. On a trip to Jerusalem, we read about Paul stopping in certain houses along the way- Philip the evangelist's, for example. Peter stayed in the house of Simon the tanner.

Think about this. If an evangelist or an apostle wanted to go to an unreached area, he could travel from city to city. When nightfall came, he could stay in the home of a believer in each city. The next morning, that believer might provide him with whatever was needed for the next leg of his journey. He could repeat the process the next day until he came to the frontier- the edge of the area where the Gospel had been preached.

Paul wanted the Roman Christians to help him to go on further to an unreached area- Spain. He wanted to go to the edge of the area where the Gospel was preached, and let those saints help him go to the next unreached area to reach the people there as well.

Hospitality played an important role in helping ministers get to the next place to preach the Gospel. It also helped ministers of the gospel who traveled around to strengthen existing churches. A minister goes to a city, the saints receive him. He stays in the home of one believer, and ministers to saints in their homes and in their meetings. The brethren feed him. Then they send him off to the next place to minister.

In the early decades of Christianity, some of these ministers sold all they had, and depended on hospitality from Christians and whatever other means the Lord used to provide.

Now, think about the importance of hospitality in spreading the Gospel. If a minister of the Gospel comes to your area, are you willing to house him if you have the means? Hospitality helps build character. it teaches us generosity. Also, housing 'strangers' helps us learn to relate to people from different places who are different from us. An elder should be hospitable. The Bible says that believers are to be 'given to hospitality.' (Notice hospitality is not described as a gift that is only available for a few.)

Think about a church planting movement in India or some other country that has a lot of unreached people. Imagine this scenario. A church planter wants to go to an unreached area a few miles away. He walks all day and stops at night at a village that has believers. They have a house church meeting that allows for mutual ministry, so he is allowed to share something. This village knows him, and are happy to receive his ministry.

The next night, he sleeps under a tree, and the next day leaves again. He ends up in a villages where there are believers. But these saints don't know him. Fortunately, someone in his home church knew how to write and wrote a letter of recommendation for him. A brother in this church can read. The brethren receive him. They are careful because a false teacher came through earlier, teaching some sort of syncretized message.

On and on this church planter goes, receiving hospitality and ministering. One church lends him a bike. He finally gets to an unreached area, where he stays with an unbeliever who is a cousin of a friend in his village. He ministers to this 'man of peace.' After a week or so, the man repents, and so does his family. They are all baptized. The church planter continues to disciple them, and shows them how to have church meetings as a family.

As the church planter ministers to friends and relatives of those who have repented, the church grows. Eventually, some of the new believers the church planter is discipling start doing ministry on their own.

The church planter sends one of them back to his home village to ask that another brother, who is a gifted teacher, come and help out. Before the other brother arrives, the church planter goes out, with a new believer from the new church who is evangelistically gifted who wants to learn to minister as a type of 'apprentice.' The church planter sees a call on this man life, which has been confirmed through prophecy. With a lot of prayer, they both leave for the next unreached village, to visit the 'apprentices' brother.

Imagine if new church plants started through this process send out their own church planters.

Think about finances too. How much more would it cost to send a team of foreign missionaries and a translator into these villages to do the same work? How much would it cost to set up a tent crusade? A church planter who knows how to talk loud can preach publicly without a stage or a microphone.

If the church planter teaches the saints to meet in homes, there is no financial burden on them to build church buildings. If the church planter trains up and educates believers in the churches, then there may be no need for Bible colleges. Low-budget church planting.

I believe missionaries can help in a lot of areas where these types of church planting movements are taking place. In the real life case in India I mentioned above, missionaries helped by producing scripture on tape and doing translations. A lot of the new believers were illiterate.

Education is an area where many new churches in areas like this need help. A traditional strategy is to open a Bible college so that the leaders will be educated. But a Bible college in a frontier like this has a serious disadvantage- If the leaders of the churches go away to Bible college, it's rough on the congregation while he's gone. He also misses the practical on-the-job training in his own congregation. Bible college is also expensive.

We don't see Bible colleges in the Bible. Paul spent time with the elders of the church of Ephesus, teaching them, and warning them with tears. Timothy was to teach what he had learned to faithful men, that they might be able to teach others also. This is the Biblical means for educating new leaders- let them receive teaching in their own church community, or from traveling ministers. One generation of church should teach the next.

Also, the apostles appointed elders from within the churches. They didn't import Bible college trained ministers from the outside. Bible colleges often promote the false idea that being a preacher is a matter of education or profession, rather than gifting and calling. Many think that one needs a Bible college degree to be an overseer in the church, and actually ignore the other requirements in scripture. We end up with young people who don't' meet all the requirements (yet) ruling over their spiritual seniors. Why? Because these young people have the degree. Bible colleges are also expensive. Who will pay for the tuition?

Giving an entire church a sound education in the scriptures is better. If one pastor has a degree, and the rest are uneducated, if that pastor goes off track, he can take many with him.

If all the believers are educated in the church and there is community involvement and plural leadership, many of these problems can be avoided.

Education is an area where missionaries can help a church planterM. Native traveling Bible teachers can also be a great asset in a movement like this.

Think of Barnabas. Before going out on an apostolic mission with Paul, he was sent on a teaching mission to Antioch. There were many new believers in Antioch who needed teaching. The Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to help, and he found Paul to join him.

We also see that, as the number of 'apprentices' around Paul grew in his later days, that he would often send them around to strengthen new churches. We also see that one church sent Apollos to Corinth. He helped strengthen that new church. Paul said that he had planted, and that Apollos had watered. There is a great need for waterers. They free up planters to go into new areas.

Just think of the needs of a new house church in a church planterM. A church planter comes by, preaches the Gospel and leaves. The new believers could use someone to teach them how to read, how to understand the Bible, the cultural background of the Bible, how to handle church finances, and various other things.

A church planter might leave a church without elders early on in it's growth. Paul and Barnabas did that repeatedly. During this time when there are no appointed elders, and even after, a church can benefit from traveling teachers, and from other brethren from churches that are already more mature.

Imagine the ministries that traveling brethren can bring. One could travel from church to church in India, teaching people how to read. He could encourage those who are good at reading to read the scriptures in meetings.

A Bible teacher can teach the commands of Christ as a foundation. They he can read through the whole Bible with a new church. He can teach them simple methods for reading through the whole Bible as a group. As he ministers, he can find potential leaders and spend a lot of time mentoring them to be teachers for the future.

When a church is mature and has elders and various ministering saints, they should be careful to provide a good, solid Christian education to all the young people and other believers among them. One of the reasons for opening schools in New England during the colonial days was so that all the children could learn to read the Bible. Every church could teach it's own children how to read. The next generation would be more educated, and would know how to read the Bible. Sunday school was started, I've read, during the industrial revolution to teach young factory workers how to read.

There are a lot of things that can be done to help church planters set up a favorable situation for a church planterM, and to encourage it's growth.

Link 


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #22

 


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