New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


June 29, 2001 Vol 01 : 023
 

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

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

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

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places (from Michael Millier) 1 of 2

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places (from Michael Millier) 2 of 2

 

Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 08:32:16 -0400 From: "Dan Beaty"

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

Link,

Relating to hospitality for traveling ministries, I see another advantage. The worker does not solicit funds for which he has no accountability. Also, the hosts get to know him or her personally. We have been blessed over the years to have teachers in our home who come through our area. Often we get more from them through the personal contact than in the formal teachings.

On the other hand, we also can quickly learn of motives and weaknesses that may be harmful to others in our area.

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com


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Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 19:57:08 +0700 From: "Link"

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

We have been blessed over the years to have teachers in our home who come through our area. Often we get more from them through the personal contact than in the formal teachings.

Amen. My wife and I had a church planter from Papua who had been working in Bali come spend the night with us for a night or two a few months back.

It was good to hear what God was doing in Bali. He also told us all kinds of things about how his tribe lived up the mountains. They were a stone aged tribe up till a few decades ago. The men from his people-group go around 99% naked, wearing this long gourd thingy that covers up a certain part of the male anatomy. But in church, the preacher wears that same outfit as everyone else- except he wears a necktie. That's right- 99% naked, no shirt, but a necktie. He wears a necktie because he's a preacher. I think his people picked that up from contact with other Christians of other people-groups. The tradition of the preacher wearing a tie seems pretty silly to us when he doesn't wear a shirt and pants. But I guess it makes sense to them.

I spoke with a church planter who had planted churches among this people group as well. His mission was in a different area than this fellow's who was working in Bali, but they had known each other for a long time. This church planter, a miss'nary named Dave, shared with me a little about how the Gospel started to spread among this dark-skinned people group.

While he was there in the 60's, a people movement for Christ started. He had been preaching the Gospel to the people. Some other missions had been working in other areas. There was a movement that went from village to village in which the people would burn their magic articles and ceremonial warspears.

Dave didn't baptize the people right off after the burning. There were two schools of thought. Some missionaries said baptize them. he took a more conservative approach.

When the village he was in started burning their fetishes and war spears, they started throwing their hunting spears in their, too. They didn't kill people with their hunting spears usually. They could, but that wasn't usual. David asked them if they were sure they wanted to burn their war spears. If their enemies in the other village, found out, he said, they might come and attack.

One of the men answered David. If this God that you keep telling us about could do all those miracles, then we believe he can protect us from our enemies. Wow! David hadn't learned that type of reasoning in Bible college. He didn't argue with it either.

David said that the men used to have a men's house. The men from related families would go spend time in the men's house together. It was taboo for women to go into the men's house. After the people became believers, a lot of the discipleship took place in the men's house. They got rid of the taboo of women going into the men's house. The women came into the men's house, too. It sounds like they had they had 'men's house churches.'

Nowadays, this people group has gotten a hold of saws, and they have started building wooden church buildings to meet in. Brother David said it was the influence of the national church model.

Link


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Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 18:09:23 -0400 From: forwarded

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

From: jferris (address in now changed - mail forwarder)

Replies to and Jay Ferris. and Mike Millier

I'm in the process of changing computers and this is now my computer and address of preference.

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.

You are quite right, except that certain kinds of things and externals tend to focus attention, and flesh being what it is, flesh often gravitates toward being the center of attention. The bigger the building, the greater the stake that flesh seems to have in having control over the things that focus attention. No question, the problem is the flesh, not the guitar or the building, but larger buildings and platforms do tend toward show business, and privacy for those who are in control. I think it was Gene Edwards who pointed out that one of the reasons that Peter could be trusted with so much divine power was because the people around him were close enough to know that his feet smelled. That does tend to help in pulling down the strongholds, and potential strongholds of the flesh.

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.

Certainly it is possible to get much more deeply hurt in a living room than in the relative anonymity of a larger building, and there is no question that the abuse of authority is dead wrong, and certainly not Christ, but the pain and and wounding go with the territory. "No pain, no gain" is true, even, and perhaps especially in The Lord.

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.

I think you are reaching a little here.

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 home church people who are so anti-church building. 'Touch not. Taste not.'

and here.

It's like some home 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.

As you have already touched on, there is a big difference between house churches, and a church that meets in houses. House churches tend to put the part for the whole, and that is a gross misrepresentation of the heart of God. It is very divisive in spirit and practice. That it is often used to start something bigger, doesn't make it any better, it only reveals the divisive agenda of the "church planter". I don't think they are "evil or unclean", but they may certainly be foreshadowed in the "high places" of The Old Testament. Ezekiel 16 comes to mind.

The works of the flesh are manifest, and they are no better in a living room than in a special building designed for the purpose of putting a part for the whole. It goes without saying that they are not acceptable in an open field either.

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.

Thank you for the opportunity to explain: By giving ourselves permission to walk away from each other in the face of disagreement, we are demonstrating the inadequacy of our love. It would take quite a little space to explain this more fully, and I will if I need to, but for now, I simply want to say that, going down the street and putting up our own building, or the building of our own faction. really makes manifest our failure as ambassadors of reconciliation.

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.

I think the point I was trying to make was that the appointments don't mean much when there is no underlying life which backs them up. By now, we have the world convinced that God does, in fact, live in houses built by human hands, and if you want to meet with him, you can do so at certain specified times in certain specified places. That being the case, we owe it to the world to show up in those times and places, and, after apologizing for misleading them, explain that, in fact, God does not live in houses built with human hands...and I think you know the rest. The buildings at best might be a kind of gate or foyer, but we are the house, and them that are being saved, ought to be allowed in the house, as it is, they hardly know that there be a house, let alone that it is us.

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.

Thanks again for the opportunity to explain: The fact is, we are who we are by the grace of God, and not by our own doing. When we live and move and have our being in Him rather than in buildings, the building people get very nervous. We are likely to be accused of being a cult or wolves in sheep's clothing. But once we put up a building, proving ourselves to be like them, we become legitimate. The legitimacy comes by validating the practice of the builders. This problem is very much compounded when your influence on the souls for whom you must give account are encouraged to fellowship the Christians closest to where they live, including "going to church" with them. When their institutionalized brethren discover they are somehow related to you who have no building, the slander begins.

The problem has "circumcision group" written all over it. What this does to new converts is very damaging, even spiritually criminal.

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.

What we say is not nearly as important as what we do, even for our own understanding.

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.

Yes there are. Some of them see the house or "cell" dimension as a way of building their own following, others are genuinely desiring to share in the simplicity of the household dimension of the faith, and some, I'm sure, who are participating in this list really want to see a restoration of this early church dimension of fellowship. As the Church is restored, there is always the problem of dragging too much unnecessary baggage from past practice into the latest move of restoration. by reasoning together, It should be possible to minimize this problem among those who with, a desire to do the right thing, are none the less, still looking through the glass darkly.

Some "IC's" start as house meetings these days.

I think, I already touched on this one.

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

I don't think the problem is limited to "home church" people. Unfortunately this always seems to be the case. The latest thing tends to vilify the previous thing, and so falls into the same trap. It's a lot safer if we are redemptive rather than alienated, but, saying that, it is still clear that we need to know the difference between what needs redeeming and what does not.

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?

Link, think about it. Institutional Christianity has been reigning spiritual death for as long as it has existed. Without a doubt the number one institution of our culture where destroying the meaning of the most valuable words is concerned is institutional religion. Words like "brother", "mother", "family "sister", "father", "love", "oneness", "worship", and on and on the list could go. Buildings, and institutions promote and encourage show business in the saints. Spiritually speaking they are more abortion mills than the carnal ones about which we protest so loudly.

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?

The current discussion on NTchurch planter is very interesting, using synagogues as examples and justification of present day buildings. They are an excellent example, and we need to relate to them the same way, "first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile" The most important reason to go to a synagogue is to give those who meet there the very good news that God no longer lives in temples built by human hands..., again, I think you already know the rest of the message. By the way, I go there when ever I can. I don't think I have ever stolen any sheep, although I may have gotten away with a shepherd or two.

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

Yes, Link, a "divisive attitude" is very unfortunate whether it's in or out of a building.

I like the idea of house churches. People get so caught up in the traditional way of doing things that they 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.

To this point, I hear and agree with your heart.

But meeting in a church building doesn't make one a Judaizer or an enemy of the cross.

As for this last, I think you need to think about it at a little greater depth. We really do need to repent of the work of our own hands, Revelation 9:20.

Yours in Christ,

Jay


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Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 18:40:54 -0400 From: forwarded

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places (from Michael Millier) 1 of 2

David Anderson wrote:

I do know that BB Warfield of Princeton has demonstrated that even in the localities where there was no persecution, the saints customarily met in their own homes.

No dispute with that. Customarily is customarily. House meetings were the norm; I concede that. What I am having a problem with is people ignoring evidence for _some_ buildings early on. Just brushing it off. It comes down to our commitment to biblical paradigms. If there is even _one_ positive example of the early church meeting in a non-house building, then logically one has to make room for it in the mix. If there is even _one_ historical example of church buildings before Constantine, then that diatribe full of weather-worn arguments needs to be dropped. Period. It is about intellectual honesty and integrity. The truth is, there is more than one instance of the early church meeting in synagogues, and of church buildings before Constantine. The question remains: what will we as lovers of the Truth do with the evidence?

Anyway, the NT saints themselves were called the ~temple~, God's dwelling place, which suggests a very new paradigm to me.

See above. David, when would such a "new paradigm" have kicked in? I mean Paul wrote that about Christians being the "temple of God"-- corporately and individually (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19)-- in the _present_ tense. He wrote 1 Corinthians _before_ he wrote Romans. While the Roman and (by inference, see James 2:2-- "assembly 3D Gk. sunagoge, i.e.. synagogue) some other Diaspora churches certainly gathered in each others' homes, it was supplementary to their _still_ worshiping in synagogues. You would agree that the Roman Christians were also "Temple[s] of God" and that "the Holy Spirit dwe[lt] in [them]" at the time Paul wrote his letter to them? Right? Well, both Jew and gentile Christians in Rome continued, even after the death of Paul, to meet in synagogues. Special buildings.

The paradigm shift didn't happen at the death/resurrection of Christ since the post-Pentecost Judean Church, apart from meeting in homes, still met in synagogues (Act 22:19; 26:11) and visited the "old" Temple for prayer, vows, purification rituals, and sacrifices (Act 3:1; 21:-26). In special buildings. Nor did it happen any time current with the ministry of Paul who, in addition to meeting house to house, regularly attended synagogue (Act 17:1, 2) and willingly went to offer sacrifices in the "old" Temple (Act 21:26). Again special buildings.

Do you envision a new paradigm of the "people-temple" _replacing_ the Jerusalem Temple-- and by implication (for whatever reason) _all_ religious buildings? Do you imagine it commencing after the 70 A.D. destruction of the Temple? Then why does the evidence point to the Jerusalem believers returning from Pella to build a Christian synagogue on the spot of the Last Supper/coming of the Holy Spirit (BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, 16, May-June 1990: 16-35)? And why, according to at least one historical account did the still largely Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem continue to have a "church" building (synagogue?) on Mt. Zion in 130 A.D. (Epiphanius, ON WEIGHTS AND MEASURES, Dinddorf ed. vol. 4, pp. 17, 18)? Apparently the Church, from Pentecost till the second Jewish war with Rome (132 A.D.) were not aware of such a "new paradigm" as you propose which eradicates the Christian use of special buildings. So when did such a "new paradigm" kick in, Dave?

It will help me to make my next point if you will please carefully and patiently read the following:

The Qumran sect anticipated a (from their standpoint) future cleansed and physical Temple in Jerusalem (Vermes, Geza. THE COMPLETE DEAD SEA SCROLLS IN ENGLISH. "Temple Scroll," 190-219, New York: Penguin Press, 1997). Throughout most of the sect's history there was already a Temple standing and operating in Jerusalem, but the Qumran covenanters were a priestly group which had broken away from the corrupt religious leadership in order to live apart in purity until the time when God would send the Messiah(s) to restore the righteous to leadership and the proper priesthood to the Jerusalem Temple. Though a Temple then stood in Jerusalem, some twenty-five miles away (as the crow flies) from their desert community, and though they anticipated the restoration of a proper Temple and system, they nevertheless referred to the council members of their group as "the Temple" and considered the Qumran community to be the residence of the Holy Spirit (Vermes, "Habakkuk Pesher," 478-485-- "Lebanon," as found there is a well-known symbol for the Temple, "the Temple" also being expressly mentioned two sentences later).

My point? Could there have been a conceptual connection between the Qumran Jews and the early Jewish believers in Jesus who themselves expected a physical restoration of Israel with all that entails (Act 1:6,7; after the destruction of Jerusalem, could they have assumed that the Temple would also be rebuilt?)? Could Paul have shared their phraseology?

Hear me, please! I'm not suggesting for a moment a _direct_ link between the early Christians and the Qumran covenanters, though the latter also saw themselves as "the new covenant" community (see Vermes, 125, 132). I do not believe Jesus was an Essene or any of that nonsense. Clear? What I am suggesting is a common way they would have conceived of things. A use of terminology. Christian believers were referred to by Paul as "the Temple". The Qumran writers used a similar epithet ... without thinking that their council members had actually replaced the Temple building. They knew a Temple was then standing in Jerusalem. They anticipated at a later date a future physical Temple at the same location. Could there have been a similar way to how Paul thought about things when he wrote that Christians were "the Temple"? In the light of their common language and culture, and the use by this other Jewish group of a shared term and concept, is it not reasonable to assume that Paul was neither rejecting _all_ religious buildings, nor the Temple in particular? In other words, the data we've reviewed suggests that these 1st century Jewish writers (Paul, the follower of Jesus and the non-Christian Qumran covenanters) both used a similar epithet (granted, the Christians had/have the Holy Spirit to prove their term's reality), without imagining that they had actually _replaced_ or would ever _replace_ the Temple building.

Why, Dave, in light of all the above evidence, would I read 1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19 and think Paul had a "new paradigm of _replacement_ in mind, when I can conceive of something that better accounts for _all_ the data?

Church house, house church, or tree house church are all OK. But here's the deal: There are presently more occupants on the earth than in all previous ages combined. Something needs to happen fast in this present generation. Many of these hundreds of millions are very poor and have little opportunity to buy or build much of anything.

For these, a building is not an option and I can see little reason to even suggest that one would possibly increase their peace, deepen their fellowship, or expedite their works of ministry.

From a practical standpoint, bro, we are in perfect agreement. Why go into a slum barrio in Mexico and waste all that time and money purchasing or constructing a building when Christian people can meet more naturally in each other's houses-- or usually in the case of poor barrios, just outside of them-- and where neighbors would be more comfortable dropping by and chatting informally about the Lord? I concur. Your concession above to "Church house" is commendable and what's more important, it's biblical. That's my point. I do not want to defend the status quo, nor slow down Church growth. God forbid! All I am saying is we need to be as flexible in our approaches as the writers and "players" of the NT were. We may have been condemned, misrepresented, even maliciously slandered by those who had a vested interest in church buildings and a petrified sub-par ecclesiastical structure, but the challenge before us is not to respond in like kind, creating an equal but opposite reaction ... and rending the fabric of our common faith. I respect those of you who have gone on record here as being "bridge builders" with what you term the "IC". This more moderate approach better reflects God's love for all humanity. It is easier to reach across chasms, however, when you recognize that, though you may have the greatest weight of biblical evidence for your paradigm(s) on your side-- and you do-- you also acknowledge that those who would build buildings have a smidgeon of evidence from the Bible for their model(s). Then the conversations and debates can revolve around words like "appropriateness" and "degree" rather than around polemical terms such as "right," "wrong," and "Babylon".

response to Sam on next post:


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Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001 18:40:58 -0400 From: forwarded

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: First-century meeting places (from Michael Millier) 2 of 2

Sam Buick wrote:

2. The church birthed on the Day of Pentecost, was just the birth. Yes it took place in a house with a large gathering, but look at what they were doing there. Their activities were distinctively different from the regular activities of the twelve, or the ecclesia later on. They gathered at the bidding of Jesus, to wait, to pray and seek God, until the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred. This was _not_ normative body life, or ministry activity of the early church. It is a distinct event, non related to the reason believers come together on a regular basis, what most people would define church to be.

I concede that, Sam. I was only lightheartedly taking a jab at your personal limit of 40+ people since you don't seem to like crowds. But you're right, there is a distinguishable difference between what occurred on Pentecost and what would be considered normative Christian meetings. Forgive my sarcasm; your point is well taken.

The synagogue though indeed a place of worship is totally at odds with the ministry activities described in the Gospels, Acts, and the epistles.

My reply is to ask the question "why?". Why is it at odds with what is described in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles? Why? Especially since much of what was going on in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles was going on in synagogues.

On the other hand the ministry in the synagogue by _Messianic Jews_ such as Paul, was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah and that the New Covenant had been ushered in.

You're going to be hard pressed to prove this one, Sam, if you're implying that this was their _only_ reason for being there. While I acknowledge that Paul and other Messianic Jews went into the synagogues to speak with others about the Lord, you can't convince me that while there they did not say the "Sh'ma" (Deu. 6:4), pray the "Amidah" (series of benedictions recited while standing), sing Psalms, or other normal acts of worship done in the synagogues of that period. They listened to the reading of the Torah (Law) and the Prophets, and either led or participated in the discussion(s) that followed. How else did they get to share about Jesus? By becoming belligerent and interrupting the service? Or by sitting in the back, refusing to take part until they could begin _preaching_ the gospel in the middle of the liturgy? No, they took part in synagogue life as insiders and as such found a willing audience ... until the offense of the cross did _it's_ work. Then ... they usually got kicked out of particular congregations-- most often with several Jews and a horde of God-fearers in tow.

This is where one's eschatological understanding has a bearing on how we are to understand the church and the ensuing history. I believe the Bible in Hebrews shows clearly the superseding of the Law by the New Covenant. I believe the Bible teaches that there was a period of time when a missiological outreach to all the Jews in the Mediterranean world was the goal of the church. That is why Paul went to the Jew first and then the Gentile. This is why he went to the synagogues in Asia, and Greece. This is why the efforts were made to reach out to the children of Israel, no matter what territory they lived in. This was the mission of the early church even after the destruction of the Temple/Old Covenant system in A.D. 70. But the destruction of the Temple brought in a new phase in the church in the earth. I believe that the "forty years" between the ascension of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem, were years where God wanted to reach His chosen people and give them an opportunity to come to the Messiah. He held back His judgment of the nation, until then, and great missionary activity took place throughout the Roman world. The New Testament continually speaks of the _time being short_, and this was the time of the Jewish nation was short, and all out efforts were made to reach as many Jews as possible. This is why Paul and others went to the Jews in the synagogues. This was their purpose, to take the Gospel to the Jews before God's judgment came upon them.

One's eschatology certainly does and, to some extent, should color how one approaches certain texts in the Bible, but I would caution that it cannot be a foundation for an argument related to church structure. Explicit commands and examples found in Scripture have a firmer footing. I would love to discuss each of the above points you made, but this list is not the place to do it. If you are interested in some good-natured jousting with mutual edification as the goal, please contact me at my email address. You can be assured I will not be rude nor resort to mere dogmatics to present my case.

4. As the church expanded more and more in the Roman world, it had less and less of its "Jewish" cultural expressions. Paul even alludes to the expression of the church being unique to whatever culture in which it would be conxtexutalized. Jewish cultural and linguistic idioms add to our understanding of the Bible and of Jesus and the early church, but its message and how it is expressed in our own culture will be radically different.

I mostly agree, but with some qualifiers: since gentile culture is the _target_ culture of the NT's message, and 1st century Jewish is the _host_ culture, the Bible should be read with this distinction in mind. Only _then_ should application to modern peoples, languages, settings be considered. Too often we have treated the target culture as the host. And drawn erroneous conclusions. It is only when a particular biblical (most often Jewish) cultural expression doesn't carry with it _proper meaning_ into a target group that another form with analogous meaning should be sought. If a building is an affordable and desirable means of sheltering a church meeting within a target culture, then the NT gives us the green light to pursue it. At the very least, in the above scenario people are _free_ to do so.

The issues in the early church, where not how people praised God, but the fact they did, not the fact they studied the word, but that they interacted and dialogued openly around the word. It is not that they had the Lord's table, but that they had it as part of a great family meal together, each one contributing and enjoying the feast together. It was not that they tithed to support and upkeep the Temple system, but that when there was a need amongst the brethren in another house church in the city, or the poor in town, they all chipped in together to help them. All these activities could not take place in a synagogue or temple. It happened in homes. The chief activities that define how the church functioned points to being done in a home, not a religious building.

Sam, I would invite you to my congregation (Roeh Yisrael-- Shepherd of Israel) in Jerusalem. Though far from perfect, we do the sorts of things you mentioned above. Before my family and I arrived here from the U.S. in 1998, our congregation purchased a building in 1982, after meeting in houses for a number of years. Before the said purchase, during a period of growth, we requested and received permission to hold Messianic meetings in a local Baptist church's facilities each Sabbath. However, vandals and arsons targeted the building a number of times, finally succeeding in burning it down. Rather than remain a magnet for persecution at another church's expense, our group went back into homes until, with some help from friends outside the country, we bought a small apartment building just down the road from the Baptists and renovated it for meetings.

Our Sabbath services center around prayer and the word; we are free to interrupt the speaker, ask questions, openly disagree-- provided we remain respectful. We celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly (single loaf of matzah [unleavened bread], red wine-- common cup) and have a weekly love feast together with different people in the congregation signing up to prepare meals on site. A box in the back is placed in a discreet location for those who feel they can "hilariously" contribute to the work of the congregation's various outreaches, particularly to the poor believers in Israel, though teaching and evangelistic outreaches from our group in Jerusalem to every continent in the world benefit from the gifts as well.

And all this takes place within the context of ... a _synagogue_! Yes Sam, we are a Messianic synagogue, following the essential liturgy of Orthodox synagogues throughout the world. And history. So your argument that this could not take place in such a context strikes me as a little naive since it is clear you don't really know much about synagogues or their services. It is true that in just a synagogue setting a group cannot reach an optimum level of intimacy; that's why the home is the primary focal point within Jewish communities. And our Messianic Jewish community. It is also true that I have struggled to get my house group off the ground, but there are others which are thriving and meeting the needs of believers during these difficult times in this country. People meet, eat, laugh, cry, pray, study, exercise Spiritual gifts, etc. Together. All the while following customs and liturgy that are thousands of years old. In the homes. Candles are lit, blessings recited, customary foods (and others) are eaten. Children run around and play, people make plans for informal get-togethers, new people are welcomed to the community of the faithful. So brother Sam, I see it as a both/and situation, not an either/or; what you are claiming exclusively for the home, I can show happens as well within a synagogue setting.

But the synagogue system or worship runs counter to all expressions of body life expressed in the New Testament. The synagogue, religous building runs aground in the fact that it is not an environment that is conducive to body life (interactive dialogue, bible discussion, fervent prayer, interrupting speakers, loud singing, verbal exchanges, complete family interaction, a feast that includes the Lord's supper). You cannot do those things in those buildings. The buildings suppress and deny that type ministry and intimacy. See above. Issues of why Christians gather and how they gather will create debate and discussion. There is a radical polarizing going on with this issue. The ones doing it are not those who advocate house church. House church advocates want to return to as biblical a form of Christianity as possible. While the patterns we see relate to what the body actually does when it is together, and while it is usually in a home, it is the _other camp_, those who hold on to a _system_ that is grounded and built upon buildings, property, all the trappings of professional ministry, programs, etc., that are being militant against the church in the house. Their militancy is based on fear. The fear of losing the cash cow they have over the people. The fear of losing their grip on the spiritual life of other believers through the professional clery. The fear that if the church in the house really takes off, they won't be needed. Fear has no place in this debate. None whatsoever.

Sam, you've had some bad experiences. As have others from the home church movement. I don't doubt it. There are tons of people who might even fit the negative profile you wrote about. But I would caution you, brother, about making sweeping assessments and about judging the motives of another member in the body of Christ (Jer. 17:9, 10; Rom. 14:4). You come across as somewhat jaded. Are you? If that is true, could it possibly be coloring your evaluation of other people for whom Christ died? If you want to return to "as biblical a form of Christianity as possible," allow for those who want buildings. Move over for them; let them sit next to you. Make your case with them in terms of "degree" and "appropriateness," not "right" or "wrong," since both "form[s] of Christianity" appear in the NT.

I myself work very hard to build bridges with the _institutional_ church ...

I'm glad to read that statement, Sam. But your very use and emphasis of the term "institutional church" bellies your mistrust. And negative slant. I respect that you want to challenge to return to our biblical heritage those who either don't think about the issue or who have found security in a system rather than in the Lord. Don't compromise your convictions one iota ... when you stand on firm scriptural ground. However, in this case, firm scriptural ground has got to make allowance for the early church's meeting in buildings from time to time. Broaden your paradigm.

The traditional church building does by its very design hinder body life. And this IS the issue.

If buildings are allowed in Scripture then your across-the-board beef against their use in the context of NT forms of worship must be subjugated to that fact. This will promote more unity in the body of Christ. And _this_ IS the even greater issue.

Jay Ferris wrote:

He [Jesus] is the point of everything. including the Old Testament buildings.

What about the _New Testament_ buildings?

It is not the Scriptures which are allegory ...

I didn't say they were, Jay. I said your attempt in your last post to make a case for the superiority of house churches resorted to something akin to allegory.

We are His building, and we can live right where we are, from house to house with with joy and gladness of heart.

Despite our special function (His building) it still sounds (house to house) like we need buildings of some sort, huh?

This was Jesus answer to the woman at the well who was preoccupied with place.

She and the Jews were (and are) preoccupied with _particular_ places. Which is what some people advocating _just_ houses sound like as well.

The "builders" are always rejecting the Stone, so maybe we should give some serious thought to retiring from the building business.

"Except the LORD _build_ the house, they labour in vain that build it ... (Psa. 127:1). One inexact (but witty) use of Scripture deserves another. Hope that _Builder_ doesn't retire very soon. All the best, bro.

MICHAEL

Jerusalem 


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #23




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