New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


August 7, 2001 Vol 01 : 048
 
Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re:

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re:

 

Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001 09:05:38 -0400 From: "Dan Beaty"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Michael,

Thanks for the informative quotations. You asked:

May I suggest that the line has been crossed when ever the members of Christ's body ceased to function together as a body, and when ever they ceased to see themselves as a family.

This usually happens when we begin to see ourselves as a corporation or business, which is often the result of moving into buildings and taking on the additional load that these often become.

When more attention is given to the maintenance of the building, expansion, going into dept and raising funds to pay the bills than to the Church herself, then a line has definitely been crossed IMO.

It is doubtful that these early saints thought as we do especially in the West about these material things.

1 Pet 2:9-10: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;"

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com


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Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001 09:36:45 -0400 From: "Michael Gastin" Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

I agree with you Dan. You have hit on the heart issues that are the important metric.

I would also like to point out that early Christians meeting in Rome were mainly (except for Clements's house church maybe) of the free poor - people barely getting by day by day and slaves. They would have met in a secretive or clandestine manor, to avoid suspicion. Groups were not allowed to meet unless they fell within the Roman law of funeral societies or approved clubs/religions. Christians did not meet those specifications.

Anyway - all I am trying to say is, incorporation and church growth as we know it was most likely not on their minds. If they moved from a home to a warehouse due to space it had nothing to do with a growth mentality. It was all about fellowship and avoiding legal and social scrutiny. These people were concerned with eating every day and staying pure and keeping the faith. IMHO, the building to them meant nothing but maybe a little protection from prying eyes and avoiding legal punishment.

I think it is too easy to project our own societal norms on the early church. We tend to think a leader in the early church must have been equal to a pastor in the modern western sense, or that buildings meant the same to them as they do to us. Even the idea of a homogenous middle class in Rome is off the mark. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we make comparisons between us and the early church on an equal basis.

My 2 cents ..)

Mike - ------ Mike Gastin Moderator house churchmod*rochester.rr.nospam.com http://homechurch.org/newsgroup ICQ# 91065491

- ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dan Beaty" To: Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 9:05 AM Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Michael,

Thanks for the informative quotations. You asked:

accommodate the numbers of people attending, to the sanctification of such a room(s) for exclusive meeting purposes, to the sanctifying of an entire house, to the renting of a meeting hall outside of the home, to the renovating of a pagan temple, to the buying of an existing edifice, to the construction of a building as the communal property of the church?

5) Where is the line?

6) When has it been crossed?

7) Why?

May I suggest that the line has been crossed when ever the members of Christ's body ceased to function together as a body, and when ever they ceased to see themselves as a family.

This usually happens when we begin to see ourselves as a corporation or business, which is often the result of moving into buildings and taking on the additional load that these often become.

When more attention is given to the maintenance of the building, expansion, going into dept and raising funds to pay the bills than to the Church herself, then a line has definitely been crossed IMO.

It is doubtful that these early saints thought as we do especially in the West about these material things.

1 Pet 2:9-10: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;"

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com

 

-= - ntcp info page: http://homechurch.org/world-missions/planting -= -

 

Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001 17:06:58 +0200 From: "Deborah"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] The Goal of Evangelism in Church Planting

Sam Buick responded with firm and more recent documentation than I could have given about R.C. Sproul's views on eschatology. I acknowledge his point that Sproul is more preterist than I had thought. Michael

Jerusalem

 

-= - ntcp info page: http://homechurch.org/world-missions/planting -= -

 

Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 10:45:05 -0400 From: "Samuel M. Buick"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Dear Dan:

I say "Thank you!" And a hearty "Amen!" to your recent posting.

Sam

From: "Dan Beaty" Reply-To: New Testament Church Proliferation Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2001 09:05:38 -0400 To: Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Michael,

Thanks for the informative quotations. You asked:

accommodate the numbers of people attending, to the sanctification of such a room(s) for exclusive meeting purposes, to the sanctifying of an entire house, to the renting of a meeting hall outside of the home, to the renovating of a pagan temple, to the buying of an existing edifice, to the construction of a building as the communal property of the church?

5) Where is the line?

6) When has it been crossed?

7) Why?

May I suggest that the line has been crossed when ever the members of Christ's body ceased to function together as a body, and when ever they ceased to see themselves as a family.

This usually happens when we begin to see ourselves as a corporation or business, which is often the result of moving into buildings and taking on the additional load that these often become.

When more attention is given to the maintenance of the building, expansion, going into dept and raising funds to pay the bills than to the Church herself, then a line has definitely been crossed IMO.

It is doubtful that these early saints thought as we do especially in the West about these material things.

1 Pet 2:9-10: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;"

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com

 

-= - ntcp info page: http://homechurch.org/world-missions/planting -= -

 

Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001 08:39:31 +0200 From: "Deborah"

Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re:

Dan Beaty wrote: When more attention is given to the maintenance of the building, expansion,

going into dept and raising funds to pay the bills than to the Church

herself, then a line has definitely been crossed IMO.

I think you're onto something here. I went home to the States for the first time in two years last summer and was taken aback by reverse culture shock as pastors I knew-- and still in some ways respect-- operated more like CEOs than as shepherds to their flocks. I had seen and been involved with churches using such a "management style" before but it had never stood out to me before. How unapproachable! How sad!!! Is the building creating the impersonal environment or do you think the problem results from an uncritical acceptance of certain cultural values? Or are both reinforcing the other? Churches often experience a deeper sense of unity as they're erecting a new building. However, the temporary excitement that may accompany a building program can never replace the true, real, raw fellowship of people meeting wart-to-wart (in or out of a specified meeting place) to do their part in building up the eternal edifice of Christ's Church.

Michael

Jerusalem

 

-= - ntcp info page: http://homechurch.org/world-missions/planting -= -

 

Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2001 04:56:03 -0700 From: jferris

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Dear Mike,

A few years back I gave some hou his matter of incorporation, and I hink i remains relevant:

GOD INC.

We would like to explore the motivations for the virtual compulsion to incorporate any time a substantial ministry or church is contemplated. Our hope is that by looking into this at some depth, we might identify the motivations, and discover God given alternatives.

Because incorporation is a relationship between the participants and the state, when Christians incorporate as ministry or "church", the result is a relationship between the church and the state. What are the church's reasons, and what are the state's reasons for such a relationship?

We will begin with the more obvious and proceed to the more subtle.

1. Group identification:

When individuals find a common bond or goal, they invariably want to declare their existence and their rational to the world. This declaration accomplishes two things; First, it declares their distinct existence; second, it declares that they are different from what is happening around them. Both of these reinforce their group identification and their distinctive. Incorporation is a way of accomplishing this.

2. Exclusive right to title:

A corporation is a distinct entity with an existence of its own. As such it has certain rights. One of the most basic is the right to the name by which it identifies itself. When we decide what we are and identify with it by name in the act of incorporation, we exclude others from calling themselves the same thing.

3. Right to own property:

Incorporation creates a group existence which is more than the sum of its parts, and having legitimacy in the eyes of the state for the purpose of owning property. Where the responsibility of ownership is concerned, it identifies legal liability.

4. Limited liability:

One of the benefits of incorporation is that it protects its participants from personal hardship due to group or personal error where finances are concerned, and due to injury on the premises where property is concerned.

5. Tax exemption on property:

Church property has real market value based on alternate use. This value in both land and buildings is often substantial. At the prevailing property tax rates, the tax itself would be a sizable chunk of the annual budget, even if not an intolerable burden on the ministry or church. In many, if not all cases, this alone would be enough to force abandonment of building and property.

6. Tax exemption on income:

Tax exemption increases disposable income. Without it, there would be a reduction in financial resources. This would curtail its activity.

7. Tax deductibility:

Without the sanction of the state inherent in incorporation, donations to the church could not be tax deductible. The standards of the state must first be met if the recipient is to be allowed this legal privilege. Otherwise contributors would claim tax deductibility on any and all contributions to anything and anyone. That would be intolerable to the state.

8. Mechanism for accountability:

Participants in the corporation are guaranteed some minimum accounting under the terms of the incorporation.

9. An appearance of substance and continuity in time:

The trappings of incorporation make a person feel like they are joining something of substance, something that was there yesterday, is here today, and will endure tomorrow. This distinguishes it from the "fly-by-night" impressions of casual relationships.

As a response to these motivations, how does incorporation stand up in light of Scripture?

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

1. Group identification:

In the economy of God, we are first of all baptized into one body, and sealed by one Spirit. We see this in shadow, in Ezekiel 9:3,4, alluded to in I Peter 4:17, and confirmed to us in I Corinthians 12:13, II Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, and Galatians 4:6. When we have been placed into the body in this way, we have our identification in Christ, for it is "...in Him that we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28. It is in His Name that we are in love. Colossians 3:12-17. He is the one from whom and in whom we have our substance, our sense of being. Colossians 1:17. This substance manifests itself in oneness which is a sign to the world. John 10:14-23, and results in their identification of us as Christians. Acts 11:26. The Lord Himself, insures that this is permanent. Romans 8:38,39.

Nothing we can do can improve on the work of the Spirit. On the contrary, our efforts in this connection only grieve the Spirit, defile the work of God, and bring us back into bondage. Galatians 4:1-11, 5:1. No amount of paper work can improve on the work of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:6. All that we would accomplish in this regard, by incorporation has already been accomplished for us by the Father in His Son.

In Psalms 135:15, the Bible tells us that, "The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men." For the present purposes, we would like to focus on "...made by the hands of men." It is one thing for men, used and led by The Spirit of God, to accomplish His purposes, but something else altogether when men act in ways which are contrary to The Spirit as evidenced by his revealed Word.

Too often the people of God want to be like the world. In Ezekiel 20:32, we read, "You say, `We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone'..." In this instance, the work of man's hands is described as "...wood and stone." That this continues to be the case today is not so difficult to appreciate, as the people of God are preoccupied with buildings, while unable to get along with each other.

But Gentile style is not limited to physical plant, to buildings. Paul writing to the Ephesians, Chapter 4 Verse 17, says "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking." It seems that it is not just what the Gentiles do that is a problem, but the way they think. It is easy to see that we have erred where our pre occupation with buildings is concerned. It is not so easy to see the error of our ways where organization, structure and authority are concerned.

This truth is foundational to contrasting man's ways with God's ways. God puts us together by His Spirit, through The Blood of His Son, not by the wisdom of men and their paper work.

Where group identification is concerned, The group is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a mystery, not apprehended or seen except by those who are born again.1 It is one thing to identify worldly groups and purposes by incorporation, but to attempt to identify the church by such means, is misleading to new converts, and a fraud on the general public, on the lost. To suggest to the world that it can identify the Kingdom of God by incorporation, is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture.

When the children of God "go down to Egypt", when they depend on "the arm of the flesh", The Holy Spirit is grieved. The Gospels tell us that Jesus, "wouldn't" or "couldn't" do any miracles in His home town. As Jesus Himself explained it, the problem was a lack of honor. Honor is the operative link to the power of God by the Holy Spirit, whether in Jesus or us as believers. Reliance on the "work of man's hands", always dishonors the Spirit, and has historically been the deathnell for every out pouring of the Holy Spirit, every revival.

In the parallels cited above, we have tried to bring this truth to the surface as a foundational principle having relevance to all of these points. Even where God initiated a work, when man takes over, God vacates. God does not, and will not occupy the "work of man's hands", He "will not give His glory to another."

"Church membership", as it is presently understood and practiced, amounts to nothing less than institutional circumcision, and is entangled with all of the considerations and motivations described in Galatians.2

2. Exclusive right to title:

This is precisely the motivation that was working in those who were building the tower of Babel.3 But, there was, and is another name, one that those builders rejected, and one which continues to be rejected by latter day tower builders.4 It is to that name only that we must cling.5 To name ourselves, to organize under any lesser name than Jesus, or worse, to label a part as if it is the whole, is to establish and concretize division. To do so is to demonstrate that we haven't heard the true gospel. It calls into question whether we have been united to Christ.6 It shows that we are childish.7 By it we destroy The Body of Christ.8 Not only are we admonished not to cause division, but to avoid those who do.9 Ours is a different way.10 Even at the close of the New Testament, this principle of oneness was still firmly in place as we see the Lord writing to the churches in Asia, and addressing them by the name of the towns where they were.11 The Lord again encouraged their oneness.12 and rebuked their falling away.13

3. Right to own property:

There is no evidence in the Scripture, and considerable indication to the contrary, where the ownership of property, as the church is concerned. Private people sold property from time to time to give to the church, the proceeds of which were used to meet the needs of the saints, not purchase property or erect buildings. As the church, we are admonished to avoid friendship with the world. While Jesus was and is the friend of sinners, he was never the friend of the world system, and neither should we.

1 JOH 3:3,5, EPH 3:7-13 2 GAL 6:12-15, 3 GEN 11:6 4ACT 4:16 5 ACT 4:12 6 PHI 2:1-4 7 1CO 1:11-13, 3:1-4, 11-15 8 GAL 5:13-15 9 ROM 16:17,18, TIT 3:10,11 10 JAM 3:13-18, 4:11,12, 5:9, 1PE 1:22, 2:1,17, 3:8, 1JO 3:10-12, 4:7-21, 2JO 5:6 11 REV 1:11 12 REV 2:4,5 13 REV 3:1-3

4. Limited liability:

Once again, there is no evidence in the Scripture, that the people of God, as the church should have limited liability at the hands of the state. If our liability is limited, it is limited under the sovereignty of God. Our call is to lay our lives down for one another. Through incorporation, however, the people of God have insulated themselves, not only from the world, but from each other. By limited service to institutions rather than unlimited service to each other, we have cut the credibility out from under the Gospel, and manifested a level of commitment inferior to that of most fraternal organizations.

5. Tax exemption on property:

If the church was not encumbered with property, it would have no need for tax exemption. As it is, however, the tax supported services of the state are provided to the church free of charge, and at the expense of the unsaved tax payers. This was not the way of John. 1 Jesus said to those who represented a shadow of the Kingdom to Come. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

6. Tax exemption on income:

This is a bit more problematic. The kingdom of God is in us, or in our midst, or among us.2 The borders of the kingdom are between soul and spirit in the lives of the believers.3 The Kingdom of God is in the Spirit.4 The government of the Kingdom is on Jesus' shoulder.5

When we, as believers, earn money in our secular work, in us that money enters the kingdom. At the border (between soul and spirit) taxes must be paid to Caesar, for God does not owe any man anything. Once the taxes are paid at the border, the "transactions" which go on in the church are none of Caesar's business. The truth in God is that the believers are one, as Jesus and the Father are one. Therefore, the flow of assets in the body, are not transactions between seperate individuals, but only the provision of the body which is building itself up in love.

This is why the church must not be tax exempt. In Malachi, 6 the people of God are spoken of as being His jewels, His treasure. Tax exemption invites the ambassador of Babylon into the treasure house of The Lord.7 Indeed, tax exemption gives the tax authorities of this world a right to enter into the treasure house of the Lord. When Hezekiah, an otherwise righteous king, did this, the consequence was that the people of God were carried off into captivity.

1 3JO 7, 2 LUK 17:21, 3 HEB 4:12, 4 ROM 14:17, 5 ISA 9:6, 6 MAL 3:16-18, 7 2KI 20:12-18

7. Tax deductability:

Tax deductability requires that contributions to the church be made known to the authorities, in order to be credited as deductable. Jesus said "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."1

While it is likely that the people of God would be in trouble if intra-body transactions were not reported for tax purposes, but that is another matter, and not unanticipated by the Scriptures. Certainly the doing of alms before men for credit, a requirement of tax exemption, is not the will of God according to the clear teaching of Scripture.

As the people of God, we must face up to the clear teaching of Scripture. Matthew tells us that we, "... will be hated by all nations..."2 Tax deductability, in light of our high calling, unshakable positon, and destiny at the hands of the nations is ridiculous on its face.

8. Mechanism for accountability:

The Lord knows about accountability. Paul also knew about accountability.3 But, there is no indication that a corporation is required. In fact, in the hostile envirnoment, which Scripture suggests is normal to the church, a corporation is an obvious liability

9. An appearance of substance and continuity in time:

"The just shall live by faith." "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen."3 The arguement that a corporation is needed for this purpose, is so foreign to the Scripture, that it hardly needs to be argued. Whether substance, continuity, power, faithfulness or fruitfulness, It is "not by might, nor by power, (incorporation), but by my Spirit', says the Lord Almighty." Corporations and institutions generally, give the people of God an improper, and unfortunately preferable, object of faithfulness. The reason stems from limited liability. To open your life up to the Lord, and to people, you have to die, but involvement with an institution can be limited. It leaves us in control.

Jesus is Lord of relationship! With this in mind, and looking back through the perspective of the New Testament at I Samuel, we see an example, written down for our instruction, where the people of God rejected God as king. They went to Samuel demanding that he appoint a king over them like the rest of the nations. They did not want to come under the kings of the gentiles, they wanted their own king.

A present day equivalent would be for us to desire to have a "christian" king over us. In the context of today's church, more often than not, this "king" takes the form of one man pastoral oversight as distinct from the plurality of eldership seen in the New Testament. Keeping in mind that this king was desired as a result of the rejection of God as king, we can then learn by example the kind of things that happen when we come under men, even Christian leaders, rather than the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Men will run you ragged with their programs, "chasing chariots. Men will put you in bondage, "slavery". Men will take a tenth, just for openers. Etc, etc, and on it goes..

1 MAT 6:1-4 2 MAT 24:9, 3 2CO 8:16-21 3 HEB 11:1 -8-

No man made anything can be instrumental in communicating Christ in His fullness without a willingness to self-destruct. This is to say, Institutions and programs, any man made structures have a vested interest in self-preservation. They will come short in communicating at the point where the liberty of Christ's salvation conflicts with the bondage of human doing. Quite simply, institutions cannot afford to tell us the truth because, where Jesus is concerned, it is bad for business.

We as christians may have use for corporations, where certain kinds of ministry are concerned, especailly as relates to material things, but even in those cases, we must be very careful in using the things of this world. There is no place for incorporation as the church or a church. The Church is, and will remain a "great mystery" until the coming of The Lord.

James Jay Ferris - 1982

Michael Gastin wrote:

I agree with you Dan. You have hit on the heart issues that are the important metric.

I would also like to point out that early Christians meeting in Rome were mainly (except for Clements's house church maybe) of the free poor - people barely getting by day by day and slaves. They would have met in a secretive or clandestine manor, to avoid suspicion. Groups were not allowed to meet unless they fell within the Roman law of funeral societies or approved clubs/religions. Christians did not meet those specifications.

Anyway - all I am trying to say is, incorporation and church growth as we know it was most likely not on their minds. If they moved from a home to a warehouse due to space it had nothing to do with a growth mentality. It was all about fellowship and avoiding legal and social scrutiny. These people were concerned with eating every day and staying pure and keeping the faith. IMHO, the building to them meant nothing but maybe a little protection from prying eyes and avoiding legal punishment.

I think it is too easy to project our own societal norms on the early church. We tend to think a leader in the early church must have been equal to a pastor in the modern western sense, or that buildings meant the same to them as they do to us. Even the idea of a homogenous middle class in Rome is off the mark. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we make comparisons between us and the early church on an equal basis.

My 2 cents ..)

Mike ------ Mike Gastin Moderator house churchmod*rochester.rr.nospam.com http://homechurch.org/newsgroup ICQ# 91065491

 

-= - ntcp info page: http://homechurch.org/world-missions/planting -= -

 

Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2001 09:05:36 -0400 From: "Dan Beaty"

Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re:

Michael,

Thanks for the response. You wrote:

The church I was associated with for over 20 years started out in a house that was purchased for meetings, which was eventually replaced with a modest building with pews and pulpit.

The unity you mentioned was definitely there during the building expansion, but some closeness and simplicity was lost eventually, as we began to see ourselves as a "real" church, like the others in our area. Things began to be more official and organized and less oriented towards the Spirit of God.

At least that was my impression.

Dan Beaty Columbus, Ohio USA

http://www.livingtruth.com

The End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #48

 




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