New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

NT Church Proliferation Digest Tuesday, August 28 2001 Vol 01 : 058

Re: [ntcp] Re: The Organic Church
[ntcp] Church Planting in Prison
Re: [ntcp] Church Planting in Prison
[ntcp] Planting Churches Without Elders: There are some stories in scripture where there is debate over whether or nt the characters were doing the right thing. David went to work for a Philistine king and raided various people groups, pretending to be raiding Israelites. I once heard a preacher say that David was not doing the right thing. We could debate one side or another of this issue.

Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2001 14:11:19 -0400
From: "Samuel Buick"
Subject: Re: [ntcp] Re: The Organic Church

Thanks Keith for your well put reply.

My only "beef" is with your use of the term "cell". I avoid it as most "cell
based" churches use the term simply to reinforce a form of body life that is
essentially like the spokes on a wheel flowing from a centre hub. The hub
being the nerve centre or the pastoral leadership team that directs the flow of
ministry within the church. That is my frame of reference and I have found it
to be stifling and it chokes out body life and the flow of what the Spirit is
doing in the "cells".

Keith, I like very much how you have elaborated on what you understand and see
as "organic". I myself have used the term "primitive NT city/regional church"
which takes the view of as you say, seeing the whole body of Christ in a
city/region as the church and literally becoming a church without walls.

Even as a house church we have had no walls. Anyone in the city can come and
go as they please. In fact I encourage everyone, even those who identify
themselves with us, to participate in the wider body life expressed in the
city. There are ministries, and places to minister that we cannot and never
would undertake, yet many of these same ministries need volunteers, and so I
encourage wider body life by having people join into the wider expression of
body life both in the Christian ministries and churches and other secular
social agencies. We attempt to cultivate Christians with a wider view of the
church in the city. We belong to one another and we need to encourage and pray
for one another. We have had a variety of leaders from other churches come and
we have gone out of our way to minister to them and encourage them, and that
includes some of our folks going to their fellowships to express support.
These same churches have acknowledged us in their fellowship as well. This is
I believe, as you have put it, to develop an apostolic vision of the city. We
need each other, and we need to be in relationship together.

Our vision is to plant 250 house churches in a city of 300,000. While you have
"relational cells", we simply have individual house churches that engage in
relationship with one another. Each is unique unto itself in its composition,
ministries, and style of body life, and each chooses how they interact with
other house churches and IC. While they are relationally connected, it is they
themselves that under the guidance of the Spirit and in agreement with one
another, that decide on that relationship and in their vision. The one over
arching vision we have cultivated has been to view the body of Christ in the
city as the city church and that we need to work with one another. This does
not mean having an organized structure of seen accountability. It is all

You have used expressions like "servant leaders" etc., to which I heartily
echo "Amen!" You have accurately pointed out some of the problems with
ministerials. My own unfortunate experiences as that at least where I am they
are more of "an old boys club" and a place where the "Christian Marketing
Gurus" can come and pan their wares. Sound a bit cynical. Yes, but it is true
unfortunately. I know for a fact that there are many bi-vocational ministers
in the city where I am, yet the ministerial continues to set events up as if
everyone in leadership in the churches are CEO's of corporations. The only
late afternoon or evening events are the Christmas social and the Valentines
Day banquet, both of which are excuses to bring our spouses! I quite frankly
have lost my appetite for such things.

There are some ministers in town that I have an affinity for. Some are IC,
some have churches that are cell-based, and one is simply a church of
smallgroups (to me it is the same as the cell based, but the pastor objects to
the term as much as I do ;-)). We meet once in a while for fellowship and to
share prayer needs.

I know who my friends are. When we had Robert Fitts come to our conference on
Church in The House, we held it in an IC. No one in the ministerial either
acknowledged it or came out. Not one! Over a 100 evangelical churches in the
ministerial. No one. But the churches that I was in relationship with, they
came, the leaders and some of their people. I was blessed by their presence.
I have continued to cultivate those relationships.

You mentioned monthly celebrations. We participate in a monthly city wide
celebration. In fact we were the main instigators of this with the IC that
hosted our conference. Again the local ministerial has been less that
enthusiastic. They all talk city church, but I see little fruit of their talk.

There are also several other house churches in the city and we have begun
cultivating relationship with them. We have supported and encouraged them, and
they in turn have do so with us. We participate as we can in each others
gatherings. We have discussed meeting city wide as house churches to gather
and celebrate and have apostolic and prophetic ministry. Again this takes time
to develop trust in relationship. One such house church has been in the city
for over 30 years and another for 24 years. Neither of them have ever planted
another church. They have both been insular and viewed the IC with suspicion,
and I do understand why. The house church movement has been viewed with
suspicion and as those who are a collection of those who refuse to "fit in"
with the established order of things. This is a continuing problem for leaders
of other churches who refuse to recognize the ligitimacy of HC. My only reason
for my involvement in the ministerial is to give a human face to the reality of
HC in the city. It is not an easy thing to be in such a place.

We have encouraged the other HC to think about planting other churches in the
city and to move beyond insular relationships and to embrace the church in the
city. Our guideline is simply this: "We are the church together. The problems
of the church are our problems since we are the church. The church is what
Jesus founded, sustained and died for. We embrace everything that Jesus
embraces, and that includes all expressions of His body in the city, for we are
the church together." This is what keeps us all humble and focussed.

We sense our calling to be one that calls the city church to unity, not in
programs or ministries, or vision, but unity in the Father as Jesus is one with
the Father. If we have the vertical unity right, then the brotherly love of
horizontal relational unity will be the outflow of the vertical relational

Keith, thanks for your posting. I understand you better and appreciate your
vision and understanding. I still don't like that term "cells", it sends
shivers down my back. But, that is my issue, isn't it?

Keep up the great postings!



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Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2001 20:06:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Link H
Subject: [ntcp] Church Planting in Prison

There is a moderator comment at the end of this post in brackets. Please, be
sure to read that portion of the post.

Has anyone done any work with church planting in prisons in the US? I read an
article about a large wave of prisoners being released a few years back. I got
to thinking about prisons and prison ministry.

One thing I notice about the OT is that there was basically no prison system.
Later kings had a place to keep prophets they arrested for preaching unpopular
messages, but that is not the same as our prison system today. The OT offerred
a system of compensation, corporal, and capital punishment, in addition to
animal sacrifices and various other rituals. Personally, I think hitting
someone with a stick 40 times and making them pay back what they stole for as a
penalty for robbery is probably more effective and more just than locking them
in a room full of theives, murderers, and violent homosexuals for several

Bad company corrupts good morals. Prisons seem to produce worse criminals.
The US may be the worst country in the world for imprisoning people. There is
a great need for Christians to go to prisons, visit prisoners, win them to
Christ, and disciple them inthe faith.

I read most of _I Was Wrong_ on a visit to the US a few years back. I was
encouraged to read about some of the body life that took place among Christians
in Federal prison. When I got interested in house church, I started to think
how great it would be if Christians in prison realized that the were the body
of Christ and they could 'have church' every day.

Many prisoners in the US have a lot of free time. Instead of wasting their
time, they could spend it learning the word of God, exercising spiritual gifts,
ministering to one another, and growing in the Lord. If a revival of this type
took place within a prison, a prison might be really become a place for
'rehabilitating' people so they could function in society, instead of a place
of further corrupting people by putting them in a place with worse criminals
where they can be sexually abused before being released back into society.

One brother I met who was passing through here in Indonesia told about
minsitering in prisons. He said some Christians in prison were using their
time to memorize scripture. There were guys racing to memorize the whole New

I know every prison system in the US probably has different rules for who is
allowed in to minister. I heard of one system that required anyone who
ministered in a prison to have an MDiv or higher. But some prison systems are
more reasonable. Holding Bible studies in prison, evangelizing, discipling
people, and teaching prisoners how to 'be the church' all the time could be a
very valuable ministry. It could help change our country. If a significant
portion of prisoners repented, then it could even help the finances of the US,
sinceso much money is spent on building new prisons.

A disproportionately large percentage of young black American men are in
prison. Prison ministry could turn into inner city ministry as we follow
people out of prison to help them. Prison ministry could be ministry to the
next generation of the elders of inner city churches. Imagine discipling male
role models in prison, who could go out and minister to their neighborhoods.

I do have a question about this for Sam. House church ministry in prisons
might take place in 'cells' since cells are where prisoners live. Would you
object if we call a 'house church' in a prison a 'cell church?'

Is anyone doing prison ministry? Have you faced any administrative
difficulties. I'd like to see prisoners evangelizing and baptizing other
prisoners. I don't know if wardens would allow that.

In Indonesia, the only people in prison allowed to go to church, from what I
hear, are other prisoners. Only legal clergymen from legal denominations can
offer legal baptism certificates in this country. There may be over a thousand
denominations, though. I'd like to see a move of God in prisons here. I spoke
at one prison once, but they divide the time slots among various denominations,
and it's all daytime work. I shared with one man in prison ministry, the idea
of prisoners secretely baptizing converts from the salami religion in the tub
where they store their bathwater, if it's big enough. (But I doubt they would
have one big enough for full immersion.) The prison officials probably
wouldn't allow a lisenced preacher to baptize one of another religion in their

[As moderator, I'd like to remind people about posting 'amen' messages followed
by an entire quoted message. Please use only portions of previous messages that
you need to use to respond to, and delete the rest. I realize sometimes we
post and don't realize there is a quote quoted message. But let's try to pay
attention and chop off excess quotes.

And please avoid the 'Amen Joe' posts followed 10K of quoted text with no
further response. This clogs up the net, makes archiving difficult, and fills
up the HD space of us packrat types.] Link

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Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2001 23:15:11 EDT
Subject: Re: [ntcp] Church Planting in Prison


I ran Chuck Colson's communications dept for 8 months. They're the gold
standard in prison ministry. Of course, everybody and their cat is doing
prison ministry, but if you're interested in that, you should get in touch
with Prison Fellowship International.


Jim Rutz

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Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2001 00:08:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Link H
Subject: [ntcp] Planting Churches Without Elders: There are some stories in scripture where there is debate over whether or nt the characters were ding the right thing. David went to work for a Philistine king and raided various people groups, pretending to be raiding Israelites. I once heard a preacher say that David was not doing the right thing. We could debate one side or another of this issue.

There are some stories in scripture where there is debate over whether or nt
the characters were ding the right thing. David went to work for a Philistine
king and raided various people groups, pretending to be raiding Israelites. I
once heard a preacher say that David was not doing the right thing. We could
debate one side or another of this issue.

But there are some cases where we know that the people recorded in scripture
did things right. One case is the first missionary journey. Toward the
beginning of Acts 13, we read that Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Holy
Spirit to do a work. At the end of Acts 14, we read that they completed the
work to which they had been called. Acts 13 through 14 shows us some of the
God-approved methods for planting churches.

One area where Paul and Barnabas' strategy for planting churches differs from
some common, traditional models is in establishing church leadership. Many
believe that when a new church is planted in an unreached area, a Bible college
or seminary graduate from outside that church community should come in and
serve as pastor. But Paul and Barnabas did not do this.

Instead, Paul and Barnabas preached, the word, churches were formed, and then
these two apostles left the new churches without appointed leadership. They
just left the churches like that for a while and let them function without
leadership! Just think of the criticism this type of church planting strategy
would receive if someone were to follow it today!

One reason so many people can't imagine leaving a new church plant alone is
because many modern church meetings are so clergy centered. One leader
preaches one sermon in one meeting. But we see in scripture that the various
believers in the meeting spoke in the meetings (I Cor. 14:26, Hebrews
10:24-25.) In this type of meeting, it is possible for new believers to meet
and edify one another.

Eventually, Paul and Barnabas did return and appoint elders in the churches.
The word for "elders" can be translated as 'older men.' Paul and Barnabas may
have appointed older men in the congregations.

Something important to notice was that the elders in the various churches
planted on the first missionary journey were appointed from within the flock,
not brought in from the outside. We see in Paul's letters to Timothy and
Titus, that there were certain qualifications for an elder to meet in order to
be a candidate to oversee the flock of God. These qualifications focused on
character and success in family life. Overseers had to be 'apt to teach' and
had to know the truth well, but they did not need a Bible college or seminary

Ironically, in many countries, new church plants are put into the hands of
young Bible college graduates from outside the church community. How different
this is from the strategy we see in Acts, of appointing older men from within
the church community.

>From what we see in scripture all the churches formed
on the first missionary journey, and all the churches that Titus was visiting
on Crete were able to produce men qualified to be elders. Isn't there a
pattern here? If the seed of the word planted produced elders in the churches
in the first century, shouldn't we expect modern church plants to do the same?
Think of the Gospel message as an acorn. An acorn, planted into the ground
under the right conditions, grows into an oak tree. The word planted into the
right ground under the right conditions grows into a church. The oak tree
produces various parts, a trunk, limbs, bark, leaves, and acorns. A church
produces various parts. One part of the tree is the elders. We should expect
for churches to organically appoint elders.

And maybe that is one reason the apostles left churches behind with no
appointed pastors at first. Paul wrote that an overseer in the church must not
be a novice. Leaving churches behind for a while allowed elders to grow and

Is it wise to abandoned new church plants? Paul and Barnabas were called to
preach from city to city. But we do see that new churches can benefit from
temporary ministers and traveling brethren. Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch,
where there were many new believers. They taught in Antioch for about a year.
Apollos traveled to the new church at Corinth and strengthened the believers
there. He watered the work that Paul planted. New churches do benefit from
ministers 'from the outside,' but the pattern we see in scripture is one of
elders being appointed from within the church.

This is a very wise practice. The church is a spiritual family. One way an
elder shows his potential to pastor the house of God is by first ruling his own
house well. An elder has to be a successful father before he can be qualified
to act in a fatherly role in the house of God. It makes sense that in a
spiritual family, the father actually knows his children. This is an advantage
to having elders that are raised up from within the assembly, rather than
bringing in a new hired pastor from the outside. The elder already knows his
sheep. He was brought up among them, and emerged as a spiritual leader.

Elders are still part of the brethren. Some Christians have a very
hierarchical view of church. They think that the important thing in church is
to have the right church government and to submit to the right leader.
Leadership is important in church, but we see in scripture that the entire
church is responsible for what takes place in the church community, not just
the elders.

If many modern ministers were in Paul's shoes- being responsible to write
letters to new churches they had planted- they might address their letters to
the hired pastors responsible for those churches. But Paul addresses his
epistles to the saints in general.

Many scholars believe that the epistle of the Galatians was written to churches
planted on Paul's first missionary journey, churches planted in the south of
the province of Galatia. If this is the case, then those churches already had
elders. But Paul addressed his letter to the saints, and not specifically to
the elders.

Paul addressed I Corinthians to the church there, and not specifically to key
leaders. In this epistle, we see that the whole church was responsible for
conducting the Lord's Supper in a loving way that wouldn't incur God's wrath.
Paul wrote to the whole church, warning them of their responsibility not to eat
with a fornicator who was called a brother. Jesus had taught that the
unrepentant brother, after being confronted according by one, and then two or
three witnesses, should be brought before the church, and if he will not hear
the church 'let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.' Notice that
Christ taught that the man should be brought before the church and not merely
before a few key leaders.

Elders may serve as judges and lead in the congregation. They bear a great
responsibility to watch over the souls of the saints. But the whole church is
responsible to live holy before God. So often, the brethren dump their duties
and responsibilities on the elders or the one-man pastor.

Leaving new church plants alone without elders, at first, may have been a
factor that allowed new churches to develop a sense of brotherhood and mutual
responsibility. So many modern saints don't take responsibility in the kingdom
because they consider the kingdom to be the responsibility of 'the pastor' or
elders. But in the early church plants, there were no elders. The saints were
pressed to take responsibility, to minister in their gifts, and to care for on
another. After the saints already had a sense of what it meant to participate
in mutual edification and bearing one another's burden, then the appointing of
elders to help watch over them was a true blessing. By going through this
experience of meeting without appointed elders, the saints may have been forced
to learn responsibility and to minister to one another. Appointing a one-man
pastor to teach a brand new church of early believers every week may actually
teach them to be dependent and not take responsibility.

Planting churches without elders also freed Paul and Barnabas up to labor more.
Instead of remaining in Pisidian Antioch teaching church government could be
set up, Paul and Barnabas just went on to other cities, preaching the Gospel.
This allowed them to plant more churches. Realizing this can free up so many
church planters to plant more churches.

Some people think that if a new church is planted in a new area on the missions
field, that the church planter must remain with them until a pastor is hired.
But, in some cases, after laying the foundation of Christ, the church planter
might be wiser to move on and leave the new church to the Holy Spirit. He may
wish to leave and allow some teachers from another congregation to come and
minister for a while until local eldership matures. New churches can function
by reading the Bible in the meetings, exercising their own spiritual gifts, and
benefiting from traveling brethren.

Some Christians believe that, in order to have a new church plant, there must
be thirty or more people meeting together, a hired pastor, a church building,
pews, and an organ. But planting churches is about planting the word of God
and allowing a congregation to form around Christ. A small group of believers
can meet in a private home. There is no need to build a church building.
There is no need for an organ. Let a local church mature until it produces
elders. If an oak tree grows long enough under the right conditions, it will
produce branches and leaves. We should expect local churches to produce elders.

End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #58

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