New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

Sept 6, 2001 Vol 01 : 064


NT Church Proliferation Digest Thursday, September 6 2001 Vol 01 : 064

Re: [ntcp] Bible education for the church
re: Re: [ntcp] Bible education for the church
Re: [ntcp] Bible education for the church
[ntcp] Torah Cycle Program
Re: [ntcp] Fw: Invitation!

Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 19:23:09 EDT
From: DenverWH
Subject: Re: [ntcp] Bible education for the church

How about doing Bible education the way Jesus and the early church did?

A couple of years ago I was asked to preach at a Messianic congregation here
in Denver. This meant both the Friday night service and the Saturday morning
service. These services were not exactly the same - the main difference
being that on Saturday morning there was a rather extensive reading from the
Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). I learned that this
occurred every week and that in the course of a year they read through the
entire Torah. This was repeated every year.

This idea intrigued me and I began to do some research. I came across Acts
15:21 - a verse that I had never seen before. (It impacted me almost as
strongly as when I discovered 1 Cor. 14:26!) In Acts 15, James is explaining
the solution to the issue of Gentiles becoming believers. At the end of his
brief statement he says:

"For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is
read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

While this was important in the resolution of the problem with Gentiles, it
also opened my eyes to the way in which Scripture was studied in the New
Testament. In every synagogue in every city on every Sabbath Moses (the
Torah) was read. It had never occurred to me that there was a very specific
plan for studying Scripture that was followed by every committed Jew in
Israel in the 1st century including the Nazarenes (i.e., followers of Jesus).

In any Christian bookstore there are many books on Bible study. Multiple
plans and systems for Bible reading are available. However, Jesus, Paul,
Peter, James, etc. learned the Word of God using a particular plan called the
Torah Cycle. As disciples of Jesus, perhaps we should consider studying as
He studied!

In doing further research I found that, although many synagogues today follow
an Annual Torah Cycle (completing the Torah in one year), First Century
Israel followed a Triennial Torah Cycle (completing the Torah in three
years). This study plan included not only the weekly Torah reading but also
a reading from the Prophets (called the Haftarah) and the Psalms. Later,
after the New Testament was written, weekly Apostolic readings were added.

Jesus' Bible Study Plan. In the community in which Jesus lived as a child
and as an adult, the triennial Torah cycle was followed in every synagogue
every Sabbath. But that's not all. This same portion was, no doubt, the
weekly basis for an individual's meditation (Ps. 1) and for a family's dinner
table discussion (Dt. 6:6-7 ). By the time He began His public ministry,
Jesus would have completed this cycle ten times.

As a Torah observant Jew, Jesus probably attended synagogue every Sabbath of
his life . Because of this, we know that the Torah cycle was Jesus' Study
Plan just as it was the Study Plan for every committed Jew living in Israel
at that time.

Early Church's Study Plan. The centrality of the Torah cycle didn't change
when the church was born on Pentecost. The church was entirely made up of
believing Jews who continued to attend synagogue every Sabbath . Their study
plan was that same one that Jesus followed - the Torah portion for the week.

For instance, when Paul instructed Timothy to "devote yourself to the public
reading of Scripture" (1 Tim. 4:13), he was certainly speaking of the Old
Testament and most likely had the Torah cycle in mind.

Some of the benefits of this Study Plan:

1. Helps us in becoming disciples. A disciple, by definition, is one who
learns from or follows in the steps of his teacher. Luke 6:40 "A student is
not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his
teacher." This plan allows us to read and study Scripture the same way Jesus

2. Get to know Jesus better. Luke 24:27 "And beginning with Moses and all
the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures
concerning himself." Often the comment is made that we ought to read the New
Testament to get to know Jesus better. Apparently, Jesus felt that we can
also get to know Him through the Old Testament.

3. Helps us in making disciples. We can help others to read and study as
Jesus (and His disciples) did. We know exactly where to start in training a
new believer.

4. Get more nourishment. Rom 11:17 "If some of the branches have been
broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among
the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root&Mac226;Ķ"

5. Obey commands to meditate on Torah. Ps 1:2 "But his delight is in the
law (Torah) of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." Josh
1:8 "Do not let this Book of the Law (Torah) depart from your mouth;
meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything
written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

6. Increase both unity and learning within the household. Each member of
the family is meditating on the same passages. Assists family in fulfilling
Deut 6:6-7 "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your
hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

7. Increases both unity and learning between households. Because each
household/family is meditating on the same passages, they are able to
encourage and teach each other.

8. Helps us to learn and teach "the whole counsel of God". Disciplined,
systematic study of all of the Scriptures, not just favorite New Testament
passages. Teaches good principles of interpretation. OT is fulfilled in NT.
NT has its foundation in OT.

Special benefits for House Church:

1. Greater unity within the meeting. Everyone is "on the same page". 1
Cor 14:26 "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together,
everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an
interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the
church." All of these elements (singing, teaching, prophecy, etc.) of house
church in the 1st Century church must have grown out of the Torah portion for
that Sabbath. This would make the meeting far more edifying because people
are not "all over the place".

2. Allows children to feel a part. The typical sermon is often over the
head of the children of the congregation. But in a home where the passages
have been discussed all week, the children will be prepared to learn from and
contribute to the whole church when it meets. Adults who had only been
coming for a few weeks would also quickly feel a part.

3. Christian education. One criticism of house church is that there was not
a systematic plan for learning the Word of God. The Torah cycle presents a
systematic approach to developing a deep knowledge of the Word. It also
encourages individuals and families to learn to feed themselves. People no
longer come to church to "get fed". Rather, they see a model, week after
week, of people (including children) who are feeding themselves and coming to
church to participate and edify others.

I bet Michael will have some helpful comments on this!

John White
House Church Coach
Denver, CO.

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

Date: 05 Sep 2001 19:50:36 +0100
From: castillofuerte
Subject: re: Re: [ntcp] Bible education for the church

Dear Jay,

Thanks for sharing about Shepherds in Charlot. It was most interesting and a help to my ongoing understanding of what God is calling us to. It would be interesting to see how things will conitnue to develop.

Download NeoPlanet at

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

Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 19:52:35 -0700
From: "John Cooke"
Subject: Re: [ntcp] Bible education for the church


We follow this format in our house church meetings. We call it discussion Bible Study. The teaching flows naturally from discussion of the text. We read through the passage together and talk about it together. There is no need for formal teaching or preaching. They have been in the same passage all week.This is used for family altar times. They have a personal reading program through the Bible each year. We take it in our public gatherings. We are presently nearing the end ofMatthew. For the children, we have stick figure drawings of the story or subject matter on a white board, done by a young person or child, with coaching from an adult. This helps to keep the attention of the children. They summarize their drawings at the end. Sometimes we will dramatize the story line with a skit involving both adults and children. Anyone can stop the reading for comment or question.

Questions are used at key points if the discussion drags, which it seldom does.
I dont't think I would follow the Torah cycle only, without including both testaments, especially the Gospels.

John Cooke
House Church Coach
Chino Valley, AZ

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

Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 23:31:20 -0700 (PDT)
From: Link H
Subject: [ntcp] Torah Cycle Program

John White,

Thanks a lot for that great message about the Torah cycle. That was some of
the same information that started me thinking about a regular, thorough Bible
study program for all believers. Do you mind if I keep that message on file,
have it translated, published, etc. Maybe someday I could put together a
little book to present the vision for this kind of thorough Bible training.

I'd also like to point out that Jesus may have followed usual Jewish custom as
a child, and gone to a school to study the Torah intensely for five years. That
was basic education for boys in a Jewish village.

I think a Torah cycle program is a good 'skeleton' of a curriculum to start
with. Paul also instructed that churches read his letters. Let this letter be
read to the church in Laodicia- to the assembly in Laodicea- i.e. they read the
letters to the assemblies, 'in church.' This was an old church custom.

A Torah-selection program along with readings from the prophets and writings,
and the New Testament could be really beneficial. This is something like what
I have in mind, but with a curriculum to supplement it. Maybe some simple
commentaries for different age levels, along with maps (some black & white to
be photocopied), and some teachings on culturally relevant issues. The core of
the program would be the Bible.

The reason for the commentaries is that, in a lot of churches, even in the US,
not to mention uneducated village churches in developing countries, there is
often a lack of Christians who know about the cultural background of the Bible.
A good set of commentary-type materials, Bible dictionaries, etc. could help
these people understand the Bible better. What I have in mind is public domain,
uncopyrighted resources that could be translated into many languages.

Maybe some old commentaries with expired copyrights from the 1800's could be a
good source for this kind of compilation. This might take some money, but if
it could be compiled in a developing country, by fluent, non-native speakers of
English, it could be done much more cheaply than in the US. Maybe someday, if
I come up with the cash, and have the time, and most importantly if the Spirit
leads, I could do some work on a project like this.

Btw, Michael Millier would be a good person to ask about information related to
the various Torah cycles used throughout Jewish history. Maybe Michael could
tell us about the scripture schedule used among Messianics in Jerusalem.
Michael does your church have a schedule for reading books of the NT along with
the Torah and haf-Torah readings?

We could spread the news about this program by publishing a book about it, or
visiting churches and imparting a vision for it. With all the Christian
Education majors in Bible colleges and home school seminars, there should be a
lot of other people who would be interested in spreading such a vision. This
is something that HC's and "IC's" could get interested in. Having a low-cost,
photocopiable program like this available to be freely translated into other
languages could also help on the miss'ns field.

Hopefully, most children who grew up doing this would be qualified to be elders
just in terms of knowledge, and some could later develop into elders if they
produced the character and other qualifications necessary. An education
program like this might even be more in depth than a Bible school bachelor's.

Link Hudson

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

Date: Fri, 7 Sep 2001 00:28:43 -0400
From: "Dan Beaty"
Subject: Re: [ntcp] Fw: Invitation!

Dan and Laurel,

Brenda and I would love to come to your celebration, but the timing might be
difficult. Thanks for the invite!

Dan Beaty
Columbus, Ohio USA

End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #64

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