New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

Nov 7, 2001 Vol 01 : 087

NT Church Proliferation Digest Wednesday, November 7 2001 Vol 01 : 087

Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word -fwd from Mike-
Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word -fwd from Mike-
Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word -fwd from Mike-
[ntcp] Church Planting discussion

Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2001 10:53:54 -0500
From: forwarded
Subject: Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word -fwd from Mike-

From: Mike via the mail account of "Deborah"

Original contained an html duplicate, thus too long and message delayed.
- - New Testament Church Proliferation mail forwarder.


Okay, I've tried to be a good boy, staying out of the fray because I
could not see the value of the present thread in light of the focus of
this listserve. But if nobody is going to give it up-- including the
moderator-- then I'm hopping in. PILE ON!!! ...

Jay Ferris wrote to Dave Anderson:

> What you have said in the paragraph above is the point

> of what I have said on this subject. Jesus, not only has

> to be the center, but the source of our life and activities,

> otherwise we are going through religious motions which

> are designed to bring the first Adam to the last Adam,

> and that by the death of both.

We all agree with you here, Jay. Nobody I've read on this list is
denying the centrality of Jesus in *all* our ritual expressions. Maybe
I'm speaking too soon. Anybody out there denying that Jesus is "the
center," "source of our life and activities"? Anybody advocating
"religious motions which are designed to bring the first Adam to the last
Adam," or anything like that? No? I thought so. "No". So why, Jay, are
you still discussing this as if somebody were advocating the above? It is
a given: Jesus is central. *Dead* ritualism is dangerous. You appear to
be beating that straw man to death. Let's not debate when there's no

Dave Anderson wrote:

>> Granted, every good thing gets abused and misplaced

>> in this sinful world - those who will trust in rituals rather

>> than the Saviour will only have themselves to blame.

To which Jay Ferris replied:

> Perhaps, but Jesus also laid it at the feet of the teachers

> of the law:

> "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for

> ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye

> neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are

> entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,

> hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence

> make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater

> damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

> for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and

> when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell

> than yourselves. Matthew 23:13-15

Thank you Jay, for proving Dave's point! Can we now press forward?

Jay continued:

> What I have said in response needed to be said, and

> I said it, and stand on it. religion has been making

> war against love much longer than "only in the last

> few decades".

If you would please hear what people on this list have been saying--
that "religion" or "religious" *as words* are regularly (but not always)
used in a positive sense in the Bible; that only in the last few decades
have the words "religion" and "religious" (without qualifiers) come to be
popularly and regularly applied to what we all deplore: a system of
beliefs with self at the center, seeking to work up to a justification,
or a sanctification, or whatever along these lines by grinding out some
deeds, prayers, fastings, etc.

"Religion" and "religious" as most often used in the Bible are not the
antitheses of love. Love and religion go hand-in-hand. They are not in
mutually exclusive categories. If the human authors of divinely inspired
Scripture saw fit to use the terms "religion" and "religious" in positive
senses (as well as sometimes in negative senses), then who are we (or
you) to assign them a negative sense only? "Bad religion," "dead
religion," "self-centered religion," even "Adamic religion" has been
making war against love since time immemorial. We will all agree with
that statement. Right gang? However, when people simply employ the terms
"religion" or "religious" pejoratively, then we have biblical reason to
object and to seek to redeem from the reductionist work-camp words which,
when used correctly, help to accurately describe a dimension of our
Christian experience. Even yours, bro Jay.

> We need to begin to major in love, this is the

> command that we have from the beginning..." Of

> all the commands, this is the spotlight on our

> greatest failure, and the world still does not

> know, John 17.

Amen. We each need to allow Christ to love through us. We have certainly
failed as a Church in this area. And the world still receives a distorted
picture of God's unity and His great concern for humanity through our
failure. With this we agree. Love is and should be the focus, the
fulfillment of the Torah. Yet none of what you have highlighted precludes
the fulfillment of this preeminent of all commandments within the context
of "religion" in its proper expression. Biblical "religion" serves love.
You might not like the way that last sentence sounds, but it is
nonetheless true.
> On that final day, I believe we will see that

> more was done out of insecurity, than the security

> of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. More was done

> as a run from, rather than a call to. More was

> done for the sake of male ego gratification, the

> desire, even the craving to be stage center, than

> from the attitude which was in Christ who did not

> consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.

> More was done out of guilt than redemption. More

> was the work of man's hands than the doing of Christ.

You know Jay, you're probably right. Obedience to Christ in this life,
tainted as we are with sin, is necessarily a mixed bag. I used to spend a
lot of time, however, vexing myself over these kind of motive issues
until I became virtually paralyzed in ministry.

"Should I help him pay his heating bill or not? I don't really have any
extra money. ... Oh no! My motives aren't entirely pure. I should want to
help him out simply from pure love. If my love isn't pure, will my giving
him what he needs be a "filthy rag[]" (Isa. 64:6)? If I can't minister in
selfless love, perhaps I should just pray until my motives are completely
pure. Maybe God doesn't want me to help that person since I'm not a
worthy enough vessel. Maybe it is somebody else's job this time; somebody
with a "clean heart and pure hands" (Psa. 24:4).

So I'd be praying about it while my less fortunate
brother/sister/stranger suffered because I was unable to just fork over
some "unrighteous mammon" (Luk. 16:9), or time, or involved prayer, or a
helping hand, or ... whatever when the need presented itself and I was in
a position to help. Perfectly clean heart or no.

Along the way I kept "bumping into" several verses in the Bible which
helped me see things a different way and find release from my
self-imposed prison.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can
know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give
every man according to his WAYS, According to the fruit of his DOINGS"
(Jer. 17:9, 10, emphasis mine).

"... the righteous judgment of God, who 'will render to each one
according to his DEEDS': eternal life to those who by patient CONTINUANCE
IN DOING GOOD seek for glory, honor, and immortality ..." (Rom 2:5-7,
emphasis mine).

"In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself,
yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will
both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels
of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God" (1 Cor. 4:3b-5).

"But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and
shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My
little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in
truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our
hearts before Him" (1 Joh. 3:17-19).

"For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows
all things" (1 Joh. 3:20).

I just figured I would obey God without the full assurance that I was
operating with the best of motives, since usually I was/am not. And I'd
leave the judging of those things to Him. I wasn't seeking to buy my
salvation-- I knew that-- just serve my Lord, through the power of His
Spirit who was urging me to manifest his fruit. In the meantime, I
discovered that I wasn't doing myself or anybody else any good waiting
until the complete purity of heart came. It never did.

So maybe what you're saying is right, maybe the (bad) religion bug is in
all of us to a greater or lesser degree. And we should be on guard and
seek to root it out whenever possible. But while all this may be true, we
should still actively pursue the will of God and *DO IT* ... purest
motives or not. And we should be longing for the resurrection when we
won't have to worry about our alloyed obedience to the LORD.

Practicing our "religion" and being "religious" purely out of love and
gratitude for our Savior are positive scriptural goals we can each set.
And with God's help, ultimately accomplish. But for now, if we spend too
much time trying to second-guess ourselves and our motives, we will not
be expanding God's kingdom of "righteousness and peace and joy in the
Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:7), but rather find ourselves stuck in a quagmire
of indecisiveness which will eventually extinguish the fire of our
spiritual service.


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

Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2001 13:47:54 -0500
From: David Anderson
Subject: Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word -fwd from Mike-

Greetings from the south,

Link noted what he felt was the misapplication of this term in his
original post. In the past, this very word has indeed been frequently
(mis)used to insult others on the home church lists. Our own little "n"
word, if you please. (I have studied these lists for more than 5 years. I
think I know what I am talking about this time.)

Now, in view of the fact that religion and religious have become the
ultimate attack words by too many house church folk - even writers, an
objective discussion is in order as far as I am concerned. I said at the
outset, I care not if one employs this word or does not employ it - just
that it's continual abuse does no advantage the cause to communicating
the Gospel.

The word has become a focal point of many topics: justification,
authority, ethics, law, Phariseeism, legalism, liturgy etc. So, there is
some connection indeed to church planting, imo.

Words do change in meaning over time, true. Take how the word "attitude"
in just the past few years has become synonymous with "bad attitude".
Example: "Wow, that slob really has an attitude - what is his problem?"
Similarly, "religion" has become synonymous with "false religion" or
usually "no trace of religion whatsoever" in the minds of some.

Below, from 1871, a British writer observed it's misunderstood meaning in
his own day. Enjoy!

Above all, God help us not to become a Tower of Babel, in which words
meant nothing.

David Anderson

>From the commentary on James by Robert Johnstone:

'If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue,
but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion
and undefiled before God and the Father is this - to visit the fatherless
and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the
world.' James I. 26, 27

THESE verses are closely connected with what precedes. The apostle wishes
to impress on his readers the vast importance of being 'doers, and not
hearers only;' and he knows the great advantage of exhibiting a
particular example illustrative of any general principle - not merely
from its making the meaning clear, but because, in morals especially,
general principles are apt to slip from thought, whilst examples lay hold
of heart and conscience like grappling irons. A general principle of duty
is to our feelings very often like an exquisitely chiseled and most
beautiful statue in a gallery of art, looked at with admiration, but
cold, dead, destitute of all connection with our daily life - an example,
like a living, loving, wise friend and adviser, whom we meet at every
turn in our life. The apostle proceeds, accordingly, to show what 'doing
God's word' is by special cases: and this first negatively, mentioning
one easily recognized feature which characterizes the non-doer; then
positively, describing modes of conduct which, with more or less
fullness, are found in doers.

First, negatively: 'If any man among you seem to be religious, and
bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion
is vain.' Our authorized version, admirable on the whole alike for
accuracy and for perspicuity and beauty of expression, appears to lack
somewhat of its customary excellence in the rendering of this verse; for
in one or two points it is obscure, if not misleading. The sentence would
have been clearer, if in the middle clauses the participle form had been
retained which they have in the original, thus: 'whilst bridling not his
tongue, but deceiving his own heart.' Again, the question very naturally
arises, How can a man seem at all to be religious - how could any person
take him for religious - when his religious pretensions are completely
and obviously refuted by his unbridled tongue, 'his speech betraying
him?' But the word translated 'seem' has reference merely to the
existence of an opinion, not to the existence of any apparent ground for
this opinion; and in the present case the opinion is the man's own. The
meaning therefore is, 'seem to himself' or 'think himself;' just as, for
example, in Paul's words to the Corinthians: 'If any man among you
seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be
wise' (I Cor. iii. 18). But after these little things have been
rectified, there still remains the chief misleading element in the
translation - which, however, is not due to any ignorance or carelessness
on the part of the translators, but to a change since their days in the
meaning of the words 'religion' and 'religious.'

Change of meaning is a source of error that has affected a considerable
number of words in the English Bible; and there is plainly more danger of
misunderstanding passages where these occur, than passages where words
occur that are now entirely out of use. When you meet such a word as
'ouches,' 'teaches,' 'days-man,' you see at once that it is a stranger in
modern English; and if you wish to understand what you read, and do not
merely go over a chapter mechanically, under the idea that you are
serving God and benefiting yourselves by passing the eye over the words,
you ask a well-informed friend, or consult a book, what the obsolete word
means. But when you read, 'If any widow have children or nephews,' and do
not know that everywhere in our version this word means 'grandson;' when
you are told that Paul and his company 'took up their carriages, and went
up to Jerusalem,' or that 'David left his carriage in the hand of the
keeper of the carriage,' and forget that with our translators 'carriage'
meant 'baggage;' when you hear Paul saying to the Athenians, 'As I passed
by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar,' and do not know that by
these the translators intend the outward objects connected with what we
now call devotion - temples, images, and the like; 1-in these and other
similar cases you might easily go unconsciously altogether astray as to
the sense of the passage.

Words wholly unused in the English of our own time 'are like rocks which
stand out from the sea: we are warned of their presence, and there is
little danger of our making shipwreck upon them. But words like those
which have been just cited, as familiar now as when our version was made,
but employed in quite different meanings from those which they then
possessed, are like hidden rocks, which give no notice of their presence,
and on which we may be shipwrecked, if I may so say, without so much as
being aware of it.'

By far the most serious of the misconceptions arising from this source of
error are those connected with the words 'religion' and 'religious,'
especially in the passage before us. At the time our translation was
made, these words seem to have been generally, if not always, employed
with reference to the outward forms in which what we now usually call
'religion' - reverence and love to God - showed itself. The words do not
occur often in our Bible - nowhere in the Old Testament, and but a few
times in the New; but in every case they refer to what we may call the
body, not the soul, of religion - to forms of worship, under which there
might or might not be true piety. 'Godly' and 'godliness' are the terms
our translators employ for the spirit of religion. In the verses before
us, the words in the original which 'religion' and 'religious' are used
to represent unquestionably refer to worship, or, generally, to the form
or embodiment of religion. I have gone into this matter with some
fullness, because I am persuaded that the last verse of this chapter,
misunderstood, has often been applied as an opiate to their consciences
by persons who, feeling that they loved the world and the things of the
world more than they loved Jesus Christ, would fain believe that a life
of outward decency and some kindness to the poor constitutes the whole of
religion - the whole of piety. What the apostle states is that, where
piety exists in the soul, stainless morality and earnest philanthropy
form its proper and legitimate outward expression.

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

Date: Tue, 06 Nov 2001 07:49:24 -0800
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word -fwd from Mike-

Dear Michael,

you wrote:

>So maybe what you're saying is right, maybe the (bad) religion bug is in
>all of us to a greater or lesser degree. And we should be on guard and
>seek to root it out whenever possible. But while all this may be true, we
>should still actively pursue the will of God and *DO IT* ... purest
>motives or not. And we should be longing for the resurrection when we
>won't have to worry about our alloyed obedience to the LORD.
> Practicing our "religion" and being "religious" purely out of love and
>gratitude for our Savior are positive scriptural goals we can each set.
>And with God's help, ultimately accomplish. But for now, if we spend too
>much time trying to second-guess ourselves and our motives, we will not
>be expanding God's kingdom of "righteousness and peace and joy in the
>Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:7), but rather find ourselves stuck in a quagmire
>of indecisiveness which will eventually extinguish the fire of our
>tual service.

Dear Michael,

Please allow me another attempt to focus the problem where "religion"
versus love is concerned.

My constant experience has been, that when relationships form without
benefit of recognizable religious structure, institution, organization
or building, those whose identification is wrapped up or rooted in such,
find such, let us say, "outside the gate" relationships immediately
suspect. The more mature person in the relationship is seen as leading
people astray, a "wolf in sheeps clothing", and the "religious" make war
on the relationship and those involved. Paul, prior to his conversion,
is a good example of what I am talking about. In general, spiritual two
year olds and younger are fair game for the slaughter.

While considering the perceptions of those who are weak in the faith,
perhaps we might want to conside those who have been wounded to the
point of no return, where religion and churchianity is concerned or, at
least, allow others to consider them, reach out to them, and God
willing, bring them back into a meaningful relationship with Christ
without the trappings of the religion that turned them off in the first

Yours in Christ,


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

Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2001 12:49:12 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [ntcp] Church Planting discussion

Stepanie wrote:
> For husband and I it is easier to hear God and just

> step out and go do it (ie. plant a church), rather

> than come shoulder to shoulder with someone else who

> is already toiling in a field. However, ...

Then the practical question is: how do you know how to interpret God's voice in
these kinds of circumstances? Let's throw your scenario back to you,
Stephanie: if you heard God telling you to go plant a church in X location, and
you packed up and left, then upon arrival you discovered there was already a
Church Planting effort going on in that certain area, would you interpret God's
voice to mean that you and your husband were to come alongside that work which
was in process? Or would you interpret God's voice to mean you should start a
different church? Would you immediately assume *you* were supposed to be the
planters? After all, it is not unthinkable that God would want two or more
local congregations on the same block. Not to mention the same city. Or would
your reception/non-reception by the current laborers in that field determine
how you would interpret God's voice in this situation? How would you know?

Another related thing for discussion: suppose those in the process of planting
a church there were-- not exactly heretical-- but a little fringy in their
doctrinal stance(s). Would you feel compromised if you worked along with
them-- and particularly if they were pushy with their idiosyncrasies-- or
would you be inclined to put doctrinal issues on the backburner, despite the
uncomfortable rub, for the higher work of planting a congregation-- even though
you suspected that, once established, the church would likely go astray? Or
that it might not even be desirable for it to multiply because of its
wackiness? ... That in a sense you suspected (but did not know) that you would
be creating a monster. In other words, would you work together on a project
with a group which warmly welcomed you, but which you sort of feared would
ultimately be a wasted effort, or worse yet, a possible (but not a for sure)
affront to our Savior?

Anybody else out there got some thoughts or experiences on the topic(s)?


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #87

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