New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Tuesday, February 12 2002 Vol 02 : 037
Re: [NTCP] The end of the thread?
[NTCP] Auf wiedersehen for now...
Re: [NTCP] Auf wiedersehen for now...
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
[NTCP] Re: That Nicolaitan doctrine
Re: [NTCP] Re: That Nicolaitan doctrine

Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 19:09:50 -0500
From: David Anderson
Subject: Re: [NTCP] The end of the thread?

>Dear Michael Millier and Crew,
>
>Hoo boy. It is my heartfelt prayer that nobody will be moved to reply
>to this posting. This is my attempt to give a Christian burial to several
>tedious matters hinging upon the Greek text--matters we've nearly beaten into
>the ground. So as I often say about letters of marginal value: "Read and
>Toss."

Hi Jim Rutz,

To end a thread you must encourage others NOT to end it ...

On the internet people will usually do the opposite of what's expected or even
logical. For instance: 90 percent of those who unsubscribe from this list will
send their unsub message to the entire list instead of the admin address. Those
who expect to find local people in a house church registry usually do not
bother to make an entry themselves. Those who want you to link to their web
sites would never link to yours.

Reverse thinking prevails in cyberspace. Get to love it.

LOL,

David Anderson


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Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 21:11:24 EST
From: JAMESRUTZ
Subject: [NTCP] Auf wiedersehen for now...

Dear TC and all,

Can't handle the load anymore! When I took a couple of trips lately, I came
back to find 2-3 hours of NTCP posts waiting. Responding to all that takes
more time than I have. Topping it off, I tried this afternoon to reply to TC's
post, and after I finished the whole shmotz, the computer informed me that I
had performed an illegal operation and would be shut down (felon that I
am)--just as I went to send it. So I'm going to go into what we call in
computerland "read only" mode. I'll have to skim stuff, at best. If you have
anything pointedly for me, could you please send it directly to me at
jim(--AT--)openchurch.com? I'll miss the camaraderie and intellectual
stimulation, but I just don't have an extra 30-60 minutes a day for this fine
forum.

Anyhow, I'll now try to reconstruct my reply to TC (groan):

1. Having several elders does not imply democracy or egalitarianism. Why
should it? Why do you think elders must be equal? Why do you think they must
be elected? You're reading modern politics into the church.

2. You say, "they are given a gift and authority to lead and direct. And this
is a hierarchy." I say nay. A hierarchy is a multi-level, graded, ranking
system. Not biblical.

3. You say, "Paul says that the body is to 'obey your spiritual leaders and do
what they say.'" This is a modest distortion of what the Greek says.
Translators have for centuries been translating passages like this just a bit
more harshly than is justified, ratcheting them up half a notch to reflect
their own idea of the church.

Let's look at the KJV: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
yourselves..." Yeah, well, right off the bat, you can scratch "the rule."
It's not in the original. Better would be, LISTEN TO (go along with, allow
yourselves to be persuaded by) THOSE WHO STAND BEFORE YOU (guide you, lead you
by their example). The word for submit is also an unusual choice. It's
HUPEIKO, meaning to retire, withdraw, yield under, or be weak toward someone.
This is the only place in the NT you'll see it. Elsewhere, the NT uses
HUPOTASSO, a more military word. You can see how the writer of Hebrews was
trying hard to be soft--in regard to a tough subject.

4. You say, "Whoever that person is would have to be able to wield authority
to silence this teaching -- and to back it up to be able to toss those who
would be unrepentant. It wouldn't have been a group decision!" Oh? I seem to
recall that most of the church decisions in Acts were made by the church, not
just the leaders acting in isolation. Breeze through the first 5-6 chapters,
and you'll find several instances of the church acting as a group on some
decision. Even in the touchy, explosive matter of ousting a misbehaving member
at Corinth, Paul refers the matter to the whole church, never even mentioning
the idea that the elders should handle it. (How different it would be in the
institutional church today!)

5. You say, "most house church people, like yourself and Jim, are pretty
convinced that you have the blueprint for what the 1st Century church looked
like and did." No, we don't. We see how Paul urged them to look and do in I
Cor. 14. We see 54 one-anothers that would have been impossible to fulfill in
an audience church. So we have good clues. But we don't have blueprints. We're
not guessing, but we are interpolating and extrapolating.

6. TC, my computer is giving me fits again, but you said something comparing
the house church with the first century church. My response to that is that I
certainly hope we can be at least a bit better in some ways than the early
church. They didn't have New Testaments or much experience in dealing with
Christian heresies or any Christian church history to learn from. And the
Greek/Roman part of the church was mostly illiterate--and so poor they couldn't
afford cell phones or plane fare to Benny Hinn conferences or anything. Yes,
there's a tendency in the house church to idolize them or at least exalt them
as normative for today. But that's wrong. God wants us to do better.

Well, gang, I'll try to wrap up any loose threads that are still dangling--if
it seems like it might be helpful to you. But I'm out of time for being an
integral part of such an activist list. So it's not good-bye, but au revoir,
hasta la vista, and shalom...

Your brother,

Jim Rutz
RHSG (really humble servant of God) Colorado Springs


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Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 21:47:10 -0500
From: David Anderson
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Auf wiedersehen for now...

You have offered us some real nuggets lately, brother Jim. Would a digest
version of the list help you or any other? You would receive a group of
messages in one email each day. Just let me know.

To the rest, let's make each post count and stay on topic. Most everybody is
covered up with opportunities and duties beyond cyberspace. Many other fine
lists are available to discuss general house church topics, btw, including
house church*talk.

David Anderson


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Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 09:23:38 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

The following post has replies to Dan S., Mike S., and David A.:

Dan Snyder wrote:

>... it's best if we can labor with Him according to the principles of the Body.
>
>One big principle is not to do things alone.

I couldn't agree with you more. But it is a rare form of MONOEPISCOPACY which
has no built in accountability. An "elder board," "board of deacons,"
"associate pastor(s)," or something similar is what I usually see alongside a
"senior pastor". In addition, within most denominational set-ups there are
"bishops" over "bishops" (called by some archbishops), "district supervisors,"
or something along these lines to which congregants may appeal in the case of
some problem. Furthermore, many Evangelical/Charismatic/Pentecostal churches
are somewhat "congregational" in set-up, with the "bishop" accountable to the
larger body, subject to votes. I am really quite conservative (call that
"restoration"...) in my thinking so I have this lurking fear that the further
we get from the biblical model(s) the easier it will be for us to fall into
real error. Therefore I prefer multiple eldership myself, but simply don't want
to draw my paradigms too tight. Rather I want to make allowance where the
Scripture makes allowance.

Thanks Dan for pointing out the parallel usage of the terms "elders" and
"overseers" in Act. 20-- a fact I had noted in Titus, but had overlooked in
Acts.

Mike Sangrey wrote:

>There was nonepiscopacy, monoepiscopacy, and multiepiscopacy. Titus was told
>to appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5; we presume there was none there to
>begin with), and Paul and Barnabus did the same on their return trip (Acts
>14:23). The point is that these churches were honest to goodness churches
>BEFORE the elders were present.

I can't tell you how key this observation is to our discussion! It has been
brought up before by Link and I think a few others. But what does this then
teach us? That these little groups of people were cared for by the Lord before
any official appointing ever went on. Now it would be false to assume that
there was no human leadership occurring before elders were "ordained" by Titus
and the others. I have never been in any human context (natural or spiritual)
in which no one (or more) eventually distinguished him/herself as some kind of
leader of the group. I think it is safe to assume that before Titus arrived
and Paul with Barnabas made their return trip, there were already recognized
leaders in these 1st century churches, some more spiritually qualified than
others. Titus', Paul's, and Barnabas' jobs then were to make sure that the
leaders who had naturally gravitated to that "position" were true
servant-leaders, qualified-- as you highlighted-- by their loving Christlike
character.

>Ironically, the clearest way of determining how well we measure up is for the
>machinery to not work.

I mostly agree with your point-- though perhaps the "God isn't interested in
perfecting a system" thing is a bit overstated. But your above sentence, if
taken at face value, could lead some people to logically conclude that you
think it would be better in the long run to have a messy system of church
polity. Reading your comments in context, I know that is not what you were
trying to say. Nevertheless, I did want to emphasize that we should strive in
the Spirit to reflect Christ's character in establishing righteous (apolitical)
government in our churches. Then, should God determine we need to have our
love tested by the "machinery ... not work[ing]," we can exercise whatever
level of love is appropriate to the situation. Jesus did want us to pray, "...
and lead us *not* into temptation ...". We should seek to refine our character
before we actually have to go through the fire, if at all possible, not invite
the tests to "speed up" the work of God. I'm confident that you would agree,
bro Mike.

>There very well be an assumption that elders were seen as having
>responsibility for the CITY (believer and unbeliever alike!) This would tie
>together evangelism, sacrificial love to outsiders, and the church herself.
>It would even tie together multiple expressions of the church which happen to
>exist in one city.

Some provocative thoughts. But the idea of city-wide responsibility (correct
me if I'm wrong) stems from your assumption that these NT fellowships and their
elders were already independent of the local Jewish synagogues' loose but
associated hierarchy-- something which the historical/archaeological evidence,
at least for the Roman congregations, seems to deny (see my June 19 post--
don't recall the thread; also the "First Century Meeting Places" thread,
starting with my June 27 post and going on from there). Appointing elders in
every city could just come from the observable fact that Jews of the Roman
period tended to be (and still are) "urbanites". God used this in the spread
of the gospel, I won't deny that, but it doesn't seem to be the case that
elders were seen as responsible for shepherding all in the city. Just those in
their congregations. In whichever city. Your comments ...

>The Acts 14:23 text rather clearly indicates that EACH church ended up with
>more than one elder.

... drove me to the Greek text to see if the syntax could possibly be construed
to mean:

"Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in [all of the] church[es] and,
with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their
trust."

In other words, whether it could mean that a multitude of elders was appointed
for a multitude of churches, possibly even only one elder for each
congregation, thus accounting for the plural. But you were right, Mike. The
sentence can only rightly be interpreted to mean that Paul and Barnabas
appointed *more than one elder for each church* they revisited in the Galatian
region. A good observation which I had failed to notice before. Thanks.

David Anderson wrote:

>I described the historical bishop - not the Scriptural one - in my previous
>message. A Scriptural bishop is simply an overseer as the word denotes. Of
>course he is needed!

No bro, what you did was draw up a historical caricature of MONOEPISCOPACY as
"dominat[ing] the teaching, finances, and ... the sacraments," as if that some
way disqualifies single bishop fellowships. My point was that I could counter
your "straw man" with historical examples of bishops who lovingly cared for
their flocks unto death. And ... that neither effort would prove anything.

>Could it be any simpler??? It isn't simple, though, because instead of going
>from point A to B we went astray, going from A to Q, and now must retrace our
>steps through layers and centuries of false traditions.

How far do you assume we need to go back to get it right? I know that the pat
answer would be: "to the NT itself". But guys like Clement (c. 90 A.D.) and
Ignatius (died c. 115 A.D.) not only had the same Holy Spirit as us, but they
were privy to the personal teachings of living Jesus-seeing Apostles, sometimes
delivered from the Apostles' own mouths-- from the authors of the NT. And
Ignatius and Clement, unlike us, would have been able to ask clarifying
questions! Yet Clement, Ignatius, and I might add Justin (died c. 165 A.D.),
apparently "went astray" according to the scenario(s) I've read by some on this
list, since they each display the seeds of MONEPISCOPACY. What makes you think
that today we would be any more successful in keeping such "corruption" at bay?
Or to put it another way, could the "corruption" of MONOEPISCOPACY have been
built right into the Apostles' teachings themselves?

My personal opinion is that we cannot say "we [the Church] went astray" until
we witnessed actual sin and sustained moral corruption in the leadership. That
means violations of specific commands. The rest of the things they practiced I
see as "differences" only. Not "false traditions".

>A better beginning might be the Gospels, imo. It is there that we observe
>men's insatiable cravings for personal elevation and hierarchy:

My answer bro, is that there are sinful expressions of "elevation and
hierarchy" and there are non-sinful expressions of the same. As I've mentioned
before, hierarchy is built into the fabric of reality and can readily be seen
in God's depictions of His own kingdom. Hierarchy itself is good since it
reflects the nature of God. Even the Trinity is manifest as a hierarchy.

>Mark 10:37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right
>hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

Christ's answer was not that nobody would receive such an "elevat[ed]" position
in the "hierarchy," but that it was beyond Christ's authority to give it to
James and John.

"But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to
those for whom they have been prepared" (Mar. 10:40).

>Mark 9:34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among
>themselves, who should be the greatest.

The desire to be the greatest in the "hierarchy" is not bad at all. It is how
that particular desire finds expression which must be un-learned from the
world. Christ himself gave the "formula" for being the greatest:

"If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all"
(Mar. 9:35).

>And it is there in the Gospels that we see our Lord's great countermeasures:
>
>Mark 10:42 Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles
>exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.

The same *Lord* who said right after the above sentence, ...

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
his life as a ransom for many" (Mar. 10:45).

..., gave *commandments* during his earthly ministry ...

"Whoever has MY COMMANDS and OBEYS them, ..." (Joh. 14:21).

"If you OBEY MY COMMANDS, you will remain in my love, ..." (Joh. 15:10).

..., and after his resurrection declared and commanded:

"All AUTHORITY in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go ...
and teaching them to obey everything I HAVE COMMANDED YOU ..." (Mat. 28:18-20).

So the issue in Mar. 10:42 cannot be having authority or telling people what to
do, for we can see Jesus doing these very things. It must be the manner in
which the legitimate concepts of "elevation" and "hierarchy" take place that
becomes the deciding factor. Likewise, it is not necessarily wrong for a human
representative of Christ (such as a bishop) to have authority and to tell
people (under him in the hierarchy) what to do. It is the manner and motive
for doing these things which are key.

>Matt. 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ;
>and all ye are brethren.

David, I too am appalled at the cavalier way many bishops assume ecclesiastical
titles. In my context there are so many Messianic Jewish leaders who allow
themselves to be called "rabbi"-- a *direct* contradiction of their Messiah's
command. I frequently call this to the attention of those with whom I have to
do. Consequently I'm not always the most popular guy on the block among some
Jewish followers of Jesus. (My congregation NETIVYAH, by the way, does *not*
have this practice.) But I stand on the word. And it is unambiguous on this
point. This sort of violation of biblical commands is likewise repugnant to
me. But the idea of "hierarchy" and "elevation"-- when pursued properly-- is
not repugnant since the Bible reflects these very things throughout its pages.
Therefore a convincing argument against MONOEPISCOPACY cannot be made from the
teachings of Christ since he was not opposed to the concepts of "hierarchy" and
"elevation" in and of themselves, but against their corrupt expressions. As we
all should be.

Michael
Jerusalem


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Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 09:24:39 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Gastin wrote:

>I am not in any way challenging anyone's desire to be true to scripture - in
>fact, I am doing just the opposite. I am inquiring how we can be firm in what
>we know to be practical and good when the scripture does not give us a clear
>picture one way or the other.

Good, GOOD, *GOOD* thought provoking questions on the use of Scripture and/or
common sense in establishing our views for NT church planting and polity! Let
me give you some of my thoughts and perceptions as I run through a few of the
specific issues you raised:

>So, we agree that a single bishop is not unscriptural, but in our
>understanding/wisdom, experiences, prayer, and study of group dynamics or any
>other related field, we come to believe that although allowable, it is not
>optimal. What then?

First of all, if we somewhat agree that MONOEPISCOPACY is *not* UNscriptural
then that in itself should tell us something. If it were morally wrong in all
circumstances then there would be some absolute biblical boundaries drawn.
There were not. Therefore those who have a closed paradigm against one-bishop
fellowships should at least broaden it to allow for their (one-bishop
fellowships') possibility under *certain* circumstances. Again, I contend that
the flexibility is built right into the NT revelation.

Secondly and in light of my first point, we should not define what is "optimal"
for every congregation according to our *own* "understanding/wisdom,
experiences, prayer, and study of group dynamics," etc. since I (and many
others with cross-cultural experience) have noticed these to be limited to our
*own* cultural perceptions. Yes, ... even prayer. Furthermore, "the heart is
deceitful ..." (Jer. 17:9) and can fool us into thinking that the result of our
"understanding/wisdom, experiences, prayer, and study of group dynamics," etc.
is what is best for others, when in fact it may not be. That is why we need
specific guidance from the Bible to make such a strong case. When no
definitive guidelines are drawn, we are wiser to allow for an informed
freedom-of-expression within Christ's universal body, trusting God's Spirit to
direct individual congregations within different contexts in "the way *[they]*
should go" (Pro. 22:6-- forgive me a loose application). I think God
purposefully left church polity a little ambiguous to account for the way
"group dynamics" work in various people-groups of the world since He knew His
gospel would be penetrating diverse cultures with different presupposed
structures of righteous leadership.

Some people-groups emphasize decisions made as a group, others more often vest
authority in one leader who makes responsible decisions for the whole
community. Both systems have been abused (ex. of the two systems from
politics, "democracy"- "fillibustering," and moral compromise in the
give-and-take process of vying for votes; "autocracy"- making decisions for
one's own benefit, whether to simply pad one's pockets or to ensure job
security). My point then is that *all* human governance is going to eventually
fail in one way or another-- despite its being ordained by God for the time
being (Dan. 4:17; Rom. 13:1). Even fathering and eldership. That is why we
pray "thy kingdom come". Remember, God's program-- which as we would expect,
has the greatest human good in mind-- is *not* an open forum, where everyone
has a say-so at every point. The LORD Himself is an autocrat and, though we
His children can sometimes sway Him, in the long-run His will is absolute. All
must willingly submit or ultimately perish.

>Am I able to say, "I believe that the plurality of elders is the optimal
>choice for any body of believers, based on my study of scripture and other
>sources and my experiences. I would not condemn anyone for not having more
>than one elder, but I would strongly urge them to identify and establish more
>than one."

I am glad you would not condemn anybody, Mike. But some people I have read on
this list would. That is precisely where I think folks need to reconsider
their strong stances. And change. I believe a person could probably make the
kind of statements you have written above ("optimal ...") within his/her own
culture, ... or maybe it would be better to say, "sub-culture". I do not think
such a person should make a definitive statement on church polity in a host
culture not his/her own. Paul planted churches within two main cultural
contexts: Jewish, and Greek-- cultures with which he was quite familiar, as an
insider. Both had a strong tradition of group-style decision making. Latin
culture Romans, however, were somewhat different-- more of the single-person
decision making type. These are trends I am citing and not hard-and-fast rules,
so please don't gig me with a counter example; in general these observations
will hold true.

When a group of people are themselves introduced to the Scriptures and taught
how to study them for themselves, then they can, with the Spirit's
illumination, discover what style makes the most sense in their own cultural
context. Based on how *they* read the Bible. Giving people the tools they
need, rather than passing-on to them our personal prejudices-- this I think is
the better path. Otherwise we run the risk of imposing our foreign worldviews
on other people likewise endowed with the Holy Spirit, thinking we're teaching
them God's truth. And thereby reaping the division this engenders. (I see
this all the time here in Israel!) If after careful study and much prayer a
church decides to appoint one primary bishop with elders and deacons in some
sense *under* him, can anyone honestly say that they *should* change to one of
our "plurality" model(s)? If so, why?

Having said all that, I'd like to sign off by mentioning that I am extremely
happy to see our present discussion being framed in terms of *appropriateness*
without the unnecessary polemical rhetoric (e.g. "right/wrong," "Babylon").
This should be the way when things are not defined explicitly in the Bible.
The central issue of this discussion is what "dress" Jesus wants his Bride to
wear in this or that particular context. And how can we best reflect the mind
of the Master in both examining the biblical (and in a qualified sense, the
historical) evidence and then in helping others to follow the Spirit's guidance
to apply for themselves *all* the relevant data to their unique situations.

Michael
Jerusalem


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Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 13:38:14 -0500
From: David Anderson
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Hello from the South,

Michael, why do you think the garbled testimony of the church fathers is
admissible evidence when I have just demonstrated that those in Jesus' own
circle of friends - IN HIS OWN DAY - were scheming in every possible way to set
themselves up on a higher level than the rest? Do you think that human nature
somehow improved itself since that time?

And I seriously doubt that the Roman Catholics who stored and copied these
writings would not have made minor or major adjustments in favor of their
system, i.e. the mono-bishop. Certainly, some of the fantastical accounts
recorded in the church fathers have become a great arsenal for the enemies of
the Gospel.

My recent description of the modern mono-bishop was not a caricature but an
actual person found in the cities, hamlets, and villages all over the world.
The name may vary but the assumed functions, the assumed titles, and the
assumed religious privileges are essentially the same.

I used to be one, myself, before realizing I was living in a house of cards. I
went by the prestigious name of teaching elder, the minister, the reverend, and
the pastor.

Yes, the modern mono-bishop does, in most cases, bill the church for its
largest expenditure. If he doesn't get it, he packs up, usually heading for a
better paying one to which he/she has just been "called." Yes, he does dominate
the teaching, despite God's great promise to give wisdom to ALL and despite the
apostolic injunction for ALL to engage in the verbal activity.

I have personally witnessed churches folding up for lack of a mono-bishop. And,
for everyone of these mono-bishops who has "died for their flock," thousands
more have sheered the sheep and suppressed their gifts. All, with their heads
held high because that was what God had surely ordered in his Word.

These, in the words of John (3 John 9): "loved to have the preeminence."

This system, readers, is an evil of great proportions. Why? Because it puts all
other saints in a non-ministering, non-functioning category known as laity. In
others words, the would-be-participants in ministry and evangelism are reduced
to mere spectators. In the process, the nerve of volunteerism is severed -
evangelism and ministry are left to the pros and LEFT UNDONE for the most part.

It should raise some flags in your mind, my brother, that the translators
"added" the word "office" to 1 Tim. 3:1 with respect to "overseers."

David Anderson


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Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 12:29:53 -0800
From: Dan Snyder
Subject: [NTCP] Re: That Nicolaitan doctrine

Dear Link,

Just for the sake of accuracy, Watchman Nee didn't teach that Nicolaitan
referred to monarchical bishops. If you have time you might want to look at his
book "The Orthodoxy of the Church". It's an excellent study of the 7 churches
in Revelation and how they prefigure all of church history.

Like other Bible teachers, he realized the issue is much deeper. "Nikao"
meaning to conquer or be above others. And "laos" meaning the common people
(from where we get the word "laity") - points to the whole clergy/laity system
that has frustrated the growth and function of so many of the Lord's people for
centuries.

This applies to the "pastor" system as much as to the "bishop" system.

Such systems violate the fundamental New Testament principle that all the
children of God are the priests of God.

May the Lord perfect and release His children - to serve one another and to
serve Him!!!

Dan


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Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 21:00:46 +0700
From: Link
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Re: That Nicolaitan doctrine

Dan,

Sorry if I painted the Nicolaitan doctrine with a broad brush.

Based on the implications of scripture, and what is left of the traditions of
the early church on this group, I believe the Nicolaitans were a group of
people teaching lasciviousness. So I don't believe the term should be applied
to any group that is dominating in some way if they don't teach people to eat
meat offered to idols and to commit fornication.

New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V2 #37

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