New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Monday, February 18 2002 Vol 02 : 043
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Prayer Request
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 11:07:55 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Let me say at the outset how EXTREMELY pleased I am that so many of you are
doing what this thread is called: confronting the evidence. My goal is not
that you necessarily believe as I do about MONOEPISCOPACY; I know I have lots
to learn on this topic (and others) from all of you, ... or should I say,
Christ in you. And I don't fancy myself to be speaking (God forbid!) EX
CATHEDRA on any subject. But now I am seeing *real* interaction with the
biblical/historical/lingistic data-- a teacher's delight! This opens up new
vistas of learning for all of us, allowing *us together* to discern the mind of
Christ. Halleluyah! I will make my upcoming comments as brief as possible,
but I wanted to at least address some of the questions/statements aimed my way.

First, however, I would like to express thanks to Jim R. for making the effort
to check out another "witness" who has also studied the Greek and historical
sources. Such research is vital before publishing in a book or on a list
commentary on any (particularly) biblical topic. Your objections to some of my
statements were the catalyst that gave many list members the "umph" to take a
swing at the subject themselves. Thanks to David A. for digging indepth,
looking for the core of the problems that have plagued the Church's
relationship to leadership for possibly millenia. Thanks to Dan and Stephanie
for reiterating the importance of the priesthood of *all* believers in Christ.
Thanks to T.C. and Keith for recognizing an age old curse in our ranks:
insubordination. Thanks to Dave J. for sharing significant sections from some
of the so-called "church fathers" and asking pertinent questions about them,
then making application to house churches. It indeed seems to be an issue of
quality, not quantity-- as Jay F. has said. Speaking of him, thanks to Jay for
not simply clicking on another message, but openly disagreeing with my
position-- proof that you are at least confronting the evidence. A worthy
endeavor. Thanks to Mike G for framing into questions what many of us were
already wondering-- how can we apply this "bishop stuff" to NTCP now. And for
also highlighting for us the possible limitations of any historical research.
Finally, thanks to Mike S. for nipping at the Achilles heel of my stand on
MONOEPISCOPACY ... and working at it from the Greek text. Kudos! Now some Q/A
time ...

Mike G. asked:

>1. What function did these one man bishops fulfill? (Did they preach Sunday
>morning messages, officiate the communion service ...etc.)

Let me allow our worthy brother Justin (martyred c. 165 A.D.) to answer this
question for you. The following is all taken from Justin's FIRST APOLOGIA
[i.e. defense] chapter LXV, written to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius,
describing to him, among other things, what Christians-- including
mono-bishops-- of that time (c. 135 A.D.) did:

"There is then brought to THE PRESIDENT of the brethren bread and a cup of wine
mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of
the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers
thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these
things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings,
all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen
answers in the Hebrew language to "genoito" [Gk. for "so be it"]. And when THE
PRESIDENT has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent,
those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of
the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced,
and to those who are absent they carry away a portion."

"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather
together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the
prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased,
THE PRESIDENT verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good
things."

"Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is
ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and THE PRESIDENT in like manner
offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people
assent, saying Amen ..."

"And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what
is collected is deposited with THE PRESIDENT, who succours the orphans and
widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and
those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word
takes care of all who are in need."

>2. What were they bishop over? Did they preside over a city wide 'church' of
>thousands? Did they act as what we would identify today as an institutional
>church pastor of a small or medium flock?

Please review the texts (from the church-situation decades earlier than Justin)
which Dave J. sent to the list for more details. And above. The bishop
basically functioned as pastor over all the local congregations in a city--
much like in Catholicism, and from where the Catholics got this structure.
Originally the bishop was over only one congregation, but as believers and
congregations multiplied he was responsible for each new church that appeared
in that city/locale, with the PRESBYTERY and DEACONATE under him, serving in
the various congregations. This natural development occurred within the
lifetime of the Apostle John. It was not a degeneration; it violates no NT
church polity doctrine, and can be safely modeled today ... provided the right
kinds of guys are in the servant-leadership billets: those who meet *all* the
criteria outlined in 1 Tim. 3 and Tit. 1, and who are accountable downward or
upwards (choose which ever best fits your understanding of the idiom) to their
Bishop and upward/downward (again, you choose) to the their congregations.
Accountable in two directions-- not to mention to Christ himself (Heb. 13:7).

It might be the place here to re-issue a warning to all: many of us today are
still living in reaction to medieval Catholic corruption. And I just want to
say to you, "the war (there) is over!". (Yes Keith, even in Spain.) I know
that a few of you are really struggling with some of the things written above
because ... many of you are still living with your minds in the Protestant
Reformation-- and view the whole "bishop over a city" thing as too "Catholic".
Now if pushed, I'd admit to being a Protestant, and so *our* Reformation
brought-- and brings-- us back to the Bible as our sole source of canonized
divine revelation. Nevertheless, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others did not
ignore the historical writings of the toddling Church. They recognized that
when the Apostle John died (... before actually), the *whole* Church did not
walk off a cliff like a bunch of lemmings! That is what I gather some of you
believe. But Christ had said that "the gates of Hades" would not prevail over
her, and he meant what he said (Mat. 16:18). So the Reformers sometimes used
the "church fathers" to fill in some of the gaps for them, such as: what did
the Church look like in the years immediately following the Apostles? How much
of that was good? How much of it was bad?

Corruption certainly did creep in-- more in some sectors of the historical
Church than in others-- but actual sin can only be gauged by us when there are
violations of commandments. We cannot say that the structure which has a
bishop as pastor over an area-wide church, with PRESBYTERS (and DEACONS)
serving the people on the local level, is wrong simply "'cause that's the way
the Catholics did/do it"! A practice can be diagnosed as *wrong* when it
violates the commandments of God ... in the Bible.

The above "mono-bishop over a city" polity set-up could be unwise in certain
settings. Perhaps. Not the way I would understand it should be done. Well
... okay. A cultural misfit-- seen that, done that. But morally wrong? No.
"Catholic" does not equal "bad". (Neither, by the way, does "Jewish") What
equals bad is when people sin. Violate God's revealed will. That's bad.
Evil. Wrong.

So what I'm trying to say is that there were natural developments of the Church
which worked their way into the Roman Catholic system such as MONOEPISCOPACY,
bishops over many congregations in a city/district, buildings, liturgy, etc.
which are not bad in themselves. So we must determine how much of our
uneasiness is based on violations of biblical commandments and how much is
simply the result of our anti-Catholic, anti-institutional church , anti-[fill
in the blank] bias. Then "react" righteously, i.e scripturally.

>3. How did they lead? How were they viewed by the believers? How did their
>authority work? Were they accepted by all in their city as "The Man" or were
>they simply older, more educated and assuming some authority? On that note, do
>not forget Clement in Rome who had a little house church going and assumed
>leadership. Meanwhile, Hermas, seemed to be of a different vein and was very
>likely not a part of Clement's group and did not fall under Clement's
>leadership. (Conflict at Rome - Jeffers) .... Was his [the mono-bishop's]
>authority rooted in the seat or office he held or in his brokenness and actual
>service to the Body of Christ?

These questions too are answered in part by Dave J.'s Feb. 14 post. and by the
above. Their character-- *as well as* the role to which they had been
appointed (by the Apostles) and elected by the people-- were what commended
them to the Christians in a city/location. Some Christians did not submit to
these bishops (see Clement's letter TO THE CORINTHIANS; and Ignatius' many
letters to the churches in Asia), but most did-- and (imo) it was right they
did.

I have a brief (less than a page) historical study on why it is *not* wise to
keep repeating this thing about the rich man Clement's house church in Rome
(contra Jeffers). I'll be glad to send it to anyone who requests it. OH MY!
Did I say brief? Well, if you're burned out on this post just click onto the
next message. But I did want to at least address some things Mike S. brought
up.

>My point is that the definite articles in Greek and English work differently.
>Also, it is EXTREMELY easy to think in terms of the English meaning when
>interpreting the Greek form.

Mike, your warning about my assuming one-to-one corresepondance between two
different languages is well taken. As a Bible translation major living and
ministering in a foreign culture/language, I am painfully aware of this
pitfall. But perhaps not aware enough. Likewise your observations that I may
be reading English's use of the definite article into my interpretations of the
Greek text of 1 Tim. 3:2 and Tit. 1:7 (TON EPISKOPON) point to a sophisticated
understanding of the way languages work. However, I must confess that I was
not so much thinking in English while reading Paul's letters as thinking in
Hebrew. Part of our training here at Jerusalem University College, while
exegeting quotes from Jesus or the letters of other Jewish NT writers, is to
ask the question: "how would that be said in Hebrew?". Not always, but
sometimes very useful.

A lot can be made from the presence or absence of a definite article in Hebrew.
And when you are attempting to think in Hebrew, while reading Paul's Greek it
is especialy important to keep this in mind, since he was trained as a
Pharisee. In Jerusalem. In Hebrew. This becomes evident from some of the
things he writes.

To the point: there was an ancient MIDRASH (Jewish commentary which especially
seeks to explain the "bumps" in the OT biblical text) floating around during
the time of Paul ... and before. It can be found throughout Jewish literature
reflecting rabbinic exegesis from this essential time period. It stated that a
large boulder-sized rock followed the children of Israel throughout their
wilderness wanderings. (Sound familiar?-- 1 Cor. 10:4; church planter. Talmud
TA'ANIT 9a). And that within or under that sizable rock was a well (Talmud
SHABBAT 35a), the one that Moses tapped into when he struck that rock (Num
20:8-13). So now we have two wonders: a rolling rock and a portable water
supply. In the wilderness. And the whole tradition-- utilized by the Apostle
Paul as revelation to point to Christ-- originated with the ancient exegetes
grappling with a *definite article* showing up with no warning in the Hebrew of
Exo. 17:6; 33:21; and Num. 20:8: "THE rock".

My point is not to agree with every detail of ancient Jewish exegesis ...
although Paul apparently had no problems with the above example. My point is
that there are demonstrable times when Paul and the other NT writers (e.g. see
Rev. 10:1 where John says SKELE [Gk. "legs"] instead of PODES [Gk. feet]
because ancient Hebrew had no separate words for legs and feet [RAGLAYIM legs
or feet]) thinking in Hebrew while writing in Greek.

Ignatius was from the next generation of disciples from the Apostles. He was
taught how to handle the text from Jewish believers. And his application of
something as simple as "THE bishop"-- placing emphasis on the definite article
because it comes out in a strange place in Paul's letters ... twice-- does not
surprise me. And I think in light of what I have learned of Apostolic exegesis
( 1st century Jewish), it is a legitimate way to understand Paul in 1 Tim. 3:2
and Tit. 1:7.

Futhermore Mike, none of your examples were of a definitive being interpreted
as a non-definitive. They were names or titles (already definite), with or
without the definite article. But understood to be definite. Now I think Link
and Jim Rutz have made a good case for a way that TON EPISKOPON could be
understood as a non-definitive. But then there is Paul's likewise native
Greek-speaking contemporary, Ignatius. And he at least sees allowance for TON
EPISKOPON to be taken quite literally. So I think a good case can be made to
allow for such a reading too.

My position is not so much singularly based on Paul's use of TON EPISKOPON as
on the faith position that the gates of hell did not prevail against Christ's
church. It is difficult for me to see the establishment of mono-bishops as the
beginning of the end. When so many church leaders began excommunicating each
other, vying through political means for "top dog" and the congealing of a
papacy wielding life or death power, ... well that's where I see the church in
the West went awry. That's when real commandments were violated. Even so,
there were rays of light in the darkness, many of those godly saints
mono-bishops themselves.

Though it's true history is mostly written by the "winners," one has to assume
that the ANTE-NICENE Church was *not* providentially awarded the "crown"-- that
they were in some sense "bad"-- to agree with your line of reasoning. I don't.
I think they were all-in-all godly men who suffered much for their faith in
Jesus and gave us a rich heritage from which to draw. If I start with no firm
preconceptions-- save the Scriptures themselves-- of what the early Church
*should have* looked like, and I browse through the "father's" writings, then I
come away enriched by what I read. Not disappointed.

Michael
Jerusalem

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Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 06:52:30 -0500
From: "Samuel Buick"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Prayer Request

Dear List:

I have come to appreciate this list greatly over the last several months. It
has triggered many thoughts and has provided impetus in areas that I would not
otherwise explore.

I have a request to make. I would covet your prayers today and the rest of the
week. We are in the midst of moving across town. We have lived in this
townhouse for 14.5 years. With one week to go we have had no serious things
occur until yesterday. Yesterday I went to our Voyager van to take another
load to our new house, and I found it open, and the who ignition demolished,
the gear was in 'D' and still parked. The gears are stripped. I had to put in
a claim. I got a rental van rather quickly, PTL! We carried on as best as
possible, but it has left us with many questions. I would really appreciate
your prayers today until Friday, when the move will be complete.

Brothers and sisters, would you pray for our family, Lori my wife, a psyche
nurse, our daughters Caitlin (13) and Erinn (12) and myself?

Deeply appreciate it. Thanks.

Sam


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Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 10:31:13 -0500
From: forwarded
Subject: [NTCP] RE:
Confronting the evidence


From: Link Hudson

Hi TC,

I've been planning on responding to your post earlier about American philosophy and it's expression in house church.

I forget where you are located, somewhere up in the northeast? I encountered
some people from a house church in Mass. on the 'net a few years ago, and my
impression of their philosophy about leadership was that it was a bit too
hyper-egalitarian, imo. I went to a house church in the south one time that was really Fundamentalist in approach. I don't know if there is one house church philosophy on everything.

I think you raised some valid points. I tend to be skeptical of an
interpretation of scripture that seems 'too American' as well. But, on the
other hand, even though the Bible teaches that Christians are a part of God's
kingdom, there does seem to be some degree of egalitarianism in the scriptures.
Take this quote from Christ from Matthew 23: "For One is your master, even
Christ, and all ye are brethren."

Jesus is up on a higher plane. He is the Master. All of the rest of us are down
here on the same level. We are brethren. Even the 12 apostles are our brethren,
and not our masters. Paul and Timothy preached "Jesus Christ and ourselves your
servants for Jesus' sake."

I do believe that some house church people go to extremes with egalitarianism,
though. I do believe that Christians should defer to elders and others in
ministry. But on the other hand, I don't see a hierarchical top-down approach
as scriptural. I believe there was leadership by leaders, but the saints were
also involved in decision-making. Let me share some scriptural examples to
illustrate what I am saying.

In the early days of the church, the apostles were responsible for making sure
food got distributed among the widows in the church. The apostles probably
found it difficult to do this and spend the necessary time in prayer and
preaching the word. Eventually, a dispute arose because the Graecized widows
felt neglected. So what did the apostles do? They asked the CHURCH to choose
Seven men to handle that business. The apostles didn't say, as far as we know
from scripture "But we reserve the right to veto men that we don't like."

After the church had put forth the Seven, the apostles laid their hands on
them.

I hear the way the Greek Orthodox church selects a priest is they let the
congregation pick a man among them who best represents Christ in the
congregation, and then have him ordained as a priest. It would be interesting
to know how old this custom is. Greek Orthodox priests (and not bishops) can be
married, btw.

Let me give another example. When the church in Jerusalem heard about the new
believers in Antioch, it pleased, not only the apostles, but also the church to
send Barnabas.

In Acts 15, certain leading figures, elders and apostles, met to discuss the
issue of what to do with the Gentiles. But if we look at the letter sent from
the Jerusalem church, not only the apostles and elders, but also the brethren
seemed to discern what the Spirit was saying. This is a key to church decision
making. Not only should it seem good to us, but also to the Holy Ghost.

Something I notice about the apostles in Acts is that they seem to have been
the type to turn over responsibility to others. Early on, people laid their
wealth at the apostles feet for distribution. Later, we see that there were
elders in Jerusalem who received offerings brought for the poor saints. I
suspect the apostles had turned over a lot of the financial responsibilities to
deacons and elders so that they could minister the word and pray. I really
don't think they micro managed everything or dominated the church.

The apostles didn't seem to consider themselves above questioning either. When
they of the circumcision questioned Peter about going to the Gentile's house,
he didn't say, "How dare you question an apostle!" instead, he gave an account
of his revelations and actions and persuaded them.

Frank V. has written a book entitled _Who Is Your Covering?_ which presents
a house church view on authority. One point that Viola makes is that Paul
_persuaded_ people to do what is right. He didn't just tell them, 'obey me
because I am an apostle.' Robert Banks _Paul's Idea of Community_ makes some
good points in this regard. Paul wanted to persuade people to obey from the
heart. Paul was firm about things when he had a command from the Lord.
Sometimes, he offered his own opinion, but he offered it as his own opinion.

One point Frank V. makes is about consensus. In Acts 15, the leaders arrived
at a consensus, where the entire group agreed. Democracy is different.
Democracy is the majority lording it over the minority. Consensus is when the
whole church arrives at one conclusion. Paul exhorted believers to be of one
heart and one mind, so I believe this is a valid principle. (Though in the case
of one brother who had been in sin, Paul said that the punishment acted out by
the _majority_ was sufficient, so I don't know if 100% consensus will always
take place. I suppose it's possible those who did disfellowship the man had
agreed to do so in a consensus but failed to carry it out.) Viola refers to the
Quakers in regard to consensus in decision making. I

There are some areas where I think a lot of house church folks tend to be too
far in egalitarianism. If we look at the book of Acts and the epistles,
apostles appointed elders. Paul and Barnabas _appointed_ elders. Other epistles
show that Titus and Timothy were also to appoint elders. It doesn't say they
took a congregational vote. On the other hand, I do think the choosing of the
Seven contains some good principles as well. Especially considering the
brotherly nature of the church, and the fact that regular believers could speak
in meetings, I would imagine that the rest of the church might be 'in on' who
got appointed to be an elder. Paul may have valued prophetic input, wisdom, and
counsel from other saints in these congregations.

In regard to 'church court' Jesus said to bring the man who would not repent
after being confronted by the one he sinned against, and then again by two or
three witnesses before the church. If he will not hear THE CHURCH, he should be
to you as a heathen and a publican.

Notice the man is supposed to hear the church, not just 'the bishop' or 'the
bishops.' On the other hand, in I Corinthians 5, Paul made a judgment about a
fornicator in the midst of the Corinthians. But the Corinthian church was to
actually turn him over to Satan when they came together (with Paul there in
spirit.)

The question that comes to mind for me is, were the Corinthians able to make a
judgment to deliver someone over to Satan by themselves, or did they need Paul,
with apostolic authority, to make this judgment. I think they could have
handled it by themselves, but erred by not doing so. I also suspect that there
were no appointed elders in Corinth at this time. I can't prove this. The fact
that none are mentioned in this or in other epistles could signify:

1. That there were no elders in these churches yet. OR 2. That the role of
the elder, in contrast to the church as a whole, is not as important as we make
it out to be in the modern church.

Paul and Barnabas were in the practice of leaving churches alone without elders
at first, and returning to appoint elders (perhaps because no novice was to be
a bishop.)

I get the impression that the Corinthians COULD HAVE dealt with the fornicator,
but were negligent not to have done so.

At the end of I Corinthians 5, Paul asks if we are not to judge those that are
within. In chapter 6, Paul goes on to chastise the Corinthians, asking if there
is not even one wise man among them who is able to judge between his brothers.
The specific context here is one brother having a problem with another, and not
the issue of fornication. But if brethren 'sue' each other in court, then in a
lot of cases, one of the brethren would be in sin. Paul clearly thinks the
Corinthian Christians could handle such cases, and reminds them that they will
judge angels. Paul was from a Jewish background. The Jews had their own court
system and handled most matters within their own community, rather than before
the Romans. Paul apparently felt that the Christians should settle matters
among themselves as well.

>From what I know of Jewish culture, synagogue elders may have served as
judges. I _think_ I read something about this in Edersheim. I know that they
did have judges, and I think that elders could serve in that role. At least by
Augustine's day, Ambrose was busy judging one case after another.

I don't believe that _only_ elders can serve as judges, but they may make the
natural first choice. If the Corinthians had appointed elders, why wouldn't he
have mentioned them when he asked if there were not a wise man among them who
could judge between his brothers?

In regard to the authority of church elders, I think of this in terms of the
old Testament where it says to rise in the presence of your elders. In the OT,
we see that the wisdom of the old is to be valued. Israelites were to honor
those who were older than them.

'Elder' can be translated as 'older man.' I believe that Paul and Barnabas
appointed 'elder men' in the churches. In the first century Jewish community, a
judge had to be a householder. In the church, an overseer had to rule his house
well. In the Jewish community, a judge had to be a father so that he would know
mercy. In the church, a bishop had to be the husband of one wife and his
children had to be believing/faithful. (I think the Jewish judges may have had
to be the husband of one wife as well.) There were other characteristics in
common as well.

I believe that the elders of the church were older men who were in charge of
houses and ruling them well. I believe that Paul and Barnabas appointed such
men to be elders of the church. They were probably similar to synagogue elders
in a lot of ways.

It was natural in these first century cultures, to honor men who were older.
Christians were to hear their advice and be persuaded by them. Many of these
elders may have been leaders of Christian households, which, as Dave pointed
out, might have been overflowing with dozens of children, grandchildren, other
relatives, and slaves. An elder may have had responsibility ethically and under
the law for a pretty large portion of the church already. He was already acting
in a fatherly role over his own household.

After he had proved faithful doing this,if he fit the other criteria, (wasn't
given to much wine, greedy, was asp to teach, etc.) and were willing, perhaps
he could become an overseer in the church, and take responsibility for a larger
spiritual family. Here we see Jesus' principle of being faithful with little
and being given much.

As Christians we should submit to:

A. One another, B. Those who labor among us C. elders and apostles

Elders and apostles labor among us. But there may be others who labor among us
who are neither elders of the church nor apostles. There may be evangelists,
prophets, teachers, and other people who devote themselves to the work. We can
submit to teachers by submitting to the pure Gospel they teach. We can submit
to others in the work by offering them assistance in whatever ways they need to
carry on the work of the kingdom.

This wasn't posted to me directly, but I'd like to comment:

>and I hope that you would answer a couple of questions to help me clarify why
>I hear this fear of authority not wielded by the individual a lot?

One reason for this is because so many churches are built on the one-man local
pastor model. Whether this is a viable option or not, we don't see a real
example of it in the Bible. The Bible shows us 'elders' plural. And the
requirements for being an elder are different from what is often perceived as
the requirements to be a pastor.

As for fear over one man in authority, maybe some of the people you are dealing
with have been burnt by controlling pastors. Or else they have witnessed how
the church, which is supposed to assemble and allow the saints to minister
their gifts, gets controlled by one man's 'vision.' This one man may be allowed
to minister his gifts, but severely limits how others can minister theirs. So
perhaps in reaction to this, some people go too far to the other extreme of
hyper-egalitarianism.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some wings of the house church movement
decades ago were influenced by the shepherding movement. Some of these churches
had plural elders, which could be more terrifying in that type of situation.
Just imagine a group of people, not just one person, taking control of the
minute details of people's lives. When you consider that this could take place
in home gatherings, which are smaller, the 'abuse per person' ratio could be a
lot higher than in a larger church setting. I know a preacher who was in a
shepherding movement setting years ago, and he said it was a very terrifying
experience. He moved and got out of it without going against his 'covering.'
Some of the English house churches in the 80's had some shepherding movement
tendencies, I've heard, as well.

>-- they have resembled more of a commune/encounter group rather than a church,

Do they sit around and talk about their feelings?

I went to one cell group where they just sat around and chatted. I like
fellowship, but coffee house chat is not my idea of 'church.'

>and for the life of me I
>haven't been able to find any of the four gifts/people that are supposed to be
>the center of a church according to Paul in Ephesians.
Here I think you might be reading some of your own American theology into the
Bible- particularly with your later comments about these people having
authority. Where does Paul say that these people are supposed to be at 'the
center of a church?' Paul has at least three gift lists. Some of these
ministries are repeated in them (at the beginning of the list in higher rank.)
This gift list happens to have 5 gifts in four types of individuals. I
Corinthians 12 has a much longer list. But somehow, Pentecostals and
Charismatics since the Latter Rain Movement have focused on these five gifts,
and tried to expand the concept of 'clergy' to include all five gifts.

>There may not have been a "clergy class" but there were still four people --
>five if you include the Elder/bishop -- that specifically had authority
>according to Paul in Ephesians. Everyone was definitely not their own
>shepherd/teacher, apostle, prophet, and evangelist. You have to live in modern
>America to hit this idea.

Let me ask you a question. Where does Paul say that these five classes have
'authority?' Some churches seem to want to set up a church staff with a ruling
board composed of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Apostles have 'authority' in the churches they plant in particular. Elders are
commanded to pastor, and must be apt to teach, and elders have authority to
rule or 'stand before' in the house of God. But where does the Bible say that
prophets and evangelists have 'authority' over a flock? A prophets words have
authority if they are from the Lord. But as far as the prophet himself goes,
can he come tell you to mop his kitchen, based on the fact that he is a
prophet? If the evangelist preaches the true Gospel, then his message has
authority, but where is an evangelist given authority to rule in the house of
God?

My understanding of 'evangelist' is that it is an organic gift, rather than a
ministry one gets ordained into by the laying on of hands. If I knew what an
evangelist was from just growing up in church, I would think his main duty was
traveling from church to church and preaching a salvation message to a room
full of believers and a few unbelievers they invite in for the special crusade
meetings. But from looking at Philip, I think a Biblical evangelist should be
involved in proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers. Men like this can often
contribute a lot of great teaching and exhortation in their local churches as
well. I suspect there are a lot of people gifted as evangelists who go out and
share the Gospel on street corners but never quit their day jobs, get clergy
cards, take a clergy tax exemption, or get recognized as 'evangelists' by their
local churches.

On prophets, I was irritated to see in one of Kenneth Hagin's books (I think
I've read two, including a booklet) that said that prophets were generally
'full-time ministers.' Actually, I learned a lot from Hagin's book. But I
didn't agree with this statement.

A lot of people feel called to be prophets, but because of the model of church
they are familiar with, they expect God to put them on a church staff somewhere
in the future. I get the impression from reading I Corinthians 14 that
prophets are just regular members of the congregation, gifted with prophetic
ministries. I certainly don't think it was a ministry ordained by the laying
on of hands, or how would Paul have said, "If any man consider himself to be a
prophet or spiritual..." the prophets had been clearly ordained in a ceremony?

>My question is -- if these people are not submitted to, can they equip the
>others to be mature and to reflect the full stature of Jesus?

I think you make a valid point here. Paul exhorted the saints to submit to
those who labored. We are to listen to those who teach us the word of God and
exhort us to follow Christ.

>All the ancient world was culturally was a series of hierarchies, from the
>family (patriarchy) to government (Ogliarchy). The Jews, as a theocracy, was
>one huge God instituted hierarchy. I think we are looking at ancient history
>and conforming it thru the lenses of Locke and Hume --

On the other hand, we need to realize that there were some elements of
'egalitarianism' among Jewish men. Regular men in the synagogue could read the
Torah and comment on it. Regular Jewish men could be preachers and be invited
to different synagogues. One didn't have to be a rabbi.
>From what I understand, regular Jewish men who were householders could be
judges or elders in the synagogue.

TC to Dan:
>Why are you scared of the word "bishop?"

When I think of the word 'bishop' sometimes I think of a religious king with a
big funny hat. In the movies, the bishop is the guy who plots to take over
France through nasty politics and his plot gets foiled by the three musketeers.
Or maybe that's the cardinal.

>The guy that is qualified to be the Elder
>absolutely refuses to find out who is their evangelist and teacher, and all
>they seem to do is meet to pray and hope that events happen serendipitously,
>mystically ordered by God's Spirit. I need some insight!

If they are sitting around talking about their past experiences, not digging
into the word and encouraging one another, that would be frustrating.

But if the gifts of the Spirit are flowing in the meeting, why bother labeling
people? I suspect Philip came to be known as 'the evangelist' because people
heard what he had done down in Samaria and other places and the people realized
that the Lord had made him an evangelist. Maybe someone called him that
prophetically. But he wasn't called 'the evangelist' in scripture until he had
already done the work of one.

Link Hudson


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


Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 16:16:39
From: "David Jaggernauth"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Michael said:

>Let me say at the outset how EXTREMELY pleased I am that so many of you are
>doing what this thread is called: confronting the evidence.

You know, I am discovering just how difficult it really is to express all that
the scriptures instruct us to.

I am having some difficulty getting our little group of labourers to be in one
accord. So far, two ( beside myself) seem to understand the vision for the
house church, one seems to be going along and another is still cleaving to the
old Church building organizational concept.

I hope to discuss these things tonite in our prayer meeting.

We have a long way to go. It is interesting to note that all the difficulties
we are having were present since the inception of the Church and many of these
issues were addressed in the scriptures.

Would it be much easier if we had a bishop??

David Jaggernauth Trinidad


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


Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 11:41:31 EST
From: Steffasong
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

In a message dated 02/18/2002 11:18:10 AM Eastern Standard Time,
abccom(--AT--)hotmail.com writes:

David J. wrote:

>Would it be much easier if we had a bishop??

It would be MUCH easier.

We have to decide though, do we want 'easier' or a more full expression of the
body of Christ?

WHen we decide to go against the grain of the easier choice and take a stand
for the Body, we are really choosing Jesus. The Body expresses Jesus on this
Earth. When we allow Him to be expressed in the church, ... the world takes
notice.

He said ,If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.

Honestly, I think the 'easier' choice is the primary reason history has always
found CHristianity choosing bishops and other earthly heads instead of
recognizing the priesthood of the believer.

THere are just too many good, godly, brothers and sisters who are leaders who
truly do not want to 'control things' but choose the heirarchy because it
simply makes things easier.

Just some thoughts,

Stephanie Bennett
Creative Services & Consulting Marketing Solutions for the 21st Century


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


Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 17:07:23
From: "David Jaggernauth"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Youre right Steff, it is so much easier to have someone else take charge and
responsibility. It also short-circuits our own personal growth that comes when
we wrestle with our own flesh to work out these issues ourselves and allow
Jesus to increase in us.


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


Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 12:07:23 -0800
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

David Jaggernauth wrote:

>Would it be much easier if we had a bishop??

Dear David,

You have One. His Name is Jesus, and, Boy!, does He know how to bish.

Perhaps I could stick my oar in once more. This is fresh stuff Michael, so even
you might want to check it out.

The only thing that we have of value is the revelation of Jesus Christ that
comes down from above, "...you are blessed Peter, because flesh and blood has
not revealed who I am to you, but my Father in heaven..." I hope you can put up
with the liberty I have taken with that passage long enough for me to make a
point.

Jesus said he would build his church on that revelation, the revelation of who
Jesus is, that comes from above. Notice, He did not say that He would build His
church on information about Him, but on revelation of Him.

Here's the problem as I see it. Each of us only has a part of that revelation.
It's all about Jesus, but our individual hearts and minds are not big enough to
take it, (Him) all in. So we only know in part, and while some of the
revelation overlaps; that is, we have it in common, a lot of the revelation we
have is very personal. Our problem is that we tend to reject a revelation that
differs from our own.

We think that we are big enough to have it all, but the truth remains, we only
see in part. Given our present difficulties with our ability to see, what we
need is something to hold us together in the absence of a common vision. That
is called the love of God, the kind that knows the cross, the kind that's good
for enemies.

It is quite clear that this is a lot to ask, even command, even coming from
Jesus, so, what we do is sacrifice the corporate revelation, the revelation of
Jesus that is bigger than any one of us, the revelation that causes Him to
increase, and ourselves to decrease, and we substitute the vision of the
leader. Call him Church Planter, Bishop, Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Reverend,
Rector, Elder, Father, Elder Brother, Mother...., and on , and on, and on. It's still the image, oops, the vision of a man, and not the revelation of Jesus.

We really ought to check our titles with the sheriff when we come into town,
and strap on Love. There is no telling what we might see, even in each other,
and having seen and loved it, (the Jesus in each other) even the world might
see and believe.

At least, that's the way I think it's supposed to work, if John 17 isn't just
"whistling Dixie." (Perhaps you can excuse me for that one. I'm now living in
the "Bible Belt". )

Yours in Christ,

Jay

P.S. I think I'd rather take my chances with the Corinthians, than take up with the Taliban.

End of New Testament Church Planting Digest V2 #43

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