New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Monday, April 1 2002 Vol 02 : 064
Re: [NTCP] Query
[NTCP] Legitimate church planting
Re: [NTCP] Query
Re: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting
Re: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting
Re: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting

Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 01:40:08 -0500
From: forwarded
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Query

{from Link via alternate address}

Michael Millier wrote,

>"spontaneous" with "spiritual". As if any of that were NT! But even in 1
>Cor. 14 (favorite chapter of some in the anti-liturgical crowd) Paul still
>insists that "everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (vs.
>40). That word for "orderly" (TAXIS-- from which we get the word "taxonomy")
>has as it's primary definition in:
>
>1. FRIBERG GREEK LEXICON- "an arrangement for temple service; sequence, fixed
>succession, order". 2. UNITED BIBLE SOCIETY GREEK DICTIONARY- "order,
>division, succession (of priests)" (parenthetical comments within the
>quotation *theirs*). 3. LOUW-NIDA LEXICON- "an ordered or arranged sequence".
>
>It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see liturgical implications there. If
>you think about it, a little liturgy is almost(?) unavoidable since liturgy is
>really an outline of events within a meeting

I'm not a rabid anti-liturgy activist. But I don't think the use of 'taxis' in
this verse has much bearing on the idea that early church meetings followed the
pattern of traditional liturgy.

After all, in this passage, Paul goes into some detail to describe the type of
order a church meeting should have. If a prophet is speaking, and a revelation
comes to another sitting by, the prophet is to be silent and let that other
person share the revelation, for ye may all prophecy. These guidelines for
spontaneous, Spirit-led prophecy were the 'liturgy' that Paul gave the
Corinthians to follow. This was part of Paul's idea of order. Paul also gave
instructions for how to speak in tongues and give interpretations in an orderly
manner. The 'liturgy' that Paul described was spontaneous and Spirit-led.

I don't think believing that liturgy is a bad thing, and trying to reaction
_against_ liturgy is very helpful. I went to one cell-group that thought that
liturgy was bad. They just sat around and chatted. Occasionally, they would
open a Bible. I don't mind coffee house style chatting, but I don't think it's
enough for a healthy church life.

I suspect that there were some elements of liturgy in early church meetings.
Paul told Timothy to give himself to 'reading.' One problem he addressed in a
letter was men wanting to be teachers of the law, who did not know what they
were talking about. Maybe these believers were reading through the law on a
regular schedule- which is an aspect of liturgy.

I wouldn't be surprised in Paul and the other apostles gave the church the
practice of reminding the church of Jesus' words about His body and blood while
partaking of communion.

What was the one ritual to do in the actual church meeting that Jesus left us?
The Lord's Supper. Jesus instituted this ordinance on the night of the
Passover. If we look in the OT, we see that there were elements of liturgy in
the Passover meal. The youngest was supposed to question why they were doing
what they did. Certain foods were to be eaten. There were certain things that
were supposed to be done during the meal.

Yet the entire meal was clearly not scripted out. The atmosphere was not one
where someone had no chance to talk to his neighbor. Jesus spoke with Judas and
also with John that night.

I believe we should try to follow the teachings of Jesus. If, instead of
focusing on the Lord and His kingdom, our focus becomes NOT being like other
people, then we can fall into error. We should try to obey Jesus and follow the
teachings and traditions of the apostles in our meetings, according to the Holy
Spirit. If our focus becomes not being like those other churches, we can fall
into error. Nowhere does Jesus command us to be non-liturgical. Being
non-liturgical should not be a primary philosophy that drives the way we think
and meet. In fact, some aspects of liturgy are very good. It is good to
regularly read through the Bible, to participate in common prayers, etc.

Having only _traditional_ liturgy and ignoring the 'order' Paul commands in I
Corinthians 14 will lead us into error as well. The liturgy Paul taught gave
simple guidelines for how believers can 'spontaneously' minister to one another
with gifts of the Spirit. A lot of later approaches to liturgy provide a means
for basically muzzling the mouths of the saints and for keeping them from
participating in the meetings.

Link,
Jefferson, GA, USA (formerly Jakarta)


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Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 01:44:00 -0500
From: forwarded
Subject: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting

From: "Link"

I've been mulling over a Biblical/theological issue for years that has recently
become a practical issue for me.

Let's imagine someone in the first century wanted to start a church. Suppose he
were already in Corinth, where there was a church. He starts his own church,
getting people to meet in his home, and setting himself up as the leader.

How would the apostle Paul have reacted to such a person? Would he have rebuked
him for dividing up the church? I suppose a believe in Corinth could have
hosted a new meeting in his home, but I would imagine that this decision would
have been made in conjunction with the rest of the church, and that the host
would not automatically be the leader of the group. If some gifted teacher in
the early church wanted to do a work, I don't think he would just go off and
start 'his' own church-- at least not with the approval of the rest of the
church. But this is the way churches are started here.

Many house churches are started in a similar way. A group of people split off
from an institutional church and decide to do church 'the right way' and start
fellowshipping together. Another alternative would be to conclude that all
other churches are mere denominations or sects, and conclude that one's own
church will be the true city church.

We don't live in the early church. The United States is a country with many
denominations. In many areas, there is little conscious expression of a city
church. I don't want to condemn anyone who believes the lord has led them to
start a church. But, for me personally, I can't do what a lot of people on the
house church list have done: just decide the institutional churches were doing
it all wrong, and just start a church in my own house. I can't do this, just
based on some sort of theological deduction.

One of my concerns about men starting up their own churches is that often,
someone opens his home, a storefront, a little chapel, or whatever meting place
he can get his hands on, and starts preaching. He basically sets himself up as
overseer ('pastor') by virtue of the fact that he was able to get a following
of people around him.

In a ('New Testament primitivism') house church situation, people gather
together to be 'church' together, and might expect the Lord to raise up elders
in that assembly in His time. But, I wonder if some of these house churches, in
some cases, might not be groups of Christians isolating themselves from the
eldership that the Lord has already raised up in His body on a city level.

I believe that we as Christians are free to open our homes and ask other
Christians to gather. But when we consider our own gatherings to be 'a church'
independent from the rest of the body in a local area, with our own
self-contained eldership, etc. could we be dividing ourself off from the rest
of the body.

I do think God has instructed certain people to open up their houses to start
new churches. I've thought about how it might be nice for me to host a house
church in my home to help get it started. But some of these concerned I've
shared have sort of held me back.

For some reason, the idea of hosting a new church sort of bothers me,
especially when there are so many churches around. But, for some strange
reason, the idea of joining an existing church where saints are already
fellowshipping and serving the Lord doesn't-- even if that local body was
started through methods described above--doesn't seem to bother me in the same
way.

I'd like to be a part of a house church, and there isn't one in this area that
I know of that is really a 'house church' house church. But I don't just want
to 'start a church 'on my own for reasons described above. If I really knew
that the Lord had directed me to do it, I believe I could do it. But just based
on what knowledge I have know, I wouldn't feel comfortable, or right, planting
a church in a reached area like this. Maybe I've got some conscience issues to
work through.

A few months ago, I was thinking about this. I thought I might feel alright
hosting or helping start a house church if I had some other people from an
existing house church in a nearby city to work with. Maybe if I were working
with someone the Lord had gifted as an apostle, who had a gifting and calling
to plant churches, particularly the one I was involved in, I might feel that
what I was doing was legitimate (and not just creating another division in the
body.)

I'm being really open here about some of my theological 'issues.'

Several weeks ago, a house church planter told me he had a word for me. I'll
omit his name. He told me that God had a ministry for me in America. There was
a message burning in my heart, and I was not to 'collect opinions' and discuss
these things with people. Instead I was to teach, and basically say, that that
this is what the Lord has shown me, take it or leave it. He told me not to try
to look for approval from other people to legitimize my ministry. He said if I
did that, it would modify what God had given me.

I've been thinking about this word for a few weeks. It is not one of those
feel-good words. This was something that really touched on some of my beliefs
and concerns. I wondered if this word might have been nudging me in the
direction of starting a house church. The part about not getting someone to
'legitimize' my ministry reminded me of the things I had thought about latching
on to some apostle or working with an existing house church to plant one in
this area.

I guess what I need to do is pray and hear what God is telling me to do,
personally. I don't know what I will do for church around here. I'd appreciate
prayers on this matter. Maybe I have a weak conscience in some areas. I don't
know. I do believe God has some people planting churches, even in reached
areas. I don't feel that I would feel free plant a church in a reached area,
unless the Lord clearly led me to do so. I don't know that I have the boldness
to share the message(s) the Lord has given me as boldly as the brother told me
I needed to, either.

I need to pray through on this matter. In the meantime, I'd appreciate pray ers
and comments on the theological concerns I've shared here. Maybe we could have
a thread on when it is legitimate to plant a church, and when planting a church
is really causing division.

Below is something I wrote for the group that gives a little background on what
the church situation is like in my area:

I have just moved to rural Georgia. My parents have bounced around from church
to church due to different reasons, and eventually settled down to going to a
kind of enthusiastic third wave church which is a few dozen miles away. Going
there was culture shock. People were so 'wild' in the way they acted in church,
the dancing around, and the way people made comments to the 'pastor' during
announcements. The pastor sort of rambled on about the importance of being
creative, letting your hair down and mentioned that certain people should be
free to let their hair grow out. He didn't open up the Bible.

I guess he wasn't really preaching. He'd been doing prophetic ministry teaching
for weeks. He called up about ten leaders to give personal words. My wife and I
got a lot of words. Some of them seemed to be potentially true.

I guess the preacher didn't really have a sermon. Just some preliminary
remarks. I didn't think being creative and 'free' in the way he was talking
about was all that important, and was waiting for him to crack open a Bible.
(That's usually what the preacher does in that situation.)

All the stuff during the worship service was a bit of culture shock for me. The
Charismatics in Indonesia are a bit more reserved. I'd not been to a church
over there where the style of the meeting was so informal, like a tame version
of the Arseno Hall show. Not even a youth group or a house church in Indonesia.

Something I remembered thinking in the meeting was that if unbelievers went
there, they might think it was weird. Unbelievers around here may have been to
a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian church, and think that churches are
supposed to be formal and serious. Just in their own culture, there isn't any
place with that atmosphere. I remember wondering to myself, during the meeting,
if this were really 'culturally relevant' from an evangelistic point of view.
The carefree attitude might not attract seekers, really, unless they were young
people. Young people might appreciate the excitement and the fact that church
isn't so serious. But, on the other hand, teens might not think it was so cool
to see baby boomers acting so excited. I thought the traditional type church
meeting might be a little more culturally relevant. Ironically, a few minutes
later, during the preacher's sermonette, the preacher commented on how typical
church meetings were culturally irrelevant.

(I think a lot of house church meetings are relevant. People can relate to
sitting around talking in a living room.)

I went to another church at night since I've been back. It started out in a
house, though they do have a 'pastor.' They now meet in a former restaurant.
The meeting I went to was an open discussion, like a house church. Tomorrow,
they will have 'pop corn preaching' (Easter Sunday) with five minute (?)
sermons from people in the congregation. I'm kind of interesting in going to
that church, but I'll probably end up going to the enthusiastic church with all
the personal prophecies, since my parents are going there, and I'm staying with
them, and they have a car, and I don't at this point.

My wife and I still need to pray about what to do for church here in the
Jefferson, Georgia area.

God bless you all,

Link


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


Date: Mon, 01 Apr 2002 07:12:52 -0500
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Query

forwarded wrote:

>{from Link via alternate address}
>
>What was the one ritual to do in the actual church meeting that Jesus left us?
>The Lord's Supper. Jesus instituted this ordinance on the night of the
>Passover. If we look in the OT, we see that there were elements of liturgy in
>the Passover meal. The youngest was supposed to question why they were doing
>what they did. Certain foods were to be eaten. There were certain things that
>were supposed to be done during the meal.
>
>Yet the entire meal was clearly not scripted out. The atmosphere was not one
>where someone had no chance to talk to his neighbor. Jesus spoke with Judas
>and also with John that night.

Dear Link,

I don't recall if I sent this in or not, but I thought this would be a good
place for it, even if I did"

"Lo'servatore Romano, St. Basil, approximately 300-400 AD:

"Only the Eucharist, moreover the true memorial of Christ's paschal mystery, is
capable of keeping alive in us the memory of His love. It is the secret of the
vigilance of the church. It would be too easy for her otherwise without the
divine efficacy of this continual and very sweet incentive without the
penetrating power of this look of her Bridegroom fixed on her to fall into
forgetfulness, insensitivity and unfaithfulness. The Lord's Supper was
instituted for this purpose according to the Lord's words, `Do this in
remembrance of me.' and consequently it must be celebrated for this purpose."

Yours in Christ,

Jay


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


Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 06:59:55 -0500
From: Richard Wright
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting

On Mon, 1 Apr 2002 01:44:00 -0500, forwarded wrote:

From: "Link"
>
>I've been mulling over a Biblical/theological issue for years that has
>recently become a practical issue for me.
>
>Let's imagine someone in the first century wanted to start a church. Suppose
>he were already in Corinth, where there was a church. He starts his own
>church, getting people to meet in his home, and setting himself up as the
>leader.
>
>How would the apostle Paul have reacted to such a person? Would he have
>rebuked him for dividing up the church?

The only division Paul recognized was preaching a gospel other than Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:11) " Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and
so ye believed."

Here and elsewhere, Paul indicates that the important thing is not who gets the
credit, rather that the gospel is preached.

(Galatians 1:8) " But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other
gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be
accursed." (Galatians 1:9) " As we said before, so say I now again, If any man
preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be
accursed."

Paul's main concern was that Jesus be preached. He also appeared to leave the
policing up to God, saying only that false teachers would be "accursed".

In addition, he always encouraged people to weigh what was being taught, and to
stay away from false teachers.

You may also recall that when the apostles heard of the Samaritan believers,
they went to them only to make sure they were in fact of the Lord, baptising
them and encouraging them.

All indications are that in any given city, there where many "groups" meeting,
most often in homes, whether by preference or necessity, and all where referred
to as the "church in Corinth" or wherever.

If another brother begins meeting in his home, following Christ, then why would
I be threatened? Praise God that He is working in lives. He is able to search
their hearts and motivations.

I am responsible for me. I must preach Christ, and Him crucified. Dick Phil.
3:12-14


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


Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 08:32:57 -0500
From: "Michael Gastin"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting

Hi Link,

Couple of things come to mind here.

First, not all folk that worship in the home do it because they are trying to
do it the 'right way'. Do not assume that is the reason for doing house church.
I think it is near impossible to do things the 'right way' as historical
records are not specific enough, opinions vary among experts and so on.

Secondly, the real key is obedience. Will you seek the Lord and get His will
for you on this? Can you hear His voice? (That was not meant as a challenge to
your abilities!) Will you find His heart on the matter and stand firm in Him?

I would encourage you to take heed of the word given to you by that brother. Do
not put the will of God out for a general vote. Discipline yourself, seek the
Father. Fast and pray if necessary and see what He will command you to do.

He may ask you to join a local institutional church . He may ask you to stay
home and worship Him with your wife - no institutional church , no house
church. He may ask you to start a little fellowship in your new home. Whatever
He asks you, brother, just obey.

Our job (pontificating now - please forgive me!) is to establish His kingdom in
the earth. The way we do that is to obey Him - thus establishing the kingdom in
our lives. Our obedience to Him has a great impact on the world we live in.
Think about it - the whole world and a good deal of the church is living in
rebellion to Him. I believe He is looking for children who will obey. He can
use us when we learn to obey.

OK - I have made my point, so I will step down now.

I want to encourage you - seek Him! He wants to commune with you and every
believer. He will reveal His will. I know it.

Your brother in Christ,

Mike Nunda, NY


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


Date: Mon, 01 Apr 2002 19:36:12 +0200
From:
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Legitimate church planting

Dear Link, What a blessing you are.

I too have often thought about this issue. In our area we have the situation of
three brothers who have been surgicaly removed from local institutional
churches on disciplinary issues. One harrased and eventually all but raped the
pastors daughter, another had been giving weird "prophecies" (definitely not
from the Lord), and the third had been openly gosiping and spreading false
rumours abou the leadership.

Each of them had attended "Organic Church" seminars that i had given
previously, and therefore were familiar with house church type churches. They
have each decided that their removal from the institutional churches, has been
God's plan to get them to plant a house church, moreover each of them has come
to see me, in an attempt to legitamize their "churches", seeking to "come
under" (I do hate that term) our ministry. I have had to be quite firm,
pointing out to them that they cannot exercise legitimate ministry, until they
are reconciled with the brethren.

On the otherhand some of the institutional churches are now criticising our
ministry, saying that even though we are not recognising these churches, we are
tacitly legitimizing the three "ministried" because we stress house church/cell
methodology. When we send someone out to plant a church, his ministry is
legitamized. When someone goes it alone, I too have questions. Some folk have
asked me who legitamizes my ministry. I have to tell them that origionaly I was
sent out to plant a church, by a church in London, but since then the Lord has
laid His hand on my work, and as such many have recognised thatGod himself
legitimizes my work. He has called. He has sent. I think that this should be
what we expect to see. Someone is sent out, but later the Lord himself sets His
seal on the work.

Blessings to you in your new setting,

Keith in Spain.


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