New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Saturday, April 13 2002 Vol 02 : 070
Re: [NTCP] Running the race of world evangelization ... BIBLICALLY!
Re: [NTCP] What are the important criteria in transitioning institutional church to house church?
Re: [NTCP] What are the important criteria in transitioning institutional church to house church?
Re: [NTCP] What are the important criteria in transitioning institutional church to house church?

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 11:56:04 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Running the race of world evangelization ... BIBLICALLY!

Dear NTCP members:

The Apostle Paul-- a Jesus-following Jew with a particular calling to the
gentile nations-- ...

("For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews,
was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles" [Gal. 2:8].)

... nevertheless referenced his ENTIRE mission according to what effect it
would have on the salvation of Jewish people, ...

("I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I
make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to
envy and save some of them" [Rom. 11:13, 14].)

... which, he believed, would in turn bring about the promised ultimate
blessing(s) to the nations (i.e., gentiles):

("But if their [the unbelieving Jewish people's] transgression means riches for
the [gentile] world, and their [the Jewish people's] loss means riches for the
Gentiles, how much greater riches will their [the Jewish people's] fullness
bring! .... For if their [the Jewish people's] rejection is the reconciliation
of the [gentile] world, what will their [the Jewish people's] acceptance be but
life from the dead?" [Rom. 11:12, 15, bracketed comments mine].)

This biblical approach to missions, founded firmly on the Abrahamic covenant,
...

(" 'I [God] will make you [Abraham] into a great nation and I will bless you; I
will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who
bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will
be blessed through you' " [Gen. 12:2, 3, bracketed comments mine; see also Jer.
4:1, 2].)

... did not cast the Jewish people out of the center of God's redemptive agenda
but saw them as the conduit through which the nations were to receive divine
blessings. Paul's Israel-centric strategy of world missions was neither
time-limited nor at all based upon the Apostle's ethnic bias, and should in
fact be how *all* evangelism is conducted today. If for instance, a person in
our day-and-age were to write a missions/church-planting book-- say about
reaching Mongolia-- without gauging macro-cosmically what effect such an
outreach might have on the salvation of Jewish people, then he/she would be
missing the bigger point. Hence missing the point. In any evangelism endeavor,
our glance as followers of Jesus must always, of course, be backward and
forward toward Christ, the starting and finish line of our race:

("Therefore, ... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let
us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith ..." [Heb.
12:1, 2].)

Also in this race, one border to each of our many running lanes is certainly
the nations, and their need for discipleship. The goal of world
evangelization/discipleship contributes in part to the Church's identity and
sense of direction ...

("Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very
end of the age" [Mat. 28:19, 20].)

... and should thereby affect how we corporately and individually conduct our
lives:

("Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether ... Greeks ...-- even as I try to
please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of
many, so that they may be saved" [1 Cor. 10:32b, 33].)

But in a track race, competitors must be aware of more than just the
starting-finish lines and one painted border of their individual lanes. There
are the other runners too. They represent the Church engaged in the task of
world evangelism alongside us. The universal Church, our fellow
race-participants, remind us that there are some basic rules to which we must
all adhere in order for our Spirit-energized labors to remain beneficial to the
whole of Christ's body. We should each pay attention to what effect-- good or
bad-- our efforts are having on our fellow believers and adjust our strides
accordingly:

("Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether ... the church of God-- even as I try
to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good
of many, so that they may be saved" [1 Cor. 10:32c, 33].)

The Church around us helps to set the pace in the contest and to spur us on
toward the finish line. In a sense-- though I don't want to conjure up images
of a "win at all costs" attitude-- we are in healthy but earnest competition
with each other to out-distance other race-participants in gaining top honors
from our King:

("Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the
prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize" [1 Cor. 9:24].)

Likewise-- and more to the point of this post-- those of us who comprise the
mega-influential *gentile* majority of the Jewish Messiah's Body should-- yes--
always remember who is behind us at the starting line while we continue, eyes
ahead on Christ our finish line; and-- yes-- we should cast an eye sideways
periodically for self and community definition to *one* border of our lane--
the nations to be discipled, while at the same time-- yes-- maintaining
peripheral vision of where our fellow runners in this race are. We need to
keep just enough distance not to cause them needless stumbling while also using
them to pace ourselves in the competition. This is how we each should run in
the race of world evangelization. But there is at least one more thing we
should *all* do in order to run the race of missions in a truly biblical
manner. We should each also-- YES!-- clearly keep in mind the *other border*
of our running lanes: ... the people of Israel. Along with Christ, the
nations, and the Church, the Jewish people-- their covenants, their history,
their promised Messiah-- all form part of our gentile Christian self-definition
and mission. Though community-wide amnesia regarding this biblical fact
appears almost universal, I call upon you (... beg you even!), my
church-planting gentile brothers and sisters in Christ, to please never forget
it:

("... if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have
been broken off, and you [gentile Christians], though a wild olive shoot, have
been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the
olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do
not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches
were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' Granted. But they were broken
off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be
afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you
either" (Rom. 11:16-21].)

The NT still somehow defines us as non-Jewish followers of the Jewish Messiah
(Act. 15:23; 21:25; Rom. 11:13; 15:9; 16:4), ... and we should therefore define
ourselves the same way-- never denying our essential equality with all others
in Christ-- while at the same time using the covenant community of Israel as
one of our reference points:

("Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called
"uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in
the body by the hands of men)-- remember that at that time you were separate
from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the
covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in
Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the
blood of Christ .... Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on
the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the
chief cornerstone" [Eph. 2:11-20; 3:6].)

In addition to Christ (backwards and forward), our defining mission to disciple
all nations (one line of the track lane), and the Church (our fellow racers),
we should glance sideways at that other lane border called the Jewish people in
order to gain some perspective about the effects of our lives on *them* ...

(" 'Instead we [James, the Apostles, and the Jerusalem elders, vs. 2, 6, 22-23]
should write to them [the gentile churches, vs. 23], telling them to abstain
from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled
animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the
earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath' " [Act. 15:20,
21, bracketed comments mine].)

("Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews ...-- even as I try to please
everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many,
so that they may be saved" [1 Cor. 10:32a, 33].)

... and of our merciful witness to *them* about the Lord:

("Just as you [gentile Christians] who were at one time disobedient to God have
now received mercy as a result of their [unbelieving Jewish people's]
disobedience, so they [unbelieving Jewish people] too have now become
disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's
mercy to you [gentile Christians]" [Rom. 11:30, 31, bracketed comments mine].)

By far, most books and articles I have read (and those I now read) about world
evangelization/discipleship include only Christ, the nations, and the Church in
the race plan. This is incomplete and unbiblical. To write a book and/or
strategize a mission without such a look to the descendents of Israel as I have
described is like running a race without clearly defined lanes. The loss of a
border on one side of a running lane blurs all the other lane markers too since
they are interconnected with each other. That is how the lanes operate in our
world missions race as well. The biblical way to reach the nations with the
gospel is to prioritize reaching the Jewish people (as did Jesus, Peter, Paul,
etc), ... which then *ultimately* brings about the promised blessing to the
nations. To put it another way, the prophesied blessing to the nations is
hinged upon the repentence of the descendents of Israel (Gen 12:2,3; Jer. 4:1,
2; Rom. 11:11-15), hence the Bible's consistent example of first-- in whatever
location-- bringing the message of forgiveness to the Jewish people while in no
way neglecting outreach efforts to the nations (Act. 3:25, 26; 13:46-- church
planter. 14:1; 16:13; 17:1, 10; 18:4; 19:8; 28:16, 17; Rom. 1:16; 11:28-32).
Without clear lane designations, defined by our evangelism efforts to *both*
Jews and gentiles (with the biblical accent mark on Jews!), the race of world
evangelization loses direction and the runners on the track end up interfering
with each other-- even though they may see the starting and finish lines, one
lane border(?), and their fellow runners. Or to take it further, and using a
tighter biblical metaphor, a gentile Christian who writes a book or article
about mission stategy, or who participates in a plan of evangelism/church
planting which does not directly and purposefully reference the Jews is like a
branch of a tree which begins to regard itself as the root and trunk (Rom.
11:18). A self-delusional perspective at best, and one which ultimately
hinders the global cause of Christ.

Michael
Jerusalem

~ ~ ~ ntcp info page: http://world-missions.org/planting ~ ~ ~

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 07:09:34 -0400
From: "Samuel Buick"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] What are the important criteria in transitioning institutional church to house
church?

This weekend Tony and Felicity Dale are going to be in our area doing a house
church conference sponsored by a local Vineyard that is transitioning to house
church. There will be people from a former Vineyard institutional church
there as well as people from a Missionary Alliance institutional church , all
intent on transitioning to a house church network. This got me thinking.

What is it that distinguishes a house church from and institutional church ?
What are the important criteria in transitioning from one to another? I have
spoken with some people who when it gets down to it, all they are doing is
swapping a church building for a living room, a pulpit for a lazy-boy, a holy
snack for a meal, but little else has changed. I believe that there is
something very real in genuine house church's that cannot be found in a
traditional institutional church , and it isn't in the change in buildings. So
what are the measurable criteria in transitioning? In essence is there a
'house church DNA or genetic code'?

Regards,

Sam

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Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 09:55:30 -0400
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] What
are the important criteria in transitioning institutional church to house
church?

Samuel Buick wrote:

>In essence is there a 'house church DNA or genetic code'?

Dear Sam,

Interesting question. As it happens this morning I just finished watching the
Stephen Hawking series on the universe. I have also been rereading a book,
GENESIS AND THE BIG BANG, by Gerald Schroeder. This to say, that your question
caught me in a muse about a "Unified Theory".

Whatever physicists might have come up with as reason for the formation of the
universe, their ability to account for the origin of DNA isn't even remotely
on the horizon.

To date, there is just no explanation other than a powerful and caring Creator.

What struck me this morning is the following:

To represent or embody this powerful, and caring Creator, Jesus had to rest
completely in Him. As Jesus put it, He could only say the things that the
Father was saying, only do the things that the Father was doing, and, by
extension from John Seventeen verse six, only have the ones that the Father had
given Him.

Our heavenly Father is a God of relationship. That is why He made us, and
everything He made is to that end. We were not made for meetings, we were made
for intimacy with our source, and, by extension, our source in each other,
"that we would be one as Jesus and His Father are one". That is the goal, and
it appears that is also the process or the means to that end, and in this
present age, so that the world might know.

In our area there has been a recent focus on "dreams and visions", means of
hearing and seeing God. There is no question that these are valid ways of
hearing from, and getting to know God. These things are part of His promise to
us, but the goal is a oneness among us that is the very revelation of the
person of God in our midst.

This oneness, this knowing, requires a dependence on God which can only come by
being thrown back on God in complete dependency. If we have any thought that we
can do this ourselves or without His help, we are completely deceived, and
bound to fail.

Failing at relationship, we have a choice: substitute meetings for intimacy, or
pressing into God out of desperation in the face of our utter incapacity for
love and intimacy. As it happens, this second choice is the one that God is
after. To this end he has subjected the entire creation to frustration, so that
we might not only seek Him, but in seeking and finding Him, we might be so
grateful that we would become lovers. Those who are forgiven much love much.
God is Love, and in the end we will be love, because we will see Love as He is.

Historically, we have chosen meetings. We have a proven capacity for meetings
without God. We also have a proven incapacity for relationships without God. In
our relational bankruptcy, we really have no choice but to turn to God.

We need a divine receiving, not only of dreams, and visions, but of
relationships, all of these kinds of knowing need to be tested to determine
whether or not they come from God. For the present I am very skeptical of
preoccupations which exclude relationships as both means and end. It is these
divine relationships which are the evidence for the DNA of God. These are the
end product of partaking of His divine nature. For me everything else is red
flagged, whether in a temple built by human hands or in a living room. What
counts is a new creation! The old creation teaches me that we have less chance
of fooling ourselves in our living rooms than in our "churches".

Yours in Christ,

Jay

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Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2002 12:03:00 +0200
From:
Subject: Re: [NTCP] What are the important criteria in transitioning institutional church to house church?

Hi Sam, Yes the answer is simple. institutional church is all to do with
hierachies, and house church to do with relationship and servanthood. In a
transition from institutional church to house church you cannot create these
things if the don't exist, this can only come about by a work of grace in the
hearts of the folk there.

Blessings, Keith, in not so sunny Spain.


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