New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Thursday, June 6 2002 Vol 02 : 099
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life
Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life

Date: Wed, 5 Jun 2002 10:54:27 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life

Jay F. wrote:

>In the original, "... another that sitteth...", does not necessarily imply
>that the first is standing, it can equally well imply that the the first is
>active, and the second is inactive. In any case, receiving and communicating
>spontaneous revelation would not appear to require a pulpit, and in its
>absence, those who tend to talk to much have that much less to yield.

You're right. I was looking at it one way to make a point ... and reading from
the NIV. But it is possible, now that I see it in Greek (aided by some
computer helps; my knowledge of Greek is very elementary), that both people in
1 Cor. 14:30 were sitting while one was prophesying. Good observation.

And of course you're also right that a pulpit is not "require[d]" in a NT
meeting. God will make His will known with or without any so-called
"sanctified" furniture. He's big enough. I'm just trying to say that a pulpit
is not an *inherent* hindrance to prophetic utterances, or to any kind of
group-dynamic spiritual communication (contra Jim R.). I think it is the
*symbolism* of the pulpit in (mostly) Protestant churches that has begun to
detract from its original innocent function of physically elevating the speaker
and providing a respectable place to lay the holy word of God.

Michael
Jerusalem


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Date: Wed, 05 Jun 2002 08:43:34 -0400
From: "Samuel Buick"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God

Thanks TC for your gentle reply. It was great to read your post.

I have found, especially of late, that in each and every traditional
institutional church that is transitioning to house church, they are overtly
guarded about several things:

1. The lack of accountability in house church 2. The potential for error and
heresy 3. The lack of control and vision over the house church 4. The lack of
financial support for programs and mission

When I witnessed these things first hand from 3 institutional churches
transitioning, my gut said, "Don't bother with the house church pattern and
model!"

Right off the bat, they inflict a structure that chokes life and maturity to
the body.

I spent the weekend with a couple who were very uneasy but excited at the
prospects of being a house church. But they showed in all they said a deep
concern over the above.

1. The lack of accountability in house churches

The 'look and feel' of a 'lack' of accountability is no reason to inflict a
strict hierarchal system. We believe that each house church should pastor
itself, and that elders in the network are there to help resolve issues as they
arise. But all the house churches are encouraged to seek the Lord and be guided
by His Spirit on their own without outside influence. Body life simply means
the Body gathers together under the ONE head, Christ Jesus, and that no man
dominates the gatherings. This is the only way believers are truly going to
mature and grow up. They will discover who they are in Christ, and what their
gifts are, and they will minister to the Lord and to one another, and to any
non believer that may be drawn across their path. There is a form of
'accountability' but it is not the accountability that traditional
institutional churches understand or want, and that is that everyone is
mutually accountable to one another as unto Christ. It is a flat line. No man
dictates to another. All see the Lord and His will together.

2. The potential for error and heresy

Jesus promised that we would hear His voice, and also that His Spirit would
guide us in all truth. Every believer, whether in a house church, or an
institutional church , can be deceived and duped into error, especially in our
day when there is such a proliferation of literature, ministries and resources
at our fingertips! I am dealing with it all the time. I have to slowly build
trust relationships with people, and in our growing together find out what
makes them tick and find out where the passion lies in their hearts, and that
includes what they believe and why. BTW, the house church gatherings are great
places for exchanges of views and opinions and understanding of Biblical texts,
and such. So, while there is the potential for error and heresy, I believe that
those that are concerned are mainly those 'clergy professionals' who feel they
are out of a job by embracing the house church paradigm! BTW, any 'clergy
professional' be on notice. When you embrace house church, you also embrace a
full bodied priesthood of believers, one that actually functions as such.

3. The lack of control and vision over the house church

Going along with the above, is the notion which has become a human tradition
that only the 'professionals' can minister and guide and direct. No, there
must be a recognition that the body, as it gathers in the Name of Jesus, and
submits to His will, it will be lead by the Spirit. The Spirit will giver
revelation, if it is sought for in humility, and He will guide and direct and
impart vision. The main problem with these institutional churches
transitioning, is simply that the leaders have the vision, but have not grasped
that each person has a vision and calling from the Lord, and it may not look at
all like their vision, but it is no less the Lord. The problem in the past was
that if you did not submit to the leader's vision, you either left yours on the
back burner and jump on his vision, or you left the institutional church . In
the house church, relationship is the key to seeing the house church pastored
by the Spirit and lead by the Spirit and it is through this deep intimate
relationship that vision is imparted to each one. When we come alongside and
discover the vision the Lord has for you, we pray and intercede, and then we
even discover that there are some with a similar vision. These people gather
together and pray and seek the will of the Lord, and then we lay hands on them
and release them to pursue hard after what the Lord is doing in this vision.
The institutional church , has to control that kind of stuff. The house church,
it comes alongside and blesses and supports the vision any way possible. Our
motto, "Come and let us help you fulfill the vision the Lord has given you!"

4. The lack of financial support for programs and mission

This is crucial. Many of the institutional churches transitioning still hold to
an OT understanding of finances, and some of the ones I mentioned are even
forcing their house churches to 'tithe' to them. I get ill in my body just
thinking about this all over again! The hierarchy still controls the house
churches because it demands the finances. I for one believe in generosity. I
am not limited to 10%. I should be giving more and giving to a diverse variety
of needs and ministries, and this should not be based on what the hierarchy
thinks. It should be based on what the house church believes the Lord wants
them to be involved with.

Until the transitioning institutional churches get a grip on the above, the
structure will still dictate the life of the Body. This will stifle and choke
out whatever life there is in the Body. And I believe this grieves whta the
Lord wants to do amongst those who gather in His Name.

Blessings,

Sam


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Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 00:47:42 EDT
From: TheologusCrucis
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life and the Heart of God

Sam,

Found your post to be very interesting. Just thought I'd share some thoughts on
the points you raised.

>>I have found, especially of late, that in each and every traditional
>>institutional church
that is transitioning to house church, they are overtly guarded about several
things:

1. The lack of accountability in house church 2. The potential for error and
heresy 3. The lack of control and vision over the house church 4. The lack of
financial support for programs and missionSam,

Found your post to be very interesting. Just thought I'd share some thoughts on
the points you raised.

Just on general principle I believe it impossible, or nearly so, to change an
institutional church into a house church.

1. It isn't the lack of accountability that bothers those used to institutional
churches. It is the accountability that comes from a house church environment
Most people LIKE the fading into a crowd, being one among the many. But
friendship brings with it a fundamental change in perception. I served a church
that was a group of house churches in KS, and was amazed to find how hard a
sell that the whole house church concept was. People said they wanted the
community, but they hated the encroachment of others that true community
brings.

2. The potential for error in a house church is no more or any less that in an
institutional church . Half the time it's some very sincere but undiscipled
people that lead a house church and go around the circle asking what that verse
meant to them, or there own personal story of God's presence in their life. The
Word rarely is used as 1 Timothy 3:16 describes. But is that any worse than
some Bible College graduate who has substituted his discipleship for education,
who uses the newest managerial technique or Revivalist technique? The Word is
rarely taught or preached in this context either.

3. Again, no more or less than in an institutional church . In the house church
you may have Christianity represented as some egalitarian democracy with as
many visions as members with no person/persons at the helm, but is that any
worse that Maxwell or Barna's CEO/managerial version of vision? Read those
guys, and you could as easily open a Taco Bell as "plant" a church.

4. Program and mission? I tend to agree with you, Sam. Christians are not
consumers, and churches don't exist to meet their needs, they exist to worship
God and to bring Him glory. The institutional church may be very effective and
efficient in raising $, but just how has that contributed to worship? Clearly
the 2nd Great awakening idea of revival, of manipulating people thru mass
meetings, has done nothing for evangelism -- the church in North America isn't
even keeping up with it's own birth rate, let alone converting people.

But it is not these structures that choke the life out of people. Many of these
structures were designed to follow faulty theology. Action follows belief.

If the Bible had been central, people would have figured out that the church is
an organism, not an institution. Is there a "chain of command?" You bet --
God's Kingdom is a monarchy, not a democracy. But that chain is not what the
church is made up of -- and of course I'm preaching to the choir here ;o)

If we had a respect for the Scriptures and a trust in the four giftings
(Ephesians 4) of leadership/equippers and the gifts of the Spirit to each
believer, heresy and error wouldn't be as rife as it is now. It's hard to be
immersed in Scripture and follow the theology and path of glory rather than
that of the cross.

You probably get my drift for the rest of the last two points. I firmly believe
that both the institutional church AND the house church needs reformation as
well as revival, otherwise we're just switching one compromise with another,
the compromise with modernism that produced the institutional church and a new
compromise with postmodernism rife in the house church. Why exchange one yoke
for the other?

Just MHO. Who am I anyway? :) I very much enjoyed your post, and your summaries
of each point. And I respect your opposition to the organization and structure
of the institutional church . It speaks of deep wounding and conflict. But it
also points to forgiveness and reconciliation. Blessings, Sam!

TC


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Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 10:22:41 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life

Jim, sorry I've been so long getting back with you on your last provocative
post. I'm in the throes of my comprehensive exams-- just completed one, got
three more to go. For those who feel inclined, please pray for me. That last
one (biblical Aramaic) took me nine hours to complete-- *not* counting some
breaks. Talk about writer's cramp! Two of the remaining three tests will
likely take just as long. Or longer. I could use some "body support" at this
time if you don't mind. The next exam is slated to be in a week and a half.

Now on to your (Jim's) comments. You wrote:

>Sorry for my tone here ...

No need to apologise, bro. It demonstrates that we've passed beyond the phase
of diplomatic niceties and branched out into *true* dialogue with honest
communication-- something I personally value more than almost anything else in
the world. I know and have witnessed that you minister in love. I hope you
recognise that that is my intention too. If my comments sometimes frustrate
you, well ... I sometimes feel likewise about yours. Especially the
unsubstantiated ones.

Your clout with the house church crowd makes your responsibility all the much
greater to *get your facts straight* before broadcasting them. No caveat about
"this is just my opinion" will exonerate you from the "greater judgment" (Jam.
3:1). So please heed this, my earnest warning and plea. Please.

>In a chat group like this, why do you keep championing causes like pulpits and
>liturgy and whatnot?

I'm not seeking to "champion[]" anything on this list save the cause of NT
Christianity. For Christ's honor. That is my goal and motive ... as I am
aware of them.

Truth is Jim, I really believe NT Christianity was and (if we're going to call
it's modern expressions NT) *should be* liturgical. It's a matter of evidence.
It is not an issue I would split a church over, but it is one on which I'll
comment when given opportunity. Especially on a "chat group like this" which
is called "*New Testament* Church Planting"! All the
biblical/historical/cultural/linguistic research I've seen (and I've not been
selective) points to both the Jewish and gentile parts of the early Church
being liturgical-- why resist the truth? I can't think of a post-Qumran
scholarly NT commentator of *any* denominational persuasion (liturgical or less
liturgical-- there is practically no such thing as "non-liturgical") who has
provided a portrait of early Church life as you and many house churchers have
conceived of it. That's not proof that they are right and you are wrong, but I
think it should make you wonder ...

The earliest Church attestation of a pulpit is in Ireneaus' (A.D. 130-200)
AGAINST HERESIES where he is writing about the qualifications for a young man
who was to be a congregational reader. The fact that he mentions a "pulpit"
with no explanation should signal the alert reader to the fact that "pulpits"
had been around since before Ireneaus' comments. How long? Well if James (died
c. A.D. 62) was writing to more than one Jewish group in the Diaspora ("the
*twelve tribes* in the Dispersion"-- Jam. 1:1) whose congregations were still
called synagogues (Jam. 2:2 Gk. SUNAGOGEN), then it seems reasonable that each
Jewish-Christian synagogue would have had the standard furniture of a Jewish
synagogue of that period-- which included a "pulpit" (Gk. BEMATOS-- the exact
word used in Neh. 8:4 LXX, and the parallel passage in 1 Esdras 9:42). The
onus is on you to *prove* otherwise.

Today's Jews call this elevated platform-- outfitted with a still more raised
flat surface upon which to lay the Torah (Law) and Haftorah (readings from the
Prophets and other portions of the OT) scrolls, and from which to read and
expound them-- the BEMA. BEMATOS, if you haven't noticed, comes from the same
Greek root as BEMA and stands for the same ancient piece of furniture.

I belong to an Israeli congregation which, as part of its mission, is a
worldwide research "think tank" for early Jewish Christianity. Being where we
are obviously aids us in our endeavors. But most of the evidence about the
formation of NT churches is available in the States. Why haven't you availed
yourself of this information rather than gathering your data second or third
hand from sources apparently pre-disposed against the historical evidence? Why?

>1. If Ezra's epoch-changing proclamation of the Law was "truly a biblical
>pattern of meeting," then the feeding of the 5000 was truly a Biblical pattern
>of eating. Get real, bro. That makes as much sense as saying that Jesus was
>establishing a Biblical pattern of meeting when he got a boat and pushed off a
>few feet from the shore.

This gets us into the larger issue of just where does a historical example fit
into the broader picture of revelation. In other words, when we look at some
biblical personage(s) (such as Moses, Ezra, Jesus, or the early Jewish or even
Greek believers), just how authoratative do we consider his/her/their
*example*. And is that example truly revelation for the universal Church
today?

Now I think Jim, that you and I are in a similar camp. I think we both regard
biblical examples as having authority. I mean this can degenerate, for
instance, into some of the (what I consider) petty issues the Restoration
movement got into regarding musical instruments in the churches (since there is
no NT example of such a practice) and whatnot. I don't think either of us
wants to go to that extreme. But we both recognise authority and revelation in
biblical examples, right? Would I be correct in inferring this from some of
your postings.

If this is true, and biblical examples do possess some measure of authority and
revelation for the whole body of Christ, then where do we draw the line?
Cultural factors will obviously come into play. (e.g., Is it okay to have
wall-to-wall carpet in our house churches since no known NT personage would
have had it? ... But, on the other hand, what about veils for women who pray
and prophesy during our meetings?) Then there is the issue of technology
(e.g., Is it proper to play tapes and/or CDs or watch videos together at our
"NT" gatherings since no NT personage would have had it?) Then the biggy: Old
Testament vs(?) New Testament (e.g., Do we glean our examples for NT meetings
only from the NT Scriptures? Or do we factor in the knowledge that the early
Church *ONLY* had the OT, and, depending on where they were in the Roman
Empire, maybe an apostolic letter or two-- some of which we now possess. Many
of which we don't) Then there is the related Jew/gentile debate (e.g., If the
congregations to which James wrote in the Diaspora met in synagogue
*buildings,* and Paul and Barnabas were called to begin gentile ministry while
they and a lot of Jews in Antioch were practicing a *liturgy,* does that
example have any value for me as a 21st century gentile follower of Jesus?)

Now back to your objection: Dick W. had held up 1 Cor 14 as a "biblical pattern
of meeting". In fact quite a few of you all have done the same ... as if it
were the *only, or even the *best* one. There are others; that was my point.
With the "Ezra thing" I was just trying to broaden our horizons to the rest of
the Scriptures. With a variety of meeting patterns. We are, after all, talking
about patterns here, right?

In my understanding, the actual commandments in 1 Cor. 14 have more weight for
us NT believers than any assumed/reconstructed pattern of that chapter's
meeting style-- though the example holds revelatory value as well. But I saw
certain other presuppositions coming into play in Dick's (and Sam B's, and
your) comments, hence my desire to explore this prevalent assumption about
spontanaity being more spiritual than structure.

By the way, if you ever came here to visit me Jim, we could go to the Sea of
Galilee together and try out Jesus' lakeshore meeting style. I've done it
without a boat before. Good accoustics! ... for a large group outdoor meeting.

But the USE of a pulpit always occurs in buildings where chairs/pews are
arranged in rows and all the people except one are expected to sit facing
forward in silence - --which over time emasculates them, often irremediably.
You can't dismiss this with a wave of your hand as a matter of "style."

No it doesn't ALWAYS occur in arrangements like you've described. And yes I
can dismiss it as a matter of style. If children of God are "irremediably"
"emasculate[d]" by the structural arrangements of a meeting, it kind of makes
one wonder about the ability of their Father to take care of His children, huh?

>A podium/riser/dais enables people to see a speaker; a pulpit conceals about
>two-thirds of a speaker. Standing up accomplishes the same thing as a podium,
>but a pulpit always implies that all the speaking will be done at that pulpit.
>So no, standing is not "only a step away from the pulpit." Standing aids
>group communication; a pulpit kills it.

The "pulpit" (Heb. MIGDOL-- sorry, in my last post I wrote "podium") in Neh.
8:4 was a high thin (MIGDOL is most often translated "tower") wooden structure
which elevated Ezra, not so much that he could be seen, but so that he could be
*heard*. So whether it covers 2/3 of the speaker is immaterial. Included in
the set-up was some sort of flat horizontal surface that would accomodate an
entire Torah scroll, which could (can) be up to forty feet long. It has been
the tradition among Jews since immemorium to keep their holy books *off* the
same surface upon which people walk. The early Church undoubtably inherited
the pulpit (and this respect for holy books) from the synagogue, though, to my
knowledge, it wasn't until the basilica architecture of the 4th century that
synagogues and churches began constructing edifaces with the pulpit in the
front, with rows of seats/benches all facing forward.

In smaller groups it is unnecessary to have a pulpit. However, meetings with
larger numbers of people, in which the Bible is publically read, it is a near
necessity. Or something of its kin. No commandments would be violated if a
pulpit were not present, but neither would any commandments be violated if it
were. It is indeed a matter of pragmatics ... and style. Morally neutral. Not
a matter of life and death.

Perhaps 30-50 BILLION souls have gone to eternal death because "structures"
choked off the sin-cleansing power of Christ and the life-bearing work of the
Holy Spirit. This is not a matter of style.

You and I indeed share different views of the role God's sovereignty in
bringing people to faith in Christ. It might be that "your God is too small".

>Is it just me, or are these facts patently obvious to everybody on this list
>except you?

I'm really a sympathetic outsider to the house church movement. I feel I can
contribute to your "reformation" if my brothers and sisters in your ranks would
submit to evidence. I have tried to provide well-researched posts which
represent more than just me and some accompanying axe-to-grind. And, to be
honest, I don't feel too welcome as a result. However, I've got to admit that
oftentimes they have been of the "myth-busting" genre. And periodically I have
been testy. Pushy. Nevertheless, God's Spirit is a Spirit of truth. If
romance is more important to the leaders of a movement than evidence, if the
published voices of the house churchers prefer fantasy to fact, then how can I
expect those less informed than them to believe and therefore act any
differently?

I began this post by pleading with you Jim, a fellow teacher, to refrain from
making unsupported statements on this list. I speak from my heart. Your words
carry more weight with the folks in this group than mine do. I've got no
vested interest in periodically contradicting you save to "champion[]" the
truth. I love you. If the early church were *only* house church, was
non-litugical, didn't ever employ pulpits, and all of this was communicated to
us latter day Bible readers as *the* way to be Christ's Body in fellowship,
then that's what I'd be doing ... or not be doing. Without a doubt. But since
it's not, and since the evidence leads me to conclude otherwise, then I will
communicate what seems "patently obvious" to me. Blessings.

Michael
Jerusalem


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Date: Thu, 06 Jun 2002 08:04:11 -0400
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Structure vs. Life

Deborah wrote:

>This gets us into the larger issue of just where does a historical example fit
>into the broader picture of revelation. In other words, when we look at some
>biblical personage(s) (such as Moses, Ezra, Jesus, or the early Jewish or even
>Greek believers), just how authoratative do we consider his/her/their
>*example*. And is that example truly revelation for the universal Church
>today?
>
Dear Michael,

Good post!!

I think there is another way to sort out the Biblical evidence, and I do agree
that the Biblical evidence is of first importance when examining what perports
to be sitting, walking or standing in the Spirit.

And I have to be honest with you, Jim. When your book, THE OPEN CHURCH first
came out, I was grieved by its programatic methods for the impartation of life.
The pattern was closer than a lot that we have been forced to live with over
the years, but the way of bringing it to pass, is still highly suspect,
something about human cloning.

For sorting purpses there are three words that come to mind: "religion",
"ministry", and "life". That may not be an exhaustive list, but it is helpful
when trying to discern what is going on. There are essentially two kinds of
life. The first kind is dead relative to the second kind, God's kind. The first
kind is helpful, however, as an example for teaching us otherwise invisible
things about God's kind of life. In fact, the first kind is so helpful, that it
is apparently incumbant on us to learn from it about the second kind, God's
kind. I trust you are following me so far. By now I'm fairly confident that we
do have the same Bible in common.

The way we get from one kind of life to the other is fairly important. Some
people just do not recognize the second kind, and do not want to go there.

Then there are many others who have their own approach to going there. I hope
by now it might be safe, in the setting of this web list, to suggest that these
many others can be roughly described as the religious of every stripe.

Then there are those of us who claim to have the second kind, God's kind, and
who honestly believe that Jesus is the only point of entry into God's kind of
life.

Now I think we can all agree that "ministry" is a very big word, even after we
trim away all of its misuse., but I would like, for present purposes, to narrow
its focus just a little more, and say that, ministry is the means by which
those of us who have this new kind of life attempt to share it with others,
even each other.

Armed with that perspective then, lets go back into the Bible, and take another
look at God's Old Testament people. On the one hand, there is the way they
lived, and on the other hand there was the religion they practiced. I hope that
we are agreed that under that religion, as they understood it, there was no
possibility of this new life, in fact not even the possibility of a clean
conscience.

Anyway, finally Jesus came and brought us life, even this new life. Now the
question is, what are we going to do with it. Please, for life's sake, for this
new life's sake, let's not draw from the religious practices of the past to
figure out how to live in the present. Ministry is one thing, life is another.

Let us rather figure out how to live, and in the process we might figure out
some way of conveying this life to others, in fact we might even find ourselves
living a life which by its very nature was reproducible and reproducing.

Things being what they are over there in your neighborhood, Michael, and
increasingly all over the world, for that matter, even as evidenced in the
attitudes between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., it really is looking like the
whole world has had just about enough of religion.

This past week it struck me this way: Just as there is such a thing a
microeconomics, and macroeconomics, there may also be microprophetic, and
macroprophetic.

The "iron curtain" is or was a parable. The final one is the "religious
curtain". All the warfare, from our inability to get along up to and including
present day terrorism, from the foundation of the world, is shaking down around
the "religious curtain". All the carnality of world systems, even religious
systems will ultimately gather together around the city God loves.

Those for whom the curtain has been rent in Christ, are on one side, those for
whom it still exists, are on the other. The handwriting is on the outside of
the curtain, but for those who believe, the war is over. Alleluia!!

I should also say that this warfare exists in microcosm around every one of us;
as individuals; small groups or large groups. Here is a good clue as to which
side you are on: If you're throwing rocks, you're probably on the wrong side.

Yours in Christ,

Jay


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