New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

NT Church Proliferation Digest Friday, October 11 2002 Volume 02 : Number 178
Re: [NTCP] Intimate Relationship
Re: [NTCP] Home/Institutional Church
[NTCP] Some gems for our nugget-loving readership
[NTCP] synagogue

Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 07:40:03 -0700 (PDT)
From: Vanessa DiDomenico <van3hijos * yahoo>
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Intimate Relationship

Are you sure that God has been using the institutional church? For
centuries, 'His' church managed to kill thousands for no reason, the
inquisition being only one example. Today, any institutional church you
walk into will have only 5-10%, maybe less, REAL christians. They go to
church, then go out and forget what James clearly said: REAL RELIGION is
helping the orphans and widows. Not too many institutional churches worry
about that (I mean the individuals). Yes, churches DO help, but, are the
individuals participating? ALL of them?? I believe the time of
institutional churches was total apostasy, and that only when Quakers and
somre others began to meet in homes did apostasy end. Note that in places
like China, where God is coming to millions, they MUST meet in homes.

If it weren't for home churches, I wouldn't even believe God exists, since
the institutional church seems more like something the devil is managin,
fooling many into not believing in God's existence.

Vanessa from Venezuela
PS: we ARE receiving help here from a bunch of baptist churches in
Alabama, where my oldest son happened to have been born. But I wonder, how
many of the christians who gave money for this even know how much they are
helping? Do they know this is their ONLY real religion? How much of a
percentage of the donations are being kept by the pastors to fund their
own comfortable homes, cars, etc?

- --- JoelBRJr * aol wrote:
> Sam,
> I too will take an intimate relationship over sterility anytime.
> However, I
> have to take exception with the idea of simply writing those off who
> prefer
> the old traditions. Let us remember that God used both the small,
> intimate
> meeting as well as the institutionalized church to keep HIS church alive
> and
> thriving. Writing off what He has used is dangerous. Moving on, in
> relationship with Him, is maturity. Many people are not ready for such
> maturity, and may never be. Should turn from them and consider them
> inferior?
> I don't think so.
> As you said... It is safer to gather for a Bible study with someone in
> charge...
> However let us also remember that when Christ taught He was In Charge.
> And
> Ephesians 4:11 tells us that He Gave some to be in charge of various
> situations and at various times.
> I write this in defense of neither one way or the other, but in defense
> of
> liberty given by Christ to worship as each sees fit - I prefer intimate
> relationship, but I am not superior to those who haven't arrived at that
> point. Both home church and Institutional church are Biblical - Old and
> New
> Testament - there is room for both.
> In Love,
> Joel

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

Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 07:43:50 -0700 (PDT)
From: Vanessa DiDomenico <van3hijos * yahoo>
Subject: Re: [NTCP] Home/Institutional Church

That sounds great. So you think God sent those people on the crusades and
sent 'His' church on the inquisition,too? People seem to have been
satisfied with the catholic church back then. Then why bother changing it?


- --- JoelBRJr * aol wrote:
> I am new to the Home Church idea, having just left the pastorate of an
> institutional church, so forgive me for being so naive, but shouldn't we
> each
> go where God sends us? Many people are not going to be comfortable in an
> institutional church setting, many people are not going to comfortable
> in a
> small home church setting. Perhaps I am just being too idealistic, but I
> think I remember reading something about God loving us all ... the whole
> world. Wouldn't that include all people, in all churches?
> Joel

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

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 13:40:48 +0200
From: "Deborah" <deborah.millier * juccampus>
Subject: [NTCP] Some gems for our nugget-loving readership

Hi all! Back from the Philippines with a renewed sense of direction from
the LORD. Toward Israel. When things are better confirmed, I'll share with
the NTCP group my experiences and God's communiques to me while I was there.
Thanks for those who prayed.

Therefore, with a new vigor I am ready for round #3 on this most
recent claim (Forwarded Message, Sep. 25 on the thread entitled: "Some gems
for our nugget-loving readership") that the early Church *never* built
buildings for the purpose of NT worship. "Here we go 'round the mulberry
bush ..."
Did the earliest believers *ever* meet in special buildings to worship
the one true God through His son Jesus Christ. Let's examine some ancient
and more recent evidence:

1) The earliest diaspora Jewish believers often met in synagogues. We
know this because James (by most accounts his was one of the earliest
letters composed) wrote: "For if there come unto your assembly [Gk.
SUNAGOGE] a man ..." (Jam. 2:2). That is a "synagogue". And his letter was
intended for more than one group (Jam. 1:1), thus *more than one synagogue*.
This Greek word (with various inflections) appears 56 times in the NT. In
the other 55 places it refers unequivocally to a Jewish congregational
assembly-- usually with a building (e.g. Luk. 7:5). I think it is clear
enough that the same is true for James 2:2. The burden of proof is on
others to prove elsewise. I have been in or on the ruins of several
synagogues in Israel which date directly before, during the time of Jesus,
and right after. I have also been to ancient synagogues in Asia, i.e.
modern day western Turkey. The Jews and god-fearers in Judea, the Galilee
and abroad (from which the first Christians were drawn) either constructed
*buildings* specifically for the purpose of study and prayer, or renovated
existing buildings to the same end. From earliest Church times.

2) There is growing evidence that the traditional Upper Room/David's
Tomb edifice in modern Jerusalem was built and rebuilt over an ancient
synagogue in which was discovered Christian "graffito" from the 1st century
in the downstairs portion of the building near the bedrock. This is just a
hundred yards from our college and I have examined this evidence first-hand
on several occasions. Also, the niche for storing the Torah (Law) scroll--
always oriented toward the Temple in synagogues of this period-- was instead
in a direct line toward the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre where,
the best documentation indicates, our Lord was buried and rose again. This,
and other evidence, has led many to infer that the synagogue was the meeting
place of the Jerusalem church shortly after the destruction of the Temple
(A.D. 70). And possibly before. (see BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, 16,
May-June 1990: 16-35).

3) Related evidence: Epiphanius (392 A.D.), drawing from earlier
sources, recorded that when Emperor Hadrian first set eyes on the then
ruined and desolate Jerusalem (130 A.D., just 60 years after its
destruction), he saw that "... there [was] nothing where the city had stood
but a few dwellings and one small *church* ..." (Epiphanius, ON WEIGHTS AND
MEASURES, Dinddorf ed. vol. 4, pp. 17, 18, emphasis mine), which Epiphanius,
a native of Palestine, then goes on in the same narrative to call a
"synagogue" (p. 18). The "church" was seen by Hadrian on the western side
of what used to be the city, on present day Mt. Zion, where the "Upper Room"
(see point #2) is located. Again, all of this is occurred nearby to our
Jerusalem University College. In all likelihood, this "church" was the
Christian "synagogue" that is still evident there. The anonymous "Bordeau
Pilgrim" (333 A.D.), who chronicled his (or her?) journey through the Holy
Land, likewise mentioned a "synagogue" building on this same location (CCSL,

4) Quote: "The archaeological excavations at Capernaum (Galilee)
suggest that the former house of St. Peter was later transformed into a
"domus eccelsiae" [church meeting house-- MICHAEL] and may very well be the
most ancient evidence of a house church. ... The earliest remains testify
to a common insula [walled-in extended family complex-- MICHAEL] of domestic
habitations, characteristic of the small fishing community at Capernaum.
Within this complex, dating to the first century A.D., is a large hall (7.0
m. by 6.5 m. = c. 45.5 sq.m. ...) which was venerated by Christians as the
house of St. Peter. This hall was likely used by the local community of
Jewish Christians while the other rooms of the insula continued to function
as part of the domestic residence" (Blue, Bradly. "Acts and the House
Gempt. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994, pp. 138-39; see also McRay,
John. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE NEW TESTAMENT. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. 1991,
80, 81, 164-66). In other words, the house was modified and sanctified
*only* for meetings from early on.

5) Jewish people in Rome, during the time when Paul wrote his epistle
to the church there, most often met for prayer and study in *modified*
private homes and/or tenement rooms which could nevertheless accomodate no
more than 20-40 persons per meeting. There exists no evidence of Jewish
basilica structures during the infant stages of the Roman church, although
more modest *buildings* existed for worship (Rutgers, Leonard V. "The Jews
in Late Ancient Rome: An Archaeological and Historical Survey on the
Interaction of Jews and Non-Jews in the Roman Diaspora," Dissertation, Duke
University, 1993; Meyers, Eric M. and L. Michael White. "Jews and Christians
in the Roman World," ARCHAEOLOGY 42 March-April 1989. 26-33).
The important thing to remember here is that the historical evidence
suggests a church-- at the VERY least during Paul's time and before-- still
operating as a subdivision of the Roman Jewish synagogues' loose but
affiliated hierarchy, with Christian Jews and gentiles meeting regularly for
prayer and instruction with their larger non-Christian Jewish congregations
[sometimes within specially made buildings], then privately in homes for
more specifically Christian teaching, partaking of the communion meal/agape
feast, and the exercising of spiritual gifts. Etc. Not only that, but the
Roman Christians often maintained close ties with local synagogues, even up
until the third century A.D.-- burying Christian dead in shared
Jewish/Christian catacombs, sharing hymnals and prayer books, and displaying
the reciprocal usage of technical language and idioms common to both
communities (Rutgers, Leonard V. "Archaeological Evidence for the
Interaction of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF
ARCHAEOLOGY 1992, 96:101-18.; Charlesworth, James H. "Exploring
Opportunities for Rethinking Relations among Jews and Christians," JEWS AND
1990. 35-59).

6) Additional historical evidence that Jewish believers in Jesus
continued their custom of meeting in special buildings for worship-- albeit
in the following case they remained within non-Messianic synagogues-- comes
from Jerome who lived in Bethlehem and wrote about Jewish "Nazarenes"
(wrongly considered by *some* "Church fathers" to be heretics because of
their continued observance of the Torah [Law]-- see Pritz, Ray A. NAZARENE
JEWISH CHRISTIANITY. Jerusalem: Magnus Press, The Hebrew University, 1988),
who were during his time (c. 410 A.D.), still found "in all the synagogues
of the East among the Jews" (AGAINST PELAGIUS 22, 924).
Right now I could list off several orthodox lifestyle Messianic Jews
in Israel who pray with their fellow countrymen on the Sabbath at
non-Messianic synagogues, then gather on Sundays with other followers of
Jesus-- Jew and gentile-- for more specifically Christian times of
fellowship, communion, exercising of spiritual gifts, etc. So Jerome's
above description rings true to me, probably coming from firsthand
knowledge. Nevertheless, James and recent archaeological finds suggest that
early Jewish believers *sometimes* built or utilized synagogue buildings in
their Christian worship, and saw nothing wrong or unbiblical with it.
The quotes from Joh. 4 about a fixation on places could be turned back
on those house church folks who will not allow for any other places to gather as
Christ's body than houses. Neither this place nor that, remember? The
Church is truly "supra-territorial".

First, please hear what I am *not* saying. I am *not* saying that the
early church did not meet in houses. Or that they did not even *usually*
meet in houses. They did. Are we clear on that? :-)

Now please hear what I *am* saying. I'm saying that there were
*instances* when members of the early church *did* in fact meet in buildings
built or modified specifically for worship. Hence we *cannot* be rigid with
one paradigm and insist that house churches are the only Scriptural model,
or even necessarily the *best* one in all circumstances. This unbending
stance promotes needless division. I know most people on this list would
not say that houses are the *only* or *best* way. But some would. And
have. Let's please review this and other evidence then make allowance for
some in the body of Christ who feel the need, desire, leading, etc. to build
a special building in which to meet together. To the glory of God. Okay?


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

Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2002 12:38:11 -0400
From: David Anderson <david * housechurch>
Subject: [NTCP] synagogue

formerly: Re: [NTCP] Some gems for our nugget-loving readership

Glad that your trip went well and that you are safely home, Mike. I
missed your letters.

It's a big world, is it not. Sounds like you made some memories along the
way. Praise God.

First and foremost, our disagreement here doesn't affect our friendship
in any way, dear brother. I know you desire the mind and will of the Lord
as do I. If the church buildings of the Western World were used each day
as educational centers as some (?) synagogues were, then I would feel
much differently.

> First, please hear what I am *not* saying. I am *not* saying that the
>early church did not meet in houses. Or that they did not even *usually*
>meet in houses. They did. Are we clear on that? :-)

> Now please hear what I *am* saying. I'm saying that there were
>*instances* when members of the early church *did* in fact meet in buildings
>built or modified specifically for worship. Hence we *cannot* be rigid with
>one paradigm and insist that house churches are the only Scriptural model,
>or even necessarily the *best* one in all circumstances. This unbending
>stance promotes needless division. I know most people on this list would
>not say that houses are the *only* or *best* way. But some would. And
>have. Let's please review this and other evidence then make allowance for
>some in the body of Christ who feel the need, desire, leading, etc. to build
>a special building in which to meet together. To the glory of God. Okay?

Brother, things start to blur as I try to make my way back to century 1.
You are drawing us into a discussion encompassing synagogue and temple
worship and what theologians call "the regulative principle of worship."
Obviously, theologians do not speak with one voice on much of nothing.
And to beat that, the word "synagogue" has multiple meanings. Putting
dates on buildings isn't easy, either.

Heather A. McKay, Sabbath and Synagogue: The Question of Sabbath Worship
in Ancient Judaism (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1994). This volume grew
out of an article published three years earlier: idem, "New Moon or
Sabbath?" in The Sabbath in Jewish and Christian Traditions, edited by
Tamara C. Eskenazi, Daniel J. Harrington and William H. Shea (New York:
The Crossroads Publishing Company, 1991), 12-27. Beyond the defense of
her overall hypothesis, it is also noteworthy that McKay agrees with Kee
and Horsley's verdict on the existence (or rather, non-existence) of
synagogue structures in pre-70 Palestine: "There is no archaeological or
epigraphic evidence that points unequivocally to the existence of
synagogue buildings in first-century Palestine . . . First-century
'synagogues' are-on the whole-groups of male Jews. Any architectural
remains of synagogue buildings in Palestine belong to a time later than
the first century CE" (Sabbath and Synagogue, 250).

I found a monster synagogue site, btw, complete with email list,. The
above quote is an extract. More than a 1000 web links.
<> Donald D. Binder,
"Introduction," in Into the Temple Courts: The Place of the Synagogues in
the Second Temple Period (Atlanta: The Society of Biblical Literature,
1999), hypertext edition.

People - good people - have always had the desire to build special things
to improve accessibility to God. 2 Sam. 7:5 Go and tell my servant David,
Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? But
just as God allowed his people to divorce, to have a king, multiple
marriages, He has cautiously allowed temples and synagogues, which he
NEVER appointed.

Your message fails to mention the massive NT paradigm shift in which the
omnipresent Deity indwells people rather than places. "Know you not that
You are the temple?" "Living stones!" Such statements as these cannot but
have implications about our real estate usage. The New Covenant message
seems to suggest to me that it is no longer "business as usual" with
respect to location.

Christians are free to meet anywhere at anytime and yes, free to join in
to construct things. But more expensive buildings going up to be used for
a few hours a week are something the apostles nor their Master ever
commanded or encouraged. Their trips to the open-doored synagogues were
for evangelistic purposes rather than fellowship. This fact, historians
have overwhelmingly confirmed, despite the exception you cite.

I'm not interested in alleged exceptions leading up to a divine warrant
for church buildings (or a mono-bishop). Looking for exceptions and
building upon them was the modus oporandi of the Pharisees.

(I know it's tough, having had to change my own mind more than once. May
God grant us more light.)

I would also caution you about taking what the Jews did as valid evidence
for our practices. These are they who killed God's prophets and his Son.
Furthermore, they have a long history of "innovation" with respect to
belief and practice. And, they possess strong inclinations to mix the old
and new. The synagogue was from and for unconverted Jews. You would be
hard pressed to find a reputable commentary to confirm the synagogue
which James mentioned to mean "building" rather than the assembly, itself.

It's late in the game, you all. If, in this generation, millions need to
hear of and bow before Jesus, why would it even cross the minds of
believers to venture into expensive, time-wasting, resource-draining real
estate ventures? What a needless hurdle! If Jesus Christ were here today,
I sincerely believe that He would gaze upon our temples and synagogues
and, in view of his unfulfilled great commission, ask with Isaiah
(chapter 1): Who hath required this of you?


David Anderson

End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V2 #178

< Previous Digest Next Digest >

house church eldership servanthood lord's day lord's supper world missions