Section 7. Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
The Church... Then and Now


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The Church... Then and Now
Chapter VII - Two Ways Believers Can Assemble Together

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

Virtually all the practices associated with what we call "church" did not originate in the New Testament, but in the post-apostolic years.





Two Ways of "Doing Church"

The New Testament Blue Print
The Extended Family
Can A Layman Wear Three Hats?
The Lord's Supper... A Full Meal and A Celebration

The Many Advantages of House Churches
They Do Not Squander God Given Resources
They Do A Better Job of Training Disciples...
Especially Our Children
Members Do Not Have To Sit Through Often Boring Sermons
Members of House Churches Can Obey The "One Another" Instructions In The Bible
Members of House Churches Find It Is Easier To Help One's Church Family

The Church has Become a Theatrical Extravaganza

A Summary of Benefits for The Pastors and Members of A House Church

Heresy and Apostasy Have Been Given Free Reign In The Traditional Church
Importing Old Testament Levitical Patterns
The High Cost of The "Priesthood"


Two Ways of "Doing Church"

The "Institutional" Or "Traditional" Church
is a hierarchical organization, in which each level is subordinate to the one above. The main focus of the traditional church is a weekly service, controlled and determined by those at the top of the chain, and officiated by a paid professional ... a pastor or priest. Most of the congregation experience little or no form of interaction during these services but, in essence, sit in a pew and watch the proceedings, then return home to live their individual, and often isolated, Christian lives.

The "House Church", on the other hand, is a group of people who meet together for prayer, worship, and fellowship, not in a traditional church building, but in the homes of its members. House church groups obviously have far fewer members than traditional churches.

According to the Barna research group, while house churches are common in other nations, they are just beginning to catch on in the United States. They estimate that there are about six to twelve million Americans presently involved in house churches. [49]

The New Testament Blue Print
In spite of the fact that it is clearly shown that believers in the New Testament met in private homes not in buildings especially constructed as "churches", there seems to be all too many modern Christians who believe that the institutional church is the only 'genuine' church, and that 'house churches' are a radical alternative for the eccentric who likes doing things his own way, the nonconformist who does not wish to be bound by accepted customs and practices, or those that dislike authority.

House churches are often seen as, in some way, playing at being churches, and that they cannot provide the level, or quality, of ministry provided by churches housed in buildings. At best they are a poor facsimile of the "real church", and are therefore not to be considered.

Besides which, contemporary Christians still retains some residual overtones of the Old Testament, believing that the church building is a "sacred space", being, in some way, 'the house of God'. On Mount Sinai, God Himself, gave Moses specific instructions as to how the tabernacle, which He would dwell in, was to be built. Exodus 40 tells us that when Moses was finished, the "glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle"

    "Let them construct a sanctuary (miqdsh or holy place) for Me, that I may dwell among them. "According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle (mishk‚n or "dwelling place") and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it... "See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain. (Exodus 25:8-9, 40 NASB)

    He erected the court all around the tabernacle (mishk‚n or "dwelling place") and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (mishk‚n or "dwelling place") . Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (mishk‚n or "dwelling place") . (Exodus 40:33-35 NASB)

Whereas, by meeting in private homes, the New Testament reminds us that there are no holy places. Christians are free to meet anywhere. What is of primary importance is that the meeting fulfills all the reasons outlined by the New Testament as to why they get together in the first place.

So which of these two forms of church meetings is more true to the New Testament blue print, and which best fulfills the reasons the Bible puts forth as why Christians need to meet together. In support of the house church idea is the fact that one of the qualifications necessary for a man to lead a church, was that he manage his own household well. a point that was repeated twice in Paul's letter to Timothy. Why? read on...

The Extended Family
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul says a great deal about the requirements a man, who aspires to the office of overseer, must meet. Note that Paul said absolutely nothing about looking for or electing men with dynamic personalities or great oratory skills. They didn't need a string of letters after their names, nor be graduates from prestigious seminaries. Instead the sole focus was on Godly character. However, one other point is well worth noting. After specifying that the candidate must be "above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach" (1 Timothy 3:1-2), Paul adds

    He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), (1 Timothy 3:4-5 NASB)

Which he said was also one of the qualifications for a deacon...

    Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. (1 Timothy 3:12 NASB)

Obviously, being a good manager of his household and children is one of the marks which demonstrate a man's capacity to be a shepherd of a flock. But what is the connection? The answer is simple. The church that operated out of people's homes and were overseen by an elder, were extended families. If the elder could not manage his own immediate household, it was unlikely that he would be very good at managing an extended one. On the other hand, a man with the wisdom and skill to ably manage his own children would, more than likely, be able to apply that wisdom and skill to handling the "children" under his care.

This pattern of a wise father can hardly be applied to a traditional church where the pastor probably knows very little about many members of the congregation, and is seldom called on to "manage" his flock. In fact, the larger the church, the more distant the pastor is from the people who make up the flock. The whole and sole idea behind the church is to build up and disciple people, However, in most institutional churches, in which the pastor is unlikely to even know most people's names, it is impossible for him to effectively disciple them.

Besides which there is a great value in "extended family", especially in societies that tend to remain isolated from their closest relatives except, perhaps, for a couple of times a year. There is a great deal of security and comfort in being surrounded by people who share the same faith and the same goals, and who care for you. Children, stuck in a group of their peers veer towards 'having fun', but children in extended families are wisely brought up with the ability to relate to and interact with people of all age groups, from whom they will learn more and more about their religion.

Can A Layman Wear Three Hats?

Some people have argued that laymen cannot be expected to work at a full time job, raise a family, and shepherd a local church. However, this is not quite true. I am sure the elders of the early church were not exactly men of leisure, but worked hard to make a living. While there is no question that the world has gotten infinitely more complicated and demanding, many people today still work full time and raise families, but can still devote a considerable amount of time to other endeavors. People do community work, volunteer at their churches, are members of clubs, and play golf. They have hobbies, go fishing, and remodel bathrooms and kitchens in their spare time. Therefore, for the majority, it is not a question of the time, but a question of priority.... what they wish to devote their time to.

The man who wishes to shepherd a house church, and become a disciple maker who will someday hear the Lord say " 'Well done, good and faithful servant", will have to make some sacrifices, as will his family. It will take study, work, dedication, self-discipline, perseverance, and considerable help from the Holy Spirit to survive three full-time jobs... bread winner, husband and father, and shepherd, but it can be done.

The Lord's Supper
As A Full Meal and ...
The term The Lord's Supper comes from 1 Corinthians 11:20. It took place on the annual feast of the Passover, and was the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples before His crucifixion.

    Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's (kuriakos) Supper (deipnon) (1 Corinthians 11:20 NASB)

As mentioned earlier, Kuriakos means "belonging to the Lord", while the word translated "supper" is the Greek deipnon, which has been used about 15 other times in the New Testament. What is interesting is the fact that every other instance of deipnon in the NT refers to a full meal, and in many cases, was an actual banquet or feast. For example

    They love the place of honor at banquets (deipnon) and the chief seats in the synagogues, (Matthew 23:6 NASB)

    A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet (deipnon) for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; (Mark 6:21 NASB)

    But He said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner (deipnon) , and he invited many; and at the dinner (deipnon) hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' (Luke 14:16-17 NASB)

    So they made Him a supper (deipnon) there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. (John 12:2 NASB)

The point being that when the Lord instructed that His disciples to do this in memory of Him (1 Corinthians 11:24-25), they would have assumed that they were to continue eating a full meal which would be exactly like, or similar to, the Passover meal they shared with their Lord. The members of the early church would have scratched their heads in perplexity had they seen modern believers sitting in pews chewing a morsel of bread or a wafer.

However, providing a full meal would be an enormous, and logistically complex, undertaking for the average institutional church, but, greatly simplified by the "potluck" system of so many in-home gatherings.

... A Celebration
The idea of sharing banquet at the table of the Lord was a common and popular imagery in Jewish thought, as shown by the words of one of the men who shared a meal with Jesus. He said "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (Luke 14:15 NASB). This may have at least partially stemmed from the fact that the elders of Israel, including Moses, Aaron and two of his sons, once climbed Sinai and ate and drank in the presence of God. (Exodus 24:9-11). Jesus told His followers that many would "come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; (Matthew 8:11 NASB

Every Passover celebrated by the Jews looked back to the deliverance of the nation from bondage to the Egyptians, but the Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples, was also a type of the Messianic banquet to come. (All Emphasis Added)

    And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.... for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes... and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:15-16, 18, 29-30 NASB)

    "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper (deipnon) of the Lamb.'" And he *said to me, "These are true words of God." (Revelation 19:7-9 NASB)

While the Lord's Supper reminds us of Jesus' death, it is also prefigures (a 'type') the marriage supper of the Lamb in the coming kingdom therefore, thus reminding us that He is returning. (See Typology) As so well said by Steve Atkerson.. "Celebrating the Lord's Supper weekly as a full fellowship meal is like rehearsal dinner before a wedding". (50). Can any Christian imagine good news more worthy of celebration? The Lord's Supper should therefore be partaken of joyfully, as it was in the early days of the church

    and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart (Acts 2:46 Emphasis Added ).

Instead what we see in the traditional church is an almost funeral like atmosphere. People with folded hands and bowed heads, all engaged in somber introspection, wondering if they are "worthy" to partake of a morsel of bread and a sip of grape juice.  And, yes! I know that Paul said "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27), but, if read in context, he was speaking of the Corinthians terrible behavior when they came together. Please read 1 Corinthians 11... Yes! the entire chapter.

Acts 2:42-47 is a short definitive description of the earliest church. Do you know of a single traditional church that functions anything like that one did?

    They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NASB)

The following is a description of a modern New Testament house church

    The meal is potluck, or as we jokingly say, "pot-providence."  Everyone brings food to share with everyone else. When the weather is nice, all the food is placed on a long folding table outside. A chest full of ice sits beside the drink table. Kids run wildly around.  They are having so much fun that they must be rounded up by parents and encouraged to eat. After a prayer of thanksgiving is offered, people line up, talking and laughing as they load their plates with food. In the middle of all the food sits a single loaf of bread next to a large container of the fruit of the vine. Each believer partakes of the bread and juice/wine while going through the serving line.

    The smaller kids are encouraged to occupy one of the few places at a table to eat. (They sure can be messy!). Chairs for adults (there are not enough for everyone) are clustered in circles, mainly occupied by the women, who eat while discussing home schooling, child training, sewing, an upcoming church social, the new church we hope to start, etc. Most of the men stand to eat, balancing their plates on top of their cups, grouped into small clusters and solving the world's problems or pondering some interesting topic of theology. The atmosphere is not unlike that of a wedding banquet. It is a great time of fellowship, encouragement, edification, friendship, caring, catching-up, praying, exhorting, and maturing.The reason for the event?  In case you did not recognize it, this is the Lord's Supper, New Testament style! [50]

However, none of this means that there is no organization in house churches. A small house church that follows the New Testament pattern will not only meet on a weekly basis to celebrate the Lord's supper, but will have specific leaders. The meeting will be interactive, but orderly. Church discipline will be carried out in a spirit of humility, gentleness, and patience. (See Galatians 6:1-2, and 2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Do Small Groups Which Are Part of a Traditional Church Count?
While it is true that some institutional churches have small group meetings other than the weekly church service, where members can experience more community and interaction, these meetings are not the essence, or thrust, of the church.

I did, very recently, experience a small group Bible study which was part of a small to medium sized Methodist church. While the pastor was the "elder" present, there was great deal of ebb and flow among the members present. They were working through the Bible from the beginning, and the discussions were lively and informative. The pastor would occasionally gently bring the conversation back to the particular section of the Bible that was under study but, for the most part, the meeting had a life of it's own. On the negative side, the meeting was held before the church service, which means that it had to end by a particular time.

However, bear in mind that this was a Bible study group, the church that it was affiliated to not a very big one. Small groups which exist as part of the larger traditional church, can often be just one more "program" among a wide variety of other church programs, which means they are probably going to be 'organized' by a member of that church's staff. This 'organization' often means that the Bible study lessons have to be approved by the clergy which, in effect removes any possible leading by the Holy Spirit. Additionally, these groups cannot share the Lord's Supper, nor are they permitted to baptize... privileges which are reserved for those with titles and degrees. As a result these small groups often evolve into little more than "fellowship" groups that do little or no disciple making.

Small group meetings, organized by large churches often put people together in different groups based on age, marital status, interests, or some other criteria. While I am not altogether against meeting with people of similar age for a Bible study, homogenous groups are not necessary, or even desirable, for successful church assemblies. The early church was a mixture of Jew and Gentile, which had to have involved a huge mental recalibration on the part of the Jews who, previously, had been forbidden to even eat with the Gentiles.

Why The Pattern of Church in The New Testament Was A House Church
If the Bible confirms the validity of house churches, then it is obvious that they have to have definite advantages over traditional churches. And so they do. For example...

They Do Not Squander God Given Resources
Jesus told His disciples to go into the world and make disciples, not build buildings. The Bible strictly warns against laying up treasures on earth, yet we have no qualms about constructing expensive buildings, with stained glass windows, altars, pews etc. Most churches do not consist of just the one room for the meetings, but have other rooms used for all manner of 'ministries'. It takes a great deal of money to build even a small church, and when you add to that how much it costs to heat, cool, repair, expand, and often remodel the building, you are talking about significant amounts that could be used to reach the unsaved, and feed the poor. A person is far more likely to keep an open mind to the Gospel message if he has a full stomach, and has seen God's love in action..... Christians putting out their hands to help him.

Yet, not only do we blatantly disregard our Lord's warning not to lay up treasures on earth, but we even encourage churches that squander fortunes. A prime example is Joel Osteen's Lakewood church.

On July 16, 2005, Lakewood Church relocated from its old building in northeast Houston into its new home, a 16,800 seat facility southwest of downtown Houston along U.S. Highway 59, which had twice the capacity of its former sanctuary they were required to pay $11.8 million in rent in advance for the first 30 years of the lease, but renovated the new campus at an estimated cost of $95 million. As said in a 2005 article in USA Today

    The facility, which took 15 months and about $75 million to complete, features two waterfalls, three gargantuan television screens and a lighting system that rivals those found at rock concerts. Two choir lofts with 12 rows of rich purple pews sit between the waterfalls, accented by live foliage. [51]

    In 2007, Lakewood reported spending nearly $30 million every year on its television ministry. [52]

    A few years later, in March 31, 2010, the Houston City Council, faced with $100 million shortfall in itís budget, voted 13-2 to sell the former arena for the Houston Rockets to Lakewood church for $7.5 million. [53]

See more about the lavish spending of many of The Tele-evangelists and Joel Osteen's very sad theology..  Joel Osteen and The Prosperity Doctrine.... The Blind Leading The Blind.

Additionally as said by David Servant

    "... in poorer nations in particular, pastors often find it impossible to rent or own church buildings without being subsidized by Western Christians. The undesirable consequences of this dependency are manifold. The fact is, however, that for 300 years the problem didnít exist in Christianity. If you are pastor in a developing nation whose congregation canít afford your own church building, you donít need to flatter some visiting American in hopes of striking gold. God has already solved your problem. You really donít need a church building to successfully make disciples. Follow the biblical model. [54]

While the Bible does indicate that the elders or pastors of the church who are in full time ministry should make their living from it..

    The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "you shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." (1 Timothy 5:17-18 NASB)

.... traditional churches often pay many individuals, such as senior pastors, associate or assistant pastors, and those responsible for church administration... secretaries and clerks etc.  There are often staff, such as the "youth pastors", that run and support other programs.... a concept that is completely foreign to the New Testament.

Small house churches, that are overseen by non-paid elders, do not need "associate pastors" etc and therefore, cost little or nothing to run, which means that the members of the church could use all available resources for outreach, the poor, and helping one another. However, should any of the elders need to devote more time to the church, part of the members contribution could easily be used to subsidize his income.

They Do A Better Job of Training Disciples...
I mentioned earlier that some believe, if they have thought about it at all, that house churches cannot provide the level, or quality, of ministry provided by churches housed in buildings.

While it is true that a house church, cannot provide the quantity of activities as an institutional church, they can excel at doing what the church is supposed to do... making and equipping disciples.

This is extremely difficult to do when the church staff is not familiar with most of the congregation... at least not in any meaningful way.

Especially Our Children
There are no "youth pastors" or "youth ministries" mentioned in the New Testament.. Why? Simply because they did not exist.

However, a society that has plumped to have "paid professional' to take care of their spiritual needs, has fallen into the same trap with their children, entrusting our most precious possessions into the hands of the supposed 'trained professional'. Do parents believe themselves incapable of providing their children's spiritual training, do not wish to take the time to do so, or is this just another myth perpetuated by the institutional church?

As a start, the Barna research group reports that most churches do not, or cannot, ensure that the person assigned to work with them is safe..

    Screening youth and childrenís workers is a hit-or-miss practice in todayís churches. One out of every four pastors (23%) admitted their congregation has little or no protective screening processes for the people working with young people. That equates to more than 70,000 Protestant congregations that do not give sufficient attention to protecting young people. [55]

Additionally, in a society that is obsessed with the word "fun", the more entertainment provided by the youth group, the more the children will enjoy it, and tell their parents so. However, "fun" programs do not necessarily equate with leading young people to learn to obey Jesus' commandments, much less give them any knowledge about sin and repentance.  

    The system as it stands breeds failure, because it creates a cycle of ever-increasing compromise. It begins with parents who are looking for churches that their kids enjoy. If teenager Johnny says on the ride home that he had fun in church, the parents are thrilled, because they equate Johnny's enjoying church with Johnny's being interesting in spiritual things. They are often dead wrong.

    Success-driven senior pastors want their churches to grow, and so youth and children's pastors often leave staff meetings feeling pressure to create "relevant" programs that kids think are fun. ("Relevant" is always secondary to "fun," and "relevant" doesn't necessarily mean, "Lead kids to repent, believe, and obey Jesus' commandments.") If the kids can be sold the program, naÔve parents will return (with their money), and the church will grow.

    The success of youth groups in particular is measured by attendance numbers. Youth pastors find themselves doing whatever it takes to pack them in, and that too often means compromising genuine spirituality. Pity the poor youth pastor who hears reports that parents are murmuring to the senior pastor that their kids are complaining about his boring or condemning messages. (56)

The truth is that you, as a parent, are responsible for setting your child's feet on the right path, and there is no better way to do it than in the in the atmospheres of an extended family. Also See Train A Child

    Children and teens are naturally better discipled in house churches, as they experience true Christian community and have opportunities to participate, ask questions, and relate to people of other ages, all as part of a Christian family. In institutional churches they are continually exposed to a big show and "fun" learning, experience very little if any true community, are often made very aware of pervasive hypocrisy, and just as in school, only learn to relate to their peers. [56]

Finally, in a gathering of all age groups there are often babies or small children involved who, in an institutional church are usually dropped off to the nursery. Young children do get restless, and it may occasionally be necessary to move small children to another room for a little while, where they can be occupied. They can rejoin the others when they have settled down, or to share a meal with the adults. Babies who cry are not an embarrassment that disturbs a formal church service, but are part of the family gathered together. There will usually be many hands to hold the baby, or walk him around for a little while, thus giving the parents a break.

Members Do Not Have To Sit Through Often Boring Sermons
Can anyone deny that they have sat through one or more boring sermons, furtively glancing at their watches and valiantly trying to stifle yawns? The fact is that not many people are good orators that can hold the attention and interest of their audience, and pastors are no exception. However, people are rarely bored when engaging in conversation with each other.

In any case the New Testament nowhere gives any indication that there was a "sermon" given every time the church gathered together, much less that the same person spoke every week. (See earlier chapter The Four Main Reasons Christians 'Do Church'). Paul did a great deal of teaching, both publicly and in private houses, while one of the qualifications for an elder was that he be able to teach. However, although teaching ranked very high on the Paul's list of God given gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28, there is no evidence that this function was solely the prerogative of the apostles or elders. On the contrary he wrote (Emphasis Added)

    What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

Which clearly shows that Holy Spirit might use others to teach besides the apostles and elders, or those that had the gift of teaching. Anyone could share a Spirit-inspired teaching at a gathering which, of course, had to line up with what the apostles taught. And, in this respect we have a great advantage over the early church since we are able to bring our own copies of the Bible into the meeting.

The truly tragic part is that the Bible seems to be seldom used to check what is being taught.

Members of House Churches Can Obey The "One Another" Instructions In The Bible
The book of Acts gives us great insight into the pattern of life of the earliest church.

    They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 NASB)

The word koinonia is used 19 times in the New Testament, and means a partnership, and participation. It has usually been translated fellowship, but also sharing (Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians 10:16, Hebrews 13:16), contribution (2 Corinthians 9:13), and participation (2 Corinthians 8:4, Philipppians 1:5). The New Testament, places a great deal of emphasis on Christians taking care of one another, which shows what koinonia is supposed to be. For example they are instructed to..

    "admonish one another" (Romans 15:14), "care for one another" (1 Corinthians 12:25), " serve one another" (Galatians 5:13), "Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21), " forgive each other" (Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13), "regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3), "seek after that which is good for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15 ), "encourage one another" (Hebrews 3:13, 10:25), "confess your sins to one another" (James 5:16), pray for one another"  (James 5:16), be hospitable to one another without complaint" (1 Peter 4:9), and "have fellowship with one another" (1 John 1:7).

When Paul said "We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 NASB), he was not talking to the leaders but to everyone in the church. However, members of large churches will find it virtually impossible to get to know more than a handful of people there, much less find any opportunity to follow Paul's urgings. While there may be some friends among the congregation, most people are strangers to one another and remain so for years.

Think about it.. you walk into the church, greet those you know, sat hello to a few others, engage in some small talk after the service (during the time of "fellowship"), and that's usually as far as it goes. There is virtually no opportunity to "admonish", "care", "encourage", and "serve" another, nor have another  "admonish", "care", "encourage", and "serve" you. The larger the church, the more pronounced the isolation, in spite of the fact that many large churches have professional 'greeters' at the doors who, may or may not ask your name (if they do, it is highly unlikely they will remember it five minutes later). While their hearts may be in the right place, their greeting amounts to little more than the salesman who comes up to you in the store and asks if you "found everything all right". There is no depth, and no substance.

One has to wonder how many of the believers in these vast auditoriums are known to the ministerial staff.. at least to any significant degree.

The situation is slightly better in smaller churches, but there is still very little opportunity for believers to "stimulate one another to love and good deeds", "encourage and build up one another", nor to use our spiritual gifts "for the edification of the church", which is the whole point of getting together at all.

However, in small setting of anywhere from 15 to, say, 30 people, the members of the house church can really get to know each other and consequently be able to "admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted and help the weak". In other words, Christians who meet in someone's house to read the Bible, teach and encourage one another and share a meal, are far closer to the New Testament model, than the planned service that takes place in church buildings on Sunday mornings. When the house group gets too large, it divides into two new ones.

Is it any wonder then that when the New Testament describes a simplicity of fellowship and interaction that is almost impossible in conventional denominations, some believers wish to skip the faceless crowds of institutional churches, and return to a time when Christians walked in close fellowship with each other, sharing their lives in Christ. What is more surprising is that more Christians do not opt for relationships forged in small, close knit communities...

Members of House Churches Find It Is Easier To Help One's Church Family
Additionally, although the NT clearly puts doing good to all people on the agenda, as in 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, charitable behavior was largely spoken of in the context of Christians caring for Christians. In other words, special attention was paid to the "brethren" and the "saints". This focus on particularly caring for one's family in Christ is underscored by numerous New Testament verses, For example ... (all emphasis added)

    And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. For neither was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need... And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. (Acts 4:32-35, 44-45)

    in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing steadfastly in prayer; communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13)

    beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: (2 Corinthians 8:4)

    So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10) (Note that the second half of this quote does not nullify the first)

    Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17)

    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need. (Ephesians 4:28). (If read in context, even this verse is applied to fellow believers).

While there in NO question that there are churches that do their very best to see to the needs of their congregation, my point is the amount of money that is wasted on buildings etc. could always be put to better use.

The Church has Become a Theatrical Extravaganza
The early church consisted of groups of committed Christians who got together in each others homes to share a meal, praise God, pray, sing hymns, encourage and teach one another. How much more simple could it get?

But we have taken it to abysmal levels. We are, in effect, telling the Lord that we no longer need His Spirit to draw people. That method might have been good enough for the simpletons of the first century, but this technically savvy, much smarter now generation can do a whole lot better. As I recently read on Yahoo Voices, the Lord has been replaced by

    "..slick marketing techniques, self-promotional advertising, giant billboards, church growth consultants, and mass mailings. Inside the church, it's all about technology. No respectable church these days would be without Power Point, carefully designed lighting, projected big screen announcements, lavish praise bands with the finest music equipment, and the latest in wireless microphones. [57]

For example Element Church, in Chesterfield Missouri, advertised a "Storybook Christmas" on December 15th & 16th 2012. In their words (All Emphasis Added)

    This year, CELEBRATE the Christmas season with the families of Element Church in a spectacular dramatization, with live dancers, musicians, percussionists and a dynamic multimedia presentation, in an unforgettable production of STORYBOOK CHRISTMAS.

    Special services will also be held for children of all ages, with prizes, excitement and fun in every classroom.

Is it any wonder that almost the next entry on the page was to tell people that "now is the perfect time for a year end gift", and remind them that "All donations are fully tax deductible" and can be included on their 2012 tax returns if processed in time. [58]

The site toddrhoades.com features a page on which where churches can advertise church job openings for free. Victory World Church in Norcross Georgia apparently had several positions that needed to be filled, including a Senior Graphic Designer, who would be (All Emphasis Added)

    "responsible for conceptualization and implementation of design solutions that meet marketing strategies. Creation of design solutions, from concept to completion, in a wide range of creative applications include: sermon series, brand identity, digital media, print materials, environmental as well as collaboration with the video team..... He/she also assists the Project Manager to help keep projects on track. This isnít just about design, but about bringing creativity to the church experience and the message of Jesus.

The same church also apparently needed a Digital Director... (All Emphasis Added)

    "a dynamic, self-motivated individual to direct the overall growth and strategic direction of the church's digital personality", and who can"work with non-technical team members to understand requirements and collaboratively design digital strategies and solutions that apply the latest technologies to create an outstanding user experience". [59]

As asked by David Servant...

    How did the early church succeed so well at making disciples without any church buildings, professionally trained clergy, Bible schools and seminaries, hymnals and overhead projectors, wireless microphones and tape duplicators, Sunday school curriculums and youth ministries, worship teams and choirs, computers and copy machines, Christian radio and TV stations, hundreds of thousands of Christian book titles and even personally-owned Bibles? They didnít need any of those things to make disciples, and neither did Jesus. And because none of those things were essential then, none are essential now. [60]

The more complicated the structure of the organization becomes, the more people are required to efficiently run it, and the most expensive it gets. I cannot help but be reminded of the federal government which constantly raises taxes to feed the ever growing behemoth. while the church authorities have to keep up a never ending barrage of pleas for donations, run assorted fund raisers, and constantly remind to people to tithe, (See Tithing). After all those "Digital Directors" have to be paid.

Pastor Burnout and Congregational Dissatisfaction
Even the churches that conform to far more "conventional" formats, have their own set of unique problems, because whenever we alter Biblical patterns we are, in effect, telling God that we can improve on his blueprint. But, the fact of the matter is.. we cannot. When we decided to exchange the Biblical pattern of the small home church for large organizations with more sheep than the "elder" can even count, much less oversee, we created innumerable problems for both the pastor and the congregation.

It is little wonder that the job of a minister is included in CNNMoney's list of 15 "Stressful jobs that pay badly".. a list that includes Probation/parole officers, Marriage/family therapists, and Substance abuse counselors. [61]. In fact, according to CNN 71% of pastors says their job is stressful

Why? Because we have gotten so far away from the Scriptures we claim to follow that, as a start, we have very unrealistic expectations of how much one human being is capable of. Pierce Harris (1895-1971), who was minister of The First Methodist Church in Atlanta for 24 years, once said

    "The modern preacher has to make as many visits as a country doctor, shake as many hands as a politician, prepare as many briefs as a lawyer, and see as many people as a specialist. He has to be as good an executive as the president of a university, as good a financier as a bank president; and in the midst of it all, he has to be so good a diplomat that he could umpire a baseball game between the Knights of Columbus and the Ku Klux Klan." [62]

Dr. John Gilmore, with thirty-six years of pastoral experience behind him, writes about the criticism of pastors

    If he is young, he lacks experience. If he is gray headed, he is too old. If he has four or more children, he is setting a bad example. If he is overly attentive to the poor, he is playing to the grandstands. If he mixes well with the wealthy, he is snubbing the middle class. If he suggests change in the church, he is a dictator. If he makes no suggestions, he is a figurehead. If he uses to many illustrations, his sermons lack depth. If he rarely illustrates, he is unclear. If he condemns wrong, he is cranky. If he doesn't criticize ideas, he is a compromiser.

    If he fails to please the majority, he is hurting the church. If he caters to the majority, he lacks convictions. If he preaches too many times on stewardship, he is obsessed with money. If he doesn't mention tithing, he fails to support church funding. If he receives a large salary, he is a mercenary. If he is content with a meager salary, it shows he is not worth much.

    If he is reserved, he is cold. If he likes to laugh, he is not serious enough. If he likes chatter, he is gossipy. If he knows a lot about what's going on, he is neglecting study. If he preaches all the time, he is afraid to vacate the pulpit. If he has too many guest speakers, he is shirking his duty. If his preaching is biblical, it is not relevant. If his sermons are relevant, they are not thought provoking. If his messages are thought provoking, they are over everyone's head. [63]

In his thesis project submitted to Liberty Baptist Theological- Seminary, Wilford A. Stone summed it up

    As a result of the problem in defining the role of the pastor, many churches are unhappy with their pastor's performance because he is not living up to their expectations of what he is supposed to do. As a result, churches are terminating their pastors. On the other hand, many pastors are becoming frustrated in the attempts to meet the many changing expectations and demands of their congregations and are abandoning the ministry. The Fuller Institute also reported that 50% of pastors felt incapable of meeting the demands of the role of pastor, and 90% felt inadequately trained to fulfill the role of the pastor.

    Pastors suffer much confusion in trying to determine their role in the local church. However, congregations also have a problem in defining the role of a pastor for their

    churches. They wonder if a pastor should visit members, preach, counsel, be an evangelist, a Bible teacher, or be a strong leader with all the traits of a fortune 500 CEO, or worse, all of the above. Too often, the pastor is seen as a premarital or marital counselor, the sole visiting member to prospects, evangelist, preacher, administrator, emotional therapist, and ex officio committee member with an endless list of responsibilities, which he cannot get done. [64]

The problem  is that most people, have no earthly idea of what a pastor is supposed to do.

There is little question that problems will arise even in the most idyllic house church. However, difficulties are easier to iron out when there are fewer people involved, especially if they are all committed to one cause and willing to work together, as they should be.

A Summary of Benefits for The Pastors and Members of A House Church
The following summaries of the benefits of being the elder, or member, of a house church were written by David Servant. I believe they say it all.

The Pastor

    The house church pastor can spend time developing leaders of future house churches, so when the time comes to multiply, leaders are ready.

    He may well have time to develop other ministry outside his local congregation. Perhaps he could minister in prisons, personal care homes or be involved in one-on-one evangelism to refugees or business people. Depending on his experience, he could conceivably devote some of his time to planting other house churches, or mentoring younger house church pastors who have been raised up under his ministry.

    He feels no pressure to be a Sunday-morning performer. He never needs to prepare a three-point sermon on a Saturday night, wondering how he can possibly satisfy so many people who are at so many different levels of spiritual growth. He can delight in watching the Holy Spirit use everyone at the gatherings and encourage them to use their gifts. He can be absent from meetings and everything works well even without him.

    He has no building to distract him and no employees to manage.

    He has no reason to compete with other local pastors.

    There is no "church board" that exists to make his life miserable and through which political infighting becomes common.

    In short, he can be what he is called to be by God, and not what is imposed on him by cultural Christianity. He is not the lead actor, the president of a company, or the center of the hub. He is a disciple maker, an equipper of the saints. [65]

The Members

    "House churches create an environment where believers can do what believers are supposed to do, which is found in the many New Testament "one another" passages. In the house church setting, believers can exhort, encourage, edify, comfort, teach, serve and pray for one another. They can provoke each other to love and good works, confess their sins to each other, bear one another's burdens, and admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. They can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Such things don't occur very often during the Sunday morning meetings of institutional churches where believers sit and watch. As one house church member told me, "When someone is sick within our body, I donít take a meal to a stranger's house because I signed up for the 'meal ministry.í I naturally take a meal to someone I know and love."

    True believers enjoy interaction and involvement with each other. Passively sitting and listening to irrelevant or redundant sermons year after year insults their intelligence and spirituality. Rather, they prefer having an opportunity to share the personal insights they gain concerning God and His Word, and house churches provide that opportunity. Following a biblical model rather than a cultural one, each person "has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation" (1 Cor. 14:26). In house churches, no one is lost in the crowd or excluded by a church clique.

    True believers desire to be used by God in service. In a house church, there is opportunity for everyone to be used to bless others, and responsibilities are shared among all, so that no one experiences the burnout that is common among committed members of institutional churches. In a house church, worship is simple, sincere and participatory, not a performance." [66]

Which brings me to my final and, in my opinion, a critical point. The single largest problem that has arisen as a result of our messing with God's patterns, is that Heresy and Apostasy Have Been Given Free Reign In The Traditional Church

ďHowĒ You ask? The Answer is simple... By

Importing Old Testament Levitical Patterns
Read the following comparison of God's rule vs. human rule. Although the author, Bob Deffinbaugh, is referring to Israel wanting to be like all the other nations around them, and have a human king, the concept is exactly the same. We have replaced God's rule... via the Holy Spirit, with man's rule

    Israel is demanding a very expensive kind of government. Samuel seeks to spell out the cost of kingship, and it is amazingly expensive. In order for us to appreciate the high cost of having a king, we must first refresh our memories on how things worked under the rule of judges. In the Book of Judges we see that there is no king, no palace, no standing army. When Israel is attacked, a volunteer army is assembled. In part, this army is supplied by the families of those who fight (see 1 Samuel 17:17-22). There is no "administration" of counselors, advisors, servants and staff, who support and facilitate the king's reign. In short, the system is informal, ad hoc, and very inexpensive. With God as their King, it works, as we can see in the Book of Judges and in 1 Samuel 7, for example. [67]

Virtually all the practices associated with doing church', have far more in common with the Old Testament religion, than it does with the New Testament assembly of believers. Under the old covenant, the nation was required to make several annual pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem, which was considered to be where Yahweh dwelt. The Levitical priesthood were the prescribed mediators who officiated at the sacrifices and performed religious rites. For instance they kept the fires on the altar burning night and day (Leviticus 6:12-13), kept the lamp outside the veil alight all night (Exodus 27:20-21), offered the morning and evening sacrifices (Exodus 29: 38-44), taught the sons of Israel the statutes of the Lord (Leviticus 10:11, Ezekiel 44:23-24), and served as a channel through which God's blessing flowed down onto the people (Numbers 6:22-27).

In short, the practices of the Old Testament were "scheduled, localized and ritualized". (00)

Does that sound at all familiar?

It should, because, if the truth be told, not much has changed from that day to this...

This in spite of the fact that two thirds of the book of Hebrews is devoted to showing how Christ's unique priesthood is not only superior to the Levitical priesthood, but supersedes it. As previously mentioned, the Greek word hiereus literally and figuratively means a "priest". However, it was never ever used for the head of the New Testament church (the "elders"), but was used almost exclusively in the book of Hebrews, in reference to the temporary priesthood of the Old Testament temple, as compared to Jesus' unchanging and permanent priesthood. Significantly, the only other time the word is used is when Peter refers to the collective church as a "royal priesthood" in 1 Peter 2:9.

Furthermore, the author of Hebrews warns the reader that there can neither be a continuation of, nor turning back to, the old Jewish system. And while I understand that most Protestants do not rely on the rituals of the priesthood to save them, I have to wonder why then they choose to continue with the some of the form those rituals took.

Jesus' mission on earth was to repair the breach between man and God, and tear down the wall of separation so that we could approach God in a way that we had never been able to do before. Since Jesus Himself is now the only mediator between God and man, the new believer is as much a child of God as the veteran of many years, and has just as much access to God. Jesus created what is, in effect, a level playing field, with no earthly hierarchy. Since all believers are part of the royal priesthood, there can be no government by an organized priesthood. There are no kings, no priests and, apart from Jesus Himself, no mediators today.

But we haven't learned that, have we? We haven't bothered to heed our Lord's warning that we should not to go about giving each other titles. We have ignored the fact that Jesus told us not to go lording it over others as was the custom of the Gentiles.

    But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 20:25-26 NASB) Also See Mark 10:42-43 and Luke 22:25-27.

(Paying lip service to these verses, many of those who are part of the church hierarchy call themselves "servant leaders", but they, more often than not, more closely resemble CEO's whose job is to make executive decisions).

And therein lies perhaps the largest problem in the church today.

The High Cost of The "Priesthood"
In modern institutional churches, church doctrine is established from the start, and usually set in stone. Anyone who has a Biblical base for disagreeing with something being taught or practiced, can bring it before the pastor, other church staff, and/or members of the congregation. However, even if the pastor can be persuaded that what is being taught is not Scripturally sound, it would take a very courageous man to go against those above him in the church hierarchy. Openly disagreeing with established doctrine or practice, could have serious consequences for the pastor, whose livelihood is tied to his "job".

And then, of course, are those churches who have slavishly adopted Rick Warren's Saddleback church's policy to have all members sign a "covenant", which includes "following the leaders", "protecting the unity of the church" and "supporting the testimony of the church". All of which pretty much provides a hedge against members stirring the waters, by questioning doctrine that does not line up with the world of God. I wonder if one's 'membership' would be revoked should one actually oppose a doctrine or teaching. (See Saddlebacks' Membership Covenant)

Ignoring the basic principles of the New Covenant, we are have chosen to place ourselves in the position of being hugely, and dangerously, reliant on the leadership of the church. We allow 95% of the work of the body of Christ to be done by less than 5% of it's membership. We place most of the responsibility for our spiritual welfare in the hands of a "priesthood" that, somehow, is more equal than everyone else. The vast majority of Christians do little or nothing without being steered by the leaders.

Somehow, we have adopted the insane idea that there is a mediator between God and ourselves, content to let our doctrine be shaped by the guy who is supposed to know. Therefore, we sit back and passively absorb sermons, many of which are 'sanctified' by a few out of context verses. After all didn't he go to seminary for the very purpose of telling us what it is we are supposed to believe. Aren't we paying him to do just that.. 

 See One of The Four Most Dangerous Mistake Any Christian Can Make  is To Believe that WE, Or OUR Pastor/Denomination/Spiritual Leader, Cannot be Fooled HERE  

And Context is CRUCIAL

And so, lulled into believing that the man with the title knows it all, we have sat dozing in our pews while the wolves that Paul warned about, have taken over the pulpits (with apologies to the true ministers of Christ). We have allowed every kind of heretical doctrine to creep into our churches, and have done absolutely nothing about it. Remember the verses in Scripture that speak of The "Falling Away" when some will give "heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons"?  Well THAT DAY IS ALREADY HERE. We have lost all rights to call ourselves "Christians" by our Counterfeit Revivals and our wholesale adoption of doctrines and practices DIRECTLY derived from the occult... Tongues, The Word of Faith Movement, Labyrinths, See Section Contemplative Prayer, Slain In The Spirit and even Santa Claus. All of which means the man of sin isnít far behind.

On the other hand, although home churches usually rely, or should be relying, on the Holy Spirit to direct the weekly gatherings, someone has to be the leader or shepherd, who is responsible for the flock. However, unlike traditional churches, there is no indication in the New Testament that one person dominated the weekly meeting. (See Earlier Section Is Church Supposed To Be A Spectator Event?) We have to remember that the Spirit indwells all believers and anyone who can read, or even hear, can come to a knowledge of the truth. The far more open forums in house churches, means that anyone can bring up and discuss a point they wish to explore more fully, or even disagree with. "In the close-knit family of a house church, the members naturally help keep the pastor accountable, as he is their close friend, not an actor on a stage". (65)

Believers who have spent some time together as a 'family', will be more inclined to respectfully consider viewpoints that differ from theirs. This does not mean that small groups will necessarily reach a consensus on any given matter, but that the opportunity exists to express one's own understanding of a matter which, should be done with patience and gentleness. Remember Paul's words to Timothy

    The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB)

We lost our way when we discarded the pattern laid out by the New Testament church, and went from Spirit led church gatherings to man made programs.... from Godly elders to graduates of seminaries and Bible colleges,

For more information, check out the following links which are part of the book, The Disciple-Making Minister. © 2012 by David Servant

    What Happens at a House Church Gathering?  HERE

    How to Start. HERE

    How to Transition from Institution to House Church. HERE


 001orange CONTINUE ON TO PART VI: The Bible... Our Rule Of Faith And Practice? Are we, in the 21st century, obliged to follow the the New Testament's example of how church meetings are conducted. I guess the answer depends on whether or not we truly and unquestioningly accept the Bible as the as the ultimate and final authority on all matters pertaining to our spiritual beliefs and practices, which virtually all Christians say they do. HERE


End Notes
(49) How Many People Really Attend a House Church? Barna Study Finds It Depends on the Definition.

(50) Steve Atkerson. The Lord's Supper - Rehearsal Dinner For The Wedding Banquet of The Lamb.

(51) Pat Sullivan, AP. America's largest church opens in former arena. Posted 7/14/2005. Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-07-14-largest-church_x.htm. Emphasis Added

(52) Lillian Kwon. Christian Post Reporter "Interview: Joel Osteen on the Future of America's Churches and Him Pastoring One".

(53) Bradley Olson And Moises Mendoza. City Council OKs sale of ex-Compaq to Lakewood. Houston Chronicle. March 31, 2010.

(54) Biblical Stewardship. an excerpt from the book, The Disciple-Making Minister. © 2012 by David Servant

(55) Many Churches Neglect to Screen Those Working with Children and Youth.

(56) The End of Fragmented Families, an excerpt from the book, The Disciple-Making Minister by David Servant.

(57) Lonnette Harrell, Has Church Growth Become Big Business? Selling the Gospel

(58) Storybook Christmas Dec 15th & 16th http://www.elementchurch.com/storybook-christmas-dec-15th-16th/

(59) Church Job Openings http://toddrhoades.com/church-job-openings/. Retrieved Dec 24th 2012

(60) A Comparison of Methods, Ancient and Modern... an excerpt from the book, The Disciple-Making Minister. © 2012 by David Servant

(61) Stressful jobs that pay badly. http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/pf/0910/gallery.stressful_jobs/10.html

(62) As quoted in Ministerial burnout-cause and prevention by Winton H. Beaven.

(63) Dr. John Gilmore. Pastoral Politics: Why Ministers Resign. AMG Publishers; First Edition edition (June 30, 2003). Pgs 171-172. As quoted in The Role Of The Pastor In Southern Baptist Churches: A Biblical View. By Wilford A. Stone.

(64) Wilford A. Stone. The Role Of The Pastor In Southern Baptist Churches: A Biblical View.

(65) David Servant Happy Pastors. An excerpt from the book, The Disciple-Making Minister. © 2012 by David Servant

(66) David Servant Happy Sheep. An excerpt from the book, The Disciple-Making Minister. © 2012 by David Servant.

(67) Bob Deffinbaugh. Give Us a King! (1 Samuel 8:1-22) From the Series: A Study of 1 Samuel.


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