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

   003white Index to   Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian         >         The Church... Then and Now -  Chapter VII

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The Church... Then and Now
Chapter VII - Two Ways of "Doing Church"

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

Carol Brooks

INDEX TO ALL NINE SECTIONS


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ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

The New Testament Model
The Extended Family
Can A Layman Wear Three Hats?

The Lord's Supper
Wafer or Full Meal? Somber Ritual or Celebration?

The Advantages of The House Church.
They...
Do Not Squander God Given Resources
Are In No Danger of Becoming Theatrical Extravaganzas
They Do A Better Job of Edifying or 'Building Up' Believers  and
Can Obey The "One Another" Instructions In The Bible
Avoid Pastor Burnout and Congregational Dissatisfaction
Do Not Have To Sit Through Often Boring and/or Irrelevant Sermons

What About Small Groups that Are Part of The Institutional Church?

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

The High Cost of Importing Old Testament Levitical Patterns


Introduction -
When it comes to meeting together modern Christians can choose between attending a traditional or house 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. Most of the congregation experience little or no form of interaction during these services but sit in a pew and watch the proceedings, then return home to live their individual and often isolated Christian lives.

    The "House Church: is a group of believers who meet together for prayer, worship, and fellowship - not in a traditional church building, but in the homes of its members. Home churches quite obviously have far fewer members than traditional churches.

The question of primary importance is 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 tells us why believers get together in the first place. 

See Chapter 3 - Why Christians Assemble?   And Chapter 4 - Is Church Supposed to Be a Spectator Event?


The New Testament Model
Although Jesus Himself said (John 4:21-23) that the hour was coming when worship would not be confined to a single place (ie. there are no 'holy' places), and that the Bible clearly shows that the ekklesia or New Testament believers met not in buildings especially constructed for the purpose, but in private homes (See Chapter 2 Where Christians Assemble?) too many modern Christians seem to consider that house churches are a poor facsimile of the 'real' church unable to provide an equal quality of ministry. That they are a radical alternative for the unconventional who do not wish to be bound by accepted customs and practices and prefer to do things their own way.

But let me ask you this.

Acts 2:42-47 is a short 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)

Besides which, contemporary Christians apparently retain some of the Old Testament mind set inasmuch as they often seem to view the church building as 'the house of God' - a sacred space. In fact, virtually all the practices associated with 'doing church' have far more in common with the Old Testament rituals than it does with the New Testament assembly of believers.

    Under the Mosaic Covenant Gods people were required by divine law to make several annual pilgrimages to the one and only temple site (the "house" of Yahweh) and there to present offerings and sacrifices. Their worship consisted of Sabbaths, feast day rites, and performances done by prescribed Levitical mediators; it was scheduled, localized and ritualized. [01]

And not much has changed from that day to this - services are still "scheduled, localized and ritualized".

The Extended Family
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul says a great deal about the requirements any man who aspired to the office of overseer must meet. Note that Paul said absolutely nothing about dynamic personalities or great oratory skills. They didn't need a string of letters after their names, nor be graduates from prestigious seminaries.

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) Note: In 1 Timothy 3:12 he also stipulated that these were also one of the required qualifications for a deacon.

The connection is simple. A man with the wisdom and skill to ably manage his own children would in all likelihood be able to do the same with the church or  'extended family' that met in his home. How in the world can the pastor of a traditional church be a 'wise father' when he is unlikely to even know most people's names.

Besides which, there is a great value in an "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. Additionally, when children are surrounded by a group of their peers they are more inclined to 'have fun' than anything else. Children in extended families 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.

While there is no question that the world has gotten infinitely more complicated and demanding, most people today manage to  work full time, raise families and still devote time to other endeavors. People do community work, volunteer at their churches, are members of clubs, and play golf. They have hobbies, go fishing, garden etc. in their spare time. Therefore, for the majority of people it is not a question of the time, but a question of priority - what they wish to devote their time to.

Besides which, I am sure the elders of the early church were not exactly men of leisure but worked to make a living.

It takes dedication, self-discipline, perseverance, and considerable help from the Holy Spirit to survive three full-time jobs... bread winner, husband/father, and shepherd, but it can be done.


The Lord's Supper
Wafer or Full Meal?
The term The Lord's Supper comes from 1 Corinthians 11:20. It took place on the annual feast of the Passover (See The Seven Feasts of Israel), 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 (Gk. kuriakos) Supper (Gk. deipnon) (1 Corinthians 11:20 NASB)

The Greek deipnon - used about 15 other times in the New Testament, always means a full meal (A and B) or a banquet (C and D). 

    A.) And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner (Gk. deipnon), do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. (Luke 14:12 NASB)

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

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

    D.) A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet (Gk. deipnon) for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; (Mark 6:21 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 very like the Passover meal they shared with their Lord. Members of the early church would scratch their heads in perplexity to see modern believers sitting in pews chewing a morsel of bread or a wafer. However, providing a full meal would a near logistical impossible undertaking for the average institutional church, but is relatively simple with the "potluck" system of so many in-home gatherings.

Somber Ritual or Celebration?
The idea of sharing a banquet at the table of the Lord was a common and popular imagery in Jewish thought. As one man who shared a meal with Jesus said "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (Luke 14:15 NASB).

Although the Lord's Supper reminds us of Jesus' death, it is also a 'type' of the marriage supper of the Lamb in the coming kingdom. Thus 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).

This is a far cry from the almost funeral like atmosphere in the traditional church. 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. They didn't wait for each other to begin eating and even showed up drunk. Read the chapter.

This is a description of the Lord's Supper in 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 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! [02].

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).
 

The Advantages of The House Church
If the Bible confirms the validity of house churches, then it is obvious that they must have definite advantages over traditional churches. And so they do. For example...

They Do Not Squander God Given Resources
The Cost of Buildings
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 that not only have the one room for assembly but many others - meeting or Bible study rooms, reception areas, offices, nursery, etc. etc. It takes a great deal of money to build even a small church, after which it has to be maintained, heated, cooled and, in time, remodeled or expanded. These significant expenses could be used to reach the unsaved and feed the poor. A person is far more likely to be receptive to the Gospel message if he has a full stomach and has come across Christians who have shown caring and tried 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. 

Welcome to the Wealthy Pastors of Flashy Mega-Churches
With Their Inch Deep Self Serving Theology but Very Expensive Entertainment

Joel Osteen and The Prosperity Doctrine
 
The Blind Leading The Blind.

Wages
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)

The more complicated the structure of the organization becomes, the more people are required to efficiently run it, and the most expensive it gets. Thus, 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. After all, someone has to pay all those people. See Tithing

Small house churches overseen by non-paid elders cost little or nothing to run. All available resources can be channelled towards outreach, the poor, and/or helping any member of the congregation that needs it. However, should any of the elders need to devote more time to the church, part of the contribution could easily be used to subsidize his income.


They Are In No Danger of Becoming Theatrical Extravaganzas
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 perhaps this formula might have been good enough for those simple minded first century peasants. Not us. We seem to want and need carefully designed lighting, projected big screens, LED displays, presentation software, lavish praise bands with the finest music equipment, and the latest in wireless microphones.  And lets not forget about church marketing tools, church growth consultants with their slick marketing techniques, mass mailings etc. etc. etc.

The Methodist site www.umcom.org actually says (Emphasis Added)

    Until you are ready for projection, enhance the service with other visuals such as  banners, paraments, commissioned art, wall paintings, statuary, sculpture, dance, clergy vestments, acolytes and choirs, stained glass or curtains, candles, processional crosses, fine furniture (table and font), pottery or silver chalices and patens, flying processional doves and creative worship-space arrangements. [03]

Flying processional doves? Your guess is as good as mine!

'Elevation Church' - a Southern Baptist church pastored by Steven Furtick is based in a suburb of Charlotte NC and currently has 17 locations - 9 of which are in the Charlotte area. In a Charlotte Observer article entitled A Cool Pastor, And A Hot Church, the Rev. David Chadwick is quoted as saying "They really are the major show in town for (those) 20 to 32,Ē [04] Emphasis Added. In fact, Elevation made Fortune magazine's list of 100 best places to work for millennials in 2017.

    Their "on-site services include, haircuts by professional stylists, car detailing, alterations, discounted movie tickets, oil changes, and financial planning services." [05]

More about Steven Furtick

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. [06]


They Do A Better Job of Edifying or 'Building Up' Believers
While it is true that a house church cannot provide the quantity of activities that an institutional church can they can excel at doing what the church is supposed to do i.e. edifying disciples - something that is extremely difficult in most traditional churches in which the staff barely knows any of the congregation... at least not in any meaningful way.

Note: The word edify" (translated from the Greek oikodome), means to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement.

Especially Our Children
There are no "youth pastors" or "youth ministries" mentioned in the New Testament simply because they did not exist yet modern Christians are more than happy to relegate their children's spiritual training to a paid professional, blind to the fact that their children 'enjoying' their youth group might be due to the fact that the youth group has been very entertaining.

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 Biblical knowledge suitable to their age and cognitive ability.

    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...

    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. [07]

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 atmospheres of an extended family.

In an institutional church small children 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.

Besides which, 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 children's workers is a hit-or-miss practice in today's 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. [08]


They Can Obey The "One Another" Instructions In The Bible
The New Testament places a great deal of emphasis on Christians taking care of each another. The following instructions were not addressed to the leaders but to everyone in the church...

    admonish one another (Romans 15:14), care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), " (Galatians 5:13), bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2), teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18 ). encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, 10:25), confess your sins to one another (James 5:16), pray for one another (James 5:16), stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9), and have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).

When small numbers of believers get together in a participatory home church setting there is ample opportunity to fulfill these "one another" passages. Each member of the church has the opportunity to do his or her part as the Spirit leads. This is close to impossible in a large church setting where few even know what the other congregant's names are, much less how they need help or what encouragement they could use. 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. Been there! Done that! Doubt I'll ever do it again.

There is virtually no opportunity to "admonish", "care", "encourage", and "serve" another, nor have anyone do the same for 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.

It Is Easier To Help One's Church Family
Additionally, although the NT clearly puts doing good to all people on the agenda (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 congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NASB)

While there is 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 be put to better use.


House Churches Avoid Pastor Burnout and Congregational Dissatisfaction
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 that we cannot. When we decided to exchange 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.

To begin with, we have very unrealistic ideas of how much one human being is capable of and no earthly idea of what a pastor is supposed to do. 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." [09]

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. [10]. In fact, according to CNN 71% of pastors says their job is stressful

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.

And lets not forget that members of a house church

Do Not Have To Sit Through Often Boring and/or Irrelevant Sermons
Can anyone deny that they have sat through more than one boring sermons, furtively glancing at their watch 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 early church never sat through sermons. See Chapter 3 - Why Christians Assemble


What About Small Groups that Are Part of The Institutional Church?
While it is true that other than the weekly church service, some institutional churches have small group meetings where members can experience more community and interaction.

However, these meetings are not the essence of the church but just one more "program" among many others. They are often organized by a church staff member which means Bible study has to conform to that church's official beliefs and, 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.

 
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 are paraphrased from The Disciple Making Minister by David Servant. Publisher: Ethnos (January 1, 2005) Pg. 44. I believe they say it all.

The Pastor

    The house church pastor has no building to distract him, no employees to manage and 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.

    He feels no pressure to be a Sunday-morning performer and never needs to prepare a three-point sermon on a Saturday night.

    He can spend time developing leaders of future house churches or, depending on his experience, he could mentor younger house church pastors. He may well have time to minister to people outside of his congregation - one-on-one evangelism in prisons, to refugees,  care homes etc

    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.

The Members

    Passively sitting and listening to irrelevant or redundant sermons year after year insults the believers intelligence and stultifies their spirituality. On the other hand, in house churches believers can do what believers are supposed to do - exhort, encourage, edify, comfort, teach, serve and pray for one another... They can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Worship is simple and participatory, not a performance.

    No one is lost in the crowd or excluded by a church clique and everyone will have the opportunity to be used to help others,

As one house church member told David Servant, "When someone is sick within our body, I don't 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."  [11] 

Which brings me to a final and, in my opinion, a most critical point. The single largest problem that has arisen as a result of our messing with God's pattern, is that heresy and apostasy have been given free reign.


The High Cost of Importing Old Testament Levitical Patterns
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 - 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),.

Additionally they 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).

Does this sound at all familiar?

It should, because not much has changed from that day to this. We still make pilgrimages to the "house of the Lord". We still have mediators who perform the religious rites and who supposedly have the authority and knowledge to teach us the statutes of the Lord. For which we have paid a very high price.

The Price
One of the key ways the New Covenant differs from the Old is that the latter was marked by rules, regulations, and rituals that gave way to life and church being guided by the Holy Spirit. Yet, ignoring this basic principle, we have chosen to 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. We sit back and passively absorb sermons, many of which are 'sanctified' by a few out of context verses.

After all didn't the pastor 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?

One of The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make
 Although both Peter and Paul were very emphatic about the fact that wolves would come from the flock itself, most Christians today, totally ignoring the implications of Paul's warning in Acts 20 29-30, seem to think that heresy is something that largely happens outside the church

What we forget is that the Spirit indwells all believers and anyone who can read can come to a knowledge of the truth. No teaching in the church should ever be exempt from scrutiny and no one's word should ever be taken at face value. In fact, Paul commended the Bereans for checking what they were being told against what God said in His word.

In modern institutional churches, church doctrine is established from the start. In fact, all too often one has to subscribe to certain doctrines before becoming a member.  Under the guise of "unity" many churches 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. More About Saddlebacks' Membership Covenant

In many cases those who come across an unbiblical teaching or practice have little choice but to jump ship. Even if the pastor can be persuaded that what is being taught is not Scripturally sound, openly disagreeing with established doctrine or practice could have serious consequences for him.

And so, most of us sit dozing in our pews as the wolves that Paul warned about take over many of 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 little, if anything, about it. We began to lose 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.

 
Also See True and False Unity and  Fraternizing With The Enemy
True unity is NOT setting aside the areas in which we differ and instead, finding common ground that we can come together on. When churches begin to teach and encourage practises like contemplative prayer, or adopt the seeker sensitive or purpose driven models or bring in heretical speakers, Christians are commanded by Scripture to remove the person from their midst..

Also Section Doctrines of Demons.
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, Contemplative Prayer, Slain In The Spirit and even Santa Claus. All of which means the man of sin isn't far behind.
 

Resources
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

    www.inplainsite.org

    House-Church-Back

    Chapter 6 - Protecting a Man Made Institution