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Good News

Turn us unto you, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. Lamentations 5:21

From 1773-1790 the American population increased 75% and during the same period Methodism increased 5,500%. By 1850, the Methodists were the largest Protestant church in American and one-third of all church members were Methodist.” 

The Methodist plan hugely succeeded where other groups did not. They did not require long periods of time for a leader to become trained and ordained. On horseback across the plains and in open fields and in barns they shared Christ wherever they were able.

Training is great. Training is needful. Still, I believe there is something here we can learn from the past.

Reasoner, Vic. (2007). "The Hope of a Christian World: Wesleyan Eschatology and Cultural Transformation."

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"In the West, we think we have to have a lot of training." Remember that in the early church, those who were scattered abroad, i.e. the saints, went everywhere preaching the good news. Acts 8:4. The clip is from biglife ministry.

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I'm also looking for fellowship but, alas, I'm in Prospect Hill NC. Praying you find fellowship real soon sister 🙏🏼

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Hi Folks, I am returning from the mission field.  I am looking for fellowship in Colorado Springs.  Is there anyone?

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The beautiful "trembling" leaves we see at this time of year brought this old song to mind. It's several decades old now. 

I cannot vouch for the theology of the artist as I pray that God will draw us all closer to Him and to his Word and to his works in all creation. 

Bob Dylan was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature and he still sings this song as he tours the world.

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I first read your response shortly after you posted it. The Isaiah passage caught my eye and I wanted to reflect on it a bit before responding. I must confess that I'm struggling a bit to put this passage into context. The way that it's translated in your post above, as well as in the ESV, the words "finding thine own pleasure" seem to stand out. On the face of it, it would seem that God is saying that fun and the Sabbath are mutually exclusive. And I know many Christians also feel exactly this way. Just recently I saw a picture of a sign at a Christian recreational facility asking people to refrain from using the ballfields on Sunday. This too is the world that I grew up in.

Digging further into the Isaiah passage, the footnotes in the ESV say that the word "pleasure" can also be translated as "business". But business is such a broad term that it's tough to think of it exclusively as the work that we do to get paid. Perhaps something can be gleaned from the same chapter, verse 3b, "Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.". In the verses leading up to those you cited, it feels as though there is a connection between a day of fasting and the Sabbath. Or maybe I'm just reading something that is not there.

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We are in the Midwest! We are a part of the Micro-Church Moment. We give a Acts Blueprint presentation as well as a Acts Kickstart presentation. This is our Podcast link   , this is our website Happy to answer any question and further spread this movement across America! We are doing Micro-12 groups! 

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The didacha (1st Ce) document 14th chapter, verse 1 says"but on the Lord's day, after that you have assembled together, break bread and give thanks, having in addition confessed your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure!" Ever as they gathering we must remember that this is a mobile church, that they still respected Shabbat (on Saturday). Zola Levitt said, there was both the Creation Shabbat and the celebration of the Lord's day gatherings! Shalom my friend. Roddi 

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Hey brother, thank you for this keen reply. You have given us much to consider.

I had been thinking lately about the very text you mentioned. And how I might implement the reality of this special day being appointed for our BENEFIT.

The Almighty seems to be very jealous of this day:

13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.  

Isaiah 58:13-14

Growing up, I recall a Seventh Day church allow a First Day church to use its building. The Sunday Church was in the startup mode, I remember. The location was not far from our home.

My parents were from a world where stores were closed on Sunday. We did not watch TV unless it was a "nature" program. But we were OK with it and found much else to do.

Folks can become legalistic about anything. Yet there is something here I feel I might be missing. I like to think that everyday is special in its own way. And every act is to be an act of worship.

Perhaps I need to take this more seriously and learn more about it. And appreciate REST more than I do. And to appreciate the rhythm of life that God has appointed through a once a week "retreat".

We often overlook the other part of the sabbath mandate: Six days you should labor. Today, some will not start. Others will not stop.

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David, thanks for the comment: "A para-church ministry, in my opinion, still could have its place just as Professor Snyder suggests. It might even be temporary. Just for a specific project. Considering our freedom in Christ, I would not be overly judgmental about a specific ministry undertaken by others. "

I totally agree that personal service is preferred, but there are instances in the NT like Paul collecting support for the Jerusalem saints.

I also would underscore the temporary aspect. This is exactly why Snyder proposed that the organizations should be relegated to the category of para church instead of being viewed AS the church. They could be set in place as needed to serve a purpose and be flexible, where the church itself in essence as the community of God's people is a permanent reality that does not change in character.

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Todd, thanks for the insights into the CRC and the para church ministries involved. You wrote: "In summary, my point here is that para-church organizations can and do do good things for both the church and those outside of it. I would urge caution in supporting any para-church organization. If they can't explain the true purpose of their mission then look for another if you feel led to be a part of a particular activity"

Sounds like good advise to me.  If we went by all the negative press over abuses we would never support any charity our outreach to the community. In the end we ask for discernment and trust God to use our efforts for His glory.

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I was raised in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). If anyone has this whole para-church thing down to a science, it's the CRC. They literally offer cradle-to-grave services to the church body, whether that's Christian education (primary, secondary, and college), retirement facilities and hospice, and mental health - just to name a few. They also have para-church evangelism (U.S./Canada and globally) and poverty relief. There is even a recreational facility that my family used to "attend" for golfing, softball, and other forms of relaxation. You could hardly go through the day without having some involvement with a CRC para-church ministry. To fund all of this infrastructure, churches commit to a "quota" based on the number of members in each church. The quota system was renamed to "ministry shares" ( a number of years ago because the perception was that the word "quota" meant a church had to give a fix amount, which was pretty much the case. There is no less of an expectation that a church must contribute its "fair share" with ministry shares, though the stigma of not giving is probably less than what it was before.

I'm not going to tell you that this is a horrible system because of two reasons: (1)  I have experienced first-hand the benefits, and (2) because it can work if the right people are running it. The New Testament seems pretty clear that we should care for one another whether that's spiritually or physically (e.g. 1 Cor 12:25-26). Many, many other Christians have cared for me and helped nurture me over the last 59 years. I have much to be grateful for.

What concerns me generally about para-church organizations is what happens when the people with the vision to build the enterprise are no longer in charge. Those who follow them become more distant from the organization's founding principles and lose sight of the mission. For example, the CRC runs a ministry called "World Renew" ( whose mission was to fight poverty on a global scale. It was formerly known as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). As CRWRC they did great work. Anyone could pick up a catalog and pick out items from a long list ranging from chickens to water wells and get those items in the hands of a person in need anywhere in the world. My wife and I did this, as did her parents before her. It was easy and effective. Then one day I received an email saying that the CRWRC was changing its name, the logo, and the fonts. They also came up with a tagline - "Living Justice, Loving Mercy". I was asked to vote on the proposal. I pointed out to the ministry that people in need could really care less what typeface the organization used. I also mentioned that nowhere was there any mention of Christ in the proposal. To resolve the second problem they added "Serving Christ" to the end of the new tagline and blamed the design agency for the oversight. The fact that they farmed out this work told me that the people in charge no longer really understood what their mission was. They were just there to figure out how to maximize their dollar intake. So we stopped giving to that particular organization.

In summary, my point here is that para-church organizations can and do do good things for both the church and those outside of it. I would urge caution in supporting any para-church organization. If they can't explain the true purpose of their mission then look for another if you feel led to be a part of a particular activity. Don't assume that because the organization is "Christian" or has good intent that you should support them. We are called to be good stewards of our gifts (1 Peter 4:10). This means time, money, and talent. So please do some legwork before volunteering your time or cash. I would say that any organization, church or para-church, that allows us to focus our thoughts on our unworthiness in salvation is one worth looking into.

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On September 18, David Anderson posted the following comment on a post that I had made earlier where I mentioned that the culture seems to be invading the church. Specifically I had mentioned the shift of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Here are David's remarks...

The evidence for the change of the Sabbath to Sunday also looks rather scanty to me. I hope you will share your thoughts in a separate thread here in the discussions.

Regardless, God made a special day for our benefit. Why would we not want to pursue such a gift and learn more about it?

To your point, culture is indeed dominating the church rather the followers of Jesus being the light of the world and salt of the earth.

Let us bow in prayer...

With David's suggestion, we'll indeed kick off a new thread... :-)

I'd like to start by saying that I am not trying in any way to be judgmental of those who rest and worship on Sunday. There is a very, very long tradition of resting from our work on Sunday and it's not uncommon for Christians to refer to Sunday as "the Sabbath". Recently I have been focused on how much the church has allowed culture to dictate doctrine and practice, and I got to thinking about exactly when Christians made the transition from Saturday Sabbath observance to Sunday. While the book of Acts does record the early Christians as meeting on the "first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), it does not appear to record any practice whereby those same Christians rested on the first day instead of the seventh day. Typing "Why is church on Sunday?" into Google returns many references to Emperor Constantine's decree of Sunday worship and rest in 321 AD as the tipping point from the seventh day to the first. At least this gives us a starting point for the discussion since after this time it appears that this became the norm.

While I can't say that I've done an exhaustive search of Scripture to see what it has to say on this topic, I have found a few things. First though, I think that we should start in Exodus 20:8-11 to see what God commands...

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Interestingly enough, I think that many people equate the word "holy" in verse 8 with the word "worship", as in what we do on Sunday. Yet is that really the case? I like to take the Bible at face value, so I tend to think that verses 9-11 describe what holiness actually means. Simply put, it means "rest". Hopefully that interpretation should not be shocking as we define "holy" in the dictionary to mean "dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred." Indeed, there seems to be a distinction between a day being holy (blessed by God) and our God being holy. God is holy 24/7 and can be worshipped on any day. So it it unreasonable to think that early Christians still rested on the Sabbath but worshipped on the Lord's Day?

There are those who might contend that Colossians 2:16-17 means that the Christians who came from the Jewish tradition no longer rested on the seventh day. This Scripture reads...

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

In this case Paul could have been talking about which day of the week would be "a Sabbath", but could he not have also been talking about Sabbath observance practices as well? Remember the story of Jesus in Mark 2:23-28?

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Because I have been unable to find strong evidence that the fourth commandment has been superseded by first day rest, I have recently begun resting on the seventh day instead. Additionally, I am following Jewish observance for what is called a "day", so for me the Sabbath starts as it did for them - at sunset on Friday night and ending on Saturday night at the same time. This makes complete sense to me as "day 1" in Genesis began with darkness and ended with light. The only adjustment that I have made for modern standards is that instead of looking into the evening sky for three stars to appear before starting the next day, I instead check the time of sunset on the Accuweather app on my iPhone. :-)

Anyway, I want to reiterate that I am not trying to judge anyone for their pattern of rest or Sabbath observance routines. I may be missing something very important that I should be made aware of. I hope that anyone who has more to share will please do so. I have found that with the busyness that comes from worshipping on Sunday that having Saturday as a day of rest is very much welcomed indeed.

May God bless each of you and keep you in His tender care.

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**Looking for some volunteers **

*Church leaders

We are seeking to rotate some worship teams twice a month on Wednesday for an all denomination worship/prayer night. 

We are a small church plant with a large building in Mechanicville. 

We have speakers and Bluetooth currently set up for our stage. 

God has placed this on our hearts for a fall/winter filled with worship and intercession for the return to our first love. 

Would you lend us your talent? 

*This won't be able to be done without the body coming to action. 

Please message us to discuss / call 518-652-2092

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Francis Chan and "We Are Church" are reaching neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area. The Underground Network spans across the nation from Tampa Bay. Fresh Expression's Dinner Church heals hearts from the Northern West Coast in Seattle to the shores of the Atlantic Sea. Church Project and many other house church networks are spread all across that vast land called Texas. All this, and until now, nothing in the central inner city of the second largest city in the U.S.A.: Los Angeles, California... Until now! 

At last! For years we have prayed and at last, the first house church in Los Angeles has finally opened, and... We want you! Pray for us! Help us! Come and break bread and love and be loved by us! 

Hallelujah! Jesus is here, among these three or more gathered together in his name. Come and let us let the world know that we are Christians by our love for one another.  :-) 

So happy! So very happy in Jesus!

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Dan, good to see you. Salutations!

Congratulations on your exciting new book, available free in audio and text.

My, my in the 1800's several denominations had long debates about the legitimacy of even mission boards. Definitely bureaucracy has taken its toll in the church and in the corporate as well as political realms.

Charles Spurgeon used to pray: Lord, lead me not into a committee.  :)

In contrast to para-church ministries, the scriptures emphasize indvidual responsibility. For the good of the body, of course. If you can do it - you may do it, so to speak.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Rom. 12:6-8 

A para-church ministry, in my opinion, still could have its place just as Professor Snyder suggests. It might even be temporary. Just for a specific project. Considering our freedom in Christ, I would not be overly judgmental about a specific ministry undertaken by others.

Wonder what happened to Howard Snyder? He's definitely retirement age by now. A real pioneer and a good example of a righteous life.

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What I've come to discover is that many of these institutional churches hold up some form of barrier to the unity of the Body of Christ. I have no problem with a church defining what makes it distinctive, but when those distinctions are used to push other believers out of the fellowship then it makes it hard to even discuss what should be our shared goal of worshipping our Savior.

Hey Todd. Your observation here is one which I have also experienced. And may God forgive me if I were ever a part of making needless barriers to fellowship and unity..

Prior to his death on the cross, our Savior - faithful to the end - was more concerned about others than himself. In John 17 he prayed that his church would be one, just as he and his Father were one. 

Was this a mere unity for the sake of unity? No, Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified each day by his word which is truth. Obviously we don't agree on all the fine points of his truth but all of us should desire more of it and more of him. Because the truth represents Him and how to truly love one another. And how to live each moment unto his glory.

I'm thinking now of how John Bunyan was once placed in a jail cell with a Quaker. Yet as time went by, Bunyan became more respectful and even thankful for him. Even though he had written some severe criticisms of his movement.

As for the house church movement, there is not as much unity as one would hope for... and there is little desire to co-operate with other groups of Christians. I'm speaking from what I have seen and read over the last 25 years or so. This can change though, as it should.

Let us overcome evil with good. Rather than just attacking others. And pray to the Lord of the Harvest that he would send laborers into his vineyard. The harvest is great - the laborers few. 

People need examples - not just more critics.

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From "The Community of the King," by Howard Snyder:

"When we look at the contemporary church, we see not only the community of God's people; we find also a proliferation of local church organizations, denominations, institutions, agencies, associations and so forth. Such structures obviously have no biblical basis. How should we view them?

The two most common tendencies have been either to say these structures are actually a part of the essence of the church, and thus sacralize them, or to take an anti-institutional stance and say all such structures are invalid and must be abandoned.......

A more helpful option, however, is to view all institutional structures as para-church structures which exist alongside of  and parallel to the community of God's people but are not themselves the church.....they exist along side or parallel to the church community; and they exist ostensibly to serve the church."

For some time I took the second stance, that all institutions must be abandoned. In fact I thought they would have been mostly abandoned by now when people found they had a choice. (I was obviously wrong about my expectation.)

Has anyone thought of Snyder's option, of seeing these things as "serving" the church?

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It is interesting that you should bring this up. I saw a video of a Methodist church in a rural area that decided to give up the building that had ties to the denomination. They found this change was liberating and the church grew into a tighter knit community. They rented space if I remember correctly from schools and got back to the basics in Christ.

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Hi readers. Hi Dan. Hi there Todd. The evidence for the change of the Sabbath to Sunday also looks rather scanty to me. I hope you will share your thoughts in a separate thread here in the discussions.

Regardless, God made a special day for our benefit. Why would we not want to pursue such a gift and learn more about it?

To your point, culture is indeed dominating the church rather the followers of Jesus being the light of the world and salt of the earth.

    Let us bow in prayer...

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The last few days I've watched a handful of videos on the impending split of the United Methodist Church over cultural issues. It seems that in every video the topic of money comes up. Now while I'm very concerned for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ and what the future holds for them, I can't help but think about how much angst that they are having over something that should not be all that important. I've heard much during this time about issues of property ownership and unfunded pension liabilities. I don't ever recall seeing any of this in the New Testament.

Thanks much for sharing!

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Hi friends. One other aspect of synagogue life was the role of the young people. They could publicly read from the scriptures at age 12. Imagine what a confidence builder that occasion would have been! As God's living truth was proclaimed and the older ones said their "amens".

Remember, the "not failing to assemble" is immediately followed by "but encourage one another". Those who participated were blessed. As were those who listened.

Some have painted the early Christians as illiterates... But Timothy from a child had known the scriptures. And history teaches us that the Jews were highly literate.

Some also have attacked the traditional church as being non-participatory. There is merit in such criticism and reform is needed. But in fairness, most churches have what is called Sunday School where virtually everyone is welcome to contribute and the vast majority of teachers love it when they do. As most "preachers" are delighted when there is a special song sung or a testimony given. (I can only speak here from my own experience which is indeed limited. There are no doubt certain pastors who are jealous of their microphone and their pulpit.)

The meetings described in 1 Corinthians were not completely open to everyone on every occasion. "Let two or three prophets or tongue-speakers...".

In the early days of Christianity there were obviously no newspapers, radio, TV, internet or telephones. Most lived in small apartments. The synagogue met their social needs in many ways which we cannot imagine. So yes Dan, it is interesting that the word synagogue encompasses the idea of hospitality. 

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Many of my good friends in Christ interpret bible prophecy differently. I really to not want to separate over these differences - except where I feel they are harmful to our walk in Christ. As far back as grade school I heard preaching that the world would only become darker in the future and more horrifying than any horror film I had seen. This led me to wonder if there was any reason at all to work for a better future.

Fortunately I had influences in my life that encouraged me toward optimism. I resisted pessimism as best as I could. Many years later I found that there were several views on bible prophecy and that some reflected more of the goodness and greatness of God and His desire to bless His creation. While I do not claim to be an expert on the subject of bible prophecy, I have had a greater than average interest in it over the past 40+ years. As confusing as this subject can be, it is still an important one.

Lately I have been wondering if each of the major 3 views of the Last Days according to the bible might be partly correct. One says that the 1,000 year reign (the Millennium) is spiritual and that heaven is the ultimate goal for us anyway. Another says that very soon there will be a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ when all evil powers on this earth will be put down. Then another says that the Kingdom is spiritual and natural, but progressive. Christ is reigning now already but will not fully subdue all His enemies until He finally appears in power to the world. At the same time, we are to expect the substantial progress of the Gospel in the world to continue up until that time.

This is of course a very simplified explanation, but I feel it is helpful.

The first one I mentioned (A-Mill) is very reassuring. Things are going well according to God's perspective. "This world is not my home, I'm just passing through." By His grace we will all be together "in the sweet bye and bye." We can be a positive influence in this world but we do not get too wrapped up it it's problems.

The second one (Pre-Mill) is more realistic. The fact that the past hundred years has seen 2 world wars, a Great Depression, global terrorism, the threat of a nuclear holocaust, global pandemics etc. is not only proof that the end of time is near, but a great reason to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal peace. The great hope in this view is that Christ will win in the end on this earth as well, and that those who trust in Him will rule and reign with Him for a literal 1,000 years and live in heaven for eternity.

All the views take the bible seriously, and the third option makes a valiant effort to connect all the scriptures in such a way that the bible is fully validated. This (Post-Mill) position states that Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God two thousand years ago, and that it has been advancing ever since. It grows not only in the numbers of believers but in influence in the world as well. This is to me more of a victorious eschatology and is less about an escape from the troubles of this world.

It seems to me that the division of the physical world and the eternal realm is more of an ancient Greek philosophy that found its way into Christianity through what has been called Gnosticism. Jesus did differentiate between the two but also told us to pray for God's Kingdom to come, for His will to be done in earth as it is in heaven. Was the church to wait for 2,000 years for that to happen, or were they to expect their prayers to be answered, if not at least partially in their time?

Great thinkers and godly teachers have stood behind all of these three major views of biblical prophecy.  We can learn from them all. I have some unanswered questions about Postmillennialism, but I like that it challenges me to believe for greater things. It reminds me of how Jesus taught that all things were possible to those who believe in Him.

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David, Thanks for pointing out the Greek word in Hebrews 10:25. I drilled it down to one of the root words in Thayer's definitions.  "sunago" (G4863 in Strongs)

1. to gather together, to gather a. to draw together, collect 1. of fishes 2. of a net in which they are caught.

2. to bring together, assemble. collect a. to join together, join in one (those previously separated) b. to gather together by convoking. c. to be gathered, i.e. come together, gather, meet.

3. to lead with one's self a. into one's home, i.e. to receive hospitably, to entertain.

Isn't it interesting that the word for synagogue is built on a word that is related to hospitality? 

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Here is a song that was written and performed by a dear friend and bother in Christ, Harold Willison. He went to be with the Lord this year.

There is Nothing to Compare

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I've been thinking a lot recently about how cultural influence has impacted how the church operates. Consider the Sabbath as an example. At what point did God switch the seventh day of the week for the first? While we do indeed see the early church gathering together on the first day of the week, does this mean that they stopped resting on the seventh day? I can't seem to find any evidence that they did.

Perhaps a more extreme example of cultural influence is how decisions are made in the church. My experience has been that most churches use some form of Robert's Rules and majority rule to make decisions, but as far as I can tell this does not fit the command for unity in the church. Oftentimes majority rule leads to decision making based on coercion, threats, or good-old pork barrel politics rather than decisions made for the sake of glorifying God and unifying His church.

The only remedy that I see comes from Jesus Himself when He says in John 10:27-28 that "27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." I have completely lost any interest in fighting with anyone over church matters. Whether God uses these other churches for the purpose of His salvation is up to Him. What I do know is that that when we share the true Gospel of Christ then the sheep will hear His voice and follow. Jesus has made this promise.

So to directly answer your question of "How can we convince our fellow believers that this was never the New Testament model?"... I'm not sure that we can or should. I very much appreciate the sentiment behind your question and your desire to change hearts to Christ. When someone tells me that they need a couple hundred grand for a new building then that tells me that they are worshipping the facility and those who gather there more than Jesus. If we are teaching the Gospel without all of the "extras" and their hearts are so inclined to hear it then praise be to God for His mighty work! But until God acts, I think that all we can do is to demonstrate how it should be done through our words and actions.

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Hi Dan,

Thanks for your response and for sharing a bit of your experience as well. I wasn't sure when I wrote my comment if it came across with the right tone. The last 12 months has left me completely broken with respect to the church which has let me somewhat bitter. Yet I feel this experience has left me stronger in my relationship with Christ. In the past I have looked to church leadership for guidance and affirmation because I believe that the office of elder is Biblical. That has changed. If an elder is unable or unwilling to submit to Christ's authority then I have no obligation to follow their instruction. In other words, it's not enough to have been elected to church office by the majority of the congregation. They need to conform to Hebrews 13:7 ("those who spoke to you the word of God") before they can exercise the authority found in Hebrews 13:17.

I will carefully consider your comments on joining a house church, including your caution about a "new set of problems". I agree that nothing in this world is perfect, but I am hoping to find a group of people whose primary interest is in worshiping our Savior and not the organization of His church.

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Hi David,

Thanks for getting back with me. This paragraph of yours really stood out for me...

"Ultimately, there is but one true church. We are either a part of it or we need to become a part of it. All Christians should be welcome wherever other believers are found."

I think that this is the first time that I've ever heard someone say it and thought that they really meant it. So often it feels like we only want to interact with people who are "my kind of Christian". My prayer is for more unity in the church regardless of what we think about particular issues in Scripture.

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Dan, my friend and brother. Loved your previous message! Wow. Amen. 

Back to your original inquiry regarding the origins of the synagogue.

The first Christians came over from the Jewish community. They already had a long history of regular public meetings for instruction and fellowship. They were now born again and eager to be with their new spiritual family. Personally, I would say that they were ready to tear the door off the hinges to get to these meetings. 

The synagogue was the center of the community and a joyful place, too. There they would see their relatives and friends and also make new ones. There they would learn news things - as the truth was told and the scrolls unrolled. There they would get the latest news often passed around as prayer requests. :) There they would receive a holy kiss or perhaps have their feet washed. Since the meeting was open, things were a little unpredictable. Especially with regard to who might show up to speak.

As John wrote: We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. 1 John 3:14. What could be more intuitive and natural than to be with those whom you love?

We do however notice a warning about failing to meet with others. It's found in Hebrews and you are familiar with it. And familiar with those who translate it to mean something else. "Don't go to church - just be the church". The greek verb here for meeting surely refers to synagogue: epiSunagoge. On that we can agree. Just as the word for church is a general word also meaning an assembly of persons for a specific purpose. 

In summary, although there is no direct NT command to meet, there is one which forbids not meeting - failing to assemble. Which is really... the same idea.

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The one thing I disagree with in this post is this:

"But now, the true and grand idea of a Church, that is, a society for the purpose of making men like Christ, earth like heaven, the kingdoms of the world the kingdom of Christ, is all lost."

If it was up to us, all would be lost. But while we are weak, He is strong. That which is impossible with men is possible with God!

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