Dedicated to Jesus the Christ and to
Alternative Christian Churches
Good News

In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7

librarian added an Article

House Church How and Why

     Joseph Higginbotham

Introduction

The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches. C. Peter Wagner, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, Regal Books, page 11.

The need for new churches is too urgent to remain the province of a few seminary-trained religious specialists. Even when we lower the bar of church membership to include so-called "new converts" who drop away after 6 months, profligates who come by transfer of church letter and babies who don't even know they are on the roll, 80% of our existing churches are numerically declining or plateaued. (Carl George, How To Break Growth Barriers, Baker Books, page 184.) What all this means is that our existing churches are failing to reach the current culture and the current generation and that our minuscule net growth rate isn't keeping pace with population growth. The 20% of our churches which are growing are doing so largely at the expense of the declining churches (which means it's transfer growth, not conversion growth) and only because they are spending huge sums of money to do it. Because our current churches are failing to reach the lost, the future expansion of the kingdom of God depends (humanly speaking) upon how effectively we can equip, encourage, empower and cajole so-called "lay people" to plant not just great numbers of new churches, but churches which are different in kind from the churches which are now failing to get the job done.

Recent church history is a monument erected of barriers to the establishment of new churches. The future expansion of the kingdom of God depends upon our obedience in identifying and dismantling these barriers. How many churches could we plant if we enlisted every so-called "layman" (an unbiblical word and concept which didn't plague the church until the third century) in the planting of new, different churches? How many churches could we plant if every Christian was taught to see his or her living room as a potential church building?

This is not untested theory. The early church turned the world upside down because they did not erect the barriers to church planting and growth which we have accepted today. When the poor beggar, lame from birth, asked alms of Peter and John, they didn't say, "We can't help you until we have a budget, a piece of land and a nice building in the suburbs, a paid preacher, by-laws and a constitution." When Peter said "Silver and gold have we none, but what I do have I give to you" (Acts 3:6), he was saying, in effect, "We offer no excuses for inaction, we acknowledge no barriers to the spread of the gospel." This article is about identifying and eliminating the barriers which today hinder the proliferation of new, different churches.

Part One : Barriers to Church Planting

A budget is a theological document. It indicates who or what we worship. J S. Hewett.

Barrier #1 The Expense Excuse

To keep church planting deliberative and rare, Satan doesn't have to convince us that it is a bad idea; he only has to convince us that it's expensive. Even churches whose own formation and history are proof to the contrary accept the Satanic premise that church planting is too costly.

Recently I was invited to preach several times in a small, 25-year-old church which had slipped from an attendance of about 150 in the mid-80s to an attendance of about 50 in 1996. During my association with this church, I challenged them to plant at least one new church in 1996. They told me they couldn't afford to start a new church, that their attendance was so low and their budget so small that it was all they could do to pay for a mortgage and a preacher. Their own church had begun as a mere Bible study group, so I decided to ask a few leading questions.

"Where did your own church start?", I asked a group of their "regulars".

"We started up the road in brother Winter's house", answered one of the charter members.

"Who paid the mortgage at brother Winter's house?", I probed.

"Well, brother Winter did, of course - it was his house."

"Well what about paying the preacher. What did that cost you?"

"Well, the preacher", explained one of the charter members, "had a good job down at the plant so he didn't charge us a dime until we got on our feet."

"Let me get this straight", I summarized, "25 years ago you started this church without a paid preacher, a budget or this beautiful building and land, but you're telling me you can't start another one the same way you started this one? Why not? You have more resources now than you did then. Besides your priorities, what's stopping you?"

Barrier #2 Getting the Organizational Cart Ahead of the Relational Horse

There are consequences to the way we define church. When church is "where the bishop is", those who are with the bishop exclude from communion those who are not. (See Geoffrey Bromiley's Historical Theology: An Introduction for an insightful analysis of the Ignatian and Cyprianic idea that the church is where the bishop is.) When church is where the state says it is, bishop and magistrate join in unholy collaboration to persecute - even kill - people who disagree. Ask the Montanists, Donatists and Anabaptists. When church is where right doctrine is preached, unity in Christ is replaced with unity in a creed. When church is where signs and wonders occur, charlatans are licensed to mislead and exploit the undiscerning and gullible.

Similarly, when church is defined as a place and/or an organization with a budget, by-laws, paid clergy and a mortgage, our very definition of "church" is a barrier to starting churches. So defined, new church start-ups are rare because the task appears expensive and daunting.

First-century Christians knew no such barriers to church planting. Elders were appointed after the establishment of new churches. Titus 1:5. The first "deacons" were chosen after the Jerusalem church was already thriving. (See Acts 6. Note: Christians disagree on whether these men were "deacons" in the official sense, but whether they were or not, the principle that organization follows community remains.) It is a well-documented fact of church history that many "major doctrines" were not codified until centuries after the proliferation of churches. The emphasis was on community first, organization later. The modern church has reversed the order to the detriment of both church planting and quality of life in the church.

If we continue to define church as a place / organization with a building, a budget, paid clergy and by-laws, we place the organizational cart ahead of the relational horse. Church planting will indeed remain rare. If, however, we define church as where community and shared commitment to Christ exists, we can start new churches anywhere, at anytime, with or without budgets, preachers and buildings!

Barrier #3 The High Cost of a Low View of Non-Clergy

In the pioneering days of this country, untrained, uneducated Methodist and Baptist "lay ministers" were evangelizing the frontier and planting new churches while the Episcopalians and Presbyterians were still building seminaries to train clergy. That early continental penetration explains Baptist and Methodist numerical dominance centuries later. There's a lesson here.

I said in the introduction that the need for new churches is too urgent for church planting to remain the province of a few highly-trained professionals. What I didn't say is that empowering so-called "lay people" to start new churches is only logical if we truly believe in "the priesthood of all believers" as taught in the Bible. I Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6. It is orthodoxy elevated to orthopraxy, right doctrine translated into right practice.

The 16th century reformer, Martin Luther, believed in the "rule of faith" and the "perspicuity of Scripture". This is the idea that the major truths of Scripture are sufficiently clear to the believer who is illuminated by the Spirit such that even a simple, uneducated peasant or farmer can teach and preach with greater power and understanding than unregenerate theologians. "Evangelicals" have long given lip-service to these ideals, but it is only when we begin encouraging so-called "lay people" to start and lead churches that we can transcend the hypocrisy and priestcraft which have long hindered the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Am I advocating theological naiveté or attacking scholarship and learning? Not at all. But think about this: when the professional theologians study, teach and write theology, whose words and ideas do they analyze? Jesus. John. James. Jude. Peter. Paul. Not a Th.D. or D.Min. among them, but they changed the world.

Barrier #4 Unilateral Comity With Hell

Do not hinder him, for he who is not against you is for you. Jesus, Luke 9:50.

Perhaps not consciously, denominations have long defined church in much the same way marketers define franchise and, in doing so, have impeded the spread of the gospel and the establishment of new churches. This is called comity. A comity agreement is much like the geographical protections afforded to owners of McDonalds franchises. Under the terms of this agreement, the person or company buying the franchise is also buying exclusive rights to sell McDonalds products and trade on the McDonalds name in a specified geographical market area. The franchisor - McDonalds - agrees to restrict the sale of McDonalds hamburgers and the use of the McDonalds name within the protected area. This is why you don't see competing McDonalds restaurants across the street from each other. It's why you don't see two National League baseball franchises in the same city. It's also why we don't have enough churches to reach the masses. In the church world, comity is a sort of "gentlemen's agreement" to "compete" with other churches for the same population of people. Formal comity agreements once existed between denominations. I can still remember how angry it made some American Baptist churches in West Virginia when the Southern Baptists pushed northward into "their" state. American Baptists didn't rejoice that more gospel "hamburgers" would be available; they wanted the exclusive franchise on selling gospel hamburgers in West Virginia.

The comity/franchise idea today expresses itself every time a pastor says that instead of starting new churches we should work to build up the churches we already have. To ask for this kind of comity or geographically- exclusive franchise is to, in effect, strike a unilateral comity agreement with Hell. Satan can "plant" all the outposts and centers of rebellion he pleases while we politely respect each other's territorial claims. Satan understands who the "competition" is. It's us. We, on the other hand, limit the number of churches because we think the "competition" is other Christians, other churches, other denominations. Our polite reticence to plant churches where churches already exist is tantamount to unilateral comity with Hell. We agree not to compete with each other and, thereby, agree not to compete with Satan. A denominational church planter recently told me that his church planting efforts are impeded because his denomination is reluctant to start new churches where local pastors don't welcome "new competition".

When we plant new churches we create more staging sites for the spread of the gospel. We create more doors of entry to the kingdom. Each time we reach a new person for Christ - someone that another church failed to reach - we gain an inroad to that person's social network and family. McDonalds can't sell enough franchises to put hamburgers into the mouths of everybody. That's why there's room for Wendy's and Burger King. Similarly, there's no danger that we'll plant too many churches. The danger is that we won't plant enough.

Part two : What Kind of New Churches Should We Plant?

The basic trouble (with the church) is that the proposed cure has such a striking similarity to the disease. Elton Trueblood in Company of the Committed.

Beware the Hungry Man Who Offers You A Meal

I used to be very hard on the 80% of our churches which are numerically declining or plateaued. I saw them as fat, lazy and sleepy - like I become after eating too much Thanksgiving dinner. I now believe the opposite is true. They are not, as I first thought, sated gluttons, groggy from gorging on sweet communion with the saints. They are starving to death. They cannot hear the cries of the spiritually hungry for the growl in their own spiritual bellies. If they had a theme song it would be Peggy Lee's rendition of Leiber and Stoller's "Is That All There Is?" Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening they go to the "services" of their churches, sit passively in rows and wonder if they are alone in their disappointment with the level of "fellowship" in their church. They are prompted to sing "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God", they hear people addressing each other as "sister" and "brother" but wonder why their "family" never calls on the phone or drops by for a visit. They wonder why the only "brother" who inquires when they're sick is the one paid to do it. They wonder how marriages disintegrate without anybody in the "family of God" noticing a problem. They wonder if anybody would notice their own absence, if anyone would care.

I began to understand how hungry churchgoers are for the fellowship and community they read about in their Bibles when my wife, Carol, took a lonely, grieving widow to an empty Sunday School room for prayer and consolation during a Wednesday night prayer meeting. Thereafter, the woman weeped each time she saw Carol, explaining that, while she had been a faithful "everytime-the-doors-are-open" member of this church for decades, Carol was the first person who ever listened to her and prayed with her. Christians like this poor woman can't recommend the Christian life to their friends for the same reason I don't tell my friends about a Viet Namese restaurant where my wife and I once spent over $20 for dinner but left the restaurant so hungry we stopped at Taco Bell on the way home.

Someone has quipped that evangelism, reduced to its essence, is one penniless hobo telling another where he can get a meal. In one of Christ's parables, He reminds us that this "food" is not a private, brown bag lunch, but a banquet with servers and numerous guests (Luke 14:16-23). The meal, then, is more than message.

Make Them An Offer They Can't Refuse

Any business which has lost as many customers as the church has would have tried new ways long ago - but the church tends to resent all that is new. William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 68.

For a long time, churches have been making people an offer they find easy to refuse. For the church-illiterate, "church" is a menu in a foreign language. It's an "opportunity" to "worship" a God they don't love, in a place where they don't feel comfortable, with people they don't know, in clothes they don't normally wear on Sunday morning, at an hour when they'd rather be sleeping or watching the Sunday morning TV political shows. Adding embarrassment to inconvenience, we ask them to turn to passages they can't find in a book they don't believe. We ask them to sing songs they neither know or like. If you've ever been the only unchurched "heathen" kid on the block, can you remember how out of place and how different you felt when all the church-literate kids knew what was coming next and you didn't know whether to sit, stand or bow? Oh, yes, and when the offering plate is passed, our church-illiterate guests feel a subtle pressure to pay for the ordeal. Little wonder people are not waiting in line to visit our churches. We're making them an offer they can easily refuse. So-called "seeker-sensitive" services - like the ones offered by Saddleback Community Church and Willow Creek Community Church - are an improvement over the annoying services most of our churches are offering, but they are not a permanent solution to the problem of "getting people to church".

FAREWELL TO EVENT-BASED CHURCH. What we are witnessing - and good riddance - is the end of event-based church services. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part churches are finding that no amount of publicity, no amount of entertainment, no amount of big-name celebrities will do much more than bring out the already-churched or church-literate. In the future, we will not attract those who are neutral or negatively-disposed toward God and church no matter how much we spend on entertainment and hype. When that happens we will have to do what we should have been doing for the past 2000 years: we'll have to take "church" to the "marketplace" of commerce and ideas.

This scares many Christian leaders to death, but it shouldn't. As society breaks down, as lawlessness increases, as technological and economic innovations (ATMs, computers, the Internet, home-based offices) increasingly insulate people from people, meaningful human contact will become more powerful. Friendship will become the "church growth strategy" of the future - the offer nobody can refuse. We must plant churches which start friendships in the marketplace and redefine friendship in the sweet community of the church family. We've never taught this. Our established churches can't teach it because they haven't learned it. For the sake of Christ, future churches must.

Acts 20:20 Vision

I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house. Paul, to the Ephesian elders, Acts 20:20.

While the Bible stops short of delineating a strategy to edify the saints and reach the lost it does, nevertheless, clearly reveal one. It's implementation is documented in the book of Acts, but the Western mind, fond as it is, of declarative statements and creedal formulations, has largely failed to see this strategy because it is reported and modeled, not codified. Some modern strategists - and I applaud them for seeking - have discerned part of the apostolic strategy. Bill Beckham, in his The Second Reformation, got it partly right when he discerned that the church God designed flies on two "wings" - a large group meeting and a small group meeting. (Bill Beckham, The Second Reformation, Touch Publications, page 25-31.) So far, so good, but then Beckham says the large group meeting is a "celebration" and a Sunday "worship" service. This is where Beckham goes wrong - along with most of today's churches. While Beckham correctly identifies the purpose of the small group "wing" as "community" and "primary care" for members, he has misrepresented the obvious use of the large group meeting: evangelism and apologetic defense of the gospel in a setting where the presence of lost people was virtually assured. ("Apologetics" is the persuasive, well-reasoned argument for the truths of the Christian faith, especially the deity of Christ and His resurrection as an historical facts.) While it goes without saying that Christians are in a worshipful state of heart when meeting together to proclaim the gospel and defend the faith, worship was a by-product, not the objective of the large group meetings.

Similarly, my friend Steve Atkerson, gets it partly right when he defines New Testament worship as the "life of obedience" described in Romans 12:1 and points out that the New Testament "never" presents worship as the objective of a church meeting. (Steve Atkerson, The Practice of the Early Church, NT Restoration Newsletter, page 7.) He errs, however, when he says evangelism, likewise, is never an objective of the church meeting. This is demonstrably false. In Acts 2:6, 2:46, 3:11-26, 5:12-16, 17:19-34 and others, the church deliberately gathered in such public places as synagogues, temple courts and the Areopagus - places where lost people were sure to see and hear their evangelistic/ apologetic message. Note the content of the messages preached in these large, public meetings. Note that unconverted sinners were present. Contrast this logical strategy of taking the gospel where the lost folks are with our pathetic practice of preaching "salvation" messages to rooms full of churched people, in church buildings, at Sunday "worship" services. The New Testament strategy - to preach the gospel where there are lost folks - is clearly better.

David Finnell gets it exactly backwards when he says the "celebration" (the Touch Ministries term for a large group church gathering) is for "believers, not unbelievers". (David Finnell, Life In His Body, Touch Publications, page 25.) If the large group meetings we see in the New Testament were not for unbelievers, why are they conducted in public places (frequently open-air) and why is the preaching obviously aimed at the unconverted?

When Christians wanted to restrict their meetings to believers only, they did so in private houses. In these private, "house to house" meetings they prayed, broke bread, confessed sin to one another, prophesied, and did many other things - always for the edification of the body. I Corinthians 14: 26,31; Hebrews 10:24-25.

The new, different churches we must plant will return to the clear New Testament pattern: small group (house to house) meetings in which the saints can be edified coupled with large group (public) meetings at which unbelievers are present and can be confronted with the claims of Christ. The New Testament knows nothing of churches which meet exclusively in large groups or which use those large group meetings to preach to the already-converted or to sing repetitious "praise choruses" at the prompting of "worship teams".

Why Cell Churches Are Not The Answer

Unfortunately, many churches these days are crippled by insecure pastors who want to be the hub around which the whole church revolves... Consequently, churches end up with a lot of gifted people sitting in the pews each Sunday with their hands folded dutifully in their laps. Bill Hybels, Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church (L. & B. Hybels, Rediscovering Church, Zondervan, p. 154.)

While some of the world's largest churches are cell churches (e.g.,Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul and New Hope Community Church in Portland), I do not believe that cell churches, for the most part, have delivered on their promise to free the flaccid "laity" from priestcraft, clergy-dominance, building-dependence and organizational rather than relational order. One need only look at the contrived, convoluted and extra-Scriptural "organization chart" of a typical cell church to see that keeping the cell members and "leaders" tethered and subordinate to the senior pastor is the chief reason for promoting subunits called cells rather than autonomous communities recognized as full-fledged churches.

Calling it "the ideal model", Ralph Neighbour, who is making an industry out of cell church promotion, sets forth a 7-layer stratification of the local church which makes the organizational structure of the Roman Catholic Church appear flat and makes virtual popes out of pastors who once railed against "papists" and heirarchical church polities. (Ralph Neighbour, Where Do We Go From Here? Touch Publications, page 76.) Cell church polity has proven that pastors -; even Baptist pastors - don't object to papism in principle as long as somebody else isn't pope.

CONGREGATION AS DOWNLINE. Neighbour's "ideal" cell church is structured suspiciously like Amway, Excel, and other "multi-level" or "network" marketing companies in which the object is to get as many people "under" you as possible (that's your "downline"). In a multi-level marketing organization the "up-line" is the guy above you. He benefits from any sales made by you and others in his "downline". What multi-level marketing does for the "up-line" (the guy above you), cell church structure does for the senior pastor. By arranging "district leaders", "zone pastors", "district pastors", "zone servants", and "shepherds" underneath himself, the senior pastor can orchestrate, control and monitor every cell of the church as if he were omnipresent. "Confidences" are heard and discussed at every layer of "leadership".

CELL GROUP LEADERS AS "PASTOR-EXTENDERS". "Physician extenders" - a growing part of the health care industry - now have an ecclesiastical counterpart. The "extenders"  - nurse practitioners and physician assistants - can be hired at half the cost of a "real" doctor, but can perform most of the diagnostic and even prescribing functions of a more expensive "real" doctor but only when working under the supervision of a "real doctor". In cell church structure, the titular "leaders" exist to extend the real doctor, so to speak. Instead of "equipping" the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12), pastors use them to achieve ubiquity. The new, different churches of tomorrow will free the saints to find their own ministries, not tether them to another's. Spies will report on Jericho and on Canaan, not on Israel.

Part Three : How To Plant New, Different Churches

To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables. (NASB) Jesus, Mark 4:11.

Find Out Who Can Read The Blueprints

Many would-be church planters never get past this question: "Where do I find the Christians who will help me as God's coworkers in this new and different church?" Let's begin with who not to invite to your first meeting.

DON'T INVITE FOLKS WHO ARE HAPPY AS CLAMS DOWN AT "FIRST CHURCH". Don't invite anybody who sees no contradiction between the church Jesus designed and the churches we have constructed. Jesus put it this way, He said that it's not sensible to put new wine into old wineskins because the old, inflexible wineskins cannot accomodate the still-fermenting new wine. Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37-39. The old wineskins burst, the new wine spills, both are lost. Consider Jesus' example: Jesus came with "new wine" and He didn't try to pour it into the old wineskins of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Scribes, The Chief

Priests, or the Sadducees. He didn't even go to the change-happy Zealots or to the spiritually-inclined Essenes, although several of the disciples may have been former Zealots. (See Leonard Verduin's The Anatomy of a Hybrid, Christian Hymnary Publishers, pp. 63-66.)

Jesus, the Master Builder, found 12 guys who were not heavily invested in keeping things the way they were and with these uneducated and unremarkable men, He changed the world. He "started from scratch". Do the same. Leave the folks alone down at First Church. Believe me (I've made this mistake), even if you recruit them, you'll be sorry.

TO IDENTIFY THOSE WHO WILL FORM THE NUCLEUS OF A NEW CHURCH, FOLLOW THESE 3 STEPS:

1. Pray that God will put it all together. All authority in heaven and earth is deposited in Him who will build his Church, despite any barrier. The first time I was used by the Lord in the formation of a church, it wasn't even my idea. God sent the people to me.

2. Find out who can read the blueprints. Start talking to people about the obvious differences between the church Jesus designed and the church we have erected and see who understands what you're talking about. Those who ask questions about budgets, choir robes, building funds and the like can't even hold the blueprints right side-up, much less read them. On the other hand, there may be somebody in your life who has already been prepared by God to hear what you will say. Go ahead. Show the blueprints. See who can read them.

3. Schedule a meeting. Don't use this meeting to write by-laws, elect officers and formulate a creed. That's getting the organizational cart ahead of the relational horse. Just be the church together as brothers, sisters, and servants of all. "The river (life) makes its own riverbed (structure)." Pray for a deluge.

Conflict Resolution 101

...in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be ...irreconcilable... Paul, 2 Timothy 3:3.

Bible-believing, evangelical churches have done a pretty fair job preaching reconciliation with God but not so well preaching reconciliation with others. The reconciliation-optional "just me and Jesus" attitude of the modern church introduces a concept of the church which would have been utterly foreign and downright unChristian to the early church (For a helpful discussion of the modern versus the apostolic view of community see Kevin Giles' What On Earth Is The Church?, IVP, pp. 15-21). Never mind that the Bible specifically instructs Christians not to go to secular courts against other Christians (I Corinthians 6:1-11), stories of litigation between seminaries and their denominations or churches and their denominations routinely embarrass us in daily newspapers and monthly magazines. In every community there are churches started, not as the good fruit of a zeal and a vision for evangelism, but as the evil fruit of an ugly, unnecessary "church split". Pastors who sense that they might get voted out take part of the flock down the street to a storefront and "start a new work", not because their hearts burn with the fires of church planting, but because they need a job. With as much schism and relational tension as exists in churches, one would think that the Bible has left us without a clue about how to handle conflict. Briefcase-carrying "consultants" offering "conflict resolution services" are finding clients and a burgeoning new industry. The new, different churches of tomorrow must model lives of reconciliation toward God and man. The Bible has not left us clueless about how to do it. Here are but a few of its principles:

Do not approach God or try to perform religious acts until you are reconciled with your brother. Matthew 5:23-24.

Be quick to reconcile (Matthew 5:25) even if it means acquiescing to a wrong done to you (I Corinthians 6:7).

When wronged by a brother, (a) go first to that brother privately to seek some form of remedy. (b) If that fails, involve a small number of other Christians. (c) If that, too, fails let the whole church decide the matter. (d) Be prepared to separate from the so-called brother who will neither reconcile nor abide by the decision of the entire church. Matt. 18:15-17. (Let us not overlook that in this disciplinary process, the "church officers" deemed necessary for a "true church" are conspicuously absent. Consider also the entire context of the Corinthian correspondence, particularly 1 Corinthians 6:4 - ed's note.)

Forgive , forgive, forgive and keep forgiving. Matt. 18:21-35.

It is more important to be reconciled than to be vindicated or to receive "justice" (I Corinthians 6:7, Matthew 5:39-41, Luke 6:29-30). The prudent among us will overlook offenses, making reconciliation unnecessary. Prov. 19:11. The mature Christian will be last to take offense, first to forgive, first to initiate reconciliation.

Reconciliation 102

Proclaim the gospel everywhere you go. When necessary, use words. St. Francis of Assisi.

It is hard to believe what we can't see. When we preach a Christ who died to initiate reconciliation with men, we sound like reconciliation, but do we look like reconciliation? In other words, does our message fail to grip men's hearts and change their lives because, as Marshall McLuhan said in the 60s, "The Medium Is The Message"? If preaching isn't enough, if the message must be caught as well as taught, seen as well as heard, modeled as well as preached, what does reconciliation look like?

WHAT RECONCILIATION LOOKS LIKE. Reconciliation looks like Elizabeth Eliot who went as a missionary to the Auca Indians who had murdered her husband, Jim.

Reconciliation looks like my friend, Tom, who was slapped with a frivolous lawsuit by a man in his church and responded by sending his accuser a blank check and offering to settle the issue Biblically, in church, according to the provisions of Matthew 18.

Reconciliation looks like 16th century Dutch Anabaptist Dirk Willems, who sacrificed his chance of prison escape by stopping to save his drowning pursuer from the icy waters of "the Hondegat". (John S. Oyer and Robert S. Kreider, Mirror of the Martyrs, Good Books, pp. 36-37.)

Reconciliation looks like a man who, when defrauded of $3,000 in a business deal with a so-called "brother", forgave the debt explaining that, he, too, had been forgiven a debt (the debt of sin) and that he must forgive the debts of others. Matthew 18:23-35.

THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE. Political pundits agree that Kennedy's 1960 upset victory over the better-qualified, better-known Nixon was a case of the more attractive medium beating the obscured message. By electing the young, handsome, telegenic Kennedy, we automatically rejected the twitchy, scowling, sweaty Nixon whose whole platform and message was obscured by his obvious discomfort in front of the cameras and his intractable "5 o'clock shadow." The defeat of Nixon and his message is not unlike the defeat our own message suffers when our message of reconciliation is obscured and made unattractive by behavior incongruent with reconciliation.

The new, different churches we must plant will follow the Lord in costly, self-sacrificial demonstrations of reconciliation, showing as well as telling about a Christ who came to initiate

reconciliation with men. For too long our churches have said to a watching world, "Don't do as I do, do as I say." We must plant churches which invite the world to "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."

So, do not stand gazing up into the sky. You'll hear that heaven came down in Toronto or at some "revival meeting" or in some new movement. God is wherever "two or three" gather in His name. A few years ago a pop song said "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." We can't be with the One we love, but He has commanded us to love the one He left us with, His body the church. There's a real sense in which, to look into the faces of your house church is to look into the face of Jesus. Learn to love that face.

Joe Higginbotham is a nationally acclaimed freelance writer. He is just the kind of person we love to encounter along life's road - he loves God and he loves people. He's the proverbial mountain man who has never met a stranger. He brings not years - but decades of experience and wisdom to the table.

Olufunke added to the Timeline

"Why is the church today so weak?" 

"What we desperately need is for every believer to get in touch with Jesus themselves. We need a profound repentance from sins which will restore our relationship with God. In this way we can learn to know Him and follow Him"

Olufunke added to the Timeline

Thanks for accepting me. Still going through, familiarization.


Jayne added a Discussion

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at his feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that thou art mine.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to thee,
Fill me with thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me.
(Refrain)

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to his name!

"I Surrender All" was written by American art teacher and musician Judson W. Van DeVenter (1855–1939), who subsequently became a music minister and evangelist. It was put to music by Winfield S. Weeden (1847–1908), and published in 1896.

George added a Discussion

Believers have been “coming out” of the “institutional church” for centuries only to become part of the same “institutional church” in no time. Liberals blame “society” for all their problems and conservatives do the same thing by blaming the church as an “institution”. The problem with the “institutional church” is that it is made of people who have a bent toward sinning and the church ditched the idea of excommunication long ago. And when people break away from the institutional church to form a new fellowship, excommunication is still abhorrent and in no time this new fellowship is displaying the same problems as the group they broke off from. The only difference is that there is one more new division and a lot of hurt feelings on both sides. And additionally, each new emerging group develops its own “distinctive” doctrines further splintering the body of Christ and further fueling the hunger for overlooking doctrinal divergence in order to achieve unity, a false unity based on convenience and not on truly seeking the purity of truth and the centrality of the Gospel of Christ. 

Leaving the corrupted church and starting a new one is the easy way out and has no basis in scripture. The Book of Acts records numerous disputes in the church, doctrinal and otherwise, and there was never an appeal from the apostles to “come out” and create a new church. With all the corruption in the Corinthian church, where is the appeal from Paul to leave and start a new church? This whole concept is part of a post reformational trend whereby the answer to all problems is not to fight for the gospel recognizing that we battle against principalities and powers, but rather to stomp off and attempt to start our own little group. 

For centuries the church was one church. It wasn’t perfect, but there was a unity to it. Now, it is splintered into a gazzilion pieces, all in search of perfection, and it is still just as far from perfect, if not more so. What have we achieved? I would say very little, and the price has been steep. Where are the modern day Paul’s who can remain in communion with a screwed up church, but not sacrifice their own integrity in the process? There is simply no way that I would participate in starting yet another church. There are too many existing congregations around that have far fewer problems than the Corinthian church had and I will seek one of them out and try to allow my very presence to make it a better place in every way possible. That is why God put us here, to be redemptive and corrective, not to be divisive and judgmental.

librarian added an Article

In his First Apology (155 A.D.), the second-century Christian philosopher and apologist Justin Martyr wrote a fascinating account of Christian worship and beliefs. Originally addressed to the Roman emperor in defense of Christianity, Justin’s description gives us a window into what early Christians actually did when they gathered together. Here is an excerpt from this classic book. This is for informational purposes only - an interesting look through the window.

“How we dedicated ourselves to God when we were made new through Christ I will explain, since it might seem to be unfair if I left this out from my exposition. Those who are persuaded and believe that the things we teach and say are true, and promise that they can live accordingly, are instructed to pray and beseech God with fasting for the remission of their past sins, while we pray and fast along with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn;for they are then washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ said, “Unless you are born again you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”

Now it is clear to all that those who have once come into being cannot enter the wombs of those who bore them. But as I quoted before, it was said through the prophet Isaiah how those who have sinned and repent shall escape from their sins. He said this: “Wash yourselves, be clean, take away wickedness from your souls, learn to do good, give judgment for the orphan and defend the cause of the widow, and come and let us reason together, says the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them as white as wool, and though they be as crimson, I will make them as white as snow.”…

After thus washing the one who has been convinced and signified his assent, [we] lead him to those who are called brethren, where they are assembled. They then earnestly offer common prayers for themselves and the one who has been illuminated and all others every where, that we may be made worthy, having learned the truth, to be found in deed good citizens and keepers of what is commanded, so that we may be saved with eternal salvation.

On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss.

Then bread and a cup of water and mixed wine are brought to the president of the brethren and he, taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things from him. When he has finished the prayers and the thanksgiving, the whole congregation present assents, saying, “Amen.” “Amen” in the Hebrew language means, “So be it.” When the president has given thanks and the whole congregation has assented, those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the absent.

This food we call Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us.

For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Saviour being incarnate by God’s word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus. For the apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, thus handed down what was commanded them: that Jesus, taking bread and having given thanks, said, “Do this for my memorial, this is my body”; and likewise taking the cup and giving thanks he said, “This is my blood”; and gave it to them alone….

After these [services] we constantly remind each other of these things. Those who have more come to the aid of those who lack, and we are constantly together. Over all that we receive we bless the Maker of all things through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

And on the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president in a discourse urges and invites [us] to the imitation of these noble things. Then we all stand up together and offer prayers. And, as said before, when we have finished the prayer, bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president similarly sends up prayers and thanksgivings to the best of his ability, and the congregation assents, saying the Amen; the distribution, and reception of the consecrated [elements] by each one, takes place and they are sent to the absent by the deacons.

Those who prosper, and who so wish, contribute, each one as much as he chooses to. What is collected is deposited with the president, and he takes care of orphans and widows, and those who are in want on account of sickness or any other cause, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers who are sojourners among [us], and, briefly, he is the protector of all those in need.

We all hold this common gathering on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturday, and on the day after Saturday, he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them these things which I have passed on to you also for your serious consideration”

librarian added an Article

And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch - Acts 11:26

Which are we? Catholic? Protestant? Messianic? None of the Above? How about this one: Simply Christians.

In a world so filled with religious traditions and denominational structures, the concept of being simply Christians is difficult to communicate, yet a careful reader of the New Testament will realize that Jesus did not die so that His followers could be divided into sects and parties. Jesus died that He might reconcile all men in one body to God through the cross (Eph. 2:16).

To belong ONLY to Christ, to have been baptized into the one body of which Jesus Christ is the Savior, is something altogether different from belonging to just any one of the other 300 religious bodies in this country alone (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23). The Bible teaches there is to be “one body” and “one faith,” just as there is “one God, one Lord, one baptism, and one hope” (Eph. 4:4-6).

This “one body” is the church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22-23) which Jesus built, not men (Heb. 8:1-2). 

This spiritual house is made up of living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) who are citizens of God’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), saints (set apart ones) of the Most High God (Co. 1:2), having been born again of water and the spirit into God’s family (John 3:5; Eph. 2:19).

The church of Jesus Christ is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), not on the sand of denominational creeds and traditions.

Jesus Christ, as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), is the only head (Eph. 1:22) and all authority in heaven and in earth rests in Him. This leaves no room for Popes, councils, synods, conventions or so-called “latter-day prophets.”

Just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle: “See that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mount”(Heb. 8:5), Jesus built the church according to the divine pattern God gave Him.

A house built by Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Joseph Smith, Ellen White, Mary Baker Eddy, the Popes of Rome, the Watchtower Society, or any other is not recognized by the Lord. “Except God build the house, they labor in vain that build it”(Ps. 127:1).

Jesus said, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13).

Jesus warned the leaders of the various sects and parties of His day, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the traditions of men. You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. You invalidate the Word of God by your tradition which you have handed down, and you do many things such as that” (Mark 7: 8,9,13).
Jesus quoted the Prophet Isaiah to show the end result of such DENOMINATIONAL LOYALTY, “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far away from me, BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”(Mark 7:6-7).

The teaching of Jesus on the subject of loyalty to denominational traditions offended the members of these sects (Matt. 15:12). How will you react to the teaching of Jesus? Or does a plea to be neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish offend you? If this plea offends you, why? Before you reject this plea that all be simply Christians, please investigate to see if it is scriptural.

Neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jew

Being a Jew is different from being a Christian

It is possible, of course, to be of Jewish blood and to be a Christian, but not possible at the same time to practice the Jewish religion. While there are many good, moral, upright people of the Jewish faith who claim allegiance to the God of Heaven, they have rejected Jesus and are without the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John14:6), and “For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

In reality, the Jews do not know God, because they do not know the Son (John 8:19; 14:7). If God were their Father, they would love Jesus (John 8:42). I know we speak very bluntly and plainly, but we only speak the words of our Savior, the Hope of Israel and the world.

Being a Catholic is different from being a Christian

A loyal citizen of the kingdom of God will give allegiance to only one king, one head, one source of authority. A Christian recognizes that Christ is the only head of the church and that He rules from the right hand of God and not from Rome.

A Christian will heed the warning that whoever “exalteth himself” on earth to such authority works iniquity (2 Thess. 2:1-12). The work of Christ and His apostles does not mention such things and doctrines as Clergy, Pope Pontiff, Vicar, Cardinal, Archbishop, Abbott, Laity, Parish, Diocese, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Papa Infallibility, Bull, Litany, Absolution, Confessional, Limbo, Purgatory, indulgence, Penance, Transubstantiation, Mass, Sprinkling, Infant Baptism, God-Mother and Father, Pater Noster, Catechism, Sacrament, Ave Maria, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Relics, Epiphany, Praying for the Dead, Mortal Sin, Latria, Celibate, Holy Water, Rosary, Sign of the Cross, Mary as Medatrix, etc.

All these doctrines came from some other source than Jesus Christ. Jesus said such traditions make our worship vain (Matt. 15:9).

Being a Protestant is different from being a Christian

Paul made it plain that to be loyal to him or Apollos, or Peter, was not to follow Christ. “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).

Of course, to imitate another man as he imitates Christ is a scriptural principle (1 Cor. 11:1), but to loyally line up with Martin Luther (Lutheran Church), John Calvin (Presbyterian or Reformed Church), John Wesley (Methodist), Joseph Smith (Mormon), Ellen White and William Miller (Adventist), Charles Russell (Watchtower Society or Jehovah’s Witness), or Alexander Campbell (Christian Church) is to show disloyalty to Christ.

It is only when we drop our loyalty to these men that we can “be of the same mind one with another according to Jesus Christ: that with one accord we may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.15: 5-6).

Simply Christians

It goes without saying, that a person could read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, follow everything in it intended for men of this age, and he would never be anything else than SIMPLY A CHRISTIAN. 

It would take something else besides the Bible to make one a Lutheran (Luther’s Catechism or the Augsburg Confession). It would take the Baptist Manual to make a Baptist. It would take the 39 articles to make an Episcopalian or an Anglican. One would have to follow the Methodist Discipline to be a Methodist. You can become a Mormon if you want to, but not by following the Bible and the Bible alone. You don’t become a Jehovah’s Witness without submitting to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

What passage of scripture would one obey to become a member of any of these churches?
What is it that perpetuates these denominational distinctions ~ obeying the scriptures or following the commandments of men?

When people on the day of Pentecost complied with the conditions of grace for their salvation (Acts 2:38-41), “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). To which church did God add them? Was Peter a member of a religious organization that John did not belong to, and was Andrew a member of a denomination that Peter and John were not members of?

Does not this question seem absurd to you? Certainly no one would claim that Peter, John and Andrew were anything other than SIMPLY CHRISTIANS!

They taught and practised the same thing in the name of Jesus Christ. If they were alive today, no denomination could claim them, for the apostles’ teaching made men and women Christians, not Protestants or Catholics. No doubt, if Peter and Paul were alive today, they would be the enemy of Protestant and Catholic denominations, for their doctrine would conflict with the traditions of men. If all believers today listened to the apostles’ teaching as recorded in the New Testament, denominationalism would die a sudden death. Did not Paul show the sinfulness of following men to the Corinthians (1 Cor.1: 10-13)?
Did he not teach the Ephesians that the only wall of separation ever ordained of God to distinguish between men on a religious basis was the Old Testament, which differentiated between Jew and Gentile?
Did not Paul say that Jesus broke down that wall of separation, reconciling all men in one body through the cross (Eph. 2:14-17)?

Is the Bible still true? Is it still God’s will that there is only “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God” (Eph. 4: 4-6)?

Did not Paul condemn factions and heresy as a sin of the flesh that would keep us from the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:20)? (Heresy is defined by Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words as the choosing of an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects.) 

When do heresies, factions, and divisions cease to be sin?

If a heresy or denomination began due to the damnable doctrines of one man 500 years ago, is the heresy made right because it is 500 years old? Is the self-willed opinion of a small group of men 500 years ago made into the salvation of Protestant America because it is 500 years old and practised by millions of people? Do the opinions and dogmas belonging to the “Church Fathers” of the second and third centuries become the law of Jesus Christ because they are over 1500 years old and reverenced by millions of Catholics the world over? Do the fake visions of Joseph Smith in the 1820’s become the revelation of Jesus Christ today because they are believed by the fastest growing sect in the United States ~ the Mormons?

These are questions that every honest Christian must deal with.

The Irony of it all

It is sadly ironic that most members of the various denominations not only contradict the will of Christ in their allegiance to the denomination of their choice, but they contradict the pleas of denominational founders and leaders. Charles Spurgeon, a prominent Baptist preacher, said:

“I look forward, with pleasure, to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish; but let Christ’s name endure forever.” (Spurgeon’s Memorial Library, Vol.1, p.168).

Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church, said:

“I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified by anyone. St. Paul would not let any call themselves after Paul, not Peter, but Christ. How then does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of God. Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with them all, and let us call ourselves only Christians after him from whom our doctrine comes.” (The Life of Luther, Stork, p. 289).

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said:

“Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot; that we all agree to sit down together, as humble, loving disciples at the feet of a common master, to hear His words, to imbibe His Spirit, and to transcribe His life into ours.” (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. IV, p. 216).

We cannot help but wonder what changes would have taken place in religious history had the followers of these men heeded their pleas. The pleas, however, went unheeded. Denominationalism exists and will continue to exist until our Lord roots it up in the last day. But meanwhile, no one has to be a part of the spirit of division and guilty of the sin of heresy.

CAN PEOPLE TODAY BY SIMPLE FAITH IN AND OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST BE SIMPLY CHRISTIANS, WITHOUT BELONGING TO A DENOMINATION?

“A resounding YES! “

To answer otherwise is to admit that the “faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3) is not the same today as it was during the first century.

In the first century, on the basis of what was written and spoken by the apostles (which has been written and preserved for us in the Bible), people were able to obey God, and to do whatever God wanted them to do.

They were being saved; they were complete in Christ, lacking nothing that pertained to life and godliness; they were dying in hope of heaven. This was centuries before the first human creed, centuries before the Catholic Church was present to establish “Divine Tradition or to “interpret” the scriptures, centuries before there was a universal pope, long before the doctrines of celibacy, sprinkling, transubstantiation, purgatory, extreme unction, Mary worship, and confession before a priest. It was 1800 years before the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope.

It was 1400 years before Luther’s revolt against Catholicism, 1400 years before the Church of England (Anglican or Episcopal) or the Presbyterian Church, over 1500 years before John Smyth and the first Baptist church in history, and 600 years before John Wesley and the Methodist Church. It was 1700 years before Joseph Smith and Mormonism, and William Miller and Adventism. It was 1800 years before a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on your door.

Do you realize what this means?

It simply means that all the creeds, the traditions, the “revelations,” and the institutions of men that have cropped up over the past 1900 years to clutter the religious scene and to confuse the minds of the people are at best unnecessary;

… unnecessary to obedience to God, unnecessary to salvation, unnecessary to completeness in Christ, unnecessary to life and godliness, and unnecessary to the hope of heaven.

But it also means that the whole concept of modern denominationalism in not part of the true Christianity originating in the mind of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the new Testament.

God purposed the church of Jesus Christ before He even made the world (Eph. 3: 10-11; 1:3-4). Did He purpose the Lutheran Church or the Episcopal Church from eternity? Did anyone ever become a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon simply by obeying the scriptures? Did the Holy Spirit, who inspired the apostles in the first century, reveal to them the doctrines and names that make the Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Catholics distinct denominations?

Can we be SIMPLY CHRISTIANS? Certainly! 

No one ever became anything else by following the Bible and Jesus. Follow the Word of God as it stands, not after it has been filtered through the creeds and doctrines of men, then let that make of you what it will. It will make of you what it made of others in the book of Acts. Those who continued in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42) were believers, disciples, saints, Christians; it made a group of them the church of God or the church of Christ, and that is all the apostles’ doctrine will ever make of anyone.

      Author unknown

librarian added an Article

Chapter 16 of Sketches of Jewish Social Life by Alfred Edersheim

It was a beautiful saying of Rabbi Jochanan (Jer. Ber. v. 1), that he who prays in his house surrounds and fortifies it, so to speak, with a wall of iron. Nevertheless, it seems immediately contradicted by what follows. For it is explained that this only holds good where a man is alone, but that where there is a community prayer should be offered in the synagogue. We can readily understand how, after the destruction of the Temple, and the cessation of its symbolical worship, the excessive value attached to mere attendance at the synagogue would rapidly grow in public estimation, till it exceeded all bounds of moderation or reason. Thus, such Scriptural sayings as Isaiah 66:20, 55:6 and Psalm 82:1 were applied to it. The Babylon Talmud goes even farther. There we are told (Ber. 6 a), that the prayer which a man addresses to God has only its proper effect if offered in the synagogue; that if an individual, accustomed to frequent every day the synagogue, misses it for once, God will demand an account of him; that if the Eternal finds fewer than ten persons there gathered, His anger is kindled, as it is written in Isaiah 50:2 (Ber. 6 b); that if a person has a synagogue in his own town, and does not enter it for prayer, he is to be called an evil neighbour, and provokes exile alike upon himself and his children, as it is written in Jeremiah 12:4; while, on the other hand, the practice of early resorting to the synagogue would account for the longevity of people (Ber. 8 a). Putting aside these extravagances, there cannot, however, be doubt that, long before the Talmudical period, the institution of synagogues had spread, not only among the Palestinian, but among the Jews of the dispersion, and that it was felt a growing necessity, alike from internal and external causes.

Readers of the New Testament know, that at the time of our Lord synagogues were dotted all over the land; that in them "from of old" Moses had been read (Acts 15:21); that they were under the rule of certain authorities, who also exercised discipline; that the services were definitely regulated, although considerable liberty obtained, and that part of them consisted in reading the prophets, which was generally followed by an "exhortation" (Acts 13:15) or an address (Luke 4:17). The word "synagogue" is, of course, of Greek derivation, and means "gathering together" - for religious purposes. The corresponding Rabbinical terms, "chenisah," "cheneseth," etc., "zibbur," "vaad," and "kahal," may be generally characterised as equivalents. But it is interesting to notice, that both the Old Testament and the Rabbis have shades of distinction, well known in modern theological discussions. To begin with the former. Two terms are used for Israel as a congregation: "edah" and "kahal"; of which the former seems to refer to Israel chiefly in their outward organisation as a congregation - what moderns would call the visible Church - while "kahal" rather indicates their inner or spiritual connection. Even the LXX seem to have seen this distinction. The word "edah" occurs one hundred and thirty times, and is always rendered in the LXX by "synagogue," never by "ecclesia" (church); while "kahal" is translated in seventy places by "ecclesia," and only in thirty-seven by "synagogue." Similarly, the Mishnah employs the term "kahal" only to denote Israel as a whole; while the term "zibbur," for example, is used alike for churches and for the Church - that is, for individual congregations, and for Israel as a whole.

The origin of the synagogue is lost in the obscurity of tradition. Of course, like so many other institutions, it is traced by the Rabbis to the patriarchs. Thus, both the Targum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum represent Jacob as an attendant in the synagogue, and Rebekah as resorting thither for advice when feeling within her the unnatural contest of her two sons. There can be no occasion for seriously discussing such statements. For when in 2 Kings 22:8 we read that "the book of the law" was discovered by Shaphan the scribe in "the house of the Lord," this implies that during the reign of King Josiah there could have been no synagogues in the land, since it was their main object to secure the weekly reading, and of course the preservation, of the books of Moses (Acts 15:21). Our Authorised Version, indeed, renders Psalm 74:8, "They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land." But there is good authority for questioning this translation; and, even if admitted, it would not settle the question of the exact time when synagogues originated. 

On the other hand, there is not a hint of synagogue-worship either in the law or the prophets; and this of itself would be decisive, considering the importance of the subject. Besides, it may be said that there was no room for such meetings under the Old Testament dispensation. There the whole worship was typical - the sacrificial services alike constituting the manner in which Israel approached unto God, and being the way by which He communicated blessings to His people. Gatherings for prayer and for fellowship with the Father belong, so far as the Church as a whole is concerned, to the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. It is quite in accordance with this general principle, that when men filled with the Spirit of God were raised up from time to time, those who longed for deeper knowledge and closer converse with the Lord should have gathered around them on Sabbaths and new moons, as the pious Shunammite resorted to Elisha (2 Kings 4:23), and as others were no doubt wont to do, if within reach of "prophets" or their disciples. But quite a different state of matter ensued during the Babylonish captivity. Deprived of the Temple services, some kind of religious meetings would become an absolute necessity, if the people were not to lapse into practical heathenism - a danger, indeed, which, despite the admonitions of the prophets, and the prospect of deliverance held out, was not quite avoided. 

For the preservation, also, of the national bond which connected Israel, as well as for their continued religious existence, the institution of synagogues seemed alike needful and desirable. In point of fact, the attentive reader of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah will discover in the period after the return from Babylon the beginnings of the synagogue. Only quite rudimentary as yet, and chiefly for the purposes of instructing those who had come back ignorant and semi-heathenish - still, they formed a starting-point. Then came the time of terrible Syrian oppression and persecutions, and of the Maccabean rising. We can understand, how under such circumstances the institution of the synagogue would develop, and gradually assume the proportions and the meaning which it afterwards attained. For it must be borne in mind, that, in proportion as the spiritual import of the Temple services was lost to view, and Judaism became a matter of outward ordinances, nice distinctions, and logical discussion, the synagogue would grow in importance. And so it came to pass, that at the time of Christ there was not a foreign settlement of Jews without one or more synagogues - that of Alexandria, of which both the Talmuds speak in such exaggerated language, being specially gorgeous - while throughout Palestine they were thickly planted. It is to these latter only that we can for the present direct attention.

Not a town, nor a village, if it numbered only ten men, who could or would wholly give themselves to divine things, * but had one or more synagogues.

* The so-called "Batlanim." The exact meaning of the term has given rise to much learned discussion.

If it be asked, why the number ten was thus fixed upon as the smallest that could form a congregation, the reply is that, according to Numbers 14:27, the "evil congregation" consisted of the spies who had brought a bad report, and whose number was ten - after deducting, of course, Joshua and Caleb. Larger cities had several, some of them many, synagogues. From Acts 6:9 we know that such was the case in Jerusalem, tradition having also left us an account of the synagogue of "the Alexandrians," to which class of Jews Stephen may have belonged by birth or education, on which ground also he would chiefly address himself to them. The Rabbis have it that, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, that city had not fewer than 480, or at least 460, synagogues. Unless the number 480 was fixed upon simply as the multiple of symbolical numbers (4 x 10 x 12), or with a kindred mystical purpose in view, it would, of course, be a gross exaggeration. But, as a stranger entered a town or village, it could never be difficult to find out the synagogue. If it had not, like our churches, its spire, pointing men, as it were, heavenward, the highest ground in the place was at least selected for it, to symbolise that its engagements overtopped all things else, and in remembrance of the prophetic saying, that the Lord's house should "be established in the top of the mountains," and "exalted above the hills" (Isa 2:2). If such a situation could not be secured, it was sought to place it "in the corners of streets," or at the entrance to the chief squares, according to what was regarded as a significant direction in Proverbs 1:21. Possibly our Lord may have had this also in view when He spoke of those who loved "to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets" (Matt 6:5), it being a very common practice at the time to offer prayer on entering a synagogue. But if no prominent site could be obtained, a pole should at least be attached to the roof, to reach up beyond the highest house. A city whose synagogue was lower than the other dwellings was regarded as in danger of destruction.

Of the architecture of ordinary synagogues, not only the oldest still in existence, but the recent excavations in Palestine, enable us to form a correct idea. Internally they were simply rectangular or round buildings, with a single or double colonnade, and more or less adorned by carvings. Externally they had generally some sacred symbol carved on the lintels - commonly the seven-branched candlestick, or perhaps the pot of manna. .

* "Of the tabernacle in which the ark rested at Shiloh, from the time of Joshua to that of Samuel, no trace, of course, remains. But on the summit of a little knoll we find the remains of what was once a Jewish synagogue, afterwards used as a church, and subsequently as a mosque. On the lintel over the doorway, between two wreaths of flowers, is carved a vessel, shaped like a Roman amphora. It so closely resembles the conventional type of the 'pot of manna,' as found on coins and in the ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, that it doubtless formed part of the original building. It is a not improbable conjecture that the synagogue may have been erected on the sacred spot which for so many generations formed the centre of Jewish worship." - Those Holy Fields.

There is one remarkable instance of the use of the latter emblem, too important to be passed over. In Capernaum, our Lord's "own city" (Matt 9:1), there was but one synagogue - that built at the cost of the pious centurion. For, although our Authorised Version renders the commendation of the Jewish elders, "He loveth our nation, and has built us a synagogue" (Luke 7:5), in the original the article is definite: "he hath built us the synagogue" - just as in a similar manner we infer that Nazareth had only one synagogue (Matt 13:54). The site of the ancient Capernaum had till comparatively recently been unknown. But its identification with the modern Tell Hum is now so satisfactory, that few would care to question it. What is even more interesting, the very ruins of that synagogue which the good centurion built have been brought to light; and, as if to make doubt impossible, its architecture is evidently that of the Herodian period. And here comes in the incidental but complete confirmation of the gospel narrative. We remember how, before, the Lord Jesus had by His word of blessing multiplied the scanty provision, brought, it might be accidentally, by a lad in the company of those five thousand who had thronged to hear Him, so that there was not only sufficient for their wants, but enough for each of the twelve apostles to fill his basket with the fragments of what the Saviour had dispensed. 

That day of miraculous provision had been followed by a night of equally wondrous deliverance. His disciples were crossing the lake, now tossed by one of those sudden storms which so frequently sweep down upon it from the mountains. All at once, in their perplexity, it was the Master Whom they saw, walking on the sea, and nearing the ship. As the light of the moon fell upon that well-known form, and, as He drew nigh, cast His shadow in increasing proportions upon the waters which, obedient, bore His feet, they feared. It was a marvellous vision - too marvellous almost to believe it a reality, and too awful to bear it, if a reality. And so they seem to have hesitated about receiving Him into the ship. But His presence and voice soon reassured them, and "immediately the ship was at the land." That "land" was the seashore of Capernaum. The next morning broke with the usual calm and beauty of spring on the lake. Presently white sails were spreading over its tranquil waters; marking the approach of many from the other side, who, missing "the Prophet," Whom, with the characteristic enthusiasm of the inhabitants of that district, they would fain have made a king, now followed Him across the water. There could be no difficulty in "finding Him" in "His own city," the home of Peter and Andrew (Mark 1:21,29). But no ordinary dwelling would have held such a concourse as now thronged around Him. 

So, we imagine, the multitude made their way towards the synagogue. On the road, we suppose, the question and answers passed, of which we have an account in John 6:25-28. They had now reached the entrance to the synagogue; and the following discourse was pronounced by the Lord in the synagogue itself, as we are expressly told in verse 59: "These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum." But what is so remarkable is, that the very lintel of this synagogue has been found, and that the device upon it bears such close reference to the question which the Jews put to Jesus, that we can almost imagine them pointing up to it, as they entered the synagogue, and said: "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat" (John 6:31). For, in the words of Canon Williams, "The lintel lying among the ruins of the good centurion's synagogue at Capernaum has carved on it the device of the pot of manna. What is further remarkable, this lintel is ornamented besides with a flowing pattern of vine leaves and clusters of grapes, and another emblem of the mystery of which our Lord discoursed so largely in this synagogue..

Before parting from this most interesting subject, we may place beside the Master, as it were, the two representatives of His Church, a Gentile and a Jew, both connected with this synagogue. Of its builder, the good centurion, Canon Williams thus writes: "In what spirit the large-hearted Roman soldier had made his offering, the rich and elaborate carvings of cornices and entablatures, of columns and capitals, and niches, still attest." As for the ruler of that same synagogue, we know that it was Jairus, whose cry of anguish and of faith brought Jesus to his house to speak the life-giving "Talitha cumi" over the one only daughter, just bursting into womanhood, who lay dead in that chamber, while the crowd outside and the hired minstrels made shrill, discordant mourning.

Thus far as to the external appearance of synagogues. Their internal arrangement appears to have been originally upon the plan of the Temple, or, perhaps, even of the Tabernacle. At least, the oldest still standing synagogue, that of the Cyrenian Jews, in the island of Gerbe, is, according to the description of a missionary, Dr. Ewald, tripartite, after the model of the Court, the Holy, and the Most Holy Place. And in all synagogues the body of the building, with the space around, set apart for women, represents the Court of the Women, while the innermost and highest place, with the Ark behind, containing the rolls of the law, represents the sanctuary itself. In turn the synagogue seems to have been adopted as the model for the earliest Christian churches. Hence not only the structure of the "basilica," but the very term "bema," is incorporated in Rabbinical language. This is only what might have been expected, considering that the earliest Christians were Jews by nationality, and that heathenism could offer no type for Christian worship. 

To return. As concerned the worshippers, it was deemed wrong to pray behind a synagogue without turning the face to it; and a story is told (Ber. 6 b) of Elijah appearing in the form of an Arab merchant, and punishing one guilty of this sin. "Thou standest before thy Master as if there were two Powers [or Gods]," said the seeming Arab; and with these words "he drew his sword and killed him." A still more curious idea prevailed, that it was requisite to advance the length of at least "two doors" within a synagogue before settling to prayer, which was justified by a reference to Proverbs 8:34 (Ber. 8 a). The inference is peculiar, but not more so, perhaps, than those of some modern critics, and certainly not more strange than that of the Talmud itself, which, on a preceding page, when discussing the precise duration of the wrath of the Almighty, concludes that Balaam had been the only person who knew it exactly, since it is written of him (Num 24:16), that he "knew the thoughts of the Most High!" Another direction of the Talmud was to leave the synagogue with slow steps, but to hasten to it as rapidly as possible, since it was written (Hosea 6:3, as the Rabbis arranged the verse), "Let us pursue to know the Lord." Rabbi Seira tells us how, at one time, he had been scandalised by seeing the Rabbis running on the Sabbath - when bodily rest was enjoined - to attend a sermon; but that, when he understood how Hosea 11:10 applied to the teaching of the Halachah, he himself joined in their race. And so Rabbi Seira, as it seems to us, somewhat caustically concludes: "The reward of a discourse is the haste" with which people run to it - no matter, it would appear, whether they get in to hear it, or whether there is anything in the discourse worth the hearing.

As a rule, synagogues were built at the expense of the congregation, though perhaps assisted by richer neighbours. Sometimes, as we know, they were erected at the cost of private individuals, which was supposed to involve special merit. In other cases, more particularly when the number of Jews was small, a large room in a private house was set apart for the purpose. This also passed into the early Church, as we gather from Acts 2:46, 5:42. Accordingly we understand the apostolic expression, "Church in the house" (Rom 16:3,5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phile 2), as implying that in all these and other instances a room in a private house had been set apart, in which the Christians regularly assembled for their worship. Synagogues were consecrated by prayer, although, even thus, the ceremony was not deemed completed till after the ordinary prayers had been offered by some one, though it were a passing stranger. Rules of decorum, analogous to those enforced in the Temple, were enjoined on those who attended the synagogue. Decency and cleanliness in dress, quietness and reverence in demeanour, are prescribed with almost wearisome details and distinctions. Money collections were only to be made for the poor or for the redemption of captives. If the building were in a dangerous condition, the synagogue might be broken down, provided another were built as rapidly as possible in its place. But even so, the sanctity of their place remained, and synagogue-ruins might not be converted into mourning places, nor used as thoroughfares, nor might ropes be hung up in them, nor nets spread, nor fruits laid out for drying. 

The principle of sanctity applied, of course, to all analogous uses to which such ruins might have been put. Money collected for building a synagogue might, if absolute necessity arose, be employed by the congregation for other purposes; but if stones, beams, etc., had been purchased for the building, these could not be resold, but were regarded as dedicated. A town synagogue was considered absolutely inalienable; those in villages might be disposed of under the direction of the local Sanhedrim, provided the locale were not afterwards to be used as a public bath, a wash-house, a tannery, or a pool. The money realised was to be devoted to something more sacred than the mere stone and mortar of a synagogue - say, the ark in which the copies of the law were kept. Different from synagogues, though devoted to kindred purposes, were the so-called "oratories" or "places where prayer was wont to be made" (Acts 16:13). These were generally placed outside towns and in the vicinity of running water or of the sea (Josephus, Ant. xiv, 256-258), for the purpose of the customary lustrations connected with prayer (Philo ii. 535).

The separation of the sexes, which was observed even in the Temple at the time of Christ, was strictly carried out in the synagogues, such division being made effectual by a partition, boarded off and provided with gratings, to which there was separate access. The practice seems simply in accordance with Eastern manners and modes of thinking. But the Rabbis, who seek Scripture authority for every arrangement, however trivial, find in this case their warrant in Zechariah 12:11-14, where "the wives" are no less than five times spoken of as "apart," while engaged in their prayerful mourning. The synagogue was so placed that, on entering it, the worshippers would face towards Jerusalem - mere "orientation," as it is now called, having no meaning in Jewish worship. Beyond the middle of the synagogue rose the platform or "bima," as it was anciently, or "almmeor," as it is presently named. Those who were called up to it for reading ascended by the side nearest, and descended by that most remote from their seats in the synagogue. On this "bima" stood the pulpit, or rather lectern, the "migdal ez," "wooden tower" of Nehemiah 8:4, whence the prescribed portions of the law and of the prophets were read, and addresses delivered. The reader stood; the preacher sat. Thus we find (Luke 4:20) that, after reading a portion from the prophet Isaiah, our Lord "closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down," before delivering His discourse in the synagogue of Nazareth. Prayer also was offered standing, although in the Temple the worshippers prostrated themselves, a practice still continued in certain of the most solemn litanies. 

The pulpit or lectern - "migdal" (tower), "chisse" and "churseja" (chair or throne), or "pergulah" (the Latin "pergula," probably elevation) - stood in the middle of the "bima," and in front of "the ark." The latter, which occupied the innermost place in the synagogue, as already noticed, corresponded to the Most Holy Place in the Temple, and formed the most important part. It was called the "aron" (ark), the "tevah," or "tevutha" (chest, like that in which Noah and Moses were saved), or the "hechal" (little temple). In reality, it consisted of a press or chest, in which the rolls of the law were deposited. This "ark" was made movable (Taan. ii. 1,2), so as to lift out on occasions of public fasting and prayer, in order to have it placed in the street or market-place where the people gathered. Sometimes there was also a second press for the rolls of the prophets, in which the disused or damaged rolls of the law were likewise deposited. In front of the ark hung the "vilon" ("velum," veil), in imitation of that before the Holy Place. Above it was suspended the "ner olam," or ever-burning lamp, and near to it stood the eight-branched candlestick, lit during the eight days of the feast of the dedication of the Temple (John 10:22), or Candlemas. 

The practice of lighting candles and lamps, not merely for use, but in honour of the day or feast, is not unknown in the synagogues. Of course, in regard to this, as to other practices, it is impossible to determine what was the exact custom at the time of our Lord, although the reader may be able to infer how much and what special practices may have been gradually introduced. It would lead beyond our present scope to describe the various directions to be observed in copying out the synagogue-rolls, which embodied the five books of Moses, or to detail what would render them unfit for use. No less than twenty such causes are mentioned by the Rabbis. At present the vellum, on which the Pentateuch is written, is affixed to two rollers, and as each portion of the law is read it is unrolled from the right, and rolled on to the left roller. The roll itself was fastened together by linen wrappers or cloths ("mitpachoth"), and then placed in a "case" ("tik," the Greek "theke"). All these articles are already mentioned in the Mishnah. Later practices need not here occupy our attention. 

Lastly, it should be noted, that at first the people probably stood in the synagogues or sat on the ground. But as the services became more protracted, sitting accommodation had to be provided. The congregation sat facing the ark. On the other hand, "the rulers of the synagogue," Rabbis, distinguished Pharisees, and others, who sought honour of men, claimed "the chief seats," which were placed with their backs to the ark, and facing the worshippers. These seats, which bear the same name as in the New Testament, were made objects of special ambition (Matt 23:6), and rank, dignity, or seniority entitled a Rabbi or other influential man to priority. Our Lord expressly refers to this (Matt 23:6) as one of the characteristic manifestations of Pharisaical pride. That both the same spirit and practice had crept into some of the early churches, appears from the warning of St. James (James 2:2,3) against an un-Christ-like "respect of persons," which would assign a place high up in "synagogues" of Christians to the mere possession of "goodly apparel" or the wearing of the "gold ring..

Hitherto we have chiefly described the outward arrangements of the synagogues. It will now be necessary, however rapidly in this place, to sketch their various uses, their worship, and their officials, most of which are also referred to in various parts of the New Testament.

Sandy added a Discussion

Institutional churches often treat the divorced as if their plight is their fault, regardless of the circumstances. Do you agree? Do we do the same in non-institutional churches?

I found this information at a site called http://www.divorcehope.com. It from an ebook there. I would like to share a small portion here if that is alright. Thank you.

    The True Widow

The reason that the Church in general has blackballed those who have gone through a divorce is because they do not categorize them properly. This is done through misunderstanding of the Scriptures.

The Bible says there are “...the unmarried ...the widows ...[and] the married…”(1 Corinthians 7:8-10). The “married” are just that: a man and a woman together in a marriage union. The “unmarried” (which is a general term) are those who are not married: those who were never married, and those who were divorced and never remarried. “Widows” are those who have been married but now do not have a husband because of death or divorce. IN GOD’S EYES, DIVORCE AND DEATH ARE EQUAL.

Because this ministry to the widow is so greatly neglected and misunderstood by the Church, yet so dearly loved by God, it is best to establish what qualifies a woman as a widow.

As used in the Bible, “widowhood” and “widow”, are both from one Hebrew word, alman, which means “discarded (as a divorced person), forsaken.”

The root meaning of being a “widow” is that you are divorced or forsaken by your husband. The method by which the spouse is left without a husband is immaterial. 

In the Bible, when a woman identified herself as a widow, depending for what purpose, she indicated specifically HOW she was widowed. 

For instance, in 2 Samuel 14:5, as a woman addresses the king, she said, “I am a WIDOW woman, AND MY HUSBAND IS DEAD” (KJV). Being a widow meant more than being without a husband. It meant you had a husband but he either died, he deserted you, or you were divorced. This woman had to be specific in identifying how she was widowed to the king. If being a widow did not include being a divorced person as well, it would have been very foolish for her to say, “My husband is dead and my husband is dead.” That’s what it would have sounded like to the king, if “widow” only meant “my husband is dead.” 

That woman experienced widowhood because her husband died. In the next situation, these women experienced widowhood WHILE THEIR FORMER HUSBANDS WERE STILL ALIVE.

Again, the king was involved. This time, it was not a widow addressing him, but he was making his concubines into “widows”. “And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, LIVING IN WIDOWHOOD” (2 Samuel 20:3). These women, being separated from their husband David, became widows while David was STILL ALIVE. 

Widowhood has the connotation of the breaking of the “sex union” by death, divorce or desertion. For King David “did not go in to them”. A marriage is more than just living under the same roof together; it’s a loving and physical relationship with our spouse. For “...they are NO LONGER TWO but one flesh” (Matthew. 19:6a).

I have been watching Sheila Zilinsky, Tom Horn, Steve Quayle on YouTube.....anybody else? I have been watching the end time scenario being set up....but this goes into areas I had no idea existed. It all seems to make sense...both enlightening and frightening for the unbelievers . Even believers who poo poo this. The Bible does say that His people perish for lack of knowledge. I think we may be like the ostrich.

🌹 So glad YOU are here! 🌹 About 275 new members this year, so far.

Remember, to correspond with another member, just click on your Name (after you log in) and go to the Conversations area. Then, you may privately exchange messages. You will be notified via email that a new message has arrived. 

Someone also asked about the Friendship feature today. Personally, I have a mixed opinion about it. Still, this platform has the ability for you (or a Church or a Group member) to send messages only to your Friends (or a Church or a Group), if you choose. Interesting, huh?

A few minutes ago I contacted the programmers of this platform to see if the Friends feature can be disabled or disabled in a future release.  I'll let you know and we can discuss it and vote on it, too.

Thank you for the positive feedback.

Melissa Anderson added to the Timeline

I'm hoping and praying to connect with like minded believers at some point in our area.  It's difficult to find fellowship within the church walls unless you follow the leaders of the church completely without question. No one will connect with you as a friend unless you follow what everyone else is doing. It seems to be more of a join the club type atmosphere, meaning people connect because we go to the same church and if you miss a meeting you are alienated or if you can't make it to a function then you are not considered a part of anything.  I think we should have Christ centered connections and embrace each others differences and learn from each other and find encouragement.   While I believe there are good people in church buildings, it's not been a successful way for us to meet believers who want community.

Many good memories here in this local park. The fellowship of other believers - how sweet it is. Anytime - any place. I'm the second from the left, by the way.

Oh my. I wish I could say that this was a 'mother church' and other groups formed from it... but that has not been the case. Actually, several families were later torn apart by one thing and another. Still, we praise the Lord at all times and look forward to better times ahead.

J. B. Phillips writes in the preface to his translation of Acts, that one cannot spend several months in close study of this book "without being profoundly stirred, and to be honest, disturbed. Because he is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in history.... Here we are seeing the Church in its first youth, valiant and unspoiled ... a body of ordinary men and women joined in an unconquerable fellowship never before seen on this earth... for surely, this is the Church as it was meant to be. It is vigorous and flexible, for these are the days before it became fat and short of breath through prosperity or muscle bound by over organization."

Raymond Beman added to the Timeline

ABRIDGE is a God centered organization of peers who assembles, communicates receiving  information that by receiving truth through mind renewal they may transform.

The Result is effortlessly believing and living lives by the refining of our faith. 

As he should.  John Piper is also a popular writer and conference speaker. Perhaps you will appreciate his opinions. Or better understand them if you disagree.

This clip serves as a reminder that most Christians have good-will toward us. As they should.

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/should-we-meet-in-house-churches

Sandy added a Discussion

We meet on Sunday's. I am fine with it. 

I have had to change my mind on so many things in my past I am now wondering about whether Saturday or Sunday was the original day of meeting in biblical times. Has anyone looked at this issue? 

I guess the Seventh Day Adventists would have strong opinions but I would prefer to approach things from a neutral perspective if that is possible.

Jayne added a Discussion

Hear Our Praises

May our homes be filled with dancing
May our streets be filled with joy
May injustice bow to Jesus
As the people turn to prayFrom the mountains to the valleys
Hear our praises rise to You
From the heavens to the nations
Hear our singing fill the airMay Your light shine in the darkness
As we walk before the cross
May Your glory fill the whole earth
As the water o'er seasFrom the mountains to the valleys
Hear our praises rise to You
From the heavens to the nations
Hear our singing fill the airFrom the mountains to the valleys
Hear our praises rise to You
From the heavens to the nations
Hear our singing fill the air

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

From the mountains to the valleys
Hear our praises rise to You
From the heavens to the nations
Hear our singing fill the air

From the mountains to the valleys
Hear our praises rise to You
From the heavens to the nations
Hear our singing fill the air

Source: Musixmatch     Songwriters: Reuben Morgan

Greetings

I pastor a house church in the central corridor of Phoenix (Central Ave just south of Camelback). I would welcome any believers in the area to contact us for felllowhip.

Grace to you, 

Pastor Matt


Allie added a Discussion

My name is Allie and my family and I may be moving to Tempe/Phoenix area in  a few weeks so I can receive cancer treatments. We are from Michigan. Hoping to find some believers to connect with there. Does anyone have contacts they could send on my name to? Would be nice to meet some Christians while we are there! We have 4 young kids and my husband would be working from home some. my email is alliebruski@gmail.com

Allie added to the Timeline

Homeschoolers in Michigan. Home fellowship family too :)

I see a new generation of forward looking believers embracing simple New Testament Christianity while the backward looking, finger-pointing generation fades into oblivion.

Several prominent Christians have changed sides lately. Let's pray for the Gungor's, that they may be restored and made whole. They readily acknowledge that they were given too much responsibility at too early an age.

And let us be reminded that 'house church' itself is not the final answer. Christ is the first and final Answer. Church is but a means to this end: For us to worship and serve Him and one another in His name. 

He is always faithful and worthy of our praise. Even when doubts arise. They surely will.

... or jump to: 2018