Sunday, February 17, 2013


1) Embracing the building - Regardless of the fact that the New Testament emphasizes a Church made "not by human hands" but composed of people (who are themselves the Temple of the Holy Spirit), many churches in America today get very distracted by the need for a building. In fact, most Christians couldn't imagine the possibility of church without one.

2) Misrepresenting the tithe
- Nearly everyone who finds out we lead a house church asks me if we at least make sure everyone tithes. When I say we don't they usually begin to cock their heads to one side and look at me funny. However, the Biblical mandate for tithing is purely an Old Testament concept intended to maintain the Jewish Temple system and support the Levitical Priesthood. The New Testament church neither taught it, nor practiced it. In fact, the Christian Church didn't mandate a tithe until the 7th Century. Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be? To begin with, offerings in the early, New Testament church were voluntary and freely given out of love. In fact, most gave more than a tithe, they sold everything they had and shared it with those around them who had need. Still, this offering wasn't a law or a command of the Church, it was freely shared out of love. Tertullian, in his "Apology" (2nd Century) affirms that no offering was taken out of compulsion but says:

"Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering …to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old."

Under Constantine, the clergy were paid for their services (for the first time in Church history), but that payment was provided by the Roman Government, not by the Christians themselves.
3) Ignoring the poor -
There are over 2,000 verses of scripture in the Bible about God's heart for the poor and His expectation that we, the people of God, should also love and bless their poor among us. The strongest verse, in my opinion, comes in Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that, at the Judgment, He Himself will separate the sheep and the goats based on how much they cared for the poor and the outcast they encountered in their life. A few other verses include:

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
- Deut. 15:11

"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (Paul being sent out as the first missionary by Peter, James and John in Galatians 2:10)

God is speaking of King Josiah and says: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16)

4) Over-emphasizing the role of the pastor -
Contrary to popular opinion, and American culture, the pastor was not the head of the church in the New Testament. The word "Pastor" only appears once and none of the epistles to the churches are addressed to the pastors, they are addressed to the church; the people themselves.

In the New Testament Church, no one could point to a single man and say, "There is my Pastor" even as none of them could say, "There is my priest". Why? Because everyone understood from Peter, Paul and the rest of the Apostles that THEY THEMSELVES were the Priesthood.

No Christian today would think it was Biblical to start offering lambs for sacrifice as part of Sunday morning worship, would they? Why not? Because Christ fulfilled that upon the cross and became the sacrificial lamb once and for all. Why then do we so easily embrace a priest and a temple? Didn't Jesus offer the sacrifice as our High Priest? Didn't Paul and Peter tell us that we were the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

Certainly, the temple and the priesthood and the sacrifice are all important to the worship of God, however in the New Testament Christian Church the people themselves are the temple, the priesthood and the daily sacrifice.

5) Yearning for political power -
Nothing underscores the frustration of the American Church more than the current lust for political influence and power. Because "Plan A" has failed to create the result we desired, we have now reverted to "Plan B" which is to attempt to Christianize the society around us and to legislate our Christian values.

The New Testament Christians lived under an oppressive pagan government. They were killed for sport and persecuted horribly. Instead of attempting to reform their government, they obeyed Jesus and loved their oppressors. They did not take up the sword and fight back. They did not verbally abuse the pagans for their sinful lifestyle. They did not attempt to form a coalition or a lobby group to force legislation that aligned with their views. Instead, they simply loved the people around them, shared all that they had with others and, in time, they turned the world upside down by imitating Christ Jesus our Lord.

We should do the same.

6) Business-minded ecclesiology -
Nothing has gotten me in more trouble than this topic, but it is something I feel passionate about. The New Testament never refers to the Church as a business. That's not my opinion, it's just the plain fact of the matter. The Church is described as a Body, a Bride, a Family, a Spiritual House, and an Organism where Christ is the head.

7) Conversion-focus instead of disciple-making -
So many Christian Churches today are focused on making converts with elaborate Easter dramas and Christmas Pageants and Outreach events that gather large crowds, ask for a show of hands from those who do not wish to burn in hell forever. Ask them to repeat a prayer and then count raised hands of those who repeated it.

One Church I visited recently did this exactly and cheered on Sunday morning that 500 people had surrendered their lives to Christ. This same church spent over $40,000 just to produce this event. Yet absolutely zero time, money, energy or thought was placed into making disciples of those 500 people.

For me, and I believe for those who follow Jesus, conversion isn't the touchdown, it's the whistle that starts the game. Jesus commanded us to go and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and to make disciples and to teach them to obey all that He commanded. He didn't tell us to go out and make converts and count hands.

My sincere prayer and hope is that every Christian Church in America would repent of these seven failures and return to a more Biblical, New Testament form of Christian life.

Many of these practices above involve repairing the veil that was torn at the crucifixion and returning to an Old Testament form of religious worship where an elected priesthood offers spiritual guidance within an elaborate temple on behalf of the common people.

This is why the church we read about in the New Testament bears little to no resemblance to the church on the street corner, or the one we attend.

Can we hope to return to a Christianity based on freedom? Can we hope for the day that every believer is a priest of God? Can we pray that followers of Jesus begin to embrace the idea that they are actually the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that they are the ambassadors of Christ to the world?

Yes, we can hope, and we can pray. And I do...
Keith Giles
Today's letter is copied from an article forwarded to me from a 'thought-provoking' Kiwi website. To read the full article, plus feedback you will need to go to
Jack Guerin


I recently read an article by a recognised Christian leader who definitely believes it is. His article made me think. At my age I sure don’t want to spend my energies into something that is a temporary fad. Do you? The writer quotes examples from methods that Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody and previous generations used and are no longer valid. I too could give examples of activities that I have seen (and some been involved in) that haven’t lasted. Here’s a sample:
  • The Jesus (Hippie) Revival
  • The Charismatic Move
  • The Toronto Blessing
  • Billy Graham style Evangelistic Meetings
  • Church Growth Seminars
I’m not saying these were all wrong. But we have to admit they’re not current today. So, should we lump simple/organic churches (SOCs) into the same box? My answer is NO! And here’s some reasons for my take on this issue.
  1. They are Biblical. If the New Testament is to be our example of church life, then we need to seriously take notice of this undeniable evidence. Their gatherings were spontaneous, mostly in homes (though attended Synagogues to witness for Jesus) and participatory, 1 Cor.14:26. Also, Acts 2:46; Rom. 16; Col. 4:15; Phm. 2; 1 Jn. 10 (NLT)
  2. They were/are Effective. Alan Hirsch estimates that by the year 100 AD, the NT Church was 25,000 strong. By 310, this temple-less, altar-less, clergy (as we know it)-less, tithing-less church had 25,000,000 genuine followers. Today we have the example of China’s and India’s phenomenal SOC growth. And there are positive signs in the Western world too. George Barna quotes, “9% of American Christians worship outside of ‘normal’ church buildings and structures.” Reports from Europe detail young people meeting in the same manner.
  3. They were/are Attractive. Obviously people in NT times were attracted to this Good News that was free of the religious trappings of the harsh and legal Scribes and Pharisees. I was once scoffed at by a church elder for my involvement with a SOC. But I have always had a positive response from non-church folk when describing how and where we meet. Brook Warner,, has an insightful article titled, “Cowboys and Aliens: Capturing the Digital Natives.” (See NZ Baptist, Dec. 2012, p. 13). He goes to some length to explain why traditional, pulpit centred church is so ‘foreign’ to our “net generation.” “...their brains are wired for participation, involvement, not for the “talking head, ‘sage on the stage’ monologue model, (we need to) look for more dialogue models.” But can we change to reach this generation that will be here long after many of us aren’t!
  4. They were/are easily reproducible. Neil Cole points out that the more simple the structure, the more easy it is to reproduce. Because SOCs don’t need highly trained practioners, buildings, heaps of money, paid staff, denominational permission and entertaining preachers, reproduction isn’t too complicated. All we need (at the start) is an understanding of and obedience to Jesus’ instructions in Matt. 10:5-15 and Luke 10:1-20, plus a broad kingdom vision.
At my age (80th year) I’m only interested in putting my time and energies into that which will be effective in bringing lost people into the kingdom of God. I know that SOCs are far from perfect, but I believe this new (ancient) phenomena that is being birthed around the world will produce the end-time harvest we all long to see.

Your comments are appreciated and will be acknowledged.
You are free to ‘forward’ this message to whomever you wish.
I am in the beginning of starting a blog containing my Simple Church Letters.
See Comments on blog will be appreciated too Winking smile

Jack Guerin
New Zealand