...and its positive implications
Hi John (not his real name)
I've thought lots about what you said when you asked, "What are the scriptural reasons why you chose to meet in homes instead of the institutional church system?
Well, John, here's the headlines of what for me, are some of the Scriptural reasons why I took the step, after many years in the institutional church, to the simple/organic/house church.
The Example of the New Testament (NT) Christians Meeting in Homes.Here's some N.T. references: Acts 2:46; 5:42; Rom. 16:5, 16:23; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philmn. 2. I could also add the number of times Jesus ministered to needy people in homes. Meeting and eating!
The Effectiveness of the NT Christians.Before being forbidden to meet in homes by Emperor Constantine, the early church grew from 25,000 in 100 AD to around 20 million in 310 AD. In the comparatively small populations of that day, this is what I call exponential growth! Some of the things the early church didn't have include; special buildings, seeker services, worship bands, pulpits. Gene Edwards says "it was the only temple-less, clergy-less, ritual-less, religion in human history! What a glory to the Carpenter and His faith!" He goes on to say, "rugged...people were the clergy, the living room their temple and Jesus Christ was their vocabulary...the church of Jesus Christ was born in informality. It ought to have stayed that way...our faith was born that way." If we are serious about 'harvest', we can't ignore this amazing example of growth from such humble beginnings. Today, as seen in China and India, simple churches in the West have the potential to repeat this remarkable part of church history...and it's beginning to happen!
The command of 1 Corinthians 14:26
Apart from instructions about communion (the love-feast), spiritual gifts and Christian behaviour, the above verse is the only NT instruction telling us in some detail, what to do when we meet together. And this verse can only be fully obeyed among a small group where every member (not a select few) can function. Observing the results of allowing and encouraging every member to minister, I have been amazed at the God-given wisdom coming from even the most shy and quiet members when they are encouraged to share what they have received from the Holy Spirit.
The Most Effective way to Make DisciplesI'm not sure how effective simple churches are at making disciples, but we can't ignore this last command of Jesus, Matt. 28:18-20. Large churches focus on "decisions", but Jesus said our focus must be on "disciples". And they are not grown by sermons, or in classrooms or Bible studies. But just as Jesus and Paul did, by taking their disciples or "Timothys" with them on their mission journeys. Simple church leaders certainly have the potential to disciple new converts by fathering them and allowing them to 'observe' and 'do'.
The Effectiveness of Team Ministry
After nearly 50 years involved as a sole pastor or, senior pastor (where did we get those non-biblical terms from? certainly not from the Book of Acts) I've discovered the new (ancient) experience of team ministry. I searched the Book of Acts some time ago looking for the equivalent of the modern pastor. What I found were teams of elders. Check it out! Now, instead of carrying the heavy burdens of traditional pastoral ministry, for the last several years I have enjoyed working with a team of talented elders where the burdens are shared and leadership-functions happen according to gifting.
Thanks John for causing me to do some helpful thinking on this subject. And these reasons I've listed aren't the only reasons. There's more, but they will have to wait for further SC Letters.
A helpful web site with stacks of articles and points of view, www.organic church movement - local & global