As I was surfing the internet I ran across HomeChurchHelp.com and I started doing some reading. The website said many things I agree with but like we need to be one body, focus on scripture, fellowship, etc. however let me point out some things I didn't agree with from a scriptural point of view. One of the links listed on HomeChurchHelp.com has a chapter entitled "The way the church was meant to be" and they claim there should be ONLY ONE church per city.
Quote (from chapter "what a normal church looks like): "There is only one church in this city, just like in the New Testament."
Sounds great. We should be 'one body' (echad) but the problem is scripture shows this was NOT the case. Consider the following scriptures...
1 Corinthians 16:1 "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the CHURCHES of Galatia, so you must do also..."
(so we have multiple churches in Galatia. Hmmm...)
2 Corinthians 8:1 "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the CHURCHES of Macedonia"
Yea multiple CHURCHES in Macedonia and if we do a little research we see multiple 'CHURCHES' in Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Syria, Cilicia, etc. So its clear they missed the mark on that claim that there should be only ONE church per city.
What is interesting is that Yeshua (Jesus) taught in the synagogues of Galilee ref. Matt 4:23. Some accepted His teachings and others did not. However we never hear Yeshua stating that meeting in a “synagogue” (church building) was prohibited. The only time we see a call to leave a ‘church building’ is if they reject the Messiah ref. Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5, Acts 13:51 by shaking the dust off your feet). Something to think about.
They also make another claim that believers in the NT only met in homes, so we should be doing the same today.
However scripture and biblical archeology shows while people did meet in homes, many more met in synagogues where people believed in Yeshua (Jesus) ref. Acts 18:8, the synagogue of Berea, etc. Matter of fact there were numerous 'messianic' synagogues found that were during the times of the 1st -3rd centuries (and beyond till persecution eventually split up the body). We also have to understand that those where there was no messianic synagogue, they had to met in homes but never are we commanded to forsake meeting in 'church buildings' as this website claims; to do so would be disingenuous to scripture and biblical archeology (which proves the truth of scripture). If anyone makes such blanket claims as 'the NT body only met in homes' and we are to forsake all 'church buildings' or similar organizations, then that should give us pause = red flags!
So while I understand what they (the website people) are trying to do, I have seen this same 'house church' concept about 30+ years ago in my life, my parents saw it for decades before that, I have to say we need to be careful in claiming that 'house churches' are the answer to everything wrong in Christianity. The website says church buildings are "not holy" or 'righteous' and that is true but they make the claim that we are the ecclesia, the ‘called out ones’. They claim…
“The word also has with it the meanings of a family, a people, an assembly, or a council. It even has the idea of a modern town hall meeting for deliberation. We could substitute the word “family” for the word “church”. The church is a people. A family is a people.”
Yes ekklesia G1577 (Strong’s Concordance) in Greek originally meant a gathering of people, an assembly. It was not a word used specifically of believers gathering but rather of just people gathering. Sometimes in scripture its used of non-believers and believers. The fact is it was not till much later that ekklesia was defined and used for believers instead of just a gathering of people (it was highjacked by the church). So there is that to consider as well.
Also from the website when they are asked about denominations they reply…
“Brother, in our attempt to take the New Testament seriously, we’ve purposed in our hearts to repent from divisions and denominations. There is only one church in this city, just like in the New Testament.”
We already covered the “only one church in a city” fallacy by looking at scripture but what about this call to ‘repent from division and denominations’?
Did Yeshua call people to repent fo divisions and denominations? I mean there were multiple sects of Pharisees, a few sects of Sadducees, the Zealots, the Sicarii (extreme zealots), the Essenes, Jews that supported Rome, those that did not, the Samaritans, the remnants of the Maccabees, etc. Yet Yeshua did not call them to repent of their ‘denominations’ rather He called them to repent of their sin and turn back to God. The interesting thing is that the majority of these people, with the exception of the Essenes and Samaritans, worshipped together in the local synagogue/s. So while there were differences of opinion on what they believed and how to do things, they all believed in the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob; the Creator of Heaven and Earth. They came together frequently and heard the word of God from the seat of Moses (which Yeshua told His disciples to follow but don’t do what some did as they were hypocrites). Yes each had their problems but the message was not to repent of denominations, but to repent of sin and turn back to God. The website is heavy handed on the repenting of division and denominations. To me it makes it sound like all churches and denominations are bad and the only good assembly is the house church. However we see their claims fail when we look at scripture.
We also have to remember that Yeshua went to the synagogues (churches of the day) because thats where the people who needed to repent were. That is one of the places where He taught, where he healed those with sickness and disease. Its one of the places where He called people to repent and rejoice. If the ‘church buildings’ were such a problem in Yeshua’s day then why was it “HIS CUSTOM” to got go the synagogues and teach ref. Luke 4:16 and other scriptures? Why do we see the same with the disciples in the book of acts? Funny how we do NOT see the call to sell church/synagogues from any of these people. We also do not see this from the prophets either.
Another quote from the website reference that we need to share whatever we have... "Lead out with what you have. YOU DO HAVE SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter where you are spiritually."
Excuse me but it does matter where you are spiritually. Do you want someone who is ignorant to teach (share) to others who are ignorant? Yea... I don't think so.
The website authors seem to think that anyone can say anything and its ok. But lets look at the biblical education of the people in the 1st century during Yeshua’s time. We see that the young children were raised in Torah. This continued till the age of 13 when there was the bat or bar mitzvah (coming of age). Those that excelled in studying the scriptures went on to other studies (Mishnah, Gemara, Talmud - teachings handed down orally till they were written down a few centuries later) in Yeshivas. Those that were allowed to continued ended up as scholars, Rabbis, etc. So… during the 1st century the biblical education was stressed and very important. If you compared a 1st century believer with the average believer today, the more educated would be the believer from the 1st century. According to an American Culture and Fatih Institute poll 22% think same sex marriage is ok, 42% don’t believe in satan, 53% don’t believe the bible contains absolute truth, 57% think the Holy Spirit is just a literary symbol, 63% believe one can earn their way to heaven 48% believe Jesus did not live a sinless life, etc. etc. etc.
In scripture we see that those who are new spiritually (and or ignorant in the Word) are not called to 'lead out' (the ignorant are not allowed to teach ref. 1 Tim 2:12, 1 Cor 14:34-35). We also see people in home churches for the wrong reasons, who can harm the body (ref. Simon the sorcerer who looked like a believer but really just wanted spiritual power over others). I think you get the point. There must be those who are knowledgeable in the word, who are spiritually mature who oversee what is going on. We must also recognize that 'church' has to have order and discipline ref. 1 Cor 14 and other passages.
The fact is there are problems in ALL churches be they christian, protestant, messianic, hebrew roots, home churches, etc.). The website seems to imply that the one house/city church model is the answer for everything but there are problems with it as well.
Was the house/city church ever effective? Absolutely! We see they flourish during times of persecution. Look at the underground house churches in when Communism was rampant (Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. etc.) and during the times of WWII Germany, etc. The house church movement thrived when the body was under fierce persecution. However the same cannot be said in the U.S. or nations where freedom of religion was accessible to all.
Lets look at something else - the dangers of house churches. Has anyone ever considered possible problems with 'house churches'? Legal liability, lack of background checks, false teachings due to those who are ignorant of God's word? Ever seen cases of children being sexually assaulted in a home church? Yea it can get really ugly. Or worse, the wolves in sheeps clothing who share something because the "Holy Spirit" told them or its what "God told them to tell everyone" but its heresy? Yea I have seen a lot of home church stuff in my years.
Here are some other statements they make that can be problematic (picking out some statements that can and or could be troublesome from the website). Please understand I am playing the devil’s advocate here (there is a lot I agree with on the site as well)…
1. “to encourage every member to participate and bring what they have spiritually to every meeting of the church”
My reply: Do you really want ignorant and unlearned people teaching with no oversight?
2. from the website, an example of how a denomination should get rid of their building… “we’re selling the building we’ve met in because we have no need of it…”
My reply: this has no scriptural support at all - we see no teachings or rebukes to those that did not sell their churches. So since this was not a problem during the times of scripture, this means its a recent revelation from God? Small red flag here. Throughout history we have seen many church buildings used for worship, food kitchens, to help the homeless, teach scripture, help the needy, be a place to help non-believers in natural disasters, etc. etc. etc. Its these type of statements that actually create division because if you are not a house church as defined by this website/organization, then you need to repent and if you do not repent, you are obviously not a real believer = HUGE RED FLAG!
3.“…The (church) building has been an icon and representation in our hearts of establishment, stability and growth. It has also been a perverted method of attracting members.”
My reply: and yet we do not see Yeshua, Paul , the prophets or anyone else making similar statements in scripture, or rebuking those who attended the synagogues or churches (BTW archeological finds from the first century show many church/synagogue buildings that were used extensively and no rebukes were ever recorded in scripture about them).
4.”Therefore since the church is to in essence, run itself, there is no need for our staff positions. We are taking our hands off the church in order to let it grow.”
My reply: Seriously? So no need for accountability with money, time, resources, teachings, etc? I have seen too many similar house churches die horrible deaths because of this mentality. Heck, I have even seen with non-denominational churches who have taken this stance and they failed as well.
5.”Elders in the New Testament were given to a city, not a group within the city.”
My reply: Already covered this previously as there were multiple churches in single cities. So there were elders given to different churches/groups in a single city.
6.”Here in this city, when men started taking their hands off the church, all the gifts began coming forth.”
My reply: this can be dangerous - anyone remember or know of the ‘revivals’ that occurred throughout the U.S.? The ones that spurred so much false teaching it wasn’t even funny? Remember Todd Bentley? and all the other wackos who started in home fellowships that ran unchecked? Did you forget the crazy videos of ‘believers’ who yell and make animal sounds and call it ‘the move of the spirit’? Yea, when things go unchecked the ignorant and or power hungry people, it can get dangerous.
7.”When Jesus walked the earth, He met outside and taught people in the middle of tremendous disarray. There were people sitting down in the grass. There were people sitting in trees.”
My reply: Yes Yeshua did talk out in nature but that does not mean He did not talk in the synagogues or the temple. Many times we see Him in these ‘church buildings’ where believer gathered and taught the good news. In many of these places He healed people, He brought freedom and liberty to those who were bound by infirmity and or the bad traditions of men. Yeshua even drove out the money changers from the temple. Now if the church building was so bad, why do that? He did not drive them out because of the building but because the ‘religious leaders’ drove out the gentile believers from the building so they could not worship God. It wasn’t because of the ‘church building’ itself was bad, it was the leaders who would not repent of their sin! I have grave reservations on those that claim all buildings used for church activities are bad; that every church should sell their building. Its not what Yeshua, His disciples, Paul or the prophets taught. So when did this revelation come? Hmmm… can you see why I am questioning this movement that wants all church buildings sold? It seems that the truth of God and His word has changed due to some new revelation. My question is, what other changes are coming? Doesn’t God say to not add to or take away from His word? See my concern?
8.”Concerning debating scripture, doctrine, and theology: I am not saying there is not a time and a place for this. During the general meeting of the church is not the time for debate. Why? It’s not a time for debate because 1st Corinthians Chapter 14 never comes close to anything like this.”
My reply: The problem here is that with everyone, regardless of maturity and biblical knowledge, are being able to prophesy/share what God has told them to say. Ok but what if what they are saying is in direct conflict with scripture? I have personally seen this situation in a house church. The majority of the attendees were ignorant of the false teaching. I brought up multiple scriptures in a non-confrontational way but this guy kept up the heresy. Nobody seemed to care that this guy was teaching that Yeshua was a created being and other crazy stuff.
In closing, if people have not heard about the one city house/church movement, it can be exciting and seem like the answer to everything that is wrong with ‘christianity’ today. However for those of use who have participated in house church movements over the years, have seen the good and bad; we know its not THE answer to everything. House church movements often site references where house churches thrive but almost all the time, they are in countries that suppress the freedom of religion. These churches thrive when the body is persecuted and there is a reason for that. The people that are playing ‘church’ are weeded by the threat of torture and death, so only the most heartfelt believers remain. These believers study God’s word as if their lives depend on it. That is why the persecuted house church movement does not have many problems with false teaching, accountability, etc.
Am I saying that no one should try a house church? No, I’m just saying we should not be naive and if one does want to start a house church is can very taxing at times and there will be problems. There can also be times of great fellowship and teaching too. In other words I am saying make an informed decision before you jump.
Something to think about.