Authority, Arrogance, and Control: But its really not a bad idea

The house church movement seems to be gaining some steam throughout America. Many believers, distraught and utterly frustrated with church experience have turned to the house church. The basic definition of a house church is a church meeting in someone’s home. Obviously smaller than most American churches, many house churches seek to recapture the early church experience and community. There is no doubt that good intentions and pure hearts are behind much of this movement but with those come others seeking the antithesis of what the movement stands for.

Speaking in generalities of the American church is akin to calling everything in the ocean a fish. So much discrepancy exists, even within denominations, that it is impossible to paint broad brush strokes in hopes of capturing a true picture of the church landscape. The American church is much more a mosaic than an impressionist painting. That being said, Scripture sets the same standard for each piece of the mosaic. House churches have become one of the newer pieces of the larger artwork. Some will meet real needs and create outstanding community members could not find elsewhere. There is no doubt of its success overseas, especially in persecuted lands. Hopefully, the house church movement will reach those in the darkness and bring them to the light of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that God will use that piece of the mosaic to make disciples and meet needs otherwise unmet. All that being said, common themes are beginning to emerge that send a message seemingly against the very core of the house church origin.

Authority

One pervasive theme throughout is a natural reaction to spiritual abuse from a position of authority. Churches from all denominations have lost the trust of members because of abuse. Pastors and/or Priests have been convicted of sexual misconduct, financial misconduct among various other immoral actions. The wave of abuse has hit American Christendom painfully hard. Yet, the overwhelming majority of Pastors and Priests continue to have a heart for the people they shepherd and lead. For every situation of abuse, there are thousands of men and women giving their lives for those they minister to.

A major motivation of many house churches is a rejection of any authority other than Christ. Christ is the head of the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23) and no person in spiritual authority should ever attempt supplant that role. However, there is no doubt that authority rested on the Apostles who then placed others in authority to shepherd the churches. Complete rejection of authority is not a biblical concept. Rejection of authority that leads away from Christ is biblical. Yet, we all come under submission of spiritual authority in our lives. We submit one to another and to those God has placed over – even ungodly governments when not asked to compromise God’s Truth.

Arrogance

A quick search of house church networks online quickly reveals the arrogance of many embracing this movement. Many will argue that “real” church happens in homes and the biblical model prescribes home gatherings as opposed to the purchase of land, buildings, etc. The root of such a heart and attitude stands in stark contrast with the initial purposes for beginning such a church. The desire to humbly seek God in close community where all are accountable to one another appears to be the most normal reason given to leave an existing large church and form a house church. However, writing off the former church or proclaiming that all who practice in such “institutions” are false or less than real displays enormous arrogance. Nearly 2000 years after the resurrection of Christ and we are finally get our act together. There is no place in Christianity for such a heart towards brothers and sisters in Christ.

As far as biblical context is concerned, the early church did meet in homes. However, the Bible neither commands nor prescribes the model discussed in Acts and the letters to the churches. Instead, the Text gives principles governing the body of Christ and leaves structure out of the discussion. On top of this, the earliest church met in the Synagogue. Though this practice only persisted a short time, early believers were Jewish and did not consider Christianity a new faith. Jesus is Messiah, fulfilled the law and was worshipped in the context of Judaism.

Control

One final point of contention deals with the issue of control. Leaving an existing church because it doesn’t do what I want or doesn’t meet my needs is simply a control issue. We would do well as Christ followers to spend as much time praying for God’s clear direction for our church as we do complaining about all of the issues we see contained in it. It appears that the newest form of church shopping is simply beginning my own. In doing so, I can structure it to function how I desire. Of course it will be biblical, I am biblical. Understanding this point is being generalized, it is not coincidence that house churches emerge in the most me-centric culture on our planet. The success of the house church movement is out of sheer necessity across the globe in persecuted lands. In America, we begin them because we are dissatisfied with our own local church. Maybe our knees would be a better place to start.

The Church mosaic is large and diverse in America. House churches may add another critical element God uses to accomplish His purposes here. Again, my prayer is such. But let’s not pretend that because I have control, it will be right. God’s church, the body of Christ, does not depend on buildings or the lack thereof. It does not depend on structure or the lack thereof. It depends on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit empowering each member to live the light of the Gospel in the darkness. It depends on an undying devotion to His Word, the Bible. Otherwise, it always becomes about me.

Go Away

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
                                                                                                Matthew 28:19-20

Most of us have heard at some time or another the simple yet profound definition of insanity: to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Yet we often find ourselves trapped in the system we’ve constructed that is familiar, comfortable and lacking results. The American Church at large finds itself here far too often. Over the past 40 years in America, we’ve concluded that the best way to influence culture and share the message of Christ is to create grand centers for life and existence in Christian community. There is little doubt of the purity of motivation behind this constructed system. Create large buildings with massive amenities; bring powerful speakers with powerful messages; organize music and environments to be comfortable and moving; and do it all to reach the world for Christ. However, the results have been disappointing.

The Church today continues to lose influence in the culture. Massive buildings with coffee shops and restaurants have resulted in a festering ground for Christian bacteria. Language begins to morph into Christian speak. Our shirts become billboards of cheesy slogans and even our picture frames display Scripture verses. We replicate all of culture’s best at a substandard par and separate ourselves from culture increasingly more. Wrigley’s mints just aren’t good enough, ours need to have a cross and Scripture reference. In essence, we’ve stopped going and those who are without Christ quit coming.

One of the final statements Jesus makes on earth is found at the end of Matthew 28. The first word of verse 19, “Go”, is best translated, “as you are going.” Jesus told His disciples to go about life and as you do, make disciples. There is so much to pick apart here but I really want to focus on the word “Go” or “as you are going”. We, the Church, have spent so much energy trying to get those far from God to draw close to us. Yet Scripture so clearly calls us to go. We spend so much time making our services friendly to those not following Christ yet often my car barely turns off before the garage door clangs shut.

Before the Scripture even reaches the words “make disciples”, it tells us to go. For our context, maybe the words should read, “go away” or “go home”. Speaking in broad general terms, I believe so much time is spent getting the dark to come toward the light. Yet it seems that influence means taking the light into darkness.

Discipleship begins by going away. It is time to leave the church premises and enter the neighborhoods, walk the streets, play in our front yards, and invite those distant people next door into our homes. The culture is looking for a message of hope, purpose and community. What are they seeing as we go?

Do I Cheat?

Because of what I do, I often hear the stories that shake families. Stories of husbands who never meant to, of wives who simply got carried away in the moment resound throughout the hallways and offices. Most began the journey innocently and after a series of subtle compromises discovered they were past the point of no return (or so they thought). It is one of the most difficult things to hear and even more challenging is watching the face of the one receiving the news. A faithful husband discovers his wife has been seeing a neighbor or co-worker. A loving wife’s heart breaks as her husband confesses news that will take years, if not a lifetime, to work through.

I have often heard and even studied the incredible parallels Scripture draws between marriage and Jesus’ relationship with the Church. We are called His Bride. Scripture even details a wedding ceremony and covenant of sorts dating back to the giving of the law to Moses and Israel. Upon becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, I became the bride of Christ and said yes to the covenant of “marriage”. Out of love and passion, God gave His Word, the Bible, to lead and guide every believer in relationship to Him. Living according to HIs ways leads to an amazing abundant life. It is a life build on God’s grace, love and mercy and the covenant necessitates my obedience.

I can’t imagine or comprehend ever sitting down with my wife and hearing her confession of unfaithfulness. Nor can I grasp the idea that she would one day tell me that she is bringing another person into our covenant with no regard for me. What is holy and sacred would become filthy and desecrated. Our covenant and my trust would be destroyed and my intense love for her would fuel a passion expressed in anger and tears.

After thinking so personally about this covenant that I share with my amazing wife, it hit me for the first time. Years of study and understanding of the bride of Christ symbolism hadn’t pierced my heart. Yet such a personal perspective brought a real lump to my throat. How can I treat sin so casually in my relationship with Christ? How can I make excuse for pride, discontentment, or any other “pet” sin I choose to keep and subtly feed? It is no wonder that God’s anger burned with Israel and the Church when they turned from Him! It is not simply wrath, rage, or purposeless anger but instead the heart of a Holy God who gave His Son to redeem mankind. It is the passion of a God who loves me like I love my wife, actually, much much more.

Today, I am thankful for the cross of Jesus Christ because my sin was dealt with there. I am thankful for the resurrection of Jesus Christ because my death was dealt with there. Today, I am also thankful for the righteous anger of God fueled by a love for me I cannot comprehend.

Oh how he loves you and me…