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.

Preface

Were you guys waiting for me to post something?  Please, just kindly let me know next time.  I had no idea…

Preface

I believe the authors lay out the foundation for their work beginning in the preface and introduction.  On the very first page of the preface, a straw man is built on the lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Despite the extreme oversimplification of his argument surrounding Jesus’ chief opponents, his tie to contemporary Christianity is the greater issue.  He lumps everything into one neat little package (his contemporary Christianity) so that he can propose the enlightened answer.  He takes the complex church world and lumps everyone together proclaiming biblical superiority over his concept of contemporary Christianity.

He goes on to make a statement on the second page proclaiming that, “I believe the first-century church was the church in its purest form, before it was tainted or corrupted.  Wow, this is intriguing.  Isn’t half of the New Testament written to combat problems, both doctrinally and practically, in the church?  Most of Paul’s writings are in response to the corruption and sin involved in the church.  How long does it take in the book of acts before we start to see issues rising in this non-tainted, non-corrupt church – the beginning of Acts 5.  So, it took 2 chapters following Pentecost for issues to begin to arise.  Then, Chapter 6 brings on deacons (a response to another major issue of partiality) and so on and so on…

The author makes a profound leap to state that polity and normative practices are prescribed in Scripture to fit his desired practice.  Yet, no place in Scripture prescribes the setup of the church and it rarely comments on its early practice.  Could the Text also remain silent on purpose?  He goes on to describe the great answer to the degradation of Christianity – the organic church.  “An organic church is simply a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs.”  Two things I would simply comment on this simple church.  Something becomes a program when it is repeated for a specific purpose.  It becomes a human instituted program when something is repeated for a specific purpose by humans.  Humans make up the church.  We are the body of Christ.  So, I guess an organic church doesn’t tell people where they are meeting or when, because they don’t know.  It would then become a program.  I guess it just happens as someone has a spiritual moment.  I know what the author means but the problem is not that it is a program or that it is religious.  Deconstructionism to its core leads to spiritual chaos.  Even the choosing of deacons was a religious institution.  I will touch later or his non-hierarchical structure.  Frankly, it is not found anywhere in Scripture, Old or New Testament.

I don’t want to appear sarcastic or argumentative because I really want to look at honest eyes at this book.  I think I will learn from it and I will try to pick out positive aspects to highlight as well.  But his preface, the foundation of the book, is shaky at best.  I think everyone would agree that churches all across America have problems.  I like that he wants the church to return to Scripture but his solutions are largely based on his opinions and assertions he has drawn from the text.

So, let it begin, again…

PC

Alright, here we go.  I am excited to jump into the conversation that many of you who will read this have already begun, the evaluation of the book, PC.  I want to set a couple of ground rules I think will be appropraite to keep our discussion within good bounds.  Let’s not refer to the title of the book but only PC.  Those who want to add to the discussion are more than welcome but I don’t want to disparage any author.  I will create another category called PC on the blog and categorize each entry in that Category.  Let’s create a separate entry for each Chapter and see where we go.

The other guideline I think we should employ encourages us to critically think about the book from a biblical standpoint.  The authors, as well as you and I, come to varying conclusions regarding varying issues.  All of us walk into the discussion with our own prolegomena, or pressuppositions.  Our experience, upbringing, and decisions have shaped the way we view things.  So, insted of getting caught in the trap of what works for me – let’s evaluate the book on what Scripture states and what it doesn’t state.  Our opinions are certainly appropraite if we come under the same umbrella – submitting oursleves to the truth of Scripture.

Well, I hope that makes sense.  I will soon post some thoughts on Pre-chapter 1.  Thanks guys, I look forward to a lively and constructive dialogue.