the weblog of Alan Knox

New Barna Article on House Churches

Posted by on Jan 8, 2007 in blog links, definition | 41 comments

Barna has released a new article on house churches called “House Churches Are More Satisfying to Attenders Than Are Conventional Churches“. I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of house churches. I believe the church should meet wherever space is available. I am also not interested in whether or not attenders are “satisfied”. I am interested in whether or not the church responds to one another biblically. However, this article is interesting because it shows us how some people relate to one another outside of the institutional boundaries that exist within many churches.


41 Comments

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  1. 1-8-2007

    Alan -

    Thanks for posting this. I found this paragraph interesting:

    “The research found that there are two types of people being attracted to house churches. The older participants, largely drawn from the Boomer population, are devout Christians who are seeking a deeper and more intense experience with God and other believers. The other substantial segment is young adults who are interested in faith and spirituality but have little interest in the traditional forms of church. Their quest is largely one of escaping outdated structures and institutions.”

    Outdated structures and institutions … I find myself at this place. Yet I am also with the Boomers, apparently, as I am seeking more depth. However I don’t know what the solution is … is it to leave the outdated structures and institutions? I am not sure where the Lord is leading us, but I know I’m not satisfied now …

    Blessings!

  2. 1-8-2007

    Heather,

    Thanks again for the comment. I understand where you and your husband in your walk with God, because we have been there, and we are still walking through it. It is good to have brothers and sisters to walk this journey with us.

    -Alan

  3. 1-8-2007

    Alan, I would say we are on the same page as far as being neither for nor opposed to house churches.

    I find this analysis of Barna, (as I do many of his) somewhat intriguing. The four questions that were asked seem (at least the first three of them do) to be posed in such a way that the smaller situation would almost be the most favorable by default.

    It would be interesting to see what the results of the survey would be if it included questions that addressed the strengths of larger groups.

  4. 1-8-2007

    Gordon,

    Thanks for joining in this discussion. I also found Barna’s research intruguing. I don’t always agree with his conclusions.

    For example, “three out of every four house church participants (75%) have been active in their current gathering for a year or less”. Does this tell us something about the “age” of the movement, or the dynamics of house church gatherings? I don’t know the answer to that.

    As to the size of the gathering, I believe that the church must be small in order for fellowship, and the church is large – and it must recognize and embrace its size in unity… somehow.

    Thanks again!

    -Alan

  5. 1-8-2007

    Gordon -

    I am so not trying to be antagonistic here, but what, in your opinion, are the strengths of larger groups?

    I am asking this question honestly as someone who has always been in a fairly large church, and my husband currently serves “on staff” (hate that term) at a “traditional” (as in institutional) church, that is small, but growing. I am currently asking questions and seeking answers as we both walk this journey seeking to find God’s place for us.

    Thanks!!

  6. 1-8-2007

    Alan,

    I’m not one for statistics. However, there was one statistic from Barna’s research that intrigued me.

    - 89% spend time serving people outside of their group

    The people outside of the group, are they people from other house churches? Other Christians? (Is this fueling some sort of “transfer growth?) Or are these friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. who are not “churched”, who are non-believers?

    Given what I have perceived within the institutional realm as a negative stereotype depicting house churches as being perhaps too inwardly focused and weak on evangelism, it would be a pleasant surprise if this statistic referred to the latter.

    What I would be further interested in knowing is precisely what form this service takes.

    Stan

  7. 1-8-2007

    Heather,

    That’s a great question. I’ve heard several answers, but since you asked Gordon, I’ll let him answer.

    I have a professor who teaches that a church will have intimate fellowship with one another. He also teaches that intimate fellowship only occurs in small groups. But, he is not willing to connect these two statements. He is not willing to state that a church should be a small group.

    Stan,

    I wish Barna would allow us to ask the questions for him. You bring up some interesting points that could be solved by asking specific questions. Perhaps he did ask those questions. I’ll see if I can find more at his site.

    -Alan

  8. 1-9-2007

    Hi, Heather, that is a fair question. I will do my best to provide some objective answers, I am sure Alan has some that are worth listening to as well.

    While fellowship will usually be closer in a small group, there is an element of mutual support that I believe a traditional church provides that a small group is simply not capable of doing. I am speaking specifically of times of crisis or tragedy. I do not mean this disparagingly of what small groups can offer, but by their sheer number, a church is able to offer a greater range of support.

    Another strength of a traditional church is providing a broader forum in which members can utilize their giftedness. While it is certainly possible to exercise spiritual gifts in a house church, I believe a larger group offers a broader range of possibilities.

    Perhaps the greatest strength of the large church (and I use that term loosely, only as relative to a house church) that I see is in the area of missions. I have no doubt that house churches are able to and do participate in local outreach, I have yet to see how they are able to fulfill the command of Acts 1:8 in reaching “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.”

    This is in no way intended to say that the traditional church is superior, it certainly has its problems, but these are areas of strength that I see in the traditional church as a whole.

    I hope that God will lead you and your husband in the direction that He has planned for you.

  9. 1-9-2007

    Gordon,

    Thank you for your comment. I think I understand your list of strengths for larger churches. However, your answers (support, gifting, and missions) raise another question for me. Do you think that a small church can be obedient to God in these three areas?

    -Alan

  10. 1-9-2007

    Alan, yes I do. Let me issue the standard disclaimer here to say that certainly not every church is doing all that they can, but it is possible. Also, I would reiterate that it is not impossible for house churches to have these qualities, I just believe the traditional churches are probably stronger in these particular areas.

    I pastor a relatively small, rural church. The mutual support that our members give to one another in times of crisis is amazing.

    As for a forum for exercising giftedness, I would definitely say that point is viable concerning a small church. Even now, our church has more ministry needs than we do people filling them. There is no lack of opportunity for people to serve.

    As for missions, the small churches are successful in this as far as they cooperate with other churches. While we regularly have members involved in short-term missions, it is the pooling of our resources with other churches that enables us to have a part in the ministry of people who are able to go to the “uttermost parts of the earth”. People like Guy Muse and David Rogers are part of the same body (if I may borrow a page from your succeeding post :-) ). We are able to edify the entire body of Christ when we cooperate.

    Again, this is not to say that house churches cannot do this. In fact, I believe that it is possible for them to do so. I am just not aware that it is happening.

  11. 1-9-2007

    Gordon,

    I suppose I look at the church and their responsibilities differently. I also believe that a small church can be obedient to God in the areas of support for one another, giftedness, and missions, as well as all other areas. If a believer or a church can be obedient, then he/she/they can do all that God requires of them. More people does not equal more obedience. Less people does not equal less obedience.

    Btw… I also do not believe there are ever any time when a “church has more ministry needs than we do people filling them”. There may be disobedient people (in small or large churches), but God never requires more than what he supplies. And, since he builds the church, he is responsible for both the ministry needs and the means to meet those needs.

    I hope this makes sense.

    -Alan

  12. 1-9-2007

    I’ve been a little hesitant to step into this conversation, but thought i might chime in a bit.

    While I may be accused of presenting more theory than actual proof, I think that there are a couple of missed factors that play into some of this.

    For example, it is no secret that the house church concept is still fairly young in America. Estimates as to its inception vary greatly, but it’s safe to say that the “large church” concept definitely has the historical advantage with regard to longevity.

    By that I mean that it is, in some ways, (and forgive the crudeness of the idiom) a well-oiled machine. Things like missions support, etc. have well-established methods and mindsets. It is generally a given (from my experience) that the church will seek out several missionaries to whom they give a small portion of each missionary’s ongoing needs. This is the “pooling” to which Gordon refers.

    But the assumption is that this is the necessary way in which missionaries get their support.

    What house/simple/small churches need to consider (and are, in fact, in many cases) are other ways to get the job done. And this is where the other point that I would like to make comes in.

    It is possible to have just as much impact and interest in missions, yet approach it completely differently. For example, a smaller church may decide to completely support a couple of missionaries, rather than contribute a little bit to multiple missionaries.

    The biggest impact in all this, however, is on the missionaries themselves. When missionaries return to the States (my sister and her family are currently in this situation), many of them have quite a few churches to visit and update. Additionally, churches frequently will drop the support of some missionaries in favor of others, and that missionary is then left to find other supporting churches to fill the gap.

    As a result, I know of very few missionaries who are truly able to take a break when they return to the States. It is a very stressful time for them, in fact.

    So, what if, as part of our growing together as a body, maturing in our faith and service, we actually began raising up missionaries from within our own midst, supporting them completely (or they could “tentmake”, too…an option that gets way too little airplay, in my opinion), and extended the impact that way? Then, if those missionaries wanted to come back to the States for a break, they could be edified and built back up within that same body of believers who are already their family.

    Just some thoughts. I realize that Gordon has drawn a line in the sand between “possible” and “actually doing”, but I think we must continue to force ourselves to think outside our traditional paradigms and consider whether we could do things differently in a way that would (long-term) accomplish the goals before us even better.

  13. 1-9-2007

    Gordon, you wrote: Even now, our church has more ministry needs than we do people filling them. There is no lack of opportunity for people to serve.

    I would be very curious for some specifics. What are some of the ministry needs that you have that aren’t being filled currently?

  14. 1-9-2007

    Steve,

    Welcome back to my blog. I agree there are many different options for small groups of believers. I also agree that the “tent-making” options seems one of the best, yet least considered options. Also, the SBC includes several “house churches” that participate in missions through the Cooperative Program just like larger churches. I’m not saying the SBC’s way is God’s answer to missions, but since it is relevant to many here, I thought it might be interesting to others.

    -Alan

  15. 1-9-2007

    Alan, by “small church” are you referring to “house church”? I’m not sure I am following you. I believe that small traditional churches are capable of doing what I described.

    In regard to your second paragraph, I too, believe that God has a person to fill every need of the church. As you say, sometimes that individual may be unwilling to follow the call of God in their life, thus leaving a gap in the hedge, if you will.

    Steve, there are needs in our church for teachers, ushers, deacons, singers… a wide variety of opportunities for people to exercise their giftedness. We have some who are obviously able to fill these gaps, and yet for some reason (which is between them and God)they choose not to do so. Thus I say, we have more ministry needs (or should I say, opportunities) than we do people to fill them.

    I can certainly relate to what you were talking about concerning the burden upon missionaries. I do not say that the current system of supporting missionaries is perfect, but in my mind, it is the best that we have until someone can produce a better way.

    Gentlemen, I do not say these things to bash house churches. We were discussing the way that Barna’s questions were slanted toward the strengths of house churches (and granted, house church has its strengths). I was simply trying to respond to Heather’s questions as to what I perceived to be the strengths of the traditional church (it has its good points, too :-) ).

  16. 1-9-2007

    Gordon,

    When I say “small church”, I am not making a distinction between a “house church” and a “traditional church”. I don’t see a biblical distinction, so I don’t make one. To me, a small church would be a church with a fewer people than a large church.

    In the same way, I don’t make a distinction between a small church being obedient to God and a larger church being obedient to God. Therefore, I don’t really see where one or the other has an advantage when it comes to service, giftedness, or missions. They can either be obedient or disobedient… nothing more… nothing less.

    Similarly, there is nothing more spiritual about a church that meets in a house. Nor is there anything more spiritual about a church that meets in a designated building. The question remains: are the people being obedient.

    -Alan

  17. 1-9-2007

    Ahhh, I think I understand you now. I would agree with you that “church is church”. The distinction is merely in methodology, not state of existence.

    I made the distinction because in the ongoing discussion in which Steve and I are engaged (hehe) as well as this post and discussion, the distinction was made as well.

  18. 1-9-2007

    Guys -

    Again, just want to reiterate that I am merely asking questions and desiring thoughts and truth, not trying to antagonize anyone. With that said ;-)

    The point was brought up that many churches have more ministry needs than people to fill them. Then there’s the obedience/lack of obedience issue, etc. I propose that MOST of the ministries that churches are involved in are man-made and born out of tradition. Yes, there … I said it …

    Nursery workers, ushers, parking lot attendants, youth workers, children’s workers, committee members, etc. … you add whatever to the list.

    I’m not saying that any of these things is bad in and of itself, but what I am saying is that churches place an awful lot of demands on people and seem to care more about someone’s level of “service” to the “local church” rather than that person’s growth and their walk with the Lord. That may not be the intention, but it is an inevitable outcome of the traditional church. I have BTDT basically my entire life, in various churches with various structures and visions, but all with this same issue. Why is that?

    Perhaps one of the reasons that people are more “satisfied” (to borrow Barna’s term) in house churches is that they are not constantly asked to do this, that and the other thing, and if they are not they are made to feel less-than they should be or disobedient.

    Can I park here for a moment? I don’t need to take the latest class to have someone tell me what my spiritual gift is and then give me a list of areas in which I can now plug in and exercise those gifts. Again, BTDT too many times and that places an unnecessary burden on a person. We fail to encourage people to be Jesus-with-skin-on to everyone they come in contact with, not just in the organized, church-sanctioned ministries that exist within the 4 walls.

    So, all that to say that I think placing unnecessary burdens of “service” is one of the reasons that house churches may seem more “satisfying”.

    I hope that didn’t sound too harsh :-)

  19. 1-9-2007

    Heather, you said:
    I’m not saying that any of these things is bad in and of itself, but what I am saying is that churches place an awful lot of demands on people and seem to care more about someone’s level of “service” to the “local church” rather than that person’s growth and their walk with the Lord. That may not be the intention, but it is an inevitable outcome of the traditional church.

    I would be interested to know why you think this is “inevitable”. There is no doubt that this does occur, but must it be true of all churches simply because it has happened in some?

  20. 1-9-2007

    I have to say this feels so strange to be discussing this with you, Gordon, on someone else’s blog! ;) Thanks for hosting, Alan.

    I’d like to answer what you said to me, Gordon, but it also incorporates what you just asked Heather. I, too, have said that these things are “inevitable” in the conventional church structure, and I still believe it is so. Let me illustrate by talking about the needs (or opportunities, as you clarified) you said you have in your church. You mentioned, by way of example:

    teachers, ushers, deacons, singers

    Let me leave “teacher” and “deacon” alone for the moment and deal with the others first.

    With both usher and singer, these are responsibilities that are only necessary because you are in a conventional system of church.

    In other words, it is “inevitable” that, if you are going to “do church” the way you are doing it (right or wrong is not the issue here, so don’t get distracted by my wording!), you’re going to need people to help others find their seat, hand out programs, collect the offerings, count the offerings, etc. (That would be my understanding when you say “usher”.)

    And because there is the expectation that some need to provide music during the service, it is “inevitable” that you will feel the need for singers.

    These two exist primarily to serve “the system” and the expectations of “the system”. Would you disagree?

    Now, let me turn to “deacon”. I don’t know what functionality you have in mind, but I’m a bit puzzled by this one. You said earlier that in a time of need, your church ministers to each other in a wonderful way (I’m paraphrasing).

    If that is true, what specific need is there for deacons? I see the appointment of deacons in Acts 6 as a response to a particular need for distribution of physical supplies to those in need.

    Now, in the churches I’ve been in growing up, deacons were the ones who oversaw the maintenance of the building, unlocking/locking the building before/after service, making sure the buildings were cleaned, etc. etc. etc. But again, these are all functions that are necessitated by “the system”. They are not so much part of “ministering” as they are chores that have to be done because we choose to meet in a building specifically for this purpose of “church”.

    Now, obviously, “teacher” is in a different category altogether. But my question would be, what do you mean when you say “teacher”? Do you mean Sunday School teachers? Because if so, we are still talking about an “inevitable” demand within “the system”.

    See, “the system” says that we need multiple classes, divided up into ages, or genders, or whatever (I’m not particularly sure of your SS makeup because we didn’t attend that portion of a Sunday morning), and so we need teachers to teach these various groups.

    But what if teaching was taking place in a more organic sense? Maybe much more teaching is taking place in PPBC than you realize, even though certain posts aren’t “filled”. Or, maybe those who have been gifted in this area aren’t appearing to function in it because they don’t necessarily have a burden or gifting for the particular “holes” that need filled? (I’m just trying to think through this from multiple angles, and get you to see it from other perspectives)

    What do you think? Do you see why I (and perhaps Heather, too) would use the word “inevitable”? In the simple church concept, these things aren’t issues because we’re not just trying to serve an institution. We serve each other in the body.

    Frankly, I’m with Alan on saying that if there is a genuine need in the body, God’s going to provide for that need. This actually extends into my understanding of spiritual gifts, even, because I have moved away from the idea of “this is my gift, so I have to look for a place to use this gift” and more toward “if there is a need, maybe God has gifted me in this moment to meet that gift” regardless of what that gift may be.

    I’m rambling a bit, but hopefully you see why I see this as a much broader issue than just “some churches aren’t doing it right.” I think that, even with the best intentions, the system will cause roadblocks to a natural growth and expression of the body. “Inevitably” ;)

    I love you, brother. Please don’t ever let me push you too hard on any of this!!! :)

  21. 1-9-2007

    Gordon,

    One of the reasons that I did not make a distinction between “house church” and “traditional church” or “[insert your type] church” is because Heather original asked you for “strengths of larger groups”.

    Since I believe that support (or service/love/ministry), giftedness, and missions are issues of obedience for each believer, I do not believe those are strengths of larger groups.

    It seems we are now talking about “traditional church” as opposed to “house church”, but I don’t really see “traditional church” as being opposite of “house church”. I’ve read about many “house churches” that are the same as “traditional church” except for their meeting place.

    I would agree with Heather and Steve that “traditional church” structures tend to (I’m not ready to say ‘inevitable’) distract from God’s purpose for his people. Since I agree with most of Steve’s 20 volume epic on this subject, I won’t go into the details here. Suffice it to say that in “traditional church” structures, resources tend to be used administering the organization instead of ministering to people.

    Note, this has nothing to do with the obedience of the people though. People still must choose whether or not to do what GOD has called them to do, regardless of the “structure” (or lack there or) of the church.

    Heather,

    Your comments get more and more interesting… I can’t wait to see where God is taking you!

    Steve,

    Though I poked fun at your “20 volume epic comment” earlier, feel free to comment as often and as much as you like here. And, I’m not just saying that because I agree with you this time.

    -Alan

  22. 1-9-2007

    My comments are meant to be “traditional” vs. “simple” although I don’t mean that as in “opposites”. Just different approaches. I used the term “house” because that was a term that was reference here, but more and more I shy away from “house church” terminology for the same reasons you mentioned, Alan.

    [This comment edited for brevity] ;)

  23. 1-9-2007

    All,

    One of the things that I am finding more and more fascinating is that we (generically speaking) cannot seem to speak of the church without adding some type of modifier (traditional, institutional, house, simple, large, small, baptist, presbyterian, local, universal, etc.). Yet, the more I study Scripture, the more I realize that all of those modifiers are man-made distinctions. Scripture does not make those kinds of distinctions. Yet, as hard as I try, it is difficult for me to speak about the church without adding at least one modifier. Well, maybe God will keep working on me and my language.

    Also, thank you all for the spirit with which you are writing (and reading!) your comments. It seems that we are thinking the best and desiring the best for one another. So far, we have been able to discuss these issues in the peace and unity that we have in Jesus Christ.

    -Alan

  24. 1-10-2007

    Steve, I think there may be a point to your thesis (hehe) and (don’t scream when you read this) this is the point I have been trying to make to you for months now.

    Deacons did arise for a need. There is no biblical mandate that office, merely an historical description of how it evolved. Yet certainly we could not say that it is wrong simply because we don’t have a command from God, “Thou shalt have deacons in the church”.

    The bottom line is, there is very little honest-to-goodness instruction in the Bible concerning the methods of how we “do church”. You have often postulated that the modern role of pastor is not mandated by Scripure (I still would debate that with you, hehe), but for the sake of this discussion, let’s stipulate that it isn’t. Much like the office of deacons, the role of pastor evolved with the culture of the church. So then following your logic, would it be wrong simply because it isn’t mandated by scripture?

    Yes, the church has developed into a “system” of sorts. Imperfect though it is, does it not benefit the body?

    To quickly arrive at a point before I get too long-winded here (too late, I know), we should be able to carry out the functions of church in a manner of obedience, as Alan has well-stated, as we feel led to, as long as it isn’t anti-scriptural.

    Some have had negative experiences in so-called “Institutional Churches” that may cause them to seek another method. And yet many have been strengthened and drawn closer to God in that same model.
    Should they not stay where they gain the most spiritual benefit?

    Through this ongoing (and ongoing) discussion we have been having, I hope I am coming to the place where I can say that I believe that each of us should do what we feel God would have us to do without condemning or criticizing the methods that others may use.

    Alan, thanks for allowing such an open and frank discussion on your blog. This is a blessing.

  25. 1-10-2007

    Gordon said: The bottom line is, there is very little honest-to-goodness instruction in the Bible concerning the methods of how we “do church”.

    I agree. But it sure does say a whole lot on how we should be church. :)

    Obedience, obedience, obedience. How has He commanded us to live towards Him and towards one another?

    God bless you all for your kind spirits.

    Stan

  26. 1-10-2007

    Gordon,

    Thank you for participating in this discussion. I always enjoy hearing from people with different points of view.

    I will agree with you (and Stan) that Scripture says little about how to “do church”. That does give us freedom. However, what do we do when our methods prevent us from living in the manner that Scripture calls us to live?

    For one short example, in 1 Cor. 14:26-40, we see Paul tell the Corinthians how to respond to one another when they gather together. It seems that they were to come prepared to exercise their spiritual gifts in order to build one another up, but they were also to be sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit during their meeting.

    Still, when I come together with the church, very few come prepared with a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation… very few stand to present something that God has revealed to them during the meeting. Instead, as our tradition teaches, someone chooses songs for us to sing, and someone else teaches from Scripture. Are these bad things? No. Is this what Paul instructed? No.

    What do we do? Keep on with the tried-and-true? Or try to adjust our meetings so that people can edify one another as God leads them?

    I guess each group of believers must answer that question for themselves.

    -Alan

  27. 1-10-2007

    Alan, your point about I Cor. 14 is something that Steve and I have discussed several times.

    I am of the opinion that this is not a list of commands for all churches, but that this list of commands is for the method that the Corinthian church was using. It gives us a historical glimpse into the problems the Corinthian church was facing.

    Having said that, I believe this reveals to us some principles that should apply to us: 1) Inclusiveness of all members in the overall ministry and worship of the church. 2) Everything should be done decently and in order.

    Again, that is just my opinion.

  28. 1-10-2007

    Gordon,

    Just wondering… why is Paul’s command “All things should be done decently and in order (14:40)” given to the entire church, but his command “Let two or three prophets speak (14:29)” only given to the church in Corinth? Can you give me textual reasons for obeying one command but not the other?

    Thanks,

    -Alan

  29. 1-10-2007

    Alan, I believe that the “decently and in order” is a general principle that should apply to all things Christian.

    As I understand it, Paul’s instruction for “two or three prophets” is a specific scaling back from the apparent plethora of people wishing to speak. It was simply more practical for them to only have two or three and Paul was offering them some wise insight on the matter.

    There is certainly nothing wrong with having multiple speakers/preachers/teachers in a service if a church has them. But I do not believe that we are ordered to do so. To take that point of view seems to be what someone (Steve, maybe?) was warning against the “system” forcing us to fill a quota of positions.

    One thing in one of your earlier comments that I failed to respond to, was the idea that every member should come to church prepared to edify the whole body as they are led by the Spirit. To that I would say a hearty, “Amen!”

  30. 1-10-2007

    Gordon,

    You said, “I believe that the “decently and in order” is a general principle that should apply to all things Christian.” I agree completely. That is exactly what the text says.

    You also said, “As I understand it, Paul’s instruction for ‘two or three prophets’ is a specific scaling back from the apparent plethora of people wishing to speak.” Where do you see this in the text? Where does Paul say that he is scaling back the Corinthians? Where does Paul say there was a plethora of people wanting to speak?

    Thanks,

    -Alan

  31. 1-10-2007

    I already mentioned this to Gordon privately, but I’ve been doing some thinking about the presuppositions that most of us and most commentaries seem to bring to the letters to the Corinthians.

    My question is, does anyone know of evidence for the common assumptions about the church in Corinth? Examples:

    1. The church services were unmanaged chaos
    2. Women were speaking out loud disruptively, and therefore needed to be silenced by Paul’s instructions.
    3. Tongues, prophecy, etc. were being used in a chaotic fashion, and needed to be “scaled back” (sorry, Gordon, just felt your term fit the best here)

    I’ve always heard these were descriptions of the church in Corinth, but am starting to wonder if they are documentable.

    The problem with these assumptions is that it allows us (and Gordon’s far from the only one who does this) to brush away some instructions to the church in Corinth by assuming that they were Paul’s attempts to moderate chaos.

    I was even told one time that I shouldn’t derive any church principles from the letters to the Corinthians because 1) the church there was hardly a model to follow, and 2) Paul doesn’t even address elders in that letter. Huh??

    Clarification of Gordon’s using my name in vain above… ;) Allowing 2 or 3 to speak as the Spirit leads is not trying to force-fill a “position” in the church. So, no, following the instructions of 1 Cor 14 does not force the same problems that I was pointing out about the approach of only having the same person speak on a regular basis.

    Gee, I just can’t seem to get my comments very short. SORRY!!! ;)

  32. 1-10-2007

    Steve,

    I know of no evidences to support these “questions.” I recently took a Early Pauline Epistles class where we discussed the Corinthian letters. Part of the course consisted of discussing reconstruction. If you are not familiar with the term, it is used to describe the process theologians go through to figure out what someone (in the case Paul) is writing about something. The only possibility in class (and many other writings) given for Paul writing about these issues is that he is responding to a problem the Corinthians were having or a question the Corinthians asked him.

    Reconstruction can be a great thing, but it can be taken too far. Also, it often leaves a huge gap between the reason why we think the letter should be interpreted a certain way and the plain/straight-forward reading of the letter.

    Just my 2 cents,
    Lew

    P.S. Great discussion going on here. I have enjoyed it thoroughly.

  33. 1-10-2007

    Hello all,

    Latecomer Wes has enjoyed catching up on all these comments.

    Steve,

    I like your questions. We could ask this of every historical assumption we bring to the text.

    The text has to speak for itself.

    To everybody,

    In regards to house churches, could they not be a valid response to the lack of genuine community that older churches have lost. This is an overgeneralization. But last year, in returning from a missions trip to Central Asia, a group of us asked what from the church in Central Asia reveals areas of growth for our church. We unanymously agreen–community. Since then, we have dropped Sunday night services for Home Fellowship. We can cut the excitement and anticipation in our church with a knife. We are growing from a group of people who drive thirty minutes for a cultural Christian meeting toward a genuine Church.

    I love it. Home fellowships were a means to an end. We needed them to grow. (I am speaking of FBC Durham here).

    Wes

  34. 1-10-2007

    Steve, Gordon, Lew, Wes, and to whom it may concern:

    Actually, I do not think that Paul wrote 1 Cor 14 in order to correct the Corithian’s because everyone wanted to speak. It seems to me that in 1 Cor 14, Paul is emphasizing that everything that is done when the church gathers must be understandable, otherwise it cannot be edifying. And, everything done when the church comes together should be edifying.

    At least, that’s what I read in the text.

    -Alan

  35. 1-10-2007

    Steve make brief comment. Not ramble on long time. Alan’s analysis of chapter 14 consistent with rest of book’s teaching. Steve shut up now. ;)

  36. 1-10-2007

    Steve -

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Alan -

    RE: your last post … *this* is why I enjoy reading your blog … it gets me to think.

    Blessings!!

  37. 1-10-2007

    Steve,

    I’m proud of you… however, you are allowed to use complete sentences.

    Heather,

    The purpose of this blog was to give me a place to think through some of the things that I am studying concerning the church. Being able to discuss these things with other thoughtful believers is a major advantage for my studies and my life. Thank you for taking part.

    -Alan

  38. 1-10-2007

    Okay I have to ask…”decently and in order”… while I agree with this I sometimes take issue with the way this is enforced in some churches…decent and in order according to whom? (yes that’s my question)

    For some, that simply fosters legalism….

    Steve,
    That was a funny post!!

    Be blessed….
    Brandon

  39. 1-10-2007

    Brandon,

    I think Paul answers that question for us: What does it mean for our meetings to be “decently and in order”? When they follow Paul’s guidelines in 1 Cor 14:26 and following. This means that two or three people are allowed to offer each gift (prophecy and tongues are listed, but this can probably be applied to teaching, etc) if exercising that gift will edify the body. The gifts are exercised one at a time and under control. They are all exercised by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. They are judged by the people present. This is “decently and in order”.

    -Alan

  40. 1-11-2007

    Alan,
    You and I are on the same page on this. That is exactly what I believe Paul is communicating…I also agree that this can take place with all of the gifts, not just prophecy and tongues.

    This passage is where some of the confusion comes from regarding these particular gifts. The thought somtimes is that these gifts bring disorder…so let’s avoid them…
    Sorry, that’s another topic and I don’t want to distract from this one.

    That’s why I posted the question though. Often the whole decent and orderly thing can lead people to dictate music styles, standing, dancing…etc,etc

    Brother, you must be fun to be in class with at Southeastern…(big grin)

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  41. 1-11-2007

    Brandon,

    I can’t answer for others, so I don’t know if I am “fun” to have in class or not. I know that I have gotten strange looks before.

    -Alan