the weblog of Alan Knox

Why I’m Not A House Church Proponent

Posted by on Dec 16, 2010 in gathering | 71 comments

Why I’m Not A House Church Proponent

I thought about the last word of the title of this post for some time. “Proponent” may not be exactly the right word here. Perhaps “Cheerleader” is a better word.

But, in this post’s title, I mean “Proponent” like this definition:

Proponent: a person who pleads for a cause or propounds an idea

Another possible description would be “enthusiast” in the following sense:

Enthusiast: an ardent and enthusiastic supporter of some person or activity

So, what am I saying? Am I saying that I am AGAINST house church? No, that is not what I’m saying at all.

I’m saying that I am not a cheerleader for house churches or the house church movement. Why not?

Well, there are at least two reasons.

First, in the New Testament, the church met in different locations. Yes, primarily we see the church meeting in homes in the New Testament. However, there are at least two locations where the church met that were not homes. The church met in some form in the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). Also, while in Ephesus, Paul and the other believers met daily in the “hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9).

Second, simply moving a church meeting from a dedicated church building to a home does not necessarily change how the church meets. Unfortunately, I’ve read about many “house churches” that are simply traditional church structures and organizations transplanted into someone’s living room.

But, remember, the fact that I am not a house church proponent (cheerleader, enthusiast) does not mean that I am against house churches. I have met with the church in my house and in any number of other houses. I enjoy meeting with other believers in houses.

But, my goal – and the purpose of this blog – is not to get as many people as possible to meet in houses. Instead, my goal is to get believers to recognize their responsibility to build up (edify) one another (mutually) whenever and wherever they meet together.

Now, I do believe that some locations are better for church meetings than others. I believe that some setups or seating arrangements are better than others. But, that does not mean that believers cannot edify one another when meeting in a less than perfect location (as if there is a perfect location) or sitting in less than perfect arrangements (as if there is a perfect arrangement).

My hope is that each church will consider their current method of meeting together and attempt to change that method however necessary to help one another begin to encourage, teach, admonish, serve, and build up others. If this happens among a group meeting in a house, then great! If it happens among a group meeting in a school, awesome! If it happens in a church meeting in a big building with a steeple, fantastic!

So, no, I am not a house church proponent. However, I am a church proponent: I plead for the cause of allowing Jesus Christ to build up his church through all of those meeting together, not just through a few. I am a church enthusiast: I am an ardent supporter of the church gathering together for the purpose of the whole church helping one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.


71 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-16-2010

    Good post Alan. I respect what your saying even while having some disagreement at points.

    First, it might surprise you, (though maybe not) that a lot of your thoughts echo what I’ve seen and heard from Frank Viola who is considered by many to be one of the strongest proponents of “house churches.” He’s not. In fact, I’ve seen him on multiple occassions state that most house churches are just smaller sized institutional churches or in some cases just a group of angry Christians who have been hurt and are trying to make a statement.

    Location has very little to do with function and I agree with you that there are more effective methods in some settings that can be used.

    Your noting that on two occassions in scripture there was a larger meeting location is true. The use of the temple wing for the Jerusalem council was simply a product of scope and size. There were too many people for any other venue and it represented a council not just of believers in Jerusalem but the church as a whole across many locations. It was not a permanent location designated for use on a regular basis. There’s nothing there to my observation that supports the model of an institutional church as it is applied in most cases.

    That said, there’s freedom. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a facility, a location or a method, except to the extent that when any of those things begin to hinder or get in the way of the function of the real “church” which is the organic body of Christ.

    I agree with you that in that context, it doesn’t matter at all.

    So, I’m with you in terms of not being a proponent or cheerleader of “home churches” in the sense that location makes any real difference. That said, I have to say, with all the love and respect that I can, without wanting to offend, there’s so much baggage inherent in most institutional churches that I seriously question whether there are very many that can hear your appeal and actually respond in a manner that is going to make any real difference in function.

    In too many cases, with very rare exception, the tail is wagging the dog in most insitutional churches and tradition and comfort with most of the internal elements are such that there is no real hope that people are going to be willing to see change and shake those things off in order to return the functioning of the church to a personal organic level where the distinctions between clergy and laity are removed and the body functions as a whole to minister internally to one another and then out from that to the community which can see the genuineness of that relationship and Christ at work within them.

    It saddens me to say that. I guess rather than being a proponent or cheerleader for home churches I’ve simply reached a point where I no longer believe that the institutional church is a long-term viable model on a large scale to throw back the curtains of religious duty and return to the foundation of Christ as the center of all and His church as a living breathing body of believers who are focused on functioning in that relationship without all the trappings that I sadly believe Institutional Christianity has drowned that relationship out with.

    I’m a church proponent as well so I find in you a kindred spirit even while disagreeing with what role the institutional church can play in the return to grass roots that I see taking place. I’d be fine with being proved wrong on that however. Christ in the end is all that matters.

  2. 12-16-2010

    Alan I agree with you in theory but in practical terms from my experience, it is very difficult if not impossible to participate in mutual ministry in the institutional setting. And yes I understand how the “institutional” paradigm can be moved from the building to the living room.

    Maybe we need to define house church as “organically relational” without heirarchical structure. Unless the church, especially the leadership understands 1 Cor 14:26 and 1 Cor 12 it doesn’t matter where you meet. You can meet under a tree and still have an institutional meeting.

    I think you are being too nice in relation to the institutional church. It’s a broken system. The house church movement has been an effort to correct the system, but like any other movement it generally drifts away from the original intent.

    But I agree with you that just meeting in home does not a church make, and changing the venue does not necessarily make a difference. However, if the venue is not changed, I don’t see much chance for real church life to exist. I believe anytime there is a real heart change to relational christianity the “Church Building” will eventually be abandoned. Because in order for as you say,
    “… allowing Jesus Christ to build up his church through all of those meeting together, not just through a few…”, some kind of venue change has got to happen.

  3. 12-16-2010

    Bart,

    As I responded on facebook, I understand many of your concerns. I would be even more concerned if a group (any group – institutional or not – refused to consider the possibility that the way that meet is not best for the church, or if they refused to modify the way they meet together.

    By the way, thanks for the gentle disagreement. I’m not upset when people disagree with me. :)

    Jack,

    Like I said to Bart, I understand your concerns. I love the way that you connected “organic” with “relational.” It is very important to me that churches are able to serve one another through those organic relationships.

    -Alan

  4. 12-16-2010

    I would echo much of what Bart & Jack had to say, and perhaps take it a bit further even…

    It should be no big revelation at this stage to hear that the “institutionalism” is not primarily defined by the presence or use of a building. (you’ve already mentioned this) Nor do I think it is even defined by the false dichotomy of the clergy/laity distinction (although that is closer to the core…) The fundamental level which institutionalism starts is the moment at which a person begins to regard the Body of Christ as something that can be defined, understood and operated the same way any other kind of human endeavor can. (Creating a void which things like the clergy heresy and other such false teaching then readily fill…)

    So, to approach this subject with one-dimensional questions like “is it ok to meet in or own a church building”, is to miss the point. Owning or not owning a building is not the issue (because even a house is owned by someone…) The question is more about how one understand how God expands and builds His Kingdom on earth…

    The more I learn about the occult, and how Satan constructs and manages his vast kingdom on earth, the more I see just how demonically-inspired the whole “hiearchical” system really is. The enemy is completely and utterly reliant on his hiearchy, which consists of both fallen angels and deceived humans. In fact, I am becoming more convinced all the time that hiearchy is an invention of the devil, and not an idea of God’s at all… Satan is not God, He cannot be everywhere at once, cannot accomplish his will by himself. He needs a “pyramid”. He has no regard for individuals, he doesn’t see people as people, but only as things to be used for his purposes, as cogs in his machine. This is the mindset that fuels every type of hiearchy. The indispensible one (or ones) are at the top, while the expendible pawns are at the bottom… The higher up you go, the more important you are…

    But of course God is not like that. He does not view us the way a general looks at his troops, counting layers of divisions and sub-divisions. Everyone who is born of God has been given the very Spirit of God, to live within them. It is the Spirit of God that is supposed to be the beginning and end of authority for the true Christian. When we appeal to human authorities, human wisdom, human structures of government, within the Body, then we are effectively replacing our faith in the Spirit of God with a faith in our own human (and often demonic) devices. When we turn to the path of “institutionalism”, we are in reality doing no less than turning to idolatry, turning to a concept of our worth and value in the kingdom that is based on our own visibility, knowledge and position…. It is to worship at the altar of pride….

    The Israelites in the O.T. continually turned away from the true, living God, and worshipped idols of wood and stone…
    Instead of the true God being enough, they prefered one that was more “tangible”, and more acceptible in the eyes of the pagan world around them…

    We are no less vulnerable to this temptation today. We want to be able to point to something and say “I made that” or “I built this ministry”… We are seduced by the same lie, that says the person of God is not enough, that we need something “tangible” to look at, to be a part of, to connect with. Whether it is something we have been conditioned to crave, or just naturally desire, we all want to have something external that testifies to how we are “involved” with God. Whatever other details or specifics may differ, the one common attribute of institutionalism is the desire to construct a way to be reassured of our relationship with God, without actually having to engage God directly… Institutionalism seeks to make us feel comforted and at home in this world, rather than be aliens and strangers in the world…

    Institutions then are essentially the combination of all the various means by which we systematically prostitute ourselves as the Body of Christ, and prostitute the gospel of Jesus…

  5. 12-16-2010

    Daniel,

    The danger that I see with more institutional versions of the church is that the people tend to see the institution as the church instead of seeing themselves as the church. That causes all kinds of problems and hinders the church (i.e., the people) from working together to help the church (i.e., the people) grow in maturity and love.

    -Alan

  6. 12-16-2010

    Alan…

    So, when you say, “my goal is to get believers to recognize their responsibility to build up (edify) one another (mutually) whenever and wherever they meet together“, how does this align with your last statement?

    In your post, you seem to deny that “meeting in a big building with a steeple” poses any more of a challenge to the call to “encourage, teach, admonish, serve, and build up others” than any other “method” of meeting…

    But I must confess I’m a bit baffled that you are falling back into framing this whole issue with the all-too-familiar approach of making it all about a simple matter of location…

    Of all people, you are not someone who could claim they do not understand the substantive difference between a true, spirit-led group of believers (who happen to meet in a home or wherever else), and an institution… Is the only difference that one may have a steeple on top of the roof or a sign out front? Come on… You understand better than most people that the “steeple” does not exist without the broader system, without a minimal amount of infrastructure to make it all happen…

    And it is that system, as a whole, which continually and actively works to reinforce the belief that the system, the “entity”, is the church (and not just the people…) It is not by some accident that people get turned around, and start to confuse the real Body of Christ with the institution… It is by design. It is a doctrine that is always taught, (though usually in an implicit manner), and continually reinforced by all institutions. And this only makes sense, because the minute an institution starts to acknowledge it’s own needless existence, it starts to dissolve immidiately. People do not pour their lives into the creation of institutions, only to turn around and let them evaporate. This principle of self-preservation has an extremely powerful, and extremely harmful effect on everyone within a given institution…

    I’ve yet to meet a pastor or person involved in an institutional “ministry” who didn’t readily admit to the constant effort required to keep things moving. The administrative issues alone are a huge burden to carry…

    So why do you then step back then, and talk as if there were no substantive difference between “the steeple” and the “house church”? Why do you seem to act like you do not understand the how the former is completely reliant on a pretty massive infrastructure, while the latter is not?

  7. 12-16-2010

    Alan,

    Whatever the reasons, most Australians are very cautious about anything that requires them to change their thinking, or practices. As a result, institutional church people regard anyone who meets anywhere else as “questionable”, even heretical. The reverse applies just as strongly! Those who meet anywhere else, and call themselves “church”, view the I.C. attenders with suspicion. An element of pride is, often, easily detected.

    For myself, if a person/s is/are trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ, they are my brethren in Christ, no matter where they meet.

    ‘How’, and ‘why’ they meet is more important than where.

    No matter ‘where’, or ‘how’ they meet, the ‘why’ is the most important. If the ‘how’ and ‘where’ devolve into habitual tradition, the ‘why’ becomes lost and of no consequence.

  8. 12-16-2010

    well said.. written.. whatever

    I agree :)

  9. 12-16-2010

    Daniel,

    Like I’ve said before, I do think that the more institutional the church, the less healthy the church. I also agree that the steepled building usually accompanies institutional churches.

    Aussie John,

    Well said.

    Randi,

    I agree too. :)

    -Alan

  10. 12-16-2010

    Alan,
    Great post. Good balanced approach. That’s why I read you!

    Thanks,

    Jeremy

  11. 12-17-2010

    Jeremy,

    I appreciate it. :)

    -Alan

  12. 12-18-2010

    This was sort of a secondary issue in this post, though in another sense it seems central: What particular seating arrangement do you think is best? I suspect you like the circle, given your focus on edification of others through this meeting. It’s fascinating to compare this to, for instance, meetings at the Community of Taize, France. On their website they say they prefer a seating arrangement where everyone sits side by side and faces the same direction – a direction symbolizing God (an altar, communion table, candles, etc.). The idea is that this meeting is not about focusing on each other (there is plenty of other time for that), but about joining as a body to focus on God.

    I find the Taize model most compelling, for the Sunday gathering especially. And I’m curious as to whether there is a particular reason you focus your once-a-week gathering on edification/teaching. In my experience edification happens quite well (or even better) by email (or blog comments, hehe). And teaching, wow, we can download the best sermons of history onto our phones nowadays. So it’s interesting to consider what we CAN’T do meaningfully by ourselves. One is Communion, so neglected in churches today. Another is corporate praise/song – something special happens when a bunch of voices become one. There’s corporate Bible reading/response, where the same happens. Finally I think, prayer – addressing God together is different that addressing him alone.

    The Taize model also seems to undermine arguments against an institutional church setting: If a church provides a setting for corporate address to God through word, song, prayer, and eucharist on Sunday, it could still perfectly fulfill the mandate for edification and teaching through other, smaller gatherings at other times.

  13. 12-18-2010

    Chris, when do you think the “Taize model” entered into practice in Church History? Were it’s roots Biblical?

  14. 12-19-2010

    Chris,

    I’m not that familiar with the Taize community, but I’m sure they had a very good explanation for having one meeting that was not focused on others. I don’t see that exception or distinction in Scripture. God is not in a particular direction in a building that we should all face. God is in each one of us.

    Bart,

    Good question. Even good practices may not be best practices when compared to Scripture.

    -Alan

  15. 12-19-2010

    Regarding the biblical roots of the Taize model – it goes at least as far back as the camp of Israel in the desert (everyone focused on and facing the tabernacle) and forward to Revelation’s vision of the redeemed bowing before the throne of God. It seems that the model of corporate worship has always been (and will be) the faithful side by side looking to God.

    Indeed God is in each of us, but I don’t see what that implies about worship. I don’t say, “Alan, stand still now while I focus on God in you and sing him a song…” God is in us, but he’s also “out there,” first and last. You can’t focus on a person and address God directly at the same time.

    God is not in a particular direction, true; he’s in every direction! So he is already in whichever direction the faithful happen to be facing when they worship him.

  16. 12-19-2010

    Chris,

    I agree that many of the practices of modern church (which are carried over from the medieval church) actually find their roots in ancient Judaism. I’m not sure that’s valid for the church though. It seems that Jesus provided a completely new way to approach God, where God is not “out there” but within.

    -Alan

  17. 12-19-2010

    Great discussion bros…u, know IM lovin this. Keep it going. :)

  18. 12-19-2010

    Most of the practices in today’s modern church don’t find their roots in the Bible, Old Testament Judaism or the Synagogue. They find their roots in the merger that took place in the 4th century between the Pagan Temples and a portion of the Christian Church that was made the state religion of Rome.

    Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna outlines it very well.

    I don’t believe worship was ever intended to be passively observed while vicariously led from a stage.

    That said, I believe there’s freedom and it’s not necessarily inherently wrong to adapt worship practices to be meaningful in the context of culture and place in history. I respectfully submit however that I believe today’s institutional church has it backwards. Large corporate gatherings with a focus on the front were the exception and not the rule. I believe smaller intimate gatherings with the body operating as a whole in terms of worship, singing, sharing hymns and scripture along with insights through the week, is a much more Biblical and effective model.

    Sadly, today’s church model allows people to reduce their sense of participation in “body life” to anonymous, passive involvement to the point that no real meaningful or in-depth relationships are even necessary.

  19. 12-19-2010

    Randi,

    Yes, it is.

    Bart,

    Yes, you’re right. The medieval and the modern church justified their practices from Old Testament Judaism, but the practices primarily came out of the medieval culture.

    -Alan

  20. 12-20-2010

    Alan,

    You neglected to acknowledge that the future of worship is also directional – towards the Throne. If both ancient and future worship are towards God, why not for the present? But I also don’t see a reason to not mine ancient Israel’s faithful worship for tips on what to do today – they worshiped the same God. They sang, prayed, read scripture. The fundamental difference now is that we have a perfect sacrifice, so we don’t have to engage in the Levitical atonement rites. But even we are commanded to acknowledge our new sacrifice (“Do this in remembrance of me”). “God is not ‘out there’” – really? Jesus left to go to the Father, and he hasn’t come back yet. He sent the Helper. The Spirit is within, but Jesus’ glorified body, and the Father, are “out there” preparing a place for us. I wasn’t speaking of how to “approach” God anyway, but how to worship him. Those are different. We approach God differently than Israel, but we can worship the same. God still desires the adoration of his people.

    Bart and Alan,

    You guys are talking about the modern or institutional church like it’s a monolithic thing. They span the spectrum on worship style and focus. The particular variety Bart is speaking of sounds like the contemporary, “seeker sensitive” church – and I agree that this model creates a passive audience. But there are other large, institutional gatherings that activate the congregation through responsive reading, songs (where you can actually hear the congregation), and prayers. In fact, what Bart describes at the end of his note sounds great to me – and is almost exactly what is found in a Taize service: and they number in the thousands. Even the “brothers” who lead the service do not occupy a stage; they sit facing the altar with the rest of the congregation.

    The seeker sensitive model is passive worship without much relationship-building, but the house-church model often overcompensates by focusing on relationship-building, without much worship of God. Group discussion/edification is good, but it’s not worship.

  21. 12-20-2010

    Hey Chris,

    I appreciate the clarifications you’re giving. I’ll confess, I’m not familiar with Taize and so I’m “hearing” it as a somewhat traditional context.

    What I’m describing in terms of “traditional church” is far braoder than “seeker sensitive”. Again, not to push hard if it’s not something you’re interested in, but “Pagan Christianity” by Viola and Barna, really breaks this out in detail and is very strongly referenced and supported. I’m speaking broadly accross most Protestant and Catholic (and perhaps Eastern Orthodox, but I’m much less personally familiar with their practices). There’s certainly broad variation within the models, but the models, allowing for whether the focus is upon the sermon, eucharist/mass or some other dividing point, really aren’t all that different.

    I understand the devices within services (for what it is worth, I served as a pastor, district worker and church administrator for about 20 years) that are used to promote “participation.” I’m not speaking of things like responsive reading, meet and greet times, corporate singing. I’m speaking of no delination between “lay” and “clergy” with all members of the body coming together with the onus upon ministry equally upon all members. I’m speaking of proactive preparation by many coming to not simply sing a song, but also to compose and bring together the body. Probably in terms of modern practice within a recognized context I’m speaking of things similar to a Quaker meeting, although I’d not limit it to that definition.

    When you look at the elements of most modern church services and allow for different orders of worship and emphasis upon certain elements based upon their denominational identity, there’s really remarkably little variation in terms of the elements of the service themselves. Hymns, homilies/sermons, communion/mass/eucharist, announcements, special music, moments of corporate led or silent prayer. In most cases within institutional churches, there is a clergy class either overtly or implicitly serving as the representative between the people in the passive audience and God.

    That type of “service” didn’t enter into practice in an organized church until about the 4th century.

    If you want to argue for an influence with that early church prior to the 4th century, I suppose you could make some argument for the synagouge system, but even then you’d have to recognize that it was more specific to the Jewish elements of the early church and not as strong as the Greek believers rapidly outnumbered Jewish followers as a whole and in most of the churches Paul and his companions planted there were very few or even no Jewish believers.

    Anyway, I refer to my previous statement that I think there is freedom and while I personally no longer wish to practice my faith in the context of institutional churches as the primary expression of my faith and involvement, I accept that there are genuine believers who do and who value it highly.

    Thanks for introducing me to the Taize model. I’ll keep an eye open and try to understand it better as I have opportunity.

    blessings,

    bart

  22. 12-20-2010

    Chris,

    I don’t understand how everyone facing the same direction (physically) is connected to everyone facing towards God. God is not in that direction (whichever direction we choose). Is there any indication in the NT that facing in one direction and being directed what to say or listen to by one person is a more worshipful posture? There are several indications in the NT that focusing on, loving, and serving one another is an act of worship and brings glory to God.

    Bart,

    I think that if you studied the first century (and earlier) synagogue, you would find a more communal meeting than later synagogues. In fact, most authors suggest that the early church (1st century) was influenced by the synagogue, but once the church became more structured, organized, and institutional, it then influenced the synagogue.

    -Alan

  23. 12-20-2010

    Just for the record… since I love you 2 brothers and in case you care… I thought I’d share that I can see both “sides” and I do get them both since I know your hearts/backgrounds (Chris more than Alan’s of course).

    I would agree with Chris because I can relate… because my husband & I actually pray side by side kneeling at the bed when we pray together… and it is because we don’t want to face each other, we want to come to God together, side by side, as one. It makes a difference for us and the goal….

    That being said… I don’t necessarily apply this to other gatherings with the bigger church. So I agree with Alan because really when it comes down to it – there’s not a physical direction you could face because we are not physical beings as much as we are spiritual beings — especially from GOd’s point of view. The physical is so less important… Yes we might physically bow to Him and see Him in person someday…. but in this realm, right now… that’s just not the way it is. He took away the physical altars and Holy Place…. and He did make it clear, where we are gathered, there He is.

    So I’d say – whatever helps stirs your affections for God and helps you focus on Him…. then face that direction and go for it :)

    We do both. So maybe that’s the answer. incorporating both into your week.

    Love ya

  24. 12-20-2010

    p.s. this isn’t so much a disagreement on the physical direction (I don’t think) as much as it is a disagreement on the whole “worship service”..the purpose of gathering as a church, etc…right?

  25. 12-20-2010

    Hi Randi! Yes, for me this is about the spiritual focus of our gathering – or the focus of at least one of them each week. The physical arrangement of people can be an expression, and an inspiration, of that focus. If you focus the gathering on people, you tend to prefer a circle; if the focus is worshiping God, side by side might make the most sense. In the latter, the particular direction we face is not important, but rather the fact that we are facing the SAME direction – expressing the fact that we are worshiping the same God, and are going the same way as a people (God’s way), and are of one mind, etc etc.

    To give a NT example of this, for Alan: since I’ve mentioned Revelation before, check out chapters 4 and 7. Especially this in 7: “I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. …standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing..” The people focused on the throne (not each other) and cast their worship straight to God. This also dovetails with the order of the greatest commandments – our first relationship is with God, the second is with people.

    I love that our worship now can be an expression of that final/eternal worship. I don’t say that it has to be directed by one person; not sure where you got that, Alan. But as far as focusing a gathering on people – absolutely we’re commanded to love one another; it is glorifying to God, but is this ever considered “an act of worship” in the NT? You’ll have to give me those examples. In any case, like Randi, I think both kinds of gathering are needed; I just wouldn’t call the one focused on people “worship.”

    Bart, I am very interested in this difference between churches pre- and post-4th century. Was there really no delineation between lay and clergy before that though? There seems to be lots of hierarchy in the first church – apostles, elders, deacons… Maybe I’ll have to check out that book..

  26. 12-20-2010

    Randi,

    I’m glad that you can find good in both perspectives. I can also.

    Chris,

    I’m not convinced that Revelation is a pattern for earthly practices. There are several passages that connect our mutual relationships with one another to worshiping God. For a short list, consider 1 Peter 4:10-11 and Hebrews 13:16. I think 1 John tells us to loving God (I think worship would have to include loving God) is only possible when we love other, in actions and deeds. (See 1 John 3:16-18.) Also, Romans 12-15 (especially chapter 12) places the “one anothers” in the context of “worship” language.

    By the way, I’m not saying that you are (or anyone else is) wrong in trying to focus people on God by having them all face a certain direction. I’m just not convinced that it’s helpful.

    -Alan

  27. 12-20-2010

    great job brothas :)

    Chris here we are back at our ‘not yet’ discussion again as is the theme this month it seems..

    In my opinion, it’s exciting to know that we will worship Him in physical presence someday…but that time isn’t yet…so for now we focus on Him spiritually. So to me the physical just doesn’t matter as much…

    So I’m beginning to think that maybe it has to do with personalities and ‘talents’ or somethin….

    your preference of worship or what is your favorite ‘way’ to worship might be affected by your personality? Or maybe your gifts… Chris you are such a visual person… and creative… so maybe for you as you are “worshipping” it’s important for you to be visually involved as well. So maybe for more artistic visual people like you – there’s a real need or desire to create the visual effects of what it will be like someday (what we think it will be like) …. but for others, it’s just not as important.

    Maybe others are focused on the family/relational aspect of what it will be like and not the visual of what it will be like.. or something? IDK. That isn’t as clear to me.. ignore this paragraph maybe :) hehe

    my point is that I guess this wouldn’t be such a grey area discussion if God was visible now and if we were in the millenial age where Jesus is literally ruling & reigning from Zion and we are all streaming up the mount to learn from Him and worship Him. (and even then though it describes that in Isaiah… it makes me think wow if His glory is gonna shine brighter than even the sun…that the sun & moon don’t even have a role anymore…His physical presence is gonna be so overwhleming awesome our bodies as we know them now couldn’t handle it…so maybe even then at that time, we won’t have to go anywhere or face a certain direction or gather a certain way… because He will be all around and His glory will be impossible to NOT be facing.

    so I’m curious now Chris – what aspects of a gathering do you believe are ‘required’ to ‘worship God’? :)

    Getting down to the nitty gritty now. Cool discussion

  28. 12-21-2010

    Alan…

    Well then I guess I’m just at a loss here… I honestly do not understand what your overall point is then, because to be honest, it feels like you’re throwing out a variety of contradictory ideas and statements…

    You say, “I am not a cheerleader for house churches or the house church movement”.

    But your first reason, (pointing out how the the early church also met at the temple and at the Hall of Tyrannus), pretty much misses the point, since neither of those meeting places required ANY sort of administration, or anything that would compare to a contemporary religious institution, in order to happen…. They were simply “organic church” meetings that happened to be held in larger, more public spaces…

    And your second point, (that so often “house churches” are just institutional churches that have been displaced to a living room), is quite true (I’ve visited some of those!), but yet all this means is that “institutionalism” is something that really exists in the mindsets of people, and that removing this mindset is not as simple as trading pews for couches…

    On the one hand you’re saying, “I do think that the more institutional the church, the less healthy the church. I also agree that the steepled building usually accompanies institutional churches.

    But then in your actual post, you say, “If this happens among a group meeting in a house, then great! If it happens among a group meeting in a school, awesome! If it happens in a church meeting in a big building with a steeple, fantastic!”

    This last quote, when taken at face value, seems to suggest that the institutional make-up of the church is irrelevant, so long as people are open to changing their methods…

    Overall, it just feels like you’re being very careful not to say anything that might offend someone. (i.e. the “steeple folk”…) Which confuses me, because you claim to understand how the “institution” is basically a construct of everything that tries to work against the mutual edification of all believers, but then you turn around and try to make this case where the two can somehow co-exist? Shouldn’t the post have been more about how simply moving your meeting to a living room is not enough?

    The unavoidable, (and uncomfortable, for many) fact is, that if you really follow the example of scripture, and thus chuck the institution altogether (not partially, but fully…), then you’re not going to have a lot of options left! It’s either people’s homes, or parks, or coffee shops, or whatever… You don’t go out and rent out school gymnasiums or things like that if you are opposed to setting up a regular budget for such expenses…

    While choice of location doesn’t define a healthy church, it absolutely is a reflection of how a person understands the Body (the true Church)… If the Church is the people, then it is simply the People… Period. Once you start investing in other “stuff”, (stuff that is not people…), then you are, in some manner, building an institution rather than building people up….

  29. 12-21-2010

    Randi,

    To me, this kind of discussion is always beneficial. Of course, it is even more beneficial among people that you actually know and with whom you share your life.

    Daniel,

    Yes, I believe that more institutional expressions of the church are less healthy than more organic expressions. And, yes, I’m excited when I hear about institutional churches considering how and why they meet and adjusting their meetings to allow for more interaction.

    -Alan

  30. 12-21-2010

    agreed. I am an over-discusser if there ever was one :)

    and please forgive me Alan – I forget sometimes we don’t know each other :)

  31. 12-21-2010

    Randi,

    I don’t think my comment to you was clear. I’m glad that we have discussions like this, even among people who don’t really know each other. So, there’s not reason to ask for forgiveness. I hope to foster even more discussions among people who only know one another through my blog.

    I was just pointing out that these kinds of discussions are even better when they are between people who actually know one another – people like you and Chris.

    -Alan

  32. 12-21-2010

    Alan: So I’ve given examples of worship from the OT and NT, both earthly and heavenly, and you’re still not convinced.. What else can I do? ;) To clarify, the main issue for me in all this is not the physical arrangement of people but the focus of minds and hearts during the gathering – is your mind primarily on the other people present or on God? I looked up the verses you cited and only the Hebrews passage seemed to make a direct connection between worship and loving people. Interestingly though, it doesn’t connect this kind of worship to the church gathering; rather, it calls “acts of worship” those sacrificial things we do for others in our daily life. So for me there is still no biblical defense for gathering the church primarily to focus on the other people there.

    I wonder if the popularity of gatherings focused on each other is a symptom of how isolated our lives are: Living with just ourself or one other adult day in and day out we have few natural opportunities to really share and love others in the church, so we schedule gatherings once a week just to try to satisfy this longing. Perhaps this is why our “new monastic” siblings seem to be leading the charge recently in God-focused worship gatherings: they share and love each other so much all week by living together that they feel free to gather on Sunday and do nothing but look up to God.

    To begin to answer Randi’s question: Generally what I think is “required” for group worship is positive attention on God – which of course has many expressions. Some are commanded and some are suggested in Scripture. The commanded ones are particularly relevant here – Communion and the Lord’s Prayer. Even if you’re gathered to focus on others, you can’t keep that focus if you decide to do either of these – in Communion we have to remember Jesus; and in the Lord’s Prayer we are praying as a “we” directly to God.

  33. 12-21-2010

    Chris,

    From my understanding of Scripture, brothers and sisters in Christ are to build up one another whenever they meet together. In fact, I do not focus on one meeting at one time of the week for this. We tend to spend alot of time with one another throughout the week, and we continue to learn how to help one another (“build up one another in maturity in Jesus Christ”) anytime we are together.

    You said, “To clarify, the main issue for me in all this is not the physical arrangement of people but the focus of minds and hearts during the gathering.” I agree. However, I do not see that focusing on one another in order to help one another grow in maturity in Christ is any less of a focus on God.

    The passages that I sent you show the important of focusing on one another and how that relates to our focus on God – loving God, glorifying God, praising God, etc.

    You conclude: “So for me there is still no biblical defense for gathering the church primarily to focus on the other people there.” Can you find a gathering of the church in Scripture that does NOT exhort the people to focus on one another (either by example or command)? I’ve searched diligently, and I’ve never found one. In fact, that study is what prompted me to start this blog and my PhD studies on the assembling of the church.

    -Alan

  34. 12-21-2010

    “I’ve searched diligently, and I’ve never found one.”

    That’s a strong statement. I haven’t either, but I haven’t studied as much as you have. I have found that the use of the word “worship” or “worship service” or “worship leader” in my cultural upbringing (southern baptist), doesn’t make sense with several scriptures where this word is used. Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at the well are tough to resolve with our tradition. I am forced to go back to the Scripture to see how it defines this word, not look through my SBC-colored glasses.

  35. 12-21-2010

    Thanks for the clarification Alan. :)

    Seems to me the conversation is now just a discussion/disagreement on what “worship” is.

    It’s such a thrown around word and has come to mean so many things that are just not even true. Just like the word “church” we can lose the true meaning of it because of its context in our language/culture now.

    So what is a “worship service”… “worship gathering”… what do people mean when they say we gathered and “we were worshipping God”… or we gathered to worship God.

    I feel like half the time each different denomination/sect of christianity is not even using words in the same meaning as every other… so the discussions across the movements/denominations don’t even make sense because you’re not playing on the same field. So ya gotta start at the basics each time… can truly get exhausting.

  36. 12-21-2010

    Eric,

    I’m open to the possibility. I have not found it. And, I’ve read major books on “Worship” that admit that the terminology is not used in conjunction with the church gathering.

    Randi,

    In one of my favorite articles on “worship” and the early church, the author admits that the NT does not use worship terminology to describe their meetings. He then says that we can still use worship terminology as long as we redefine what “worship” means. I suppose, using his logic, we can call anything by any term, as long as we redefine the terms. I prefer to use the terminology (especially important terminology) the way the NT uses it. This is one of the reasons that study and write so much about “church”, “elders,” “service/ministry,” etc.

    -Alan

  37. 12-22-2010

    Chris you want a Biblical Defense?

    The New Testament has a lot of evidence as to how the early church practiced:

    We know the early church met in houses: Acts 20:20, Romans 16:3,5, I cor 16:19.

    We know the early church took communicion in the context of a full meal, not a ritual apart from their daily interaction. I Cor 11:21-34

    We know that their church meetings were open and participatory. I Cor 14:26, Heb 10:24-25

    We know spiritual gifts were employed by multiple members. The Cor church warned against abuse but was not discouraged in any way from their common practice of all being open to participate using their gifts. I Cor 12-14

    We know they genuinely saw Brothers and Sisters in Christ as Family and treated on another in that way. Gal 6:10, I Tim 5:1-2, Rom 12:5, Eph 4:15, Rom 12:13, I Cor 12:25-26, II Cor 8:12-15

    They had a plurality of elders who lead as firsts among equals and there was not a “pastor” who singularly oversaw the church from any position of hierarchical power. Act 20:17, 28-29, I Tim 1:5-7

    We know that there were apostolic workers who itenerate and helped to establish early churches but didn’t stay leaving them to their own leadership and then staying in touch to teach, encourage and on occassion, rebuke when things got out of balance. Act 13-21 and every epistle in the New Testament.

    They were fully united and didn’t divide themselves into different denominations and churches within the same city. Acts 8:1, 13:1, 18:22, Rom 16:1, I Thess 1:1

    They didn’t use any form of honorary titles among themselves such as “pastor”, “elder”, “deacon”, “apostle”. Those were functions, not positions or offices where the office carried hierarchical power. Matt 23:8-12

    They didn’t organize themselves hierarchically in any way. Matt 20:25-28, Luke 22:25-26

    I can go on. They most certainly didn’t have dedicated buildings, nor did they sit in pews and face the front to place their attention on icons or a particular person leading in music, or preaching. Preaching and encouragement was communal and not the responsibility of any one “class” of believers. Teachers were recognized by their gifts and excercised those gifts but in the context of mutual encouragement.

    If you want a model of most institutional churches today, they justify it from Old Testament Temple practices and even when doing that, they fail to recognize that in terms of the history of the church the current practices were not drawn from Judiasm. The early church quite early on became primarily Greco-Roman and it was when Constantine moved the Church from persecution to state church and within a generation the empire went from about 10% to 90% christian and the pagan temples and priests themselves become quickly incorporated into that state church practice that many of the forms of “worship” that people try to attribute to the OT were adopted and then justified after the fact.

    Given that Jesus was the fullest revelation of God and what was shown in part in the OT was completed in Christ, why would any appeal to the OT Temple system as a model for Christian worship? Why not start with Christ and observe how he and particularly his disciples after pentecost procticed?

    Again, I’m not stating that all who participate in corporate worship under an institutional model are in sin or that genuine believers can’t participate in that manner. You have to ask yourself however, why the early church didn’t and why they favored the things noted above.

    The New Testament is full of clear examples. We simply have to be willing to take off our institutional glasses and stop reading into the text things that the original writers and recipients of the NT, didn’t understand as being there.

    So you asked for a Biblical case. There it is. Can you build a Biblical case from the NT without appealing back to the Old Testament Temple and Sacrificial system that Christ fulfilled and then showed a more complete way?

    I’m looking for clear teaching and example and not simply justification by analogy.

    blessings,

    bart

  38. 12-22-2010

    Bart, I asked for a biblical defense specifically for gathering the church to focus on one another (as opposed to addressing God directly), not a defense of early church practices. So your references don’t answer that question, but it is good info that I hope to have a chance to look up soon. Also I appreciate the further details on the pre-Constantine church.

    Alan, after skimming Acts I came across several instances that suggest gatherings not focused on one another. One occurs after Peter’s arrest when a bunch of believers pack into Mary’s house for prayer (Acts 12:12ff). By all contextual indications this gathering was first of all about talking to God as a body (and therefore not to each other). In another place we are told that Peter and John were going to the temple for a “prayer meeting” (3:1). Oh, if only we were told what exactly went on there! It does seem though (by the name) that the first order of business was talking to God. Then there’s the famous end of chapter 2 where the disciples “followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home.” Of course I can’t be sure, but that sounds like a nice mix of God-focused worship and people-focused worship.

    I don’t think gathering to build one another up is lesser worship, just different – and fundamentally so. If there are other ways to worship God, why not do them all? I suspect your gatherings include prayer, and maybe singing? Do you take Communion? All of those are direct addresses to God, so how do those fit into your focus on others? It has been my experience that gatherings where we solely address God together ARE profoundly edifying to everyone present. So maybe “edification” has to be given a broader meaning to include activities where we’re not just focusing on each other.

  39. 12-22-2010

    Chris, you’re welcome and I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to challenge anything you wish and we can discuss.

    Setting up the argument as to whether we gather to focus on God or one another, is a false dichotomy. The answer is both and then some other reasons might be added as well.

    Two major dynamics are different following Christ. First, there is no longer any need to gather at a specific point (the temple) to meet with God, because God is no longer limited to a house built of hands. Second, Christ now indwells every individual and corporate gathering not longer ushers in God’s presence in any sense because He is individually with each one, assuming each one is a follower of Christ, which by definition means they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

    When you look at every description of “church” as the term is used in the NT, you’ll find every illustration used, without exception is in the context of a description or metaphor that is living. Even “building a house” in the one instance that sounds like a building uses the term “living stones”.

    So, there’s an element in which when we congregate and focus upon “one anothering” in the New Testament that that is part and parcel of worshipping God.

    Where did we get the idea that God’s presence somehow is more pronounced in a geographic location? Not the New Testament.

    There’s no reason to create a separation of communal focus and interaction as opposed to “worship” in terms of a formal liturgical service. The Bible doesn’t.

    John 15:12 – Love one another

    Romans 12:5 – Be members of one another

    Romans 12:10 – Honor one another

    Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another

    Romans 14:13 – Don’t pass judgment on one another

    Romans 14:19 – Build up one another

    Romans 15:5 – Be like-minded toward one another

    Romans 15:7 – Accept one another

    1 Corinthians 12:25 – Care for one another

    Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another in love

    Galatians 5:26 – Don’t provoke or envy one another

    Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens

    Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another

    Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another

    1 Thessalonians 3:12 – Abound in love toward one another

    1 Thessalonians 4:18 – Comfort one another

    Titus 3:3 – Don’t hate one another

    Hebrews 3:13 – Encourage one another

    Hebrews 10:24 – Stir up one another to love and good deeds

    James 4:11 – Don’t slander one another

    James 5:9 – Don’t bear grudges against one another

    James 5:16 – Confess your sins to one another

    1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another

    1 Peter 5:14 – Greet one another

    1 John 1:7 – Fellowship with one another

    1 John 3:11 – Love one another

    Sounds like a theme to me …..

    blessings,

    bart

  40. 12-22-2010

    Chris,

    I think Paul makes it clear that when the church is gathered together our focus should be on one another. In fact, Paul specifically says that the one who speaks in a tongue speaks directly to God. But, he then cautions that this should not be done when the church meets. (1 Corinthians 14:4, 1 Corinthians 14:27-28) The exception is when the tongues are interpreted. Why? Because interpreted tongues edify the church (one another) while uninterpreted tongues only edify the tongues speaker (between the individual and God). Similarly Paul says that even prayer (during the church meeting) should be for the purpose of building up one another. (1 Corinthians 14:14-17) Also, notice that the Lord’s Supper (communion) is not actually the Lord’s Supper if we do not consider and treat others in the right manner while we are eating together. (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

    Do we pray, sing, eat together, etc? Of course. But these are not vertical (toward God) as opposed to horizontal (toward others) acts of worship. They are both and must be both (according to Paul’s exhortations especially in 1 Corinthians 14) whenever the church is gathered together.

    -Alan

  41. 12-22-2010

    I just thought of something.

    If we are Christ’s Body… when we “focus” on each other (the Church) we are focused on Him as well… but only His Body. So is there a need to “focus” on the Head separately from His Body? If we only focus on His Body – are we in the wrong for leaving out the Head?

    and my next question is off track and not relevant…

    do some people distinguish between God/Jesus when they praise Him? Do they make sure to praise Jesus AND God. When you praise Jesus – aren’t you fully praising God?

    anyway — I’m probably not making sense. The discussion is just making me think..

  42. 12-22-2010

    Randi,

    The body of Christ without the Head? Is that possible? ;)

    -Alan

  43. 12-22-2010

    It’s not appropriate by any measure to ignore Christ as the head, nor is it appropriate to replace him and relegate him to a figurehead or passive observer of what we wish to call worship.

    Rom 12:1-2 describes true worship and it doesn’t look anything like a service that I can see.

  44. 12-23-2010

    Bart, I would gladly challenge anything in your previous note if there was anything I disagreed with, but there isn’t. Miraculous, no? ;) In your last note I would only contend with the idea that God-focus vs. people-focus is a false dichotomy. If you put yourself in God’s shoes for a moment as the Father of children, it seems clear: it’s one thing for your children to talk to each other, build each other up, serve each other, etc., and quite another for them to talk directly to you. As their father you would naturally desire both. I agree with you that serving one another is a kind of worship of God, and that both people-focus and God-focus is required of our gatherings. But pointing out the fundamental difference between the two could help us not to forget to practice either.

    Alan: I’ve been discussing all this under the assumption that we’re talking about a gathering of believers that is mature enough to treat each other right during the Lord’s Supper. That’s merely a prerequisite; the main point is still to remember Jesus. This applies to the tongues example too – the gathering I have in mind is one where everyone participates in and understands all the activities. The verse you cited saying that people are built-up when they understand the prayer of others in the meeting corroborates the point of my previous note – when we address God directly, it IS edifying to everyone present even though the primary focus is not each other.

    Still curious: Does your group take the Lord’s Supper?

  45. 12-23-2010

    Chris,

    Yes, like I said earlier, we eat a meal together as the Lord’s Supper.

    So, can you explain the distinction in your “Taize-like” gathering?

    -Alan

  46. 12-29-2010

    Alan,

    You said earlier that you eat together, but not that it is “as the Lord’s Supper.” What makes it the Lord’s Supper? I know the original was in the context of the Passover meal, but Paul said it was “after supper” that Jesus instituted the sacrament. It seems like it was a separate event.

    I wouldn’t call our gathering “Taize-like” – we incorporate elements from lots of sources. But the common distinctive of any of these kinds of gatherings is an extended time of direct communication with God (and him with us). This happens through a variety of activities – spoken/public prayers; public readings of large portions of Scripture; songs; the Lord’s Supper; periods of silence. Interaction between people is minimal – we tell each other our prayer requests, and there is some time for discussing the readings. There is not really any “sharing,” and there is no “sermon.” The predominant spiritual “direction” is from us to God and from him to us.

    Not that more others-focused activities couldn’t be incorporated into this gathering; it just tends to become really long, and we gather at other times to just hang out anyway. There’s something nice about having a special time that is JUST about going to God – through word, song, prayer, etc. The distinction is about as clear as it can be at Taize – in their large gathering there is zero interaction between people, and that’s where everyone sits side by side (kneeling on the floor, actually) facing one direction, indicating their focus on one Person, God, rather than each other. But at other times they break into smaller groups and sit in circles for teaching and discussion.

  47. 12-29-2010

    Christ,

    Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 again. I think you’ll find (as in all the gospel account) that the bread was broken at the beginning of the meal (this was a common practice), and the cup was shared at the end of the meal (another common practice). Jesus was not changing meal practices, but the significance of the entire meal. So, yes, when we eat together we attempt to treat every meal as the Lord’s Supper. Are we successful? Probably not.

    How does your “direct communication with God” and “interaction between people is minimal” complete Paul’s command to do all things for the edification of the church? He even says, “Whenever you come together,” not “occasionally when you come together.” I think Paul even speaks about activities that are only between the person and God, right? Doesn’t he say that those activities are not for times when the church gathers?

    -Alan

  48. 12-29-2010

    back from a break. Hope you had a great Christmas! :)

    In response to your last comment to me Alan :)

    I wonder if it IS possible (wrong but possible) to worship the Body – and not the head. I know many parts of the Body that praise themselves (and give honor to themselves or their part… and make sure to try to separate themselves from other parts of the Body).

    So maybe the only way to give honor/praise as a Body (INCLUDING the Head) is to make sure we are recognizing our identity in being under the Head and relating to each other only as being part of the same Body, under the Head.

    just rambling

  49. 12-30-2010

    Alan-

    I appreciate you calling me “Christ,” but you will surely be disappointed ;) After looking at the gospel accounts again as well as the Corinthians passage, it seems clear that Jesus passed the bread sometime in the middle of the meal (everyone was already eating), and as you say the cup was passed after the meal. I didn’t see that distinction before, so thanks for pointing that out. The main point of the meal is still clearly to remember Jesus (“those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” – v. 29) and it is not like a typical meal eaten to fulfill hunger (“Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment” – v. 34).

    To answer your question about edification: As I’ve said before, communication with God as a body IS edifying, perhaps even moreso than talking to each other. Your group prays and sings together, so apparently you think this is edifying too. You don’t pray and sing to each other, but to God. So you come together, and look up, at least for some activities. I like that ancient services are often just called “prayers” (morning prayer, evening prayer, etc.), even though many other activities happened besides what we typically call prayer – they read scripture, sang songs, etc. – all different kinds of communication from us to God and from God to us. I think we see many examples of this in the NT too, wherever the church is gathered in a house “for prayer” or going to a “prayer meeting.” I don’t know of any activities besides uninterpreted “tongues” that are not to be done as a body.

  50. 12-30-2010

    Randi,

    I think I understand what you’re saying. I would say it’s possible to worship people or friends. But not “the Body.” There is no Body of Christ without Christ.

    Chris,

    I’m not sure it’s possible to edify others without thinking about others. Hebrews 10:24-25 begins with “Consider one another…” It is possible to sing to one another and God at the same time. But it is also possible to sing only to God without considering one another. Again, I think Paul says for us to stay away from one of those when we are meeting together.

    -Alan

  51. 1-1-2011

    So let’s say you’re singing “Be Thou My Vision” together (as we plan to do tomorrow..). In what way would you be also singing that “to one another”? And on the flip side, what would it look like for someone in the group to not consider others while singing this song?

  52. 1-1-2011

    Chris,

    When we sing songs together, we often ask the person who requested to sing the song why they picked that song. Also, after singing, it is common for someone to say something about the song after we sing.

    You asked, “What would it look like for someone in the group to not consider others while singing this song?” I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible for someone to sing a song without considering the impact on others, and only sing it because they want to sing it to God.

    Perhaps you can explain what this means: “in their large gathering there is zero interaction between people.” How does that correspond to Paul’s command, “Whenever you come together do everything to edify one another,” and the instruction in Hebrews, “Consider one another in order to provoke love and good works.”

    -Alan

  53. 1-1-2011

    By your description of how you sing songs together, there still seems to be no “edification” in the actual singing of the song. So why sing the song? Why not just discuss the song and then encourage everyone to sing it by themselves later? It seems like you’ve developed a very specific idea of what “edification” looks like (which I don’t see modeled in scripture), then you’re trying to cram traditional worship activities into it, but they don’t fit.

    I don’t think edification is dependent on interaction. If I pick out a song for the group to sing, I pick it because I think it will help us “worship God in spirit and in truth” and perhaps even teach us some good theology through the lyrics as we sing. In this case I’ve both considered others and helped edify others without interacting with them. The liturgy itself is edifying if well-chosen, as it should always be. We have plenty of other time for interacting with others; this is needed too. But I think it’s important to have times where the primary interaction is between us and God.

  54. 1-1-2011

    Chris,

    In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says that speaking in tongues is interaction between the tongues speaker and God. Why do you think Paul would say this should not happen (if the tongues are uninterpreted) when the church is meeting together?

    -Alan

  55. 1-2-2011

    Because uninterpreted tongues can only be an interaction between the individual and God, not the church and God. A song, by contrast, can be sung to God by everyone present; everyone works together to worship God.

  56. 1-2-2011

    Chris,

    I wasn’t talking about singing. Do you not see a focus on mutual edification (that is, the whole church working together to build up one another) when the church meets in 1 Corinthians 14?

    -Alan

  57. 1-2-2011

    Yes, I do see the focus on mutual edification – which (according to v. 26) includes activities where we all focus on God (song, prayer) and where we focus on one another (teaching, sharing).

  58. 1-2-2011

    Chris,

    Good.

    -Alan

  59. 2-24-2011

    LOL. Ater you linked to this post on 2/24/11, I thought I hadn’t read this post. But now I see I have since I commented on it earlier. I guess I can’t remember everything I read.

    Anyway, it was good reading it again, as well as all the interaction since then.

  60. 3-16-2011

    Alan – you’ve talked about it through these comments… and in many posts each week too we get a feel for what your gatherings are like. You all meet throughout the week with each other wherever as you live life… and then you meet at a set location once a week same time same place? and is it the same ‘type’ of gatherings as when you meet during the week… just more people? or are different things done at the weekly set time all as one big group?

    sorry to exhaust this… want to fully catch the picture of how you all BE.

    and regarding this discussion:
    as with everything in theology and life. I am in the middle and believe that you and chris both agree more than you realize. seems like wording might be the only difference. somewhere in the middle is where it all makes sense to me…taking time to communicate with God as a group directly (song, prayer, communion) all the while considering others while doing so… “being aware” of others while communicating with God because we are ONE before Him as His Body……. and then times of communicating with people directly (discussion, teaching, encouragement) all the while focusing on God while we do that too… “being aware” of God as communicate with others.

    physically (not just spiritually) directly communicating to God while being aware of others.
    physically directly communicating to others while being aware of God.
    spiritually all focused on God & His Body during each.

  61. 3-16-2011

    Randi,

    I’m certain that Chris and I agree much more than it may appear in this comments. Perhaps, one day, we can even all get together to talk about these issues – and even more important issues. :)

    -Alan

  62. 3-16-2011

    i will love that!

  63. 6-10-2011

    i am sympatico with your post alan, The bride goes out and comes it, as she trims her whicks and fills her lamps, waiting for her husband. what is true and good will be true and good wherever it manifests itself. and all of that comes from him, and that we cannot change or affect. what comes in and goes out of us, we have more control over, and the most effective change is that which comes from with in. Christ dwells where he dwells, and if we seek him, we will find him. on the sofa, or in the pew, if we have the ears and eyes to discern it. forgiveness is the God particle that restores all cells.

  64. 12-7-2011

    I too am not a proponent of house church if by house church it means shrinking the traditional church and trying to fit it in a house. I’m an advocate of simple church, by that meaning that the emphasis is on discipling one another — “wherever two or three are gathered.”

    One “house church” I do advocate, however, and that is the family. Every family should be a church with husband, wife and children all engaged in the gospel and making disciples. That’s far preferable to the age-segregation that takes place in almost all churches, treating teenagers as children and results in 3/4ths of all children not being a part of the Kingdom effort when they leave the nest.

  65. 3-9-2012

    balance is difficult, no matter what the endeavor, this post is an example of balance, as my friend says “werd”, good post Alan!

  66. 11-3-2012

    Thank you for once again saying “what meeded to be said.” “Where” is just one of the “who, what, when, where, why and how” questions discerning believers should ask themselves about living their lives of worship together. May we find ourselves frequenting facilities WHERE the five-fold ministry furthers the full functioning of every member of the body. At least that’ my fantasy for me and my family. : )

  67. 11-5-2012

    John,

    Thank you for the feedback. We’ve experienced that kind of “full functioning of every member of the body” both in homes and in other locations. I pray that God will surround you with brothers and sisters who will seriously consider how God can work through them to build each other up.

    -Alan

  68. 11-10-2012

    House church is not for everyone. It is not an easier way to gather and takes some time to develop authentic relationships with others. I would say the sole purpose of the house church is to equip and encourage people to do the things God is directing them to do. All institutional churches that are incorporated and have full-time paid staff are businesses. Nothing wrong with that, but they are focused on `the ministry`, which usually means collecting funds to pay for the church building, its programs and gift giving. The Crystal Cathedral recently went bankrupt. Do you think the church built by the Lord of the universe can go bankrupt. I assure you, a house church will not.

  69. 11-10-2012

    Mark,

    Generally, you are correct. I’ve known of house churches that were just as much businesses as the Crystal Cathedral, and I’ve known of some that went bankrupt. I’ve known of other church who met in other locations (not homes) and were not businesses. I don’t think the location that we gather in should be our primary concern, unless that location hinders us for our goal of helping one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.

    -Alan

  70. 7-29-2013

    I can agree with both ways of meeting, but what I have a really hard time with is any group regardless of how they meet, still says tithing is still in effect in the New Testament. Tithing was only for Israel and that ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.

  71. 7-31-2013

    William,

    Ok. This post wasn’t really about tithing, though.

    -Alan

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. For One Another | Looking For Church - [...] Knox at The Assembling of the Church has a good reminder here. It really pointed something out that I sometimes understand, …
  2. 2010 Blogging Year in Review | The Assembling of the Church - [...] Why I’m Not A House Church Proponent (from December 16, 2010) [...]
  3. Upgrade Church or Downgrade Church? | The Assembling of the Church - [...] as most of my readers know, I’m not a house church proponent. However, I definitely agree that changing from …
  4. The Missional Attractional Church | Till He Comes - [...] Knox wrote something similar about two months ago in a post called “Why I’m Not a House Church Proponent.” …
  5. House Church Articles | The Assembling of the Church - [...] you probably know, “I’m not a house church proponent.” (Jeremy, you already knew this.) However, this doesn’t mean that …
  6. The Missional Attractional Church - [...] Knox wrote something similar about two months ago in a post called “Why I’m Not a House Church Proponent.” …