Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Something to consider -

Since my husband resigned as a pastor back in January, we have periodically been meeting with other families on Sunday mornings for worship. For the past couple of months, we've been meeting regularly, and what a blessing it has been. Up until two weeks ago, we were meeting in a local community building. We enjoyed meeting together there, but still something didn't seem quite right. Someone had suggested meeting in homes instead, and I immediately had the thought that maybe everyone would not fit comfortably in "our" home. My husband and I discussed it, and we thought we should give it a try and see how it worked out.

For the past two Sundays we've met in our home, and in my 36 years of life, I don't think I've ever enjoyed church more! We've been joining together in the living room and bringing in extra chairs as necessary. We have prayer requests and prayer, sing hymns, and have in depth study of God's Word. Afterwards, we have true fellowship as we sit around the table and eat our meal followed by lots of Biblical discussion with questions and answers (most of the time! - some things have to be studied), burdens shared, and an atmosphere created where we can truly get to know one another and learn from each other. It is so much more comfortable meeting in a home and allows for more intimate fellowship, which Christians definitely need more of.

A friend of ours sent us a link to an article that I just read this morning. It is amazing how it articulates, explains, and instructs in exactly what I am finding to be true! We don't usually try to explain to anyone what we're doing in regards to church worship as most people just don't understand how you can worship if you're not in a formal church building. In fact, my husband and I have both had people ask us where we're going to church, and when we say we're meeting in our home with other families, we usually get the "Oh, I am so sorry you can't find a church" look and then they go on to invite us to their church. It's like they are trying to sell us something as they go on to say what wonderful Sunday School classes they have, along with children's church - and don't forget the remarkable youth group! I usually just smile and say "thank you for the invitation." It would be great if I could print out this article and hand it out during times like this and say, "this is why we're doing what we're doing." But I really don't feel led to do that either. I guess that's why I'm posting it here - in case some of you that know us have been wondering why we're doing what we're doing.

I'm not trying to encourage everyone to leave their church and start meeting in their home. I'm just excited about what I'm experiencing, and I wanted to share the article I mentioned as it has too many important truths to miss.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from - or ideas that I can truly relate to:

"Thomas Vincent (1634-1678), remarking about God’s judgment on the city of London after the Great Plague, laid the responsibility for the errors and waywardness of the people at the feet of the churches and of the pastors. They had left preaching the whole Word of God in not preaching judgment and repentance for sin. He soberly remarked, “…when so many pillars were removed, no wonder if the building tumble to the ground.” Similarly today, the pillars of truth are removed from where they are needed the most. Our nation is already reeling back and forth, about to collapse as a swelling wall. Why is this so? Does not America have an abundance of church buildings in every community? Are there not church programs available in every age group and interest? How can there be so many church organizations, yet our nation so cold toward God? Why are there countless hundreds of thousands of professing Christians who are so lukewarm to the things of God that their ‘light’ couldn’t even be seen with night vision? Why are there countless ‘Christian’ organizations, programs, and institutions that are filled with useless salt? Why does one have to search high and low to find a Christian brother or sister who is sold out for God?"

"Why can Christians be so fervent and zealous in their attendance and participation at ‘church’ events, yet have little appetite for the things of God? The answer is that they are never told or instructed in what the Church truly is. Most Christians grow up learning that the church organization down the street is the only God-ordained method of growing in the Lord, and that any other mode is backsliding. Hence, week after week, they perform the same rituals over and over again, ever mindful not to miss a single service – because if they do, then ‘obviously’ they do not love the things of the Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth. This mindset has subtly convinced many Christians that their spirituality is not their dedication and relationship to God, but comes from their dedication to a position (pastor) and to their organization (local ‘church’)." (I have DEFINITELY been there!!)

"I strongly believe that many ‘churches’ in America today think of ‘church’ along Roman Catholic lines – that as an organization with a similar power structure. The Assembly/Church is not a ‘church’ in the sense of the Sunday ritual that most Christians go through the motions of. It is not even limited to the sense of a Bible study. It most certainly has zero resemblance to the modern “cell group” nonsense. The Assembly/Church is a gathering of believers as the ekklesia or called-out people in Jesus Christ that is arranged and likened to a family."

"So many Christians have their concept of ‘church’ opposite of what the Bible teaches. Many people think that ‘church’ is a large group of people, and if you are not in a large group, you are backsliding, or stealing people from the pastors........Oftentimes, the sincere followers of Christ are not in large congregations. Most often they fellowship with each other in small groups throughout the week. Often, most Christians will tell you that ‘church’ is where you go to a building, sing a song or two, pay money, and then sit quietly for about forty-five minutes listening to a pastor preach. However, again, the Bible lays out that the true Church is defined by it interaction and fellowship like a family. Nowhere does God tie the New Testament concept of church with a building or location."

"It absolutely breaks my heart to see so many ‘churches’ and Christians with a shallow understanding of what true fellowship is. Fellowship is not greeting one another, talking about the sports game, weather, school activities, or some other trivial stubble. True fellowship is not even what takes place in these expensive ‘fellowship halls’ that ‘churches’ build. Most of what takes place in the foyers and halls of churches would classify as social activity. Nothing wrong in that, except that it is mistaken for fellowship. True fellowship is communion and intimate familiarity. How many of the Christians at your local ‘church’ do you know their spiritual burdens and joys? How many of them know your ‘spiritual temperature’ and exhort, edify, and encourage you accordingly? The early church had “singleness of heart, praising God…” not because they all had the same membership, or the same pastor’s mindset, or because they had just started a collective building program – no, they could all praise God because they had a closeness with each other to where they could encourage each other in what was most important to all of them – their walk with God."


I could go on and on, but I'll stop there. If you want to read the article in its entirety, click here and then scroll down and click on the article The Church: Edifice or Family.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Rhonda,
Wow! Its been a while. I am excited to hear of your sweet fellowship within your home. Thanks for the article too. It is hard for me to understand why one would think church has to be in a particular building under particular circumstances. Interesting to think about. May you be blessed. How are you doing these days :*)!!!!!!!!! tammyp

Rhonda said...

Hi, Tammy! Yes, it can be hard to understand, but I guess it's easier for me since I used to feel that exact same way.

I'm feeling pretty good here lately. The nausea has finally passed - for the most part. Thanks for asking! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying your summer! Rhonda

Anonymous said...

You speak well;however, there is no talk of leading anyone to Christ. There's a whole lot wrong with today's church. You can pick it completely apart! But remember, Jesus Christ started the "church". He is the foundation. Sure, they started in houses. Until they grew so large, they built buildings. Why did they grow, they taught the gospel and people were saved. Praise God! If you want to worship with only a few people, I don't care. However, using a platform to tear down what Christ built isn't very good. Instead encourage those who work so hard to continue the great commission in Matthew. The great commission that our Lord and Saviour said for us to do! Too many people think that church is only to sit, learn, worship. Actually, church is to serve. We serve when we encourage, we serve the visitor with a handshake. We serve when we hug a child. We serve when tithe. We serve when we sing. We serve when we pick up little kids on a bus. We serve we teach the gosple. Too christians are spiritually obese. They take in and never give out. Let's serve like out Great Saviour Served! Remember Mary. They didn't like the way she worshipped the Lord. They wanted to pick her apart. She loved the Lord. The people who you think are quite as spiritual as you love the Lord. So, go ahead and worship where the Lord leads you; however, don't tear us down. And please make sure you are saved. John 3:3;Romans 6:23, Romans 10:13

Rhonda said...

Anonymous,

There's a HUGE difference in tearing down and exposing things that are just wrong. I would consider "tearing down" saying things that are false and are only meant to hurt. Exposing things that are wrong and need correcting is something that needs to be done - Jesus is a great example of that.

You are correct in saying that there are a lot of things wrong in today's churches, but after that point is where we seem to differ. I believe that things that are broken need to be fixed. One reason I think this is because I know too many people who are leaving church altogether because they can't find a church that can offer them something other than what the world is already giving.

I know there are some great churches out there, but sadly I believe they are the minority. But even in a church where many things are wrong, I'm hopeful that there are still some true converts along the way. God can use anything, and I know that.

As far as outreach goes, that can and should be done outside the church (as well as in the church when possible). The church is for Christians to grow and learn and then take that message out into the world. There's no greater way to lead someone to the Lord than through a relationship, and more times than not, that happens outside the church. If the lost come into the local assembly and hear the gospel and truly understand and are led to Christ, that's wonderful. If you have the opportunity to show love to visitors, bus kids, etc., that should be done and can certainly aid in leading them to Christ, but "churches" should not gear their services and programs toward the lost. The church is where Christians are to gather together and worship the Savior, pray, and experience true fellowship! As far as "serving" goes, our main service should be outside those doors and walls!

Yes, Christ did build The Church - the ekklesia - the true church - those that have a true and living relationship with the Savior - not the actual church building or even those who are meeting together every Sunday in a church building or wherever. I don't believe Jesus had anything to do with the building or growing of some of our modern day churches or programs. (Take for instance a local youth group I heard of recently where teenagers were found in closets in the church basement - youth area - doing things that they absolutely should not have been doing.)

Nonetheless, the main point of my article was how we love what we are experiencing each Sunday in our home - and it just seems to keep getting better and better! As I was writing that blog entry a few weeks ago, we were searching the scriptures and wanting to make sure that what we were doing was Biblical as we wouldn't want to do anything else. After much searching and studying, we've come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong scripturally with what we are doing. Is it wrong for others to continue to meet in "church buildings"? Absolutely not. But we all need to make sure that Jesus is the focus of everything that is going on.

Soli de Gloria - To Christ Alone Be the Glory