Church Governance or Policy Issues, Going Back to Church Again, Safe Churches, Tithing

What Does Non-Institutionalized Church Look Like?

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We’ve spent the last several days discussing a variety of issues stemmed from Brenda’s very important topic of institutional churches failing to meet the real needs of their people who are suffering abuse.  Quite a bit of the conversation shifted to the subject that church as an institution is the root problem as boatrocker suggests here:

For me, what I believe about the ekklesia is not based upon how the traditional church paradigm is run, but whether it should exist at all. I’m not one who was hurt by “bricks and mortar”, though I attended for 47 years, very regularly and with much involvement, as had my family for generations.

My objection is to the very existence of pastor, assistant pastors, board of directors, running a Christian organization that sits in pews every week to watch the backs of the heads of people who sit and stand on cue. It is the thing itself, not how they run the thing, that I do not find in scripture. And as noted, people are leaving the thing in droves, many of whom fall into atheism or paganism. This is serious and not a matter of mere semantics or personal preferences.

I look at the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, I look at their actions, and I see no organizations, no committees beyond temporary bodies to address specific problems (e.g. the 7 chosen to see to it that Greek widows were not neglected). I see no liturgy, no oratory by one person on a regular basis, no “offices”, no chains, no prison doors for those Jesus freed. I see instead real people living real lives in homes, marketplaces, and public gathering places. I see families, singles, and even vigorous debate.

Above all, I see the traditional, religious structure as the root of many evils, regardless of how benevolently it may be run. It’s an institutional, paradigm problem, a matter of kind rather than degree. It’s very much like the debate over taxes in the US: flat tax vs. Fair Tax. The former simplifies the tax code, while the latter eliminates it. The former still allows the eventual return of corruption and oppression, while the latter keeps them in a very tiny box. Kind vs. degree.

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1 Corinthians 12:18-26

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;  and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,  so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

 

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 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations,various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?  All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?  But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

And I show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31

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There were a number of you who echoed similar sentiments about church as an institution while some (including me), for whatever reason, prefer church as we know it – the brick and mortar building.  It dawned on me that I really do not know what this kind of “church” looks like to those who no longer go to institutionalized churches.

I am tired of the hierarchy that I see.  Sometimes when I hear the words “senior pastor” from the elders at my church I want to scream and say, “KNOCK IT OFF!”   But I excuse it and cut them slack, primarily because our pastor doesn’t introduce himself as senior pastor, and also the guy is a pretty darn humble dude.

So, can we talk about what church looks like – the kind of ekklesia without the hierarchy, the hoopla, the brick and mortar, the business meetings, the membership agreements and covenants?

Where do you go to church?  What does it physically look like?

How often do you meet?

What about the music?  I’m a musician and it dawned on me as I’m typing this that worship is very important to me.

Who runs your churches?

Do you collect a tithe?

Where are the children?  How do you ensure they are safe?  The last couple of churches we’ve gone to have had robust policies to protect children (background checks for those who care for children, rules for picking up kids, etc).

How do people find you?

Do you advertise your “church” anywhere?

Most importantly, what about the Brendas?  How do you address the needs of the many Brendas who have real financial needs?

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Final note:  when searching for scripture to use for this article, I was struck by the last line of Chapter 12 which was discussing the Body of Christ:  And I show you a still more excellent way.   Is this more excellent way referring the next chapter – the chapter on love?   I never put that together before – they’ve always been separate for me:  Chapter 12 = the body of Christ and Chapter 13 = love.   Maybe whomever numbered the chapters had it all wrong and should have kept the love chapter together with the Body of Christ chapter?  Doesn’t that make better sense?

photo credit: Martin LaBar via photopin cc

160 thoughts on “What Does Non-Institutionalized Church Look Like?”

  1. I suppose I should say something, eh? 😉

    As Frank Viola and others have said, there’s a difference between “church in a house” and “house church”. I used to wonder as well what people would “do with the children” etc., but then it dawned on me that we never seem to ask such questions when we get together for other reasons. If adults want to meet and talk, they seem to make arrangements somehow. I think we need to step WAY out of the box and start from scratch: what did Christians do in the first 100 years, when there were no special buildings, or daycare? I realize our culture is very different. But can’t the group just let the kids play (under supervision of course) while the adults talk? Aren’t the parents, at home, the best early teachers of scripture?

    There is much more to say, but I just wanted to start off with that.

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  2. Now, come on you guys. I need much more specific than that. Let’s say I quit my church cold turkey. I’ve got my family (currently 5 boys at home). What do I do now? How does this work? Where are we going to go this Sunday? How am I going to find this church?

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  3. Julie Ann, I am with you! I went back and forth on this for quite a few years. I have had to step back and define Body of Christ first. Yes, I still attend a bricks and mortar church for the time being but that is NOT where I have found spiritual community although there are some really great folks there as far as I know them. And that is key. Are they “church” relationships much like we have “work” relationships that are defined by proximity and not really that deep?

    So what is the Body of Christ? What does it do or not do? Scripture is not real specific on structure (which has helped the bricks and mortar when it comes to polity). We pick up hints. There are some who point out all the problems in the letters to try and excuse what we are seeing today but one would think after 2000 years and the advances of society in education we would have at least done better. We can read scripture legally and we can even choose to stay home from the institutional church if we desire. That is a HUGE advance right there. If you lived in Calvin’s Geneva you did not have that option.

    Just some thoughts.

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  4. How do you find a church now? Any group of people can be listed in local directories without owning a building or having a hierarchy, or even a set schedule. All they need is a few contact people.

    Or you could start one yourself. Just invite friends over to talk about spiritual things, share insights or songs, etc. And it doesn’t even have to be on Sunday, or every week, though I personally like to talk about spiritual things 24/7.

    But whether self-started or already going, what do you do? Whatever you want. Some may be skilled at working with the homeless and the group could sponsor them. Others may be gifted musicians and share songs they’ve written or would like to perform. Still others may be gifted to discern the scriptures and teach. And some may be suited for arranging lessons or outings for children. Just get together with the other believers you can find, and work it out from there.

    For now, I have my family reading a chapter of scripture once a week, and then we talk about it. The rest of the week, we live the Christian life wherever we are, and we talk about current events as they relate to prophecy or being “salt and light”.

    The first hurdle is to shed the “go to church” mindset. Just relax for a while.

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  5. At present we are reading a scripture passage from the lectionary early on Sunday morning, reading it several times aloud, each. The passage we use is one that is discussed for each Sunday in “The Christian Century” to which we subscribe, and we have read the discussion there before Sunday. Then we discuss the passage and its implication for life and for our present world and work issues. We may look up and read other passages that have a relationship to the subject matter or get out a commentary and see what is written there about the passage. Sometimes we sing a hymn we know (we know a lot of hymns) or a chorus. And we close with prayer.

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  6. “The first hurdle is to shed the “go to church” mindset. Just relax for a while.”

    This has been a big one for me. Just BE a Christian no matter where I am or what I am doing. Funny how many implications that has for life and how it forces you to think about so many things deeply. For example, it does not mean you are a doormat nor does it mean you are special.

    It has been especially helpful to focus on the Gospels over a long period of time and give Paul a rest for a while. I found I read Paul differently when I really knew Jesus Christ. I am quite partial to 1 John, though. :o)

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  7. It’s all down to people’s hearts, not the structure. Even a small group could be harmful if the wrong hearts are in it. There’s nothing wrong with having structure. God is a God of order. But there must be something in place where staff and ministers are accountable.

    Personally, I would never want to go to a house meeting. I’m a private, reserved person and I’m sure people attending there would want me to open up to them. I’d feel very uncomfortable in a place like that and they may make me feel or they may think I’m less of a Christian for not expressing myself. That is an attitude I have seen.

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  8. Julie Anne

    You ask in the post…
    “Where do you go to church?”

    First – Which “Church” are we talking about?

    1 – “The Church of God” – in the Bible?
    2 – the church of man – buildings with steeples and pastors in pulpits?

    In the Bible – Did anyone ever “Go To Church?”

    If NO one – In the Bible – Would ever “Go To Church?”
    Or – Tell others to “Go To Church?”

    Why do you want to – “Go To Church?”

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  9. Shannon, I agree that hearts matters most. But what Viola calls “the edifice complex” is a significant contributor to an institutional mentality that fosters corruption on a much larger scale. We are the church, we are salt and light. Buildings and all they require interfere with that, especially for the individual believers.

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  10. Julie Anne – All

    Why do you want to – “Go To Church?”

    Who taught you to do that? – If “Go To Church” is NOT in the Bible?

    Does Jesus teach anyone to – “Go To Church?”
    Does one of His Disciples teach anyone to – “Go To Church?”

    Why is that so important today to so many? – If it is NOT in the Bible?

    How did that happen?

    In my experience…
    The first thing you have to figure out for yourself – Is…
    What does the word “Church” mean – To You…

    NOT what a “Mere Fallible Human” tells you…

    You have to get it from Jesus for yourself. 😉

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  11. “The first hurdle is to shed the “go to church” mindset. Just relax for a while.”

    This has been really difficult for me, but so freeing as well. We had a wonderful church (still have many friends from there) for many of the years our kids were growing up. It eventually came to an end and we were left looking for another. It was quite eye opening and it was not so easy to assimilate into another church as I thought. We tried the home church thing. It didn’t work out (unhealthy). We just needed a break after trying so many churches. Many tried to lay a guilt trip on us for not attending a “brick and mortar” structure. Blech.

    Actually, we still kept meeting with our old friends from the church for years in various venues. Sometimes it was a home group or a community outreach. We still do that with these friends. We connected with these folk when our kids were growing up and share deep roots.

    That was our church for a number of years.

    It’s been a number of years, but just recently we found another church family that feels like home. It’s small, small enough for group discussion every week, and our kids respect the pastor. He’s a humble guy who’s been burned and survived spiritual abuse. So, for now, we’re in a formal “church”, but still meeting with our old friends and doing outreaches with them.

    As Shannon said, it is about people’s hearts. You can get mixed up in a crazy brick/mortar as easy as a crazy home church.

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  12. Julie Anne – All

    Here is a list of “Church Terms” – we find in “The Institutional Church”

    BUT – are NOT found in the Bible.

    1 – Go to Church. 2 – Join a Church. 3 – Tithe to a Church. 4 – Give siver, gold or money to a Church. 5 – Buildings with crosses called Church. 6 – Apply for Church membership. 6a – Formal Church membership. 7- MY Church: by a pastor. Nope, the Ekklesia, the body of Christ, belongs to Jesus. 8 – My Church: by sheepies. 9 – Your Church. 10 – Our Church. 11 – Church Leaders. 12 – Church Growth. 13 – Church Planting. 14 – Church clean up Day. 15 – Local Church.

    Why do the “Leaders” of “The Institutional Church,” many who say “the Bible is the Word of God,” use so many words and terms NOT found in the Bible?

    What does the word “Church” mean? – Ekklesia?

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  13. Agree, Monique.

    But you bring up the next “box”: referring to one person in the group as “the pastor”.

    All of us have spiritual gifts, and ideally there is a group of “elders”, the spiritually mature in Word and deed. Nothing grates my teeth more than seeing a young seminary grad teaching a group of senior citizens. But along with the brick buildings, we also need to shed the “entitlementaltiy”. Who else uses their spiritual gift as a title? A pastor or teacher or prayer warrior is what people are, but we don’t refer to any of them but one as a title. Were I so gifted, I would not want to be given a title but simply referred to as someone spiritually mature or someone tending the sheep.

    (This isn’t all personal to you, Monique, but general principles that came to mind from something you mentioned. Not meant as a personal critique.)

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  14. boatrocker – ALL

    Ah yes – Titles – Why???

    Job 32:21-22 KJV
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give *flattering titles* unto man.
    For I know not to give *flattering titles;*
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

    Here is a list of – “Titles” – we find in “The Institutional Church”
    BUT – are NOT found in the Bible.

    1 -Pastor. 1a Pastor/Leader/Reverend. 2 – Shepherd. 2a. – Under Shepherd. 3 – Senior Pastor. 4 – Lead Pastor. 5 – Teaching Pastor. 6 – Executive Pastor. 6 – Youth Pastor. 7 – Singles Pastor. 8 – Worship Pastor. 9 – Reverend. 10 – Holy Reverend. 11 – Most Holy Right Reverend. 12 – ArchDeacon. 13 – Canon. 14 – Prelate. 15 – Rector. 16 – Cardinal. 17 – Pope. 18 – Doctor. 19 – M.Div. 20 – Clergy. 21 – Laity. 22 – Chief Executive Apostle.

    NO kidding – Chief Executive Apostle – Saw it with my own eyes. 😉

    I know it’s hard for many to believe – but – In the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples had the “Title” – pastor or shepherd.
    NOT one of His Disciples called them self – pastor or shepherd.
    NOT one of His Disciples were Hired, or Fired as a – pastor or shepherd.

    This is very important in “The Institutional Church”

    But – It’s NOT in the Bible.

    Seems the only one in the Bible with the “Title” pastor or shepherd – Is Jesus…

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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  15. An Attorney, I’m being nosy because I’m trying to really figure this thing out. When you say “we,” is that you and your wife, or others, too? Is this on a regular schedule, ie, Sundays at 10am or random times?

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  16. Shannon, you have just cause to be careful about house churches, too. Take a look at this report from Kevin Oliver on Saiko Woods. Last I heard his church has only 6 people. I spoke with someone by phone who attended his “church.” Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size.

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  17. Amos, do you meet with someone regularly at b&n? I want the whole scoop. If you guys are going to tell us traditional church is wrong, we need to see the full scoop. Show us how you ekklesia. I must know. 🙂

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  18. Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size.

    Is the abuse better if it’s from a larger organization? I’m not saying this to be snarky, just to point out how it comes across: an unspoken danger of small or home churches that is somehow more sinister than in large churches.

    Clearly I have failed to convey something important. The SIZE is irrelevant; I’m not advocating house churches because of size. What I said in the other thread about “two or three” was simply to point out that there is no minimum requirement to call a group of believers a “church”. Bricks and mortar do not protect anyone against a cult, and the lack of them do not make a group more inclined to become a cult.

    The point I’m failing to get across is that the Christian faith was never meant to be a religion with all its trappings. It’s our life, our breath, the blood in our veins. It’s getting together with other believers to share our spiritual gifts (Heb. 10:24) and build each other up. We can hear great teachings anytime online, in print, or in person; the venue does not matter. The distance does not matter. What matters is being the Body.

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  19. I’m not trying to be a pain. Some of you are pulling the rug from under us traditional-practicing-institutional -church goers. Help us think this through. Baby steps.

    Btw, choppy messages because I’m on my phone and do not like texting.

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  20. I don’t have the answers as it is almost impossible to get out of the institutional mindset even for me. People have HUGE issues over it because we have ingrained ideas which mostly come from outside Christian thinking, believe it or not. Some adult has to be in charge of the adults and lead.(We have the Holy Spirit or not?) There has to be some sort of structure, order of worship, etc. We take a few proof texts and ascribe our own definition of “chaos”, etc.

    I will say this, I can hardly sit and listen to a sermon anymore unless it is for the purpose of analyzing it.(I know, I know) I want to interact. Ask questions. Say, what about this over here in this book that seems to contradict this passage, etc, etc. I want to know what the quiet guy over there thinks about it. And so on. I am pretty much done with being “preached at”. And one reason is what is coming out of seminaries these days is sub par and mostly indoctrinated. Pastors are not the critical thinkers in application they used to be. I think social media has not helped. Now many of them are trying to break into the big time with a book or something and they are young and unseasoned. And that is because of the new church planting movement. Lots of money thrown at it.

    I say get together and eat! Have a “Love FEAST”!!! Don’t worry about what comes next. BTW: What is the definition of “worship”? What if it is not what the institution has ingrained in us?

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  21. Think of all the money thrown at the institutional church. It is unbelievable. I wish people could see the bank sized vaults I saw in mega churches. Yes, they keep it there until it is counted and the Brinks guys come and get it. It was common to receive one million over one weekend. They counted on it. The electric bill I saw for one mega in ONE MONTH was 26,0000.

    Some of that money includes a few dollars from poor single moms. It is insidious.

    I do not think God is pleased with our systems at all

    It is not much better in medium sized churches, either. We don’t need all this stuff, folks. And to ask for money from people who make less than the pastor is ridiculous. (That is IF you are allowed to know what your pastor makes)

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  22. boatrocker said, “Nothing grates my teeth more than seeing a young seminary grad teaching a group of senior citizens.”

    Why? Could a young seminary grad not be able to give insight into scripture through the study of ancient Greek and Hebrew? Can the learned young not teach the old?

    1 Tim. 4:12: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

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  23. Just a thought: Jesus met with his disciples and followers outside of the religious institution, but he also went to the temple which had priests.

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  24. JA said, “Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size.”

    The leader would have more time to give you his cruel attention.

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  25. “Just a thought: Jesus met with his disciples and followers outside of the religious institution, but he also went to the temple which had priests.”

    He came for Israel. If you noticed, most of the priests did not like Him much. :o) And the ones that did met Him in secret at night. :o)

    Even in the OT, why the Prophets? They DID have priests but they were so corrupt, God raised up some very strange prophets to make His points and give warnings. Read some Malachi to get a feel for how God viewed the “religious leaders”.

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  26. “The leader would have more time to give you his cruel attention.”

    Any leader only has power over you if you give it to them. I have a saying these days, I won’t allow it in my family life or spiritual life but you can PAY me to follow you. In other words, only in commerce will I succumb to that system.

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  27. Shannon,

    1. Re. the elderly being instructed by the young, I’m not saying the young cannot have insight. I’m referring to inexperienced but credentialed people teaching experienced saints. How can it be that people go through 50 years of Sunday School and still need some young seminary grad to teach them? Something is terribly wrong with this “school”.

    2. Jesus was a Jew, and he routinely lambasted the religious leaders. This is Judaism, not the church which would not be born until Pentecost. New wine.

    3. Another slam on small groups, as if a leader w/o a team of assistants has more free time, and as if the “cruel attention” people suffer from megas isn’t as bad. How insulting to the victims!

    Whoever wants to stay in The Institution is welcome to it.

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  28. “1 Tim. 4:12: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

    Shannon, Where had Timothy been before he camped out in Ephesus for a while (he did not stay there, btw). Think of what Timothy had been through before Ephesus traveling around with Paul. Now compare that to our pampered princes seminary grads with NO real life experience in the trenches.

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  29. Church has taken the place of the family farm. Something to pass on to ones heirs. Many have broken from the named denominations and operate as non-denominations so they can make their own rules and have total control. The membership has become the source of total income for the operation of the church, which includes the Pastor and usually his entire family. The church I just left, the Pastor’s entire family was on staff. His three kids were all home schooled in a very secure and isolated environment. As soon as the oldest son married, he was promoted to the Youth Pastor and given sermon time in the main sanctuary when his pastor father was on vacation. I am not against family members following in the ministry, but when the entire family is on staff, there is no formal education, and no one can even question such promotions and entitlement, something is wrong with such a setup. It’s one thing to have yes men under the Pastor, it’s even worse to have an entire family. None not only is the Pastor dependent on the church to support his income, but the entire family lives off the church. So now more mortar and bricks are needed to provide more seats to provide more income and the purpose of what was started gets lost in the need to make a good living for all involved. It’s like a cancer that continues to grow and grow and cannot be stopped.

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  30. JA,
    Right now it is just my wife and myself. And we do it early on Sunday, usually about 6:30 a.m. We do have a lot of resources in the home, and we maintain social relationship with a number of Christians in our neighborhood and in our other activities. She ministers to students in elementary school as a teacher and I minister to a lot of people who do not have money to pay, and help with their legal needs — everything from wills and/or trusts, to real estate issues (moldy apartments are a specialty), to domestic violence and abuse, and child custody/support. And we have a lot of friends in more usual ministry situations, including several pastors here and others across the country.

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  31. The vast majority of what I’ve seen presented in this and the previous thread make a very good case in favor of simply being an atheist/agnostic…

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  32. Think of all the money thrown at the institutional church. It is unbelievable. I wish people could see the bank sized vaults I saw in mega churches. Yes, they keep it there until it is counted and the Brinks guys come and get it. It was common to receive one million over one weekend. They counted on it. The electric bill I saw for one mega in ONE MONTH was 26,0000.

    After that piece of news, I don’t want to hear any more finger-pointing tongue-clucking anathemas about the Filthy Rich Catholic Church riding on the backs of starving peasants.

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  33. “The vast majority of what I’ve seen presented in this and the previous thread make a very good case in favor of simply being an atheist/agnostic…”

    I don’t think so. It gives me hope. There are people out there who get it. They understand what a Jesus type of Christianity should be like. They might be few but they ARE out there. I prayed hard that God would send some my way and what He sent looked NOTHING like I expected and they did not come out of the institutions for the most part. . :o)

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  34. Boatrocker,

    1. I don’t see what age has to do with it if someone has knowledge. We’re never too young or old to learn something new.
    2. Did Jesus go to the temple for worship?
    3. How was I slamming small groups, boatrocker? Spiritual abuse can happen in any size groups. I was responding to what JA said about imagining. If someone who is abusive doesn’t have as many people to abuse and doesn’t have as many duties as with a large gathering, it seems to me they’d have more time for the people they abuse. That is ALL I said.

    Lydia, why are people giving abusers power? Is it because of the mindset they’ve been brought up in? Is it because they’ve been brainwashed? Can someone be held completely responsible for these things?

    Should no one should go to seminary? Should no one study to be a minister? Should all that learning be thrown out? Should we only have people run the church based on age and whether they’ve had the privilege of being in the wars?

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  35. I don’t like the way most churches are. I don’t even have a church right now. But I’m not willing to toss the whole concept out the window just like I’m not willing to toss out other institutions because of problems in them.

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  36. Thanks JA and Lydia………Hey you used my new word again Lydia 🙂 . Pretty busy day in the calibration lab but I am sure I will chime in before it is all over.

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  37. Shannon,

    1. You’re missing my point. If people have been in Sunday School for 50 years and still need a seminary grad in his 20s to teach them, though they have FAR more life experience, this is all wrong on many levels.

    2. Did Gentiles ever go to temple to worship? Sure… pagan temples, with altars, choirs, rituals, and priests. There is still not one command in the NT for Christians to go to temples or have any part in the priesthood of Aaron/Levi (see Heb. 7).

    3. All I can do is ask you to read it again, both what you said and my response. “It seems to me” is what you just now added, yet this still does not follow; you have nothing upon which to base your presumption that small-church leaders have more time for abuse.

    As for your list of questions, what seminary did Peter attend? Timothy? Priscilla? Does the lifelong student of scripture without a seminary degree still not qualify as a real pastor in your eyes? Doesn’t it count without a degree? Does the Holy Spirit give gifts, or do you have to work for them? Does “two or three” mean one of them has to have a seminary degree, and heaven forbid he be old?

    See, I can ask questions too. But again you’re missing the point: this is a church, not a business, an army, or a club.

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  38. I’m very disappointed. one person said, “I don’t have the answers”. Figures. Proceed to tear down established organizations, many, many good, and then offer no solution, but quibble about if “church” is in the bible, even. That’s the sum of it here, move along, nothing to see (or be encouraged with). :\ I’m bummed out now.

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  39. Can you take what you dish out, Ric?

    Do YOU have all the answers? No? Then stop defending the establishment. If that argument works for you, then it works for me.

    And what part of “not all the answers” means “NONE of the answers”? Haven’t you read any of the ANSWERS given here so far, about family and life and gifting?

    Yes, Ric, very disappointing. Let’s just leave things the way they are, because change is so scary. And those house-church people are probably cultists, as some have insinuated. Yes, go back to your comfort zone and tell yourself it’ll be okay, as long as Dear Pastor keeps spoon-feeding the sheep.

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  40. boatrocker said:

    Is the abuse better if it’s from a larger organization? I’m not saying this to be snarky, just to point out how it comes across: an unspoken danger of small or home churches that is somehow more sinister than in large churches.

    No abuse is “better.” But think of the likely personal involvement in a smaller church – more investment because of the needed involvement, deeper relationships, so that could easily mean deeper pain and loss.

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  41. Lydia said:

    I say get together and eat! Have a “Love FEAST”!!! Don’t worry about what comes next.

    Ok, that sounds really good to me.

    BTW: What is the definition of “worship”? What if it is not what the institution has ingrained in us?

    I’m going to have to think on that, but to me, nothing epitomizes worship better than music: singing and praising Him. But right off the top of my head, I think we also worship God as we are acting as His hands/feet extended towards others sharing His love.

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  42. I don’t like the way most churches are. I don’t even have a church right now. But I’m not willing to toss the whole concept out the window just like I’m not willing to toss out other institutions because of problems in them.

    I’m not either, Shannon, but I’m open to learn and stew and think and pray and read . . .

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  43. No abuse is “better.” But think of the likely personal involvement in a smaller church – more investment because of the needed involvement, deeper relationships, so that could easily mean deeper pain and loss.

    Likelihood is part of what helps the big-church abusers get away with it. Everyone presumes there are too many eyes on the abusers, but corruption is often pervasive and powerful. The number of victims is also potentially much larger for big churches. Just look at our national government and ask whether a smaller one would be more likely to be despotic.

    My motive in this is to attack what I am convinced is the deep taproot keeping the Body sick and maimed. Power corrupts, and when it is institutionalized, it is corruption on steroids. Take away the big budgets, the prestige of size and membership, the financial burden better spent on the truly poor, and you will see who is truly gifted and willing to serve without all of that.

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  44. Shannon, I will be honest, I really do not know where you are coming from. Not sure your questions are rhetorical or serious. But I will try on only what you seemed to ask me specifically:

    “Lydia, why are people giving abusers power? Is it because of the mindset they’ve been brought up in? Is it because they’ve been brainwashed? Can someone be held completely responsible for these things?”

    Who are you referring to should be held accountable? For example, in his book, the Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Jeff Vonderan/David Johnson get to issue of accountability. For both the abuser and the absusee. What is a problem is we expect those who were abused to “get over it” fast and there is a long process involved which differs from person to person. The reason I bring up the book and his sequels is because I don’t think my advice here is having any effect and since the authors are pastor/psychologist perhaps it might be of more help?

    Thing is we really have no way of holding the institutional church accountable outside of the civil/criminal law. And many abused people believe it is a sin to go that route.

    “Should no one should go to seminary? Should no one study to be a minister? Should all that learning be thrown out? Should we only have people run the church based on age and whether they’ve had the privilege of being in the wars?”

    This one gets a bit complicated but did you know there is no word for “laity” in the NT?. All believers are considered clergy. There is no separation of a clergy class from the laity as so many of us thought. There ARE spiritual giftings. There are those more seasoned in the faith (elders). But if you notice, not all NT churches had elders. And since Timothy had been with Paul so long why did Paul need to tell him the qualifications? He did not know after all that time? That leads us to ascertain this did not happen all the time.

    In the book of 1st John we are told that ALL believers are given anointing. Listen to this:

    20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.[e] 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.

    26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

    Is that not beautiful? You my dear Shannon can have that same anointing.

    Who studied to follow Christ in the NT? They sat as His feet and we can, too, because He promised us the Spirit of truth, the Counselor.

    Paul commended the Bereans for a reason.

    But I will take one poor nobody filled with the Holy Spirit over thousands of seminary trained pastors with a form of godliness but no power of the Holy Spirit.

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  45. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. ~ Rom. 12:1

    What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. ~ 1 Cor. 14:26

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ~ James 1:27

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  46. Boatrocker said:

    “It’s our life, our breath, the blood in our veins. It’s getting together with other believers to share our spiritual gifts (Heb. 10:24) and build each other up. We can hear great teachings anytime online, in print, or in person; the venue does not matter. The distance does not matter. What matters is being the Body.”

    I so agree. We get to share Jesus with everyone we meet everyday (some days better than others ☺) because we carry Him with us. We are strengthened and encouraged as we share His love with others we meet or know.

    I know this may sound corny (and you may have already heard this), but I love the symbol of the HS as the wind. Wind is moving air, so it has to keep moving….so I picture Him moving through me/us and out to others as He leads. I’m so much happier when I let the “wind” move through me ☺

    Boatrocker:
    Oh, no worries on the pastor stuff. As far as the “pastor” title goes, I really don’t even think of him that way. I know his story and know what he’s had to overcome. He’s a good friend ~ we knew him years ago as well.

    Like I said, right now we’re so small that it’s easy to stop and ask questions (I love this) during his talk and go with where the discussion goes. He encourages us to comment/ask questions etc.

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  47. “I’m going to have to think on that, but to me, nothing epitomizes worship better than music: singing and praising Him. But right off the top of my head, I think we also worship God as we are acting as His hands/feet extended towards others sharing His love.”

    Julie Anne, That was my mom. I was weaned on choir practice, cantatas, music constantly. She played organ and piano and directed music and choirs. It was our lives. You have no idea how much music has sustained me. The old hymns? Well, I did inherit her hymnal collection some of which are over 100 years old. We sing out of them all the time.

    So after we eat, you play, we sing. A lot.

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  48. Agree, Monique.

    Church musician here too, LSP. From a long line of them. But after a while I noticed that Sunday morning was the most hectic, stressful day of the week, a day of “performing” (to an audience that did judge the performance, as everyone knew the attendance would drop without a good choir and good oratory). In spite of that, music was the true worship part of the Sunday services. Listening to sermons is instruction, not worship.

    I should have added pretty much the whole letter to the Philippians for worship definitions. 🙂

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  49. My parents have been doing home church with their friends for 35 years. Attendance runs from 10 to 30 all those years. They focus on relationships, not on growth. They don’t advertise preferring to let God send the ones He wants there. All money collected goes to individuals in need or other ministries. No one takes a salary. My parents do most of the leadership chores, and took turns giving the Sunday message, at least until recently when my Dad became ill. Now my mother mostly does it. Other people also give the Sunday message sometimes if they feel led. After the message they all discuss and share insights. Over the years they have met in living rooms, basements, and a commercial building that someone owned.

    The key, I think, is relationship. No one tries to control any one. Everyone is respected and allowed input. No one is silenced. Also, the messages are positive. They don’t spend their time discussing what is and isn’t sin. They focus on redemption and what it means to a Christian life. Because they remain small they don’t need a formalized structure. People contribute according to their gifts.

    I don’t attend because I live 1700 miles away. I don’t attend institional church for many of the reasons listed above and also because so many are sexist. They also want 10% of my income which is crazy. I did my own Bible study and discovered for myself that there is no new testament tithe, but that’s another post.

    I have not heard of any other home church that has lasted so long. The ones I know of eventually either fell apart or started a building program and became institutionalized.

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  50. Likelihood is part of what helps the big-church abusers get away with it. Everyone presumes there are too many eyes on the abusers, but corruption is often pervasive and powerful. The number of victims is also potentially much larger for big churches. Just look at our national government and ask whether a smaller one would be more likely to be despotic.

    I sensed you not liking me bringing up the idea of abuse in smaller churches. Maybe I read you wrong. I deal with all church abuse and have shared stories from people in all different sizes of churches. Abuse is devastating no matter how big or small the church.

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  51. @Julie Anne, I have no clue how something I said indicated I “didn’t like people talking about abuse in small groups.”

    @Ric, I can ask you the same question.

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  52. Wayne Jacobsen wrote a book titled “So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Anymore” and another one called “Authentic Relationships: Discover the Lost Art of ‘One Anothering'” I highly recommend them both.

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  53. This is my favorite post yet. Such a relevant question.

    For me, for now, “church” looks like:

    – cautiously proceeding with attending an institutional church, while re-learning VERY gradually who I can trust and flipping my paradigm so that I no longer look to trust in the institution itself

    -maintaining my friendships with believing friends who provide me with the best, safest, reliable and genuine kind of fellowship

    -going to counseling with a Christian counselor who is helping me to separate what God really says from the craziness I was taught in SG, who has helped me to see that trust has to be earned and that it is ok to hold “church” loosely and not feel condemned for not being super committed for a season of healing

    -questioning the very things asked in this post and praying and really listening to the Lord, not what others say, about things not explicit in the Bible that have become givens in Christian culture, such as having a senior pastor, tithing to the church (rather than the poor), the whole point of small groups, and many MANY other things I feel free to think about for myself now

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  54. boatracker: You quoted me here: @Julie Anne, I have no clue how something I said indicated I “didn’t like people talking about abuse in small groups.”

    No, I didn’t say that. Here’s my actual quote: “I sensed you not liking me bringing up the idea of abuse in smaller churches. ”

    I see a difference in the two statements. It did seem like you were defensive when I suggested that there are real abuses in small groups. In fact, after looking through your comments again, I am pretty convinced you are defensive of small groups. Take a look at 3 of your quotes:

    And those house-church people are probably cultists, as some have insinuated.

    Is the abuse better if it’s from a larger organization? I’m not saying this to be snarky, just to point out how it comes across: an unspoken danger of small or home churches that is somehow more sinister than in large churches.

    Another slam on small groups, as if a leader w/o a team of assistants has more free time, and as if the “cruel attention” people suffer from megas isn’t as bad. How insulting to the victims!

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  55. Recovering Pharisee: I loved your comment! Thank you for sharing where you are church-wise.

    -going to counseling with a Christian counselor who is helping me to separate what God really says from the craziness I was taught in SG, who has helped me to see that trust has to be earned and that it is ok to hold “church” loosely and not feel condemned for not being super committed for a season of healing

    This is a biggy. I personally started learning this in the last couple of years as my daughter was on a traveling volleyball club that necessitated some Sunday games (and missed church). Some churches would say that I was in grave sin for not gathering with the saints. That was the culture I came from. It was like nails on a chalkboard at first, but the newfound freedom in Christ allowed me to actually enjoy this new kind of church – being with my daughter and also moms who happened to be Christian.

    -questioning the very things asked in this post and praying and really listening to the Lord, not what others say, about things not explicit in the Bible that have become givens in Christian culture, such as having a senior pastor, tithing to the church (rather than the poor), the whole point of small groups, and many MANY other things I feel free to think about for myself now

    Boy – I hear you on this one, too. In our backgrounds, we were not part of the Priesthood of Believers. We were blind and dumb sheep needing to be spoon fed. Now we get to engage our brains and search scriptures ourselves.

    Excellent comment, RP!

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  56. Julie Anne,

    We have recently decided to move on from our most recent church. For the last so many years, I have studied the church in the NT and have concluded that most of what I know as “church” resembles little of what the NT actually says. I’ll try here to not so much paint a picture of what a non-institutionalized church looks like, exactly, but what should happen when it functions.

    First, the Sunday church meetings are participatory (not a spectator sport) where ALL members are active in the meeting, not just a pastor and worship team. All of the NT “one-anothers” are in the context of the church meeting.

    Mutual edification: We all use our gifts to edify one-another. This is done in the church meeting.

    Acts 2:42. The disciples devoted themselves to 1) the apostles’ teaching, to 2) fellowship, to 3) the breaking of bread and to 4) prayer. All these things happened when the church met. No sermon is mentioned.

    Hebrews 10:25. This verse about not forsaking the assembling together is often used as kind of an evangelical 11th commandment, “Thou shalt go to church on Sunday!” But it isn’t a command, but rather a condition. When you read all of Heb 10, you will note that we meet together for 1) stimulating one another to love, 2) stimulating one another to good deeds, and 3) encouraging one another. If a church ISN’T doing these three things when it meets, with all people participating, then it isn’t doing what the passage tells us. When is the last time I attended a church that did these things when it met? Well, never, actually.

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  57. JA- and thank YOU for the great post and food for thought. So freeing, isn’t it, this side of things? I wish there wasn’t a need for this post, or even this blog. But there is. And so we will stumble around, discussing this murky, grey area, post brainwashed/black and white land. Not that we will ever find a perfect church, but I think the quest for a healthy one, and the discussion about what the heck that even means is worth having. I got so tired of hearing in SG “there is no perfect church.” Yeah, well, I’m finding that there are TONS of healthIER churches out there and that claiming “we’re all sinners” when you don’t want to examine some pretty messed up practices is a cheap shot.

    Steve, without knowing your background, and having not studied as thoroughly as you, I genuinely am interested to know how you came to the conclusion that the one anothers and the Hebrews passage pertain specifically to a church “meeting” as you call it. I don’t say this as an attack- it’s just that I am not convinced that the Sunday gathering is mandatory or is what is meant in those verses. I confess that Hebrews 10:25 was used as a threat as I was leaving my SG church, so it is still triggering for me (sad that God’s word can be triggering of negative experiences). This verse is one of many I have to take a deep breath and detach context from when reading it now. I do really want to understand GOD’s heart, but minus the human spin.

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  58. Tell me, Julie Anne, how I’m supposed to respond to ridiculous claims about small groups without appearing to you to be “defensive”? Do you only allow attack of small groups and not defense?

    In NO WAY did I try to argue that abuse does not happen in small groups; in fact, I explicitly said it does, even using the word “cult”.

    So again: Tell me how I’m supposed to respond to a ridiculous, baseless insinuation without appearing “defensive”.

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  59. Susan and I have an upstart home fellowship called the Potter’s House. It is the beginning of a home fellowship movement that we are trying to start. We presently meet once a week on Sunday night. We meet at 6pm, have a fellowship meal, and then a study from 7-8. Afterward, we have more fellowship for as long as people want to stay. We are equipped to help people with serious life problems, and Susan has a childrens program in place when needed. Other people can attend our meeting over the internet and do. However, only I am visible as we have attenders that are afraid of repercussions because of past experiences in New Calvinist churches. Even though they have left said churches, Neo-Calvinists believe they still have the authority to publically declare them unbelievers, and often do. I was threatened accordingly by a pastor in another city that I had never met in my whole life.

    It has been suggested to me that church as institution is in fact the core problem. This is new to me as I was of the mindset that institutions are ok if you do institution right. Susan disagrees, primarily from her recently completed 1yr research project on Augustine. I do know this: the American church is awash in European tradition, and the Europeans have never done church well. We are steeped in a tradition that came from the womb hanging Quakers and drowning women.

    Here is our infant model that we are hammering out: http://wp.me/pmd7S-2qh
    “TANC Strategic Plan: From Identification to Solution; a Thesis on the New Testament Church Model”

    We believe these are the right steps toward glorifying God. And I can tell you this: once you experience the freedom of these fellowships, you will never go back.

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  60. Long time reader, first time commentor here. For some time now I have been uncomforatable even using the word “church” because of its link to Romanism. In the 4th century, the emperor Constantine observed how all the pagan religions all had their own temples and shrines and places of “worship” dedicated to their own gods and images, but Christians had no such formal meeting places. I guess he must have felt cheated if he was going to call himself a “Christian”. So it was Constantine that first promoted the idea of a formal meeting place for Christians, and he called it κυριακε οιχια (kuriake oikia) or “The Lord’s House”. Unfortunately, he never specified which “lord”. Nevertheless, the word “kuriake” transliterated to the middle english word “chirche” and finally to the english word “church” we use today. So as you can see, the etymoligy of the word “church” from the beginning refered to a building and not the body of believers. It was no coincidence in my opinion that the reformers purposefully used the word “church” to take away the emphasis from the body and put it onto the place and the institution instead.

    In every place in the Bible where you see the word “church” it is the greek word εκκλεσια (ecclesia), and it means “assembly” or “congregation”. What is interesting about this word is that it is not a “religious” word in the normal sense. It is actually a political word used to describe a group of people assembled together for a common purpose such as a governement function, for example when debate was required over legislation. But the ecclesia had to be carried out in an orderly manner otherwise it would be deemed illegal and the participants could be arrested for rioting. We actually see this happen in Acts 19. Recall that in the idol-makers in the city of Ephesus became enraged when their livelihood was threatened by Paul’s preaching against idolitry. Verse 32 states “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” Notice the use of the word “assembly”, it is the same greek word “ecclesia”! This word is used 2 other times in the chapter: “but if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.” vs 39, and: “And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.” vs 41. This is the ONLY place in the Bible where ecclesia is translated “assembly” rather than “church”.

    I think it is telling that Christ called His body an “assembly” and not a “church”! Consider, what were the characteristics of the NT “assembly”?

    1. They were of one accord (Acts 1:14, 2:1, 2:46, 4:24, 5:12, 8:6, 15:25). There was unanimous agreement or unity of purpose for the matter of their assembling together.

    2. They had all things in common (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32) Common faith, common family, ie “adoption into the family of God”, but moreover, they viewed all of their earthly possesions as belonging to each other, and gave to every man as had need. (Reminds me of Julie Anne’s post about taking care of the abused).

    3. They assembled for the purpose of:
    a> Teaching, instruction in the Word.
    b> Fellowship
    c> Breaking of bread, ie meals
    d> Prayer!
    Acts 2:42

    Notice since the early church consisted only of Jews that they first began meeting in the temple, but also from house to house, DAILY! (Acts 2:46) That is not to suggest that the assembly SHOULD or MUST meet in a formal building, but the fact is, they were already there, so it was just a logical place for them to assemble at first. The point is, there is no mandate in scripture that the assembly MUST have a formal location. The only pattern we see is that which I listed above.

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  61. “It has been suggested to me that church as institution is in fact the core problem.”

    I had to completely change my mindset about the Body. My background is org development so I had an aha moment once and asked myself how come I was unable to map so many things about the Body of Christ to a typical church organization.

    In a way it was easier to see this mapping does not work well at all when loooking at mega models. But those are only much larger. Almost all churches operate on the same model except much smaller. In efffect, it is the system that must be maintained at all costs. Everything has to fit into the system. In fact, the system becomes more important than the people who are paying for the system to maintain.

    Yes, our model is European but with many variations and twists. But the concept of top down is still there. And depending on the disposition of the pastor/leaders is how authoritarian it is. Still, we have set up the system so that we must look to an adult human to lead/manage the other adult humans. We take that for granted and think it normal. All Body of Christ relationships are horizontal except for that with our source, Jesus Christ.

    Many make the argument this model is biblical. That is debatable. One example is pastoring is a function as in spiritual. There might be 30 people at a small church with that spiritual gifiting. (You see this more on the mission field)

    Another sticking point is that because we have been taught to read Paul woodenly without any historical context forgetting that the exhalted function of “elder” meant they were fed to the lions first while trying to protect the others. We read Hebrews woodenly instead of the historical context that the persecution was heating up and many were trying to act like they did not know each other. They were abandoning each other.

    But we take this stuff and map it to today in a literal and wooden way. We can go to church our whole lives and die without maturing because one does not really mature past the person they have looked to teach them week after week. Church is very passive for most people in terms of real spiritual growth. It is almost as if going there and serving is how we measure our spiritual growth.

    Perhaps the real need is for each of us to seek to know Jesus Christ intimately on our own. James says to ask for wisdom. John said we are given anointing and have no need for anyone to teach us. That is a very provacative verse, isn’t it!!!

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  62. Thanks, Paul, for sharing your church experience. Isn’t the Potter’s House around a year old? I seem to remember when you started it a while back.

    If your current church becomes too large, is that when you’ll divide and start another one?

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  63. Andy, excellent comment.

    Julie Anne, I refer to the insinuation that abuse is somehow “deeper” and “more likely” in a small group.

    But you have not answered my question: How can I possibly object to such accusations without appearing “defensive” to you? Please answer.

    And why has the topic changed from “what does non-institutional church look like” to “what’s wrong with boatrocker”? (This is the identification of a logical fallacy, not a personal whine. It is formally known as “tu quoque” meaning “you too”, and is also one way to shoot the messenger.)

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  64. Andy, Great comment.

    I would only add that the only “word” they had was the OT.

    One thing about studying the historical context of Christianity is that it completely changes your paradigm about who we are. So much pagan tradition was introduced even down to the Greek Temple “orators” we call “preachers”.

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  65. Clarification: Tu quoque is in reference to shifting focus from what non-inst. church looks like to what’s wrong with it, not just shifting from my argument to my motives.

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  66. Andy! I’m so glad you decided to share. What great insight! If all of our churches followed your second note, all of the “Brendas” would be well taken care of. It sounds like the perfect model. That’s what I want to find.

    Please come out some more. 🙂
    I have a feeling you have much more from which we’d all benefit.

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  67. Julia Anne,
    Right, we would approach someone in the group who is obviously gifted in leading and ask them to start another fellowship in their home or the home of another. That group would then continue to brainstorm with our group, and hopefully others, moving forward. By the way, the Potter’s House has invited Andy to teach us through the book of Acts with this theses in mind on Tuesday nights. The first lesson was last Tuesday and we livestream it on PPT. We had some cliches, but the video remains posted after the session. If you start at 1:23, it’s pretty good after that. The quality will improve with the learning curve. However, if you want to see proof that we need Christian academia like we need a hole in the head, keep in mind that Andy is a layman and then watch the video.

    I state my case.

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  68. BR: It seems this is the first place that you challenged the small church issue:

    JA: Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size.

    BR: Is the abuse better if it’s from a larger organization? I’m not saying this to be snarky, just to point out how it comes across: an unspoken danger of small or home churches that is somehow more sinister than in large churches.

    Your “sinister” comment does not represent my thoughts/feelings on small groups whatsoever.

    Julie Anne, I refer to the insinuation that abuse is somehow “deeper” and “more likely” in a small group.

    I do not recall making blanket statements, but observations and opinions. And it seems to me by your responses you are not wanting me to have those observations or opinions because you are challenging them.

    And why has the topic changed from “what does non-institutional church look like” to “what’s wrong with boatrocker”? (This is the identification of a logical fallacy, not a personal whine. It is formally known as “tu quoque” meaning “you too”, and is also one way to shoot the messenger.)

    I’ve never said “what’s wrong with boatrocker.” I said it seems you are defensive of small churches and provided a few examples of such.

    BTW, I have never taken a debate class in my life. I just call it as I see it – whatever pops in my head. If you want to label it, fine with me, but it’s really only for your benefit because we don’t follow any debate rules here as far as I know (well, except for no personal attacks).

    But you have not answered my question: How can I possibly object to such accusations without appearing “defensive” to you? Please answer.

    You can do that by not exaggerating or twisting my words, or misquoting me.

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  69. JA: Your “sinister” comment does not represent my thoughts/feelings on small groups whatsoever.

    It is an accurate description of the words you typed. I can only go by what you actually say. To state “Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size” is clearly conveying the idea that abuse in a small church is worse than in a large church. If this is not what you meant, I’m not sure what other meaning could be taken from it.

    JA: I do not recall making blanket statements, but observations and opinions. And it seems to me by your responses you are not wanting me to have those observations or opinions because you are challenging them.

    If you only made observations and gave opinions, then so did I. And it seems to me by your responses you are not wanting me to have those observations or opinions because you are challenging them.

    Wow… to challenge your opinions means I’m not allowing you to have them???????

    If challenging your opinions is not allowed, as you have clearly stated here, then I will leave you in peace. Goodbye.

    And for the record, I have NOT exaggerated or twisted your words. That is a false charge. But all of you, be careful you don’t twist anything while dancing on my grave.

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  70. OK, here’s lot’s of random thoughts that may or may not be at all useful:

    boatrocker: Posts on the internet don’t always convey tone well. I think most of us here are mature enough to realize this. If you’re being mis-interpreted just say so. From what I’m seeing you seem extremely antagonistic, but I’m not sure what it’s about. Again, that could just be the limitations of a text-only medium. I think I’ll end up “attacking” small/home churches at some point here, it depends where my thoughts end up…

    My background: “Christian Church” of the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement. I’ve always been impressed with their ability to be a denomination while vigorously opposing having any denominational oversight and for that matter they really hate to be called a denomination. For those who aren’t familiar with them all governance is handled at the congregational level and each “church” is fully independent, but they still manage an impressive amount of similarity between “churches”. I attended a college associated with them and minored in Bible.

    They place a lot of emphasis on trying to be as much like the early church as possible. I’ve come to the decision that this extreme quest to be like the “early church” is a weird form of idolatry. Every social structure they had in those times were different than ours. I’m also not entirely sure that even the apostles really knew that much better than we do, they certainly weren’t always in agreement. An argument can be made that God was giving them more direct guidance at the time because he was just getting things setup, but you’d think if it mattered that much he would intervene (and arguments can be made that he/she has).

    If you do decide to have a “house church” type of arrangement what do you do when 60 people want to come? What if the only houses your group has are single-wide trailers in a trailer park, or tiny, expensive NY apartments that would make a trailer seem spacious? In both of these cases building a “brick & mortar” building of your own to meet in is a reasonable choice. There are other choices, but a building of your own isn’t particularly foolish. All kinds of groups build meeting halls, from Elks lodges to golf clubs. I have a relative in AA where the local AA group actually built and owns it’s own meeting hall! I’d love to meet the banker who approved that construction loan.

    I think that in general there is much greater pressure for conformity the smaller and more independent the group is. In small, congregational type churches there is a built in assumption that we’re all here because we agree, which becomes huge pressure to actually agree. “Christian Churches” typically have very limited statements of faith or formal doctrine, but there ends up being tons of conformity to the general evangelical approach to everything (including politics). In contrast, for larger denominations with more doctrine imposed from on-high there seems to be less pressure or everyone to contribute to the consensus and more actual diversity of opinion. The Catholic Church is exhibit A here. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Catholic who actually agreed with everything ordained from on-high, but they still feel perfectly and completely Catholic.

    This is way more than I planned on typing and far more “attack” than I really intended. I really just intended to point out that there are definite dangers to small group type churches and there are perfectly valid reasons to have an “institutional” church. Maybe I’ll contribute more later… probably about how awesome Monks and monasteries are. I’m apparently in a really pro-Catholic mood today.

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  71. It is an accurate description of the words you typed. I can only go by what you actually say. To state “Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size” is clearly conveying the idea that abuse in a small church is worse than in a large church. If this is not what you meant, I’m not sure what other meaning could be taken from it.

    I hold to meaning of this quote: “JA: Now imagine what spiritual abuse would feel like in a church this size.”

    If I had to rewrite it, I would only change the “would” to “could,” but the general idea is the same. But are you not throwing the baby out with the bathwater? I’m only talking about ABUSIVE small churches, not ALL small churches. Wouldn’t you expect that I would acknowledge that there are indeed abusive small churches just as I acknowledge abusive large churches? I mean :::insert teen lingo::: for realz – that’s what I do here.

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  72. Julie Anne,
    I could address the remote possibility that abuse could take place in a NT home fellowship model, but the list of positives in regard to this model is so long it would take a long time to get there. Let me say this as a thumbnail: I have been involved as a pastor in child abuse prevention as early as 1996; ie., board meetings with an attorney etc. The legal complexities involved in preventing abuse in the institutional church are massive. Forget evangelism. No time. It is way past the time for parishioners to start thinking outside of the Reformed box.

    Question: How many gifted men like Andy are rotting away in the pews under Augustinian Neo-Gnosticism because they can’t get the stamp of approval from the likes of “Big Al” Mohler? It is not feasible for someone like Andy to go to seminary in order to get the Reformed Good Housekeeping Seal and become part of the good ole boy’s club that look out for each other. AND, HE WOULD ONLY LEARN WHAT THEY WANT HIM TO LEARN TO BOOT.

    Meanwhile, organizations like ACE raked in 2.5 million last year. How? The approved pastors of churches tell the church to do so. Are we stinking idiots, or what?

    You take a fraction of that money and support gifted men in the ministry of the word, and watch the transformation of the church happen before your very eyes.

    Here is the link you asked for. Sorry for feedback in the first minute–it will get better.
    http://wp.me/pmd7S-2sH

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  73. JA: I do not recall making blanket statements, but observations and opinions. And it seems to me by your responses you are not wanting me to have those observations or opinions because you are challenging them.

    If you only made observations and gave opinions, then so did I. And it seems to me by your responses you are not wanting me to have those observations or opinions because you are challenging them.

    Wow… to challenge your opinions means I’m not allowing you to have them???????

    If challenging your opinions is not allowed, as you have clearly stated here, then I will leave you in peace. Goodbye.

    And for the record, I have NOT exaggerated or twisted your words. That is a false charge. But all of you, be careful you don’t twist anything while dancing on my grave.

    Well, I certainly was not intending to, but I apparently rocked boatrocker’s boat. BR, I’m not going to respond to the specifics in the above if you’ve already left, but if you care to stay, I’m happy to try to get to some resolution.

    But for all, I want to make sure I am clear on how I feel about small groups. I have no bias towards small groups or large groups. They each have their various strengths and weaknesses. My issue is with abuse, period.

    I did make an observation to what it might be like to experience abuse in a small group based on the the likelihood that if you are in a small group of 6, imagine how many more interactions you’d have with your abuser than if you were in a group of 100. It “seems” (and has been proven to me by abuse stories I’ve read from those attending small groups) that there could be more concentrated abuse because of those frequent interactions, close proximity, etc. Think about that aspect, too – – in a larger group, you can be seated further away from abuser than if you were in a small group. Physical proximity can be a very intimidating factor and that might not be present in a large church group. I don’t think by mentioning this aspect makes small groups any more sinister than abuse that goes on in large church groups. It just is.

    On the flip side, though, there’s Raymond (who commented in this thread) who was part of a very large congregation and I think his abuse was horrific and very personal in that he lost his marriage due to spiritual abuse. Other people in large groups dealt with spiritual abuse in a more general sense in how it warped the character of God, imposed legalistic rules, took away control, etc. Those are also evil and wrong and can have lasting scars. Let’s just face it – abuse sucks. That’s not a pretty word and that describes it for me.

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  74. Paul said:

    I could address the remote possibility that abuse could take place in a NT home fellowship model, but the list of positives in regard to this model is so long it would take a long time to get there.

    I believe you, Paul.

    Question: How many gifted men like Andy are rotting away in the pews under Augustinian Neo-Gnosticism because they can’t get the stamp of approval from the likes of “Big Al” Mohler? It is not feasible for someone like Andy to go to seminary in order to get the Reformed Good Housekeeping Seal and become part of the good ole boy’s club that look out for each other. AND, HE WOULD ONLY LEARN WHAT THEY WANT HIM TO LEARN TO BOOT.

    That’s such a great point, Paul. Not wanting to take away from your endorsing of small churches, but I do want to add that I have been a part of a larger church that used people like Andy (and how fortunate is the church Body!). I described the elder-led church we went to after BGBC – they were all unpaid elders, very humble, no one main pastor. At this church, the 1st service was the “Breaking of Bread” service in which they had communion, obviously. But men would freely go up to the mic and share what they felt God impressing upon them. I loved that. Also, in the service, they did not keep it to just the elders for preaching the sermon. They invited men from the congregation like Andy – men who had studied God’s word on their own and had something beneficial for the Body. I see no seminary training mandate in scripture – whatsoever. The point being, any time you have an “Andy” around, Andy’s gift should be utilized, whether in a large congregation or small church setting.

    Meanwhile, organizations like ACE raked in 2.5 million last year. How? The approved pastors of churches tell the church to do so. Are we stinking idiots, or what?

    No kidding.

    You take a fraction of that money and support gifted men in the ministry of the word, and watch the transformation of the church happen before your very eyes.

    Yes, there is so much $$ waste. So, Paul, when you say “support gifted men in the ministry of the word,” are you saying that men who teach the word should be paid by the church? I think I need to look up ACE.

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  75. Julie Anne,
    In the early church, masters and slaves attended the same fellowships. In some cases, slaves were overseers (teachers) and there masters sat under their teachings at “church.” For this reason and many others, slaves in general were well taken care of in the church. On the other hand, it is clear that lay-teachers were supported by the churches in some capacity. And look, can we deny the value of Christians being free to minister during the work day?

    Now, I get a lot of pushback on this. Yet, look at the money we willingly pour into the institutional church. What sanctifies that stupidity? Institutionalized Christianity is a multi-billion dollar business, Yet, 1200 years later, where did it get Europe? Huh. Anybody here know European church history? 200 hundred years later, where has it gotten America? A mass exodus from the formal church and a mass of Discernment blogs.

    Moreover, the Reformed institutionalized church knows this and has started half-pregnant home church programs to circumvent the mass underground (and unpublicized) home fellowship movement going on in this country. They are netting them there, and sucking them back into the institutionalized church. “Apex” is one example among many including Francis Chan’s new program.

    ….and we pay for it. We are idiots. But heaven forbid we would support a layman that has true love for the church and people! This is nothing new, that’s why Paul lobbied for said support for others while he worked so he couldn’t be accused of tooting his own horn.

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  76. Julie Anne

    “If you guys are going to tell us traditional church is wrong,
    we need to see the full scoop.”

    Sorry, I thought I gave you “my” full scoop in my first comment. 😉

    Julie Anne “You” are the church – the ekklesia – the Body of Christ.
    Whether you are Home Alone or Assembled, with other “Called Out Ones.”

    IMO – You can NOT “do ekklesia” – Because – You – “ARE EKKLESIA”
    Whether you are Home Alone or in an Assembly, with other “Called Out Ones.”

    And I had to travel through, muddle through, suffer through, “The Traditional Church” and “House Church” in order to become dis-satisfied with “Mere Fallible Humans.”

    And turn to Jesus.

    It’s NOT that The Traditional Church or House Church – is wrong…
    As you say there is good and bad in both. There is Abuse in both – BUT…
    There is a better way – A much better way – And Jesus is “The Way.”

    It’s about following Jesus – NOT a bunch of man made traditions.

    My Sheep – Hear My Voice – and I know them – and they Follow Me. John 10:27.

    I don’t know what Jesus has in store for you…
    But, Jesus never asks us to “Follow” “Mere Fallible Humans.”
    Who call themselves – pastor/leaders.

    Jesus, always asks us to “Follow” Him – Jesus – The “ONE” Shepherd.
    You can be led by Jesus – You can be led by the Spirit.
    You can be taught by Jesus – You can be taught by the Spirit.

    Jesus might want you to be part of The Institutional Church – Now.
    Jesus might call you out of “The Religious System” – One day…
    Jesus might settle you in a small Home Group – One day…
    Jesus might call you into the wilderness – All alone…
    Just you and Jesus…

    John 3:8
    The **wind blows where it wishes (**wind=pneuma =Spirit)
    and you hear the sound of it,
    but do not know where it comes from and where it is going;
    so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    Rom 8:14
    For as many as are *led by the Spirit of God,* they are the sons of God.

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  77. Well JA here are my thoughts on the conversation to this point.

    Institutional church is a generalized term being used to describe every EXTREME found within Christiandom.

    I have seen nothing described in the “non-institutional” models that I have not personally experienced in the local churches I have been a part of.

    Many of the illustrations of “non-institutional” models simply provide a preferred learning and interaction model. Some people learn better in a dialogue while others learn better in a lecture. If the purpose is to teach people to observe all that God has commanded (Mat. 28:19-20) then both models are viable and necessary.

    The “non-institutional” models have been characterized as having teachers who are gifted but not formally trained. Requiring formal school training to engage in the teaching ministry of a congregation is unbiblical but excluding someone from the teaching ministry of a congregation because they have formal school training is just as unbiblical since Scripture neither demands it nor condemns it as illustrated by Peter and Paul both being chosen as apostles. A person’s gifting is not affected by whether he/she is formally school trained or not.

    All of the “non-institutional” models have been “brick and mortar” models as well with designated meeting places be it someone’s home, Barnes & Nobles, a building for that specific use, etc.

    Scripture is very vague on the exact model to be used. I think this is intentional to allow for cultural differences, 2000+ years of societal change, individual liberty, congregational makeup, congregational needs, etc.

    From this conversation I have gathered that the issue is not with the form, because Scripture is not specific, but that a certain form has become synonymous with a failure in function. For instance, some forms fail to fulfill the function of nurturing and training the little ones and instead provide avenues for abuses to take place but a simple change of families remaining together for congregational gatherings will solve this problem. It was argued that the word choir is not in the NT, though the concept is in Scripture, but a group of people singing in the worship of God is the same whether one calls it a choir or not but the problem arises when it becomes a performance which can happen in a living room as well as a facility designated for congregational gatherings.

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  78. AAL,

    Paul said to, “follow me as I follow Christ.” And basically, Susan and I are experiencing a mere snippet of the NT model, and it is awesome. God has not left us without answers, and you can be sure he hasn’t left us with any excuses. And you can also be sure that Christ doesn’t lead us by a still, small voice that is different for every person. I also reject the either/or construct. Either the institutional church, or a loosey goosey home fellowship with everybody wearing tie-dye clothing and headbands, and bringing their own word of knowledge from the Lord. Again, this is one of the issues Paul addresses in the letters to the Corinthians.

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  79. WR,

    “Scripture is very vague on the exact model to be used. I think this is intentional to allow for cultural differences, 2000+ years of societal change, individual liberty, congregational makeup, congregational needs, etc.

    “From this conversation I have gathered that the issue is not with the form, because Scripture is not specific,”

    Not so my friend. That’s a traditional notion that is dead wrong. The Scriptures are VERY specific in regard to the model. There is no excuse.

    Like

  80. But Wesley,

    I think Scripture is fairly clear that we are not do do anything that looks like building a tower (fancy church building), a city (church membership) and a name for ourselves (good reputation in the community). Every organized church I have ever participated in has been guilty of focusing primarily on just this. And all except maybe one has gone through at least one split. The one that maybe hasn’t experienced a split suffered a slow and prolonged bleeding of members.

    Also, what about my challenge on another thread that you consider encouraging your congregation to do something concrete in terms of providing for the financial needs of women involved in really bad marriages? Maybe your congregation is doing something else, but frankly I no longer consider a congregation to be a part of the Body of Christ unless their focus is on Jesus, meaning their focus must be on attending to the needs of “the least of these.” Individuals within the congregation may be believers, but the congregation itself is just simply outside the Body of Christ.

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  81. Gary we have many issues in the African-American community that we find ourselves a part of that we attempt to address because we are believers.

    We are involved in tutoring to reverse the horrible drop out rate that has resulted in a prison enterprise that is over 80% African-American males that read below 5th grade level when we are less than 20% of the population.

    We are in the process of partnering with a local elementary school that has a D- grade and predominately African-American and poor student body with over 95% of the students on free/reduced lunch and only 35% passing the 4th to 5th grade LEAP test requirements to provide mentoring, money, labor, tutoring, and anything else that we are able to provide to reverse these trends.

    We are working through an ministry started by one of our ladies in our local homeless shelter to provide information and assistance with homes, jobs, and childcare for the children of these families and singles.

    We do not have a problem with providing material needs for women in bad marriage situations because the majority of the people in our area are not married and on government assistance. We are instead working on developing meaningful relationships through community outreach in one of our largest housing areas to provide the gospel, health screening, GED preparation/tutoring, life skills training, family skills training, etc.

    We are a small congregation so we are limited in resources and people but we do seek to exhibit God’s love and grace to the community as a whole and not the congregation only.

    Gary/Paul I am having trouble finding the Scriptural injunction against having a meeting place dedicated to gather for worship and instruction. I think I can easily show from Scripture that Christians should have a good reputation in the community and this would apply as individuals and as a congregation. I also think I would have no problem showing from Scripture that we are members of local bodies of believers not to be confused with members of a club. In my opinion the issue for function can be supported by Scripture but not the issue of form.

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  82. Julie Anne

    You ask…
    “Show us how you ekklesia. I must know. :-)”

    Since the early 90’s, when I first left “The Religious System” Through much – Pain – Tears – and – Spiritual Abuse – it has been mostly small groups. One group, three men, monthly for over 10 years, meet in a restaurant, meetings last 4-5 hours. Sometimes as many as 5-6-7, show up, male and female.

    Another group, which I left recently, nothing bad, just time to go, 10-15 in a home, weekly for about seven years.

    And now Barnes & Nobles, 5-6-7 days a week, for the last three years, meeting most days with Atheists, Jewish, Muslems, Catholics, New Age, Blasphemers, and lots and lots of folks NOT interested in The Institutional Church – But win up being interested in Jesus. Just trusting Jesus to bring folks by – And when there is NO one to talk to in person – Blogging – and trying to turn over the tables of the money changers who are making “merchandise” of God’s people. And trying to turn over the tables of those – Taking “Titles” NOT found in the Bible…

    The Best Gig I Ever Had… 🙂

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  83. Well, all in all, what we have now is not working. Time to go back to the drawing board and get the right picture. So, what are some things that we have?

    1. letters of Instruction were written to congregations as a whole, outlining the what and the why.

    2. Christ walks among the candlesticks. What are they, and what can be drwn from what he says to them.?

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  84. Julie Anne

    There is a reasonable debate with the word “church,” and what it really means. Stuggled with it for quite awhile. Printed out every verse with the word “church.. Read them over and over again.

    Read what others had to say, and why…
    1 – Some, like Cooper P. Abrams, III, seem to say church…
    ……only – means assembly or congregation.
    ….. http://bible-truth.org/Ekklesia.html
    2 – Some, like “Ekklesia Ministries” seem to say church…
    ……only- means “the called out ones.”
    ….. http://www.ekklesia.ws/ekk_defined.htm
    3 – Some, like Strongs Concordance and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon…
    …. and others, seem to say church is…
    …..both – “the called out ones” and “assembly.”
    …. Seems before there can be an assembly, the folks, believers, have to be
    …..“called out” of where they are into that “assembly.”

    Church – Strongs – #1577. ekklesia – of 1537 and a derivative of 2564;
    “a calling out,” i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, assembly, church.
    From… 1537 + 2564
    #1537 – Ek – out of,
    #2564 – kaleo – to call

    Church – Thayers lexicon – ekklesia –
    1 – a gathering of citizens “called out from their homes”
    ……into some public place – an assembly.

    I have come to accept #3
    Both “the called out ones” and “assembly” is the most likely option. 😉

    I’ll do my best to explain the reasoning
    …..and why I believe it’s “both” in the next comment.

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  85. Read the letter to the church at Philadelphia. Imagine Christ saying those things to a church. Our only question should be how they made that happen. Its our choice, but they didn’t get it done by being confused.

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  86. Julie Anne

    If Jesus is the head of the body, the church. – the ekklesia – Col 1:18
    And “ekklesia” only means “assembly,” “congregation,” as some believe…

    Does that mean Jesus is **only** “the head of the body” when we’re assembled? Does the “body of Christ” no longer exist if believers are not assembled? Traveling? Are we no longer members of the “body of Christ,” The Ekklesia, when we’re Home Alone? What if someone is in prison, solitary confinement; They’re no longer part of the body? The Church?

    Right now I’m in Barnes & Nobles, blogging, all by myself, not assembled. Is Jesus still my head? Am I a part of “ the body of Christ,” the ekklesia, the church? When do we become “the assembly” that becomes “the church?” When two or three? More? How many?

    For myself, I kinda like using “ekklesia” and “called out one’s” when talking “Church.” It reminds me and others “the ekklesia of God” is always people. NOT the institution. I can see “ekklesia” referring to being “by myself,” with two or three” an “assembly.”

    Church = assembly? OR Church = the Body of Christ, the called out one’s?

    1 – I will build my church – Mt 16:18 – build also means “to edify.”
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Could be either – Yes? I will build/edify my assembly?
    I will build/edify my called out ones?

    2 – the Lord added to the church – Acts 2:47 – Could be both.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    If Jesus adds someone in prison, solitary confinement;
    Is this person, all alone, now, part of Christ, His body, part of “The Church?” Or, are they “only” ekklesia, church, when out of prison and assembled?

    3 – great fear came upon all the church – Acts 5:11.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Does fear only come when “the ekklesia” is assembled?

    4 – ta great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem – Acts 8:1.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Was there persucution just against the assembled believers? If there is NO assembly of believers – then – is there NO persecution against believers?

    5 – Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house – Acts 8:3.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Why did Saul enter into every house? Why not just where they were assembled? Were there assemblies in every house? In Jerusalem? Or, the called out ones” in every house?

    6 – they assembled themselves with the church – Acts 11:26.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Did they assemble themselves with the assembly?
    Or, did they assemble themselves with “the called out ones?”

    7 – Herod… stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church – Acts 12:1.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Vex certain of the assemblies? Or vex certin of “the called out one’s?”

    8 – and had gathered the church together – Acts 14:27.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Gathered the assembly? Or, gathered “the called out ones?”

    9 – And being brought on their way by the church – Acts 15:3.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Did the assembly bring Paul?
    Or, only a few of “the called out ones?”

    10 – they were received of the church – Acts 15:4.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    11 – set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. – 1 Cor 6:4.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Hmmm? Must be a misprint? The least essteemed are to judge?
    NOT the “Titled” leaders?

    12 – If the whole church be come together into one place – 1 Cor 14:23.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    13 – Christ is the head of the church: and the saviour of the body. Eph 5:23.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Is Christ “only” the head when we’re assembled?
    Is Christ “only” the savior of an assembly?
    Or, the savior of “the called out ones?”

    14 – Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Eph 5:25.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Gave Himself “only” for the assembly?
    NOT the “called out one” alone in prison? At Home Alone?

    15 – feed the church of God, which he purchased his own blood – Acts 20:28.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Feed “only” an assembly.
    Or, feed “the called out ones,” where ever they may be?

    16 – gave him to be the head over all things to the church – Eph 1:22.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    17 – the church is subject unto Christ – Eph 5:24.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Is “only” the assembly subject to Christ?
    And when NOT assembled we’re NOT subject?
    Or, “the called out ones” are subject to Christ?
    Assembled or Not assembled?

    18 – he is the head of the body, the church – Col 1:18
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear MY voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice -One Leader

    If Not Now, When?

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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  87. Wesley said:

    Well JA here are my thoughts on the conversation to this point.

    So you were baiting us all along with those two 2-word comments yesterday! I just knew it, Wesley 🙂

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  88. Wesley:

    I love reading about what your church is doing in the local community. Bravo! I wish more would follow your lead. That is real and practical help which will yield not only practical help for the individual, the family, and the community. Also, it bridges a relationship that might not have existed otherwise for furtherance of the gospel. I love it.

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