Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I think it's time for another Reformation. The first one did great things with regard to theology, particularly the theology of Justification. Unfortunately, those reformers carried over the trappings of the Roman church with regard to nearly everything else.....paedo-baptism, formalism, this firmly-entrenched clergy-laity dichotomy, the idea that a church building must rival the Taj Mahal, the idea of centralizing power in one man (within a congregation or within a denomination).

House churches could be the genesis of such a reformation. The potential is there, but so is the potential to end up with something which is different but not better. I saw a poignant example of that the other day on the website of a prominent house church advocate where a guy was railing against the perversion of "authority" in traditional churches, "one-man dictatorships" and how the church should be a democracy. Then, in the next breath, as he made the pitch for selling his sermon recordings, he warned that his sermons were "harsh" dogmatic and might seem mean-spirited........So, in his effort to unseat the present problem, he acts just like his "enemy"......wonderful!

The old cliche about "throwing the baby out with the bath water" is apropos in this situation. I do not dispute that traditional churches are fraught with problems. The problems do not exist because these churches are following the Biblical examples and instructions, however, but because they are not following them. The house church which begins by ignoring or manipulating clear Biblical structures is bound for failure...failure to be a Biblical church, anyway. It might be a success in the eyes of those who were looking for an escape from church discipline, from accountability, etc, but it will be no better than the traditional off-course congregation of today......just same mess, different location.

I've been reading house church stuff since the 70's but I don't pretend to be an expert on all the "schools of thought" in the field. I've been a leader in 3 church starts, one of which began in our living room 30 years ago. Nearly every camp I've visited soon throws a curve regarding Biblical structure. One early leader had my attention until he advocated the ordination of women; the idea of "democracy" is very big in some circles nowadays. "We're all teachers" I've heard over and over. That stuff reminds me of the old, worthless Sunday school nonsense "and what does this verse mean to you?"

It's clear in the Word that God gives His local churches gifts including teachers. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone is a deacon. Men are so pride-filled they are unable to sit down and learn, to shut up and listen....even when God has provided teachers for that very purpose--fulfilling the local church's mission: the edification of the saints. That edification does not come about through a bunch of scripturally-ignorant people sitting around in a circle nattering about "what this verse means".

I'm not sure what it will take......an act of God, for sure.......to put the house church movement on the right path. Too many times, the ones who rise to the top are the most vocal, stridently so, axe-grinders, the disaffected, the hurt, the bitter, out of the traditional church world. Their "house church" becomes a cult of the personality, every bit as much as the traditional church they disdain.

On the bright side, I think most of the negative stuff is localized in the U.S. Elsewhere in the world, where folks have not (yet anyway) been poisoned by the koolaid of "American Christianity" house churches do very well. Missionaries who are where they are for the purpose of declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than westernizing someone's culture are able to plant churches more in line with the "Jewish community" model as opposed to replicating American-Constantinian model churches (see part 3 regarding this nomenclature).

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