Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Divine Ability in Biblical Simplicity

In a certain prayer meeting a church leader shared his prayer needs this way, “Please pray for us as we don’t have a full-time pastor and a church as yet”. His congregations were almost 200 in numbers and yet he said that they did not have a church. What was he referring to then? Of course, he was asking the believers to pray that they would have a building to do church. Now he also had several capable men in his leadership team. Nevertheless, he felt inadequate as a church because they didn’t have a full-time pastor.

The question is do we have any Scriptural references to support the plight of this dear brother? None. In fact, we do have ample Scriptural evidences that tell us just the opposite – that we actually require neither a building nor is it mandatory to have a full-time pastor in order for a group of believers to qualify to be called a church.

In the New Testament the church never constructed buildings. They simply met in different houses. In Acts chapter 2 we read of 3000 people getting saved on the day of Pentecost as Peter put to work the power of the Holy Spirit he had just received. Was the church prepared with a large auditorium to accommodate 3000 people for their gatherings? If not, what would happen to their meetings now? Well, in verse 46 we read they simply met from house to house. And the believers' meeting in houses was called a church. In Romans 16:5 while conveying his greetings to Prisca and Aquila, Paul adds, “Greet also the church in their house”. In Col 4:15, a group of believers meeting at Nympha's house was called a church. “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house”, says the apostle Paul. Again, while greeting Philemon and others, the apostle also greets, “the church in your house” (vs. 2).

This is what the Scripture clearly teaches. And yet, Jesus said, that human tradition could easily nullify the teachings and commandments of the Scripture. And what human tradition has taught us is that a building made of bricks and mortar is the church. This blatantly false understanding of the church has led believers into a trap of thinking that a church is what happens once a week for two or three hours inside the four walls of a building. But that is not the church we read about especially in the Book of Acts. The Scripture says that they met “day by day” and “every day” from house to house (see Acts 2:46, 5:42).

Many years later the writer of Hebrews would reflect upon this “every day” gatherings of the church and exhort thus, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:12, 13). But like many of us today, not all were excited to practice this. Some were in the habit of not meeting with the believers. And therefore, he goes on to say, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:24, 25). The early church was different. They met every day or at least regularly to exhort and stir one another to lead life that glorified God and to labor for the work of the Kingdom.

Now what about the story of the brother in the beginning of this chapter? Let's try to solve his problem according to the pattern in the New Testament. You see the 200 people he had with him lived in at least 10 different locations in the city. So rather than trying to accommodate 200 people in a building in one location he could have planted at least 10 churches with 20 believers each in all those 10 different locations in the city. These churches could have started in the believers' houses and those capable brothers with him could have helped provide the leadership required in these different churches. Well, it's true that it’s easier said than done but that's how it was done in the New Testament by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why not today?

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