Friday, October 7, 2016

New Testament Journey part 4

Church Comparison

The Traditional Church
The New Testament Church
1. The church meets in a special building
Churches met primarily in homes.
(Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 8:3; 20:7-8; 20:20; Rom.16:3-5; 1Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Philemon 2; 2Jn.9-11)
2. New converts are added to the existing church to make it bigger.
When the number of believers outgrew a home, a new church was formed.
(Rom.16:3-5; 14-15; Acts 2:41-47)
3. The Christian church is fractured into hundreds of different denominations.
There were no denominations; instead there was one church in each city, meeting in various homes.
(Acts 3  Rom.16:1; 1Cor.1:2; Rev.2:1; Col.4:16; 1Thess.1:1; Rev.2:12; 3:7; 3:1; 2:8; 2:18)
4. Pastors are trained in seminaries and sent out to serve in a congregation which has no real knowledge of his life or character.
Elders were local brothers who arose from within a local church where their life and character were known.
(Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)
5. The Sunday “worship service” is characterized by passivity among the laity with the Pastor or a select group of leaders doing nearly all the ministry.
Church meetings were participatory and interactive – every member had a function and contribution to make.
(1Cor.12:4-27; 14:26; Eph.4:15-16; Rom.12:3-8; 1Pet.4:10-11; Heb.10:23-25; Rom.12:15; 1Cor.12:26)
6. The Sunday morning worship service is characterized by a rigid and inflexible order of service.
Church meetings were characterized by informality, flexibility, and spontaneity. (Acts 20:7-12; 1Cor.14:26-31)
7. The goal of the meeting is worship, listening to a sermon or evangelism.
The goal of the meeting was mutual edification.
(1Cor.14:3,4,5,12,17,26; Eph.4:11-12,16; Heb.10:24-25)
8. The church is led by the Pastor (or Senior Pastor in a large church).
The church was led by a plurality of co-equal Elders.
(Acts 14:23; 20:28; Phil.1:1; 1Tim.4:17; Heb.10:17; James 5:14; 1Pet.5:1-2)
9. The Senior Pastor is seen as set apart from and over the other pastors and elders.
The church was cared for by a team of elders who were accountable to each other and the church; they were also known as elders or overseers. No one elder functioned as the head of the church. (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-7; 1Pet.5:1-2)
10. The Pastor is paid a salary by the church.
Some elders might be financially supported, but they were usually bi-vocational
(1Tim.5:17-18; Acts 20:33-35)
11. The church is comprised of both clergy and laity.
There was no clergy/laity distinction in the church – all the members comprised a fully functioning priesthood.
(Heb.13:15-16; 1Pet.2:5,9; Rev.1:6)
12. The Lord’s Supper is observed monthly, quarterly, or annually.
The Lord’s Supper was observed as often as the church regularly gathered and was the stated purpose for their meetings.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.11:18-20,33)
13. The Lord’s Supper is observed with a piece of cracker and a sip of juice.
The Lord’s Supper was observed as a full meal called a “Love Feast.”
(Acts 2:42,46; 1Cor.11:20-21; Jude 12)
14. The Lord’s Supper is observed in a solemn funeral-like atmosphere as the worshippers reflect on Christ’s sufferings and death. The believer’s vertical relationship with Christ is emphasized.
The Lord’s Supper was observed with glad and sincere hearts as the church not only reflected on Christ’s death, but also on the future marriage supper of the Lamb which it depicted. The believer’s horizontal relationship with other believers was emphasized.
(Acts 2:46; Luke 22:15-18,30; 1Cor.11:26; Acts 2:42; 1Cor.10:16)
15. A new believer must go through membership or instructional classes before he can be baptized.
New believers were baptized as soon as it was humanly possible.
(Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 9:17-18; 10:45-48; 16:31-34; 19:5)
16. Baptism is performed by the clergy.
Baptism was performed by any Christian.
(Jn.4:2; Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 9:18; 22:16; 1Cor.1:17)
17. The church must be present when someone is baptized..
The church was not always present when someone was baptized.
(Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 16:31-34)
18. Pastors deliver monologue sermons with no opportunity for questions or input from the congregation.
Various brothers taught the church, and allowed the congregation the opportunity to question them and/or add their own insights.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.14:29-35)
19. The church allocates the great majority of its finances for administrative overhead (salaries and building expenses).
The church gave primarily to relieve the poor and assist Christian workers, often beyond their means; they had very little if any administrative expenses
(Acts 2:44-45; Gal.6:9-10; 1Jn.3:17; 1Tim.5:17-18; 1Cor.9:6-14; 2Cor.8:3; Phil.4:15-18; Lk.12:33-34; Eph.4:28; James 1:27)
20. Believers are often urged to tithe; that is, they are taught to give a minimum of 10% to the church.
Believers gave voluntarily as God had blessed them and they had purposed in their heart; tithing was not carried over into the NT church.
(2Cor.8:3-4; 9:7)

Question:

So now, which do you think is more effective? Believers Meeting in the traditional, church setting with the same format week after week and have the same man preach to you? Or meeting in a small group of believers (10-15 people) interacting personally as well as having the opportunity to become a family that develops close, intimate relationships with each other as well as being able to build each other up and discovering and sharing our spiritual gifts together?
 As I look at how the body of believers met during the time of Jesus, I ask myself this question, “It can’t get any simpler than this can it?How and why have we made it so complicated?”



Scripture Examples of Simple Believers Meetings:

Acts2”42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1st Corinthians 13:26-33

          What shall we say brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.(Where does this happen in the Traditional Christian Church?) Everything must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two or at the most three should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
          Two or three prophets should speak, (Where does this happen?) and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be “instructed” and “encouraged.” The spirit of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

·       Please think about this scripture. How could this possibly work in a large group of believers? It can’t!
·       Where do you find this simple form of New Testament Christianity in the traditional body of believers? You don’t!
·       You might have cell groups, but they are not autonomous. They are still under the authority of the synod, pastor, or whatever else you might call it.

Does this happen in your traditional body of believers?
This is what we are supposed to be doing when we gather together as a body. We are to Instruct, Encourage, Strengthen, Comfort, Edify, Build each other up according to their needs. Ask yourself, Can this happen in the present way believers meet on Sundays? I don’t think so! If it does then that would be the exception rather than the rule. Everyone is to be responsible and everyone should come prepared to contribute to the body of believers when we meet as the New Testament body of believers.

Quotes to Ponder and Reflect On: Read Again
·       Santayana – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
·       Tertullian – “Custom without truth is error grown old.”
·        Morpheus - “You take the blue pill, the story ends and you wake up and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

 “KEEP DIGGING FOR THE TRUTH!”

Acts 17:10-11
          As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving at Berea, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now, the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the word with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

BE PREPARED!

Acts 20: 28-31
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, “savage wolves” will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even “from your own number” men will arise and “distort the truth” in order todraw away disciples” after them. 31 “So be on your guard!” Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

Greek Language Definition of:

Church – Ekklesia- meaning a called out body of believers. Everyone had an equal right and equal duty to take part in the assembly. There was not one man leading and the believers were not spectators as they are in the body of believers today.

In the New Testament times, the church had no buildings. Christians met in any house that had a room large enough to accommodate them. These gatherings were called house-churches. (Romans 16:5: 1 Cor. 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 1:2)              William Barclay

Traditional Church Buildings: History

“The church of Jesus Christ met in homes of its members for the first three hundred years after its birth. There is no evidence of buildings until the third century.”    Robert Banks

·       For the first 300 years of Christianity, there were no church buildings (Make special note of this), the believers met in their homes.
·       Roman Emperor Constantine – legitimizes Christianity by the creation of the Edict of Milan. Christianity then morphed into a state religion with all its trappings, i.e., authority, priestly dress, salaries, choirs patterned after pagan ceremonies and Roman government.
·       Constantine orders construction of church buildings patterned after Greco-Roman pagan temples and Jewish synagogues. The word church in the Greek used in the New Testament always refers to an assembly of people (ones called-out or called-out ones), not a building.

Reasons against Institutional Church Building

“It is amazing how religious and tight-lipped people get when they enter a church building.”                                                                                                                                     Darryl Erkel
·       There were “no church buildings for the first three hundred years” of the churches existence.
·       People go unnoticed when the body of believers becomes too big.
·       People can hide in their sins.
·       Not designed for interpersonal communication.
·       Designed for rigid one-way communication.
·       Fosters spectator-mentality, and passivity.
·       Superficial and shallow.
·       Fosters rigid formalism.

·     Very Important To Think On These Reasons!

In Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:48-50, he pointed out, “The most high does not live in houses made by men.” Interesting! Hmmmmm…Why would he have said this if he didn’t mean it.

In Isaiah, God stated in chapter 66: 1-2, “that Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool, what kind of house will you build for me or, “Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?” Interesting! Hmmmmm… These are God’s own words to  Isaiah. Would God say this if he didn’t mean it?

In John 4:28, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in “spirit and truth” for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.”
These are Jesus own words. He never alluded to meeting in a building, whereas the Jews felt that they must worship in the temple in Jerusalem or on the mountain.

Summary and Conclusion:
We, as believers, have been and continue to be concerned and stand firm against false teachings like Creation versus Evolution, The Emergent Church, The New Age Movement and numerous other false teachings. It is all right and good that we stand strong and expose these deceptive, false teachings and teachers. However, we have failed to see that there is a 2000 year old deception created by other believers and the Early Church Fathers that some of us have been blind to and it is right before our eyes. It has infected the lives of believers through the ages, and it continues to this very day. It is an organizational system that fosters “tradition” above truth.
The devastatingly deceptive error that believers have been following over the past 2000 years was the development of a separate class of priests that laid the foundation for a division among believers. Mainly, the Early Church Fathers created and promoted this system, and it became the Catholic Church of yesterday and today. Also, if closely examined, one can see that the Protestant believers have developed a similar system based on the same man-made traditions. Both of these groups have fallen prey to the same error.
It is absolutely crucial for believers to see and understand that there has been a cruel deception, or we will continue down the same path of the “Traditions of Men” for many more years to come. I encourage you to examine your Christian experience in the traditional body of believers and measure it against the way the Apostles and Jesus’s disciples met in the first century. How does it measure up? Also, it is a must that one examines the Early Church Father’s writings, church history, and the context of the New Testament books throughout the ages up to the present day to discover this truth. 
          You may ask yourselves, “why is he doing this?,” or “maybe he’s just doing this to cause division and make a name for himself?” Let me assure you that in my heart of hearts, I am only seeking to be sincere and truthful when it comes to discerning the truth about meeting as the New Testament, First-Century believers. I am convinced by what I discovered, and, I believe that meeting as the New Testament believers did in the first-century was the intent of the Apostles. It is the best, most effective way for Christians to gather, learn, develop relationships, build each other up, and worship the Father in spirit and truth together as the family the Father has made us to be.
If you have any doubts about what I have brought to you, again, I encourage you to be like a Berean, and search for the truth through the scriptures, church history, and Greek New Testament word meanings,
IF YOU HAVE THE COURAGE, TAKE THE CHALLENGE AND PROVE ME WRONG!

Resources:
1.    Bible- Old/New Testament Scriptures
2.    The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Tim Challies
3.    Vines Expository Dictionary of Hebrew/Greek Words
4.    Strongs Concordance
5.    Pagan Christianity-Frank Viola
6.    Rethinking the Wineskin-Frank Viola
7.    The Way Church Ought to Be-Robert A. Lund
8.    Article-The Traditions of the Early Church Fathers-Beresford Job
9.    Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
10. preceptaustin.com
11. Biblical Church: Beresford Job
12.The Pilgrim Church: E.H. Broadbent (church history)
13.The Torch of The Testimony: John W. Kennedy (church history)

Other Quotes:
“The issue before us is not going to be merely how far particular churches take such traditions and practices, but the mere fact that they are embraced and practiced at all. It is not how far down the road we might find ourselves to be, but that we are on the wrong road in the first place.”   Beresford Job

“Homes are conducive to the family concept and mutual edification which should mark the gatherings of all Christians.”   Darryl Erkel

“When every member of the body functions in the meeting, Christ is seen and is assembled in our midst.”    Frank Viola

 “As the members of the community eat and drink together their unity comes to visible expression, and they deepened their relationship to Jesus and each other.”   Robert Banks

Acts 2:46, 8:3, 20:20, Romans 16:3-5, 1st Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2, 2 John 10

“The artificial environment of the church building promotes an impersonal climate that inhibits intimacy and participation.”    Frank Viola

“The spirit of community, personal relationships, and bonding was chief among all the early believers.”     Frank Viola

“The present day pastoral system is quite unscriptural; It is an invention of man.”    
                                                                                                              Watchman Nee
“The Institutional Church is essentially a nursery for overgrown, spiritual babes by turning people into being passive receivers.”     Howard Snyder

Galatians 4:8-10

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods, but now that you know God – or rather are known by God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved all over again? You are observing special days, months, seasons, and years. I fear that you that I somehow have wasted my efforts on you.”

Hebrews 5:11-14
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk being still an infant in not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness, but solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
2nd Peter 2:1-3
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.
1st John 4:1
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Christian Authors Who Have Examined The Issue of Traditional, Institutional Church vs Home Congregations. ( a better translation of the word church, ones-called out.)

T. Austin Sparks              Steve Atkerson
Frank Viola                     Jon Zens
Arthur Wallace                Harry Foster
Watchman Nee                Christian Smith
Beresford Job                  Howard Snyder
Witness Lee                     Dan Trotter
Robert Banks                   Stephen Kaung
Carl W. Ketcherside         Robert C. Girard
E. H. Broadbent