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Tag Archives: simple church
What do we believe? How do we operate? What sort of structure do we abide by?
There are some of the questions I had after deciding that the way I had always “Done church” just wasn’t cutting it. But what was a viable Biblical alternative?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve compiled a few helpful resources for studying and learning about the home or organic church movement. Some of these authors and works contain contradictory views, especially when it comes to issues such as the role of women in the meeting, how elders are to be chosen and function, and how new fellowships are to be formed. In spite of this, however, I have found a fairly unified core of teachings, centered on the accounts and practices of the early church recorded in Scripture.
So without further ado, here are the best resources I’ve found when it comes to home church.
- New Testament Reformation Foundation
- Searching Together
- Present Testimony Ministry
- Break Bread Ministries
- The Assembling of the Church
A friend of mine recently asked, “What is simple church and how is it different than what we normally call ‘church’?”
Simple church is a pretty broad term and is rather hard to nail down. I think the best place to begin is to say that the aim (at least in the one I am in) is to be as close to the model of a church as portrayed in the Bible as possible.
Simple simply refers to the desire to jettison all the cruft normally associated with institutional organizations we mistakenly label “church” these days including programs, buildings, bulletins (which represent a strict order of worship), clergy (that is, we reject the common clergy/laity distinction as divisive to the Body of Christ), etc (more mentioned in Frank Viola‘s excellent book, Pagan Christianity.
Another aspect of “simple” is that we strive to maintain a small group and will unhesitatingly spawn another group if/when ours grows beyond what can comfortably fit in a modest living room (around 20 to 30 people).
One of the different things we do, as a consequence, is maintain open-participatory meetings where every member is free to add and interject anything they wish. Many people cringe at this thought and wonder how such a meeting wouldn’t devolve into a complete chaotic mess. But this is where an odd reliance on the unifying and guiding power of the Holy Spirit comes into play, to the point (at least in the small group we’ve had the privilege of being a part of) where both order and mutual edification are possible. In fact, in this type of meeting we tend to see more mutual edification and instruction given because the burden of preparation and teaching do not fall on the shoulders of any single one of us but are instead borne by each of us who are given the gift of teaching which is far more Biblical than having these responsibilities rest in any single individual week after week.
Another interesting difference is in how we relate to each other and how we handle differences among ourselves. In our group we all come from a variety of backgrounds and theological persuasions which, on the surface at least, would seem to make the task of unity far more difficult than if we were to simply ascribe to a denominational profession of faith. However, what I’ve found is that our lack of confessions, creeds, and councils tends to make us far more willing to debate in love our differences as we know that our ability to disagree in love is a key element to our community’s continuing to exist. Our smallness and lack of a membership roll provides much more incentive for us to be more careful where we draw lines of division and makes us much more generous in our debates with each other.
Some excellent resources to help you get a better idea of what a simple church is (or ought to be) can be found at:
I’m by no means an expert. We’ve only been attending a local house church for the past couple of months. But what I’ve seen so far (and I thank God for the wonderful people we’ve met considering the horror stories we’ve heard) has been very good and meshes quite well with all the research I’ve done in the area of Biblical ecclesiology.
The bottom line is that while most other places merely preach the priesthood of the believer in passing, it has only been in simple church where I’ve actually seen it put into practice.
One of the more interesting questions my wife and I get these days is “so, where do you go to church?”. This question is especially interesting when the person asking knows the depth of commitment we have to Christ and many expect the pat answer of “we attend such and such Baptist or Presbyterian” or, at the very least, “we are still ‘shopping'”1
Instead, our answer is that we attend a simple church2 which meets in the homes of the various participants. Since many people are unfamiliar with any ecclesiology outside of one which confuses a building with an organization and programs with the church, the response we often get is probably the same as if we were to say that we participated in some bizarre cult3.
The truth, however, is that we’ve been meeting with a group of around 15-20 other believers for the past few months and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Even though our children often pose a difficulty in terms of logistics, we’ve found the common fears and objections most often raised against house churches to be completely vacant, at least in the one we are currently blessed to be a part of.
I suppose if these people were to overcome their initial shock, and I’m sure many who have known us in the past would like to know, they would ask the obvious follow-up question of “what’s wrong with a normal church?” with the obvious implication that we had somehow left the church.
To be fair, we have had some bad experiences with churches in the past. And to be honest, these experiences have made it very difficult for me (in particular) to be comfortable with the idea of attending any church, institutional or otherwise, ever again.
For the longest time I thought the problem lie with me, especially since it was my questions and quest for honest community and answers that ended up driving large, immovable, and painful wedges4 between us and people we had known and loved for years.
Then, as if by a miracle, I met a series of people who shared with me their similar (and often times much worse) experiences and showed me their battle scars. They let me know that I am not alone5. Lest you think they were merely bitter and resentful I hasten to add that it was through their love and friendship I also learned the true definition of community and family.
It was actually one of these dear brothers (a youth minister, no less) who suggested that I read Pagan Christianity, an blistering expose of the pagan practices that have crept into Christianity throughout the years and the profound impact they have had. Undoubtedly it was this book that helped me decide to, along with my loving (and trusting) family, but it wasn’t the only thing that helped me make this decision to, at least for the time being, leave the institutional church. Much of Francis Schaeffer‘s work, especially what I’ve read about L’Abri, along with his son-in-law and current L’Abri president Udo Middleman’s book “The Market Driven Church”, along with a host of simple inconstancies such as the abject disdain I’ve experienced from many churches when it comes to thoughtful and rigorous discussion and study6
So, we are “doing church” differently now.
We’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t need the elaborate buildings and religious trappings to grow close to Christ and His bride (which is the true Church). We’re not encouraging a mass exodus from the institutional churches many people are still members of but we also don’t think such a mass exodus would be such a bad thing either.
- How this phrase ever came about I’ll never know. [↩]
- Also known as house church, micro church, etc. [↩]
- Unlike the commonly accepted cults like the Jehoviah’s Witnesses and Mormons [↩]
- Many which I still feel the stinging pain of today [↩]
- And judging from the number of people who are leaving churches all across our land I am inclined to point out that my experience and conclusions are far from unique. In fact, it seems that the old mantra “Jesus, yes; the church, no” is coming back in vogue for another season. [↩]
- Though most churches ironically encourage their members to read their Bibles, most sadly don’t actually intend for their members to actually comprehend and grow from what they read. [↩]