July 3, 2008 Matthew

Home Churches and Big Churches

We must bring the Kingdom community to our homes but not forsake the assembly

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” John 21:12

“The third kind of service should be a truly evangelical order and should not be held in a public place for all sorts of people. But those who want to be Christians in earnest and who profess the Gospel with hand and mouth should sign their names and meet alone in a house somewhere to pray, to read, to baptize, to receive the sacraments, and to do other Christian work…”

Martin Luther

To accomplish the Great Commission, we must disciple all the nations and peoples. But how is this done? Can we finish the task if we limit ourselves to large theaters and preaching? This was not Jesus’ style of discipleship.  Does that mean then, that Jesus has failed in building his church like he said he would? (Matthew 16:18) Most certainly not.

Jesus is, in fact, building his church. But how? When we read the New Testament with open eyes, we can see those terms very clearly. For many centuries Christians have worked very hard in many ways in seeking the discipling of the nations. Very often however, it has been caught up in a dysfunctional mess of politics, greed, and personal agendas. Man is very capable of pouring lots of energy and resources into their agendas to make things work, but he cannot build the church no matter how hard he tries. So why are we pushing Jesus out of the picture and trying to take over his job? In a powerful picture painted by our brother Ezekiel, found in chapter sixteen of his book, we see a faithless Bride forsaking God and trying to do things on her own—and the result is a mess.

His salvation and his Holy Spirit have been made freely available to all. However his presence is conditional to the state that our hearts are in. The reality we must face is that though we may gather together in a meeting house to hear a preacher and sing songs about God and see growing numbers of attendees and increased giving God may in fact not be moving and not be present—despite what many of us in the pulpits would like to believe. God can and does make us to succeed (2 Chronicles 26:5, 1 Kings 2:3, 1 Samuel 18:14, Job 42:10-12) but success does not mean that God is moving. (Isaiah 1:12-31, Revelation 3:14-20) Part of being sleepy, lukewarm Christians is growing numb enough to our desperate need of his Spirit to the point where we accept in a mechanical way that God is moving and present when in reality he’s little more than omnipresent.  Sin and disobedience to the Gospel will hinder his manifest presence. Sacrifices and oblations do not automatically mean God shows up. God doesn’t look for the tithe or the sacrifice of your time on Sunday morning or how hard you work on your sermon or how good your music is. He looks for the obedient heart. It is a faith-obedience and not a work-obedience. (Romans 1:5; 16:26) To obey is better than sacrifice! (1 Samuel 15:22) It is in this obedience that we find Christ moving and building his church.

The Gospel of the Kingdom needs our homes. Being a church means being a Kingdom family. Consequently, the simplest and most effective way of discipling nations is by planting families of the Holy Spirit. What is increasingly being called the “next reformation” is simply a movement of God to break the old status quo and flawed worldview that sees church chapels as sacred and houses as secular. It is not a voiding of local congregations by any means, but simply bringing balance back to a lopsided tradition. You will notice that when we read in Acts about the Christians gathering together, they gathered both on Solomon’s Porch in great numbers and in houses as small close-knit families.

This is the pattern we see in the New Testament. Jesus reached out through the homes, taught in the homes, and trained his disciples to go from home to home to spread the Gospel. The Church also started in the home, and disciples multiplied throughout the homes. Of course, these families also gathered together in the temple courts for preaching, strength, unity, and witness. But at the time of Constantine, this movement of the Holy Spirit was largely undermined when the ecclesiology of Church became less of a testament to a future Kingdom and more of an earthly political empire.

Consider the ways of worldly religion with the revolutionary Way that Jesus proclaimed with the coming of his Kingdom:

Worship is sanctioned in temples; ritual and ceremony exclusive to temples.
The Way of Jesus:
Worship starts in your closet and consumes your entire lifestyle. (Matthew 6:6, Romans 12:1)
Set-apart hours or days, places and objects; separation between “sacred” and “secular”. Set-apart lives (the Way of life); no division of “sacred” and “secular”. All of creation is “sacred”. (Psalm 24:1, 1 Corinthians 10:25-28)

This Way of Jesus was destined to prosper on the household level of society. It does not undermine the place of vocational teachers and preachers of the word, nor does it undermine organization, structure, or liturgy. If anything, it supports those. There will always be organization, structure, and liturgy in our daily living as a family of God, small or large. This is because we are a fallen race in a fallen world. Yet, there is freedom in the Way of Jesus in all these things because it is ultimately the heart that God is after. Having a heart of worship the way Jesus described is humanly impossible just as the building of the Church is. We must worship in the Spirit and in Truth. (Jeremiah 17:9, John 4:23-24, Luke 18:27) With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.


The church…multiplied. Acts 9:31

..the number of disciples multiplied greatly… Acts 6:7