Where & How to Meet?

“A Call to Return to the Simplicity and Unity of the New Testament Church”

 

By Thomas “Steadfast” Shou

 

 

The Present Situation

 

Today, as we look across the current landscape of present-day Christianity, we find hundreds of different “churches” dotting the cities where we live. On one city street alone in America, one may even find several different kinds of “churches” side by side. Today’s Christian churches range from thousands of different flavors of denominations. Then there are the non-denominational churches, community churches, free groups which claim to be completely independent of all denominational as well as non-denominational groups, “local” churches and “local” church variants/spin-offs, and now, we see the emergence of a new movement on the church landscape worldwide called the “house church” movement (believers who have left the institutional church groups and are simply meeting in their homes as independent, autonomous “house churches”. The author has recently discovered that even within the “house church” movement, there is a whole range of flavors and dominating ministries and personalities.)

 

In the face of such a plethora and diverse range of church choices today, how should a new believer or any believer choose? Or put differently, how can a new believer know where to meet and how to meet to faithfully fulfill our Lord’s clear injunction to all His children to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” until His imminent return (Heb 10:25)? Is there a better way to choose where to meet, where to find a “church home”, than flipping through the yellow pages or “church-shopping” until we find a church that fits our tastes?

 

Not what we want, but what He wants today

 

So many times, we look for “what we want” or a church that meets our needs, our outward as well as spiritual requirements, and our ecclesiastical wish list. But how many of us have really asked the very sobering and difficult question: “What does the Lord want in His church today? What does He, the unique Head of His church, desire to see in His Body in these last days, where we sense his imminent return?” When we begin to see this matter of what the Lord desires to see and accomplish in His Body today, we realize it no longer becomes a matter of what we want – our own personal, spiritual, ecclesiastical wish lists, and even perhaps very scriptural agendas, must be completely put aside. For we must be absolutely clear that we CANNOT and MUST NOT try to build the church or “help” Him build the Church. If we build, it is not the church; it is something else built with human hands and intention. (PS  127:1) Because ONLY HE, the unique risen Lord and Head and Savior of His blood-purchased Body CAN build His Church and, in such a Church in which He is the sole Author and Builder, even the very gates of Hades shall not prevail against it! (Mt 16:18) THIS is THE Church and is the very Church we need today. All the powers of the Devil and darkness shall rise up to destroy such a Church, yet will not prevail! For the sole Head and Authority of this Church is the only One who holds the very keys of Hades and Death in His hands! (Rev 1:18)

 

Step 1: Asking what the Lord wants in His Church

 

So, the first step in answering the question where & how to meet is to dare to ask that very terrifying and difficult question to the Lord Himself:  “Lord, as the Head and life of your Body, where & how do You want your people and your Body to meet?” Is it Your divine will and perfect intention for Your people to meet as they do today, needing to choose where to “go to church” in face of thousands of different flavors and types of “churches”? Where it seems, even from an unbeliever’s “unschooled” perspective that everyone (the church today) seems to be doing what is right in their own eyes, as in the chaotic day of the Judges (21: 25). Where is the King in Israel?

 

To bring this analogy to the present day chaotic state of the 21st century church world, how many times have your unbeliever friends asked you, “If you all believe in one Lord and God is love, why are there so many different kinds of churches today? Why doesn’t the Christian church reflect the message of spiritual unity and love that it so ardently preaches?!” An even harder and more painful question a new convert asked me after I shared with him that the Church is the Body of Christ is: “If so, then why is there so much infighting and mudslinging between different churches over gaining members or saying this church is good and right and that church is bad and wrong?” Oh! My dear brother and sisters in the Lord, how do we answer these very astute questions that even unbelievers are asking us today? Should we not be ashamed at the outwardly divided state of His Body today on the earth?!  Can this present pluralistic, over “31 flavors” status quo church condition really satisfy our Lord’s heart for the expression of His Body on this earth today? Or, does our Lord have a better way for His people and His Body to meet that will fulfill that beautiful and impassioned prayer for His Church on this earth that He, as the unique High Priest of His Church, cried out to His Father before His crucifixion:

 

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who WILL believe in Me through their word; that they may ALL be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in US, that THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU SENT ME. And the glory which you gave Me I have given them, that THEY MAY BE ONE, just as We are one: I in them and You in Me; that they may be made PERFECT in one, and that the world may KNOW that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:17:20-23)

 

This is clearly what the Lord deeply longs to see in His Church even before day one, when He was on the earth! Our risen Lord simply wants to see the Church He loved and died for MADE PERFECT IN ONE, as He and the Father were, as a crystal-clear and undeniable testimony to the unbelieving world that HE IS THE ONE the Father has sent. That HE IS THE CHRIST.

 

THIS IS WHAT IS ON HIS HEART FOR THE CHURCH. HE HAS NO OTHER AGENDA. ALL OTHER CHURCH AGENDAS ARE NOT HIS.

 

 

Finding a Path for What He wants

 

So now that we know what He wants, what He gave his very life and blood for, what do we do? What can we do? Yes, what can we do in such a complicated and cluttered 21st century church landscape to still meet in a way that satisfies the deep-seated longing of the Lord Himself to see His Church PERFECT IN ONE in this age, before He returns? Now the two biggest questions we must each soberly ask ourselves before our Lord: Is there a way the Lord Himself has shown us to attain His heart’s desire for His Body on this earth AND more importantly, if there is such a way, are WE willing to take that way at all costs, so the Lord can get what He desires in these last days?! Oh, my dear brothers and sisters, I implore you to ask these two questions that He may get the Church He is looking for when He returns. If we have truly SEEN what the Lord Himself most desires of His Church, then we will realize we have no other way. For there is only one way for His Church today to be MADE PERFECT IN ONE – that is, to be MADE INTO ONE PERFECT CHURCH. This does not mean a perfectly, sinless church devoid of all the human errors and defects of fallen sinners (of which we all are, but by the grace of God), but simply One Church PERFECTLY according to HIS heart’s desire.

 

One Perfect Church? Today?

 

Now we come to the heart of the matter.  We come to a very sticky subject: you mean the Lord wants “One Perfect Church” in today’s complicated situation? Our first, commonsensical reaction is: “That’s not realistic. That’s not possible today. Why start another church to add to the thousands – another IMPERFECT church too – when there are so many “good” ones out there already? Why not just “join” one of the better, more established churches out there, since on this side of heaven we will never see the church one or perfect anyways…?” Yes, we can say this, as so many before us have, and just join the imperfect status quo. But perfection and unity are not our choice - not a matter of whether we think it’s realistic or executable or not – it is His choice. Perfection and unity in His Church is His heart’s desire for ALL His children. Christian perfection is not only his individual call to all of us as His children. For He calls ALL of us to be perfect as His Father in Heaven is perfect. (Mt 5:48) But, corporately as His Body, He also calls us to nothing less than perfection:

 

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, TO A PERFECT MAN, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13)

 

So, now we see perfection is the Lord’s call to us individually and corporately as His Body, until we all attain the stature of the full measure of Christ Himself – to ONE perfect MAN! What the Lord desires today for His Church before His return is clearly a perfect Church as He is, “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing…holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:7)

 

This is the Church that Christ loved and gave Himself for, nothing less will satisfy His heart! Nothing less than the perfectly glorious, holy and unblemished image of Himself in His Church is what He is looking for today. How can we settle for anything less than His best for His Bride today?

 

One Perfect Church. The way it was.

 

Today, we look at the chaotic complexity of the church landscape today and say, “one perfect church today?? IMPOSSIBLE! There are already TOO many churches already…and more being formed all the time!”  But, that is exactly what we see when the church first began, over 2,000 years ago. The “impossible” Church was a reality and the only reality of the Church. One perfect church in the New Testament (NT) was the norm. In the NT, we simply see just ONE church geographically dispersed in different cities in the New Testament, meeting PERFECTLY according to the Lord’s desire in blessed simplicity and unity! (Again, I repeat, this does not mean that the ONE NT Church expressed in each locality was perfectly holy and sinless, as we see clearly in Paul’s epistles to the many problem-ridden local churches, especially the Church in Corinth!)

 

The point is: in the New Testament days, a new believer never had to ask and probably never even thought about asking that most common question we hear asked today: “Where should I go to church?” Because, as a newly born child of God and member of the Body of Christ, there simply was only ONE church for him to choose and belong to and that was the ONE Church that was meeting wherever that believer happened to be residing. That ONE Church in that city simply composed of the already existing Body of all the believers in that city. When a new believer received the gospel and opened his heart to receive the Risen Lord Jesus as His personal Savior and Lord, he automatically became organically born into and constituted as a living member of that ONE Church Family and Body in that locality. That Church in that city was simply one of the many singular local expressions of the universal Body of Christ at that time in Church history. So, we see in the Book of Acts, how it was the Risen Lord Himself who “added to the (one) church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) How far we have strayed today from the beautiful simplicity and visible unity of the Body of Christ we see in those days! The early Church was surely not perfectly holy and sinless, but it WAS perfectly and visibly ONE Church.

 

Not Many Different Churches, but ONE Church expressed as different local churches: different local expressions of the ONE Body of Christ

 

An examination of what the church looked like in its inception clearly reveals that, in NT times, there were not many different types and flavors of “churches” or denominations as we find is the norm today, but ONLY ONE NT Church: ONLY ONE expression of the entire Body of Christ which visibly manifested itself as different local churches in different cities. So, in the Word of God, we ONLY see many different local churches meeting from city to city – the ONLY REASON for the division of one local church (local body of believers) from another was solely and simply based on what city the church was located at. 

 

Brother Watchman Nee, the well-known founder of what became known as the “Little Flock” Church movement that raised up hundreds of local churches throughout China in the first half of the 20th century, explains his vision of the local church in this way:

 

Any division of the children of God other than geographical implies not merely division of sphere, but a division of nature. Local division is the only division which does not touch the life of the church… It is our being in Christ that separates us from the world, and it is our being in a given locality that separates us from other believers. It is only when we reside in a different place from them that we belong to a different church. The only reason why I do not belong to the same church as other believers is because I do not live in the same place as they do…Difference of locality is the only justification for (any type of) division among believers. (The Normal Christian Church Life, p. 106-107)

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An Excursus: Some solemn warnings to all who decide to take this way

 

It must be stated at this point, that this way of simply meeting as local churches in each city is surely not bereft of many of its own problems, as the practice of this way has repeatedly shown throughout recent church history. For this reason, we would like to also include some extremely wise and even prophetic caveats from our brother that we who decide to take this narrow way would do well to heed – that, only by His abundant mercy and grace, we might not commit the same errors that we have seen in the past. In the crucial section of our brother’s book called “Seven Forbidden Grounds of Division” (a must read for all who decide to take this way), brother Nee writes the following.

(Note: parenthetical comments are mine.)

 

(Caveat 1.  Only Representing Localities, NOT doctrines or specific truths)

 

If we wish to maintain a scriptural position, then we must see to it that the church we found in various places only represent localities, not doctrines. If our “church” is not separated from other children of God on the ground of locality alone, but stands for the propagation of some particular doctrine, then we are decidedly a sect, however true to the to Word of God our teaching may be. The purpose of God is that a church should represent the children of God in a locality, not represent some specific truth there. A church of God in any place comprises ALL the children of God in that place, not merely those who hold the same doctrinal views.

 

(Caveat 2. The Indispensable Key to this Way: the Way of the Cross)

 

If our hearts are set to preserve the local character of the churches of God, we cannot fail to come up against problems in our work. Unless the cross operates mightily, what endless possibilities of friction there will be if we include in one church all the believers in the locality with all their varying views. How the flesh would like just to include those holding the same views, and to exclude all whose views differ from ours. To have the constant and close association with people, whose interpretation of Scripture does not tally with ours, is hard for the flesh, but good for the spirit. God does not use division to solve the problem; He uses the cross. He would have us submit to the cross, so that through the very difficulties of the situation, the meekness and patience and love of Christ may be deeply wrought into our lives. Under the circumstances, if we do not know the cross, we shall probably argue, lose our temper, and finally go on our own way (too prophetic!)… It is easy to have a mind well stored with scriptural teaching, and a heart devoid of true love. Those who differ from us will be means to test whether we have spiritual experience, or only scriptural knowledge, to test whether the truths we proclaim are a matter of life to us, or mere theory.

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We now continue with our previous discussion of the NT local churches…

 

Not many different church names, but simple descriptions of the ONE Body of Christ in each city

 

As far as what the NT local churches were called, we do not see an encyclopedia of different churches each with their own distinct “brand name”, but merely simple descriptions of the one local expression of the Body of Christ in each city.  That ONE gloriously unified expression of the Body of Christ in the NT practically and visibly expressed to the unbelieving world really had no other special and fixed name or title per se. No doubt, because of their notorious fire for passionately following their risen Lord Jesus and their remarkable individual and corporate semblance to their Risen Master and sole Head, they were collectively described by the observing world and their enemies as the people of the Way (His Way, or He as THE Way)  (See John 14:6; Acts 9:2, 19:23, 22:4, 24:22) and labeled “Christians” (which means “those following/belonging to Christ”, because they all lived and looked like their Master so.) (Acts 11:26, 26:28) As to any other “names” ascribed to the many different local churches we see in the NT, we see them only described in different ways by the apostles as they address different local churches in their letters. Below are some of the “names” or, more accurately, simple descriptions used in the NT:

 

Now in the church that was at Antioch…. (Acts 13:1)

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints (Rom 1:7)

To the church of God which is at Corinth…. (I Cor 1:2)

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:1)

To the church of Ephesus… write (Rev 2:1)

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse (Col 1:2)

To the church of the Thessalonians…. (I Thess 1:1)

 

As we can see from each example, the church in the NT had no other name – no other church “flavor” or “brand name” - other than simply the church that met at a specific city. Whether they are called the “church at a certain city”, “all the saints or brethren who are in a certain city”, or the “church of all the citizens belonging to a certain city, such as “the church of the Thessalonians”, each “name” is simply a physical description or designation of all the believers that resided, met together and constituted the one Body of Christ in that locale. (So, we see even “the church” was not a fixed label or set name or title for the Body of Christ in a particular locality! The “church” (“ekklesia”) was just ONE of the more common ways to describe the collective gathering of the members of the Body in a locality.) Otherwise, how could the Apostle Paul write a letter and address it to the entire church in that city, to all the saints in a particular city – how could he presume to address the Church of the “Thessalonians”, all the Thessalonians believers there or to ALL the called saints in such a giant city as Rome? We also see ample examples of the entire church of one locale meeting together in one place in a specific place or even single home, even from the very beginning as they met together in the upper room for 10 prayer-filled days! (Acts 1:13-14, 2:1-2, 44-47; 4:31-33; 14:27; 15: 22; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:18, 20; 14:23). So the NT record clearly shows that ONE church, ONE local expression of the Body of Christ in ONE city comprising all the believers in that city, meeting in ONE place was not only an actual practice of the early Christians, but a normal and frequent practice of the early church!

 

To sum up, we see no precedent for multiple, independent and different-named “churches” co-existing in one city as we see today. We see only ONE local and singular expression of the church in each city, with no other name. All the saints in that city simply met together as the ONE gathering of the church in whatever city they resided. Later, we will see in more detail that the most frequent and common way of meeting for the saints throughout the city was actually NOT the citywide gatherings of the whole church in one location, but the countless gatherings of local saints in their own HOMES.

 

Even how the Lord Jesus Himself sees His Church on this earth!

 

Besides the crystal-clear example of the practice of local churches meeting as the one local expression of the Body of Christ from city to city in the NT, most importantly, we see that even our risen and ascended Lord Jesus Himself, the sole Head of the Church, when speaking to Apostle John about the condition of the churches on this earth sees and addresses them as individual local churches! (Rev 1: 11; Rev 2-3) Our ascended Lord Jesus specifically addresses the spiritual condition of seven actual local churches in Asia at that time: the church of Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamos, the church in Thyatira, the church in Sardis, the church in Philadelphia and the church of the Laodiceans. Even more specifically, the Lord commanded John to deliver each local church-specific message to a single messenger or perhaps even representative for each of the seven actual local churches in each city. Each messenger surely represented the single local church to which he belonged, otherwise how could the Lord ask John to deliver His specific local church message to just one messenger in each locality? How else could an entire local church receive a church-wide message through a single messenger? More precious is the Lord’s same injunction to each local church at the conclusion of His message to them: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 2-3) This meant that what the Lord specifically addressed to each of the seven local churches was also spoken as an admonition to ALL the seven local churches and all local churches today! This also implies that, though each NT local church was independently and administratively local, they must have had frequent mutual fellowship among themselves to be able to hear what the Spirit of the Lord was speaking to the different Asian churches. So, again we see the seven different local churches in Asia were simply seven local expressions of the ONE glorious expression and fellowship of His Body in Asia!

 

 

 

 

How the local churches, the entire church in each city, met

 

When we see this matter of one church comprising all the believers of His Body in one city, a common objection is: “How is that possible?! What does that look like when practiced in the real world? How is it possible for all the thousands of believers in one city to meet as one church! “ The conclusion reached is then: “Yes, it’s a beautiful blueprint for church unity, but just not practical in today’s modern 21st church scene. It’s not possible or practical for the whole local church to meet in a stadium all the time whenever it needs to gather.” Fortunately, the NT Church also provides a clear and simple answer to these very valid concerns.

 

Frequent Large “whole church” meetings, but MAINLY daily and weekly MEETINGS IN THE HOMES

 

First, it must be pointed out that the whole, city-wide local church gathering in one place, though a normative and frequent way of meeting, was not the primary and most common way the early local church saints met. The primary place for the regular daily or weekly gathering of the local church was in the very own homes of the different local saints. Of course, when there was a necessity for large “whole church” gatherings, we see the whole church meeting in larger settings, such as the entire over-8, 000 member Church in Jerusalem meeting in a larger public setting, such as the open courts of the temple and Solomon’s porch. (Acts 2:46a, 5:12) We also see such giant gatherings when the apostles would hold special or impromptu (Spirit-led) evangelistic or special ministry meetings for believers and unbelievers alike in these larger settings! (Acts 3:11-26; 5:20-21, 25, 42, 17:19; 19: 9-10; 20:7-9) Of course, one of the most common public places the early apostles would preach the gospel is the many existing Jewish synagogues (Acts 17:1-2, 13:5, 14:1). But no matter how large the numbers of believers would swell in one city-wide church, we never see ANY evidence of the apostles and the local church planning to erect a giant permanent church building or edifice to house these large whole church gatherings! It must be remembered that the temple courts in Jerusalem and Solomon’s Porch were also NOT giant, enclosed “church buildings”, but RATHER public, outdoor arenas that already existed before the first Christians ever appeared, and solely were used for temporarily accommodating the larger church gatherings.

 

Meeting in the Homes: The Rule for the Gathering of the NT Church

 

The NT record clearly shows that the primary and regular setting for the meeting of the saints in each locality was in their very own “living rooms” or “upper rooms” – in the everyday homes of the saints. Even church history indicates that for the first three hundred years of its birth, the NT local churches simply met in the homes of the saints. “ It was not “until the third century do we have evidence of special (church) buildings being constructed for Christian gatherings. “ (Paul’s Idea of Community, Banks) This appearance of church buildings also happens to coincide with the rise of the merging of the Church with the State in church history.  We see that the very first place the early disciples assembled together, after the risen Lord commissioned them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the outpouring of His Holy Spirit, was the upper room of a house where they staying. (Acts 1:13-14) And then they all stayed in that house (over 120 of them by then!) and prayed together with one accord in that one place for the next ten days! When the Day of Pentecost came and the promised Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, they were all “with one accord in one place”, as was there custom, and the Holy Spirit “filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2: 1-2) So, the intimate setting of the homes of the saints was even the very spiritual birthplace of the NT Church! This initial pattern of the entire local church assembly meeting in the homes of the saints (if the assembly of local believers was small enough) is continually seen repeated throughout the history of the NT church. (Romans 16:3, 5; I Cor 16:19, Col 4:15; Philemon 2; 2 John 10) For larger churches such as the Church in Jerusalem, with over 8,000 saints even in its earliest days, there was a simple solution for “housing” all the believers in the locality, while preserving the simple local unity of the church in the city. They would simply divide up their different gatherings - whether that is the Lord’s Supper meeting, prayer or apostle’s teaching meetings (Acts 2:42) - in the different homes of the local sainnts. Put simply, “House to House” was the clear and simple NT pattern for the meeting of the larger NT local churches from city to city.

 

Below are some clear examples:

 

So continuing daily with one another in the temple, and breaking bread from House to House…(Acts 2:46)

 

As for Saul, he made havoc of the Church, entering every House… (Acts 8:3)

 

How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but…taught you publicly and from House to House…(Acts 20:20)

 

We see that even outside persecutors of the church, such as the unconverted and zealous Pharisee Saul, knew exactly where to find and go make havoc of the NT Church: in the different homes of the saints meeting there! For other NT scriptures that amply illustrate how frequently the early church gathered in the hospitable homes of the local saints, see also Acts 2:2, 9:11, 12:12; 16:15, 34, 40; 17:5-7, 18:7, 21:8.

 

A “Mountain Pattern” for Today’s NT Church

 

So, by now, it should be sufficiently clear that there is a clear, at least outward NT local church “mountain pattern” outlined for us in the Word of God for how the early Church met. In the NT, The Lord in His Word, as in the OT, has not left us completely devoid of a clearly revealed and divinely instructed pattern for His NT “Tabernacle” (See Ex. 25:40, Heb 8:5), the collective gathering and expression of His NT “Church (‘Ekklesia’) in the wilderness”. (Acts 7:38) We have clear NT church meeting patterns, examples and practices presented by the wisdom of God for His NT church.  Apostle Paul even admonished the free-wheeling, independent-thinking Corinthian church that such NT church patterns, orders, practices, or traditions passed down and laid down by the apostles to the church needed to be soberly revered and adhered to as not just Paul’s thoughts about how to “do the NT church”, but the very “commandments of the Lord Himself. “ (1 Cor. 14:37) Paul even warns those rebellious Corinthian saints: “If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.“ (v.38)

 

The clearest word from Paul on the absolute importance of holding onto the apostolic church traditions is in 2 Thess. 2:15: “Therefore stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or epistle.”

 

With such grave scriptures, how can the NT church today still feel like they have any right to “do church” as each sees fit in their own eyes to do?! How is it possible for all the hundreds of different ways and flavors of how to “do church” be according to His heart’s desire for the simple unity of His Body on this earth and His divinely-revealed “mountain pattern” in the NT? If we have now seen this matter of what the Lord wanted for His church from the very beginning, and the simple and beautiful “mountain pattern” He has clearly laid out for us in the NT, the question now comes back to each of us: “Do we want to leave all the current confusion and complexity of the 21st century church situation and simply return to the overwhelming simplicity, purity and unity of the NT local church “mountain pattern”?   If the Lord does engender in our hearts such a simple desire for what He wants, what is our next step? What can we do in today’s current church situation?

 

What can we do? Taking The Next Step.

 

To answer this question, I will quote from the insightful words of our wise elder and Brethren teacher William MacDonald (the author of the well-known “The Believer’s Bible Commentary”), who puts it so beautifully below. (I think our brother provides a clear answer and way for those who want to seriously take this way.)

 

MacDonald writes the following:

 

What Next?

But the question still remains, "What should a person do after he has obeyed the scriptural injunction to 'come out'?" (2 Cor. 6:17-18)  In answer to this, we would suggest the following scriptural plan.

Gather together in Christian simplicity with a group of likeminded believers.

Gather to Christ alone; make Him the sole attraction. Though such a policy will not result in large crowds, it will at least provide a nucleus of faithful believers who will not be easily moved by trials or discouragements.

As far as a meeting place is concerned, a home is entirely satisfactory, and has a great deal of scriptural precedent (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2). Those who require a splendid edifice with religious hardware have never really discovered the all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus as the Person to whom His people gather.

Adopt no name or policy that would exclude any true believer from the fellowship.

Adopt no denominational affiliation, and steadfastly refuse any outside control or interference that would infringe on the sovereignty of the local church.

Resist the constant tendency to allow the ministry to drift into the hands of one man. Rather allow the Holy Spirit to use the various gifts which Christ has given to the Church, and provide for the active manifestation of the priesthood of all believers.

Gather together regularly for prayer, study of the Word, breaking of bread, and fellowship. Then engage in an active gospel effort, both individually and collectively.

In short, seek to meet as a New Testament church in the truest sense of the word by giving a faithful representation of the body of Christ and by obeying the commandments of the Lord.

Those Who Have Come Out

Interestingly enough, this is being done by Christians all over the world today. With no guidebook but the Bible, they have found these principles to be divine, and have followed them in spite of reproach and slander. They own no head but Christ, no fellowship but His Body, no headquarters but His throne. They seek in true humility to witness to the unity of the body of Christ. In their fellowship, they seek to provide a sanctuary for true believers who are oppressed by modernism and related evils. There is no directory on earth that lists these churches, nothing of an earthly nature to bind them together. Their only unity is that which is formed and maintained by the Holy Spirit, and they are content that it should be so.

There is no reason why similar fellowships should not continue to be formed by the Great Head of the Church through the sacrificial and prayerful exercise of His people. Where Christians have caught the vision, and are willing to suffer for it, the Lord will reward their exercise and endeavors, and fulfill their longings for His glory.

May He who loved the church, and gave Himself for it, bring it to pass, for His own glory!

(AMEN!)

 

A Call Back to the Simplicity and Unity of the NT Church “Mountain Pattern”

 

It is my sincere desire that others having seen this way may join us to

return to the simplicity and unity of the NT church “mountain pattern”: to simply meet with other local believers with no other intention, but as the Body of Christ in each locality in the home(s), or “house to house” as the need arises. To simply break bread, have prayer meetings, teaching meetings and other types of local church gatherings from house to house as the clear expression of the one Body of Christ and His Church in each locality, as an undeniable and real testimony to the believing and, more importantly, unbelieving world that we truly love one another as He loved us: that we are truly (not

just theoretically or doctrinally) perfect in one – so the world may know that HE IS THE SENT ONE!

 


Our Present Practice

 

Currently, a handful of us in Palo Alto, CA, only by the Lord’s great mercy and grace, have begun this journey to return to the simplicity of gathering as the local expression of His one Church and one Body in Palo Alto. We simply endeavor to meet and have open fellowship with all of the local saints in Palo Alto, according to the “mountain pattern” the Lord has revealed to us in our spirit. So far, we have met together for a simple bread-breaking meal and fellowship meeting in our home on Sunday mornings. In these meetings, a few of us have simply gathered ourselves unto our risen Lord Jesus and allow His Spirit to direct our time together, as we allow Him and Him alone to have His way among us as the Head of His Body in Palo Alto. It is my most earnest prayer that our Lord in these last Laodicean days, may Himself raise up many more simple local golden lampstands unto Himself wherever and whenever His children are gathered together!

 

My beloved and fellow members in His Body, we truly covet all your prayers and welcome any questions or fellowship with you, as we take this new way. Please feel free to contact me at thomasshou@yahoo.com anytime for more information or fellowship.

 

Oh, brothers and sisters in the Lord, may our dear Lord Jesus Himself draw and call us on together to return to the beautiful simplicity and unity of the Body and Bride He longs for in these last days!

 

Epilogue (August 2006)

 

I penned those words over 4 years ago and we have been going on in this way since, only by His GREAT mercy! To see where Jesus has led us now on this journey to “BE” the church in our home in Palo Alto, please check out my newest church blog: http://777churchinthehome.spaces.live.com/

 

Let’s continue our fellowship with Him and each other there!