A REVIEW & ADMONITION: The Church in the House
The Church in the House:
A Return To Simplicity
by Robert Fitts
Preparing the Way Publishers; 2001
[brackets] within quotes ours, for clarification in examination.
|In expectation of hope, our brother Robert announces, “Every house church is born pregnant.” May it be so. His intrepid openness of pen heralds an alert for all the professionally fearful: “We invite you to 'come over and help us!'” While Robert reminds us in how, “The church in some countries looks more like a corporation. Denominational hierarchies consisting of huge networks that, in many cases, are ruled over along political lines rather than through God-ordained spiritual authority. This has caused immeasurable grief and division for hundreds of years.”, within his volume for the church, there would be no sound prescription offered the reader in what the New Testament reveals for lingering, sectarian-driven apostasy. Robert writes, “Our goal is not just to start a church. Our goal is to start a church planting movement,” and from his summary, “It is my firm belief that by the year 2000, there will be a house church movement in every country on earth. I believe it is the only way we will see the fulfillment of the Great Commission by the year 2000, or by any date thereafter.” This early work in house church movement lends point to strength and weakness for the church that meets in your house.|
SPECIFIC POINTS & PROBLEMS:
Only to be operating well in accord with, “My sheep hear My voice”, Robert tells:
We are submitted to spiritual authority wherever it crosses our path. We do not believe in “selective submission” which says, in essence, “I am submitted to this group or that leader and to no other [at this time].”
The excitement of setting thousands of churches to birth may tempt us into open ecumenicism. Does it also lead to a temporal blind-eye for the man-made foundation of professional-business super churches? Robert declares:
We cannot say that God would never lead anyone to build a very large congregation, however, the Body of Christ in any city will increase much more rapidly by multiplying congregations than it will by seeking to build a few super churches. We praise God for the super churches. We pray for them we minister in them, we bless them. It is not “us and them.” It is US! The whole Body of Christ belongs to all of us and we belong to each other!
Robert rightly identifies
Nothing [directly] in the New Testament says that Sunday is the time for church. As a matter of fact, the pattern in the book of Acts is that they met daily. The first day of the week is seldom mentioned at all and never is it emphasized as a special day set aside for worship. The apostle Paul discouraged a “special day” mentality in his writings. “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” (Galatians 4:10-11)
And with encouraging word to the contraceptive church
Some of our congregations have grown so large that they have to build bigger buildings or rent more space or go to two services. This is what we call a “happy problem”. There is also a happy solution: Begin to train pastors by assigning them an area of the city and sending off two or three families to start a house church in that section of the city. The most life giving thing a church can do is to have a baby. I have seen churches die because of a spirit of possessiveness in the leadership. God will bless the people who are continually giving away everything that God gives them. Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you.” A giving church is a growing church.
Actually ekklesia has two meanings: that of being called out and that of being assembled together. We cannot experience church until we come together.
Yes, two meanings are implicit in ekklesia: first called out, then assemble together.
Concerning so-called parachurch groups & organizations, Robert writes:
The fact is that when a “parachurch”, organization is made up of born-again believers in Jesus who are come together to serve and worship him, it is not “parachurch”, it is church!
Yet, parachurch efforts often do not regard themselves as a church. Despite the wave of Robert's pen-in-hand, will many be compelled to believe that they are the church that they are not by intention?
Brother Robert challenges us to consider & regard New Testament leadership essentials, as from this quote:
We who are placed into leadership have taken too much upon ourselves in assuming that the church cannot function without our constant “watchcare” over the flock. A bishop is an overseer and a feeder and functions as a father or a nurse to his children, but there is a limit to our spiritual oversight which we have too often violated. The major violation by church leaders in our day is that we have almost completely taken the initiative away from the people and have invested it into a “professional” clergy.
The following quotes from the book are also found memorable:
Where born-again believers gather, there is a church. They are the “church gathered.” When they all leave, they are the “church scattered.” They come together to be strengthened. They go out to touch the world as salt, light, and leaven in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then, Robert poses a swift and common presumption in exegesis
The true New Testament pattern is to pray, hear from God, and obey what he tells us.
There is nothing wrong with meeting in a barn, a field, a cave, in a church building, or in a synagogue. The Lord is looking on the heart. But if we are encouraging a system that is stifling the life of the church by heavy-handed leadership and a deadening clergy-laity caste system, we will not have the fruit we are seeking.
Everything that belongs to Christ within the city belongs to every believer within the city. Any other view leads to a spirit of competition, jealousy, and sectarianism, which is heresy. For this reason it is wrong to call anyone a “church tramp”, or a “church hopper”, or a “grasshopper”, or a “butterfly” or any other derogatory name just because he or she may attend and function in more than one congregation.
It is the privilege of the sheep to seek spiritual nurture and guidance from any of God's shepherds, at any time or place, and it is the duty of every pastor (shepherd) to nurture and guide any and all of God’s sheep who come to him for help. Let us never be guilty of trying to rope Jesus' sheep into our fold and brand them with our particular brand. They belong to Jesus and can find pasture through any of his under-shepherds, anywhere, anytime.
The vision of too many pastors is to use all the sheep he can gather together to help him build the local congregation larger and larger with little thought of building the Kingdom of God and helping fulfill the Great Commission.
A membership list is usually a device used to receive people into a formal on-going relationship. This seems innocent enough at first glance, but it also tends to lock them away from the rest of the Body of Christ within the city. This creates isolated factions within the city-wide church. Why do we do this and then whine because the Body of Christ is so fragmented? We need to wake up and see that WE are the reason why!!! This is what Paul warned would happen
“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after themselves.”
“But where will my salary come from?” cries the unbelieving under-shepherd. It will come from the hands of the Chief Shepherd for whom you labor, who promises to meet all your needs as you do the work he has called you to do. He is your paymaster. Get your eyes off the people as your source of supply and put them on Jesus whose name is Jehovah-Jireh, your Lord and Provider.
How important is it to us to have a large congregation with large offerings and beautiful buildings? We have been led to believe that these are sure signs of success in the ministry and so we strive to raise up a large congregation. We want to be a success in the eyes of our people, our leaders and in our own eyes, consequently, we get caught in this web of deception. This produces a spirit of greed, selfishness, pride, and possessiveness. In this climate there is no [little] thought of sending anyone out to the mission field or down the street to start another congregation.
Where there is the counterfeit, there is always the genuine and the authentic. We have no more right to cancel out the ministry of pastor than we do to cancel out the ministry of prophet, apostle, or evangelist. They [These] are all ordained of God to function for the upbuilding of the church.
You won't need to dissect each word. Just read it. It is amazing how much you can learn about the Bible by reading it!
In Ephesians 20:28-30 Paul is addressing all the elders of Ephesus. He says, “Guard yourselves and all the flock (one flock) of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. (bishops) Be shepherds (pastors) of the church of God, which he bought with his blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” This makes it clear that an elder is a bishop is a pastor. They are all the same person.
Following a brief list of Bible qualifications for church elders, Robert remarks
That's it! These are simply the qualities of a spiritual man; a man fully consecrated to Jesus Christ.
Yet in truth, some things mentioned of elders or deacons in Timothy & Titus may be reserved to a spiritual man who is also of years, mature, able to teach, having believing-obedient children, etc.
Robert invites us to recite a unity prayer that reflects a confession unto salvation from schism:
“Father, in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, I do acknowledge that I am a member of your spiritual body, the church in this city and throughout the world. I do accept and receive every one of your children as my brother or sister because you are our Father. It doesn't matter where they live. It doesn't matter what race they are, what peculiar beliefs or practices they may have, whether they are post, pre, or a-millinialist. It doesn't matter if they baptize by sprinkling or by immersion, whether they are Arminianists or Calvinists. It doesn't matter if they go to church on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or Jew. I don't care if they are Baptist, Methodist' Presbyterian or Four Square. I do now declare and decree in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, the Son of God Almighty, that I am one with every other born again believer that lives, that has lived or ever will live in time and in eternity. I will accept them. I will receive them. I will love them and support them. I will pray for them and as you direct me, Lord, I will co-labor with them, and I will endeavor to keep this unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Amen!”
“Unity of faith” would be at some difference from “doctrinal unity”, and we should note that a narrow way & gate implies “same direction”. Don't be fooled. Far above “doctrinal unity,” as we have come to ekklesia, the Holy Spirit is able to establish us in one accord.
When you sincerely pray the above prayer, you have taken the one step to unity. “But what about doctrinal unity? How can we walk together accept we be agreed?” God is not directing us all to walk in the same direction. We are told in Ephesians 4:12 that we are to keep this unity of the Spirit “Until we all come into the unity of the faith.” We can have spiritual unity while we are coming into doctrinal unity.
[Matthew 7:13-14; John 17; Acts]
Within The Church in the House, Robert Fitts has included instruction in leadership strategies/psychology (managing the “super minister”, extroverts, introverts). In contrast to social management methods, all things should be spiritually discerned; tested; reproved as you are led by God.
[Philippians 1:9-11; I Thessalonians 5:19-21; II Timothy 4:2]
Important elements of a house church, or any church for that matter, are praise, worship, prayer, sharing, teaching God's Word, encouraging the release of spiritual gifts, water baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, holy communion, evangelism, and personal ministry to one another.
A good start! And, a worthy note follows:
The revival movements that continue to thrive in the world today are where God's people gather daily or at least very frequently. Sunday gatherings were not the norm in the early church and it is not the norm where revival fires break out today. If God is moving in our midst in power, we will have no trouble meeting daily.
For the present, use of a name may stumble or detract. Robert suggests
Embrace the Citywide [local, regional, global] Church. Do not put a name on your [His] church. It can become a tool of the enemy to divide. Everyone wants to know what “brand” of Christian you are. Do not condemn those who use names but if you avoid naming your [His] fellowship, you will eventually see the wisdom in it. To name is to denominate.
And with a humble heart
It's OK to visit some of your brothers and sisters who attend other churches though they may not agree with you on all points of doctrine. You may not be right on all your points of doctrine either!