CAVEAT & COMMEND: Ekklesia


EKKLESIA: To The Roots of Biblical House Church Life
editor, Steve Atkerson
New Testament Restoration Foundation;
Atlanta, GA USA. 2005  DOWNLOAD e-Book 2nd Edition
ISBN: 0-9729082-1-8

From the Introduction to Ekklesia, Brian Anderson, Steve Atkerson, Mike Indest, Beresford Job, Jonathan Lindvall, Tim Melvin, Dan Trotter, and Jon Zens speak together to advocate orthodox, historic, classic Christianity poured into the wineskin of New Testament church practice, specifically calling for living room sized churches, the Lord’s Supper as a full meal, church leaders as servants (rather than lords), government by consensus, the right and responsibility of the brothers to make decisions corporately, no clergy-laity distinction, and interactive (participatory) church meetings. Although this edition of Ekklesia sets out to set right a small corner of full New Testament wineskin, the intrinsic-synergistic expression of unity in Jesus Christ effecting Ekklesia also enables the content & spirit of this shared letter to reach beyond scope & thesis.

Ekklesia is a compound Koine Greek word:  ek - {called} out of,  klessia - {to} come together
   


    from the chapters…  01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06 - 07 - 08 - 09 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20

 †  01 - Apostolic Tradition: Obsolete?


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  • While Holding to Apostolic Tradition is Logical, all tradition ought endure the light of apostolic teaching. In example: The uniformity of practice that grew out of Paul’s teachings is wisely regarded in accord with practice and teachings of {all} other faithful apostles, and most immediately of/with Jesus Christ.
 • From the authors’ statement, the Christian “communism” of Acts 4 was a one time event for a single church. It is an option for any believers of any age, but it is neither a command nor a New Testament pattern, there is inference to focus Ekklesia within a particular (Corinthian?) sub-normative for the ekklesia, possibly too narrow to “promote” full expression of ekklesia from the New Testament.
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  • The writers keenly identify tradition [paradosis] and copying [mimatai] and the universal application of apostolic teaching.
[I Corinthians 11 & 14]
 

 †  02 - The Lord’s Supper: Feast Or Famine?


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  • The authors’ reasoning for a Sunday [only] Supper is presented with grammatical gymnastics brought to bear upon an instance from Acts 20:7. A wider normative view will invest accounts from Acts 2:42-47, 20:11, I Corinthians 11:26, etc. As also from chapters 04 & 08, emphasis exists in this book toward a union between “I Corinthians 14” and Sunday ekklesia, while Sunday only practice was made known to the ekklesia in the 2nd century A.D., then peculiar to the church in Rome and in Alexandria. Later, when Constantine would bring the formal Church and State to marry, Sunday was chosen as the approved Christian day of worship and rest, as Sun-day then also marked an established day of pagan festival.  (further background information available at: http://www.teachinghearts.org/dre03propvwhistorynotes.html )
Knowing these things, we must affirm that it is schism to teach or require any one day of the week (over another) for ekklesia gathering together. [Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:9-11; I Corinthians 11:25-26]
 • While the Bridegroom is away, there will be place for both sober and joyous hearts seated at the table of our Lord. To our sorrow, the authors mix coarse & unorthodox metaphors with subjective prioritization in writing, The fellowship and encouragement that each member enjoys in such a gathering is tremendous. It is the Christian equivalent of the neighborhood bar. It is the true happy meal or happy hour. It is a time that God uses to create unity in a body of believers. This aspect of the church’s meeting should not be rushed or replaced. Certainly it is appropriate to also have a “1 Corinthians 14 phase” of the gathering (an interactive time of teaching, worship, singing, testimony, prayer, etc.), but not at the expense of the weekly Lord’s Supper.
 • No sound basis is presented to support the assertion that, The danger in taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner applies only to believers (1Co 11:27-32).
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  • The Agapè Meal/Passover/Memorial [Lord’s Supper/Eucharist] as foreshadowing the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
 • Partaking of a pile of broken cracker crumbs and multiple cups of juice [at the Lord’s table] is a picture of disunity, division, and individuality.
 • Some believe that only an ordained clergyman can officiate at the Lord’s table. The New Testament makes no so such requirement. Indeed, the very concept of a special class of clergy is totally absent from Scripture…
 

 †  03 - Interactive Meetings


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  • While the authors have written, …the primary purpose of a church meeting is to equip God’s people to go out to worship and serve Him another week (Heb 10:24-25). It is to motivate the elect to deeper worship and obedience, no specific “primary purpose” is assigned to ekklesia by Jesus or His apostles. All required by God is/remains paramount, His complete will being primary.
 • The brothers begin to “own” the meeting, taking responsibility for what goes on, and becoming active participators rather than passive spectators. More correctly, Jesus Christ shall “own” both the brothers and the meeting. The brothers & sisters are becoming all the more “participators” together in His life.
 • The authors include a parenthetical “financial support” for “double honor”, {doubly valued} [I Timothy 5:17-18] both here, and in chapter 11. Yet, from chapter 11, we can also read, But does “honor” mean “pay?” No. From the Greek word time, it primarily means “respect”. There is a specific Greek word for “pay” (misthos) and, significantly, it is used in 1 Timothy 5:18 (about employees), but not in 1 Timothy 5:17 (about elders). Time can in certain contexts mean “price,” but since a “price” is the quantity of one thing that is demanded in sale for another, it hardly makes sense in this passage (are elders for sale?).
 • Though expository-focused ekklesia is not supported by apostolic tradition, the authors have written, Special times should be devoted to allow such a man the opportunity of expounding God’s Word. However, such meetings are what Watchman Nee called worker’s meetings or apostolic meetings, not 1 Corinthians 14 church meetings. The point is that there is a time and a place for both.
 • Un-interpreted tongues are not to be allowed. There is to be a limit on the number of those who do speak in tongues. Glossalia [tongues] that is orderly in the ekklesia is done in parts [installments, Greek: ava-meros], with 2 or 3 at a time (though not to be speaking over one another) gracing an unknown language and awaiting its interpretation. No advance prohibition exists for glossalia at ekklesia [gathering]. Should someone speak in an unknown tongue, the absence of an interpretation for what was then uttered will hush that person from speaking in an unknown tongue until an interpretation for that “tongue” is graced in their gathering. [I Corinthians 14:27-28]
 • Elders play a key role in helping everything that goes on in the meeting to be done in a “fitting and orderly way” (1Co 14:40). Rather: All the brothers play a key role in helping everything that goes on in the meeting to be done in a “fitting and orderly way” (1Co 14:40).
 • Consistently being late for a meeting is often a sign of passive aggression. to note: psycho-analytic method is derived from paganism and holds no place in order among the people of God.
 • …a very young child who begins crying loudly in the meeting should be removed from the meeting by a parent until he is quieted. Older children must be taught to sit still or play silently on the floor so as not to disrupt the meeting. to note: the authors’ suggestion and mandate appear to be beyond apostolic precedent. Jesus said, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” [Mark 10:14]  Jewish [Hebrew] tradition presents an early age of 13 (for young men) to take up full participation in assembly.
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  • It is not a show or performance.
 • …the New Testament never refers to a church meeting as a “worship service.”
 • Our daily lives are to be a continual act of worship.
 • Yet despite their [anyone’s] theological suspicions, it should give pause to read that Scripture clearly instructs, “do not forbid to speak in tongues” (1Co 14:39). Perhaps tongues have indeed ceased, but maybe not. Are we really so sure of our theology that we are willing to directly contradict a biblical command?
 

 †  04 - Preaching & Teaching


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  • The main people who resist an acceptance of the basic creeds of the church are those who hold to aberrant theology… is itself spurious. External creeds both add and detract content of faith (or of Scripture), promote sectarian moorings, and therefore have long been [with conscience] declined or depreciated by faithful disciples.
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  • The authors well observe for how nothing the likes of a Sunday worship service, with its common forms, can be identified from the New Testament writings.
 • …the only hierarchy found in the pages of the New Testament, pertaining to church life, is simply Jesus [the authority and exalted position of Jesus Christ] and everyone else [His brethren].
 • We must neither succumb to the cult of the expert, nor mute any eminent gifts in the body.
 • One thing that would help assemblies in all these issues surrounding “teaching” is if they would learn how to study the Bible together with a view toward discerning the Lord’s mind and acting upon it.
 • Each house church, like it or not, is a part of the much bigger city [town, regional] church in whatever town or region it is located…
 • In our Bible teaching and interpretation we must not ignore the rest of the church as a whole. The Bible [Word] is our final authority, but it is not our only authority. The Holy Spirit has guided and worked in God’s people for the 2,000 years since Jesus left and before we were even born.
 • Interpretation (of the Bible) includes action & one accord of the global-historic ekklesia, the local/regional ekklesia, and the individual in ekklesia.
 • The authors are to be commended as they rightly expose American evangelicalism, Enlightenment rationalism, democratic individualism, autonomy of the individual, relativism and subjectivism.
 

 †  05 - Consensus Governing


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  • The only times when a church must be temporarily elder-ruled is when one or a few within the church become self-willed, unreasonable, obstinate, divisive, enslaved to sin, or deceived into false doctrine. This suggestion by the authors, if acted upon, may induce the effect of by-passing apostolic authority and/or inviting division. Therefore, with church history (i.e., Corinth) in view, we urge you that no brother(s) nor elder(s) be for any cause thrust to a position of lord in the ekklesia -- not even for an hour.
 • Jesus is our Monarch, and the church is His consensus-based parliament (with elders as predetermined tie-breakers). With Jesus as Monarch (our King), one accord (consensus, one mind) is the recorded and apostolic pattern. From whom would we receive a parliamentary system, or an establish role for “tie-breakers”? The one accord we know in Christ extends beyond the community, the region, the globe and the times.
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  • The church’s job is not to create law – only God can rightly do that.
 • Decisions are not to be made behind closed doors and then handed down from on high for the [rest of the] church to follow.
 • Of course, there will not be issues to resolve every week (or even most weeks), but God’s people must ever bear in mind their obligation to function as an ekklesia when necessary. to note: we may find spiritual cause for greater frequency/intensity when among zealous ekklesia.
 • The elders are to rule out-of-order the consideration of harmful and heretical ideas. to note: this often does not bring a formal ruling (most “heretical ideas” have from long ago been identified and summarily dismissed by the ekklesia), and more directly requires consensus rather than elders.
 • Bringing the church members into agreement with one another takes time, patience, humility and gentleness. … and, most importantly, the shared life of the Holy Spirit in/among one another!
 

 †  06 - House Churches


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  • Fear of ekklesia outside the living room is unfounded.
 • Written in chapter 06: How ridiculous as well to end up with a new church gathering in people’s homes, whilst the original one continues to meet in the coffee house, or book shop, or public hall, or whatever. This manner of ridicule by the authors presents as un-edifying and myopic.
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  • Why the call for a building? Because human flesh loves illusions of permanence, beauty, and protection. And if Jesus isn’t providing those things, fleshly religious people are going to instinctively look to a building for a substitute. This is not to blame the death and fleshiness on the building, but it is to say that the building is the outward sign of the death and fleshiness that is within.
 • Some people really do have the gift of hospitality and wont mind hosting the church every week…
 

 †  07 - Children in Church


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  • A measure of inconsistency (and cartoon violence) is admitted: And we don’t believe in pacifying the kids with entertainment to keep them out of our hair, but there’s nothing wrong with showing them a video once in a while (even, heaven forbid, if the video is a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and not spiritual).
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  • Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, ever worried about what to do with the children. Jesus never, ever said: “Suffer the little children to be packed away in the nursery.”
 • One of the biggest advantages, in my view, is the close relationships that develop between adults and children of other adults. In my home church, I constantly pray for the children involved.
 

 †  08 - Thoroughly Biblical Church


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  • Believers met as churches on the first day of the week. [see notes for chapter 02]
 • …elder, pastor/ shepherd, bishop/overseer being synonymous terms in the New Testament [see notes for chapter 09]
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  • They understood each church to be an extended family unit (the idea of churches being institutions or organizations would have been totally alien to them)…
 

 †  09 - The Ministry of Elder


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  • The following summary appears a bit scrambled from the truth: Leaders are to guard and protect against false teachers, train other leaders in apostolic tradition, lead by example, guard the truth, beat off wolves, and help achieve consensus. All members of Christ’s Body in the ekklesia do these things (“wolves” need be marked, not beat), while leaders have the valued habit to lead [be first to step forward] by example in all these things and more. This remains the substance of their grace as lead-ers with clear spiritual eyes in the ekklesia.
 • The authors write, Though they were technically apostolic workers, Timothy and Titus clearly functioned as substitute elders until permanent local elders were appointed. Thus, the elders that they appointed [as shepherds, overseers] could be expected to do the same types of things that the temporary apostolic workers did on the local level… In looking to apostolic tradition, we should have care not to confuse nor presume/invent functions (i.e., “substitute elders”).
 • In, There is a delicate balance to be reached between the leading role of elders [as shepherds, overseers] and the ekklesia responsibilities of the church as a whole. Too far one way and you set up a pope. Too far the other and you have a ship with no rudder, the authors furnish a false dichotomy. Fully recognize Jesus Christ as Head of His ekklesia, and steerage is by Him assured. As from the very next paragraph section of Ekklesia, All are agreed that the Lord Jesus is the head of the church (Col 1:15-20).
 • The authors fall to a trap set in over-simplification when they write, As to the difference between an elder, overseer (“bishop” in the KJV), and pastor (shepherd), an examination of Acts 20:17, 28-30, Titus 1:5-7, and 1 Peter 5:1-3 will show the synonymous usage of the words. All three refer to the same office. Same office? Elder [presbuteros] refers to the maturity within a man (elders are recognized by their social age & maturity), while pastor/shepherd [poimen] and bishop/overseer [episkopos] both identify the work of a man. The elders summoned by Paul from Ephesus were admonished that God had made them [to do the work of] bishops [and] to shepherd the church of God [Acts 20]. Peter exhorts elders from a wider geography (Asia…) to shepherd the flock of God [I Peter 5]. Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders (those that also meet certain other qualifications) to the work of bishop-ing/overseer-ing [Titus 1]. Writing to Timothy, Paul qualifies bishops/overseers and deacons absent mention of elder(s) [I Timothy 3; Philippians 3:1]. Not all elders were [appointed] shepherd/pastor or bishop/overseer in the ekklesia, though some were tasked to one or both of these.
 • The following quote from this chapter of Ekklesia appears as philosophic under the burden of its complexity: An examination of the New Testament will reveal that, though all churches were united under Christ as head, there was no outward ecclesiastical organization uniting them. Though cooperating voluntarily together, each church was autonomous. Theirs was a strong inward bond, a spiritual oneness of life in the Lord. Though independent of outward government, they were interdependent in responsibility to one another (see 2Co 8-9). As there is philosophically one church universal, so there is philosophically one church per city. And, as the universal church is an abstract reality with no outward organization, so too the city church is an abstract reality, without outward organization. It remains our clear report: ekklesia in Christ is separate from “outward ecclesiastical [human] organization” and exists forever, wherever, together (without sectional autonomy) as the one Body of Christ.
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  • Elders deserve honor due to the position God has placed them in. This idea is somewhat similar to the way elders were respected in Israelite towns throughout the Old Testament. They did not have any actual authority or power, but they sure did accord a great deal of respect. To not listen to the wisdom of an elder was tantamount to calling yourself a fool and a rebel.
 • In this chapter, following an examination of Hebrews 13:7 and translators’ use of “obey” and “submit”, the authors include, God’s flock is to be open to being “persuaded by” (peitho) its shepherds.
 

 †  10 - What Is A Minister?


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  • The whole mystique that surrounds “the pastor” must be brought into line with Christ’s statement to the apostles: “you are all brethren.”
 • It would be wonderful for those with preaching gifts to exercise them “outdoors,” as did George Whitefield. It needs to be remembered that the whole rationale for the “centrality of preaching” is suspect: it arose in a state-church where church attendance was compulsory.
 • Financial help is not to be a motive in elders [as shepherds, overseers, etc.] serving the flock; the assembly is free to help elders; elders are free to work with their own hands (1Pe 5:2; 1Ti 5:17; Ac 20:34-35).
 

 †  11 - Full Time Ministries


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  • However, the apparent contradiction we seem to have in scripture is that although the laborer is indeed worthy of his hire (such men have bills to pay and families to support too), ministry is nevertheless free of charge and we see nothing whatsoever in the New Testament of salaried positions. To evaporate the “apparent contradiction”: add faith in God (for faithful men); discard personal-cultural constraints that foster salary expectations (i.e., decadence, professionalism, materialism, individualism.)
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  • The number one stench in the institutional church is money, plain and simple. … And once we open the door with a hireling clergy, we are finished.
 • From within this chapter, brother Beresford Job describes “living by faith properly” in personal testimony to the work & faith in Christ of 24/7 ministry.
 

 †  12 - Evangelism


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  • Curiously, this chapter appears to lack notation for the content and/or power of the gospel of Jesus Christ which is to be presented, as with evangelism.
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  • Instead of inviting the lost to church meetings, most New Testament evangelism took place during the week as believers came into contact with unbelievers, or as apostolic workers proclaimed Christ in public places. Church meetings were designed for the edification of believers, not the conversion of unbelievers (1Co 14:3, 5, 12, 17, 26).
 

 †  13 - Ministry Households - Key to Healthy Churches


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  • Just as it is possible for a man to fall into the idolatry of his own ministry, it is also possible to idolize one's family, or the idea of family. We must always love Jesus Himself above anything, whether our ministry for Him or the family He has entrusted to us.
 • Far from abolishing or even minimizing family, the New Testament reinforces and expands what was introduced regarding family in the Old Testament.
 • I challenge the body of Christ to seek the Lord for revelation regarding God's heart for families, and to identify the bondage our cultural individualism imposes on us.
 

 †  14 - The Ministry Of Giving


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  • Giving in our church is usually directly from giver to “getter,” with no middleman involved… In this way we give to missionaries, foreign orphanages, the persecuted church, local elders, and the needy. We purposely have no church bank account nor church property.
 • …New Testament pattern is to give to people, not property.
 • The key is that our giving is to be according to how we have purposed in our hearts to give. [II Corinthians 9:7]
 

 †  15 - Healthy Assembly Life


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  • Given the propensity of human traditions to multiply and block the truth, it is important for believers to be sure that their practice of church is built on the correct foundation. A search of the New Testament reveals that there is only one foundation for the ekklesia and that is Jesus Christ Himself…
 • Every outworking of church life must flow out of a one-another love that imitates what the Lord did for us on the cross [stauros] (Jn 15:12-13).
 • Most [many] of us are ready to separate from other brethren at the drop of a hat. But it takes a commitment to the truth and to the brothers and sisters to be willing to work matters out.
 • Many posit that the problem-solving abilities Paul presupposes will only work among mature churches. But this is a bogus suggestion. Corinth was in many ways a very immature assembly, but Paul still expects them, for example, to deal with immorality in their midst (1Co 5) and to resolve their disputes internally without going to unbelieving courts (1Co 6).
 • It behooves us, therefore, to realize that it is expected of assemblies [ekklesia] to “agree with one another” and to be “perfectly united in mind and thought”
 • Real ekklesia requires hard work and commitment, but we must never forget that Jesus’ presence by the Spirit, persistent prayer, preferring others ahead of ourselves, and fervent love are where the battles are won.
 • One of the unending lessons of discipleship is to take up our cross [stauros] daily and follow Christ, to consciously by the Spirit’s power stop living for ourselves and serve Him. In terms of our life in the body of Christ, one of the key ways we demonstrate a selfless life is to put others’ needs ahead of our own.
 • Are we willing to “listen” to multiple sources and discern from them what might help us discover the mind of Christ? Are we really open to be challenged by others to search the Scriptures and see what is indeed so? [Acts 17:11]
 

 †  16 - Truth Practised - Church Discipline


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  • This love-motivated discipline is the Father’s desire for His children to know the truth and to walk in it. This love is a recognition that the Father knows best and that He wants the best for His children.
 • There is never to be a standing investigatory committee or an oversight group that is responsible for ferreting out the sin in one another’s lives.
 • It is important to note that all of us, not just the elders and leaders, are called to this body ministry. If you are the one who sees a brother in trespass, you are responsible for going to the brother and confronting him.
 • The good shepherd always goes after the lost sheep. The wonder of the gospel is that provision is made for the sinning brother who can not find his own way to repentance can, in fact, rely upon the good graces of a loving fellowship to be used in helping him be restored to full fellowship.
 

 †  17 - Church Families


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  • When salvation genuinely reaches the parents, the children will eventually change from being disobedient to being righteous.
 • Remember that we are not training our children to remain children, but to be adults.
 • ekklesia is family: Paul names it the “household of God,” calls salvation “adoption as sons,” describes us as “heirs,” tells Timothy to “entreat an elder as a father,” calls Christians “brother” and “sister,” and uses a childhood name for father (abba) to address the heavenly Father.
 

 †  18 - Divine Order


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  • To note: use of the word “Trinity” (as for various labels & terms not found in the Bible) is not required in the ekklesia.
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  • Simply stated, the plan for divine order in the family is: Husbands love, wives submit, children [honor and] obey.
 • In the same way that Jesus submitted to His Father, in the same way that the wife is to submit to the husband, in the same way that children are to submit to [obey] their parents, in [much] the same way that we are to submit to the governing authorities, the church is to submit to Him [Jesus Christ] in all things. The public expression of our fellowship is to be an example of this submission in all that we do.
 • …the requirement for women to be silent with respect to speaking publicly [openly] to the gathered congregation is not a matter of ability, gifting, nor spirituality. Rather, it is a matter of divine order, obedience…
 

 †  19 - Growing Pains - Getting Too Big


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  • The authors write, If I could build a house with a living room that could facilitate gatherings of 200 people, would that be an aide to the church? Or might I possibly be compromising the Lord's design to keep groups somewhat smaller? I doubt the Lord is pleased to have us set numerical limits. Yet it appears to me there is a general principle we should anticipate regarding the size of congregations gathering together intimately. Such & similar speculation regarding [ideal?] church size is written in contrast to assurance of the Spirit's expediency (within the hearts of His own) to enliven an active, moving, growing, multiplying, obedient ekkelsia.
 • Like the authors, we may have pined, Understandably, people resist dividing because the prospect of lost relationships is just too painful. Others fear that a lack of qualified leaders in the new group may result in disaster. Another concern is that in a new, pioneering work, those on the fringes will leave the church (pioneers can have a rough life). Yet another reason to resist dividing is the concern that the new church may make decisions that are contrary to the earlier decisions of the original church; that future diversity may lead to conflict. Yet, just being alive in Christ is pioneering (and hazardous in this world)! Relationships need not be lost, consensus in one mind/one accord need not run contrary to that shared with ekklesia in the next town (or country), and ekklesia everywhere-everytime depends solely upon Jesus Christ (not “qualified leaders”) for strength & integrity. Dear friends, fear is not of faith.
 • …an ever larger group will necessarily result in some loss of intimacy and accountability (a network of only so many friends can be maintained). Time to stretch the perceived limits? Consider our example in (the apostle) Paul, who maintained effective relationships in Christ between visits and across distance.
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  • Choosing to fellowship only with folks who are similar to myself is a tacit acceptance of divisions in the body. If I must conclude that someone is truly a member of the body of Christ, I must also welcome fellowship with that person.
 • While we must admit that the modern church is splintered, the solution is to see the church from Jesus' perspective.
 • Send out smaller parties (subsets) from the main group to start new works. For example, two thirds stay, one third goes out [or, two go out, and the rest stay until they be also called out]. The subset forming the new church will [must] have a God-given burden to do so.
 

 †  20 - Church Traditions


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  • It is incredible beyond words to realize, though nevertheless also simply a fact, that when it comes to our experience of church life, by which I mean the traditions, or established practice, which the vast majority of Christians unquestioningly follow and implement, virtually all of it is based on a system of practices which, just like Israel’s tradition of the elders, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Word of God.
 • Israel disobeyed the Old Testament at various points because of their beloved, yet totally wrong and unbiblical, tradition of the elders. The Christian Church has done exactly the same thing, only with the tradition[s] of the Early Church Fathers [and others].
 

    from the chapters…  01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06 - 07 - 08 - 09 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20