Category Archives: Home Church

Churches: Fellowship Without Fellowship (Part 12)

 

My guess is that 5 to 10% of American Christians believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for today’s believers. They believe the gifts were only for the early church and passed away when the last apostle died. Another 15 to 25% are either Pentecostal or Charismatic in their beliefs and believe the spiritual gifts are for all believers.

If my guess is accurate, this leaves approximately 70% of American Christians who either have not considered the spiritual gifts as important enough to seek or have received no teaching on them.

Here’s the dilemma for the 5-10% naysayer group and the 70% clueless group: what will we do when the Antichrist requires everyone to receive the mark of the beast in order to buy and sell anything?

What if our spouse needs special medications in order to live or our child needs emergency medical assistance to survive an ailment, what will we do? Will we let our spouse or child die? Or will we take the mark of the beast for their sakes? There will be no fence straddling at this time.

But here’s what we can do: we can prepare ourselves ahead of time for these end-time events by seeking the spiritual gifts now.  The gifts of word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues have already been provided by the Lord for these extreme situations. Thus, why not lay down our traditions and follow the practices of the early church by seeking the spiritual gifts now?

Ah, that brings up another dilemma.

Let’s say we seek the spiritual gifts and then receive them through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, where will we practice using our gifts? We have to remember that our gifts and our faith will be strengthened as we use the gifts, but still there is a learning curve and mistakes may occur along the way.

Can we practice using our newly received gifts in a median-sized sanctuary of 300 or more members? Probably not. This is generally the realm for pastors and elders to operate their gifts. Most pew-sitters are required to be spectators only.

So, the only place where each believer can practice using his or her gifts is in a small home fellowship where each knows and trusts each other.

(Continued in Part 13…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 11)

In God’s first attempt at planting a new church, He did it in a unique fashion.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

The gifts of the Holy Spirit fell on all the people, not just the apostles or prophets or evangelists or pastors and teachers. Everyone was empowered by the Spirit and His spiritual gifts.

Four or five years later, Philip was preaching in Samaria when a revival broke out with many people being saved. Peter and John traveled to Samaria to help Philip. The first thing the two apostles did was check the new believers to see if the Holy Spirit had fallen on them.

For as yet the Holy Spirit had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:16-17)

Almost twenty years later, the Apostle Paul had already planted many churches, including the Corinthian Church, when he met some new disciples in Ephesus. What was the first thing Paul checked with these new believers?

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)

When Paul heard these new disciples had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, but only into the water baptism of John the Baptist, he wasted no time.

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:6)

The evidence seems to prove that the apostles made sure that all of their new church plants followed the same pattern God used when He planted the first church in Jerusalem. They laid hands on the new believers and asked the Holy Spirit to fall on them so that the spiritual gifts were poured out on the new believers

Why was this important? And is it important for us today?

(Continued in Part 12…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 10)

 

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

We have to keep in mind that the Great Tribulation will be a seven-year time period, which begins in peace. A man of peace – the Antichrist – will forge a peace treaty that will be accepted by most Christians, Jews, Muslims, and nations. This will stop the wars – nations fighting against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms.

The peace treaty will be so strong that the Jews will be allowed to build a temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and carry out daily sacrifices. I know – it’s hard to imagine this ever happening again, but it will!

This peace treaty will be in effect for three and half years until the Antichrist sets up the image of the beast in the Temple and stops the daily sacrifices.

Now, don’t go thinking the three and half years during the peace treaty will be a time for Christians to sit around a campfire, strumming a guitar and singing, “Kumbaya My Lord.” No! I believe it will be a time when churches will be pressured to accept compromises – small at first, but increasing in severity as time passes – in order for them to survive.

How do I know this?

This is what the Communists did in China with their Three Self Patriotic Movement. The same Satan who authored the suffocating rules on the Three Self Churches will attempt to do the same on our traditional churches. All of it will be done under the guise of tolerance and keeping the peace.

Then, BAM!

Many traditional churches and believers will be preconditioned through the gradual slope of compromises into accepting the mark of the beast.

“Home fellowships are persecution proof and are the only viable form for underground churches. We believe in the years to come, we will see increasing restrictions on our ability to meet together, to worship together and to pray with each other.” (Chuck Missler)

(Continued in Part 11…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 9)

Using Chapter 24 of the Book of Matthew as our End-Times timeline, we read that the Anti-Christ will commit the abomination of desolation in verse 15.  This was prophesied by Daniel and Jesus tells us to understand his prophecy about this event.

Will believers and the Church still be on the earth at that time? Yes, because Jesus will not return for the Church and believers until verses 30 and 31.

Now, there are timelines in the Book of Revelation, but they’re not always chronological, according to chapters and verses. Some of the text is out of order and must be lined up with other books in the Bible.

Okay, with the above words as guidelines, what will be one of the church’s biggest problems in the End-times?

He [the Antichrist] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Revelation 13: 16-18)

After the “abomination of desolation” takes place, the Antichrist will persecute and kill Christians and Jews. His biggest weapon to bludgeon people into obeying him and his government will be the “mark of the beast.” No one will be able to buy food or medicine or gasoline or whatever without the mark.

Can Christians just rely on His grace and take the mark of the beast, while tossing a wink toward God? You know, Daddy loves me anyway, right?

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Revelation 14:9-10)

I am an eternal security believing Christian, but because of my fear of the Lord, I would never want to cross the line against these verses nor would I suggest others to do it. What might eventually happen to believers? I don’t really know nor am I interested in finding out. Just obey His words!

So, what can believers do to protect themselves?

(Continued in Part 10…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 8)

 

Fifty percent of American Evangelical Christians attend a church with 300 or more members. So, unless you live in a rural area of our country, the odds are high that you attend a church of this size or larger.

Okay, here’s something for you to consider the next time you attend a service:

After you sit down, look at the people in the row ahead of you, to the left and right of you and also behind you. What are their names? What are their children’s names? Do they have problems or needs? Are you willing to share your life, home and finances to help them with their needs? Are you willing to die for them?

Do you really believe that these same people would be willing to answer “yes” to the above questions for you and your family?

If your answers to the above questions are “I don’t know” or “No,” then you attend a church that falls far short of the New Testament model in the Book of Acts.

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need(Acts 4:32-35 NLT)

Maybe you’re thinking the traditional American church has outgrown the blueprint of the early church in the Book of Acts. If that’s your thinking and your comfort zone right now, then you need to read the next few articles in this series.

(Continued in Part 9…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships without Fellowship (Part 7)

 

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

13. From Denominations to city-wide celebrations

Jesus called for a universal movement, and what came was a series of religious companies with global chains marketing their special brands of Christianity and competing with each other. Through this branding of Christianity most of Protestantism has, therefore, become politically insignificant and often more concerned with traditional specialties and religious infighting than with developing a collective testimony before the world. Jesus never asked people to organize themselves into denominations.

In the early days of the Church, Christians had a dual identity: they were truly His church and vertically converted to God, and then organized themselves according to geography, that is, converting also horizontally to each other on earth. This means not only Christian neighbors organizing themselves into neighborhood- or house-churches, where they share their lives locally, but Christians coming together as a collective identity as much as they can for citywide or regional celebrations expressing the corporateness of the Church of the city or region.

Authenticity in the neighborhoods connected with a regional or citywide corporate identity will make the Church not only politically significant and spiritually convincing, but will allow a return to the biblical model of the City-Church

14. Developing a persecution-proof spirit

They crucified Jesus, the Boss of all the Christians. Today, his followers are often more into titles, medals and social respectability, or, worst of all, they remain silent and are not worth being noticed at all. “Blessed are you when you are persecuted”, says Jesus.

Biblical Christianity is a healthy threat to pagan godlessness and sinfulness, a world overcome by greed, materialism, jealousy and any amount of demonic standards of ethics, sex, money and power. Contemporary Christianity in many countries is simply too harmless and polite to be worth persecuting.

But as Christians again live out New Testament standards of life and, for example, call sin as sin, conversion or persecution has been, is and will be the natural reaction of the world. Instead of nesting comfortably in temporary zones of religious liberty, Christians will have to prepare to be again discovered as the main culprits against global humanism, the modern slavery of having to have fun and the outright worship of Self, the wrong centre of the universe.

That is why Christians will and must feel the “repressive tolerance” of a world which has lost any absolutes and therefore refuses to recognize and obey its creator God with His absolute standards. Coupled with the growing ideologisation, privatization and spiritualisation of politics and economics, Christians will, sooner than most think, have their chance to stand happily accused in the company of Jesus. They need to prepare now for the future by developing a persecution-proof spirit and an even more persecution-proof structure.

15. The Church comes home

Where is the easiest place, say, for a man to be spiritual? Is it hiding behind a big pulpit, dressed up in holy robes, preaching holy words to a faceless crowd and then disappearing into an office?

And what is the most difficult, and therefore most meaningful, place for a man to be spiritual? At home, in the presence of his wife and children, where everything he does and says is automatically put through a spiritual litmus test against reality, where hypocrisy can be effectively weeded out and authenticity can grow.

Much of Christianity has fled the family, often as a place of its own spiritual defeat, and then has organized artificial performances in sacred buildings far from the atmosphere of real life. As God is in the business of recapturing the homes, the church turns back to its roots, back to where it came from. It literally comes home, completing the circle of Church history at the end of world history.

As Christians of all walks of life, from all denominations and backgrounds, feel a clear echo in their spirit to what God’s Spirit is saying to the Church, and start to hear globally in order to act locally, they begin to function again as one body. They organize themselves into neighborhood house-churches and meet in regional or city-celebrations. You are invited to become part of this movement and make your own contribution. Maybe your home, too, will become a house that changes the world.

(Continued in Part 8…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 6)

 

Continuing with Wolfgang Simson’s 15 Theses from his book, House Churches That Change the World:

9. Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity

The “Body of Christ” is a vivid description of an organic, not an organized, being. Church consists on its local level of a multitude of spiritual families, which are organically related to each other as a network, where the way the pieces are functioning together is an integral part of the message of the whole.

What has become a maximum of organization with a minimum of organism, has to be changed into a minimum of organization to allow a maximum of organism. Too much organization has, like a straightjacket, often choked the organism for fear that something might go wrong. Fear is the opposite of faith, and not exactly a Christian virtue. Fear wants to control, faith can trust. Control, therefore, may be good, but trust is better.

The Body of Christ is entrusted by God into the hands of steward-minded people with a supernatural charismatic gift to believe God that He is still in control, even if they are not. A development of trust-related regional and national networks, not a new arrangement of political ecumenism is necessary for organic forms of Christianity to reemerge

10. From worshipping our worship to worshipping God

The image of much of contemporary Christianity can be summarized as holy people coming regularly to a holy place at a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual lead by a holy man dressed in holy clothes against a holy fee.

Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called “worship service” requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy to keep going, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional 1-2 hour “worship service” is very resource-hungry but actually produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, that is, in changed lives. Economically speaking, it might be a “high input and low output” structure.

Traditionally, the desire to “worship in the right way” has led to much denominationalism, confessionalism and nominalism. This not only ignores that Christians are called to “worship in truth and in spirit,” not in cathedrals holding songbooks, but also ignores that most of life is informal, and so is Christianity as “the Way of Life.”

Do we need to change from being powerful actors to start “acting powerfully?”

11. Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing the church to the people 

The church is changing back from being a Come-structure to being again a Go-structure. As one result, the Church needs to stop trying to bring people “into the church,” and start bringing the Church to the people. The mission of the Church will never be accomplished just by adding to the existing structure; it will take nothing less than a mushrooming of the church through spontaneous multiplication of itself into areas of the population of the world, where Christ is not yet known.

12. Rediscovering the “Lord’s Supper” to be a real supper with real food

Church tradition has managed to “celebrate the Lord’s Supper” in a homeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the “Lord’s Supper” was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.

(Continued in Part 7…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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