Category Archives: Home Church

Churches: Fellowships Without Fellowship (Part 5)

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

5. The church has to become small in order to grow large.

Most churches today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament church was made up of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not by forming big congregations of 300 people to fill cathedrals and lose fellowship. Instead, it multiplied “sideways,” dividing like organic cells, once these groups reached 15 to 20 people. This then made it possible for all the Christians to get together in city-wide celebrations, as in Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is by comparison, a sad compromise, neither big nor beautiful, an overgrown house church and an undergrown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both

6. No church is led by a pastor alone.

The local church is not led by a pastor, but fathered by an elder, a man of wisdom and engaged with reality. The local house churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers), circulating from “house to house,” like the circulation of blood. Here there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-12). A pastor (shepherd) is an important member of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and he has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.

7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way.

To do a jigsaw puzzle, we have to put the pieces together according to the original pattern, otherwise the final product, the whole picture turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make any sense. In the Christian world we have all of the right pieces, but we have fitted them together in the wrong way, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy, and a power and control mentality, just as water is found in three forms – ice, water and steam – so too the five ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12 – the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – are found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places. They are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and “independent” churches, accountable to no one.

Just as it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new – and at the same time age-old – forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual “ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return to the Maker’s original blueprint for the Church.

8. Out of the hands of bureaucratic clergy and on towards the priesthood of all believers.

No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional “holy man” doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive, religious consumers, Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament.

The heavy professionalization of the church since Constantine has been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into an infantilized laity and a professional clergy, and developing power-based mentalities and pyramid structures. According to the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:5), “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in between Himself and His people. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way.

To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems because it basically only asks two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity; no room for real life. This may be all right in politics and business, but not the church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, putting it into the hands of ordinary people who God has made extraordinary and who, as in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume or revelation.

(Continued in Part 6…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 4)

In his book, House Churches that Change the World, Wolfgang Simson stole a page from Martin Luther’s reformation playbook and wrote a 15 Theses for the house church movement:

1. Christianity is a way of life, not a series of religious meetings.

Before they were called Christians, followers of Christ were called ‘The Way.’ One of the reasons was that they had literally found the way to live. The nature of the church is not found in a constant series of religious meetings led by professional clergy in holy places specially reserved to experience Jesus. Rather, it is the prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritual extended families, as a vivid answer to the questions that society asks, and in the place where it counts most – in their homes.

2. Time to change the ‘cathegogue system’

The historic Orthodox and Catholic Church after Constantine in the fourth century developed and adopted a religious system based on two elements: a Christian version on the Old Testament temple – the cathedral – and a worship pattern styled after the Jewish synagogue. They thus adopted, as the foundational pattern for the times to follow, a blueprint for Christian meetings and worship which was neither expressly revealed nor ever endorsed by God in New Testament times: the ‘cathegogue,’ linking the house-of-God mentality and the synagogue.

Baptized with Greek pagan philosophy, separating the sacred from the secular, the cathegogue system developed into the Black Hole of Christianity, swallowing most of its society-transforming energies and inducing the church to become absorbed with itself for centuries to come. The Roman Catholic Church went on to canonize the system.

Luther reformed the content of the gospel but left the outer forms of ‘church’ remarkably untouched. The Free Churches freed the system from the State, the Baptists then baptized it, the Quakers dry-cleaned it, the Salvation Army put it in uniform, the Pentecostals anointed it and Charismatics renewed it, but until today nobody has really changed the system. The time to do that has now arrived.

3. The third Reformation

In rediscovering the gospel of salvation by faith and grace alone, Luther started to reform the church through a reformation of theology. In the eighteenth century, through movements in the pietistic renewal, there was a recovery of a new intimacy with God, which led to a reformation of spirituality, the Second Reformation. Now, God is touching the wineskins themselves, initiating a Third Reformation, a reformation of structure.

4. From church houses to house churches

From the time of the New Testament there has been no such thing as a ‘house of God.’ At the cost of his life, Stephen reminded us: God does not live in temples made by human hands.

The church is the people of God. The church, therefore, was and is at home where people are at home: in ordinary houses. There the people of God share their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, have ‘meatings’, i.e. they eat when they meet; they often do not even hesitate to sell private property and share material and spiritual blessings; they teach each other in real-life situations how to obey God’s Word – and not with professional lectures but dynamically, with dialogue and questions and answers. There they pray and prophesy with each other, and baptize one another. There they can let their masks drop and confess their sins, regaining a new corporate identity through love, acceptance and forgiveness.

(Continued in Part 5…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 2)

 

Why did God pour out the ten plagues on Egypt?

It all began almost thirty-five hundred years ago with Moses having a burning bush experience. It was there that God said, “I have seen the oppression of My people and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. So I have come down to deliver them out of their bondage and bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses eventually accepted His calling and headed for Egypt.

When Moses arrived in Egypt, he met with the elders and told them how God was going to set the Israelites free. The elders rejoiced, bowed their heads, and worshipped God.

That jubilant attitude by the elders and the Israelites lasted until Moses walked into Pharaoh’s court and said, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Let My people go.'”

“Ain’t no way, Moses,” said Pharaoh, “I’m not setting 600,000 male slaves free.”

Next, Pharaoh persecuted the Israelites and beat the officers who were in charge of the Israelite slave workers. Because of the spirit of anguish and cruel bondage, the Israelites no longer listened to Moses.

God did what only God can do, He poured out a powerful anointing on Moses, so that he could confront Pharaoh with boldness and speak truth to the Israelites, which they would listen to and obey.

Over several weeks, God poured out ten plagues on Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease on Egyptian livestock, boils on man and beast, locusts, darkness, and death of the first-born. Each plague was aimed at a particular Egyptian god.

Finally, Egypt and its gods were plundered and destroyed by the Lord God of Israel. Pharaoh and the Egyptians said to Israel, “Leave or we will all be dead!”

But God was not quite done yet, He led the Israelites to the Red Sea, which became a trap for them when Pharaoh changed his mind. Pharaoh and his whole army soon followed and drew near to the Israelites.

What did Israel do?

They panicked and said, “Oh dear! Our God is not big enough! We should have lived and died in Egypt as slaves rather than trusting in God.”

But even so, God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea.

The Israelites danced and sang a new song to the Lord.

Hallelujah!

So, why did God pour out the ten plagues on Egypt?

Yes, the plagues obviously convinced Egypt to let the Israelites go free, but a second reason was that God wanted to set the Israelites free of their desires to ever return to bondage again.

Yet, when the times got tough, Israel always thought about returning to the bondages of Egypt and its cruel gods.

Ah, but there was also a third reason for the plagues.

“Return to Me, O backsliding children,” says the Lord, “for I am married to you…” (Jeremiah 3:14)

Israel was the Lord’s bride, He loved her, and wanted to have a deep relationship with her. He hoped to remove every one of her lovers so He would be the apple of her eye.

Who else is is known as a bride of the Lord?

(Continued in Part 3…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 1)

 

The Easter Sunday crowd packed the seats in the school gymnasium where the young Four Square Church held its service. The worship team led off with fantastic worship music. One song, Hungry, captured the assembly’s attention, especially its chorus: “So, I wait for you. So, I wait for you.”

The worship team finished as the young, good-looking pastor walked over to the microphone. He clapped his hands in appreciation for the worship team’s efforts. He turned to the assembly, winking an eye at everyone.

“Maybe by now,” he said, “you’ve realized that we’re a little different from all of the other churches in the city…”

The pastor continued on, but I did not hear a single word he said for the next five minutes or so. I was in a different zone, one where the Holy Spirit had my full attention.

“No, this church is not any different than the others,” said the Holy Spirit. “Not one bit different than any of the other churches in the city. If you were, right now, attending a Catholic Church or a Baptist Church or a Pentecostal one or any other church in the city, it would be no different than this one. You would still be sitting here like a bump on a log listening to a head frog croak at you. Your only input into this service will be the check you toss into the offering plate when it is passed under your nose. Is this the church Jesus hung on the cross and died for?”

I sat there, stunned by His words. I wanted to weep. I wanted to run. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to quit, but I did nothing.

Afterward, I told Carol about my experience. She sighed and stared at me.

“You’re sure different, aren’t you?” she said. “I really like this church and now this happens.”

Just so you know, the Holy Spirit was not referring to doctrines at the various churches. If that were the case, each would be different, but instead, He was referring to the wineskin, the particular format, which all traditional churches follow in their churches. They are all basically the same, in that there are definite separations between the active few −the clergy −and the passive many −the laity −who sit in the seats and pay for the privilege to do so.

********

I hurried down West Broad Street in my Ford pickup truck, carrying Toyota parts to a mechanic who needed them right away. As I drove along, I had a graphic vision.

Do you remember iron lungs, which polio sufferers used during the 1950’s? They looked like large cylindrical metal tubes and encased polio victims, helping them to breathe via a pressurized airflow system. The bulky machines filled entire hospital wards during the height of the polio epidemics.

In my vision, the American church system was terminally ill. As a last ditch effort to save its life, the whole church system laid in a white iron lung, gasping for its every breath. The long power cord, attached to the rear of the unit, meandered itself through other electrical cords to a unique power source: money. The life support system was plugged into bags and bags of money.

I stared at the strange sight and then a thundering voice interrupted my thoughts.

“Pull the plug!” proclaimed the voice.

Carol and I prayed about my vision that night. We felt we needed to leave the traditional church system.

Our decision to not attend churches sounds easy now, but at the time, it seemed like we were the only people in the whole nation walking away from churches. A little research on the Internet revealed hundreds of thousands of Americans had done the same thing over the previous years.

Still it was not easy to break our church attending habits. We were used to sitting in pews on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, and whenever the church doors opened.

A well-meaning pastor once took me aside and gave one of those lectures no one likes to hear.

“Larry, you need stability in your life and for your marriage,” he said, shaking his head at our nomadic life. “No one will ever take your prophetic ministry seriously if you don’t settle down. You need to settle in a city and find a good church to park yourself so others will take you more seriously. Please, seek the Lord on this advice.”

This vision blew any thoughts about obeying his words out of the water.

(The above excerpts are from my memoir, The Hunt for Larry Who, an Amazon eBook.)

If my two experiences are really from the Lord, what is His eternal purpose in all of this?

(Continued in Part 2)

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Pushback From my Church-Exit Column

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My new weekly column entitled, “Pushback from my Church-Exit Column, ” can be read by clicking here.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can perhaps read it better by using the Chrome browser rather than Safari. Also, you can go to the app store and download a free app called: WND.

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Screech! Halt! Last Chance!

Vinnie opened the door and greeted us with hugs. He then gave me an odd look.

“What?” I said.

“You’re not fifteen minutes early, which means you’re late.”

I pointed at Jane as she walked ahead of me, past the small office on the left and into the great room.

Vinnie and Gracie had completely remodeled the condo, removing two walls, adding dark hardwood floors, white crown molding, and painting the walls a soft yellow. The place sparkled and was perfect for Wednesday night home church meetings. The Sunday meeting still remained at our home, but we also had a morning women’s meeting, a men’s meeting, and an outdoor prayer meeting in a park. We were now a community that enjoyed being with one another.

“Hey, Gunsmoke, over here,” said Phil, standing by the large maple harvest table.

We hugged and patted each other on the backs.

I turned to greet seventy-eight year old Randy Greenfield with a hug, even though he breathed through a nose cannula and held his compact oxygen tank in his left hand. He had been a pack a day smoker until quitting at age sixty-five. His wife, Jessie, sitting at the table, reached up, and held my hands in hers. She suffered from diabetes and vision problems.

I greeted Faye and Gracie who were busy preparing the food. Both Ruth Harden and Pamela Walters waved at me and I moved in their direction. Seventy-six year old Ruth sat in a wheelchair because of a stroke from a year earlier. Pamela was an eighty-four year old woman who suffered stage-three bone cancer, but never let it get her down. The two women hugged and kissed me.

“Where are Mason and Flo?” I asked.

“They called and said they might be a few minutes late,” replied Vinnie.

Ding dong!

Vinnie left to answer the doorbell. He soon returned with Mason and Florence Prewitt, an African-American couple, who were both in their early seventies. Everyone greeted them with hugs.

“Let’s sit down and eat,” said Gracie, carrying a bowl of vegetable soup to the table.

The twelve of us sat around the large table and held hands while Vinnie blessed the meal. Then, the fellowship began in earnest. Different ones testified what the Lord was doing in their lives. A few shared scripture revelations. Faye sang a new song. On and on, it went while we ate. As someone once wrote: home churches that meat together stay together.

“Hey everyone, can you guess what our friends at Jedidiah Smith Community Church call us?” asked Faye during a lull in the conversation.

The clanking of spoons against bowls of vegetable soup ceased. The room became quiet. All looked toward Faye with blank looks on their faces.

“No, what?” said Gracie, not willing to play along with the guessing game.

“The geezer church!” proclaimed Faye. Her dark eyes narrowed and lips puckered to show the acrid taste in her mouth from the name.

“What a great name? I love it,” said Vinnie.

“Yeah, me, too,” replied Randy.

Phil looked at Faye first before giving the thumbs up sign.

“Maybe we should register the name. Then, we can print ‘Geezer Church’ logos on caps and t-shirts. Maybe even bumper stickers,” I said, thinking about royalties.

Jane elbowed me in the ribs and gave me her look, the one that sends me to the guest bedroom to sleep if I step over the line.

“I hate it!” she proclaimed, crossing her arms in her ‘don’t mess with Jane’ manner.

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t like being defined as an old bloke.”

“Well?”

“We may be approaching the sunsets of our lives, but I don’t have to be reminded of it with a comedic term. I can still pray and worship the Lord as well as I did in my younger years and maybe even better.

Pamela put her two forefingers to her lips and whistled a shrill-pitched note.

“I agree with Jane,” she added.

“Do we need a name?” I asked.

“Yes,” all the women said in unison.

The men shrugged and gritted their teeth.

“Let’s hear your ideas,” said Faye, looking around the table.

The suggested names ranged from the Agape Home Church to the Temecula Valley Home Group, with numerous cutesy ones in between.

“What about Last Chance?” I said as the conversation died down.

“Last Chance? Why?” asked Ruth.

“For most of us it’s our last chance to serve the Lord. It’s the last chance to speak what is in our hearts to others. It’s our last chance to earn eternal rewards. It’s our last chance to know Jesus better on this side of heaven.”

Phil waved his hand in the air. All turned toward him.

“I’m convinced that Last Chance is a great name for our group. What about the rest of you?” he said, lightly elbowing Faye in the ribs.

That night, we upgraded our name from Geezer Church to Last Chance in a unanimous vote, but yet the slight shiver still remained in place when we drove home.

(Excerpt from Unhinged Geezer by Larry Nevenhoven, © 2015, Amazon eBook)

For many years, I have prayed and fasted on Tuesdays for various reasons. It all began with praying for the suffering Christians of North Korea. Then it included praying for Christians held as prisoners in Asia. Then for India. Then for all of Asia. Then for “one new man.” Then for healing and deliverance.

So now, beginning next week, I will be praying and fasting for senior citizens (geezers) to be revived, set on fire by the Holy Spirit, take their places in a new move of God, and for some Last Chance groups to be planted in America, especially on the West Coast.

 

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Geezer Up (Part 8)

Jane

Because of my standby reservation, I was the last person to board the Virgin Airline’s Airbus A320. One hundred and forty-five other passengers walked ahead of me to their seats. I looked at my boarding pass − Row 24 Seat B − and tried to look over shoulders and heads for my seat, but my five feet three inches of stature hindered my efforts. I eventually arrived there, lifted my black suitcase into the overhead storage compartment, and squeezed past the outside passenger’s long legs into the seat.

The young sailor with a shaved head in Seat A by the window looked up from his iPad and nodded at me. The lanky man to my right, sitting by the aisle in Seat C, paid no attention and opened his iPad, connecting to the Internet through Virgin’s free WiFi service. Both put headphones on as soon as the plane taxied toward the runway.

I reached down and pulled a Michael Connelly paperback novel out of my purse, but the Harry Bosch story failed to hold my interest for long. My mind kept wandering back over Dylan’s and my off-the-beaten-path spiritual journey.

It all began when Dylan walked out of Jedidiah Smith Community Church on that first Sunday in June three years earlier when the new pastor preached his first sermon. Dylan explained that he couldn’t listen to another sermon while he ignored the Lord’s voice telling him to branch off into a different type of church ministry. That different type of church ended up being a home church, which we called Last Chance. Two senior couples joined us in the new venture: Phil and Faye Strawmeier and Vinnie and Gracie Nguyen. Both couples had been our closest friends for years. Others joined our house church so that the original assembly now numbered eighteen people.

But it was Pamela Walter’s words to Dylan and me just before she died which stirred Dylan’s heart. “The Lord wants the Last Chance groups, like yours, to spread all along the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle. He wants to use senior citizens as His last chance army to touch millions of people −” she said.

Dylan interrupted her and explained we didn’t know how to do something like that.

I still remember her words: “Shush! Of course, you don’t, but He knows how to do it. Fast and pray and He will show you.”

Then, she died.

Dylan focused his life on obeying Pamela’s prophetic words to us from that moment forward. He fasted, prayed, studied the word, and continually sought the Lord on what we needed to do. His seeking led to three new groups being started: one in Hemet, Lake Elsinore, and Corona.

I went along with whatever Dylan wanted, not because I heard the Lord’s voice for myself or even felt impressed to do so. I just trusted that Dylan heard the Lord’s voice and followed him. Maybe I caved in too easily rather than seeking the Lord on my own.

But when Dylan said he felt the Lord wanted us to plant Last Chance home churches in San Francisco, I was shocked and nervous. As he spoke his vision to me, I comforted myself by figuring it would be years before we reached the Bay area. Yet, two days later, he received an invitation to speak at a Business Men’s Fellowship luncheon in China Town. He left a week later, hoping doors would open for Last Chance groups in San Francisco.

I watched him leave and waved at him, but in my heart, I prayed nothing special would happen. I hoped it would be a nice trip for Dylan but nothing more. Nothing more at all.

Maybe you think I’m selfish and maybe I am. But I am seventy-three years old and so is Dylan. I want to get off this spiritual merry-go-round and enjoy life again. Do some traveling to Branson, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and even Paris or London. I want to enjoy our sunset years without worrying about jail or confrontations. Why not? We deserve it, don’t we?

(Continued in Part 9…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.) 

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