Vol. 4, No. 2
Since You Asked
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Our group needs to look at the scriptures related to groups that met in homes to decide what implications these may have on our church today. Is there clear Biblical reasoning for having groups meet in homes? Are the groups that met in the NT from one congregation that split up for a different worship experience or some other reason or were they each complete congregations? Are there Biblical reasons to pursue this ministry? Is there Bible reasoning that prohibits this ministry? Sincerely, Lori Sansom
The word "church" is used in three different senses in the New Testament: (1) universal, encompassing congregations everywhere as well as from generation to generation, over which Jesus is the head (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:18); (2) a single congregation (1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 14:23; 20:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:1); and (3) the worship assembly of any congregation (1 Corinthians 11:18, 22; 14:4-5, 12, 19, 34). For centuries, the Lord's church did not own meetinghouses. Instead, congregations assembled in public places (Acts 5:12) and in private homes (Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2). "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house" (1 Corinthians 16:19).
Further, the worship assembly of a congregation is defined in Scripture as the 'whole church coming together in one place at one time.' "… when ye are gathered together …" (1 Corinthians 5:4). "… come together … For first of all, when ye come together in the church … When ye come together therefore into one place …" (1 Corinthians 11:17-20; see also 11:33-34). "… the whole church be come together into one place …" (1 Corinthians 14:23; see also 14:26).
Additionally, there were other gatherings of Christians that apparently were not intended to be the 'whole church coming together in one place at one time' as a worship assembly. The early disciples spent time together daily outside of Lord's Day worship (Acts 2:46). Part of the church in Jerusalem met, evidently, not for worship with some members coming and going (and dying) (Acts 5:1-10). Some members met in a home for the purpose of prayer (Acts 12:12).
Summarized, where a local congregation assembles for worship is immaterial. However, passages that define the worship assembly indicate that the whole church came together in one place at one time (naturally excepting persons involuntarily absent or purposely and sinfully absent). On other occasions, less than the whole congregation met for various purposes. Either the worship assembly or other occasions for which the entire congregation or a portion thereof met, they often met in private homes.
It seems that it would be inappropriate, therefore, for a local congregation to attempt to worship by dividing its membership into several homes, because a local congregation is supposed to meet together in one place for worship. Dividing a congregation in such a manner for worship would be equivalent to several congregations rather than a single congregation worshipping. Yet, passages respecting other reasons (e.g., Bible study, church work) for which some members of a local congregation might meet are not associated with the concept of the 'whole church coming together in one place at one time.' It appears that a congregation could as readily choose to have its members meet for Bible study in sundry homes as it might have its members meet for Bible study in sundry rooms in the same facility (as we usually do).
Sometimes a quest for novelty to enliven one's personal experience has been the catalyst for doing things differently than we have done them in the past. Hopefully, whenever we opt for change of some sort: (1) Whatever proposed changes we may pursue are evaluated in view of Scripture first to ensure change is not equal to a deviation from the faith. (2) Any changes enacted after confirming that the proposed changes are biblically permissible ought to be for some pragmatic reason rather than emotional appeal. (3) Not everything that is biblically permissible is expedient. (4) Biblically, the so-called small group ministry or house churches (within a local congregation) or cell groups, etc. are unknown. Biblically, there is a distinction between the worship assembly and Bible study or work carried on by a congregation.
I'm a member of the Lord's church and also the Organising Secretary of the Blantyre Churches of Christ Youth Ministry. I would like to learn and seek your advice on how youth ministry is undertaken. ~ Eliam
We entertain religious questions for which biblical answers are sought. This question, then, causes somewhat of a quandary, since "Youth Ministry" is not something addressed in the Bible.
The English word "ministry" appears 22 times in the Bible (KJV), all but twice appearing in the New Testament. The Greek word "diakonia," translated "ministry," occurs 34 times in the New Testament and is translated also as "ministration," "administration," "ministering," "relief" and "service." The word means "attendance as a servant."
Scripture applies "ministry" to domestic duties as preparing a meal (Luke 10:40), the special work of the apostles (Acts 1:17, 25), exercising church benevolence (Acts 6:1), benevolent financial assistance (Acts 11:29), teaching and preaching the Word of God or the Gospel (Acts 6:4; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:5) and references to the function of God's law (namely, Judaism). The usual application of the word "ministry" in the New Testament pertains to teaching and preaching the Word of God.
Youth are not singled out among all possible candidates for the "ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4), any more than is any other age group selected in Scripture for special treatment with the Gospel (e.g., middle-aged, senior citizens, etc.). The terminology "Youth Ministry" is of human origin rather than divine stipulation. Of course, youth need the Word of God so they might become Christians and young Christians need a steady diet of God's Word, just as every other age group does as well. However, we must remember that Youth Ministry is a human accommodation and not a divine prescription, so that we do not assume too much for "Youth Ministry" as though it were a God-given mandate rather than an expedient.
For instance, often youth ministries are almost entirely fun and games or entertainment, as though God designated that as a mission of the church. We must remember that the home and not the church is primarily responsible for much that affects youth. Both the home and the church teach youth (and others), but entertainment of youth is a home rather than a church duty.
Further, special, parallel worship services for youth, which is sometimes done, is an accommodation of youth that conflicts with passages relative to the assembling of the local church together (1 Corinthians 11: 17-20; 14:23) and requires at least the adult Christians who oversee such to forsake the assembly of the church (Hebrews 10:25).
Summarized, "Youth Ministry" is a humanly devised accommodation toward a segment of a congregation rather than a divine stipulation; it is at best an expedient through which youth can be edified with the Word of God. With the word "ministry" involved in it, youth ministry must predominantly concern itself with the Word of God rather than primarily being the assumption of a home-based function of entertainment and attempting to make fun and games a mission of the church, equivalent to the God-ordained missions of evangelism (Mark 16:15-16), edification (1 Corinthians 14:12) and benevolence (Galatians 6:10). At worst, "youth ministry" is not speaking as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11) and may usurp functions of the home and without divine authorization append to the God-appointed missions of the Lord's church. Youth ministry does not necessarily preclude enjoyment and pleasurable activities, but it must include a significant appeal to the mastering the Word of God, otherwise it is not worthy to be associated with the biblical word, "ministry."
There are many references to Jesus being the creator of the world (you know them all). However, Gen. 1:1 states God created the world. Is this God the Father, or God the Son? Or is this the triune? Eph. 3:9 states that God, "who created all things by Jesus Christ." KJV. The ASV 1901 leaves out "by Jesus Christ." My question is, which one created the world? ~ Robert Brooks
In Genesis 1:1-27 respecting the whole creation, including mankind, a plural form of God is used to designate the Creator. From other passages, we learn that there are three persons in the Godhead (Matthew 28:19). The knowledge that "God" refers to plural persons relative to creation is apparent also from the plural pronouns associated with God creating man. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …" (Genesis 1:26). Notice the Hebrew word for God in Genesis Chapter One and its corresponding definition.
'elohiym (el-o-heem'); plural of OT:433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God …" (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
All three persons of the Godhead participated in the creation of the world. Though the ASV drops the reference to the Father creating the world through Jesus Christ in Ephesians 3:9, the ASV retains that information in Hebrews 1:1-2. The Godhead is united (John 10:30) but composed of three persons so that even what one person of the Godhead does directly, the other persons of the Godhead might be said to do the same thing at least indirectly. Jesus Christ is primarily ascribed with establishing and maintaining creation (Colossians 1:16-17). The "Spirit of God" (Holy Spirit), along with the other two persons of the Godhead is attributed with participating in creation also (Genesis 1:2). The Godhead, comprised of three persons, participated in all of creation.
… gospel preachers joining the local ministerial association and church members joining denominational churches just to sing and be in plays. ~ Reva McIntyre
Amos 3:3 poses a rhetorical question, the answer of which is, "No!" "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" The principle contained therein is applicable to the questions posed above.
As long as the New Testament church about which one can read upon the pages of the New Testament, and which faithful Christians earnestly try to be without addition or subtraction, differs from denominationalism, we cannot participate in it. The motto of at least one ministerial association (and the practice of the them all) is: "We have agreed to disagree." The doctrines over which the denominational members of ministerial associations have agreed to disagree include: the plan of salvation, Christian worship, the nature of God, Christian living, etc. Essentially, members of ministerial associations have concluded that their doctrinal differences do not matter, that is, how one is saved from his sins, how one worships God, the characteristics of God, whether moral living is important, etc.
This is hardly the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21). This is hardly the fellowship of which the apostle John wrote (1 John 1:3, 6-7; 2 John 9-11). Joining denominational ministerial associations and denominational churches to be in their music and theatrical programs is hardly in keeping with the directive of the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:11); "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." According to Jesus Christ, deviations from God-authored religion will ultimately result in the rooting up of any counterfeit religious bodies (Matthew 15:13); "… Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." Why would anyone want to align himself with something that is unlike the church Jesus built (Matthew 16:18), to which our Lord adds the saved (Acts 2:47) and for which he will return someday (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:24)?
Anyone who purports to join a denominational church to participate in its programs (or for any other reason) (1) does not grasp the difference between New Testament Christianity and manmade churches, (2) is not truly converted, and (3) sins by joining and as long as he remains in a denominational church. The New Testament church is distinctive in what it teaches regarding the plan of salvation, Christian worship, Christian living, Christian service, the nature of God, etc. Those who endeavor to duplicate first century Christianity today are not trying to be different from anyone or anything, but rather identical to the church of the Bible. Denominationalism postdates New Testament Christianity from 600 years to 2,000 or so years.
Summarized, it is extremely doubtful that a Gospel preacher should join a ministerial association. Some suppose that doing such provides an opportunity to persuade denominational preachers with the Gospel, but that is unlikely a scenario for accomplishing that and more likely a circumstance that will dilute the influence of a Gospel preacher and may lead to compromise. Positively, Christians ought not forsake the Lord's church (Hebrews 10:25) for a mere counterfeit copy of the church of the Bible. While not trying to be unkind or arrogant, we are nothing religiously unless we have convictions respecting the unique church of the Bible and have equal confidence in the New Testament as God's revelation respecting that church, salvation, Christian worship, Christian living, Christian service, the nature of God, etc. Many articles on the site of Gospel Gazette Online discuss the singular qualities of the church Jesus built.
Nichol's Pocket Bible Encyclopedia