Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Interview on the House-Church Movement

Last night I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Roderick Edwards for one of his Kingdom Commentaries. The primary focus of the interview was about the way in which many in the House-Church Movement are making requirements of certain practices that the Scriptures do not require. We discussed two of these requirements, meeting in homes and partaking of the Lord's Supper as a part of a larger meal, but for some reason failed to get to a third requirement, which is having completely open, spontaneous meetings with no one leading. We just didn't have time to get to every issue in a half hour, but I have addressed all three of these issues thus far in the series of articles I have been posting here.

Here is some of the evidence that at least one of the leading voices of the House-Church Movement is making requirements of these things:

1) With respect to meeting exclusively in homes, Steve Atkerson says in his article entitled Interactive Meetings, "In short, we believe that the patterns for church life evident in the New Testament are not merely descriptive, but are actually prescriptive (2Th 2:15 , 1Co 11:2). Thus, we believe in home-based and sized fellowships...."

2) With respect to having completely open meetings that are interactive and spontaneous, with no one leading, Steve Atkerson says in the same article, "Holding church meetings in this spontaneous, interactive manner is in fact declared to be imperative according to 1 Corinthians 14:37, 'If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.' Thus, 1 Corinthians 14 is not merely descriptive of primitive church meetings. Rather, it is prescriptive of the way our Lord expects meetings of the whole church to be conducted."

3) With regard to eating the Lord's Supper as a part of a larger meal, in an article entitled The Lord's Supper - Feast or Famine?, Atkerson argues in the same way he has about the Apostolic tradition and meeting in homes: "Why would anyone want to depart from the way Christ and His apostles practiced the Lord’s Supper? The apostles clearly were pleased when churches held to their traditions (1Co 11:2) and even commanded that they do so (2Th 2:15 ). We have no authorization to deviate from it."


  1. Keith,

    The problem with your view is that it treats the gathering of the saints and their activities like choosing a flavor of ice cream - one's own personal preference, rather than a moral choice. You are wrongly using Scripture to promote "neutrality" when Scripture is our only standard for righteousness in all our moral activities.

  2. Kurt,

    I never mentioned the word "neutrality." Nor was such a concept ever in my mind. I simply argued that the Bible gives us evidence that sometimes early believers met in public buildings as well as in houses. Thus, I suppose you could say -- to use your term, not mine -- that the Bible is "neutral" about which kind building is best, if by this it is meant that the Bible shows no clear preference. But this does not mean the Bible is neutral on all matters or that it is not the "only standard of righteousness in all our moral activities," as you seem to suggest. It just means that the the standard for where we meet may include public buildings as well as houses. And it sees nothing immoral about either choice. If you think that it does, then prove it from Scripture.

    I believe that we should speak clearly where Scripture speaks clearly on an issue, but that we should allow liberty where Scripture allows liberty.

    Also, I think that you are not being very fair in your treatment of my position in at least two ways:

    1) You say that my position "treats the gathering of the saints and their activities like choosing a flavor of ice cream." But surely you must be aware that I think where we meet as Christians and what we do when we meet is significantly more important than our choice of ice cream. All you are doing when you speak like that is trying to characterize my view in a negative way that is not at all an accurate assessment.

    2) You imply that I hold to some concept of "neutrality" that doesn't view Scripture as our ultimate standard of righteousness. This again seeks to paint my view in the worst possible light, even though I think no such thing. As I have already indicated, the issue what the Bible -- as our standard -- actually requires or not. And, since the Bible alone is our standard, I do not think we can go beyond what it says in what we require of God's people.

    So, if you want to continue to engage me on this issue, I respectfully request that you cease with such uncharitable insinuations unless and until you are willing to prove your charges from Scripture. For example, if you want to say that meeting in a building other than in a home is somehow immoral (which is what you seem to be implying), then prove it from Scripture. Only when you have done this can you make the charge. The Bible is, after all, our only ultimate standard for morality.

    Sola Scriptura!


  3. Keith,

    I can quote Scripture until I'm blue in the face, but it will be to no avail if we don't share the same presupposition about Scripture.

    So let me get this straight. Because Scripture does not specifically and clearly addresses the issue, "Where should Christians meet on a regularly weekly basis," this is not a moral issue and Scripture can not help us in our decision?

  4. Kurt,

    First, we both believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority on these issues, don't we? How is that a different set of presuppositions?

    Second, I did not say that it is not in any sense a moral issue or that Scripture cannot help in our making a decision. In fact, I argued that Scripture does help by showing us that we may meet in either public buildings or private homes. And it helps by showing us that either of these is a perfectly moral choice to make.

    What Scripture doesn't do is clearly indicate that one choice is necessarily better than the other or more ethical than the other. To demand that Scripture must declare one as better than the other, when Scripture appears to have no interest in doing so, is to usurp the moral authority of Scripture by making ourselves the arbiters of what it must and must not speak to directly.

    I think Scripture also helps on issues that it doesn't address directly by teaching us all kinds of principles that might apply. In this case, we would want to keep in mind Scriptural teaching, say, about the nature of the church and church life, etc. For example, if one of the things we are trying to do is clearly proclaim the truth to one another, we might want to meet in a place where it is easy to hear. Or, if we are trying to include as many of the body of Christ as we can in our gatherings, we might want to make sure that we have a place to meet that is handicapped accessible, lest we discriminate against them in an unloving way. I suppose such examples could be easily multiplied, but I think the point is made.

    The only additional comment I would want to make is that the application of Biblical principles can be varied, and it requires a great deal of wisdom in some cases to make the right choice. For example, although it may have been incumbent upon us in Christian love to have wheelchair access due to the make-up of our church, that doesn't mean that the church that meets in a house is less loving because it may not have such access built in. The principle of loving one another may be applied in different ways. The house church may just elect to have a couple of men carry the person into the house, wheelchair and all! The point is that we might handle it in different ways, although following the same Biblical principle. Even so, we may follow the same essential principles about church life, although in slightly different ways or in different buildings.