Part 5: The maintenance, development and duties of the house church.We have met like minded brethren, eager to form a house church. How do we proceed further?
Here a question.
“Is the concept of home groups and underground churches have anything to do with the understanding that the church will go through the tribulation period, or at least a part of it?
Whether Christians will go through the tribulation period, or Jesus will come first is a topic that has often been discussed among bible believing Christians. No matter where we stand, It is important to be prepared for what ever may take place.
We should always be in a position of readiness to meet the Lord as has been discussed previously. We should also be prepared for times of persecution. Persecution is not a strange phenomenon for Christians. In many countries many Christians already live under extreme pressure.
The advantages of preparedness are that when something should come about that we would not expect, we will still not be taken completely by surprise. It would be a tragedy indeed if we went our way with the firm belief that Jesus will appear before the Antichrist does, only to find ourselves having going through those very difficult times anyway. On the other hand, how great would our joy be if, being prepared to face the times of tribulation, we realize that we do not have to go through it after all.
Every Christian has the Bible and the Holy Spirit so that they themselves can come to more and more clarity on these topics. That is, if there is the willingness to lay aside secondary literature and thoroughly examine the Holy Scriptures on theses subjects. According to I Corinthians 1:10 Christians should be able to reach mutual understandings based on the truth of God’s Word.
Here some important advice.
Even if we are not yet in Phase C of persecution, it should yet remain our goal that being already in Phase B, we conduct ourselves as if Phase C were already upon us.
It is only possible here to give a rough plan of action. It is not possible to deliver a complete list of instructions.
This however has its advantages because:
Each house Church will be flexible, thereby being enabled to follow God’s leading themselves. This means each church will have the responsibility to seek God’s will for them and not merely imitate a preset program.
Local individuals can contribute their own ideas.
People are different, whether from country to country, even region to region.
I. Organisationally1. Healthy Structures
Brethren who have gathered to form house churches, or have been won to do so, should together function as self-existing cells without being in subjection to any kind of hierarchy. As in the New Testament, there should be elders who compliment one another in their duties. These also should serve to encourage one another in their walks.
Where having a leader who oversees several regional assemblies, can lead to is clearly seen in the example of Terry Jones in October 2010. He felt he must do some important things for the kingdom of God, which in the end only brought only more damage. The temptations to strive for power and manipulate are also very strong, especially if their is no willingness to receive correction into their own lives.
It should also be a goal that members should only separate from their church for very specific reasons. These would be:
The group is too large and would be profit from being broken down into smaller groups.
When at least three members coming from a certain area, form a new cell that wins others to them.
If brethren must move away for private reasons, or changes in their employment situation.
2. Concerning healthy communication amongst each other and with other house
Bonds of love and appreciation amongst brethren are a very precious thing. These distinguish the true believers.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
This becomes even more significant in view of the last days.
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
I Pet 4:7, 8
Walvoord supports this when he writes:
“Love covers (kalyptei, meaning conceals) a multitude of sins.” This kind of love is not blind. It sees the other’s errors, but accepts them anyway. (Compare Prov. 10:12, I Cor. 13:4-7). This love manifests itself in serving free meals and offering beds to sleep in. In other words, they show generous hospitality (philoxenoi, meaning kind to strangers) without complaining. This is a very important element, especially in times of persecution when Christians are forced to leave their homes and move to new areas.
At this point it is necessary to lay down a few important principles to be taken to heart.
a. Communication between the various house churches
It is good to avoid too much communication amongst the various house churches out of love we for one another and because the real threat of betrayal by other Christians. This must also apply to new cells that form out of existing groups.
Should a Christian be imprisoned during or directly proceeding Phase C, they are not in danger of betraying information about other believers, even if drugs are used. The Lord can without doubt neutralize the affect of such drugs in our bodies. But we should also not be careless and put Him to the test. By this I mean can attempt to force His hand by being unprepared in a presumptuous manner, which otherwise could have been avoided.
b. Communication amongst each other
Presently, electronic communications present no great complications. But the technical advances are making the analysis of communications by means of intelligent software easier. This is to be considered when using phones, fax machines and Emails. Some brethren are already tired of being so careful. Yet if we are not, we will be amongst the first to pay the price. The result could mean we will have to continue our work in prison.
3. The distribution of printed materials
There is an English proverb that says, “The quill is mightier than the sword.” And a Russian proverb says, “What is written with a pen, can not be cut down with an ax”.
In 1981 a ship codenamed “Pearl” smuggled, and unloaded a million Bibles off of the coast of southern China. By the time the Chinese army appeared, nearly all of the boxes had already been carried away. This act resulted in millions of Chinese coming to faith in Jesus. In 2002 a business man from Hong Kong was able to smuggle 33,000 Bibles into China.
The flow of information over the internet is extremely difficult to stop.Identifying who sent what and to whom is very difficult as well. Without doubt we must trust the Lord. Yet we must be wise “like the serpent” and not careless.
We should take it to heart by reducing the number of emails and faxes we send. Presently, it is highly unlikely that private citizens, who have not yet drawn attention to themselves are not likely to have their phone calls and emails monitored. Yet, the risk is high. It is not really known just how advanced the surveillance net has become. Alone the frequent visiting of a website could be enough to draw attention to ourselves. In the beginning we can still use the normal postal system, but as time goes on this too, can become less safe.
With this in mind it would be good if a few individuals were given the duty of downloading and preparing new information and current written materials to be distributed by other means of data storage.
II. The Spiritual DifferenceThroughout the many centuries since the first pentecost (Acts 2) there has never been a perfect church. As a man of God put it, the “human” factor always gets involved. And so it will most certainly be with our house churches. There are always going to be controversies and differences of opinion. The only real question is, “how will these matters be dealt with?” In the churches that I have been acquainted with up to now have had little in common with a real living church. There are just to many llies, envies, power struggles and other evils present. A clearly recognizable difference should be seen in the house churches.
1. Jesus Christ Himself is important and not our “confessions” or
A churches main priority must be to uphold the testimony of Jesus Christ. This has nothing to do with church membership. The house churches do not have a “common goal”, much rather a common focus and that is Jesus Christ. They belong to the body of Christ. They do not belong to the ecumenical movement where unity is the product at the cost of the truth.
2. There are to be no factions.
In I Cor. 11:19 it says:
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
A healthy house church will see this coming and the eminent divisions they bring. Though these divisions tend to separate the wheat from the chaff, individuals who are “chaff” will not hold out long in a house church.
In the case of those who separate themselves from churches and assemblies that are in the ecumenical movement, these are the ones wanting to hold fast to God’s Word.
It is the duty of shepherds to keep a house church free from those who would cause dissension.
3. A Christ-centered Fellowship
Since the New Testament days, being a Christian and having fellowship are inseparable. Gathering themselves unto Him, their fellowship has their exalted Lord at the center. Were it not for Him, they would often have stayed away from one another.
HE makes it possible that even the greatest social differences are overcomeable. Even the one to whom a lot has been forgiven, can find there place in Christian fellowship. This kind of fellowship was revolutionary in New Testament times. All barriers fall when we gather unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Thusly differences due to culture or status no longer represent grounds for separation. The apostle Paul testifies of this awesome fact. (See Gal 3:28, II Cor 5:16) Most importantly our priorities must be in the right places. Our faith, our lives and all of our thoughts must have Jesus Christ at the very center. When this is the case in each individual, then it will also be so in our house churches.
Christian fellowship is kept alive by God’s forgiveness and not by our own sympathies. To enter into fellowship in the house church we must keep in mind that we all come as forgiven sinners. (I Joh 1:7). If we simply come as sinners than we are no longer dealing with people, but with Jesus Christ, Himself. (Matt 18:20) Only whose who live by the power of forgiveness are truly able to have this kind of fellowship. Otherwise, true spiritual fellowship is not conceivable. It would look in our house churches like we see in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luk 18:10-13.
III. Worship services and meetingsUp until Phase C, brethren belonging to a house church should normally gather once or twice a month.
The following should be kept in mind:
There are brethren who are still members of another assembly. Either this church remains faithful to the Lord Jesus or they drift away toward the ecumenical movement. When this happens these brethren will need to separate themselves from these churches; at the very latest when they become registered and/or approved of by the State.
There are also brethren who do not belong to any kind of church or fellowship for whom the house church is their spiritual “home”. Naturally these brethren hope and long for more fellowship as they were spiritually starving. This, too, must be considered and changed.
Up until Phase C flexible solutions for the purpose of meetings must be found locally. These do not always have to gather in private homes. In times past, brethren in Russia gathered together for services in the forest.
Taking a walk together culminating in a worship service is a wonderful experience that can be highly recommended presently where the times are not precarious. One can discover new locations and other possibilities to gather. This is also a good and healthy event that children enjoy very much.
There are no limits to our creativity and imaginations when it comes to discovering alternative courses of action. Reports and stories of other Christians and how the deal, or have dealt with persecution can also be very helpful.
IV. DutiesIn all our undertakings in establishing the house churches, which will become the underground churches in the future, should not result in total seclusion. Raising our voices to proclaim the gospel remains our commission to be “light” and “salt” to this world. We cannot neglect the duties the Lord, Himself has given to us, whether these be on the mission field,or in ministering or serving our fellow man.
In addition, these times to come will make it necessary to consider the following functions as well:
1. Ministering to endangered brethren
Christians, who are wandering onto the broad path, need ministry along with those who are in danger of heeding false shepherds and prophets.
If it is a bitter truth that unbelievers will go to hell, how much more bitter for those who have known the truth and yet chose to remain upon the broad path. Even if other so-called Christians call us fanatics, fundamentalists and extremists, they at least can not accuse us of not warning them.
I this same manner the prophet, Jeremiah had difficulties in his standing before a godless king as a result of the prophets and priests who only had their own interests in mind.
A quote from a bible encyclopedia says this about Jeremiah:
“We see the banner of “faithfulness” flying over Jeremiahs works. For fifty years he called to repentance and preached of the coming judgement. He did not allow himself to become discouraged by ever present defeats nor by the sufferings of his people whose salvation he so fought for, as they were being brutally destroyed bit by bit. Although the things he warned about indeed came to pass, yet the people repeatedly chose to follow the false prophets versus him.
In not bringing upon them the complete judgement all at once, but by warning them with two deportations before their very eyes God, himself, showed his allegiance to Jeremiah. Despite all this the people still continued in their godless ways.“
In chapter 28, Jeremiah writes about the false prophet, Hananiah, whose proclamations of peace and security left the majority of the people with the impression that they could continue in their own self-righteous ways.
God did not just address sin in a general manner. He addressed sin very concretely.
Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? (Jer 7:9-10)
See also Jer 19:4 and 34:16)
The apostle Paul also worked with much travailed over the churches to prevent them from running after false shepherds.
In II Tim. 4:3 it says:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
This itself is no reason to stop speaking out. In all of Paul’s dealing, the motivating
factor was love. We read about this in II Cor 2:4:
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
This kind of love must also be visible in us. We should not condemn, but admonish and warn.
2. Continue to be the light and salt of the world
Once a brother wrote the following to me:
“We should do all we can to deter our government from allowing a surveillance society. This includes taking political actions as well. We do not want this to happen.”
Our efforts however cannot be interpreted as wanting to revolutionize the world by working a transformation in preparation of the Lord. Firstly, this is not God’s plan. Secondly it will not be possible to completely prevent the appearance of the Antichrist.
It must remain a goal to have brothers with the calling, who will continue to raise their voices to warn the world of God’s pending judgement and warn Christians of false teachings and their teachers as long as possible.
After entering Phase C, this kind of conduct will no longer be possible in.
V. An Example of an Existing House ChurchA brother wrote the following to me, and I want to use it as an example for Phases A and B. How things will look in Phase C is difficult to say. One can only surmise.
“We are a small, house church in Austria. We gather together every Sunday at nine o’clock for worship service, prayer and the breaking of bread. We are registered nowhere. As a result we have no friendship with the Alliance or the ecumenical movement. But very frequently we have new visitors; some of these remain with us for years. These meetings of 5 to a maximum of 14 people take place in our rented flat, which is fifty-six square meters large. (The house church should never be much larger than twenty people. Although in China they have house churches with up to 300 members and seem to have no problems. The church in Corinthians also seemed to have been larger. They were definitely not a state-registered church. Yet, these kind of large churches can present a danger. Author’s comments)
We minister in a region of about 160 kilometres with bible studies and other literature. We do everything in the strength that only God can give us, to minister to brethren who approach us, or those who we meet by God’s grace. (These being from various different churches.)
Thusly, Mennonites, freie-Brüdergemeinde (A denomination .Author’s comments) and so on, attend our bible studies. This kind of church is the Lord’s doing and it is a wonderful ministry. It is very refreshing to minister one to another, to go from house to house holding bible studies or to pass out literature.
We are not attempting to draw people to ourselves, much rather we attempt to establish small, local groups, who in turn gather in a similar fashion like we do. We continue to minister there as we are able, yet we want them to be self-sufficient in their the building of their church.
We think this is the easiest way to be prepared, should persecution arise.
We do not have a name nor do we consider ourselves “members” as such. But to be sure we are members of the body of Christ! We believe that the bible is the infallible Word of God. We only baptize believers (who do not become “members” as a result). We attempt to be as Christ oriented as possible.
In this manner we work together with various preachers and missionaries. We have noticed that most often we are just two or three being brought together. Even in large churches one still has only one neighbour on the left and one on the right. It seems that we generally have closer relationships with just two or three. Our future lies in the strength of this `three-fold´ cord.
It can be expected that those who are registered will slander and betray us because we are elusive and intangible.
All notes are in this Free-PDF-Dokument (434 KB)