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December 26, 2008


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nicely articulate Mike.

Michael Foster

Thanks. I find it is easy to articulate sins I have been guilty of committing.

Jeremy Pryor

Michael, I completely agree with the flaw in this kind of thinking but I believe the root problem here is the same issue many institutional churches struggle with. We have told people the Bible presents no prescriptive ecclesiology to defend traditional structures and are shocked when that weapon gets pointed back on the institution via reductionism.

We are a people without any clear ecclesiology and from the missional church to the emergent church to the tradition church to the simplistic church we will continue to spawn reactions of reactions until we discover that Scripture actually does say many prescriptive things about church (your reference to elders and church discipline are just two examples).

Michael Foster

Jeremy, I agree. The pendulum swings both ways.

Stephen Murray

Great post Michael - completely agree. Here in South Africa there seems to be a small but significant surge of disenchanted Christians opting for the simple church route and in the process ending up with forms that really are no church at all. Some of the conversations I've had with dissolusione young people have been quite scary. I guess that's one of the reasons why we're so desperate to get our church plant on the ground. Not because we think we have all the answers but because we want to try and demonstrate, by God's grace, that we can achieve real Christian community whilst still retaining a fairly traditional (although tweaked here and there) ecclesiology.

Mike Edwards

If institutionalism is the end of one pendulum swing, would you say anarchism is the other end?

Michael Foster

That would seem to be the spectrum to me.

Anthony Adams

great post. We have been planting our house church here in the UK in the last few months, and trying to be firm in our definitions of who we are as 'church', while still keeping it intentionally very simple. But its so easy to overreact to the big cumbersome church structures some of us have moved on from. Helpful warning.

Michael Tinker

Thanks for this Michael - I'll be visiting your blog again soon!

Al Theron

Some good points, Michael. I think a caveat or two is in order, though. Sometimes a family is in a place spiritually where they need to very carefully assess their local church situation before they get involved. This might be because of bad experiences with a local church, new light from the Lord on what church is really all about, etc. Moreover,it is hard to find a solid church these days. Then there is also the matter of eldership. Paul told Titus in Titus 1:5 to appoint elders some time after they planted local churches. It follows that there were local churches without elders for a period of time. I agree, a church is not merely, but certainly primarily Christians-in-relationships. This is what the 'one another' texts are all about, isn't it? We have to add though that we're speaking of CHRISTIANS in relationships and Christians are people who have a relationship with the Father and the Son (1 Jn. 1:3; Jn. 17:3) and who love the Word of God (Jn. 8:31). I do agree, however, that elders, specific teaching, etc. should follow. This is what Spurgeon said about home fellowship:


C.H. Spurgeon

These first believers were in such a condition
that their homes were holy places. I beg you
to notice this, that they were breaking bread
from house to house, and did eat their food
with gladness and singleness of heart.
They did not think that religion was meant
only for Sundays, and for what men now-a-days
call the 'House of God'.
Their own houses were houses of God, and their
own meals were mixed and mingled with the
Lord's Supper. They elevated their meals into diets
for worship. They so consecrated everything with
prayer and praise that all around them was holiness
unto the Lord.
I wish our houses were thus dedicated to the Lord,
so that we worshipped God all the day long, and
made our dwellings temples for the living God.
Does God need a 'special house'?
He who made the heavens and the earth,
does he dwell in temples made with hands?
What crass ignorance is this!
No house beneath the sky is more holy than the
place where a Christian lives, and eats, and drinks,
and sleeps, and praises the Lord in all that he does.
There is no worship more heavenly than that which
is presented by holy families, devoted to his fear.
To sacrifice home worship to public worship
is a most evil course of action.
Morning and evening devotion in a cottage is infinitely
more pleasing in the sight of God than all the cathedral
pomp which delights the carnal eye and ear.
Every truly Christian household is a church, and
as such it is competent for the discharge of any
function of divine worship, whatever it may be.
Are we not all priests? Why do we need to call in
others to make devotion a performance? Let every
man be a priest in his own house.
Are you not all kings if you love the Lord? Then make
your houses palaces of joy and temples of holiness.
One reason why the early church had such a blessing
was because her members had such homes. When
we are like them we shall have "added to the church
daily of the saved."

Michael Foster

Al, thanks for the Spurgeon passage. This is the first I've come across it.

To your caveats...

1. I'm with you about families that have been injured by a church taking their time in committing themselves to another church. I've been in that place three times now. However, the flipside (there is always one) is that taking your time degrades into just plain rejection of your need for a gospel community.

2. Though local churches didn't immediately have indigenous eldership they did have the temporary "elder-like" oversight from an apostlic team until said local leadership was established. I find that it is all too common in the simpler church movement to completely reject an form of oversight from an elder or apostlic team.

Al Theron

I agree with you on both those points, Michael. I still feel one should not be too hasty to commit to another local church (one should be fully committed to love and fellowship with all believers in your locality, of course), but the danger of rejection of your need for a gospel community is a very real one. To the second point, the Bible today takes the place of apostolic oversight in that temporary situation, in my opinion. Still, there are far too many believers who use 'simple church' as an excuse for their unwillingness to submit from the heart to biblical leadership. I suppose the bottom line is that the Lord knows each one's heart and as long as we remain humble, teachable and interdependent on other believers He will lead us into true church life.

Aaron Marshall

Can someone tell me where the "Home Worship" By C.H. Spurgeon comes from?

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