Where did the Church Meet?
*This was originally a post on Facebook*
I probably see at least 10 memes a day I disagree with. I'm not talking about political memes, or just weird stuff, I'm talking about "Biblical" memes. Pictures people share that you can look at and read in 20 seconds or less, hit like, share, and think we’ve proven your case.
I usually just roll my eyes and keep scrolling. If I had to respond to everything I disagreed with on the internet, I wouldn't have a life. Sometimes I want to "correct the world," but then I remember, that's not possible. Sure, there are times when I see one that is accurate and clever, and I'll chuckle and say to myself, "that's right," and hit like.
A big problem though with this stuff is it desensitizes folks from studying. It's much easier to just scroll through Facebook, see something you like or agree with, do a 5 minute Google search (if that), share what you like, and then move on, acting like you are some kind of spiritual sleuth. It breeds laziness. Few spend a lot of time studying any more. People will even read a post like this one, get as far this point (maybe) and think, "Man, I ain't got time to read one of these long posts." That might be you right now. 😃
Anyhow... I ran across this picture the other day (shown below) that said, "Where did the church meet?" It listed 13 Bible verses, and out beside each of them said something about a house. I saw person after person sharing it, and then as I would read posts and comments under posts, I'd also see that folks acted like... "das it." Believe these house verses or you're just in bondage to organized religion. There was also the tendency to think that coming together in a house just meant everyone gets equal say, we all get to take turns teaching, and there's a warm, cozy feeling that comes along with that.
I have been involved in home fellowships before, and I've been to some good ones. *I don't believe there is anything wrong with a fellowship of believers meeting in a home on Sabbath.* But I also don't believe there's anything wrong with a fellowship of believers meeting in a synagogue, or a "church building," or a rented room at a hotel, or under an oak tree.
What “got my goat” right from the start was how this picture presented home fellowship as the only place the "church" (early fellowship of believers in the NT) met. As a matter of fact, the very first scripture cited on the picture, Acts 2:46, says that the early believers met *at the Temple.* It says, "And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together *in the temple complex,* and broke bread from house to house." The picture below just says "Acts 2:46... 'house to house,'" and leaves it at that.
When Yeshua walked the earth, his custom was to go to the synagogue on Sabbath (Luke 4:16). That doesn't mean he didn't go into homes and minister to people, sharing the scriptures with them, but it does mean that when Sabbath came, his custom (habit, manner, that which he was used to doing) was to enter a place of worship and participate in the prayers, readings, listen to the teachings, sing psalms, etc. Someone might argue, "Well, synagogue just means an assembly of people." They are wrong. That is not what synagogue "just means."
Matthew 4:23 says that Yeshua taught "*in* their synagogues," (also Matthew 9:35; 13:54). Mark 1:21 says he *entered into* the synagogue and taught. That's talking about a place of worship; a place specifically built for people to come to on Sabbath and fellowship under the banner of the Almighty. Time and time again you find verses like this in the gospels. Just do a search on the word synagogue and synagogues in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
An interesting verse I found while I was teaching through Luke's gospel was Luke 7:5. This verse speaks of a well known centurion, know among the Jewish people of that area and time, building a synagogue for true worship. The people told Yeshua that the centurion "loves our nation and has *built* us a synagogue." That's a building folks, and the construction of it (financing) was looked upon as a prestigious act.
There's another verse that gets overlooked due to its English translation, James 2:2. James speaks of a man coming into a meeting (HCSB) or assembly (KJV), but the Greek word is synagogue (sunagoge). James is here writing to believers in the Messiah (1:1). (Acts 22:19 and 26:11 mentions that Saul of Tarsus, prior to his conversion, persecuted those in the synagogues who believed in Yeshua as the promised Messiah.)
Acts 15:21 is another one. Long story short: the new, Gentile converts to faith in Messiah were placed under four basic guidelines after their acceptance of Yeshua, because as they attended synagogue service, they'd hear the rest of the law of Moses taught, and they'd grow in grace and knowledge in time.
See, all this got left out of the picture below, and therefore the picture was misleading in its content. But this is not the only misleading content in the picture.
Another problem is that the first 9 verses in the picture don't even talk about home fellowships; only the last 4 verses. See, the first 9 verses in the picture only speak of people's homes. They say zero about people holding a Sabbath service or holy convocation inside of a home. In other words, those 9 verses are NOT about "house churches."
Acts 2:46 just mentions believers sharing meals in different homes. I'm sure they were talking Scripture, just like I do just about every time I sit down for a meal, but the verse isn't about a "house church." Acts 5:42 is speaking of the Apostles of Yeshua proclaiming the gospel at the Temple and in various homes; no "house church." Acts 8:3 just mentions Saul of Tarsus dragging people out of their homes; people who believed in Yeshua. When it says "Saul was ravaging the church," that's a text that shows the church is more than a place of worship - it is the people. That doesn't mean a church has to be less than a place of worship, it just shows that it is more than a place. You can have a place but no people. It is the people who are primary in making up the church.
Moving on, Acts 10:2 just says Cornelius feared the Almighty with all his house. Nothing about a "house church." Acts 12:12 mentions the house of Mary mother of John Mark, and it says people had gathered there to pray. They were there praying because Peter had been thrown into prison; nothing about a "house church." Acts 16:32 just mentions Paul and Silas sharing the gospel with a jailer and all his house, speaking of his family. Acts 16:40 just mentions Paul and Silas going to Lydia's house to encourage some brothers. Acts 18:7 just mentions in passing Titius Justus' house, and then goes on to mention that his house was next door to *the synagogue,* i.e. place of worship. Acts 20:20 mentions that Paul taught in public and from house to house.
Not a single one of these verses I've just mentioned, the first 9 verses on the picture below, talk about a "house church." Someone may say, "Well, the last 4 verses do," and that is true and fine. Just put those last 4 verses on the pic. Why in the world would we want to manipulate 9 other verses, and then write nothing about the synagogues of the first century, and then share that pic? Here's why: people love tradition more than the Scriptures. That's the hard truth, and it's not just the "Christian Church" or "Christianity," it's also the “Hebrew Roots, Torah Observant followers of the Way.” People as a whole are more content to peddle something they think or like than they are to do the hard work of diligent study and research in the Scriptures.
This is why that picture will probably continue to get shared on Facebook and other social media outlets, but a more lengthy, detailed post like this will not. We are lazy, stubborn, and don't want to work hard; in the natural or the spiritual.
Ok, let me deal with something else. I believe the picture is also misleading in intent. I think most people sharing this pic do not like organized, structured church. I know this, because I’ve been in this “Torah movement” since 1997, and I’ve met and talked to hundreds (maybe over a thousand or more) people who have been hurt or let down by Christian churches who have turned into a business rather than a genuine place of prayer, worship, teaching, family of faith, etc.
Listen to me: I understand the hurt. I’ve been there. I’ve seen behind the scenes. I’ve heard pastors say they are running a business. I’ve listened to sermons that had little to no scripture in them, and what verse where there were taken out of context. I’ve watched people get stabbed in the back. I’ve watched people care more about their name than the name of Messiah. I’ve seen preachers live lavish lifestyles while congregants have little, or can’t pay a light bill. I’m with you. All of that is garbage. I don’t want any part of that.
But... don’t let the misuse of something turn you away from it’s proper use. People do this all the time in various ways. They’ll see something abused, and they’ll forget there is a proper use of that something, and get as far away from it altogether as possible. It’s like being bitten by a dog, and then you never want anything to do with dogs. Or being involved in an abusive marriage, so you think all marriages are trash. You shouldn’t operate like that. Just because you’ve been in a bad church doesn’t mean there aren’t any good, organized, structured churches.
The NT not only teaches about a place of worship (synagogue), but it also teaches about structure, order, and leadership. It’s not just a free for all. It’s not everything goes, or “we just do what the ‘spirit’ leads us to do.” No, no, no, that’s not taught in the Bible, but that is the mentality of the majority of people who only promote “home church.” They’ve had bad experiences, so they want to try something different, even if it means plucking a few verses out of the NT about church in someone’s home, and then forming a way to do church differently. I think a lot of times the intentions are good, but it ends up being more of a reaction to an abuse rather than a, "let's look at the Scriptures and see what a NT church should look like."
Acts 14:23 mentions that Paul and Barnabus appointed elders in every church they planted. An elder refers to a leader. An older man who is seasoned in the faith, and meets the qualifications listed for an elder in both Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. In the list of qualifications, Paul speaks of man *managing his own household,* and then likens it to how this same man will be able to *manage the church* (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Paul also mentions that his directives were to appoint elders in every town, and he calls the elders overseers and managers (Titus 1:7).
When there was a dispute among the early church, the *apostles and elders* met and discussed (Acts 15:1-2, 6). Towards the end of the discussion, Peter spoke up, and then James settled the matter (15:7-21). Acts 16:4 mentions the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. There wasn't a free for all where everyone got to decide what was to be done. It was trusted, qualified elders who made those decisions. I guess someone could have stood up and tried to rebuke James and Peter, but they would have been in the wrong.
Acts 20:17 mentions that Paul sent for the elders of the church. 1 Timothy 5:17 mentions the elders that rule well, and it even goes on to say that they are worthy of ample honorarium, which is double financial support to what the genuine widows are receiving, because the elders labor in word and doctrine, or work hard at teaching and preaching. James 5:14 mentions calling for the elders of the church to pray over one who is sick or weak. 1 Peter 5:1-4 is an exhortation for the elders of the church to feed the flock, take oversight, and not do so out of greed for money or a desire to lord over people, but to set a righteous example for them.
There is also 1 Corinthians 14 which mentions that everything in the church should be done decently and in order (14:40). The context deals with the proper use of the gifts and talents inside the church.
I didn't mean for this post to be this long, lol... but I had to touch on these matters, because I think so many in the Torah Observant movement ignore them. They have a lone ranger mentality that thinks, "I can just stay home and read my Bible and that is my church." Others may meet with a few people on Sabbath, and don't get me wrong, that is great, but they then look down upon structured, organized church in a building other than a home. Again, I get that this stems from seeing abuse, but there are places that do it right rather than wrong.
I'll close with this. I am still learning, and I do not claim to be without fault, but I have been an elder in a congregation now for over 10 years. I'm not the sole elder. We have two other brothers who help teach, lead, and guide, and another elder who leads and guides more in a one-on-one teaching capacity. We don't always agree, and everything is not seamless, but we shepherd a flock of people. We gather weekly to pray together, read together, sing together, and then actually study the Bible. I teach through books of the Bible, or do multiple sermons on certain topics. Another brother does the same. Then we have a brother who teaches in more of an encouraging, edifying way, and that is good, because we need balance. It can't all be dotting i's and crossing t's. We have to have doctrine *and* encouragement. We have to laugh *and* cry. We have to study *and* be encouraged.
We also have a testimony or prayer request "service" after the teaching, where people can share what's on their heart, ask a question, give a prayer request, etc. Sometimes it's therapy. Sometimes people cry as they share. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes we open the Bible back up and discuss what's been taught. Sometimes we debate back and forth. All of this is healthy.
This can be done in a home or in a synagogue. I don't look down on "house church," so long as the Biblical guidelines are followed. But please don't look down on or believe that holding meetings in a "church building" or synagogue is bad or second class. Having leadership is not bad. There is such a thing as good men who lead in gentleness and by example, with a light yoke (like Messiah; Matthew 11:28-30).
I believe that structured, organized, weekly fellowship is so important, that if you live somewhere where you don't have this, you should seriously think about doing some research online and move to a place where you can have this. Praise Yahweh we have technology today whereby we can fellowship across a computer screen, but you can't hug a computer screen. You can’t sit down and have coffee, and reach out and shake hands over a computer. You can't really get to know someone unless you spend personal time with them. Being around someone for an extended period of time causes you to get to know the real person, and build community. And you really shouldn't trust a man or his message until you examine his life. That verse from 1 Timothy 3:4-5 shows this.
I realize some people can't move or re-locate. I realize some people are elderly and not very mobile. Some people are locked in financially. In these cases, I will tell you what I would do. I would find a small, local church that had good leadership, and I would join. And I wouldn't join to try to stir up trouble, I would join to add grace, joy, and knowledge to that fellowship. I would see where ministry was needed, if needed. I'd offer my gifts and talents to the church. I'd help out whenever and with whatever I could. I'd get to know everyone there. I wouldn't beat people over the head about Christmas or pork. Some of y'all need to read that last line about 10 times. I would just serve the church, and as time and Yahweh allowed, I'd share with the pastor or elders, the things that I believe Scripture teaches and emphasizes. And I'd share with patience, because goodness knows Yahweh has been oh so patient with me. I would do all of this, because I believe so strongly in local, weekly (and beyond) fellowship.
Anyhow... this is why I just scroll past most memes or pictures I don't agree with, lol. I don't have time to write posts like this every day. But sometimes, I just can't take falsehood being shared over and over again. I love the truth too much.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.