Sunday, December 31, 2006

Home Based Fellowships ...

I have been giving this topic some thought recently after encountering a rather strong anti-church ideology on the CARM discussion board dealing with Home Fellowships. The gathering of Christians in a home setting has a history as long as Christianity itself with the saints gathering in homes for the breaking of bread and observance of the LORD's supper. There are groups today who gather in their homes for a myriad of purposes from cell group bible study to full praise and worship services. Oftentimes, these gatherings are driven by a theological unity among it's members that is felt to be lacking in mainstream churches. These fellowships over doctrinal issues have often resulted in denominations springing forth and growing into, ironically, the impetus for forming new smaller home fellowships. John Wesley and like minded souls seeking a return to a more methodical and dedicated witness and daily living began meeting in small groups with the hope of pursuing a reform of Anglican practices and focus. Today we have an assortment of Wesleyan influenced denominations that claim John Wesley's theological outlook as the basis for their existence. Ironically, the conservative Confessing Movement has taken the same approach Mr. Wesley took centuries earlier in an attempt to bring the United Methodist Church back to a more sure footing. I wish them the greatest success in doing so.

The Home Church or Fellowship certainly has a place in the body of Christ especially when saints find themselves in circumstances where a Calvary focused church fellowship is lacking. Persecuted Christians the world over have always gathered in small home settings and sometimes in secluded and secret places to avoid detection and harrassment. The Christians in Rome during the 1st and 2nd Centuries worshipped in the catacombs to avoid detection. The evidence of this remains today. Chinese Christians today as well as those in other Communist countries continue to worship is secret, small gatherings as do many Christians in Islamic dominated societies.

However, there is another element at work in the home church movement. It is a movement among an assortment of followers expressing a distrust of the organized church that is beginning to cause concern. I should really say it continues to cause concern for the problem has long been with us. Joseph Smith was one who rejected the organized church and out of his small gatherings grew the modern Mormon church today. Various other cult groups formed in a similar manner. The element on CARM that seems troublesome focuses on the organized church or incorporated church and rejects the office of pastor. The organized church or denomination is viewed as pagan and unscriptural yet examples and substantiation are sorely lacking. I have posed a couple of questions to which a suitable answer is not forthcoming. In particular I ask:

Please define "true fellowship" and indicate how the organized church is failing in that regard. How is your collection of timbers and sticks a better gathering of fellowship than your neighbor across the street?

While I am not a regular on that particular discusison board I am interested in where this discussion might go and will followup on any reasonable replies offered.