Church Houses or House Churches?
May 10, 2007
When God first "organized" His people into a Kingdom, it was at Mount Sinai under Moses. There God gave the people a great revelation in Exodus 19:6, "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" [goy, "people or nation"].
This was not a reference to a soon-coming hierarchy of leaders, but to the people themselves.
It was not a reference to a special class of chosen people who would be above the others in the nation, but to all the people in the nation.
It has been the plan of God from the start to empower the little people, rather than to create a category of big people to control the little people. The people did not understand this, because it is part of human nature to want control over others, and it is equally a part of human nature to want someone to take responsibility for us.
The first problem manifested in Exodus 20:19, after the 10th Commandment was spoken:
"Then they said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself, and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die'."
The people thus manifested their heart-desire for someone to be responsible to hear God on their behalf. The people wanted to hear from Moses what God had told him, but did not want to hear God for themselves. This has been the major problem to the present time in the Church. Church leaders often demand that the people believe what they (the leaders) believe they have heard from God, and all little people who differ (without repenting) are excommunicated or disciplined.
The right to hear God for one's self has been removed from the individual in the interest of "Church Unity." That is the spirit of denominationalism today.
The other side of the problem is found in the Korah rebellion in Numbers 16:3,
"And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone far enough, for ALL THE CONGREGATION ARE HOLY, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly [kahal, "church"] of the Lord?'"
What Korah said was actually true, except for the self-exaltation part, but he failed to recognize that God does have callings that give people spiritual authority. That spiritual authority was not to be used to put men in subjection, but an empowerment to set men free. Authority means being called to serve or minister to others. The greatest in the Kingdom is the greatest servant, Jesus tells us.
So when challenged, Moses did not beat Korah into subjection, but let God show the people who was truly called to lead the people. Many leaders today would not be so "meek," for they take offense at anyone who challenges their authority. People have been burned at the stake for doing that.
The fact is, when God truly speaks to someone--anyone--there is a corresponding level of authority and empowerment that comes with that word. That person becomes the "leader" for the moment. All should listen carefully and respond to the word of the Lord in that person, regardless of how "little" the person is in the eyes of men.
This is what God meant when He said He was calling out a kingdom of priests. This is what Moses meant when he said in Num. 11:29, "Would that ALL the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!"
The essential truth is that we should not follow men, but should rather follow the Word that comes to us or THROUGH others. It is a subtle distinction, and this is only possible when one develops the ability to hear God. There are some who can hear the word only through the religious hierarchy; and there are others who refuse to hear any word that comes through others. Both are wrong, for God does not give any one person the entire revelation. He has distributed it through many people, so that we do not become islands unto ourselves, but learn to function as a body of people.
In the days of Samuel, the people demanded a king by the same spirit that had caused them to send Moses up the mount alone to hear God. The people abdicated their responsibility to hear God for themselves. King Saul was crowned on the day of wheat harvest (Pentecost), and he became the primary type of the Church in its Pentecostal anointing.
Years later, by the second century A.D. the Christians under Pentecost began to demand a king (priest) to rule over them. There was nothing wrong with having elders and bishops and priests to lead the people, but when these men began to demand subservience from the common people, it manifested the Saul problem. When the leadership usurped the calling of all the people to hear from God, insisting that their own revelation was superior to that of the average person, it became a problem.
Now, keep in mind, I understand the temptation to set up a spiritual hierarchy. People can be quite deaf to God's voice. Others can get plenty of bogus revelation. That has always been a problem, and it tends to destroy unity. Everyone would end up with a different belief system, and this does lead to chaos. But the solution is not to set up a hierarchy. The solution is to work with them so that they learn to hear God's voice properly.
The Church, however, made Unity a top priority, and the quickest way to attain unity was to put a stop to all competing views--by force, if necessary. Love was soon sacrificed on the altar of Unity. Organization and Unity were thus maintained by force and by removing from the common people the right to hear God for themselves.
If the goal is to have a big organization that is unified in its doctrinal views, then CONTROL is the way to do it. But if we recognize and accept the leavened nature of Pentecost, and know ahead of time that a full revelation of God is not possible apart from Tabernacles, then we would not be disappointed when we see chaos in the Church. We would view this chaos as an opportunity to find those who truly have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. Those with ears to hear will always be in a minority during the Age of Pentecost, but at least everyone would have opportunity to explore different views and to see by experience how most of those other views lead to a dead end.
The solution is not to elect one man and then force everyone to accept his revelation as if his were the perfect revelation. To do so would mean that no one would be allowed to go beyond the revelation of the founding prophet, or to hear what the Spirit is saying TODAY in the progressive revelation of history.
Hence, we see a core difference between the denominational Church house-building/organization and the House Church movement. The one is rooted in political control over people's ability to hear God freely; the other allows freedom for all to hear God within a group setting by which the body itself can make corrections, alterations, or additions to the revelation of any individual person.
If the fruit of the Spirit is manifested within the body, then each will have not only Love, but also a spirit of meekness--humility, teachability, correctability. If someone's heart is not right with God, the gifts of the Spirit could come into operation to expose the hearts of men, not merely by one great leader, but by ALL.
"But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by ALL, he is called to account by ALL; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you." (1 Cor. 14:24, 25)
Ideally, this is how it should work, and I believe this is where we are now heading.
This is the first part of a series titled "Church House or House Church?" To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones