Scriptural Church Life – Simple Churches in the Bible


    One of the best images of a House Church Network in the Bible is not found in the New Testament, but in the Old. We find it in Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law Moses, in
Exodus 18:13 – 26NIV; 13The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.” 17Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. 21But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” 24Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
<p> We have all seen mega-churches where one man wears himself out ministering to the flock. It is only when there is a leadership team that this can be avoided. When that team is operative at every level of church life and includes a good percentage of church members it leads to a dynamic of church life that is rarely seen otherwise.</p> <p> From the point of view of House Churches it is interesting to note that these judges acted with a large degree of autonomy. They decided when to bring problems to the apostolic / prophetic leaders. There was no pyramidical structure. Each judge related directly to the apostolic / prophetic leaders. Also there was a variety of sizes of groups to whom they ministered, 100’s, 50’s and 10’s. Whilst House Churches operate with small groups rarely exceeding 12 – 15 people, I feel that I have adequately demonstrated that individual Organic/House/Relational gatherings can be of any size, and that their size relates to the gifting of their leaders and other factors rather than to any arbitrary upper limit.  Another interesting point is that there were already other groupings in existence, in that everyone was already part of a tribe. Perhaps it would be helpful to see the connections laid out more clearly: </p>  

Organic/House/Relational gatherings  =  10’s, 50’s and 100’s

Congregation = Tribe

Celebration  =  People (of Israel)

  <p> Moving to the New Testament, we find that although the early Christians met centrally every day they also fellowshipped in each other’s homes, presumably in small groups.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (Acts 2:46NIV).
After Peter was released from prison it was natural for him to go to one of the known meeting places of the Church, and naturally there he found the church in action.
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. (Acts 12:12NIV)
In Caesarea too, we find Paul and Silas upon their release from prison, making their way to Lydia’s house, where the church met, so that the Brethren could help and encourage one another. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left. (Acts 16:40NIV). </p>    <p> When it comes to the question of various home based churches meeting in one town, we had better look at Rome for our evidence. We know that Paul whilst living in Rome encouraged people to fellowship in his house.
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.(Acts 28:30,31NIV).
But as well as this Paul in an earlier letter to the Romans gives us insight into at least 3 other churches meeting in Rome.
3Greet Priscilla£ and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5Greet also the church that meets at their house. ………….14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. (Acts 16:3-5,14&15NIV)
I am sure that these were just the tip of a very large iceberg.</p>   <p> Now lets look at the different types of Simple Churches  </p>  

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(taken from Organic House Churches and Healing Communities by Keith W. Smith. For a complete copy please contact the author) © 2000 Prof. Keith W. Smith Reprint by written permission only