Christianity 201

May 22, 2020

Getting Close to The Church of Acts

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
-Acts 5:42

House Churches

Mary’s:When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer” (Acts 12:12).

Lydia’s:When they [Paul and Silas] had come out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers, and then they left” (Acts 16:40).

Prisca and Aquila’s:Greet Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus…greet also the church at their house” (Romans 16:3,5).

Nympha’s:Give greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to Nympha and to the church in her house” (Colossians 4:15).

Philemon and Apphia’s:Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our beloved and our co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church at your house” (Philemon verses 1-2).

-condensed references; click here for full article at Franciscan Media.

This is our tenth time with John Fischer at The Catch. Click the title below for the full article:

Church, 2020

Think about the amount of trust in the Holy Spirit there had to be in the formation of the early church. Especially after the persecution scattered believers all over the region. Groups of believers were springing up everywhere. All of them were preaching the Good News about Jesus and people were being added daily to the faith. It would have been impossible to monitor all those groups. These were not Bible Study Cell Groups with a form of centralized leadership and a notebook and video for the host to follow. There was no curriculum. There was no New Testament, at least in the very beginning. Later on Paul would write his letters to the young churches, and I’m sure those were copied and passed around, but in the beginning the church was made up of informal groups of people meeting in homes, many of them separated from sanctioned leadership. And if the book of Acts says they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, that means there was an apostle there teaching them! Kid you not.

I have a feeling it was something like this that the Lord had in mind for the church all along — an organic group of people coming together to pray, share whatever they knew of the apostles’ teaching, eat together, meet each other’s needs, and remember the Lord’s death and resurrection until He returns. Buildings and budgets, bishops and bureaucracies were nowhere in the original plan. I know that sounds pretty loosey-goosey, but that’s why the Holy Spirit was holding it all together. They could feel the reality of the Holy Spirit. Is church a praise band and a sermon, or four or five people around a table at Starbucks? It may not necessarily be either one, but the one around the table is closer to the earliest model.

Marti has had numerous discipleship groups over the years and lately, she’s been able to do it over Google hangout on the Internet. I’ve walked in on the tail end of this a number of nights and I can tell you it’s the closest thing to church I know of. They are learning and growing, crying and laughing, and depending on the Holy Spirit through each other’s gifts. You can go to a megachurch and never have this. You can go to an ornate cathedral and never have this. This is why we’re looking again at the formation of the early church. It’s renewal time. It’s honesty time. It’s raw. It’s real time. It’s strip-down-to-the-basics time. It’s what we want. It’s what the millennials want, and I believe it’s what the Lord wanted all along. Whatever else we have that has come to be identified as “church” are the trappings of church we’ve created over the years — little of it biblical, much of it cultural and traditional. Even what we have on Sunday nights on Facebook is closer to the Acts church than what you can experience each week in a typical church service today. If you don’t need the Holy Spirit to hold it together, then it’s going to be held together by something else. Wouldn’t you rather have the Holy Spirit?

Church, 2020 is not going to be much different than Church, 31, and that’s the way it should be.

Bonus item: Here’s a classic John Fischer song, Righteous Man.

February 28, 2011

Christ-Centered Accountability

Sometimes I think I need to try harder to make this blog live up to its name. Then there are topics like this one, where I feel maybe this is more like Christianity 301 for some people. Stay with me here…

Tullian Tchividjian, who, not that it matters, is a grandson of Billy Graham; and who, it does matter, is the pastor of Florida’s prestigious Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has a couple of articles I want you to link to today.

The first one, on the surface of it anyway, looks at “accountability groups;” the kind of small group thing that Tullian says end up more focused on our sin than on our Savior.  In so doing, he says, they actually may be making people feel worse.

All the “good stuff” that is ours already in Christ settles at the bottom when we focus on ourselves more than Jesus (after all, Peter only began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on his performance). John Owen said, “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” And what is the gospel? Not my work for Jesus, but Jesus’ work for me…

He says that we need reminders, not rebukes; and we need to get away from the mentality that says we need to fix people.

What Paul did for the Colossians is what we all need our Christian brothers and sisters to do for us as well: remind me first of what’s been done, not what I must do. So, while rebukes are sometimes necessary, reminders are far more effective in the long run.

Take 3-4 minutes to read that article, in its entirety here.

Now, I’m sure that someone reading this is going to say, “But I’m a part of an accountability group, and it has been most helpful to us; and I’ve encouraged others to do the same.”

Tullian wasn’t knocking the groups per se, but rather the tendancy of some to move in a specific direction. But it caused quite a stir, and in the comments section he offered this clarification:

…It’s not accountability in general (I mention the friends and family that continue to help me grow) but the kind of accountability groups like the ones I specifically mentioned (believe it or not, these are much more commonplace than you may realize!) that end up being more of a hindrance to our growth, than they are a help. These groups foster the kind of guilt, legalism, narcissism and morbid introspection that are antithetical to growth in the gospel. It’s very telling, for instance, that in Galatians 5:4-5 the Apostle Paul describes falling from grace, not in terms of immorality or godless living, but legalism.

I call for accountability in this post, but a certain kind of accountability–the kind that forces us to reckon with the scandalous nature of God’s unconditional love for us because of Christ’s finished work on our behalf. I believe in the need to repent and to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).

I can personally attest to the tendency of certain groups to get off their original focus and away form their primary design.

Take 2-3 minutes to read the follow-up article on his blog.

Here’s a parallel observation that didn’t form part of his article, but which I believe applies here:

Lots of men (and some women) struggle with online addiction to websites with sexual content. Many groups work very hard to try to help such people wrestle themselves away from such internet locations. It’s not easy. But some take another approach and stress the character of God, in particular his omnipresence. The idea is that if you really, really, really believe that God is with you; that he is right next to you as you sit at your computer; you won’t go to those sites. This approach is effective for many people.

Even here it’s easy to remember the illustration and miss the point: That remembering the character and attributes of God is possibly more effective than simply calling on God’s power to help us break free of a controlling habit. The latter will work in many cases, but remembering the character of God gives us a greater reason to want to make a rapid life change.