Most people’s idea of ‘church’ involves going to a church building, usually on a Sunday, and sitting in the audience while maybe a few paid professionals control the meeting, in line with the programme or Order of Service handed out when entering the building. The audience or congregation then listen to one person speaking, usually from the word of God, a Worship Leader encourages everyone to sing, and an offering is taken at the end to pay for it all.
There are, however, a growing number of Christians who have become dissatisfied with this way of doing things, Christians who are seeking real Holy Spirit led fellowship, based on relationships, with Jesus at the centre, and none of the control that is an inevitable result of the institutionalised church.The Lord is drawing these Christians together in small groups all around the U.K. and further a field, in a return to the New Covenant way of doing ‘church’ as described in Acts 2
‘And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.’ Acts 2:42-47
Most Christians would agree that the ‘church’ is not the building, rather it is ‘the people’, ‘ekklesia’ in the Greek which literally means, ‘the assembly of called out ones’ but what about how we do church today?
Well, like it or like it not, the truth is that the traditional institutionalised church we have today is based on the Old Testament and has no basis at all on the church as practised by the early Christians under the New Covenant.
THE NEW COVENANT CHURCH
Now let us look more closely at the Bible, in particular the Book of Acts when the Christian church was birthed to see how it was all meant to be. We can see that there four patterns to the New Covenant church.
1. Everyone sought the Lord’s will and decisions were made by the collective body of believers (see Acts 6: 1-6). I can find no Biblical model in the New Testament church of one man in charge and the word ‘Pastor’ is not used in Acts even once. Paul did teach the appointment of Elders and Deacons (1 Tim.3, Titus 1) but these were not in charge, they were the more mature Christians who would advise and guide the church, leading by example, training and instructing the immature. They were shepherds and overseers.
2. Churches met in houses (Acts 2:46, 20:20, Romans 16:5). They were therefore small in number meaning that there were lots of little churches as opposed to having a smaller number of larger churches.
3. When the church met all were involved, it was participatory and open.
‘How is it then, bretheren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying’. 1 Cor. 14:26
There were no programmes or Order of Service and no one person was leading. The people sat in a circle facing each other and the meeting was spontaneous under the guiding of the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to read to the end of chapter 14 to verse 37 in particular where Paul tells us that, ‘the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord’.
4. The early church ate meals together when they met. The Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 10:21), Lord’s Supper and Love Feast are mentioned in the New Testament and are all about eating a meal together – with a loaf and a cup, in remembrance of Jesus and His sacrifice for us.
NEW COVENANT CHURCH V OLD TESTAMENT CHURCH
In Old Testament (O.T.) times the people gathered in sanctified buildings, as God actually lived in the tent or building (Exodus 29: 42-46, Psalm 26:8, 1 Kings:8). The New Testament (N.T.) however tells us plainly that God no longer dwells in buildings made by hands, His people are the building.
‘God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made by hands.’ Acts 17:24
‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.’ 1 Cor. 3:16
‘What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.’ 1 Cor. 6:19
In O.T. times ordained priests, namely the Levites, had to carry out certain priestly duties, but under the New Covenant every believer is a priest.
‘But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation .’ 1 Peter 2:9
and every believer is ordained.‘
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.’ John 15:16
This shows us that the distinction we have today between laity and clergy is not for New Covenant believers at all!
In O.T. times people were commanded to pay tithes and offerings, under threat of a curse from God if not given (see Malachi 3:8-9). Many present day church leaders use these and other O.T. verses to ‘persuade’ members to tithe but it really must be remembered that the verses in Malachi 3 are not meant for New Covenant Christians – they are spoken to Jewish believers who were under Mosaic law, from which Jesus has set Christians free.
‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.’ Galatians 5:1
Jesus became a curse for us so that we were not cursed. He delivered us from the Law – all of it!!
‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, CURSED IS EVERY ONE THAT HANGETH ON A TREE.’ Galatians 3:13
‘Then said he, Lo I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’ Hebrews 10:9-10
Hallelujah! The blood of Jesus shed under the New Covenant nullifies the Law of Moses and sets us free!
It has been estimated that as much as 80% of all tithes and offerings in some churches are used to pay for buildings and salaries.
In contrast to the O.T. system of tithes and offerings, paying salaries etc., Paul laboured with his own hands and, ‘coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.’ Acts 20:33
All of this does not mean that we are not to give in the N.T. church. Acts 2:45 shows that believers sold their possessions to help the needy, and we are told to give cheerfully, whatever we purpose in our hearts to give. (2 Cor. 9:7) for the want of the saints (2 Cor. 9:12) and the poor.
NEW COVENANT HOUSE CHURCH IS NOT THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH TRANSPLANTED IN THE HOME.
In the real Biblical New Covenant church we wait on the Lord. We don’t have programmes or Order of Service – we let the Holy Spirit lead.
It is important not to gather around preachers or doctrines, but to gather around Jesus. True doctrine comes from Scripture and the Holy Spirit, not men’s ideas.
Jesus is the absolute Head of the church – if He is not, there is no power! We worship Him! We listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us! We love, edify, encourage and build each other up as we develop and strengthen relationships with God and each other.
House church is simple but very real! We can have more of the Spirit filled life and church as it was at the birth of Christianity, i.e. Spirit led, relational, in houses, and all involved, rather than the audience style of church that has evolved today.
If like me you have yearned for a church based on Acts 2:42-47 then please get in touch with me.