Thursday, May 22, 2008


My blog posts here and my weekly articles for the free, weekly e-newsletter [Subversive Underground] are often on subjects like house church, Constantine's influence on modern Christianity, and a need for us to return to the wisdom of Jesus and the values of the early Church concerning the poor, community, compassion and service.

A few days ago I posted an article here about how Paul the Apostle had a personal desire to work with his own hands and avoid placing a burden on the Church for his daily sustenance. This prompted an ongoing discussion about whether it was right or wrong for pastors to take a salary, or whether or not missionaries were wrong for asking for regular support for their work among the poor and the lost.

Often when I write about my personal experiences with House Church I receive negative feedback from those in the traditional church who take my exuberance for the simple way as an attack on their form of church.

Because these issues are sensitive, and due to the wide range of responses I receive, both wildly in favor of and militantly opposed to, let me take a moment to clarify what I'm about and why I continue to write the things I do.

One of the main reasons I continue to write about these things is to encourage those who may be, as I once was, in a place where they no longer feel that traditional church is scratching the itch they have to "be the Church" and live out their faith.

There was a time, just about four years ago, when the thoughts I had about what Church should look like felt radical and out of place to me. I was an on-staff pastor at a local church that my wife and I had helped to plant, yet deep inside I was uncomfortable with many of the things we did, and the reasons we did them. I felt confused and isolated as a result and it was only as I began to hear others share their misgivings - which echoed my own thoughts and convictions - did I realize that I wasn't alone in my thinking.

One of the reasons I continue to write about these issues, then, is to provide a testimony to others who may be in the same place I was a few years ago. They sense that there must be another way to do Church. They have thoughts and feelings that seem to conflict with what they see or hear on Sunday morning. They feel isolated and alone. They need to know that others within the Body of Christ have heard the exact same whisper of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They need someone to validate their convictions and bear witness to the thoughts and concerns that have resonated in their hearts for a long time.

This is why I continue to write about these things.

I do not write these things to start arguments or to convince traditional church-goers that they are "wrong" or to get people to agree with me. I don't even think it's possible for me to write something along these lines and convince someone who is happy with their mega-church or traditional church life to agree with me on these issues.

I am also not writing to slam anyone or to paint any other Christians as being evil or wrong or misguided in their choice of church. For many years I was part of traditional church, even operating as an on-staff pastor for much of that time, and I was blessed and filled and fed at those churches while I was there. Traditional church is not evil. It is not wrong. It is made up of people who have a sincere heart to love God, serve others and follow Jesus.

God loves the whole Body of Christ, and that includes those outside my denomination (if I had one), and inside the traditional church. Whether your church gathers under a tree, in a living room, in a gymn or inside a multi-million dollar facility, God still moves and His Kingdom is still advanced- no matter what pattern or philosophy of "doing" or "being" Church you might ascribe to.

The tightrope I often walk is between speaking the truth about what I've learned and experienced in house church without condemning those within the traditional church. It's not easy to do.

Still, I cannot keep silent about the good things I've experienced in house church. I have to share with others what is genuinely the most amazing expression of real, living, daily faith in Christ with others who have become my family in Christ. House church really is the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" on it. I cannot deny that and I cannot pretend it isn't true.

However, I also have to make sure that I affirm that God is at work in His entire Body. I might not personally find freedom or joy in the traditional model, but it doeesn't mean that others are being held back in their walk with Jesus by attending a traditional service. It's just not where I am right now.

My parents currently attend, and love, their mega-church in El Paso. I have two very good friends who are currently head pastors at traditional churches in Orange County. All of these churches are doing amazing Kingdom work preaching the Gospel, touching the poor, reaching out to the community and continuing the ministry of Jesus - many of them in ways our little house church could never duplicate.

So, please keep in mind, as I often have to do, that God loves the whole Church- every single form and expression of it, as much as He loves my particular form and expression of it.

I'm not sure I've really discovered yet how best to encourage those who are searching for something more like the house church without offending those in the traditional church. Bear with me in this. I am really trying to learn this every day.

Writing about the joy I've discovered in house church should be like the aroma of warm bread being pulled from the oven. This is my goal.


1 comment:

TheDHCosbyFam said...

Keith, just wanted to pop in and comment a bit, since this whole issue has been a big one on our hearts lately. We certainly understand the position of walking the "tight rope" when it comes to talking about the traditional church. While we totally hear you in that God IS indeed working through the mainline church, (since He never stops working...), and that it would be wrong to label it evil, we have come to the place where we don't see that as being the same as saying that something is still wrong. To acknowledge that droves of people happily attend their mega-churches every week and feel completely comfortable there does not mean that they are not in fact being hindered in their ability to be the body. While we too realize that expecting to just talk people out of the mainline church is not terribly realistic, doesn't mean that it's not worth saying. There are people ready to hear it. That's why you write. Not because it just works for you and others like you, but because there are some things that are just simply not right and need to be said. If it is never wrong for someone to be a "professional servant", then where do we ever draw a line? There is then no end to the need for christian "specialists" to come in and do for the church what God has eqipped us by His Spirit to do. We have really struggled with this whole question, whether it's mud-slinging to say anything concretely about the issues of money in the church, or if it's cowardice to say nothing. I know that you have take very courageousness steps in your life to follow the convictions on your heart put there by the Spirit, and that you also don't want to turn around and judge others who are in the same place you were. And even though it's almost guaranteed to get that negative response from people still in that place, there is a difference between attacking the people IN an unbiblical system, and revealing the system itself for what it is. You have been such an encouragement to us, and we felt we had to comment because we just sensed from this last post that you've been getting a lot of that finger-waving in your face lately. Keep the faith, you're not a bigot just because you tell the truth. We love you guys.

In Christ, Daniel & Heather