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December 10, 2011

Disappearance of the Visible Church

By Victoria Day

Throughout the years I’ve seen Christian fads come and go.  I was perplexed by the Prayer of Jabez because I knew many were taking this and using it as a magical formula to gain riches.  I was dismayed at the enormous positive response of the Christian community toward an obviously unscriptural movie such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion.  I stood my ground on the rebirth of the Jewish gematria under the guise of “bible codes.”  Now we have a very divisive and destructive weapon against community churches.  The threat comes from the house church movement.  Yet another “divide and conquer” strategy of the enemy that may have dire consequences if left unchallenged.

As the wife of a pastor, I have carefully assessed the home church phenomena. If truth be told, before I was married, I have many times felt alienated in churches I have attended because of my differences over doctrine or dissatisfaction over minor points. Discouragement caused me to abandon the institutional church for periods of time. However, I understand clearly now why it is necessary for us to maintain our support for the visible church.

Abandoning our local church is not the answer. I have heard many disparaging remarks from proponents of the house church movement toward saints who want to attend them and frankly, I find it hypocritical to judge faithful brother and sisters in Christ who seek to please the Lord in this way. These people are believers working out their salvation with fear and trembling as are the house churchers, but I believe the house churchers are deceived.

Ask yourselves – who would like to see God’s visible local church disappear? SATAN! The tactic is to divide and conquer. Without the local presence of the Christian church, the local symbolism of the cross that draws the soul weary would also disappear! Where would a lone Christian go to worship? Where would a non-believer touched by the Holy Spirit in repentance turn to for answers? Certainly not a home church! I recognize that the early church did meet in homes of the wealthy, but also in the catacombs during times of persecution. In times of refreshing, they founded places of worship similar to Jewish temples. These “buildings” now served as places of Christian assembly that attracted more converts. The visibility of God’s church was a blessing in a pagan society.

Meeting in a building is a privilege. In other countries, the church must go underground to worship because of persecution of Christians. What’s our excuse? Have we in this country become so deceived that we think all churches are in apostasy? I know many are, but I can testify that if one looks hard enough one can still find a faithful pastor and a loving congregation that follows Christ and is pleasing to God. What I believe we may be seeing now is “the great falling away” of Thessalonians 2:3. The church is hurting, pews are empty, doors are closing, because people want to do it “their way” and abandon, not the building, but ultimately the people of the congregation. And this is God’s will?

Neither home churches nor community churches are perfect and both can have similar problems. Scripture tells us that the same problems existed in the early church as we have today. We are to assemble together and work on spiritual growth together and it is easier to do so within the biblical structure of church guidelines God provided in His Word.

I truly believe that the home church movement is a great deception and it is selfishly working against the visiblechurchofGod. If it continues, Satan and the New Agers will get their way: the visible church will become a rare sight in our communities and the symbol of the cross, that comforting emblem of God’s ultimate gift, will eventually disappear. Are you who abandon the visible church instead of blessing it willing to accept the responsibility for this?

Another point not usually considered is that most (almost all) “house churches” are started by disgruntled church goers. Did God really call them to the ministry? In my experience, I doubt it. It is more of an “I can do it better” attitude that doesn’t follow scriptural guidelines. Many have been dismissed from teaching positions in their churches (ex: false teacher Harold Kamping). Many compromise on issues of baptism and, of course, God’s appointments (pastors, evangelists, etc.)

That said, I’m sure there are rare cases where God actually calls someone to start a church that is open to the community of believers, but to say that all others are in apostasy is divisive and completely wrong. Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

My suggestions?

Home churchers:  Wake up.  Find a good bible believing church in your area, and work on building up the Body, rather than unwittingly being a contributor to their ultimate demise.  If  you have concerns over doctrine – speak to the pastor, armed with scripture.  Remember that disagreements on non-essentials is not a cause to leave.  If so, you are being led, not by Jesus, but by pride.

Scripturally sound pastors:  Pride can be the greatest stumbling block for pastors.  Encourage open communication regarding scripture.  Listen to your flock.  You will be held accountable for their “soul conditions.”

May God strengthen us as we obey His command:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

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