As a pastor’s son and also as a full-time worker in ministries and congregations for much of my early years of life, I never questioned many of these matters that I am about to address; however, after several life-changing events and with insight into the character of so-called “spiritual leaders” and actions that I witnessed in the “back corridors” of ministries, I began to research the Scriptures regarding what my responsibilities really are as a follower of Christ and to question much of what had been previously taught. I began to discover that much of what I was expected to do was not mandated in Scripture and much of what Scripture did mandate was not being performed by the typical congregation. How did the early believer’s model of Christianity compare or differ from today’s version? How is Christianity different from “church-ianity”?
First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX
Another reason that I have a difficult time letting this “sleeping dog lie” is because not only is the integrity of the Scriptural model at stake, but I also saw how believers have never fully rid themselves of the “remnants of Rome” after they left the spiritual and intellectual dungeons of Romanism. Rome’s false traditions were so ingrained in even the early Reformers that it has taken centuries to see through some of her false practices. Even today, many more traditions continue in even the most conservative of denominations and congregations. Furthermore, I also see an excellent opportunity for the people of GOD to benefit from the following Scriptural model which I have learned from much study. How can these truths help? A practical example would be the financial benefits. For example, I know of a congregation in another state who is building a “church campus” to the tune of $9 million in order to replace their perfectly fine $3 million building.
Even more disconcerting is the report of Pastor Robert Jeffress, who stood strong for the LORD during the entire “Tebow controversy”, who is reportedly spending $130 million on a new “church campus”. Imagine all the Gospel work that could be done with that much money as you read the following article. Imagine how many scholarships to private Christian schools could be granted to children who have never heard the Gospel. Imagine how many community venues could have been created or how many movies could have been produced or how many Gospel efforts could have been funded through the same money such as ministries like the audio Bible ministry at this link which is seeking to get the Bible into every known language in the world within our generation, including those who may not be able to read. Then “Google” the net and you’ll see what most news outlets are saying about the extravagance displayed by Pastor Jeffress. Pastor Jeffress, who seems like a fairly conservative individual, is not alone. Many other pastors are doing the same. Think of the billions and perhaps trillions of dollars that could be used for the true Mission of Christ.
Is GOD pleased? How about those fellow believers who are gunned down in their villages or burned alive? How about the story that I heard from someone I know who told how overseas believers were pushed out of their village into the woods to forage for food, because of their beliefs? Would you like to see your daughter or son foraging for food in the woods? Do we have compassion on these people with our money or should we spend our money on a beautiful cathedral, basketball team jerseys, trips to Disney, or church carnivals instead? How about the recent reports of persecuted pastors in other countries who could receive advocacy through financial support if money was better spent in the United States by the believers who live lavishly and without conscience? Could we not have created more advocacy groups to work on their behalf? How many go without food, which we could provide, due to their faith?
Did early believers:
- Go to “church” every Sunday, meet in houses daily, or not assemble at all?
- Take inspiring trips to Disney together or read spiritual philosophy books?
- Have multiple fun activities for youth and adults?
- Assemble in synagogues, houses, markets, cathedrals, tents, or theaters?
- Worship in a large cathedral with lectures, concerts, and liturgy?
- Have multiple services such as Sunday School, prayer and revival services?
- Care for the saints financially? Or “feed the world” in a socialistic sense?
- Use the term “church” from pagan origin? Use the term “ekklesia” as we do?
- Exalt their elder as a lord over the congregation? Or was he just a shepherd?
- Turn the world upside down by having hot dog socials in their cathedrals?
- Conform to the appearance of the lost world around them and their appetites?
- Wear ties and three-piece suits to large cathedrals?
- Wear short-shorts to cathedrals while bopping to the tunes of enchanters?
- Are we not all called to be “full-time ministry workers”?
- Are elders and deacons given specific duties and qualifications to fulfill?
Some pastors want to change everything today. Others think that change is not good. Some consider things today to be “good change”. The key is the Scriptural teachings on these matters. So what does the Bible say about early believers and the practices of Jesus, His apostles, and the early disciples? As a boy, I remember my dad’s old vinyl record playing a funny song by a Southern Baptist minister of music who sang about the massive variety of ways they had tried to train their workers to “soul win”, but the members still wouldn’t do it. Let’s learn from Scripture how early believers turned the world upside down.
One major key is a congregation who is so filled with the Spirit and prayer that they are able to love others in a sacrificial way (they go without their large cathedral, house or expensive car so they have the funds to help accomplish the Gospel mission, the financial aid of saints, and charity to the disabled instead). They live closely with one another and collaborate as brothers and sisters (not just at the cathedral where they attend) all week long. Once the Spirit moves, we will easily reach the world for Christ; however, without the congregation of GOD living holy, praying together until the power of the Spirit rests upon them, and being filled with the Spirit of GOD, no mountain of “soul winning” programs or messages on the Mission will prevail. Yet we must still organize. The early believers were organized and set out to reach the world in a methodical, geographical way. Is not the Holy Spirit the essential key? Is that not what Jesus said?
Act 1:8 “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Act 17:6 “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also …”
So the Spirit is the essential key in how the early believers “turned the world upside down” without the wealth or technology that we have today. The Spirit brought holiness and sound doctrine; whereas, unity was the by-product. The Spirit’s work was not some two week “revival” of emotion, likened unto a New Year’s resolution. Instead, it was daily … every second of every minute of every day, with their clothes, their habits, their books, their entertainment or lack thereof, their praying, and their studying, memorizing, and sharing the Word. Today, modern church goers “unite” together by corrupting doctrine and lowering standards, but they are still struggling to get the Gospel to the whole world with all their money and modern technology, but early believers reached much of the world in a small span of time. What did the early believers model look like? As stated previously, the filling of the Spirit was key, but let us look at some other factors. Have you ever asked the Spirit to come within you? Furthermore, if you already have repented of your sin, trusted Jesus for salvation by faith, and received the Holy Spirit, we must continue to ask the Spirit to fill us, because being filled by the Spirit is a daily necessity since we’re “leaky vessels” as Ephesians 5:18 states:
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” - Ephesians 5:18
One of the most amazing transformations that I ever saw in my life was when I prayed the following prayer. It was as though the Spirit completely pulled the scales from my eyes on many things in my life. Please pray this prayer to GOD yourself if you really want to know your Creator’s will for your life.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” - Psalm 139:23-24
The key to our salvation and our success as believers is totally found in the Spirit and the Word of GOD. Those two are essential for new birth in Christ and for obedience to Him thereafter. After those two major elements, there are numerous other components to being an effective congregation. Organization is one of them. Notice that the early elders were organized and spent time praying together about where GOD would have them serve (i.e. Macedonia, Philippe, etc), so there was little redundancy of “footprint”. They had virtually zero overhead, an organized “footprint” as to where believers lived and ministered, and they taught in local assembly buildings and marketplaces to unbelievers. This type of educational evangelism was more than just a gospel tract saying “Five Steps to Heaven” (although such tracts can be effective at times). Jesus seemed to have a “funneled” approach to ministry. John the Baptist was the first to “prepare the way” for Christ. In Luke 9, we see Jesus sends out his twelve throughout the region and these twelve spent time with families teaching them. Then in Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy more disciples to prepare the way for him throughout the region with further instructions to reach people, and then he finally went Himself to minister after their preparation work. This is a great model and it appears to have been used by later disciples as well. For example, the deacon Phillip went out as an evangelist, just like Timothy the evangelist, Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Silas, and others. All these men appeared to be unmarried evangelists as well and were known for planting communities at the global level. They went forth two by two, which was great for protection and discretion, just as Jesus sent out the “twelve” (some of whom were married) in a localized area in Luke 9 and the “seventy” in Luke 10. These early unmarried evangelists planted colonies or communities of believers at a more global level throughout multiple countries which worked effectively since they were “unattached” and could afford more time and danger, while the elders, married to one wife, appeared to work within each country at the local and regional level establishing and expanding these initial communities that the evangelists had begun.
Mormon missionaries, who are teaching damnable heresies, seem to have used the same Biblical model of sending out two young unmarried men at a time around the world to promote their false teaching, while many true believers today have forsaken such a model.
Another interesting thing about the early believers is how they were told by Jesus in Luke 10 to eat and drink at the house where they were to minister, but to not go from door-to-door. This command would help the early believers avoid the appearance of being vagabond beggars looking for a handout (like welfare recipients). In this way, they were able to cover much ground going from house-to-house as they ministered the Gospel to those who opened their homes to the Word of GOD. In addition to ministry work, Paul also “made tents”.
These godly men ministered to families in the Word and equipped them to disciple others while elders would then take over the newly formed colonies of believers and continue the work of mentoring and caring for the “flock” in each of their own communities. These evangelists were able to plant a well-equipped family in the middle of many large major cities throughout the known world. These families were trained to not sit and enjoy traditional homecoming meals, revival meetings, and church activities, but were trained to reach out to the community around them and bring more people into the family of GOD. The heads of these additional families that were reached could then further evangelize their communities and an elder could be elected. Elders were appointed by the council of elders or elected by their congregation (and probably both) to shepherd each local community of believers. They cared for their local flock and led them in reaching the outlying cities and regions with the good news of the Word.
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” – [Titus 1:5] “And when they had ordained [literally "voted by stretched out hand"] them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. – [Act 14:23]
The council of elders (the elders as a collective such as the Jerusalem Council) could work together to organize their “footprint” and to discuss any doctrinal questions while leading their many congregations. These elders did not appear to be administrators only, but actual elders from each community who were leading local flocks. These elders met together as a council to form strategic partnerships, organize, make executive decisions, and regroup. Deacons could serve the community of believers with many administrative tasks such as serving food to disabled widows who had no family and orphans who couldn’t support themselves. Other members of the Body of Christ went around praying for the healing of individuals and ministering the good news of redemption, while some believers taught community classes to equip the saints and to educate unbelievers.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” – [Ephesians 4:11-12] “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” - [1 Corinthians 12:27-31]
GOD used the prophets and the apostles to give us the Word of GOD. As prophets and apostles with this special task of being oracles of GOD, they were given abilities to do miracles and even raise people from the dead. These signs served as validation as to their being truly from Jehovah. The apostles had a special commission of being eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ as seen in Acts 1 and I Corinthians 9. The apostles and prophets were little rocks (i.e. Peter) who were used by Jehovah as a foundation to later generations; however, Jesus Christ was the chief cornerstone. These men were all sinful, but Jesus was sinless. He breathed His Word through these men and used them as a foundation for later generations of believers, but this did not make these men into gods or exalt them as anything more than holy men of GOD being used in His service in spite of their sinfulness.
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” – [Ephesians 2:19-22]
When you hear someone speak of “the house of GOD”, please point them to this passage in Ephesians 2 where we are told that we are the “house of GOD” and the “temple of GOD”. The congregation of believers usually met in houses, which we will explain in detail later, and were for “believer’s only” as can be seen every time you see the term “church” in the English translation of the Bible.
Unbelievers were not invited or allowed. Imagine how this concept alone would have helped the believers in the United States avoid the awful plague of fleshly worship and pagan assimilation that took place since the 1960s as many of the pastors and congregants used the excuse of making their congregations “seeker-friendly”. In fact, the Bible teaches that the unbelievers are to have no part of the congregation as will be shown later in this article.
For evangelistic purposes, believers did go to secular outlets such as the “synagogue”, the local community center, the market, the local theater, the philosophical forums, and even to a school of Tyrannus (Acts 17:17; Acts 19:9; Acts 6:9; Acts 13:14; Acts 19; Acts 17) just as some believers today have done on college campuses. They didn’t use “convincing words” or man-made philosophy, but rather the Word of GOD and the simple gospel of repentant faith as Paul the apostle made very clear. Today, the Jewish concept of the synagogue is still alive and well, as Jewish people still have Jewish community centers or synagogues where they interact with their community. The synagogues also served as town centers for governmental, education and other purposes in ancient times.
The Christians in the United States used to have a partial version of such community centers called the YMCAs or the YWCAs and their purpose was to serve as community activity centers with activities but with the ultimate goal of reaching people for Jesus Christ. Today, these ministries have fallen into the hands of those who care little for the original purpose of the founders of the Y.M.C.A. (Young Men’s Christian Association) and Y.W.C.A (Young Women’s Christian Association).. In fact, in recent years, these community centers have become known as breeding grounds for sodomites as was implied by a famous rock group of sodomites who sang the rock song “Y.M.C.A.”. GOD wasn’t pleased with Sodom. He most definitely isn’t pleased with His community centers becoming like Sodom. However, could their deterioration be due to the fact that believers have stopped using them for the Mission of the gospel? Is that why our nation is becoming like Sodom too? Community centers are great places to exercise, learn crafts, vocations or reading, and to receive free assistance in finding employment. Instead of using such a means to reach the lost, many believers today throw their money into huge cathedrals where they sit and expect the world to visit them and ask for the Gospel. In truth, the lost community shouldn’t visit them or be a part of their congregation. In fact, the congregation should be going out into their community and interacting. Instead, their apathy towards those around them who have never heard the Gospel is monastical at best and astoundingly hateful at worst as they despise the lost for allowing national freedoms or financial stability to slip away rather than realizing it is their own lack of evangelistic fervor, justice, salt and light that has allowed their nation to sink to unprecedented levels. Ultimately, they blame the President and the lost unbelievers, but in reality, most of the believers have failed to share the Gospel in their communities and live holy lives as lights in their neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, and as a result, the nation has grown dark.
Is it money that believers today lack? Is that why they are struggling to perform the mission? No. The early believers were very modest in their means. I personally find that some of the most effective ministries are offered by laymen working full-time jobs to small groups of people here and there at no cost.
The New Testament seems to have the same model. I see where these small congregations see many souls come to Christ, while mega-churches just steal members from these smaller congregations. In fact, never should someone complain about their “ministry salary”. The apostles had very little money and some had none; yet, oftentimes they were known to charge nothing for their ministry. In fact, I firmly believe the Gospel ministry should be free of charge to the lost and its teaching ministry should also be free to the believers in the congregation, although believers are encouraged to give money to assist in the spread of GOD’s Word as was seen in Acts where some believers sold their lands and gave the money to their congregational leaders. Yet today, so many are making a dollar in the name of Jesus through their preaching, healing towels, books, radio broadcasts, TV shows, and multi-billion dollar music industries. Do you think the world doesn’t notice?
“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” – [Act 3:6]
Having been a pastor’s son and having worked in many ministries, I have been around many pastors and ministry workers. I have often heard people whine about “how much they make”, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I realized the Bible doesn’t command us to work in ministries that fail to pay us properly. The Bible actually says the opposite. You are worse than an infidel if you fail to provide for your family. The early apostles and believers also set a good example of working a flexible job (i.e. tent-making) and giving their ministry away for free. If someone was “guilted” into ministering for a “beans and rice” salary and they are draining their finances for the “ministry”, it is their own fault and they are traveling a very foolish path. It is also wrong for those who “guilt” others into working for less-than-acceptable salaries. These same type of “ministry” leaders will usually treat you with the same value that they pay you.
“But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” – [1 Timothy 5:8]
When I worked in the financial arena many years ago, I once told someone, whose identity shall forever remain anonymous, that he needed to leave “the ministry” and get a job to pay down his debt which was approximately $80,000. Incurring a massive debt for “the ministry” is not spiritual. The standard modus operandi for early believers and apostles was to serve for free and earn money from their own secular jobs.
Paul, the maker of tents, said he was worthy of “double honor” (and the word ”honor” in the Greek was akin to ”wages”), but while he noted his service was worthy of such distinction and reward, you never see him anywhere in Scripture asking for it, though gifts were given. It is even possible that by “double honor” he meant that it was acceptable to get paid for one’s full-time vocation and also get paid for his ministry work (two salaries or “double honor”). You actually see Paul turning down his ministry salary oftentimes, remaining independent financially to ensure certain congregations knew he was working from pure motives. This conduct also allowed the early apostles and elders to maintain independence financially, so they could preach the gospel without financial dependency on congregants or under the control of such dependency. Neither did Jesus or most of the other leaders in the early New Testament congregation ask for funds or demand salaries. We never see them “browbeat” people with the demand that more people need to “sacrifice for their ministry”.
The apostles never told any congregants that in order to be “spiritual”, they must work for less-than-deserved salaries while their families grew poor and deprived. We only see this type of behavior from those who want to build millions and billions of dollars in assets, and a global “ministry” off the back of kind, godly people who are easily manipulated due to their innocence and naivety. Beware that oftentimes these people who use others in such a manner for their own profit may not even be believers, but only great pretenders. You may see this behavior in charismatic circles, but beware that it’s also in traditional circles, including evangelicals and fundamentalists. Never do you see the early disciples telling others to give their “tithe” to the “general fund” in order to build larger cathedrals and buy Greyhound buses for their trips to Dollywood.
Never do you see early Christian leaders begging for “offerings” to build bigger buildings for their “ministries” or for purchasing art or procuring other valuable commodities for the “ministry”. You should never be surprised when after they have spent their lifetime using their “ministry” in such a way that they suddenly turn the “ministry” off the beaten path to a “leftist” position after having used the money of naive, godly people to build their organizations. In the end, they have been known to actually build an entire organization for the enemies of GOD off the backs of the hard-working people of GOD.
Such men who provide “ministry” facilities, education, and other services to their followers in order to build their assets, organizations or institutes off the impoverished lives of its workers are also fully capable of forging art, laundering money, and playing the con game in an unprecedented manner. Some even promise retirement to all of their underpaid workers and then once the con game has been played, they run off with the money and leave the ministry aghast and its workers further impoverished. Beware there are many who infiltrate and purposefully run these types of operations century after century. That’s why an understanding of the early believers and the Scriptural model is absolutely essential.
The Holy Spirit moved upon people to give for specific ventures or goals such as helping out the persecuted, poor saints in Jerusalem. Instead, we see that all the believer’s lives, houses, lands, and money were considered the property of Jesus Christ. They used all of these things for Jesus Christ to further His kingdom according to how much they could afford or, to quote I Corinthians 16:2, “as GOD has prospered”. This standard is higher than “the law”.
The early believers set money aside for use in the mission of the Word. They met in houses and used their money wisely instead of building large theater arenas. Many large wealthy corporations today also have seen the value of this concept and frugally save money by having their labor force work from their homes.
I once knew a large international ministry who treated their workers without love when it came to money and even laid off a godly elderly man I knew just before he reached his “10 years of service” (at which time the stingy thieves would have had to pay him a meager, miserly retirement package of $10,000 or $1000/year). In other words, while some “ministries” have millions and sometimes billions of dollars of real estate, assets, and liquid deposits, they are robbing their workers.
1 Timothy 5:17-18 says “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of “double honor” [or "double wages" in the Greek], especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the scripture says, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. And, ‘the laborer is worthy of his reward’”.
All of this said, the early elders were not as much into extracting the saint’s “tithe money” as they were into collecting money for specific purposes such as helping widows, orphans, and other believers who were experiencing difficulty. The money was paid only to those unable to work, but those who could work were expected to work or not eat. There was no socialism or unjust “social justice”. Only those who could do absolutely nothing, such as small children or very disabled elderly individuals, were assisted without having to work for their money. Paul worked night and day to avoid needing a “ministry salary”, so he could provide his services for free to the Thessalonians.
In addition to disability, distress, destitution, and legitimate need were the key factors related to the giving to brethren in Christ (as seen at this link and in these verses … Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:34-35; Acts 11:27-30; Acts 20:35; Romans 12:13; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:14-15; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9; Galatians 2:9-10; Philippians 4:10-16; Titus 3:14; James 1:27; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17). Examples might include those who were impacted by economic downturns, natural disasters, persecutions, or idol makers who upon conversion needed a new line of work. Since Paul’s principle was “no work, no food”, we can assume these people were given work when they were able to work (“a hand up”) as they transitioned into more permanent work, but otherwise they were given assistance freely (“a hand out”).
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how you ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. – [2 Thessalonians 3:6-12]
In fact, no early apostles had massive building programs or large salaries from what we read in Scripture or even history. They kept the expense side of their “ledger” almost non-existent through low maintenance methods such as meeting in smaller groups, using houses. If their multiple house congregations met together, they may have resorted to the town assembly halls [also known as “synagogues” from the Greek tongue], but it’s more unlikely since persecution was so great. Forests or the catacombs may have been better options for any regional or city-wide gatherings. They definitely were not buying stadiums for all the believers of Corinth to meet together at once. Never did they spend time building empires or massive operations, and they definitely did not burn through the saint’s money with fireworks displays or other such entertainment. They didn’t pay or charge money for tickets, books, videos, or rock concerts. What they had to offer in ministry helps, they gave away free of charge. This concept alone would transform the music and ministry culture today. I seem to remember Someone in the Bible who used a whip cord on those who were turning the “house of GOD” into a “den of thieves”. There’s a great deal of business savvy we can learn from the early apostles who managed to reach the whole world within a very small number of years with far less technology, transportation, and methodologies than we have today. To look at them, quite honestly, makes me feel guilty when I see how much they did with so little.
This concept of “shepherding groups” or “home congregations” is not new. Jesus conducted the first real shepherding group with his twelve apostles; yet some pastors today have twelve thousand “lambs” in their fold. Can they truly mentor, care, and account for that many people?
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” – [Hebrews 13:
Have you ever been in a large assembly of believers and noticed that there are sometimes hundreds of men in the congregation who are just as qualified as the pastor to teach the Word of GOD, yet there gifts are going to waste. Why? Because the concept that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" has been ignored. The "many eggs in one basket" concept seems to be the model chosen by many in the mega-churches of America, and the result is one man "runs the show" (and literally it's oftentimes a "show"). Meanwhile, others sit with no way to use their gifts in teaching. Instead of multiple elders with small house congregations, there is just one elder with masses and masses of people that he could never hope to mentor, even with a full-time staff assisting him. Large congregations introduce problems in numerous ways such as corporate governance, corporate agreement, management challenges, and financial waste. Imagine the detriment that a small house congregation would bring to those members who render their musical, dramatic, and other "performances" for their own glory if their audience was only a handful. The egos and vanity would almost vanish.
Corporate agreement on standards of dress, music, and other matters would no more be needed if these house congregations become "houses of prayer" as Jesus intended them to be and stopped being one-stop shops for "corporate rules of conduct". Fathers are to take that role instead, while elders are to present to the fathers what the Word of GOD says on such matters, so that the fathers are challenged to form their own household standards since they will be accountable for their families on judgment day. House congregants must conform to the elders' standards for his own family when visiting his house. This all makes sense, doesn't it? Isn't this what we are to do as common courtesy when we visit anyone's house in respecting another's conscience?
Whether it is pride, greed, micro-management, hunger for power, or an ignorance of the small, mentoring, congregational house model, it appears that most "power preachers" today continue to grow their mega-churches in spite of the repercussions of such a less manageable, less accountable, less Biblical, and more dangerous model. Can any pastor truly train you or mentor you with that many people? The small congregation model that Jesus chose with his twelve, and that the apostles evidently chose (since they met in houses) is a much more manageable model. It uses more men's gifts. It allows for more mentorship. It allows for less "top down" control and absolute power. It allows for easier manageability and simpler organization. It creates a personal and intimate "family" environment. It creates many points throughout the city more integrated into the neighborhoods (rather than one big cathedral in the middle of town). It allows a better opportunity for unity and congregational discipline. This list could continue. We also read there were many elders in a community of believers and not just one.
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" - [James 5:14] “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” – [ 1 Peter 5:1]
In the Bible, we read that there are only under-shepherds and Jesus is the only Chief Shepherd, so a desperate attempt for a pastor to say that his “associates” will ensure a “family atmosphere” and take care of the work is lame at best since there are no “associates” in the era of the apostles … only elders and multiple elders of various congregations who would sometimes have their flocks meet together as one for their entire region. Also, “Sunday Schools” are not found in the early period either. I do not speak to discredit the work of the Sunday School movement, but I seek only to compare it to Scripture. After all, my own grandfather helped to birth a city-wide Sunday School movement in the northeastern segment of the United States out of his Christian bookstore. This movement turned into a state-wide Sunday School movement which eventually turned into a national movement (and perhaps international, but we lost track after my grandfather died many years ago). These Sunday School programs were recent in creation and were designed to win the lost to Jesus Christ by offering reading and schooling to those with less opportunities to learn (today there are public schools). They were not meant for the “regular members”. In fact, when the Sunday School movement was pulled into the congregational gatherings (which are to consist of only believers), the Bible was violated which insists on congregational fellowship consisting of “believers only”. These Sunday Schools were great for their purpose, being maintained at a local private school house or community center as a form of private education with scholarships given to non-Christian children in order to win them to Christ. Today, pastors attempt to use their Sunday Schools as a way of creating a more “personable environment”, but it looks more like one pastor attempting to keep the house congregations under his dominion to maintain mega-church status. In truth, this creates more temptation and pressure for this one pastor, and too many “eggs in one basket”.
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” – [James 3:1]
Another pitfall of the mega-ministry mentality is that they are far less manageable, just like giant global corporations. Small businesses are much easier to manage. Shepherding groups feel far more like family and if someone needs help, they will more likely get it in such a close-knit, family atmosphere. Elders, who choose twelve or so good men and their families to mentor, are wise. After all, they will have to give an account for their mentoring of them. Early believers had multiple house congregations who would meet together separately.
- “Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the first fruits of Achaia unto Christ.” – [Romans 16:5]
- “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.” – [1 Corinthians 1:11]
- “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)” – [1 Corinthians 16:15]
- “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” – [1 Corinthians 16:19]
- “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” – [Colossians 4:15]
- “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” – [Acts 16:34]
- “And they spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” – [Acts 16:32]
- “And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” – [Acts 16:15]
- “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” – [2 John 1:10]
- And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, – [Act 20:20]
Today, the average pastor of a traditional cathedral-attending congregation will tell you that house congregations hate authority and will also share a number of other issues that they have seen with such a meeting method, however, for every house congregation that hates authority, you will also find a cathedral-attending congregation that also hates authority. The Christians in China have proven that the house congregation is effective. The truth is that, whether one meets in a house or a public building, congregations are always going to have problems. Many times a mix of house congregations that associate together and meet at the local community center is a better way to go. Where have I heard of that model before? Such a model appears to have been the norm in the New Testament era of believers with house shepherds or “pastors” overseeing the equipping, care, service, and discipline of the saints, and then meeting together as one as well.
“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” - [1 Corinthians 14:23]
There was no “Senior Shepherd” or “Senior Pastor”. The only “senior’ element in being a shepherd was that of age. It appears that the elder or older men were preferred to be shepherds. Further reference can be found on this subject at the article at this link. Such a mindset comes from micro-management, desire for control and power, and tends toward corruption. As we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” – [1 Peter 5:1-6]
There was but one Chief Shepherd over these house congregation’s shepherds and that was Jesus Christ. His twelve turned the world upside down more than most mega-churches. Regarding governance, the early shepherds or elders met together as a collective group to make executive decisions from what we read in Scripture, and Scripture is our manual for the governance of the Body of Christ. There were no arch-diocese, conventions, or “connected” bureaucracies. We see this concept of the elders taking council together in the famous Jerusalem council. With this model, we have no reason to doubt that such council meetings of the cities’ elders was just as common in the other regions and cities as well. Although the apostles, who were still alive at that time, were considered the eye-witnesses of Christ and vested with special authority, we do not see even them lording over the local elders, but instead they spent time addressing questions regarding the Scriptural truth that they had shared in their letters as oracles of GOD (having been groomed firsthand by Christ) and they also assisted with the planting of house congregations. Regarding “church discipline”, a large part of the “discipline” of a believer, which was led by the shepherd or pastor, had to do with the flock’s “separation” from this individual. Early believers were led by the elder in not allowing a believer under the discipline of the congregation to participate in the financial, social, and other aspects of the congregational fellowship until he was restored through humility, restitution, true repentance, and restoration. The elder or overseer or pastor (another name for shepherd) were all the same individual. This term was translated by the King James translators as “bishop” in some instances, but this wording reflected the King James translator’s very Anglican understanding of Scripture and was not the best translation of the word “episcope” or “episcopo”, in my opinion, which meant “oversight” or “overseer”. The qualifications and duties of both elders and deacons are clearly spelled out in the article at this link. If more house congregations would build community centers and then use them to meet together as a whole group regularly, I believe we would see more integration with our communities and this would be a better use of our money as well. I also believe that such community centers should contain schools as well which allow those without Christ to have private education with an opportunity to be schooled in the Gospel. Such a thought of integration with the community could stretch beyond just a community center to other methods as well, such as hotels or other ways of community integration … such buildings would also be large enough facilities to provide a way for multiple house congregations to meet regularly (i.e. bi-weekly, monthly, etc) as one at times.
“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad?” – [1 Corinthians 14:23]
Although no prescribed schedule is given for these smaller house gatherings or the larger unified gatherings or the meeting of the council of elders, we see these concepts in Scripture. Therefore, while we should not be adamant regarding a particular frequency or day (weekly, Saturday, Sunday, etc), we should be adamant about gathering together. No building is mentioned for these larger gatherings, and that may be due to the fact that these believers were living in days of persecution. Also, it is doubtful that they would have built a large building in which to meet with their sense of frugality and the persecution that would have stopped them from such large building programs. They may have met in forests like Russian Christians did this past century when they were persecuted.
America has many options for the unified meeting together of the shepherding groups. Believers, who really desire to use GOD’s money more for the Gospel and less for themselves, could use these options to save money; in fact, most of these options are free. At the same time, I am not pushing for the opposite of a mega-church either. Again the model of multiple lay-pastors working with the congregation in houses is accompanied by all the brethren meeting together “as one” as mentioned earlier in this article. To this point, while many mentors are needed for house congregations, too many can cause issues if there are not enough properly trained elders in the Word of GOD to pastor these local groups.
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” – James 3:1
Some pastors look to I Corinthians 16:2 as justification for reprimanding their congregations for failure to come to the cathedral on Sunday, much like the Catholic religious system did. In truth, I Corinthians 16:2 is speaking of believers laying aside their money each week. It is not talking of a meeting here.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.” - [1 Corinthians 16:1-4]
It’s probable that this “laying aside” was in connection with the weekly payday of their era. I personally set aside money in a separate savings account for Jesus Christ and His prescribed service such as assisting the saints, sharing the Gospel, and other commanded practices of His congregations (but not for empire building). Granted, I do not lay money aside weekly, but rather every couple of weeks based upon my payday. In good conscience, I believe that Paul would approve and that his purpose was that of a regular setting aside of one’s money for the work of Jehovah on earth.
All of that said, Paul does not appear to be commanding believers to meet on this day, although “first day of the week” in this passage is not in the original language and “first of the sabbath” is (check for yourself). Thus, it’s possible that Paul was telling them to set aside tithe money on the sabbath day when they met together. Once again though, nothing adamant is commanded here. If you view the widow’s mites being given in Mark 12 and Luke 21, you will also see that no particular day is mentioned. Paul does specify a day in I Corinthians 16, but it does not appear to be a regular practice but a one-time endeavor to raise money for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Other passages used to create fear in the congregation for “missing church” include John 20 where the disciples were assembled together. They fail to read further and see that it was out of fear that the disciples were assembled together secretly, but it was not fear of the pastor, but rather fear for their lives since Jesus had just been crucified by the Jews and they might be next.
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” - [John 20:19]
Historians of the ancient era also noted that early Christian believers met together on Saturday, the sabbath, as a continuation of Jewish practice. Catholicism did much to change so many of the practices and beliefs of true believers. Their thousand year reign, known as the Dark Ages, is still being felt in the fact that many Protestant congregations (including the ‘fundamentalist’ variety) are still clueless as to how “Roman” they still truly are in many of their practices.
In the forty years of the new nation of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, GOD commanded in His Law that the nation was to respect the seventh day of the week as a sabbath of rest from work and as a day of holy convocation. Those who use their lexicons to study the original Hebrew will find that a “convocation” means both “reading”, “sacred assembly”, and literally the idea of being “called out”. Ironically, the Greek word “ekklesia” in the New Testament also means “called out” and “assembly”. For those who do not know, everywhere in the entire Bible that you see the word “church”, it is really the word “ekklesia”. In other words, the convocation was a time for assembly and reading, and it had a counterpart in the New Testament (i.e. ekklesia) which we will explore more later in this article.
The Gospel of Luke chapter 4 and verse 16 explains to us that Jesus also had a custom of assembling and reading the Old Testament on the sabbath day. Thus, throughout the forty years of wandering and the eight hundred years of judges and kings in Israel, a holy convocation involving the assembly of GOD’s people and the reading of His Word took place. When? It took place on Saturday or the Sabbath. It involved Scripture reading. Does your congregation read the Word aloud? Do the men in leadership take turns? Or does one man stand before the people like a Catholic priest and just lecture the people with his thoughts the entire time about two measly verses?
II Chronicles 34:30 tells of how the Old Testament was read in the hearing of an assembly of Israelis after having been lost for some time, and of the great repentance that occurred. Perhaps if more sacred assemblies throughout America would read the Word of GOD instead of sharing “deep, important, spiritual thoughts”, repentance might take place once again in this land. The Spirit of GOD works directly in connection with the Word. As you can tell from the above passages, Saturday or the Sabbath was the day of convocation or assembly throughout the Old Testament and into the Gospels. Nowhere in the New Testament is this practice changed, and as you will see later in this article, even the translation of the word “sabbath” was changed to week regarding the day that Jesus arose. In other words, the original Greek suggests that Jesus, as one of His titles ‘Lord of the Sabbath” suggests, rose from the tomb at the Sabbath’s dawn.
Sunday did not dominate the early believers meetings until the era of Constantine who was a sun-worshiper until his death (i.e. Sun-day). Constantine combined pagan Baal sun worship with Christian and Jewish practices to form what later became the Catholic empire. While this act was politically expedient, it was not Scriptural, but rather a blasphemous disobedience and perversion of Scripture using the ways of Baal to worship the true GOD Jehovah, a practice that Jehovah has forbidden.
“When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before you, whither you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” – [Deuteronomy 12:29-32]
In spite of Jehovah’s strict warnings to Israel about combining the ways of Baal worship or service with the ways of Jehovah worship or service, you can see Israel’s attempts to do that very thing. You see it in the golden calf that they worshiped as “Jehovah” and you see it all throughout their history when they began to backslide away from what GOD had taught them.
Today, you see the same in congregations in the West. The enchantments of Baal shamans (i.e. rock music) are used, the Baal holidays (i.e. Christmas, Easter, etc) adopted by Catholics are used, and the various Baal religious practices such as the charismatic movement employs (i.e. divinations, shamanic healings, etc) are also used in many congregations across the West. Instead of “trusting the clergy” as Catholics are admonished to do by their priests, true believers are to study the Scripture for themselves. If you go to the original Greek text to learn the truth about the phrase “first day of the week”, you will find that every time the New Testament uses the phrase “first day of the week”, it is the word “sabbaton” or sabbath. It is not “the first day of the week”. Some say this word of Hebrew origin, “sabbaton”, can mean “week”, but the Hebrew had another word for week “shabuwa”. If you search the Scriptures, you will find that the word “sabbaton” is translated fifty-nine times as “sabbath” or “sabbath day” which denotes the seventh day of the week. It is translated nine times as “week”. Only one of these nine times is actually referring to a weekly activity though. This is in Luke 18 when the Pharisee is seen fasting twice weekly between sabbaths or during the week. Outside of this one exception, the word “sabbaton” (which is literally “sabbath”) is translated five times when this word “sabbaton” speaks of a specific day – the resurrection dawn. It is also translated three times when Scripture speaks of a specific day for the laying aside of money in I Corinthians 16, the assembling of the disciples for fear in John 20, and the breaking of bread by believers in Acts 20. Ironically, eight of these nine times refer to a day rather than an activity during the week. One would wonder why “sabbaton” in these other eight instances was rendered “first day of the week” when it comes from a word meaning “seventh rest day of the week”? Especially when it is translated as “the seventh rest day of the week” the other fifty-nine times in the New Testament. Regardless of whether the translators were trying to appease Catholic King James or the Anglican church of their day who both believed that the “church” should meet on Sunday, it is really not a great issue since there are no commands throughout Scripture that believers must meet on any particular day or to keep any particular day “holy”. We do read in the Old Testament that the “sabbath day” or the “seventh day of the week” was to be set aside as holy and that it is a perpetual covenant between GOD and the Jewish people. Some also consider Christians to be “Jews of the heart” and say the sabbath is for Christians also. Still others point out that the sabbath was ordained by GOD as holy long before the Mosaic law and the Jewish people existed. Such points, such as this final one, are very stimulating and well-reasoned. They lead one to believe that GOD definitely wanted man to take one day each week to rest (instead of running around from service to choir practice to service). Some pastors will use Hebrews 10:25 to state that believers must attend the local cathedral Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. What does the actual verse say?
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – [Hebrews 10:25]
Notice that no frequency or day or time is required above, but only that believers continue assembling together. This passage was written in the context that the temple of GOD is now the believers themselves. Hebrews is telling of how the system of ceremonial laws, priests, lamb sacrifices, and the temple have been replaced by Jesus the High Priest and Lamb, His people the “temple”, and the spiritual fulfillment of these physical implements. After saying this, the writer of Hebrews states that, although the Temple is no longer where GOD dwells, we should still assemble together. This is not a push for “church membership”, a certain mandatory schedule, or anything more. Also, unlike what some pastors teach in saying we should assemble more and more as we “see the day approaching”, Paul is actually saying that we should exhort or encourage each other more as we see “the day” approaching. Where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is in their midst. That’s what Jesus said; therefore, even the concept of “assembling of ourselves” could get really interesting. Frequency could as well. Is it weekly or monthly? We are not told in Scripture; however, if we examine the pattern of the Old Testament and Gospels, the sacred assembly took place on the sabbath day. While we are absolutely told that we should continue to assemble together in Scripture (Hebrews 10:25) and can be dogmatic on the fact that this practice should not be forsaken, there is no frequency or actual days given; therefore, we must be careful about being dogmatic on this point. Those who hold such an opinion will have great difficulty using the Bible to support their preferences. Is the real question “how are we going to get people to attend church this Sunday?” that pastors should be asking? Or is it “how are we going to get people to love GOD this week every second of every day, so that they love being with GOD’s people?” The former is much easier and can be financially beneficial to a pastor. The latter is the true priority. Perhaps that is why so much angst goes into the attendance and tithing as opposed to the Mission of the Gospel? Some “hard-liner” pastors, when they see that they can’t find a proof text in Scripture to bully their members into “attendance” to ensure their job is secure, will go so far as to mimic Roman Catholics who use history as an addendum to Scripture in order to make their case for mandatory attendance on a prescribed day or frequency by stating that it appears the early believers met each week at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. However, there are varying opinions from historians on this thought, and many scholars dispute as to whether it was the true believers who observed this practice or the Romanists. Still others dispute over whether the resurrection was the sabbath or seventh day as opposed to the first day or Sunday. When you realize that several sabbaths (some high feast sabbaths and some nominal) were taking place during that Passover week when the resurrection occurred, it really becomes a tangled web. I believe the Apostle Paul said it best.
“One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.” - [Romans 14:5-6]
However, one thing we know for sure is that most of what takes place as “spiritual requirements” from the pulpit today is oftentimes more related to the cathedral club’s budget and its political needs than it is to Scripture. We also know that “barking at the flock” about mandatory attendance is errant and is seen usually in mind control cults where the leader wants to bankroll their “ministry” off the backs of those working beneath them or play “lord of the flock” in a very papal way. In fact, it is within the papacy and its history that we see people told to be “faithful to church attendance” or face excommunication by the priest. Today, some authoritative pastors act like Catholic priests in lording over their members and threatening them if they miss too many “services” with removal from ”congregational membership” (a list that only GOD controls in heaven). ”The Called Out” or “Ekklesia” is but one. There is but one list of its membership, but this discussion is for another conversation.
Rigid pastors should learn from the Catholics who attempted to legislate morality during the Dark Ages. These papists learned in the end that morality cannot be legislated. Catholics had numerous services in addition to their Masses and weekly Sunday services. There were prayer services and other canonical hours and services such as Third Hour, Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour, Typica, Vespers, Midnight Office, Matins, First Hour, and Great Compline … to name a few. We can’t make fathers and husbands take responsibility to mentor their families daily in the Word of GOD, and we can’t create “good Christians” by increasing the number of required services, accountability duties, activities, and rules for Christians either. We can’t excite the believers in our area to get involved by creating “fun activities” which only serve as distractions from the true Mission of the Body of Christ. If anything, these take away from the family unit and its time together, as well as the father’s ability to mentor his own house (a theme seen over and over in the Old and New Testament). We must kneel before GOD and pray for the Spirit’s anointing and let Him become our “law”. All of this said, we can agree that we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
HELPING THE SAINTS
Wouldn’t you want to be a part of a group of individuals who treated each other like family and were there for each other in the tough times of life? Could you see your congregation helping you out during a time of unemployment by offering you work with sufficient wages to pay your mortgage and bills until you could find something more permanent? Could you see them taking care of your eighty-year old wife who can barely walk after you pass away? Could you see them taking care of your infant son if you and your spouse were to die, leaving no family behind? If so, you have a very compassionate congregation that follows Scripture.
The early believers helped poor saints from what the Book of James and many other passages teach. Early believers were known by their love. Their love didn’t consist of a lot of words, but of real money and actions that showed they cared. They watched out for “Sister Sally” the local widow or little “Tom Stout” the local orphan, and also they gave work to “Discouraged Joseph” who had lost his job and they paid him a fair salary for such work, without a lot of red tape, in addition to their prayers for him. They even helped out imperfect “Cranky Carl” who had a vehicle accident and was in a coma by paying his bills and helping out his sweet wife and children. When people watch out for each other, the world around them notices. The early believers were known for their love, not for how many books they authored or spiritual events they attended. They sold their property and watched out for each other. They cared for the deaf, the disabled, the blind, the lame, the poor, and even for those non-Christians who were unable to care for themselves such as small children or those in hospital beds.
In doing so, they won many to Christ through their love. We know of situations where a person is without employment or vehicles or both, and how the local congregation turns a “deaf ear” to the needs of the person. We know of cases where the congregation is so big that they don’t even know about the need. What a great justification for the intimacy of shepherding groups within a home environment. I know of a situation in which a ministry laid off a loving Christian family with little warning just before the year-end holidays. Why? Because the father wouldn’t violate his conscience and turn ecumenical. This is the opposite of the early believers.
Even more common are “ministry” employees who have to live on medicaid, medicare and welfare in order to survive. Meanwhile, the same ministry may have a list longer than the Pharisees of all the expectations, rules, and required activities that they have of these already overwhelmed families, while forbidding the husband to work “another job”; meanwhile, they ride him to work 24/7 for their so-called “ministry” at the neglect of his own family’s needs. Forsaking one’s family emotionally, financially, and failing to spend time with them is not spiritual, no matter how many greedy “empire-building” leaders in clerical robes say it is. This is why the world is not taking notice of today’s version of Christianity. They watch how believers treat their “own”. They see believers who are “down and out” and how other believers are more likely to push them “under the bus” than assist them. They know this isn’t love. They look for “good Samaritans” and they don’t see any in the throngs today that fill huge cathedrals. This does not give the lost an excuse. Instead, it serves as a rebuke to believers. While I disagree with one local congregation who acts as a kind of “give-away” non-profit supplies store [because the Bible teaches if a man doesn't work, neither should he eat), at the same time, I also disagree with those congregations who have all the money in the world to throw at buildings, fun trips, sports leagues, coffee socials and programs but find every excuse in the world to avoid helping out their own members or those around them who are unable to feed themselves (i.e. small orphan children, those in a coma, completely disabled, etc). They also fail to give work to those in their congregation who need help to avoid losing their homes or worse (in cases of medical assistance).
The early believers loved. They were able to love others sacrificially at the level of financially helping others and they lived in one accord with the Holy Spirit and were therefore able to pray in one accord in the Spirit, and when they walked out of their prayer meeting filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to boldly speak to people about Jesus.
HOLINESS, PRAYER, AND BIBLE STUDY
The Holy Spirit was the key to their lives and how they reached the world so quickly. One of the first practices that the early believers did after receiving the Holy Spirit was to share His Word in various languages with all the different nationalities in Jerusalem. There were no policies that discriminated by race, language, financial class, appearance or nationality. These early believers reached out to everyone. They wanted to share the Gospel with anyone who would listen and in a plethora of venues. When someone uses an expression like "on fire for the LORD", we can't help but think of the cloves of fire at Pentecost above the heads of those early believers. Their first action was sharing the good news with everyone they could find of how Jesus paid the price and is the Way to heaven.
Act 2:4-5 “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven."
The Holy Spirit also allows believers to live holy lives. Instead of an appetite for the unholy entertainment, pagan music, inappropriate fashion, and controlling substances of their day, the believers were filled with the Spirit and had an appetite for reaching the lost. Distractions were a stumbling block to reaching the lost for Jesus Christ. Only the filling of the Spirit through the Word, holiness and prayer can bring the world to Jesus Christ.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." - [Matthew 5:16]
“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” – [Psalm 40:3]
Prayer is a huge factor. Prayer changes things, but only the prayer of fervent, godly people. GOD does not hear the prayer of those who regard sin in their hearts or who are not His children. That means many Christian