In the Bible, believers in Jesus Christ met for church in each other's homes, and every man was allowed a turn to speak in the meeting. This way of doing things was harder and took more effort than what we're used to.

For example, the men in the church needed to study the scriptures more than we do, in order to have something helpful to say to everyone. And the people had to expend some effort to show hospitality to their spiritual brothers and sisters, some of whom really needed it. Doing things this way made it so the people in a church naturally got to know each other pretty well. And since it made everyone more mindful of helping the others in the church, they grew to love each other more than we do.

But man prefers commercial church, since it makes things a little easier. The men don't have to study anything to prepare a talk in order to help others in the meeting. And because of that, they don't really need to get to know anyone very well. And nobody has to go through the hassle of showing hospitality to anyone, either.

Commercial church is a business that helps us avoid those aspects of biblical church that require the most of us. We pay money into the offering, and in exchange the commercial church takes care of the most difficult things about church for us. In fact, providing these services to the people makes up about 74% of a typical commercial church's budget. About 38% goes toward paying a full time speaker and his assistants, so that no one else has to say anything in the meeting. And about 36% goes toward using a commercial facility, so no one has to worry about the inconvenience of having company over.

Read your own Bible. Do your own research. Ask God for wisdom. Think for yourself. Be willing to accept the truth, regardless of the consequences.

Click the scripture links on this page, or look them up in your own Bible, and read the verses in context to see whether what this page says is true or not. Study the subject of church throughout the New Testament. Don't rely on anyone's sermon or book or web site (including this one). Instead, STUDY THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF, and convince yourself of the truth. It's not hard to find the truth on this subject. What can be hard is deciding to believe the truth even when it goes against popular opinion.

Table of Contents:

Four Differences Between Traditional and Biblical Church

Part 1 The tradition of the elders vs. scripture; quotes from early church fathers

Part 2 Easily learning the truth; considering commercial church finances

Part 3 Leaders; selfish church; teachers; persecution from other Christians; folklore; authoritarian rule

Part 4 Commandments of the Lord; good traditions; the root of all evil

Part 5 Loving each other; poor Christians; Jesus Christ's words about scripture

Part 6 Biblical leaders vs. "the pastor"; using titles

Part 7 The only forbidden church format; honest doctrinal statements; duties in commercial church; required lies; traveling back in time

Not so Frequently Asked Questions

Final Thoughts

Comparison Summary

Four Differences Between Traditional and Biblical Church:

Here are four ways in which biblical church is different from traditional, commercial church. A biblical church:

  1. Is one where any man who wants to participate and say something to the rest of the group can do so. (1 Cor. 14:26, 29, 31)

    If a man is allowed his turn to speak he has the potential to be helpful to the other believers, as opposed to being no more than just another audience member. So God designed the church meeting so that at least two or three men are supposed to speak in each meeting, and every man gets a turn to speak in a meeting if he wants to, in order that the various members of the body of Christ may get a chance to help the other members. Also, God included a provision that if anything is revealed to someone else who is listening the first man must stop speaking and let the other man say what the Holy Spirit has brought to his mind (1 Cor. 14:30). So the man speaking knows that at any time he may be interrupted. One benefit of this arrangement is that if the speaker says something incorrect, or something out of balance, another believer may provide a correct or more balanced perspective. So with multiple speakers and a provision for interruption, each speaker will be more inclined to be sure that what he says is indeed true and in line with what the Bible says, as opposed to a situation where the man in charge speaks without anyone else daring to stop him, or having the opportunity to speak after him.

  2. Has leadership consisting of proven, stable men from within the church, who function as servants instead of rulers, and with no one man being the main speaker. (Matt. 20:25-28, Matt. 23:11, Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 3 John 9)

    Jesus Christ is the head of the church and he is present wherever two or three are gathered together in his name. So God designed the church meeting so that there is never one man other than Jesus in charge. So the Bible never refers to "the pastor" of a church, nor is there ever any indication that one elder should have authority over other elders, or should be the only person who speaks in the meeting. The Bible speaks negatively about a man named Diotrephes who loved to have preeminence in the meeting (3 John 9-10). There is supposed to be one man in charge of the church meeting, and that man is the Lord Jesus Christ. Church elders are supposed to behave as if they believe that. So they should reject the role of being the preeminent speaker, and should instead obey what the word of God says about what to do in church, and let every man have a turn to speak. Also, elders are supposed to be raised up from those in the group (as opposed to bringing in an outsider) as being men who are well known by everyone in the assembly as being solid Christians with records of good behavior over a long period of time.

  3. Meets in homes. (Acts 2:46, Rom. 16:5, 23, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2)

    Meeting in homes limits the size of the groups to be small enough so that everyone gets to know each other. It also is a blessing for the poor, since being a welcome guest in another person's home is rare for some poor individuals. And poor people generally have fewer friends and family who want to hear from them (Prov. 19:7), and the more comfortable setting of the home is naturally better than a commercial facility for the fellowship they need. Meeting in homes also eliminates the need for paying for a separate building and land, and the need to pay someone to be the full time designated speaker. It makes it easier for the group to support missionaries and other full time Christian workers, or help one of their own group who happens to need it, or help others who are not in the group. We are specifically told five times in the New Testament where believers met for church, and each of those times it was in someone's house. There is no mention of their having met anywhere else for their church meetings. We are never directly commanded to meet in people's homes, but we are commanded to keep the traditions that the apostles taught (2 Thes. 2:15), and meeting in people's homes was one of those traditions.

  4. Eats the Lord's supper together as a full meal. (Matthew 26:26, Acts 2:46, 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:33)

    Every time the Lord's supper is referred to it is always part of a full meal that believers share together. Of course it is supposed to be a time of examining oneself. But it is also supposed to be a time of getting to know others in God's family better. Sharing a full meal together and talking with others accomplishes that, while sitting in a pew eating one small bite and taking one small sip, speaking to no one, does not.

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Part 1

  • In Jesus Christ's day, something called "the tradition of the elders" had grown to have more authority in people's minds than the word of God did, which is similar to our situation today regarding what we do in church. We are careful not to break sacred traditions about how we conduct church, while we reject and even ridicule the simple rules God gave us in the Bible about it.

    Pointing out why it was wrong to follow "the tradition of the elders" instead of the word of God was a big part of Jesus' ministry (Matt. 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:8, 9, 13). "The tradition of the elders" started as a set of man-made laws that the leaders created to keep Israel from breaking the actual law of Moses. These laws supposedly served as a sort of fence around the actual law of God, to keep people from even getting close to breaking it. For example, for the Old Testament sabbath law there were added literally hundreds of ridiculous other laws, that went way beyond what the Lord had said in scripture. This set of laws known as "the tradition of the elders" was also called the Oral Law, the Pharisaic Law, the Laws of the Fence, and the Hedge.

    When first created these man-made laws were understood to of course not be authoritative, since the law of God held that position. But a later generation of rabbis came up with another set of laws to serve as another fence around the original fence laws. And then they declared the first set of fence laws to be just as authoritative and as binding as scripture. So the first set of fence laws came to be thought of as being just as inspired by God as the Old Testament itself, though they were completely man-made.

    Jesus arrived on the scene soon after the time when the original fence laws were declared to be inspired by God, and just as authoritative as the word of God. This "tradition of the elders" was not just considered equal in authority to the word of God, but in actual practice it was the final authority. Jesus repeatedly used opportunities to discredit their unbiblical traditions and laws, and he did so as publicly as possible. He taught that the oral law was not just unbiblical, but anti-biblical, preventing people from obeying the actual word of God:

    "And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

    For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

    But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

    And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

    Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." (Mark 7:9-13).

    Remember the time when Jesus healed a blind man on the sabbath, and he spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, and rubbed it on his eyes (John 9:6-7)? Every part of that healing was against their fence laws. Healing of that kind on the sabbath was forbidden by them. It was even forbidden to make mud from spittle and smear it in someone's eyes as part of the healing. And Jesus did exactly that. And he topped it off by having the man wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, which would have been in full view of the religious leaders. Jesus did many other things that violated their oral laws, and he did so as publicly and provocatively as possible, to discredit "the tradition of the elders." Jesus wanted the people to once again give the word of God its rightful place as the final authority on all matters.

    We face a similar situation today regarding the practices of the Christian church. After the apostles all died, the early church fathers, who didn't have the compiled New Testament available to them yet, established several wrong teachings that believers accepted and went along with. As time went on, these traditions took hold and became more authoritative than the word of God. The Bible very clearly tells us what to do in church. Yet we don't give a second thought about violating scripture, because tradition has taken such a strong hold in our minds.

  • The format given in 1 Corinthians 14 is the only one for church meetings given in the New Testament. No replacement format is ever given, and it never says there would be another way to do church meetings coming later.

  • Although the New Testament was completed by about 95 A.D., it was not fully verified, compiled and available as a complete work for several years. The early church fathers (men who first led the church after the apostles had all died) were generally brave, honorable men of God, but they did not have the benefit of possessing the full New Testament, and they departed from the apostles' teachings in several ways, including conducting church meetings unbiblically, with one man in charge who does most of the speaking. They also decided there should be a division between clergy and laity, created a hierarchical leadership structure, and invented baptismal regeneration and infant baptism. Once the New Testament was more readily available believers should have corrected their practices and discarded all of these obviously unbiblical teachings, but they didn't.

    Let's take a look at what some of these early church fathers said in their writings. These men were having to deal with various heresies that were arising in the churches, and unfortunately they handled the situation by claiming for themselves the same kind of authority that the apostles had, and they felt that they had the power to alter the leadership style and church meeting format taught by the apostles. Traditional church pastors are following in the footsteps of these men, even if they don't realize it.

    Clement of Rome wrote a famous letter to the church at Corinth in A.D. 95. He believed that a variation of the Levitical priesthood in the law of Moses should be adopted as the leadership system of the Christian church. He introduced the idea of a hierarchical priesthood that was separate from, and above the people. He said:

    "The high priest has been given his own special services, the priests have been assigned their own place, and the Levites have their special ministrations enjoined on them. The layman is bound by the ordinances of the laity."

    Of course the New Testament says all believers are priests: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." - (1 Pet. 2:5). "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" - (1 Pet. 2:9).

    Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, built on the priesthood idea Clement had started fifteen years earlier. The priesthood hierarchy began to increase in tiers. Instead of the biblical way where church is led by elders in each assembly, a priest led each church, and over all the priests was the greatly revered Bishop. In A.D. 110 Ignatius wrote:

    "Your reverend presbytery... is tuned to the Bishop as strings to a lyre.... Let us then be very careful not to resist the Bishop, that through our submission to the Bishop we may belong to God.... Clearly then we should regard the Bishop as the Lord Himself...."

    "I advise you, be eager to always act in godly concord; with the Bishop presiding as the counterpart of God, the presbyters as the counter part of the council of the Apostles.... Thus, as the Lord did nothing without the Father (being united with him), either by Himself or by means of the Apostles, so you must do nothing without the Bishop and the presbyters."

    "When you are obedient to the Bishop as to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are not living as ordinary men but according to Jesus Christ.... It is therefore necessary that you should do nothing without the Bishop.... Likewise let all men... respect the Bishop as the counterpart of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of the Apostles: without those no church is recognized."

    "All of you follow the Bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father.... Let no one do anything that pertains to the church apart from the Bishop.... It is not permitted to baptise or hold a love-feast independently of the Bishop. But whatever he approves, that is also well pleasing to God; that all your acts may be sure and valid."

    This authoritarian rule that the early church fathers espoused is in sharp contrast to the kind of leadership Jesus Christ taught:

    "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

    But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

    And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

    Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." - (Matt. 20:25-28).

    Some ninety years after Ignatius, Tertullian came along, and in A.D. 200 he wrote,

    "The supreme priest (that is the Bishop) has the right of conferring baptism: after him the presbyters and deacons, but only with the Bishop's authority.... Otherwise the laity also have the right.... But how much more is the discipline of reverence and humility incumbent upon laymen (since it also befits their superiors).... The distinction between the order of the clergy and the people has been established by the authority of the Church, and by the honour which is hallowed by the special bench of the order (the priesthood)."

    But according to the Bible, there is not supposed to be any such person as the supreme priest (also falsely called the Bishop) ruling over multiple churches, and who only has the authority to baptize. Philip was not even an elder in a church (much less a fictional "supreme priest"), yet he baptized (Acts 8:38). The same goes for Paul: he was an apostle but not an elder in a church, and yet he also baptized (1 Cor. 1:14-16). And there is not supposed to be any "distinction between the order of the clergy and the people," and no church has the authority to create such a distinction. That's because we have one Master, Jesus Christ, and we're all brothers (Matt. 23:8-10).

    A little while later, a man named Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage wrote in A.D. 250:

    "If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is Himself the High Priest of God the Father, and first offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father, and commanded this to be done in remembrance of Himself, then assuredly the priest acts truly in Christ's stead, when he reproduces what Christ did, and he then offers a true and complete sacrifice to God the Father, if he begins to offer as he sees Christ Himself has offered."

    As you can see, by the time of Cyprian the leaders had come to view themselves as practically having divinity. It's not too hard to see in history where that kind of blasphemous thinking led to before long.

    These initial church fathers may have been good men in some ways, but they didn't have the full, compiled New Testament available to them yet, and in the process of rightly trying to squelch the heresies of their day, the appeal of power surely affected their thinking. By about the middle of the third century, the biblical church leadership system of humble overseers in each assembly had been replaced by a completely man-made system of an all-powerful priesthood hierarchy that dominated the Christian world. These men were considered superiors of the mere laity, and final authority rested with them, not the word of God. The church as a whole has never fully recovered. But things are starting to turn around in our day.

  • The church's general progression through history:

    1. Abandon biblical church format.
    2. Abandon gifts of the Holy Spirit.
    3. Abandon believers' baptism.
    4. Abandon salvation by grace through faith alone.

    ---------------The order reverses.-------------

    4. Recover salvation by faith (The Reformation).
    3. Recover believers' baptism.
    2. Recover gifts of the Holy Spirit.
    1. Recover biblical church format.

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Part 2

  • If you want to learn the truth on the matter of church, study it in the Bible for yourself. If you are a believer in Christ you can be sure that the Holy Spirit will help you understand the Bible (John 14:26, 1 John 2:27).

    As you study, here are a few things you might want to look for:

    Any mention of "the pastor," either using that exact term, or any scripture supporting the idea of such an office where only one man is allowed to speak in church meetings.

    Any scripture that says men in the church do not get to speak to the people if they want to. It's easy enough to find the places where we're commanded to let them speak; see if you can find anything saying otherwise.

    Any scripture that says Christians are no longer supposed to obey the commandments of the Lord for church found in 1 Corinthians 14.

    Any scripture that suggests the open format church meeting was supposed to be a temporary thing.

    Any scripture that suggests believers should meet in a commercial facility for church, instead of using their own homes.

    Any scripture that says believers ever met for church anywhere other than in each other's homes.

  • How difficult did God make it to figure out what he wants us to do in church? Did he make it very hard, very easy, or somewhere in between? Since it's something every believer would need to know, he made it very easy. He made it so any believer who can read can see the plain truth in just a few minutes of studying this subject in the Bible.

  • One of the biggest hindrances to understanding the truth on this matter is not being willing to accept that the prevailing belief is wrong. For a believer, it's uncomfortable to think that the overwhelming majority of Christians are deceived about something that is so simple. It's unsettling. It means the world is a worse place than what you thought it was your whole life. It means the teachers you trust are wrong. It means you have been believing a lie your entire life.

    Unless you get to a point where you are willing to accept such unpleasantness you won't see the truth, no matter how much you study.

  • Another hindrance to believing the truth on this matter is thinking that God is just like ourselves. If we're not very concerned about how we do church, God must not care much about it either. If we prefer to do it a certain way that happens to differ a tiny bit from what the Bible says, then surely God will go along. He'll cooperate. After all, we're doing so much good. He must be pleased with us.

    It's easy to think that way when we don't yet understand much about what the Bible actually is, and what place it should have in our lives. The Bible is the word of God (1 Thes. 2:13), and it consists of the very words of God (Matt. 4:4). It was authored by men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). It has been supernaturally preserved through history to this day (Ps. 12:6-7, Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). God has magnified his word above all his name (Ps. 138:2). We are to live by its every word (Deut. 8:3). It is truth (John 17:17).

    We read other books; the Bible reads us:

    "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." - (Heb. 4:12)

    The entire Bible ("All scripture") is to be our one and only final authority:

    "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." - (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

  • How capable do you think God was to give us a New Testament that adequately tells us what to do in church? Do you think the New Testament is just a mishmash of writings from long ago that give us a general idea of what God wants his people to do, or is every word of it his inspired, eternal word? Do you think we need to harmonize scripture with history in order to get the complete picture of what God wants us to do in church (as some proponents of traditional church put it), or do you think God was capable enough to fully explain in his eternal word what we're supposed to do in church?

  • Relatively few people nowadays recognize that the traditional church meeting is unbiblical. The fact that the number of people who see the truth is relatively small does not change what the Bible says.

  • Christians around the world are starting to see the truth on this subject.

  • Some things in the Bible are hard to understand. This matter is not one of them. The Bible makes it very clear what we are supposed to be doing in our church meetings. What can be hard to accept is that everyone you know is wrong.

  • Those least likely to see the truth on this matter are those whose lives are most invested in doing church the traditional way. That means pastors and others on the church payroll are naturally going to tend to be the last to see and acknowledge the truth.

  • Believers who are most likely to see the truth on this matter are those who recognize the fact that the unbiblical, traditional church falls short in ways that directly affect themselves. It's easier to be persuaded on this matter if you are bothered by something that is inherent to the traditional church. For example, if you have something to say that you think would help other believers, but are required to remain silent in your church meeting, then you are more likely to see the truth.

  • Poor believers are also more likely to see the truth on this subject than those who aren't poor, because they can more easily see the hypocrisy of commercial church. Although the lists of qualifications for the office of elder given to Timothy and Titus both include showing hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:8), a typical commercial church pastor never invites those who really need hospitality over to his house for a visit. And the people whom he leads in the church don't do so either.

    One of the main reasons for using a commercial facility instead of meeting in each other's homes is so that no one has to show hospitality to anyone. So poor Christians tend to see commercial church as nothing more than a country club for people more wealthy than themselves, and they are more likely to believe the truth about church when they hear it.

  • When you give money to a commercial church, the great majority of what you give goes to things that would not be needed in a biblical church. It may give you a good feeling to give to a commercial church, but very little of what you give goes toward biblical causes. The fact that the Bible never once mentions anything about people in a church giving luxuries like the first two items below to themselves as a group should raise some concern in your mind.

    Here is a typical breakdown of where your money goes.

    38%: Salaries and wages for church employees.
    Since in a biblical church all men get to speak, there is no need for anyone to be the paid speaker for the group. Men who choose to make their living from laboring in the word and doctrine should live by faith and should be paid by gifts from believers (1 Tim. 5:17), but the Bible does not authorize creating a commercial organization for the purpose of performing church for the people, altering the meeting format to be completely different from what is given in scripture, and paying the performers and their office workers a salary.

    36%: Purchase or rent the commercial facility, utilities, building and grounds maintenance and cleaning, property insurance, liability insurance, office supplies and equipment, audio/video supplies and equipment.
    In the New Testament, we are told five times that believers met for church in each other's homes (Rom. 16:5, 23, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2). Nowhere does it say to do otherwise, and nowhere does it say anyone ever met for church anywhere but in people's homes. Using a commercial facility instead makes it so people are more inclined to not get to know their fellow believers in Christ very well, and it makes it so the poor miss out on the better fellowship and hospitality that are naturally a part of biblical church. These expenses are all a result of the people deciding together to not meet in each other's homes, and to instead do church the way man invented.

    16%: Other (various ministry programs, advertising, building fund, outreach to the community, evangelism expenses, kitchen supplies, music, savings, educational institutions, emergency fund, etc.).
    Each church is of course free to decide what they want to do regarding giving money or spending money collectively or otherwise, and that applies to any of these church expense topics. But we will each surely make a little bit better decisions on these things if we decide to finally accept those parts of scripture that we've been dismissing.

    10%: International and domestic missions.
    Okay, this item is really biblical, right? After all, it says to send and support people doing the work of missionaries:

    "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" - (Rom. 10:14-15).

    It's great that they are reaching people with the gospel, but the missionaries that the church supports are not teaching the people whom they reach for Christ to do church the way the Bible says to do it, but instead are teaching them to put one man in charge, make him the paid speaker, and have everyone meet in a commercial facility instead of in each other's homes. They may even consider securing or creating the building part of their "mission" expenses, which the money you give helps to pay for. So this item is only partly biblical, since what is taught by the missionaries about church is based on anti-biblical traditions, and violates scripture. And this commitment to the tradition-based meeting format, and using a commercial facility instead of meeting in homes like the New Testament believers did, teaches the people who are reached by the missionary to disrespect the Bible. Of course the missionary will not actually say to the people, "Disregard what the Bible says about how to conduct church, as well as what it says about where the first century believers met for church." But the missionary's actions speak louder than his words, and the people recognize that.

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Part 3

  • An elder can be a man who does secular work for a living, or he may be one who makes his living from learning and teaching the word of God (1 Tim. 5:17). Of course we should support elders who make their living from laboring in the word and doctrine. We are under a biblical mandate to do so. But we are under no biblical obligation to financially support those who reject the biblical way of church in favor of tradition, unless and until they change their practices. Those who teach that we should go by tradition instead of obeying the word of God do not "rule well" and should not be paid.

  • Pastors do not have the authority to conduct church however they please. Like all Christians, they are supposed to follow the commandments we were given for church. Nowhere does the Bible say that doing so is optional, or that church leaders have any right to lead the people to disobey the commandments for church.

  • Sometimes a traditional church pastor will say that God called him to be a pastor, referring to his current role of being the preeminent speaker. But God does not call people to do things that are contrary to his word. Throughout the New Testament there is nothing even close to resembling the role of "the pastor" of a church who does all or most of the speaking. Instead, the Bible commands us to let every man have a turn to speak.

    Some of these men are godly, decent men who have felt God calling them to serve him in the church in some way, even as an elder perhaps, but they never think much about the discrepancy between our traditions and scripture. After sensing this calling, they go through their education at a Bible school or seminary, and during that whole time it never dawns on them that the established traditions about church might not be biblical. Every person they've ever looked up to or learned from as a Christian sees things the same, traditional way. Once such a man is earning an income from the traditional church system, from then on it's a very hard thing for him to view what the Bible says about church objectively. God may have in fact called him to serve, but not in the way he finally winds up serving.

    When we believe God is leading us in some direction, we always need to be sure that there isn't some scripture that goes against what we think God is telling us to do with our lives. God simply will not lead us to go against his word.

  • Our gracious God uses anything he can to help his children grow and learn more of him, so that we will be as happy as possible with him in eternity. So of course he is constantly using whatever is available in our lives in order to help us grow, and be more like Jesus. And that includes working through traditional churches and traditional church pastors. In spite of the fact that a traditional church pastor rejects the open format for church that the Lord gave us, God may still do some good through what he says. When the pastor reads the Bible aloud and then talks about what it says, of course God can and often does work through what the man says to bring about some good in some people's lives.

    But the fact that our God is gracious should not be used to excuse sinning, and conducting church in violation of the Lord's commandments is a sin.

    The fact that God does some good in some people's lives through traditional church does not make it right to rob ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ of the greater amount of good God would do if we were to obey him on this matter, and conduct church just as he said. Nor does it make it right to rob God himself of the pleasure of seeing his children walk in obedience.

    Whenever we try to make the case for traditional church using the fact that God sometimes does some good through it, it shows our selfishness. We want to keep on being passive audience members. We want to keep on not having to learn much about our fellow church attendees. We want to keep on not ever having to be inconvenienced by showing hospitality to those who need it.

    Regardless of whatever good it may sometimes do, traditional church leads men to remain spiritually immature, passive audience members their whole lives. It robs them of the maturity they would gain if they were active participants in the meeting. It robs all the people of the benefits they would receive from listening to more than just the one man speak. It especially robs the poor of the hospitality and fellowship that traditional church cannot give them. And it robs God of the pleasure of seeing his children learn to be more loving and generous people.

    While biblical church is intentionally designed around believers in Christ showing kindness and love toward each other, the traditional church business appeals to our selfish side. We pay money into the offering, and in return we get several "benefits." We don't have to get involved in the lives of others in the meeting. Just a quick greeting and handshake is plenty. We don't have to ever say anything to help anyone else in the meeting, so there's nothing we ever have to study for or prepare beforehand. We don't ever have to show hospitality to anyone else we meet with. Instead, we get to enjoy a nice, relaxing "worship" experience. We listen to some pleasant, inspiring music, and we can sing along if we like. We get to enjoy a nice, comfortable atmosphere in a nice, comfortable building. And we get to listen to a professional speaker who inspires us, and helps us feel good about ourselves, and who faithfully avoids bringing up those parts of the Bible that would make us feel uneasy.

  • Some proponents of traditional church say that when the Bible says church leaders should be good at teaching, what it really means is that they are the only ones who are permitted to speak. But the Bible doesn't say that. Here's what it does say:

    "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;" - (1 Tim. 3:2).

    "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." - (Titus 1:9).

    Of course an elder should be a good teacher, since he should be able to participate in the meeting along with the rest of the men in the church. He should sometimes teach, sometimes prophesy, etc.. But nothing in the New Testament says that men who are not elders are forbidden from teaching or other kinds of speaking in the church meeting. That would be a direct violation of the Lord's commandments that he gave to Paul to give to the churches (1 Cor. 14:26, 29, 31, 37).

    Being good at teaching is a requirement to be a church leader, but men who aren't leaders can and should learn to be good at it too. In fact, in 2 Tim. 2:24 the Bible says that "the servant of the Lord" (not just church elders) should also be "apt to teach." In the context of that verse it's referring to instructing unbelievers in everyday life outside of church, but it's good for the servant of the Lord to learn to teach other believers in the church meeting as well ("How is it then, brethren? 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).

    "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient," - (2 Tim. 2:24).

    The recipients of the book of Hebrews were were called "dull of hearing" because they should have been already mature enough to be teachers, but instead were still spiritual babies. Becoming a teacher and getting better at teaching should be a normal part of a believing man's spiritual growth. But "the pastor" at a commercial church typically doesn't want that to happen. Rather than wanting men to grow up spiritually and become beneficial to their fellow believers, he views such a prospect as a threat, and something to be discouraged.

    "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

    For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." - (Heb. 5:11-12)

    The subject of teachers presents traditional church proponents with a bit of a problem. As you can see above, there are too many scriptures that make it clear that non-elders may teach for them to pretend that the Bible only authorizes "the pastor" to do so. But if they acknowledge that the Bible says that men other than elders may teach, then the question will arise in people's minds of why the men aren't allowed to teach during the church meeting. So they have to then pretend that the church meeting is a special time during which it's only permissible for "the pastor" to teach, and that other men are permitted to teach only during Sunday school, Bible studies, or other gatherings, but not the regular church meeting (in violation of 1 Cor. 14:26). And what scripture do they base that on? None, of course. It's just the way they desire it to be. So when dealing with the subject of teachers, commercial church proponents eventually reveal that their entire position is simply based on how they want things to be rather than what scripture says.

    Just because the Bible says that elders must have certain qualities, it does not mean that men who are not elders cannot also have those qualities, and are forbidden from speaking in church. We need to recognize the fact that in everything the Bible says about the qualifications and role of church leaders, it doesn't ever actually say to change the format of the church meeting from what the Lord himself, through Paul, had already given us (1 Cor. 14:37).

  • Some traditional church proponents want people to believe that God made it hard to understand what the Bible says about church. They want you to believe that only someone with their education or their superior scripture interpreting skills is capable of understanding what God really wants his children to do in church.

    But the truth of the matter is that they like having power over others, so they choose to reject the very simple rules that God gave us for church. They portray this subject as being one that is best left to those with their elite Bible knowledge to figure out.

    In addition to power over other people, they also like the nice housing the church business sets them up with, and the comfortable salary and benefits package, and they don't want to do anything to jeopardize any of that. So it should come as no surprise that the conclusion that they always reach from their advanced studies is that they get to speak to the people, and you don't. It turns out that what they say is valuable, and what you might ever say to the group, as a mere layman, is not worth hearing.

  • The animosity of the reformers (men involved in The Reformation) toward the Anabaptists (those who came along after the reformers, and advocated for baptism of believers) is in some ways similar to the hostility some commercial church pastors have toward biblical church. The reformers brought back the true doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ alone, and were undoubtedly genuine believers and heroes of the faith. But they persecuted the Anabaptists, and even had them put to death, simply because the Anabaptists took things a step further toward the truth of scripture, and advocated for the baptism of believers instead of infant baptism and other nonsense still believed by the reformers. The reformers were great Christian men, but when dealing with the more correct Anabaptists they were horrible. In case you didn't know, sometimes genuine Christians persecute other genuine Christians.

    So don't be too surprised if you get some opposition and even harsh treatment from people whom you admire and respect who happen to be advocates for commercial church. They will mock biblical church as nothing more than "a bunch of people sitting around in a circle talking about their feelings," or say things like, "House church isn't real church. You should go to a real church."

    Take heart when this happens. What scripture says will never be changed. And as much as they want to remove certain parts of scripture, they can't. And as much as they wish scripture said certain things that would support their position, it doesn't and never will. Remember that these men's job, home, reputation and whole way of life are at stake when they're dealing with this subject. So they lash out.

    And when they make fun of biblical church, they are only revealing their contempt for scripture itself, or at least certain parts of it. Were the Corinthians who obeyed what Paul told them not doing real church? Were they just sitting in a circle talking about their feelings? Of course not.

    If you are a believer who sees the truth about church, don't worry about whatever opposition you face. God knows that you're right. The Anabaptists were eventually understood by believers to be correct, and not the heretics the reformers said that they were. And those who believe in biblical church will eventually be seen by large numbers of believers to be right as well.

    If you are treated badly or are spoken out against by another Christian because of your belief in biblical church, respond with love and blessing toward the other person, and by rejoicing and being glad about what's happening, as scripture said we should:

    "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

    Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." - (1 Pet. 3:8-9)

    "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

    Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." - (Matt. 5:11-12)

  • Part of the folklore that props up traditional church is the notion that God gave prophets to the church before the New Testament was finished in order that the people could hear the word of God from the mouths of the prophets. Then once the New Testament was finished, or once elders were ordained, God quit giving anyone that gift in order that a new person called "the pastor" could preach from the full, complete Bible, and all the rest of the men could just take it easy and listen.

    But the Bible never says anything like that. Men invented that teaching in order to preserve their positions of power over others, and give to the people a teaching that sounds plausible enough for them to swallow.

    1. There is absolutely no substitute for the word of God, including men prophesying in church. The notion that men prophesying in first century churches were speaking directly from the mouth of God, as if what they said was infallible and inspired by God, just like the word of God, is an heretical teaching invented by men. In fact, the actual word of God says that prophesies fail ("whether there be prophesies, they shall fail" - 1 Cor. 13:8). It says we only "prophesy in part," because we are limited to our own understanding (1 Cor. 13:9). And if a man legitimately prophesying was speaking the very words of God there would not be a provision for another man to interrupt him, and for the first man to stop speaking and let the other man speak (1 Cor. 14:30). If the first man prophesying was truly speaking infallibly from the mouth of the Lord, who would dare interrupt?

    Prophesying is speaking to people so that they are edified (for example, encouraged and enlightened by learning more of who we are in Christ), exhorted (urged and persuaded to do something), and comforted (relieved of emotional pain, anxiety, fear, etc.).

    "But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." - (1 Cor. 14:3).

    Prophecy may sometimes have an obviously supernatural aspect to it, such as a warning about the future (Acts 21:10-11), but since we are each in control of our own choices ("the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" - 1 Cor. 14:32), and none of us are without sin (1 John 1:8, Pr. 20:9), we should not think that our own words or anyone else's are without error and are not lacking in many ways, even while prophesying.

    2. The Bible never says that the gift of prophecy was something that God was going to stop giving people. In order to preserve their power over others, men invented the notion that prophecy was a temporary "sign gift" that God gave to people for a little while, and then he suddenly stopped giving it. But the Bible never says that God was going to stop giving any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Very soon after the death of the apostles, men stopped doing church the way the apostles taught, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer used, and people settled in to the new format that the early church fathers invented, where only the priest spoke. But the Bible never says that God was not perfectly willing and able to give gifts of the Spirit as he saw fit. In fact, the word of God repeatedly commands readers of his word to seek the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 39), and those commands are never revoked anywhere in the New Testament. And we are specifically told that those commandments are directly from the Lord himself (1 Cor. 14:37). Since the Lord Jesus Christ, through Paul, commanded us to seek the gift of prophecy, and never repealed that commandment anywhere later in the New Testament, of course we should obey him and seek that gift. And of course he will give it.

    3. Even the idea that churches didn't yet have the word of God from the New Testament is false. The churches that were recipients of each epistle in the New Testament had at least those letters in their possession, of course. And it's likely that many had one or more of the four gospels (1 Tim. 6:3). And it's obvious that the epistles were copied and given to other churches that weren't the original recipients, as it says in Col. 4:16: "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." So first century churches often had parts of the New Testament already in their possession, and yet God was somehow perfectly willing to give the gift of prophecy to people in the churches.

    4. Paul repeatedly urged the Corinthians to seek to prophesy, which means they didn't all have that gift (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 39). Yet he says in 1 Cor. 14:26 that every one of them still had a right to speak in the church meeting: "How is it then, brethren? 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." Nowhere does he say that unless you have the gift of prophecy, you may not speak in church. At least some of the Corinthians didn't have that gift, yet he says to them that they all get to participate. So the format of the church meeting was supposed to be open to all believing men to speak, regardless of whether they had the gift of prophecy.

    5. When the apostles gave instructions to their assistants to ordain elders in churches that had been previously established, they never said to completely change the format to something different. When Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to ordain elders, if those appointments were to be accompanied by a complete change in the format of the church meeting where all the men except one were supposed to be silenced during the meeting, he would have said so. Yet the Bible says nothing like that anywhere in the New Testament.

    Folklore should not be used to create doctrine. The truth of the matter is that men like having power over others, and that can affect how they view the scriptures. We need to give scripture its rightful place as the final authority on how to conduct church meetings.

  • If you want to study this subject in the Bible just like a promoter of traditional church does, you can do it. It's easy. First, start with the premise that traditional church is the will of God. Let that be your agenda. Then simply interpret everything the Bible says around that.

    So when the Bible says that elders should be good at teaching, it must really mean they are the only ones who are supposed to speak. When it commands us to let all the men in church have a turn to speak, what it must really mean is that only the Corinthian men and their contemporaries were permitted to speak. When it says Peter was "an elder," what it must really mean is that he was "the pastor," and only he spoke in church.

    And if you find anything particularly troubling in the Bible that doesn't fit in with your agenda, just ignore it. So just ignore everything Jesus said about a leader needing to act like a servant instead of a ruler. Ignore any scripture where it says church leaders are supposed to lead by example instead of like a boss. And by all means, ignore everything it says about believers meeting in houses instead of commercial facilities. So to study just like a promoter of traditional church, all you have to do is filter every scripture through the presupposition that traditional church is the will of God.

    On the other hand, if you want to study this subject from the perspective of a believer in Christ who doesn't have an agenda to promote, simply take the Bible at its word. Have no presupposition, and just let it say what it says. This is the way to study the Bible if you believe that God knew what he was doing, that he inspired every word, and that he neither left anything out nor added anything that wasn't necessary. In other words, read the Bible believing that it's actually God's eternal, infallible word, and that God was smart enough and capable enough to make the Bible say exactly what it needs to say so that we would know what to do in our church meetings. Read the Bible from that perspective, and you will very easily learn the truth.

  • Arguments in favor of traditional church instead of biblical church typically include made-up assumptions that aren't in the Bible. For example, the Bible never says that the open format church meeting was somehow a temporary measure God used only until the New Testament was completed, and that once that happened only an elder is to speak. That argument was really invented out of thin air to try to excuse favoring tradition over scripture, since there is nothing even remotely like that said in the Bible. Nowhere does it say anything about the open format church meeting being a way to do things temporarily until the New Testament gets completed. And nowhere does it say to forget all about the commandments we were given for church, and from now on let only the man in charge speak. That is essentially what happened in history, but there is no reason today that we have to keep repeating the same error. The basic idea behind the argument is this: Before the New Testament was completed God wanted Christians to do church the way the Bible says, but after the New Testament was completed he wants them to conduct church contrary to what the Bible says.

  • Have you ever noticed that traditional churches almost never mention anything about 1 Corinthians 14 in their statement of faith? You'd think they might at least say, "We don't follow what it says in 1 Corinthians 14, since we believe things should be done differently...." But they generally shy away from doing that. They don't even want to bring up the subject, since they don't have a biblical answer for why they only let one man speak in the meeting. They prefer to not put what they believe in writing, since what they believe about the church meeting is based on tradition and folklore, and it would seem out of place in a statement of faith that is otherwise based on scripture.

  • What must God be like in the minds of those who promote traditional church over biblical church? To them he must be mean and petulant, since he first gives long, detailed instructions to New Testament Christians about how to do things in church meetings, then pulls the rug out from under us by not giving us what we need ("No more spiritual gifts for you! Ha, ha!"). This "god" says to conduct church a particular way in his word, then quickly changes his mind, and decides we should do it completely differently, but he doesn't think to tell us about the new format in his word, which is already finished ("Oops!"). He doesn't mean what he says; he really means something different. To find out what this god really means, you have to go to an expert who can tell you all about the hidden meanings, and the stuff that you, as a lowly parishioner, could never figure out on your own (1 John 2:27). What a lousy, deceitful, powerless god.

  • Traditional church is usually promoted using two main tactics, both of which are dishonest, to try to make unbiblical church sound biblical.

    One way is to acknowledge that church used to be an open format meeting, but then claim that God changed the church format with the addition of elders, or with the completion of the New Testament. This claim sounds kind of right to people, since it goes along with what happened in history, where the open format was replaced with the "one man speaks" format after the apostles had all died and the new guys stepped in. There is no biblical support whatsoever for that, but people still believe it, so "the pastor" keeps saying it. The idea is to get people to believe that God gave elders to the church in order to help people disobey the commandments of the Lord rather than to help them obey those commandments.

    Another way is to pretend that there never was an open format for church meetings, and that the position of "the pastor" is actually in the Bible. For example, men will claim that the angels of the seven churches in Revelation were each "the pastor" of a local assembly, even though such a position only exists outside of scripture. They will even claim that Peter was "the pastor" of a church, or that James was "the pastor" of a church, meaning that these men were just like today's guy called "the pastor," who forbids other men from speaking except with his permission. Yes, Peter was an elder, but nothing in the Bible says that he didn't follow "the commandments of the Lord" about church, where every believing man in church gets a chance to speak. Why would Peter decide that instead of acting like "an elder" who leads by example and lets every man have a turn to speak, he would disobey the Lord and become "the pastor," who forces every other man in the meeting to keep his mouth shut? Of course he didn't.

  • When a traditional church pastor gives a sermon, he knows that nobody else during the meeting is going to interrupt him or even question anything he says. Maybe on rare occasions someone will speak to him privately after church, but everyone knows it would be against decorum for anyone not authorized by the pastor to try to speak during the meeting in response to anything that was said.

    This authoritarian style of rule affects every sermon the pastor gives. It makes it so what he says is different from what he would say if he were speaking in a biblical church, where other men are permitted to speak, and are considered his brothers in Christ instead of subjects under his rule. For any given sermon, if he gave the same general message in the context of a biblical church, it would surely come from a more humble and thoughtful perspective.

    Sometimes he says things that need proof, but offers none. Sometimes he says things that while true, are not the whole truth. Sometimes he says things that are incomplete when not accompanied by other scriptures that provide balance on the subject. And like all of us, he may even sometimes say things that are just plain wrong, and we just have to live with it.

    Authoritarian rule is the exact opposite of the kind of leadership given in the Bible. Church leaders are supposed to function as servants, and lead by example. They do have authority, but they are not supposed to overstep their authority. But the role of a traditional church pastor is to do just that. Silencing all the other men in the church is forbidden in scripture (1 Cor. 14:26), and is not exactly the best way to treat people who are your brothers in Christ.

    "But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.

    But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

    And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

    For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." - (Mark 10:42-45).

    "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 ensamples to the flock." - (1 Pet. 5:1-3).

(Table of Contents)

Part 4

  • Why do you suppose God put 1 Corinthians 14 in the Bible? Why would a wise and loving God include a very detailed set of instructions in his word about how to conduct church, but not want us to actually obey those instructions? Do you think he only intended things to be done that way for a little while? Do you think he included it in the Bible because he just wanted to give us a history lesson about how things used to be done way back then?

    Why would a loving, all-knowing God repeatedly tell readers of his eternal word to seek the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 39) if within just a few years he was going to discontinue giving anyone that gift? What kind of God would do that?

    Why would a good God give us very specific rules about using the gift of tongues in church if that gift was about to reach its expiration date as well (1 Cor. 14:13, 27-28, 39)? Why would a benevolent God say such things?

    Doesn't God know how dangerous that is? A simple minded person who didn't know any better might pick up a Bible, accidentally read 1 Corinthians 14, and think that we're actually supposed to obey what it says.

    Then that gullible person might look through the whole New Testament to see if God canceled those rules in some other passage of scripture. Not finding any such cancellation, he might then find himself suffering from a terrible delusion, thinking such crazy thoughts as, "Maybe God really wants us to do what he told us to do."

    Why would a good God let us be misled in that way? Why would he give such a long list of do's and don'ts for church in the Bible, all the while not really wanting folks to obey them? Why would he then at the end of the chapter essentially say, "Oh, by the way, let me make sure you understand where these rules came from, in case any of you have a different opinion about how to do things. These rules didn't come from Paul the apostle's personal opinions. These rules didn't come from a committee. These rules didn't come from folks learning by experience on the mission field. These commandments were given by Jesus Christ himself! THESE ARE THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD!"

    "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Cor. 14:37)

    Why would a good God allow such easily misunderstood things to be said in his word? People could misinterpret such things, and mistakenly think that we're supposed to do what it says. Maybe it's one of those mysteries that we'll never know the answer to, right?

  • Prophesying is speaking to men in order to edify, exhort and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). We are commanded to let two or three men who would like to prophesy do so in each church meeting (1 Cor. 14:29). Since God greatly desires that all men in the church have their turn to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 31, 39), we know that God will give this gift to those who ask for it and seek it (Matt. 7:7-11).

  • In addition to prophesying, the Bible encourages every man to contribute to the meeting in some meaningful way (1 Cor. 14:26). For example, one could read a chapter from the Psalms, and talk about it.

  • The spiritual gift of prophesying enables one to speak effectively in order to edify, exhort and comfort believers (1 Cor. 14:3), but the Bible does not imply that one who is genuinely exercising the gift necessarily speaks infallibly ("whether there be prophesies, they shall fail" - 1 Cor. 13:8), or beyond his own understanding ("we prophesy in part" - 1 Cor. 13:9). Otherwise, God would not have provided a way to interrupt someone right in the middle of prophesying ("let the first hold his peace" - 1 Cor. 14:30). It is even possible to prophesy without the right motivation ("And though I have the gift of prophecy... and have not charity, I am nothing." - 1 Cor. 13:2).

    There have been exceptions, though, when men did prophesy perfectly, and their every word was breathed by God. These were those special moments in history when men prophesied perfectly while being moved by the Holy Ghost in a unique way, and their words were written down and became the books of the Bible: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." - (2 Pet. 1:21). But normal prophesying by believers is quite different from that, and we are responsible for what we say, and when and how we choose to say it ("And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." - 1 Cor. 14:32).

  • Have you ever wondered why the Lord, through Paul, emphasized the importance of the commandments for church in a remarkable way by calling them, "the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37)? Maybe it was in anticipation of the coming centuries of men despising this part of his word. It's not like there's anything hard to figure out. God spelled things out for us perfectly. We are without excuse. They are the commandments of the Lord, and to disobey them is sin.

  • It says in 1 Corinthians 14:29-30, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace."

    So in a church that obeys the Bible at least two or three men are supposed to prophesy in each meeting. Where in the Bible is the format for church where only one man gives a message in the meeting and all the rest of the men do nothing? Nowhere. That format is something man invented that replaces the way God said to do it.

    And in a biblical church every man has the freedom to interrupt the man speaking if the Lord reveals something to him and prompts him to say something. So the men who aren't speaking have the responsibility to listen carefully in case the Lord prompts them to say something.

    Some traditional church pastors are good, reasonable men, and would welcome such interaction if they were convinced it was really the Lord's way of doing things. But some balk at all of this. They do not like the idea of their message being scrutinized or questioned or expanded upon by other men in the meeting. Nor do they like the idea of sharing the speaking time with anyone else. They like being the main guy, the most spiritual, the most knowledgeable, and the one everyone listens to and respects and thanks for giving such a good sermon and for being such a kind, wise and godly man.

    The scripture quoted above is a commandment of the Lord, as it says in 1 Cor. 14:37. Jesus Christ gave Paul this commandment to give to the churches, and the Holy Spirit had Paul write it out so that it would become forever a part of his holy word, and where it could be followed by Christians through the ages. Nowhere in the New Testament is this commandment revoked, or even amended. People who teach that we don't need to obey this commandment are teaching us to disobey the Lord Jesus Christ, even if they don't realize it.

  • It says in 1 Corinthians 14:31, "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted."

    So in order for all in the assembly to learn and for all to be comforted, each man must be allowed to prophesy. That's because each of God's children is unique, and we each have different needs. When the first man speaks some people benefit a lot from what he says, but others don't get much out of it. Then the second man speaks, and different people find him more helpful than the first guy, and so on. When only one man speaks during the meeting it doesn't help everyone near as much as when multiple men speak.

  • Traditional, institutional church is like a business. A business provides something of value to its customers in exchange for money. Institutional church provides the men with a more relaxing, easier way to do things. It relieves men of their biblical responsibilities in church, while they still get to feel like they fulfilled their obligation to go to church. Men attending an institutional church feel no need to get to know their fellow church attendees, since they will never say anything in the meeting that might be of help to anyone. The men do not need to study their Bibles in order to help the others in the meeting, since the pastor does that for them. They have no need to seek spiritual gifts in order to benefit others. They never need to prepare a message that may help someone. They never need to learn to speak effectively to a group of believers. The men are encouraged to remain spiritual babies their entire lives. They can just walk in, sit down, sing along, put some money in the plate, listen to the pastor, and leave.

  • Elders are supposed to be humble and lead by example, as explained in 1 Pet. 5:3: "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." They aren't supposed to be like a boss over the people. In a biblical church, when it's an elder's turn to talk he should do so in a way that leads by example, so the other men are better equipped to speak when it's their turn. On the other hand, the role of a traditional church pastor is to act as if he is the boss. Only he speaks. He doesn't lead by example during the church meeting, since the other men don't get to follow his example by also speaking to the group.

  • A hierarchical authority structure with one man in charge at the top makes sense for traditional church. After all, it is a business, and businesses need that kind of structure in order to function properly and succeed.

    Biblical church, on the other hand, is not a business, and has no need to operate as one. The Lord very wisely designed the church meeting so that church does not function as a business, but is more like a family get together, which indeed it is. It is designed to be a time of benefiting each other, getting to know each other, helping each other when we need it, taking care of the most needy among us, etc..

    There is no point in trying to fix traditional church. For example, suppose a parishioner tried to introduce the idea of having multiple speakers in each meeting instead of just one. While that might be somewhat of an improvement, the pastor would probably not really want that to happen. And the rest of the men in the church don't want that to happen, either. They wouldn't want to have to speak, or even feel like there is any social pressure to speak, as a result of any other men taking the initiative to do so. They would think, "Why do I have to speak? That's what we're paying the pastor to do."

    And since the commercial facility still needs constant incoming money for expenses such as the pastor's salary, utilities, building maintenance, etc., the poor would still be viewed as less valuable than others who can pay more. And even though the poor could speak and therefore actually be valuable to the group in a non-financial way, they would still be missing out on the hospitality and fellowship that house church lets them enjoy.

    On the other hand, it would be just as futile to try to conduct a house church meeting using the traditional church format, where only the pastor gets to speak. Even though such a church would be kind of an improvement in some ways, it would fall short in other very important ways. The men would still tend to remain spiritual babies, and the people would not get to benefit from having multiple speakers. And as a result of disobeying the Lord's clear commandments for church, everyone would still retain a certain degree of contempt for the word of God, since it would still say to do church in a way that differs from what they're actually doing.

    So just get out. Don't try to change anyone. Leave traditional church for those who want to do it that way. Let them have it the way they want it. But for you, don't settle for anything less than fully biblical church, where the people obey the Lord's commandments for church, AND they meet in each other's homes like Christians in the New Testament did.

  • Following traditions is not a bad thing in itself. Traditions that others before us have established can be useful, and comforting, and respectful to our elders. When tradition goes against the Bible that's a problem, but there's nothing inherently wrong with following traditions.

    Paul made it clear that as believers in Christ, we should follow the traditions that he and the other apostles established: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." - (2 Thes. 2:15).

    Now consider the matter of meeting in people's homes. Is that a tradition that Paul and other apostles taught that we are supposed to follow, according to the above verse from 2 Thessalonians? Consider the following evidence the Lord gave us:

    1. There are five places in scripture where it says people hosted church in their own homes. The message is very clear in those five verses (Rom. 16:5, 23, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2).

    2. In a couple of other places where it mentions the building believers used for church, the type of building is not specified (Acts 20:7-9 and 1 Corinthians 11:18-34). Those buildings could have been people's homes, but the Holy Spirit chose to not specify the type of building.

    The only times where the Holy Spirit chose to tell us specifically what kind of building church was held in are those where it was in someone's house. So it's obvious that the apostles taught that people's homes were at least the preferred venue for church, and possibly the only kind of building anyone in the New Testament ever met in for church. So meeting in houses was surely a tradition that the apostles were teaching Christians to follow, and one that we should follow, too.

  • Traditional, commercial church is a fraudulent replacement for biblical church. It's a scam. Ultimately, like all evil in the world, its root is the love of money:

    "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." - (1 Tim. 6:10)

    Many full-time Christian workers cannot afford to look at the subject of church in the Bible objectively, since their support and way of making a living might dry up. Since most of their support comes from people who attend traditional churches, they must all go along with the unbiblical notion of each church having a man called "the pastor" who is pretty much the only speaker. By going along with that popular belief instead of faithfully sticking to what the word of God says even if it means losing support, they have compromised their integrity for the sake of money.

    If that is your situation you need to take a step of faith, and decide to break from the crowd, and take a firm stand to believe what the word of God says about what we are supposed to be doing in church. Yes, you may lose supporters. Yes, you may need to get another line of work. Yes, you may lose friends. But is there really anything to worry about? Does your Father in heaven not know how to take care of you if all of that happens? Is your faith really that small? Consider the words of our Lord:

    "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

    Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

    Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

    And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

    And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

    Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

    Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

    (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matt 6:24-34)

  • Imagine the following conversation on the day of judgment:

    God: "My word says, 'Let the prophets speak, two or three.' Did you do that, son?"

    You: "No, sir."

    God: "Why not?"

    You: "Because the pastor said that's not for us today."

    God: "Who said that?"

    You: "The pastor."

    God: "Who's 'the pastor?' My word never mentions him."

    You: "Sure it does. He's the leader of the church."

    God: "No, it doesn't. And no, he isn't."

    You: "You know... he's the guy who does all the speaking in church. He runs the place."

    God: "What place?"

    You: "The church. Here's a picture of the one I went to."

    God: "That's not a church."

    You: "Oh, yeah."

(Table of Contents)

Part 5

  • Traditional, commercial churches will never be a part of fulfilling Jesus' prayer in John 17 for all believers to love each other and be "one." There are two reasons for that. One reason is that each traditional church operates as a business that seeks to stay in business, and is naturally in competition with other local church businesses to get the local people's money. Without a certain number of people coming in every week and putting money in the offering, the place would go out of business, and "the pastor" and some other people would be out of work. This underlying truth can be put out of mind when things are good, and plenty of people are attending and paying, but eventually it comes to the surface, and the competitive and financial nature of commercial church shows itself.

    Another reason is that the format of the traditional church discourages the people from getting to know each other and getting involved in each other's lives. It does happen sometimes, but that is in spite of the way the church meeting is, not because of it. Sitting in rows the whole time, like people in a movie theater, doesn't help the situation. Not being allowed to speak makes it worse. If the men are allowed to speak they each have a reason to get to know the other people in the meeting: so they can say something during the meeting to help them. But if the men are all silenced that motivation is gone. So you wind up with a bunch of folks sitting in an auditorium who are mostly strangers to each other. There are a few in the crowd whom we greet, but for most we never even learn their names. And then we all sit quietly and watch the performance up on the stage. And when it's over we say, "Hope you have a good week!" But we usually never really learn anything much about those people we sit with. We are customers who happen to go to the same shop, and that's about it.

  • There is no reason given in the Bible why the believers in the apostles' time met in each other's houses. Some who favor traditional, institutional church instead of biblical church say they met in homes only because of persecution, but the Bible doesn't say why. We think there are other reasons.

  • A church that meets in a house may be unbiblical. For example, a house church that lets only one man speak in the meeting is not doing what the Bible says.

  • Meeting in people's houses benefits the poor more than others. The poor tend to have relatives that reject them, and even their friends do not want to hear from them:

    "All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him." (Prov. 19:7).

    Even the neighbors of the poor do not want to have anything to do with them:

    "Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour." (Prov. 19:4).

    Sometimes church is the only place where they have much of a chance for anyone to want to talk with them and be friendly to them. The institutional church setting is not near as good in that respect as a church that meets in someone's house.

    Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor:

    "And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." - (Luke 6:20).

  • Biblical church provides an opportunity for the poor to speak and be listened to in a way that does not happen much for them. The poor have the same desire as everyone else to feel valuable and needed and loved by other people, but that doesn't happen as much in their lives. Consider what it says in Ecclesiastes:

    "Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard." - (Eccl. 9:16)

    A poor man, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in a house church with other people actually listening to him and benefiting from what he says, is a very good thing. It's a shame that it doesn't happen much. How well we treat those believers among us whom the Bible calls exalted (James 1:9) and who are the heirs of the kingdom of God says a lot about us.

    "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor...." (James 2:5-6).

    By robbing poor believers of their God given right to speak in church we are, in effect, saying to them, "You are worthless to us." Since all the men are generally prohibited from speaking, the only thing they are allowed to do to help anyone else is give money. The poor generally can't do that as well as others in the church, so they really are the least valuable people in a traditional church.

  • Poor believers need fellowship and friendship more than others do (Prov. 19:7). Many of the poor don't have any family they can talk with, or any friends who want to hear from them. Sometimes they have to eat all their meals alone. Sometimes there is not anyone they can talk with during difficult times in their lives.

    The traditional church business does not concern itself with any of that. Local, poor believers who attend traditional church are its lowest priority. The important things include outreach programs, foreign mission trips, financial seminars, men's retreats, women's retreats, worship team rehearsals, and various classes.

    On the other hand, a biblical house church provides an opportunity for a poor believer to eat a meal with another person, and enjoy being a welcome guest in someone else's home.

    Which do you think makes God happier?

    "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt 25:40)

  • The poor in richer areas of the world would be considered rich when compared to poor people living in poorer countries. So non-poor believers in rich countries tend to think that their own poor are less deserving of their attention than poor folks in another country. We give money and aid to help those in foreign lands, but we neglect our own poor, since "They aren't really poor."

    But the poor in a rich country still experience the same unpleasant social effects that the Bible says happen to the poor. People want to be friends with people who have about the same financial status as themselves, as defined primarily by where they live. It's just too awkward to try to be friends with someone who is either much richer, or much poorer than ourselves. So the poor wind up being "hated" by even their friends and relatives. And that's especially true if they were not poor as children, and became poor as adults.

    God designed the biblical church with all of that in mind, of course. Poor Christians get an opportunity to spend some time with people with whom they wouldn't normally be socializing, and they even get the chance to be of some benefit to them.

    When we take care of poor people in other lands but ignore the very real social needs of our own poor, we are being hypocritical.

  • Some traditional churches hold special dinners at the church facility that are intended to help the people get to know each other, and provide a way for the church to show some hospitality to the poorer members. Some even have regular meals like that every month or every week.

    While better than nothing, for the poor person these events are not as good as being a guest in another person's home for a meal. Some poor people live very isolated lives compared to most other people. They may go for years without being a guest in another person's home. They are not invited to any parties. They are not invited to anything. They feel unloved for a very good reason: they are in fact unloved by others.

    Imagine having no one in your life who would cry if you died today. Imagine having no one who cares for you when you get sick. Imagine having no friends in your life who want to hear from you. This is reality for some poor, isolated Christians who attend traditional churches.

    For such a person, going to a meal held at a commercial church facility may not be very appealing. Poor, alone individuals want to feel loved by others. They know that people who are friends with each other spend time with one another, and they sometimes go to each other's homes.

    These people who have the lowest social status and who sometimes seem unimportant to us are especially important to the Lord. When we are rich and have plenty of friends and family, having hospitality doesn't seem like a very important quality, since we don't feel the need for it ourselves. But there are those who actually appreciate it and really need it. And since God loves those people very much, of course he made being hospitable a requirement for being a church leader, and of course he told us five times that Christians in the New Testament met for church in each other's homes (Rom. 16:5, 23, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2).

    "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;" "...given to hospitality." - (Rom. 12:10, 13)

    "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;" - (1 Tim. 3:2)

    "But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;" - (Titus 1:8)

    "Use hospitality one to another without grudging." - (1 Pet. 4:9)

  • The setting of an institutional church makes it so there is often not much interaction between people other than polite small talk before and after the meeting. It's common for people who attend the same church week after week to go years without knowing much of anything about each other. They essentially remain strangers. That is not the kind of brotherhood and love between believers that Jesus prayed for:

    "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." - (John 17:20-23)

    In a biblical church meeting in someone's home things are much better in that respect. Even rich and poor believers naturally get to know each other better, and have plenty of opportunities to learn from each other, since in a biblical church all men get to speak. And with biblical house church the less formal setting of the home helps people move beyond their temporal differences, so they are better able to appreciate each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Here are some folks who hosted church in their house in the days of the apostles. These are people who loved the Lord, and loved their neighbors as themselves. God honored them by having their names forever enshrined in his word.

    "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house...." - (Rom. 16:3-5)

    "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you...." - (Rom. 16:23)

    "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." - (1 Cor. 16:19)

    "Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house." - (Col. 4:15)

    "And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:" - (Philemon 1:2)

  • The Bible mentions believers praying together in a "place" called a "house" (Acts 2:1-2) where there was a room large enough to hold 120 people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:15). These people included the eleven disciples, Jesus' mother and brothers, and other devout men and women (Acts 1:13-14). After Jesus ascended into heaven, they prayed together for many days, and waited for the Holy Spirit to be poured out, as Jesus promised. At first they prayed in an "upper room," but on the day of Pentecost there is no specific description like that of the room where they were praying. No one anywhere was meeting for "church" yet during these days. Jesus had ascended, and the promised Holy Spirit was expected soon, and Jesus' 120 most devout followers were together, praying and waiting.

    This day of Pentecost itself was an historic day under very specific circumstances, and the scripture here says nothing about what God wanted believers to do about church in the future, after the Holy Spirit was given. To portray this section of scripture as being instructive about anything regarding how God wanted believers to conduct church meetings going forward from that point would be disingenuous. No one reading this section of scripture objectively would even consider that God was trying to tell us anything about what he wanted regarding the size of the assemblies, or the types of buildings in which to meet for church through the ages. It would not make sense to conclude that since that very specific group of people on that very unusual day met in some kind of large building that holds at least 120 people, our assemblies should therefore be that size, and we should therefore meet in a big, non-residential building for church. When the word of God does deal with actual church meetings after this monumental day, if the type of building is specified it is always someone's house (Rom. 16:5, 23, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2).

    It also mentions believers meeting in the temple several times, in addition to "from house to house" (Acts 2:46). But these instances when believers are in the temple are never referred to as being church meetings, and it would not make sense to infer from those verses that we should somehow also construct our own "temples" for church meetings.

    Throughout the New Testament no type of building is ever specified as the meeting place for church other than people's houses. Why do you suppose God gave us five examples of Christians meeting in each other's houses for church, but never gave a direct commandment to do so? One reason may be that it's sometimes not even possible. Examples include believers in prison, and those traveling by ship.

    Remember that God knows everything, and his word is perfect (Ps. 119:1-176). Everything it says is there for a good reason, and the same goes for everything it doesn't say.

  • The Bible explicitly forbids women from speaking in church (1 Cor. 14:34, 1 Tim. 2:11-12). In 1 Cor. 11:5 it does refer to women praying or prophesying, which implies a social setting, but it does not say that they can do so in church.

  • Attending a traditional church meeting is emasculating for a man. He is required to stay silent, so he is being treated as if he were a woman. The only one fulfilling the role of a man is the pastor.

  • A mature believer in Christ does not need to be shown a list of advantages of biblical church over traditional church. He only needs to know what the Bible says on the matter. Strong faith in Christ means a strong respect for the authority and perfection of scripture. Jesus said, "thy word is truth" (John 17:17). When we view the word of God with proper respect we do not need additional persuasion.

  • What place did the written word of God have in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the living Word of God (John 1:1, 14, 1 John 5:7, Rev. 19:13)?

    "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." - (Matt. 4:4).

    "Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." - (Matt. 4:7).

    "Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." - (Matt. 4:10).

    "For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." - (Matt 11:10).

    "But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;" - (Matt. 12:3).

    "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side." - (Matt 13:19).

    "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" - (Matt 15:3).

    "And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." - (Matt 15:6).

    "And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." - (Matt 21:13).

    "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" - (Matt. 21:42).

    "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." - (Matt. 22:29).

    "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born." - (Matt. 26:24).

    "Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." - (Matt. 26:31).

    "But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" - (Matt 26:54).

    "And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?" - (Mark 2:25).

    "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." - (Mark 7:6).

    "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." - (Mark 7:13).

    "And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought." - (Mark 9:12).

    "But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him." - (Mark 9:13).

    "And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:" - (Mark 12:10).

    "And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?" - (Mark 12:24).

    "The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born." - (Mark 14:21).

    "And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." - (Mark 14:27).

    "I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled." - (Mark 14:49).

    "And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." - (Luke 4:4).

    "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." - (Luke 4:8).

    "And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." - (Luke 4:12).

    "And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." - (Luke 4:21).

    "And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret," - (Luke 5:1).

    "This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." - (Luke 7:27).

    "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God." - (Luke 8:11).

    "And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it." - (Luke 8:21).

    "Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves." - (Luke 19:46).

    "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." - (Luke 24:27).

    "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" - (Luke 24:32).

    "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures," - (Luke 24:45).

    "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:" - (Luke 24:46).

    "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." - (John 5:39).

    "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." - (John 6:45).

    "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." - (John 7:38).

    "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;" - (John 10:35).

    "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." - (John 13:18).

    "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." - (John 17:12).

    "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." - (John 17:17).

    "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." - (John 19:28).

  • For those sincerely seeking the truth a good starting point would be to begin doing what it says in 1 Cor. 14:37: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." Maybe acknowledging that fact out loud to yourself will help turn the light on.

(Table of Contents)

Part 6

  • How necessary are elders in a church? According to the testimony of scripture, elders are very important, and it is far better to have them, but they are not absolutely necessary in order for a church to function. Churches started by the apostles and their assistants typically did not have elders in the beginning, then after a while those men in the group who were qualified and who wanted to serve as elders were ordained.

    The apostles, along with those who assisted them, worked much of the time as evangelists (Acts 14:21, 25, 2 Tim 4:5). They would go into an area and preach the gospel, and urge the people to whom they preached to believe in Jesus Christ, and then immediately be baptized (Acts 2:38, 8:12, 13, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47, 48, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 22:16). They stayed for a while, and instructed the new believers to meet with each other and conduct church according to "the commandments of the Lord" that we see Paul gave to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:1-40). Then at some point the evangelists would leave the first area in order to move on to some other area where people had not heard the gospel yet, or to some other task to which the Lord was calling them (Acts 14:25-28). Then some time later, perhaps a few years after their first visit, they would return to the first area and ordain elders (also known as bishops) in the churches they had established (Titus 1:5). The elders were to be men from within the churches who had proven themselves over time to be honorable, faithful Christians who met several criteria that qualified them for the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9).

    So in the time between when the evangelists left and when they returned to appoint leadership, the churches consisted only of new believers. They did not yet have any men who were ordained to be elders, but they met for church and did just fine without them. Since we know that one of the criteria for the office of elder is that a man be "not a novice" (1 Tim. 3:6) it's reasonable to assume that the time between the first and second visit of the evangelists could have been a few years.

    While this way of doing things doesn't make sense in the world of traditional church and its made-up position of "the pastor" who does all the talking, these practices of the apostles and the early believers are reasonable and make perfect sense in light of the way the Bible says to conduct church. Every believing man was encouraged to give a talk in the meeting (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 26, 31, 39). And the apostles knew that when churches didn't yet have men who were officially ordained as overseers, at least they did have the most important man present with them every week for their church meetings, the Lord Jesus (Matt. 18:20).

    So it's perfectly normal for a biblical church starting out to go for a while with no official leaders. Then after a while the men who have demonstrated faithfulness to Christ, willingness to be a servant of all the people, and living in a way that meets all of the biblical criteria, should be ordained as elders by the group. These men should then focus on fulfilling all the duties of elders, including feeding the flock of God, overseeing, and generally being a humble servant of everyone in the church (Matt. 20:25-28, Matt. 23:11, Mark 9:35, John 13:14, Acts 20:17, 28-31, 1 Pet. 5:2-3).

    The format of the church meeting remains exactly the same with the addition of elders. Nothing in the Bible says otherwise. Every man still gets to speak, and the elders are still required to obey all the commandments for church.

    Ideally, there should be more than one man serving as an elder in each assembly, but it isn't a requirement. In the following verses note that in each church (singular) there were to be elders (plural):

    "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." - (Acts 14:23 )

    "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)

    When Paul instructed Titus to ordain elders in the churches in an area that had been evangelized earlier, he said, "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife," etc. (Titus 1:6-9). The implication of the words "if any" is that Titus should only appoint elders in a church if any of the men in the group actually met the criteria. So it's possible that in some of the churches Titus visited he recognized that none of the men were qualified, or at least weren't qualified yet, so he didn't ordain anyone in those particular churches at that time. Again, while not ideal, a lack of elders is sometimes to be expected, and it is perfectly normal and biblical for a church to sometimes be in that situation.

  • The singular word "pastor" never appears in the New Testament (much less "the pastor"). It says "pastors" once:

    "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" - (Eph. 4:11)

    Read the above verse in context and you'll see that he's talking about spiritual gifts that Jesus Christ gives to believers, and here it doesn't link pastoring with the office of elder. The responsibilities of pastoring are associated with the office of elder in 1 Pet. 5:1-4, where he exhorts elders to spiritually feed and look after believers like a shepherd takes care of the sheep. Shepherding is also shown to be part of the duties of the office of elder in Acts 20:28-31. So an elder should function as a pastor, or shepherd, as part of his duties, but there is no such office as "pastor." The office is called elder, or bishop.

    The office where one man is in charge and only he speaks is not biblical, no matter what it's called. Using the term "the pastor" makes it easier to get away with having the made-up office than if they had used the term, "the elder." If they used "the elder" instead, it might cause people to look up what the Bible actually says about the office of elder, as well as the commandments of the Lord about church. Then they would see that each church should have multiple elders instead of "the elder," and that none of the elders have a right to disobey the commandments of the Lord by silencing all the other men. So they use the made-up term "the pastor" precisely because it is unbiblical. Using the term "the pastor" is a tactic that helps believers get used to speaking and thinking unbiblically, which helps the wool remain over their eyes.

    And it never says anywhere that pastoring, or shepherding, is a function that only an elder may ever do. Men who do not hold the office of elder have the responsibility to sometimes do things that could fall under the category of shepherding as well, including any speaking to the group, giving guidance to someone, etc.. But those holding the office of elder are especially charged with those duties more than other men are.

  • It's important to remember that while God gave us the office of elder in order to ensure that responsible men of good character help to keep the church on track, protect them from bad teachings, etc., he never intended there to be the kind of sharp separation between clergy and laity that exists in most churches. Remember that Jesus said we have only one Master, himself.

    "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

    And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

    Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ." - (Matt. 23:8-10)

    Jesus said that we shouldn't use the titles "Rabbi," "father," or "master." Those are just three titles of several that are sometimes used by people, but the idea is that among believers in Christ we shouldn't give anyone a title that reinforces the false notion that one person is above anyone else in a broad sense, nor should we accept such a title for ourselves. That's because the order of things that best describes where we each rank is the following:

    1. Jesus.

    2. Everybody else.

    Just call people by their names. We shouldn't say, "Pastor" or "Elder" before someone's name, since it implies a rank above others, and goes against the spirit of what Jesus said in the above scripture. Generally speaking, we should obey elders, and submit to them, and let ourselves be persuaded by them (Heb. 13:17). And we should honor them appropriately and reasonably (1 Tim. 5:17). However, there are limits to honoring them that we should not go beyond, and titles are too much. Making it so people have to include a title that goes before the person's name whenever they address an elder conveys to everyone that the elder is somehow separate from the rest of us, and is above us in rank spiritually. Jesus only included three such titles in the above scripture from Matthew, but the idea of what he said applies to any similar title.

    Since even the apostles did not give themselves or other apostles titles, certainly neither should elders. The apostles simply called themselves and other apostles by their names: (Rom. 1:1, 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor. 1:1, 1 Cor. 15:7, Gal 1:1, Gal. 1:19, Gal. 2:8, Eph. 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Col. 1:1, 1 Thes. 1:1, 2 Thes. 1:1, 1 Tim. 1:1, 2 Tim. 1:1, Titus 1:1, Philemon 1:1, James 1:1, 1 Pet. 1:1, 2 Pet. 1:1, Jude 1:1, Rev. 1:1).

  • In order for Christians to finally throw off the yoke of tradition and start doing church biblically we must make the following decisions:

    We must decide to love God. Jesus said, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." - (John 14:21). Paul told us that the commandments for church are indeed "the commandments of the Lord." When we decide to keep Jesus Christ's commandments then we will be people who love him, but not until then.

    We must decide to love our fellow believers. Having people in your house for church whom you don't initially know very well requires having a certain amount of general good will toward others. That level of benevolence is not yet very common among Christians, but as biblical church catches on it will improve. Charity also requires that we become willing to listen to others speak to the group, as well as say something ourselves to benefit them.

    We must decide that we will fear the Lord more than anything else. Our fear of public speaking must become less than our fear of the Lord. The same goes for our fear of being shunned because of thinking differently from the majority. It says in Prov. 16:6, " the fear of the LORD men depart from evil." Only once we decide that we will fear the Lord will we finally do what he commanded, and depart from the evil that is unbiblical church.

    We must become unsatisfied with having leaders who do not behave in a humble way. Jesus Christ told us that to be a leader among believers one must be a humble servant of everyone (Matt. 20:25-28, Matt. 23:11). The Bible says to let every man speak in church (1 Cor. 14:26, 29, 31). Men who read what it says and then declare, "Only I shall speak" are too steeped in tradition, and are not good leaders for us. Instead, we need men as leaders who think more along the lines of, "How can I help the other men in the church learn to be better speakers?"

    We must fall out of love with money. Long ago, Christians decided that we would rather pay someone else to perform church for us than do it the way Jesus commanded. We pay money in order to make our church experience more relaxing, and to enjoy being just passive audience members. When we are willing to pay money in order to avoid doing things the Lord has commanded us to do, it shows our love of money. That's because we think that paying money in order to avoid obeying God will cause us to be happier than if we had obeyed him.

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Part 7

  • Sometimes those who run a commercial church are very flexible when it comes to what is done during the church meeting, with one glaring exception. The one kind of meeting that is almost never allowed to happen is one in which the entire assembly is present, and the men are each allowed a brief turn to speak. That's a little too close to the Bible's way of doing church, and they will have none of it.

    But a long musical presentation is just fine. A movie or slide show is just fine. A message from some visiting speaker that nobody knows is just fine. A pre-approved testimony here and there is just fine. A play depicting a biblical story is just fine. But any kind of meeting of the whole church that even resembles the only way the Bible ever says to do church is usually strictly forbidden.

  • If traditional churches were honest in their statement of faith, in the section titled "Church" they would say something like the following:

    "The church is a solemn assembly wherein folklore and tradition take precedence over what it says in the word of God. We believe that the authority of the pastor is higher than the authority of the word of God, so he has a right to disobey the commandments the Lord gave in the Bible for church, and he has a right to lead the people to disobey those commandments as well. The pastor shall be the only person who addresses the assembly, with the exception of those whom the pastor specifically gives permission to speak, on special occasions. The pastor shall therefore be the head of this church, not Jesus Christ, but we shall not say that out loud."

  • Imagine how much good a traditional church pastor could do if he became a promoter of biblical church. A man who was making a living from the traditional church system, and then decided to quit, based on what he read in the Bible about his very job, would have a huge impact on people. He would be respected for his integrity by some still in the traditional church system. Some would surely say that while they don't agree with his decision and his new viewpoint on things, they do respect the fact that he's going by his convictions.

    This decision of becoming a promoter of biblical church, after having essentially lived as an advocate for traditional church, would show people that he truly is a leader. Such a huge change would take a lot of courage, and people would recognize that and respect it. Whatever opposition he might face for his decision from traditional church leaders would even work in his favor, to garner sympathy and even more respect from people.

    Traditional church pastors need to recognize that at this point in history they have a golden opportunity to make a decision that will benefit the kingdom of God in a very big way. God will surely bless you, and help you, and be with you through it all.

  • Even the apostles did not make church decisions unilaterally, nor should church leaders. They made decisions that affected the church with the full consensus of everyone in the church. "Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:" - Acts 15:22. Also see Acts 1:15-26 for another example of making a decision by having a consensus of the whole group.

  • Meeting in people's houses helps believers develop hospitality, a trait sadly lacking in today's church. Some people attending institutional churches have no family or friends other than at church, and yet never see the inside of another member's home.

  • Institutional church generally consists of folks who shake hands and greet each other, but they know very little about each other, and as a result care relatively little about each other. We are supposed to be a family.

  • Unlike a biblical church, an institutional church would cease to exist without funding. So institutional church leaders invariably favor the richer members. They may do a great job of helping the poor in the community through various forms of outreach and charity, but are lacking when it comes to caring about poor people who actually attend the church. The reason is simple: the church does not need them.

  • Institutional churches often add various programs and ministries to try to make up for the fact that the church meeting itself is so inadequate, and does virtually nothing regarding one of the main purposes for church: provide a way for Christians to minister to their fellow believers. So they add Sunday school, small groups, youth groups, senior people groups, home groups, etc., to try to make up for what is lacking in the meeting itself. Those other kinds of gatherings are fine, but why not just do the church meeting the way the Bible says in the first place?

  • A man who attends a traditional church has the following solemn duties:

    Greet various people, then find a place to sit down.

    Sing when it's time to sing. Otherwise, stay quiet the entire time.

    Stand up when everyone else does. Sit back down when everyone else sits down.

    Put some money in the offering.

    Listen to the pastor as he gives his sermon.

    Say good bye to various people before leaving.

  • A man attending a traditional church adds no more value to the meeting than a man attending a play adds to the value of the play. The only thing he is allowed to do that adds any value to the meeting is singing along during the songs.

    In a biblical church each man is allowed to speak, and so each man has the opportunity to say something that may truly help the other Christians in their own lives.

    Traditional church says to men, "Your input is not wanted or needed here. Whatever you have learned of the Lord, and whatever you have learned about living the Christian life is of no value to us. So keep your mouth shut. But please do put some money in the plate when it gets to you."

  • If you are a Christian man, here are a few lies you might have to tell yourself if you decide to keep on going to commercial church:

    1. I'm not being foolish to pay money to a church that doesn't let me speak.

    2. Being required to stay silent in my church is not emasculating to me.

    3. I'm happy with the fact that the only way my church lets me help others in the meeting is by putting money in the offering.

    4. My service in the church of ushering, passing out bulletins, or working in audio/video is just as helpful to other people as giving a talk would be.

    5. I'm not qualified to study the subject of church in the Bible for myself and reach my own conclusion.

    6. God will not hold me accountable for going along with the crowd and disobeying the commandments of the Lord for church that are in my Bible.

    7. The church meeting is not the place to be using any spiritual gift that I may have.

    8. Poor people in the church don't need me to show them any hospitality.

    9. I must continue giving money to this commercial church so that God will bless me financially.

    10. I don't have anything to say that would benefit others in the church.

  • Suppose you were given the task of traveling back in time to speak to Christians in the days of the apostles. Your job is to tell them to stop doing church like the apostles were teaching, and to instead do it like we do today. Here are some responses you might get:

    "Won't the men all become useless in this new format? We all used to contribute to the meeting, and give our own talks about things the Lord has put on our hearts, but you're saying that now we have to just stay quiet the whole time and let one of the elders speak?"

    "So you're saying that instead of gathering our resources together in order to spread the gospel and help our brothers and sisters in need, we should buy ourselves a nice chunk of land, and build a nice building on it for a gathering place. And then every week, after paying for the building and land and upkeep and various salaries, whatever we have left over can go to those other causes."

    "Oh, I get it now. The devil sent you!"

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Not so Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where does the Bible say to change the format of the church meeting from letting every man speak, to only letting the pastor speak?

A: Nowhere.

Q: Where does the Bible talk about the office of "the pastor," who runs the local church and is the sole speaker, and who does not allow any other men to speak except with special permission?

A: Nowhere.

Q: Where does the Bible say that believers should pool their money together to get a commercial facility in which to meet, instead of meeting in each other's homes, like the New Testament tells us five times?

A: Nowhere.

Q: Where does the New Testament say that one role of a church leader is to be the only person who speaks in a church meeting?

A: Nowhere.

Q: Where does the Bible say that believers are no longer under any obligation to obey what Paul told us are "the commandments of the Lord" about church?

A: Nowhere.

Q: Where does the Bible give church leaders the authority to silence other believing men in the meeting, so they are not allowed a turn to speak to the group?

A: Nowhere.

Q: When Paul instructs Timothy to ordain men to be elders, where does he say that these men are each to be the only speaker in the meeting?

A: Nowhere.

Q: When Paul instructs Titus to ordain men to be elders, where does he say that these men are each to be the only speaker in the meeting?

A: Nowhere.

Q: House church is impractical, because what are you going to do when there are more people in the group than can fit in someone's living room?

A: The short answer is that you switch to someone else's home with a bigger room, or you split up into two groups. The long answer is that the New Testament tells us five times that believers met for church in each other's homes, and it never specifies any other kind of meeting place, and it says we are to follow the traditions established by the apostles. So a believer asking this question in order to suggest that house church is a bad thing probably needs to have more faith in God and his word.

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Final Thoughts

Why do most Christians continue to embrace traditional church when it is so obviously different from the way the Bible tells us to conduct church? We might have an excuse if the Bible were not as clear as day on this matter. But it is, and anyone can see it. So why don't we just obey what it says? Because God's way of doing church seems weird and untested to us. We know what works, and we think obeying the commandments for church would not work, and would cause all sorts of problems. Why do we think that way? Because of unbelief and pride. We do not trust God. We think our way is better. And we have no respect for the word of God.

Every week we engage in a ritual of attending a church service that we can easily see is completely foreign to the Bible. For that one hour each week, we pretend that God is pleased with us, and that he isn't bothered by our wholesale rejection of the way he said to conduct church meetings. If it doesn't bother us, then why should it bother him, right?

Look at the statement of faith for a typical institutional church, and find the "Church" section. Usually, you'll notice one particular chapter of the New Testament is not referenced. It's the one that tells us what to do in church, more so than any other chapter. Seems like a big thing to leave out, don't you think?

Why don't we trust God on the matter of how to conduct church? Has God not already shown us that he loves us, and wants what's best for us, and is infinitely wiser than we are? Why not trust him?

Remember that this is the same God who loved us so much he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He's the same God who raised Jesus from the dead. He is the same God who gives eternal life to whoever believes in Jesus Christ. He's the same God who knows each of us so well that the hairs of our head are all numbered by him. Why would he not tell us the best way to do church? Why do we think our way would be better than God's way?

What we should do is take the following verse seriously, and do precisely what it says:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." - 2 Chron. 7:14

If the "wicked ways" we turn from do not include our rebellion on the matter of church, then forget it. If we don't change on that, why should God do anything? Why should he hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land if we flatly refuse to obey him?


If you believe the truth, here are a few things to consider.

Don't argue with anyone about this matter. It says in 1 Cor. 14:38, "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant." If someone prefers traditional church over biblical church even after reading everything the Bible says on the subject, be patient, and pray for him. Don't talk with him about this subject at all. Just consider him as being "ignorant" on this matter. He surely has other issues that he needs to deal with in his life, as we all do. If someone genuinely has questions, that's different. But remember that it's not really a question of, "What does the Bible say?" The Bible is as clear as day regarding church, so people have to wake up and see the plain truth in their own Bibles, rather than be talked into it. It can be a hard thing to realize that you have believed a lie your entire life, and that even your favorite teachers and ministers are all completely wrong on this subject.

Be kind and loving, and don't be confrontational or contentious. Pay special attention to be patient with those still entrenched in believing in commercial church. You are part of a very small minority (for now) of Christians that God has blessed with understanding this plain truth about church. Be the best steward of that truth that you can be, and consider yourself an ambassador to those who are still deceived about this subject. Consider such believers as being better than yourself. Remember the command:

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." - (Philippians 2:3).

Pray often for God to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to see the truth about church.

Stop going to traditional church. The sooner you stop going, the sooner you can start either finding a biblical church near you already meeting in someone's home, or find other believers who are also awakened to the truth, and start meeting with them.

Leaders of traditional churches should inform the people that they are no longer going to follow tradition over scripture, and should ask the people to forgive them for disobeying God's word by conducting church in violation of the commandments the Lord gave us. If you are a pastor at such a church, quit your job as soon as possible, then find another line of work. Attend biblical house church for a few years, without being a leader. Actively promote the idea of biblical church in some way. Spend a few years showing to the people that you have a complete change of heart about following tradition instead of the word of God. If you are in a position to do so, sell the building and land you have been using for church meetings, and use the money to support missionaries who believe in doing biblical church. If the building is distinctly a "church" building that would likely be used by the buyer to continue to perpetuate some other brand of unbiblical church, seriously consider demolishing it and just selling the land.

If you are awake on this matter, stay that way. Never go back. You are part of a very privileged few who can see the plain truth even when it conflicts with popular opinion. What an amazing blessing. Thank the Lord for that, and never give up.

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Comparison Summary

Traditional Church
Biblical Church
One man.
All men.
"The pastor."
Meeting place:
Commercial facility.
Each other's houses.
Lord's supper:
One bite and one sip. No fellowship.
Full meal, with fellowship and conversations.
Men can interrupt speaker:
Leadership qualifications:
Graduate of Bible school or seminary. Good speaker. The biblical elder requirements are secondary or discarded.
Meets all biblical requirements for elder, which are based on family leadership experience and good character. No other requirements.
Source of leaders:
Outsiders seeking employment.
Men already part of the church.
Head of church:
"The pastor."
Jesus Christ.
Money you give goes to:
Pastor's salary, purchase or rent the facility, building upkeep, church office worker salaries, utilities, missionaries, miscellaneous programs.
The church does not normally collect money, since it isn't a business that requires incoming money in order to exist. Instead, the people give to whomever they want, or to whomever the group wants, including missionaries, elders who labor in the word and doctrine, etc..
Attendee fellowship level:
Brothers and sisters.
Origin of church format:
Traditions that started in the second century by church fathers after the apostles had all died.
The New Testament.
Originator of church format:
How much the poor are needed:
Not as much as non-poor, since "church" requires funding.
As much as anyone else.
Church provides fellowship that the poor especially need.
Church helps the poor feel valuable by letting them minister to other believers.
Poor, alone individuals get an opportunity to eat a meal with others, and be a welcome guest in someone's house.
Big decisions made by:
Leadership. Sometimes a yes/no vote is taken on issues the leadership presents.
Duties of men:
Sing along, give, listen.
Study, fellowship, speak, respond to speakers.
Role of men:
Audience members.
Active participants.
How leadership functions:
As rulers.
As servants.

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Last edited 3/15/2019.