The religious leaders in Jesus' day placed more importance on following tradition than obeying the word of God. We have the same kind of problem today regarding what we do in our church meetings.

The Bible very clearly tells Christians what we are supposed to be doing in church. The commandments on how to conduct church were never repealed, and we are still obliged to follow them. Church is supposed to be an interactive meeting of believers encouraging and exhorting and comforting one another, not an audience of strangers listening to one man give a sermon.

The format for church where the man in charge speaks and nobody else does is not found in the New Testament. Believers started doing church that way soon after the apostles had all died, when prominent men stepped in and established several beliefs and traditions that were contrary to what the apostles had taught.

Here are four ways in which biblical church is different from traditional 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) (More)

  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. (Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 3 John 9) (More)

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

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

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.

See also: Fun Facts and Final Thoughts

A few reasons for the above four characteristics:

1. 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. (Back to Top)

2. 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, also known as pastors, are supposed to behave as if they believe that. So they should shun 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. (Back to Top)

3. Meeting in homes limits the size of the groups to be small enough so that everyone gets to know each other. It 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 three times in the New Testament where believers met for church, and each of those times it was in someone's house. In addition, there are at least two other times that the meeting place was implied to be in people's houses, and 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. (Back to Top)

4. 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. (Back to Top)

Fun Facts:

  • Jesus strongly rebuked those who followed "the tradition of the elders" instead of the word of God (Matt. 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:8, 9, 13). The modern church values tradition over the Bible when we conduct our church meetings in violation of the commandments we were given.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 says one thing, but really means something else. 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.

  • 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 (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.

  • There is no reason given in the Bible why the believers in the apostles' time met in each other's houses. Those 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.

  • 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 seems to imply 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 be shown 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 17:7). When we view the word of God with proper respect, we do not need additional persuasion.

  • 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.

  • In the modern church it seems people will do all kinds of things (skits, movies, slide shows, musical shows, dance routines, etc.) except conduct church meetings the way God commanded.

  • 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 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.

  • 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:

    "Okay, so the men are all going to become useless in this new format? We all used to contribute to the meeting, and talk about things the Lord has taught us, 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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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. Let him stay "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 in the wrong on this subject.

Immediately stop going to traditional church. Do not attend another service. 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.

Unbiblical church will continue to thrive as long as it's being funded. So in addition to not going any more, don't give any money to such a church, either. And do not support missionaries who do not believe in biblical church. Find those who do, and support them instead. Or become such a missionary yourself. Don't financially support any ministries or individuals that are in any way associated with traditional, unbiblical church.

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 immediately. Then either find another line of work, or continue to be a pastor, but from now on be a true, biblical pastor instead of being a preeminence loving Diotrephes. Then live by faith, and instead of drawing a salary, ask the Lord to provide you with what you need. If that seems outrageous to you, then by all means just quit your job and find some honest work to do, since you were certainly never meant to make a living as a church leader in the first place. 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 sell the land.

If you are awake on this matter, stay that way. Never go back. You are part of a very privileged few. What an amazing blessing. Thank the Lord for that, and never give up.

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Last edited 4/18/2018.