Daily Archives: July 10, 2011

The Classic Church Building: A Non-Biblical Wineskin (Part 2)

         “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” [Mark 2:22]   

         Throughout all of man’s history, the one constant form of physical structure which has accounted for 99% of all buildings on the planet is the simple family dwelling. Be it a hut, a tent, or something more extravagant, it is home. Houses, therefore, have forever been ubiquitous. Even in modern society houses greatly outnumber all other buildings. The farther one goes back in history, the more the percentage rises. Hence, the private home was then and remains now the best ministry tool of all time, and the early believers proved it.

         All throughout the Book of Acts is the record of private homes being used in ministry. They began by going “house to house.” The house of the upper room was most likely the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark. After his Damascus road experience, Paul was taken to the house of Judas where he met Ananias. Peter was staying at Simon the tanner’s house by the sea. Paul stayed at and ministered from Lydia’s house in Philippi. The home of Jason in Thessalonica was obviously used for ministry. Paul also lived at and ministered from the house of Titius Justus in Corinth.

         Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. [Romans 16:3-5]   

         Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. [Colossians 4:15]

         Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [Philemon 1:1-3] [1]

         Church buildings are not New Testament archetypical. They can be good. They can be useful. They are possibly great on a temporary basis. But they are very costly and high maintenance. They sometimes cause more problems than they solve. And the number one reason is because they are slow.

         I played softball with a guy once who had to be one of the slowest guys in the whole world. He was not overweight. He was physically healthy. But I could make it to second base before he ever got to first. Once, a dim coach actually put this gentleman in front of me in the batting order. In that game, he had somehow made it safely to first base. Then I came up. I got a hit that would normally easily get me to second base and maybe third. But when I rounded first base my buddy was only halfway to second. Doh! He barely made it there. I’m standing on first when I might have made it to third. And I was not the fastest guy on the team.

         American Christianity has slowed considerably. Despite all the latest technology it has grown sluggish, materialistic, and weighted down. It is no wonder it is failing so badly. The Community of the Lord Jesus was built to be fleet of foot, in shape, slim and trim, on the move, and filled with energy, but also strong in its own right. American Christianity has grown in size as has the population and as a result has long since given up sprints. The problem is doubly bad in that we don’t have the strength for weight-lifting competitions either. In general spiritual terms, though traditional American Christianity has church buildings everywhere, we’re simply not getting the job done, are routinely outclassed, and often overrun. People “go to church” forever and never get to know most of the people in the congregation.  

         On the other hand, there is a relatively new wineskin in this country on the rise. It has remained true to the gospel but has sloughed off old forms that slow and restrict. It is having a tremendous impact.

          House churches and small groups have exploded in the country over the last two decades. Its proponents are quick and mobile, and do whatever possible to reach the lost and disciple the up and coming. There is no way to stop their progress. They need little or no funding. They reach places traditional Christianity rarely reaches. They touch hearts. The organic nature of a small group allows the Lord to be in charge. One cannot hide in a small group. Everybody is somebody. Through much learning and many spiritual trials, home church practitioners have developed the same ministry forms of the early centuries of Christianity. They are motivated by love. They stand on unity. They live to serve.

         The Lord’s original model is presently being applied in more places in the world than ever before, and is impacting the lives of millions that would otherwise never be reached. Mobility is the key. Instead of one large physical building, there are scads of many smaller buildings. Some have no buildings. By this they much more easily follow the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, and cover a lot of ground. And they are having miraculous Lord Jesus-caliber results.

        Also, they understand that each real believer is a house—the real building—a mobile tent wherein lives the Spirit of the Lord. Collectively these comprise the worldwide Community of Called-Out Ones independent of the traditions of men. On those occasions when church buildings supplement the work of God and exist according to His will, it is good. Otherwise, we must follow the Lord’s example, trim down, get quick, and make the necessary transistion to the future. His work demands it. [Part 2 of 2] 

         © 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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