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What's Different About
This Approach to Church?

A lot of church billboards and websites talk about being different and offering something unique. The average home church gathering differs quite a bit from an institutional or corporation-style church service. But not all home churches are the same either.

This website offers up a particular model for home churches. In real terms what kind of differences can people expect to find in this model? We'd like to take a few minutes to answer these questions by talking about how an ideal New Testament church should operate and what steps we've taken towards attaining that ideal.

The significant differences - differences that really matter - can be divided into five categories: teaching, leadership, finances, community interaction, and the communion meal. It is in these areas that most people would find a significant difference between the specific type of home church advocated here in contrast to institutional, corporation-style churches (or even some other home churches). (For the sake of time, we'll defer to our articles for the biblical analysis concerning the ideal New Testament church.)

1.) The New Testament church was a teaching church. The believers in Acts devoted themselves daily to the apostles' teaching of Jesus' words. It was a requirement that the elders in local churches had to be able to teach. They were counted worthy of double honor (i.e. they were viewed as the apostles' successors) if they labored well in the word and doctrine. Paul instructed Timothy to take what he had learned and pass it on to faithful men who would in turn be able to teach others also. Everybody was taught. Everybody learned what they believed and why. Everyone wanted to. There was no Sunday school for the few interested lay persons. There were no seminaries or bible colleges.

So in home church, we teach. We study. And we learn. Probing questions and reliable, thoroughly-tested answers. Free with no charge. We preach the Word in season and out of season until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, no longer tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. From Genesis to Revelation, the origins of the universe to the last things and the end of the age, we work to make sure that all of us, every person in our church, is ready to give an answer to anyone who asks. Anyone who studies has the opportunity to teach. Studies are presented each week in the context of the whole group and must be thoroughly researched both biblically and historically and with careful consideration of the alternative points of view. And there is always an open opportunity to interrupt and ask sincere questions, test all things, and add insights or comments of your own. This kind of teaching environment is a hallmark of the weekly home church gatherings. Even many of our casual conversations throughout the week center on the Word.

2.) New Testament churches were not just lead by one man. They were led by several men. On the local level, these men were called elders, overseers, bishops, and sometimes shepherds (pastors). And they made decisions by submitting to one another. Even the rest of the men in the church could participate in the discussions and decisions. Whoever brought forward the best interpretation, idea, or insight, the rest would submit to it. When questions were raised about whether Gentile converts had to keep the Law of Moses, the decision was not rendered by just one man. The apostles and elders came together to consider the matter. Both sides presented their point of view. Peter spoke. Paul spoke. Barnabas spoke. In the end, it was a proposal offered by James that seemed best to the entire church. And they followed that proposal.

The same thing happened locally in individual churches. In his epistle to Timothy, Paul instructed that the local church was not to form opinions before the facts were known. He instructed that they were to give deference to those elders whose good labor was known among them, regarding them as the apostles' successors. The early church reasoned together. They listened to the different points of view and considered the facts. Then the entire church went with what was best. They didn't remain of differing opinions. They were of the same mind. In our home church, we talk about things. We listen. We consider. And we all follow the best idea. Mutual submission, multiple leaders, basic accountability, and an environment in which individuals and families can question, suggest, and participate in decision-making. We believe this is what Jesus meant when He washed the apostles' feet and told them to serve one another and what Paul meant when he told the Ephesians to submit to one another.

3.) New Testament churches used their money exclusively to help meet each other's financial needs. They didn't spend money on mortgages for church buildings, utility or maintenance bills, or building programs. They met in their homes. Although apostles had the right to have all their needs supplied when they visited a community, local elders and other leaders did not receive "full-time salaries." They had to work to meet their own needs. Teachings were free. There was no charge for ministry. When they gathered together, those who wanted to give would contribute. Then the money would be distributed according to need. Elders could receive supplemental help from this as well.

To modern Americans and other westerners, this may sound like communism. But there is one extremely significant difference. The New Testament system was voluntary. It was not forced on anyone and it was not required. Similarly, the New Testament churches did not practice the Old Testament tithe. It was entirely up to the individual whether or not they gave and in what amount. The goal was to make sure everyone's needs were met. Quoting a passage from Exodus 16, Paul described this communal living arrangement in 2 Corinthians 8.

I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
2 Corinthians 8:8-15

However, it is also important to note that Paul also said, "if any would not work, neither should he eat." In order to receive from the communal distribution, each Christian had to do what they could to provide for themselves and their families. We don't believe it's possible for the church to improve on this New Testament system. We believe a church's finances should primarily serve to meet the needs of its members (who are, in fact, the church). Oversight of this task should be given to trustworthy men in the church, men who give to this fund but seldom take from it. And the rest of the church should contribute to that fund as often as they want. This takes Christians with a heart toward meeting other's needs rather than their own. It is our understanding that this is the sole purpose of any and all church finances.

4.) The New Testament church members were a part of each other's lives. It was more than just recognizing familiar faces once or twice a week at church. They were not mere acquaintances. They knew each other well. They cared for each other. Rather than being a collection of families, the entire church was one big close-knit family. They thought of each other as brothers and sisters. The book of Acts exemplifies (although it does not codify) this sense of community when it describes some early Christians meeting daily to hear the Word of God taught. Primarily, their closest friends were their fellow Christians and their closest family was their church. But, of course, they also had jobs and spent time with unbelievers. They had family and extended family members who were not believers. And they sought to build those relationships as well for the purposes of sharing the gospel. And while availability and the demands of personal schedules certain differ widely between one individual family and the next, we also recognize that it is beneficial to spend time hanging out and getting to know each other, both inside and outside of church gatherings. It is our goal to build this kind of close-friend, family type of interaction into relationships in our home church.

5.) The New Testament communion meal was actually a full meal. While it involved remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice, it was also meant to celebrate the place that His sacrifice bought for us in the coming kingdom of God. It was meant to be a family meal shared by brothers and sisters with a common value system, a common goal, and a common inheritance. We believe that church gatherings should not only involve time teaching the Word, but time interacting around a meal. When we get together, there is a specific time set aside for teaching the Word. Learning the Word is a central part, but so is just spending time together, joking around, and talking. We hang out and talk while cooking. Then we eat and hang out some more. It's not an hour and a half sitting next to each other silently early on Sunday mornings. It's a whole evening for family and friends to relax and spend time with each other.

These are the kinds of real differences that we think people would notice about home church as it is discussed on this website. We believe this is what churches were like in the New Testament. And we believe this is how church should be today. Although home churches are often small, we've tried to use these ideals as our foundation so that as we grow we can continue to build using the New Testament church as our defining example.

If you'd like to be part of a church that acts like the churches you read about in the New Testament, we hope you will take some time to look around our website and maybe drop us an email.

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