Today's lesson addresses a matter closely associated with the change movement and a tool often used by progressives to subvert the leadership of congregations and implant their errant views. Small group meetings in homes are not bad in and of themselves, but they can be used for evil purposes. As we wage this warfare, we must be clearminded and always able to discern just where the error lies. If this lesson is helpful to you, please forward it to others in the faith.
- <font size=5>SMALL GROUPS MEETING IN HOMES</font>
<font color=black size=3 face=times new roman>A common practice of congregations in transition to a new way of "doing church" is to discontinue their evening assemblies while encouraging their members to meet with small groups in private homes. (By the way the "doing church" and "transitioning" phrases describe congregations evolving away from the New Testament pattern (II Tim. 1:13) toward one borrowed from some denominational teacher or movement). The small group meetings are promoted as a way to promote intimacy, fellowship and involvement... All of which are worthy goals.
Many conservative brethren, sensing some devious unannounced motive in such activities, have strongly opposed them. We need to regularly remind ourselves that Christian leaders need the wisdom of discernment (Ezek. 44:23), lest they oppose that which is good or endorse what is bad. Also they need to be able to recognize that which may be innocuous in itself but can become wrong by abuse. The abuse we must oppose, but the innocuous deed we must tolerate.
To properly discern this matter we must have a clear vision of the role of the church building and homes in the development of our faith.
- For the first two centuries congregations met in private homes (Phile. 2), public buildings such as schools (Acts 19:9) and in times of persecution in caves, forest glades or other desolate places.
- Only with the ascension of Constantine as Emperor of Rome (312 A.D.) were they able to have their own public houses of worship. While Scripture precedent allows us to have our own houses of worship, it does not mandate them.
- Many of our existing congregations began in the home of some member and there they were nurtured until they were large enough and financially able to have their own meeting place.
- While the Bible clearly teaches us to assemble (Heb. 10:25) on the first day of the week to break the bread of communion (Acts 20:7), it does not instruct us to have multiple services each week. That we normally do so is not wrong. It is a choice made to encourage spiritual growth, fellowship and opportunities for learning. Thus if a congregation should choose to assemble together only once on the Lord's Day they have fulfilled their duty and we should be not critical of them for it. (In many mission fields such is common). If their elders encourage their members to meet in small groups they have violated no Scripture in so doing.
When change agents seek to implement small group meetings in homes we are certainly entitled to ask "And what do you propose to do in those meetings?" If they sing hymns, pray and study the Bible to learn and do God's will, no one should object. If afterwards they have refreshments and visit, no one cares. But if the home meetings are used to promote erroneous teachings (I Tim. 1:3), if they are used to undermine the conservative leadership of the congregation (Heb. 13:17), if they are occasions for sowing discord among brethren (Prov. 6:19), they are wrong. If they are used to allow women to lead the mixed group in prayer, or to teach the class, they are wrong (I Tim. 2:8-12). If in them instruments are used to accompany praise to God (Eph. 5:19; Rev. 22:18-19), they are wrong. If in them the Lord's Supper is mixed with a common meal or observed in a disrespectful manner, they are wrong (I Cor. 11:17-22)! Some or all of these things are sometimes encouraged by promoters of change.
If elders decide that home meetings will be good for their flock, they need to see that each group is overseen by one of the elders, or some other brother, well rooted in sound doctrine (Tit. 1:9). To do less is folly. To exercise the oversight (I Pet. 5:2) means they should know and approve of the materials to be studied and the men chosen to lead the groups. Not to do so is to open the door for either irresponsible conduct by immature disciples or intentional harm by men whose goal is to capture the congregation and impose their own agenda upon it. Let each of us pray for discernment!</font>
John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now