Review: "15 Theses" of House Churches, Part 1

I was pointed to Wolfgang Simpson's “15 Theses” of house churches. In responding, I thought it best to look at each thesis of the article and dissect them. I hope this series will be helpful.

Here is Simpson's opening paragraph:
God is changing the Church, and that, in turn, will change the world. Millions of Christians around the world are aware of an imminent reformation of global proportions. They say, in effect: “Church as we know it is preventing Church as God wants it.” A growing number of them are surprisingly hearing God say the very same things. There is a collective new awareness of age-old revelations, a corporate spiritual echo. In the following “15 Theses” I will summarize a part of this, and I am convinced that it reflects a part of what the Spirit of God is saying to the Church today. For some, it might be the proverbial fist-sized cloud on Elijah’s sky. Others already feel the pouring rain.
There are a few concerns within this interesting paragraph. First, Simpson opens with “God is changing the Church” and writes, “Church as we know it is preventing Church as God wants it.” We have to ask a few questions of Simpson here:
  1. What is his basis is for believing that God is changing the church?
  2. What does he mean by “church as we know it?” (We will see the answer to this question clearly enough through the series.)
  3. What is his basis is for knowing what God wants the church to change into?
Second, as a general rule of thumb, there is a problem when a person says the Holy Spirit is communicating something to us but then quotes few verses from the inspired Word of God. Now, I don’t like it when people scour Scripture for proof-texts, providing obscure verses from Genesis to Revelation to beef up the address count, so don't get me wrong.

However, there is a definite red flag raised by the first paragraph that is not lowered by the rest of Simpson’s theses. For the sake of charity, however, we will assume that Simpson is only laying down his thoughts on the screen without trying to clutter them with Scripture references, and has a biblical rationale for what he says. In that case, let’s look at each of his theses from the standpoint of Scripture, one at a time.

1. Church is a Way of Life, not a series of religious meetings
His first thesis is purely inaccurate. Why?

It’s true that Christianity affects life, and the Gospel is the means of living it. However, the word “Christians” replaced the phrase “the Way,” not “church” or ekklesia as would be needed to make this thesis work.

What's more, ekklesia appears in Scripture to speak of peoples and meetings, and can even refer to evil assemblies (Psalm 26:5—the "ekklesia of evil doers;" Acts 19:32—an "ekklesia was confused" and riotous).

As opposed to a way of living, an ekklesia is a static group in the secular sense of a gathering, and it is a static group of the elect in the spiritual realm. There is no biblical warrent for viewing the word in mystical terms.

Further, the church is a series of meetings. How can we stir up love and good works if we are neglecting to meet together, “as is the habit of some” (Hebrew 10:24–25)

Yet, Simpson writes, “The nature of Church is not reflected in a constant series of religious meetings lead by professional clergy in holy rooms specially reserved to experience Jesus….” First, if the nature of the church is not to meet systematically, why, then, did the early church meet together every Sunday and often during the week (see Acts 2:42–47; 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Rev 1:10; see also Justin Martyr’s “First Apology”)?

Second, while Simpson could mean different things by “professional clergy” that we could all agree upon, we may not do away with the need for qualified teaching elders and accept any Christian who may not be above reproach or may have been saved only a few years (see 1 Tim 3:1–7, esp. v. 6). It's true that we don't need priests to come between us and God, but that does not mean God has not called pastors-teachers to build up the church (cf. Eph 4:11).

The only thing the New Testament does not command is that we meet in “holy rooms,” so to some extent, we are in agreement. However, since our only choices for meeting places are indoors or outdoors, and some people don’t like sitting in the sun or rain, so there’s nothing wrong with learning about Jesus in a building. The choice then becomes what kind of structure, and it seems that there is nothing more or less holy with meeting in homes.

As a closing point, I have to admit my personal confusion over this sentence:
The nature of Church is not reflected in a constant series of religious meetings lead by professional clergy in holy rooms specially reserved to experience Jesus, but in the prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritually extended families as a vivid answer to the questions society faces, at the place where it counts most: in their homes.
I'm not exactly sure what thought Simpson is trying to convey with this sentence. Paring down the sentence, it seems to say the church is reflected as a vivid answer to the questions society faces because it meets in homes. I would agree that a strong home life is the foundation of society, and a Christian home life is the best option for us, if that is what he means.

However, already seeing his confusion of sanctified living and "church," it almost seems like he is saying the only hope for society is if churches meet in houses. I suppose since he believes all institutional churches are apostate (which we will see later), this makes sense, but it remains at this point to be an unproved premise.

Continued to Part 2...

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