Standing Strong Through the Storm
THE FORMS OF THE CHURCH
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 5:42
The place in which a church meets varies. The use of big buildings, complex organizations, involved programs, huge budgets that provide for schools, hospitals, orphanages and other social activities are only possible in financially strong unrestricted societies.
Although the Lord has blessed these activities in many places in the world, we must recognize that they are not essential to the existence of the church. In some countries these activities are forbidden by the government, while in others, the local economic situation makes them impossible. Still the church can thrive, because it is not dependent on these things. Serious problems have arisen when Christians have become confused on this point.
A number of years ago, for example, some Vietnamese leaders thought that their lack of funds for such things was the cause of the slow growth of Christianity there. On one occasion, the following conversation was overheard:
"Do you have communists in your part of the country?" the observer asked. "Most assuredly. They are there," the leader replied.
“Are they growing in numbers and influence?" he then asked. The leader hesitated momentarily, then admitted sadly, “Yes, they are growing very fast."
“Can you show me their meeting places and schools or introduce me to their leaders?" the observer continued. "Certainly not," the leader said in disgust. "If they are known, they will be arrested."
"You mean they are secret, without buildings or property and still they grow in number?" the observer asked in amazement. "Yes, you could say that," the leader responded.
"Then it must be that their growing influence does not depend on such things. If they can be wrong in their beliefs and still grow without money and buildings, why do you think the church of Jesus Christ needs these things?" the man concluded.
If God provides these things, then use them for His glory. If He does not, remember that the New Testament church had none of these things, but they turned their world upside down (Acts 17:6). The early Christians did not confuse the church’s functions with methods. If they had done so, the church would have died in the bondage of Jewish legalism. The early churches were not encumbered by the presence of buildings, nor hindered by the lack of them. They met in public places, when they were permitted to do so, but when they were not, they went from house to house.
RESPONSE: I will no longer confuse the forms of the church with the biblical functions of the church.
PRAYER: Thank You Lord for those who use their homes as centers for Your worship and declaration of the good news of Your love.