No matter what your “brand" of Christianity may be, this message is for YOU.
Last Saturday, I was the Emcee at the North Central Texas House Church Conference in Dallas, Texas. A very interesting thing happened that, frankly, whether one is involved in a House Church or a traditional congregation, sooner or later, might need to be addressed.
Apparently, a few attendees were bothered by what one man referred to as the “charismatic flavor" of the conference when, after his message, the keynote speaker spoke in tongues and invited people to come forward who might need prayer. The comment I received by email was: “I was especially upset at the charismatic flavor at the very end of the conference. I simply do not see the kind of prophecy and speaking in tongues that was manifested by several people at the end [in the New Testament House Churches]. I felt like I was on the set of TBN [he was referring to the Trinity Broadcasting Network]. I would not say God didn't use it. . . I'm just saying I don't see this kind of practice in the N. T. "
Another attendee wrote and said: “If this is to be a “charismatic movement" conference, it should be advertised as such. . . "
A third wrote saying, “I don't see evidence of the TBN/Pentecostal style ‘gifts’ in the New Testament. "
For starters, the Pentecostal “movement" is the fastest growing brand of Christianity going these days, crossing all denominational lines and coming to a church near you. So-called “charismatic services" have even made their way even into Catholic churches.
A Nazarene preacher told me that he was struggling with teaching on the spiritual gifts because, even though his denomination taught AGAINST speaking in tongues, he wasn't so convinced.
When I was the Assistant Pastor at a Baptist college church, more and more of the students began moving in the gifts of the Spirit as He manifested Himself through them. One young man informed me that his mom said he wasn't a very good Baptist anymore. Another fellow asked what was happening to all his friends as they were speaking in tongues, receiving visions and dreams and words of knowledge and prophesying, etc. He was especially impressed with the attitude of boldness that some of his classmates were expressing. His comment to me was, “I don't understand it. I've been in church all my life and I haven't changed!"
I attended a Baptist service in Fort Worth where the Pastor spoke in tongues and a Korean and an Italian woman EACH heard him say something different in their own language that edified the congregation. This was THAT spoken of by the prophet Joel (Acts 2;16-18):
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
A Church of Christ woman confided in me many years ago that she had spoken in tongues at a friend's Bible study.
In recent years, several people from Catholic and Baptist backgrounds have tearfully explained to me that, although they truly felt they had been blessed with a particular spiritual gift, their greatest frustration was in not knowing how to develop it and where to use it.
"BEING" THE CHURCH TRUMPS “GOING" EVERY TIME
Yesterday, a man who said he was 7th Day Adventist challenged me after attending my Bible study. He wrongly assumed that I was a Sunday church-goer. I told him we should all be Adventists. . .1st day, 2nd day, 3rd, day, etc. I encouraged him that worship of God was not about gathering on a certain day in a certain building at the appointed time, singing a few songs, dropping some money in the plate and listening to a guy talk for an hour. Instead, it's a 24/7 thing - a lifestyle that can only be “fleshed out" when the King dwelling within His people is allowed to live THROUGH them.
In my own house church meetings, we don't quench the gifts of the Spirit from flowing. We simply listen and obey. How else will individuals explore and develop their spiritual gifts? Where if not there? Not long ago, a woman who attends the Church of Christ contacted me saying that ‘something’ was missing from her Christianity. Several from our HC met that very afternoon to pray over her. Though she didn't receive the gift of tongues (yet), she DID testify to receiving the promised POWER when He came upon her, writing me the next day and saying, “. . . as I drove home yesterday afternoon I felt as though I had downed three double espressos and a healthy dose of B-12. . . "
On another occasion at our House Church, a wonderful Christian girl requested prayer. At one point, while tears flowed down her cheeks as I was reminding her of how the Father loved her, she suddenly glared at me and, speaking in a very gruff voice, angrily barked, “She doesn't deserve it! She doesn't deserve it!" I had a similar experience in a traditional Baptist church on an Easter Sunday with a man who, it turned out, was a much-beloved seminary graduate.
Try and minister in situations like that WITHOUT the gifts of the Spirit. I dare ya! (The Sons of Scheva just shouted, “Amen!")
Contrary to what the individual wrote about not seeing this kind of practice in the New Testament, I beg to differ. The laying on of hands for the infilling of the Holy Spirit was everywhere and those people received POWER to change the world. Yes, they received tongues, too, as well as all the other gifts (otherwise Paul would not have written so much about their use of such gifts). God started the Church itself with the manifestation of speaking in tongues taking place at Pentecost. Miraculous healings, transformed lives were everywhere. Now, if any individual is centering their House Church experience around the meetings themselves and is actually saying that we read no biblical references to this type of thing happening at a NT House Church gatherings, he must bear in mind that neither the gatherings nor the houses themselves were, or are, The Church. . . no more than today's ornate church buildings can be considered “The Church. " No, the Church is the people, the ekklesia, the “called out ones. " Period. Being that we, as individuals, are the Ark of the New Covenant, carrying with us the very presence of God Himself, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us to the fullest extent that the King's subjects will allow Him - at a house church meeting or at Starbuck's.
I had the best time “being Church" with a couple whom I had dinner with in Tye, Texas just last night. We even prayed with our waitress! A few weeks ago, I prayed with a 95-year old woman in a nursing home. I sang a hymn. We felt God's presence because we let Him shine THROUGH us. We had church!
What one individual referred to as “TBN/Pentecostal style gifts, " I prefer to call them the “gifts of the Spirit". As far as I'm concerned, we could use more Samaria-type meetings (Acts 8: 6-8, NKJV), “And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city. "
SIMPLY GET OUT OF THE WAY
Within the House Church movement, the verse that is held to so dearly, shining the only true Biblical light on what a New Testament Church meeting looked like, is First Corinthians 14:26-33 (AMP), “What then, brethren, is [the right course]? When you meet together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a disclosure of special knowledge or information, an utterance in a [strange] tongue, or an interpretation of it. [But] let everything be constructive and edifying and for the good of all. If some speak in a [strange] tongue, let the number be limited to two or at the most three, and each one [taking his] turn, and let one interpret and explain [what is said]. But if there is no one to do the interpreting, let each of them keep still in church and talk to himself and to God. So let two or three prophets speak [those inspired to preach or teach], while the rest pay attention and weigh and discern what is said. But if an inspired revelation comes to another who is sitting by, then let the first one be silent. For in this way you can give testimony [prophesying and thus interpreting the divine will and purpose] one by one, so that all may be instructed and all may be stimulated and encouraged; For the spirits of the prophets (the speakers in tongues) are under the speaker's control [and subject to being silenced as may be necessary], For He [Who is the source of their prophesying] is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace and order. . . "
Does this not sound like a “TBN/Pentecostal meeting" to you? During the first 3 centuries of the Church, such matters were non-issues. Why? Because these gifts of the Holy Spirit were in total operation within the Church, untainted by years of tradition and institutionalized structure. The gifts of the Spirit ceased operation in Christian meetings around the same time that Constantine created the foundation of what we would call the Institutional Church today. If Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, then He is still doing the same things for us today.
If we LET Him, that is.
JESUS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!
What many try to explain away as being a “new dispensation, " claiming that the gifts died off with the last apostle, I define as a lack of faith or, at the very least, a weak level of spirituality. Such well-meaning individuals have never experienced this side of God and are tainted by institutionalized religion which leaves no room for the Spirit to minister. As a result, all they know of Christian meetings is routine and manmade traditions. Flesh begets flesh; spirit begets spirit. We can't cast out the flesh unfortunately. We have to personally SUBDUE it in our own lives.
I wasn't always a believer in the manifestations of the Spirit's gifts. I got this way in the 7th grade when I started looking for things that my denomination was teaching that simply weren't found in the Bible. At the same time, I FOUND things that were never even discussed in my church. Then, I decided to follow the teachings (doctrine) of Jesus; the decrees of the King.
It rocked my world!
First Thessalonians 5:19 reads, “Do not quench the Spirit. " This verse may be translated: “Stop quenching the Spirit. " With all the streams that are crossing these days, if you haven't already experienced the Pentecostal influence in your gatherings, you will. How will you handle it? It's worth discussing.
I'm not sure how the one individual can write “I would not say God didn't use it. . . " and yet allow “it" to upset him simultaneously. Many people were blessed by the Spirit as He moved upon their lives throughout the Conference. Based upon the email I'm STILL getting from Conference Attendees, the residue still remains 7 days later. From the man who only stayed long enough to receive a word of confirmation through one speaker's teaching to the man who received a Word of prophecy that confirmed what God had already shown him to the Baptist couple who confessed that they came EXPECTING to hear us “bash" the traditional church and were greatly blessed by the love they felt. . . God was ministering to His people by doing these things and more. He moved upon people's hearts to pay for the auditorium before we ever gathered there, He moved on them to provide resources, He moved on the hotel manager to give us a free suite for our traveling speakers. He wants to move in those ways right there in your House Church groups and every church congregation as well, whether it's at your appointed meeting times or anywhere you - The Church - go in between.
My prayer is that all who participate in House Churches, as well as traditional gatherings, will allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to move to the fullest extent that He desires. My promise, however, is that, sooner or later, you WILL be confronted with a similar situation where someone in your group is made downright uncomfortable by anything that smacks of Pentecostalism or “the set of TBN. " I also promise that, as one British friend said to me: “It won't be tidy. . . there has NEVER been a tidy move of God. " Some people will undoubtedly “get their knickers in a twist. " They always have and always will.
(Incidentally, during the darkest hour of my soul, I penned a letter to TBN. Jan Crouch, wife of station owner Paul Crouch, wrote me back an encouraging, life-changing, hand written letter on TBN letterhead. That blue-haired lady with the fake lashes literally saved my life!)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A servant of God
His mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. Since ‘99, he has broadcast over 600 inspirational articles and a dozen booklets on subjects sure to interest the thinking Christian and accelerate the process of spiritual development.
He is the founder of t. e. a. m. ministries. An Author, Pastoral Counselor and Teacher, his eMail broadcasts, known as “Your Town for Jesus" are read around the globe. Subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org
A licensed/ordained minister, a Certified Workplace Chaplain, and a Professional Member of NIBIC, he has ministered in Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, College and Cowboy churches. He is the Workplace Chaplain for a Texas firm, overseeing the Spiritual Development of over 500 employees at ten facilities throughout the state. He is a strong advocate for the House Church Movement, readily available to assist Christians feeling that same inclination. A Speaker on the Christian Speaker Network, he may be available to speak to your church or Christian group.