Friday, June 09, 2006

House church "heretics"

Matt Green of Ministry Today has commented on George Barna's Revolution released last year and his controversial vision of the future that sees 70 percent of the church worshipping in non-traditional settings such as house churches within the next 20 years.

He noted that an argument against the house church movement popped up in a recent article in the Washington Post, where it is suggested that house churches are more vulnerable to heresy, because they lack the accountability of established churches and denominations.

Matt Green writes:

The Reformation was a movement of doctrinal purification that emerged from the decay of institutional heresy. Apparently the strong "leadership" of generations of popes, bishops and priests was inadequate to protect the church from doctrines and practices so bizarre they would be considered downright cultish by today's standards. An indulgence anyone? In fact, as many would argue, the leaders were the ones who concocted these abberations to begin with! It was when the exclusive right to interpret the Word of God was pried from the grasp of clergy that the laity discovered that they had been duped. Then, like now, the church is not in need of more leaders, it's in need of more readers - believers who will embrace the responsibility of their own spiritual health and stop subcontracting it to paid clergy. However flawed, the house church movement is one attempt to correct this imbalance.
Well, those of us who believe that the Gospel needs to be rescued from institutional Christianity would find agreement with that.

Green goes on to say:

No, house churches are the least likely seedbeds of heresy. In fact, they are the natural offspring of the Reformation's cry: Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda ("The church reformed and always to be reformed"). As with any renewal movement, there will be pockets of excess and room for correction. For instance, in the coming years, the house church movement will have to tackle challenges of elitism, leadership, accountability and - of course - heresy. But like the rest of the Body, they won't be facing these alone (see Matt. 18:20).
My favourite comment in his article is this:

"... doctrine (like political power) should not be preserved by an ecclesiastical elite. It must be articulated, taught, transmitted and understood by the laity."

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