Google+ 03/06/13 Let's Stop Declining, Dividing, and Dissolving!

Romans 16:3-5

 

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.

In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches.

Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. 

 

Our Scripture lesson today speaks about two very important Christian concepts that are so often misunderstood by the Local New Testament Church.  Remember, that most often, when we try to merge worldly thoughts with Christian practices, we end up with a mess!  The first subject that Paul deals with in our Scripture today centers around women in ministry.  Like many things in the Bible that we misunderstand or try and change into "modern terms," the subject of women working for God has been confounded and confused by so many.  Women have a very important role in Christ's ministry here on earth.  Women are to be "helpers" or "co-workers."  Because they are designated by God as "helpmates," does not make them lesser!  It makes them more important.  Men can simply do nothing in ministry that is effective without their "helpmates."  Look at what Paul says about Priscilla and Aquila.  For those that may not know, Priscilla and Aquila were some of the first "church planters" that we discover in Acts 17.  Aquila was Jewish born and along with his "helpmate" Priscilla, worked as tentmakers in Ephesus, where they opened their home as the meeting place for a "house church" at Ephesus.  Not only are they Paul's "co-workers" in the ministry of Jesus Christ, they have actually risked their life for Paul and God.  I view that as incredible!!!  Paul states that not only is he grateful, but all the Gentile churches are, also.  This leads to our second principal that is even more misunderstood than the role of women in the church.  Notice that Paul issues a greeting to the "church" that meets in their home, because they both have relocated to Rome for the benefit of the ministry.  Before Saddleback and Willow Creek, there was Paul, Priscilla and Aquila!  Today, the "buzz word" in churches is "small groups" or "house churches."  We have more videos and workbooks than we need or want on how to turn our local New Testament Church from a congregation of believers into small house churches.  The "theory" is that we should all find our "affinity group" or "target market" and form a group to celebrate that!  I lobby, at the risk of telling the truth and making some local church officials and groups angry, that we have paid no attention to the model of Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila.  We should not form "small affinity groups" from inside our church.  If we do this, we will find that we have created exactly what we try to avoid in churches, which is "clicks" of people that exclude everyone else.  What we should create inside our churches, is small group Bible studies that intensely study God's word with a teacher who understands, believes, and is passionate about teaching others detailed, Biblical truths that simply cannot be taught to large groups on Sunday morning.  These Bible studies have no affinity groups or target markets in mind other than reaching out to Christians who need discipleship training.  Without this discipleship training, new Christians will become confused and confounded and end up leaving the church.  No one is excluded in any way.  We simply offer several opportunities each week,  so that at least one time is "convenient" for a large majority of people.  "Small groups" are formed from OUTSIDE the church in order to GROW the church.  I can only imagine that Priscilla and Aquila opened up their home to their neighbors to hear the message of Jesus Christ.  The people who attended their "house church" were not attending a Local New Testament Church.  They were BECOMING the Local New Testament Church!  The Bible tells us that the first church at Ephesus was made up of many small "house churches."   This is, in fact, the exact model that was used in building both Saddleback and Willow Creek.  It is my prayer that we will go back to the days of Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila and grow our churches properly, like they did.  If we don't, we can count on failure.  Now here is the part no one wants to hear, but it is the truth.  Most of our "mainstream" denominations that have tried the incorrect "small group" technique, have found their churches declining, dividing, or dissolving.   Let's be smarter than that and use the Bible as our guide of how to build our churches.  Let's clearly define men's and women's roles, as the Bible does, and all become Priscillas and Aquilas.  The New Testament widows were key players in the church.  They prayed and worked without ceasing.  Priscilla and Aquila were the same tireless, sacrificial workers.  If we do these things, the Kingdom of God will grow through us, as it did through them.  It seems to me that the way most declining churches are doing it now, doesn't work.  Why not try God's way?!!!