Baa, Baa

Time magazine has a recent article about house churches entitled There’s No Pulpit Like Home.

Within the article is a paragraph describing the classic argument against house churches. (Comments in red are mine.)

Critics fret that small, pastorless groups can become doctrinally or even socially unmoored. (Because really the great commission is so complex that Jesus left it only to those with seminary degrees so the rest of us wouldn’t screw it up.) Thom Rainer, a Southern Baptist who has written extensively on church growth, says, “I have no problem with where a church meets, but I do think that there are some house churches that, in their desire to move in different directions, have perhaps moved from biblical accountability.” (Of course this never happens in traditional churches, right?) In extreme circumstances home churches dominated by magnetic but unorthodox leaders can shade over the line into cults. (Is the magnetic, unorthodox cult leader with 12 people following him more dangerous than the magnetic, unorthodox cult leader with 200 people following him?)

Yes, I’ve heard these words in many conversations about house churches–dangerous, unaccountable, heresy. Be very afraid. The only safe place to serve God is with your butt in a pew following the designated expert without question. Baa, Baa.

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11 thoughts on “Baa, Baa

  1. I laughed really hard while reading this! And, being of like mind with you on this issue, I had very similar reactions and thoughts to the article as what you put in red.

    Unfortunately, with the furor emerging in response to Barna’s “Revolution” book, I expect we’ll be hearing more of these types of criticisms and complaints in the near future.

    I dealt with this issue of “we need the leaders to protect us from heresy” in a recent post on my blog using a little tongue-in-cheek analogy to the specs of the forthcoming Internet Explorer 7 from Microsoft.

    My prayer is that all of us in the “simple church” or “house church” camp will be gracious in our responses and not fight fire with fire. May they know we are Christians by our love for one another. (Seems I read that somewhere else in another “red letter” statement…..)

    God bless!
    steve :)

  2. Excellent post, as usual, Grace. I laughed out loud at the Baa Baa.

    And I absolutely agree that “the great commission is so complex that Jesus left it only to those with seminary degrees so the rest of us wouldn’t screw it up.”

    Heaven forbid any of us think we can figure it out using only the Bible and without a Doctorate.

    Thanks Grace for making me laugh this morning!

  3. Amen, grace.

    This proves that the Establishment Christians are deeply entrenched in, well, the establishment mentality.

  4. I did want to provide a point of clarification. I arranged the interview for Dr. Rainer with Time. The reporter was looking for someone to speak to the contrary perspective, but was approaching deadline. I told her–as media relations manager for LifeWay–that I doubted Dr. Rainer would give her a contrary view, but that his comments would be beneficial. He actually told her that there is the danger for doctrinal problems in house churches, but the part of his comments she didn’t publish is that there are also problems in traditional churches when there is poor leadership or poor biblical exegesis. He said he had no problem at all with house churches and said he believes there are many effective methods for reaching people for Christ, but there effectiveness is closely tied to how true to Scripture the methodology stays.

    Hope this provides some clarification. I can assure you that Dr. Rainer is a student of reaching people for Christ and will lead LifeWay to be more effective in the resources we provide to assist individuals and churches in that endeavor.

  5. Thanks Chris for this clarification. I am not familiar with Dr. Rainer or the LifeWay organization.

    My comments were more about this line of thinking in general than about Dr. Rainer’s comments specifically.

    I will post your response as a post so that it will be read also by those who read the original post.

    Thanks again for bringing this clarification.

  6. Grace, thanks for your cooperative spirit. I want you to know that my comments were not delivered with any measure of rancor and I don’t believe you took them that way, which I appreciate.

    On Feb. 1, 2006 Dr. Rainer became the ninth president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are 115-years old next month and are one of the world’s largest providers of Christian resources. Dr. Rainer actually has a couple of books out that I bet you’d find interesting. Unexpected Journeys is a book of conversations with people who turned from other beliefs to follow Christ and Breakout Churches is a study that identifies what churches exploding in growth have done to rise above the drone of contemporary Christianity in America. Interestingly, the principles could easily apply to those meeting in house churches. Simply Church, a book that will release in a couple of months, will focus on how churches that maintain simplicity are extremely effective in reaching people for Christ.

    Great stuff on your blog.

  7. Thanks Chris!

    I am very happy to set the record straight on Dr. Rainer’s thoughts.

    I am also in agreement that simplicity is important with both church and the gospel.

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