A True Church?

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johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
I need some help.

I have a friend who is kind of going emergent. We have been talking lately about the marks of a true church and the importance of elders. He goes to a church that meets at someone’s house. There are no elders at this church (as in, no one holds the official office of elder), but there are older men that go to this church. They do not partake of communion. I have told my friend I think he is going to a false church because 1) they do not administer the sacraments right (or at all) and 2) they do not have a plurality of elders. Am I wrong for seeing this church as a false church on both of these grounds? In other words, are both of these reasons good reason for claiming a church is false? If I am wrong please show me how. If I am not wrong could anyone suggest a good article or book about this topic that may help?

Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated!


:wave:
 

rmdmphilosopher

Puritan Board Freshman
I can't answer your question, but it awoke one in me! I've never heard the idea that a plurality of elders is a requirement for a true church... What about a church plant that for a time has only one man (the planter) as an elder? Are they not a true church until the body has grown to include one or more other men that may be raised up as elders too--same thing with missionaries? Also, I'm curious where in scripture a plurality of elders is shown to be a requirement for a true church... I've just never heard of that before!
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
There is a big movement toward house churches these days because of what is percieved as government control through 501c3 status and what some believe is a big waste of God's money on trivial items and huge pastor and staff payrolls. As long as the group is sound in doctrine and observe the ordinances I have no problem with it. A big proponet of this type of meeting is Michael Bunker, a 1689 Baptist down in Texas. There are also other websites dealing wit this. There is a group I know of in my area who are meeting in a house. I visited them once before. They have around 10 people and are fairly sound in the faith. Just a little too seperatist for me.
Here's the link to Bunkers page:
http://www.michaelbunker.com/
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
Blueridge reformer,

It is possible to have a church that has one elder at it, while at the same time having many leaders. For example, if a church plants a church the first church’s session can be over the plant until it can get enough leader needed.


rmdmphilosopher,
Further, the fact that they meet in a house is really irrelevant to the main point I was making/asking. I see no problem with a church meeting in a house. In fact it is biblical.
:banana:
 

rmdmphilosopher

Puritan Board Freshman
Actually, I'm the guy who asked about the plurality of elders, and Blueridge wrote about house churches, haha. Anyway:

You say

It is possible to have a church that has one elder at it, while at the same time having many leaders. For example, if a church plants a church the first church’s session can be over the plant until it can get enough leader needed.

You seem to have changed your mind to say that a true church doesn't have to have a plurality of 'elders' but a plurality of 'leaders', which pretty much allows you to answer your own original question about whether the plurality of elders is a requirement for a true church...
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
The marks of the true church are that the Gospel is rightly preached, the sacraments are rightly administered and there is discipline in the church. This group sounds more like a weekly get together and would not be considered a true or even a false church since it doesn't meet any criteria of what makes a church.

Church government, ie; elders, does not go to the esse (essence) of the church but the bene esse (well being), otherwise independant churches would be false churches.
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
House churches have another issue as well, sedition. How was this society started? Do they recognize it as a club/society or do they call it a church? If they call themselves a church and are neglecting the local church as oversight and are not under it's authority, sedition against the general body of Christ could be charged.
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
Actually, I'm the guy who asked about the plurality of elders, and Blueridge wrote about house churches, haha. Anyway:

You say



You seem to have changed your mind to say that a true church doesn't have to have a plurality of 'elders' but a plurality of 'leaders', which pretty much allows you to answer your own original question about whether the plurality of elders is a requirement for a true church...


I was using the terms elders and leaders to mean the same thing. Sorry. Next time I will try to be more precise.

Further, non dignus, what do you mean by, “sedition.”

In addition, wsw201, if they call themselves a church and are not doing what a church is to do why not call them a false church. By you post we could not call anyone a false church. You give us two categories: 1) True Church and 2) not a Church at all. The onther way I could understand you is to say that there are three kinds of Churches 1) True Church (one who does the sacraments right) 2) not a Church at all (one who does not do the sacraments) and 3) False Church (one who does the sacraments wrong). If this is what you meant can you please show a substantial difference between 2 and 3? I would argue, that to not do the sacraments is to not do the sacraments right.

And, finally, the fact that they meet in a house was not even the point I was trying to make. Looking back I wish I could take that part out. My point was proper Church government and the fact they are not partaking of communion.

:D
 
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Richard King

Puritan Board Senior
There is a big movement toward house churches these days because of what is percieved as government control through 501c3 status and what some believe is a big waste of God's money on trivial items and huge pastor and staff payrolls. As long as the group is sound in doctrine and observe the ordinances I have no problem with it. A big proponet of this type of meeting is Michael Bunker, a 1689 Baptist down in Texas. There are also other websites dealing wit this. There is a group I know of in my area who are meeting in a house. I visited them once before. They have around 10 people and are fairly sound in the faith. Just a little too seperatist for me.
Here's the link to Bunkers page:
http://www.michaelbunker.com/


The PCA Church in Lubbock has no elders. They have yet to be 'particularized'. Regarding Michael Bunker and the people from Biblicalagrarianism.com - they DO have elders.
I am interested in the conclusions everyone comes to because I think I have been in nearly every kind of church from mega charismatic churches, home churches, groups that meet in warehouses and good old Southern baptist churches of all sizes. I have yet to find a perfect one, every stinking one has been tainted by humans... but the more I have seen the closer I feel like just being a separatist and letting the rest of the world go where we know they are going full speed.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
PCA Churches with no elders have a presbytery over them and are considered a missional church until they are particularized and have elders over them.
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
In addition, wsw201, if they call themselves a church and are not doing what a church is to do why not call them a false church. By you post we could not call anyone a false church. You give us two categories: 1) True Church and 2) not a Church at all. The onther way I could understand you is to say that there are three kinds of Churches 1) True Church (one who does the sacraments right) 2) not a Church at all (one who does not do the sacraments) and 3) False Church (one who does the sacraments wrong). If this is what you meant can you please show a substantial difference between 2 and 3? I would argue, that to not do the sacraments is to not do the sacraments right.

First, the "Church" can be defined based on the identifiable marks. The difference between a true and false church is that the marks are identifiable but in the case of the false church the marks are so corrupted, ie; the gospel is no longer preached, the sacraments are administered improperly and discipline is out the window, that it is considered a false church. The standard example would be the RCC and I would include liberal churches as well, such as the PCUSA. Needless to say even the best church will have some corruption within the marks but with the false church it becomes obvious.

The problem with the scenario you you have discribed is that I don't see much of a difference between the group your friend is meeting with and a home bible study. And I don't think anyone would call a group of Christians who get together at someones home to study the bible a church.

Going back over your post you didn't mention whether they actually have a sermon, or the elements of a worship service are present or that there is any possible discipline present to curb sin. Though the sacraments are important, the other marks need to be there.

You are correct concerning the location, whether the group meets in a house or a cathedral, that does not define them as being a church.

BTW, your sig line is not showing up in your posts.
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem with the scenario you you have discribed is that I don't see much of a difference between the group your friend is meeting with and a home bible study. And I don't think anyone would call a group of Christians who get together at someones home to study the bible a church.

You are right! And this is the problem they DO call themselves a church. Thus, the fact that they label themselves a church makes them a false church. If, for example, some buddies and I start meeting at my house on Thursdays to study the Bible we are not a false church. However, if we did this and then called ourselves a church but left out important aspects of the church, we are a false church.

Going back over your post you didn't mention whether they actually have a sermon, or the elements of a worship service are present or that there is any possible discipline present to curb sin. Though the sacraments are important, the other marks need to be there.

The fact that they do not have elders would make it hard to exercise church discipline. I do not know if this church does this, but I do know that my friend needed some curbing.

BTW, your sig line is not showing up in your posts.

I have no idea what this is referring to. I do not know what a “sig line” is. Please help.

:D :cheers:
 

Richard King

Puritan Board Senior
For those who question how a home group dare call itself a church I fully understand the dangers of a group without accountability. I have seen it at its worst.
You always run the risk of the strongest personality becoming THE authority or sometimes it is the smartest or just the most clever or the one with the most charisma who becomes the voice of authority telling you what God has to say. I have seen these cases turn into dictatorships, guilt and emotion driven near cults, and I have seen sexual immorality go from the seed of a flirt or lust to the very leaders splitting a marriage.

But I have seen that in the conventional 501-c3 churches as well. The most gifted and caring preacher I ever knew ran off with his church secretary...and I was a deacon in his Southern Baptist church. I never suspected a thing.
So I fully understand the need for checks and balances and accountability to the Word.

But for clarification on the thinking of a small group perhaps this will help...

The reasoning is this...

There is a position that THE Church is the saved, the chosen, the redeemed, of all the earth.
And whenever two or more are gathered in His name He is there.
A church is certainly not the Kirk walls and for those who worship together in these ways I think they are sincerely embracing the Church as God's people in the biggest sense.
Is that a wrong conclusion?
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
But for clarification on the thinking of a small group perhaps this will help...

The reasoning is this...

There is a position that THE Church is the saved, the chosen, the redeemed, of all the earth.
And whenever two or more are gathered in His name He is there.
A church is certainly not the Kirk walls and for those who worship together in these ways I think they are sincerely embracing the Church as God's people in the biggest sense.
Is that a wrong conclusion?


This is to not deal with the issue at all.

It is true that only the elect with enter heaven, but as Presbyterians we believe that our children are part of the church. And we also do not think all of them are elect. This answer seems very Baptist to me. :confused: The church I go to on Sunday is a church and it has both wheat and tares.

Thus far we have missed my MAIN point. How can we judge if a church is a true Church and is having elders one of the marks of a true church.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
http://www.apuritansmind.com/Pastoral/McMahonThreeMarksTrueChurch.htm
The Three Marks of the True Church

I personally can't see how a true church could be a church, or any "derivation" of a church unless the marks are there. If the marks are there, then you have to have elders in order to enact discipline, which is one of the marks of a true church. :book2:

Otherwise, its just like a big bible study. Big bible studies are not bad, but they definitely do not replace the church of Christ.
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
You are right! And this is the problem they DO call themselves a church. Thus, the fact that they label themselves a church makes them a false church. If, for example, some buddies and I start meeting at my house on Thursdays to study the Bible we are not a false church. However, if we did this and then called ourselves a church but left out important aspects of the church, we are a false church.

I see where you are coming from on this. I guess any group can call themselves whatever they want. Mormons call themselves Christians, but we know better.

Click on the link below my name or MAtt's name that says Signiture Requirements. That should direct as to what you need to do.
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
http://www.apuritansmind.com/Pastoral/McMahonThreeMarksTrueChurch.htm
The Three Marks of the True Church

I personally can't see how a true church could be a church, or any "derivation" of a church unless the marks are there. If the marks are there, then you have to have elders in order to enact discipline, which is one of the marks of a true church. :book2:

Otherwise, its just like a big bible study. Big bible studies are not bad, but they definitely do not replace the church of Christ.

So, are you implying that a plurality of elders is a mark of a true church because church discipline is a mark of a true church and you cannot do that without elders?

Further, where is the biblical proof for the marks of a true church?
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
We actually went over this recently in a new members' class (which I was attending, already a member, but new to the OP I joined). Though there are the three marks which have been mentioned (preaching, sacraments, discipline), in one sense the one mark that is a must is right preaching. Part of the difficulty is that there are many nuances to trying to define a "true church." What we (or, at least, I) really mean in the context of this thread is a "true enough" church, as we confess that every church this side of glory has some error.

If we are going to use right administration of sacraments as a mark in this sense, none of us may agree - baptism, frequency of Lord's Supper, etc.:handshake:

To the original question, I agree with the consensus that the home church as described is on shaky ground declaring themselves a church. The preaching content may be fine, but who has ordained those that are preaching? This is not China where there is overt persecution of believers, thus necessitating to some degree the home church movement in the Far East, but not here.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
So, are you implying that a plurality of elders is a mark of a true church because church discipline is a mark of a true church and you cannot do that without elders?

Further, where is the biblical proof for the marks of a true church?

I would not imply it. I'm saying its impossible.

It is impossible for the officers of the church who have been given the keys to bind and loose to do that if there are no officers in the church. Discipline implies leadership - coersion, not suggestion.

The link I provided will lead you to the biblical arguments. No use retyping them here.
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
How should I go about sharing with my friend who is prone to attending churches like this one?

He has many theological problems, this being one of the top two, not to mention the fact that he makes bad decisions in other areas of his life (i.e. sex with many women, moving from the West Coast to the East Coast to live with his bi-sexual girl friend). Come to think about it, I think his number one problem is poor decisions and the churches he choices to go to is a result of that. Now that I feel I have good ground upon which to say the churches he goes to are bad, how do I move forward? Do I stop talking to him altogether as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, since he claims to be a believer yet act like this? Or do I continue to show him the errors of his ways as long as he will listen?
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
I would say keep talking to him as long as he will listen. It's not up to you to turn him around. If he truly is a believer, it will be the Holy Spirit that will turn him around. From reading the various posts on this board about how God has turned folks around, it doesn't seem to start with where they go to church. It seems to start with a certain conviction and a change of mind/heart. Then good decisions follow.

A couple of questions:

Does he read Scripture? What does he really believe? Will he go to church with you?
 

johnny_redeemed

Puritan Board Freshman
Does he read Scripture?
He says he does. I am not sure though. I think if he does read them he reads them to gain ammo to argue with.

What does he really believe?
In regards to what? That is a huge question. He is a Trinitarian. I think the best camp to put him in would be a cross between a reformed Baptist and the emergent church.:down:

Will he go to church with you?
He lives in Boston and I live in Jackson Mississippi. So, this would not work.
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
Josh,

It sounds like you're in a tough spot trying to deal with your friend long distance. Because you are not there, this group he is with will probably have more influence over him.

What I meant by what he believes covers the whole gambit. What does he believe about Jesus; who is Jesus; are the Scriptures the Word of God and do they hold any authority over him; why should he even go to church? These types of questions will give him something to think about and may force him to grapple more with the decisions he has made.

Needless to say, its hard for me to give any real good advice since I don't know this guy, but I will pray for you and your friend that God will strenghten you for the task God has put in front of you.
 
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