Let me start by acknowledging that many believers feel threatened by any concept of structure or authority. Even talking about community and things it implies makes many fear that they are about to become unwelcome, as a dear sister told me the other day.
If you feel that way, let me remind you of the earlier installements: we are family. Family wants to stick together. If you’re a follower of Yeshua, then I am committed to you.
Along lines of community and structure and authority, where I worship, a discussion was started about forming a “house of decision” to decide corporate matters of worship and discipline when needed. We’ll talk more about that later, but many were non-plussed by the idea.
No one said it directly, but then most kind of observed it like finding a Mormon missionary on their front porch. For my part, I speculate that those in a home fellowship setting have mostly come as a result of fleeing false doctrine and lazy faith practice. There are exceptions, but that’s my experience. One finds a major false doctrine like abolishment of Torah, and then everything the church ever taught becomes suspect. Not without reason, but anything that even smells like church gets thrown away.
And since there was usually a brush with authority along the way, authority becomes suspect. I understand that, but I’m seeing a more dangerous trend: not only is a specific authority in human form, bad, all authority is! It’s held up that the New Testament way is just supposed to be an individual walk. Coming and going from “community” to “community” is normal, nothing wrong with it. Fundanmental disagreement about faith and practice is normal. There’s not supposed to be any “church government.”
I suspect one or more of the brothers/sisters who holds this view, may be reading this. I have no desire to offend you, but . . .
“Just me and God,” isn’t in the Bible
B’resheit (Genesis) 2 tells us Elohim making man and they have a conversation. Presumably many conversations. Then comes verse 18, “…it was not good for the man to be alone…”
Think about that. Adom is in a curse-free world, walking with Elohim, talking with Him without any division of sin . . . and Elohim says it’s not good for man to be alone. How can it even be that Elohim counts Adom as alone, even with Elohim there?!?! As if that’s not bad enough Elohim is the one saying, “God + man = not good.” Man needs another human.
Chavah (Eve) is then given to Adom for the express purpose of a man cleaving to a woman and becoming one. Preachers will say this is the first marriage, but they miss it’s also the first fellowship.
Later in Shemot (Exodus) 18:14-17, Moshe gets godly council from his father-in-law, and what is the council? That Moshe’s ministry is not good to do alone.
And stop and think about that. Why is Moshe teaching at all? If YHVH’s goal is to get us all to one on one relationship’s with Him (even though He said that wasn’t good)…then why didn’t He lead them out of Egypt directly, instead of through an agent? For that matter, why did He lead them out as a people? Why does Elohim even care about a ‘people’ if the goal is the individual?
Moving on, come the feasts of YHVH. They are called convocations, meaning a “calling out”. Why are they called out? So the people can assemble to meet Him. Why are they to assemble, if the point is lone ranger faith?
Fast forward through a long list of prophets who are sent with messages to the House of Isra’el, and the House of Y’hudah, past judges who lead armies to victory. Why does Elohim need an army anyway? He can deliver with one, so why send a group? And why does He care about delivering a group?
Into the Brit Chadasha, the books of the Basar (Glad Tidings/Good News). In Mattityahu 18:15-17 we are told about congregational discipline. Why is there an assembly? And why is He telling them what to do if the brother disobeys the assembly? See. None of this makes sense in a “just me and God” paradigm. It makes perfect sense in a continuation of community paradigm and implies structure and governance.
Acts 6, there’s a dispute about the treatment of widows, what do the disciples do? They call an assembly, and then they give instruction. This is after the Spirit descended so . . . why didn’t the Spirit tell them? The implication is that Elohim doesn’t want to interact always with a person directly. It serves His Will to work His Ruach through other people.
Acts 15, Paul—the great Paul who is allegedly the central orator of Church doctrine—goes to Yerushalayim because of a question of doctrine. Why couldn’t the Ruach HaKadosh just tell each of the disciples what the correct interpretation was? If it’s just a person and God, why do they need doctrine or teaching? There’s nothing in the passage that suggests anyone there is not a brother, so why didn’t the Spirit just tell them? For that matter, why doesn’t the Spirit tell Paul? Why does Paul have to go over a great distance to see apostles and elders to find the answer?
Acts 21, Paul returns to Yerushalayim and meets with Ya’akov (James) and the elders. . . by the way, why are there elders? Where did Yeshua talk about elders? No one said anything up until now, about elders . . . but wait . . . the Torah talks a lot about the importance of elders. And judges. And assemblying. Then what happens? Ya’akov and the elders tell him what to do. I’m sure they weren’t rude about it, but in the Greek it appears the same structure as when the centurian says, “I say to a man do and he does.” It’s not an option, it’s an imperative. And Paul does. He submits to their authority and structure, just as he did in Acts 15.
Again, why didn’t the Spirit just tell him? I could go on and on. Ephesians 4:11-13 this verse is saying the goal of having sent emissaries, prophets, teachers, etc., is to minister to the saints (that means influencing other people) and bring about the wholeness of the body. The gifts are given so that we can help each other to come to maturity. The gifts aren’t given for us to go off and do our own thing: as Paul clearly showed in submitting his doctrine to other godly men and obeying godly orders from those in authority. Paul even recognized the authority of the Kohen HaGadol! A man whose job was to act as a minister between people and Elohim—strange that He would respect that, since He’s the one who said there is “one mediator.” Even stranger that you realize this Kohen HaGadol is persecuting the disciples of his Master!
We are not called to be individuals. We are already individuals! He has feasts that are for assembling, but He doesn’t have even one feast for getting away from each other! Just look at Yeshua. He never ‘misheard’ the Father, but look at how his custom was to go and sit in synagogues and gather in the temple, and yet we see Him interacting and acting within the structure in place, not constantly doing His own thing and trying to upset the apple cart. In Luke was “given” the scroll to read; He didn’t take it. He did what was customarily expected, right down to the “sitting down” to speak.
The clear message of scripture from beginning to end is that “Just God and me” is not good. Elohim made people to unite with people, to minister together as people. As individuals too, like members of a body, but my arm does not please me when it tries to get away from my shoulder. If my right foot leaves my left foot to do its own thing, I am not honored by it.
So community is not some novel concept that we can take or leave. It isn’t like a question of having a ‘contemporary’ service vs. a traditional service. It is the intrinsic design of Elohim for the sons of Adom and daughters of Chavah. Just imagine you really apply, “Just me and God.” If you aren’t supposed to have a pastor or elder “between” you and Elohim . . . should a wife have a husband “between”? Is she ‘free’ to just ignore him and go do whatever she feels like? Is a son or daughter free to ignore their parent? Why not? The governance and structure of the assembly means nothing, but the household structure and governance matters? If the house of Elohim has no structure, why should your house? We should expect, that children and spouses feel ‘free’ to come and go between families and houses, do whatever they feel like. You kid feels lead to eat only poptarts, who are you to get between them and Elohim?
Forsake not the assembling. <—– That’s in the Bible, too.