HOUSE CHURCH LEADERS
Some historians claim that the title “pastor” was rarely used in documents written during the first three hundred years. They conclude that the early church never had appointed leaders in a house church and that everyone was equal in terms of making decisions and leading the group. It is difficult to imagine a group without a leader, although some choose to call such a person a coordinator or facilitator. My speculation is that the word “pastor” was not easily given and the leader of a house group was just that - a house group leader, overseer, or bishop. All were elders. No one was really after titles, or at least should not be.
The Bible clearly indicates that the Church had a chain of command starting from Christ, then the five-fold ministry and ending with a group of leaders called “elders.” The house church leaders were probably elders. These leaders met on issues that concerned the entire church. Ac. 15:6. The five-fold ministry was accepted by the Church as “gifts” to the body and people who supervised the goings-on of the local churches. Eph. 4:11-13.
In addition, the apostles especially, were gifted by God to do and wrought many miracles - signs and wonders. It would be hard to imagine that they were controlled by general consensus. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” A facilitator or coordinator does not have “rule” over people according to the definitions given by groups that do not believe in spiritual authority. We can only speculate that past abuses by leadership have soured these groups who now see everyone as being equal in terms of leadership.
As mentioned earlier, the Army of God mentioned in Joel 2:11, is comprised of Christians who “march every one on his ways, and … shall not break ranks,” and they “… shall walk everyone in his path….” verses 7,8. These passages indicate that there are ranks and different paths for each saint. “Ranks” implies a chain of command involving different levels or “ranks.”
We conclude that house churches should have specific leaders, including one who has overall charge or who is the overseer of the group, and secondly there should be assistants to the leader. It is reported that some modern house groups, especially in parts of mainland China, have a registrar or recorder as well as an assistant.
The lack of usage of the word “pastor” or “pastors” may indicate that the title was reserved to the five-fold ministry and not used to delineate house church leaders. Perhaps, a “pastor” was one who had up to a hundred house churches under his jurisdiction or responsibility, as is seen in China and elsewhere today. House church leaders were elders by definition and also shepherds, overseers or bishops. 1 Ti. 3:1. Since the title “pastor” was not often used, this implies that house church leaders did not use that title, although there is no conclusive evidence. However, as Shakespeare said, “A rose by any name smells the same.”
We need to be aware also, of the fact that we are discussing house churches and not just cell groups or house groups as used by some denominations today to describe their church organization. Cell groups or house meetings that are subordinate to and controlled by a central church and are actually appendages. House churches, on the other hand, are independent churches in and of themselves, although they may be part of a larger network of churches and may or may not recognize certain members of the five-fold ministry. In effect, the words “facilitator” or “coordinator” may more accurately describe the central headquarters for the particular area or region where the house church is located. For instance, Jerusalem served as the central headquarters out of which Peter, James and other apostles operated, while Antioch was known to be the central headquarters out of which Paul and his helpers operated. The relationship was a very loose one in terms of direct supervision and possibly the only contact between the central headquarters and the individual house churches in the outlying regions was through the apostles and other five-fold ministry individuals who traveled about the countryside and other areas. Paul’s journeys took him to regions far distant from Antioch and took him years at a time. He also spend extended periods of time residing in cities such as Ephesus, Corinth, etc.
During times of peace, it was possible to have a more tightly organized house church network, with a pyramid type of structure in which groups of house churches would be monitored and assisted by one “pastor” and groups of pastors led by an apostle, and so forth. But, in times of persecution it is almost a certainty that a central headquarters was a physical impossibility. Jerusalem was itself destroyed about fifty years after Jesus returned to heaven. However, the five-fold ministry and “central headquarters” became underground entities. This is seen in mainland China where the vast majority of house churches became almost entirely autonomous, except for occasions when visitors from other churches and perhaps well-known mature leaders would pay clandestine visits. It is speculated that a very similar system will arise even in Western countries when persecution sets in.
That is not to say that the house churches were isolated. When I visited the underground churches in mainland China about eight years ago, they were well organized and each house church was familiar with other saints that belonged to other house churches in the area. Each house church enjoyed a close relationship with all the other house churches and knew the names of all the house group leaders. It was as if there was only one church in the entire city, although there was no formal organization or physical structure. In China, the house churches were well-organized and did, in fact, call their leaders “Pastor.” The Chinese saints all spoke of the leaders in reverent and respectful terms, whether it was their pastor or some other group’s leader. This is what God always purposed - a universal church that is one in love and Spirit. The true church was not a huge congregation within one monstrous building, but rather a living organism spread out over the entire area, each working together for the head - Jesus Christ.
Our conclusion is that it makes very little difference what we call the leader. Modern custom says “Pastor,” while history does not record such a title being widely used in house churches. Whether we call the house church leader a “house shepherd,” “pastor,” “overseer,” “elder,” or “bishop” make little difference except to a few saints who love titles. If you follow 1 Timothy 3:1, the title “bishop” would seem appropriate. Another correct title would be “elder.” Ac. 14:23. For the sake of clarity, however, we will continue to use “pastor” since it is by far the most commonly used title.
1 Timothy 3:1-13 well describes the qualifications of a bishop (elder) and a deacon, and we will not repeat those requirements here. In times of persecution and in the midst of a revival/harvest, we would be hard pressed to find large numbers of fully qualified leaders. It is reported that during past revival/harvest times, there was an extreme shortage of teachers and leaders and saints who had been converted only six months previous had to be pressed into service as teachers for the Lord.
It would therefore, seem that the following will be necessary:
1. Begin the training process as soon as possible in order to have as many qualified house church leaders as possible when revival/harvest comes.
2. Condense as many teaching outlines as possible, especially Foundation courses so that new converts can receive and absorb the lessons as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. On the positive side, it is said that after a few years, even college graduates forget over 85% of what they learned in college and after ten years, retain only 5% to 10%. They will remember only the important things.
3. New teaching outlines should be available to as many as possible. When revival/harvest begins, it may be too late to start writing and printing these outlines. We need to start now!
4. A house church “elder” should be someone who is solid in terms of Bible doctrines and practices. Preferably, he or she should be a mature Christian. However, field conditions may require a great deal of adaptation. Nevertheless, guidelines should be adhered to.
5. An elder must be born-again, preferably tongue-speaking and anointed of the Lord.
6. The current leaders of the existing church should lay hands on these house church elders and impart the Holy Spirit and anointing to them before they are released into their house church ministry.
7. There should be minimal training at least, for these elders.
8. These elders should be made acquainted with other elders and leaders in their area. This is so they can rely on help from outside and be able to meet periodically with others. A line of communication will be essential. There should be no renegades, even during times of persecution.
9. These elders should be subject to an appointed “apostle” or mature Christian who will periodically “drop in” to help steer the house church in the right direction in terms of doctrines and practices. Prophets and evangelists should also be part of the house church’s exposure to other parts of the Body of Christ. Some loose organization is necessary and should be acknowledged by each house church leader. Otherwise, there is a danger of isolation and deception. Without constant and periodic checks and balances, cults could result and heresies abound.
10. Initially, these house church leaders should be trained and given a certificate or diploma that indicates that they are qualified to lead a house church. The Bible college at Santa Rosa or the vocational training center could serve as the initial training headquarters.
House Group Leaders
Assuming that the restoration of house churches will follow the Bible pattern, we know that house groups were places of worship and service. A house group leader must be given to hospitality and service. Although others pitched in to help serve and care for the members, the owner of the house had additional duties. He/she had to make sure that the house was clean and presentable at all times, that supplies of food and other comfort items were provided and that everyone knew the times and order of gatherings, etc. He had to have his children and wife in order and have no rebellion in the family.
It was a privilege to have your house as a gathering place of the saints, but there are certain responsibilities as well. Supposedly, the owner of the house is also the leader, but not always so. Some leaders do not own a house and it is plausible that another person’s house could serve as a meeting place, although the leader comes from elsewhere.
The scriptures show that Christians went from house to house to share a meal and to fellowship. Therefore, the house owner or leader should be hospitable and willing to serve others. He had to be wise and have spiritual maturity in order to feed the sheep spiritual things. He had to have an abundance of love and the ability to teach and guide. He must be one who is well-respected in the community.
As God reveals further truth and strategies, we will make the adjustments.
REVIVAL AND PERSECUTION
According to our Lord Jesus, the end of the age will be heralded in by “the beginning of sorrows.” Mt. 24:8. Immediately following will be tribulation, often called the “Great Tribulation.” At the same time, there will be the last and greatest revival of all time. Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Revelation 14:6 says, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” Therefore, we know that a great revival is going to take place before the end. It is inconceivable that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached and that an angel will cause the everlasting gospel to be preached unto all on earth without a revival/harvest resulting. God’s word will never come back void.
In 1998, an angel appeared to us in Lal-lo, Tucalana in the province of Cagayan and announced that a revival would take place in that area in the northern Philippines. In 2001, four members of our team saw the same angel standing in the exact same spot, flanked on each side by two other angels. Because of that, we began concentrating on the Philippines. An explanation of that is attached below.
In Matthew 24:15, after Jesus announced that a great revival was going to take place, he said in the very next verse, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them that be in Judaea flee into the mountains:….” This indicates that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet is either soon on the heels of revival or almost concurrent.
The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet is found in Daniel 8:11-14; 9:17,26-27; 11:31; 12:11.
Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered. That I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. Da. 8:11-14.
. . . (A)nd cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolation…. Da. 9:17,18.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even unto the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. Da. 9:26-27.
And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. Da. 11:31.
And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Da. 12:11.
Therefore, it is clear that during the end times, Christians will be widely persecuted and eventually the government (one-world government) is going to make worship to the Lord Jesus Christ illegal. There will be a one-world government and a one-world religion as prophesied in Revelation 13.
The churches will be destroyed and/or made desolate or empty. Daniel 7:21 says, “I beheld, and the same horn made war against the saints, and prevailed against them.” Verse 25 says, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” (note: 3-½ years) Revelation 13:7 says, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”
But in the very end, the people of God shall prevail. Da. 7:22,27. There will be a group of Christians who will be left standing in the end. Dispensationalist and others that believe in Pre-tribulation Rapture claim that after Revelation 2 and 3 there is no mention of the church and therefore, it means that the church has been raptured up. We disagree. No mention is made of the church because it will be destroyed.
The point is, persecution/tribulation will likely come sometime during revival or immediately thereafter. When one prays for revival, he must be aware that he is also praying for persecution and tribulation. We are not to avoid persecution and tribulation, but to prepare for it. That is why we are intent on house churches that will be ready for revival and also allow as many saints to survive as possible.
Not many will survive. 2 Thessalonians says,
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
When the one-world government lines every one up and demands that Christians either renounce Jesus and take the mark of the beast, or be killed, many will take the easy way out and renounce Jesus. They will fall away from the faith.
The process of falling away started a long time ago with the introduction of pagan practices and “new doctrines” not taught by the early apostles. The man of sin is no other than the spirit of the fallen Adam, the man of sin, the son of perdition. The question is - who sits on the throne in your heart, in the temple of God, which is your body? 1 Co. 6:19. Is it the First Adam, the man of sin, or the Last Adam, Jesus Christ? Those who still worship self will renounce Jesus and take the mark. On that day, the man of sin will be revealed.
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE
Watchman Nee’s book entitled The Normal Christian Life serves as the basis for our foundational teaching on how God plans to have mature sons and daughters in the image of His Son Jesus.
His book has been carefully summarized chapter by chapter (14 of them) and they have been outlined to create a teaching manual on the subject, along with test questions and answers. Both the summaries (in the form of fourteen newsletters) and the teaching manual are available. This topic is essential to our understanding of who we are and how we are to live out our lives as Christians. Those who do not clearly have God’s plan in their heart will find it difficult to mature spiritually in the fullness of Christ. While there may be saints who will attain a high position in heaven through the sacrifice of their life as martyrs, walking the earth and living a Christian life in extended service to the Lord is another matter. The latter takes divine revelation, discipline and an utter devotion to God‘s purposes.
The other reason for the teaching manual is the understanding that during the coming revival and persecution soon to follow, new converts have only a short span of time to mature. Therefore, we have strived to put together a program of teaching that emphasizes the absolute essentials in as short a time as possible.
The newsletters and the teaching manual will be made available to all house group leaders.
Spiritual Authority is the title of a book compiled through the teachings of Watchman Nee. Like The Normal Christian Life, Spiritual Authority is a vital revelation of how a Christian must live his life in order to serve God. It emphasizes God’s authority and our need to be submissive and obedient to all authority. Without obedience, God’s kingdom cannot be established on earth.
God chose the Church to manifest His glory on earth. Sadly, the Church has been largely ineffective because of much rebellion, hidden and overt. Since we are entering an age during which the Church will be perfected and without spot, wrinkle or blemish or any such thing, we need to receive direct revelation about the importance of obedience.
Like The Normal Christian Life, this book has been summarized chapter by chapter and placed in newsletter form. There are twenty chapters and therefore, twenty newsletters. Again, this book has been reduced to a teaching manual with test questions and answers for each chapter. Both the newsletters and the teaching manual will be made available to all house group leaders.
Learning submission, humility and obedience is mandatory if we are to become the Bride of Christ.
STATEMENT OF FAITH
LIGHT OF THE WORLD MISSIONS
LIGHT OF THE WORLD MISSIONS – PHILIPPINES
There is only one God, - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as revealed in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Any “God” or “Jesus” who is not the same as described in the Bible, and in particular, the King James Version, is a different God and a different Jesus. The almighty God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. He is love.
The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, written by men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Errors in the Bible are mostly errors in translation and other supposed errors will be revealed as truth in due time. We believe that the King James Version is the most accurate Bible, despite a few translation errors. However, we do occasionally use other Bibles for reference or comparison. The Bible was written by men inspired by God and is the complete truth. Forty-four men wrote the Bible over a span of about 1,600 years from different locations, but each writer is consistent with all the other writers in describing the nature of God. No one is allowed to distort, change or add to the Bible. The Bible is to be interpreted according to its historical context and all doctrines and teachings not consistent with the Bible are to be discarded.
Since the Bible is clear that any Jesus or doctrine not taught by the early apostles should be rejected, we do not accept any modern or “new interpretation” or revelation that was never part of the teachings espoused by the first century apostles, although some passages are to be interpreted with a historical perspective. Such doctrines include the Pre-tribulation Rapture, Satan’s name is Lucifer, December 25 is Jesus’ birthday, Easter (Ishtar) represents Jesus’ resurrection, Third Wave, Dispensationalism, Dominion Doctrine, Manifest Sons of God, Latter Rain, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith Movement, and similar beliefs never taught by the early apostles.
We do not accept scriptural passages taken out of context or isolated from the rest of the Bible. The main question is - was the passage of scripture intended by the writer to answer the very question that the scripture is being used to answer? If not, then it is out of context. We believe that accurate interpretation of the Bible is the ministry of the Holy Spirit and only He can guide us into all truth.
We believe in the trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It is a mystery, but the Bible is clear that God is described as three distinct persons but God is one. 1 Jn. 5:7,8.
Jesus is God and God created the heavens and the earth through the Spirit of God. Gen. 1:1. The Bible says that Jesus created the heavens and the earth and everything in it (through the Holy Spirit). Jn. 1:1-3,10; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost all have the same nature, honor and glory, have different personalities and functions in the plan of redemption. All three are in total agreement.