Saturday, August 19, 2006

What's in a Name?

My friend Ron poses a thought-provoking question:

"Is the small house church all we need, and if not, where to then?"

I don't think I have a definitive answer to that. In fact, I wonder if anyone does. But I have some thoughts that I have been mulling over that might relate to this question.
The small house church is not all we need, just as the traditional church congregation is not all we need. The same problem of exclusivity and isolationism often exists in both. Frequently they take on the appearance of a social or private club. With that goes a certain degree of pride in belonging to this or that particular group. Evidence of this is seen in the naming of particular churches. Why is a name necessary? The common response is that it's needed for incorporation, tax purposes and business purposes such as the purchasing of property, etc. However, all of these things are part of the world system. Is there anywhere in Scripture that the church is described or shown to be part of the world system?
I suspect that the real reason for naming our churches is rooted in the same spirit that was found in the builders of the tower of Babel, who said, "and let us make for ourselves a name" (Genesis 11:4). We take great pride in the ministry of our own particular church, the number of people it has, those who are "saved" under its name, etc. Yet Scripture says that there is no other name under heaven whereby men can be saved other than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).
There is no local church in Scripture that has a name. They are designated by the city they are located in, i.e., the church in Ephesus. The individual house churches of which the church in any given city consisted were simply referred to by the person's home in which they met, i.e., "Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."
This whole thing is a heart issue. When our hearts are so captured by Jesus, our love for him will transcend the need for any name other than his. Only his love shed abroad in our hearts will kill our pride that separates us from each other with the names by which we exalt ourselves.
But how do we get to that point? Check the next post for part 2.

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