Did Paul Have a Home Church?

Orginally published on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 7:14 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Ray Hollenbach has an interesting piece over at RelevantMagazine.com. He writes, "I recently saw this post in RELEVANT’s “Church” section of the message boards: I can't help but think of how Paul was never much of a member to one church, and one church only. Here’s a cultural truth: We bring to our reading of scripture whatever values we currently hold. Our eyes and hearts are sensitized to recognize the things we already agree with and to ignore those things which run counter to our convictions (and yes, I will readily acknowledge that I do it, too). So here’s the deal: I’ll agree that we don’t need to be connected to a local church only if...

(1) we have been members at a local church for at least a decade;

(2) we are called to missions by the Holy Spirit speaking to the church leadership;

(3) that call is affirmed by those guys in church leadership; and

(4) we return to that church after our missionary journeys to report on our ministries.

The first three verses of Acts chapter 13 are clear beyond cultural leanings—Paul and Barnabas were invested in the body of believers in Antioch. The church in Antioch was a powerful testimony of a multi-ethnic community that embodied the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Paul and Barnabas were a part of a leadership team who heard the voice of the Spirit together and even after hearing prayed and fasted together before ordaining two of their own to missions. Then to drive the point home, the Scripture reports that at the end of this journey Paul and Barnabas returned to their home church and gave a report of what God had done (Acts 14: 26-28).

From time to time someone I don’t know comes to me at our church—I’m the pastor (yes, they’ll let anyone do it these days)—and says to me, “I need a ‘covering’ for my ministry. Will your church be my covering?” My response is usually something like “Yes! We’re all about releasing people into their calling and ministry. Why don’t you hang out with us for six months or so, and we’ll consider laying our hands on you and asking for God’s blessing on your calling.” It only takes about two weeks, and that guy is gone!

Read more of Ray’s thoughts here at Relevant Magazine...

FOR DISCUSSION: Have you experienced this same thing?  Do you agree with Ray on the importance of the local church?

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  There are 4 Comments:

  • Posted by

    We have had similar occurance at our church, a member wanted to start a ministry to the homeless and forgotten people in our area, but instead of creating the ministry under the tent of our church to get underguirding and support, he kind of insulted the system went to solicit support from various churches and never really got it off the ground. He did not want input from any church, but wanted their support for this ministry. I met with him and gave many ideas for how it could work through our missions support from the church, let’s begin and see how it unfolds. It is a great need for our area, he lasted about a month with just an idea, but lacked the drive to see it through.
    Support of a local church is vital for missions to begin. Find God’s calling on your life, let the local body support you financially and prayerfully, then run with it.

  • Posted by Linda

    We are connected to several pastors who do that.  Both are founding pastors who went to plant churches that they did not intend to pastor.  They return to many of those churches but are supported by the original plants.  They both serve in Muslim countries.  For safety reasons they sometimes cannot return.  It seems odd for someone within the United States but makes sense when the mission field is a foreign land.

  • Posted by Randy Ehle

    Certainly there’s nowhere in scripture that mandates membership in a local church.  In fact, I wonder if the NT writers even considered the distinction that would one day be drawn between “local church” and “universal church”.  As Ray noted, Paul and Barney were sent by the Antioch church and seem to have remained connected and accountable to that body, even as they traveled throughout the region planting new churches.  Here are two principles I think can be safely drawn from scripture:<ul>
    <li>we are to continually, regularly meet together as a body of believers (He 10:24-25)
    <li>we need to be accountable to that body (Ac 13-14)</ul>
    I think it may be safe to say that the only legitimate exceptions to these principles would be for those whose work is pioneer church planting; i.e., planting a new church where no church currently exists.  In that situation, I think it is important to be sent by and accountable to a particular church (as Antioch was for P&B;), but it is just as important to be connected with a body of believers (if one exists) in the area where one is seeking to plant a church.

    If you live in an area where there is an existing church (let’s say, oh, just about anywhere in the western world), then I think it is vital to be connected, committed, and accountable to a local body of believers that we know of as “a church”.  I am going to conclude with that statement, recognizing that it leaves the door wide open for discussion about what constitutes “a church”.  (E.g., Does it need to be formally organized? Does there need to be someone or some group providing some level of formal leadership, whether that is a pastor(s), elder(s), etc.?  Is there some minimum size needed?  What about membership?  Probably we don’t need to take this discussion down those roads here and now, but they should be considered in trying to answer the question of whether commitment to a particular church is biblically necessary.)

  • Posted by RevJeff


    WE ALL know it aint church unless you wear a tie and take an offering!

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