THE TEMPLE, THE CHURCH, AND THE “CATHEGOGUE”
A. Clarification of the Relationship between the Temple and the Church
1. The form of the Post-Constantinian church has been generally based on the pattern of the Old Testament Temple, with a corporate holding, sacred articles/space, professional clergy, etc. Moreover, the liturgical patterns of the church were generally adopted from the liturgy of the Jewish synagogues, which likewise derived from the Temple rituals. This created what Wolfgang Simson calls the “Cathegogue System”:
Baptized with Greek pagan philosophy, separating the sacred from the secular, the cathegogue system developed into the Black Hole of Christianity, swallowing most of its society-transforming energies and inducing the church to become absorbed with itself for centuries to come. The Roman Catholic Church went on to canonize the system. Luther reformed the content of the gospel, but left the outer forms of ‘church’ remarkably untouched. The Free Churches freed the system from the State, the Baptists then baptized it, the Quakers dry-cleaned it, the Salvation Army put it in uniform, the Pentecostals anointed it and the Charismatics renewed it, but until today nobody has really changed the system. The time to do that has now arrived.
2. The Temple was instituted by God in the pattern of the heavenly Temple (cf. Ex. 25:40; Acts 7:44; Heb. 8:5; 9:24). It was designed to be a prophetic signpost of the Day of the Lord, when the glory of God will cover the entire earth (cf. Ps. 72:19; Is. 11:9; 35:2; 40:5; 60:1; Hab. 2:14; etc.). Thus, the glory filling the inner sanctuary (cf. Ex. 40:34; 1 Ki. 8:10ff; 2 Chr. 7:1ff) was seen as a deposit of the glory to come.
When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple. 12 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; 13 I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” (NIV 1 Kings 8:10-13)
“In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God… 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” … 9 You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout… 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. (NIV Isaiah 40:3-10)
3. As such the perpetuity of the Name and presence of God was interpreted in light of the age to come (cf. 1 Ki. 9:3; 1 Chr. 23:25; Ps. 68:16; Jer. 3:17; etc.), just as the perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty (cf. 2 Sam. 7:11-16; Ps. 89:29; Is. 9:7; etc.). As the Davidic dynasty came to a temporary end, so also the Temple was destroyed during the 70 year exile of Israel (c.586-516) and again under Roman rule in 70 AD. However, both the Temple and the Dynasty will be perpetually restored in the age to come.
I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. (NASB 1 Kings 9:3)
- When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever. (NIV 2 Samuel 7:11-16)
For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: 14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it. (NIV Psalm 132:13-14)
Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. 7 He said: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. (NIV Ezekiel 43:5-7)
4. In this way the Temple was never a pattern for ministry, but rather a signpost for the age to come. The disciples never attempted to replicate the Temple ministry. To replicate it would not only be illogical but blasphemous (cf. 1 Ki. 12:28-33), presumption against God’s chosen seat of redemptive history.
5. Thus, the locus of sojourning ministry was from home to home (cf. Acts 2:46; 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 20:20; etc.), though the disciples continued to meet in the temple courts (cf. Lk. 24:53; Acts 2:46; Acts 3:1f; 5:20f; etc.). The Temple was never discounted, replaced or superseded; it was simply related to rightly in light of the Day of the Lord. The locus of ministry and sojourning has always been home-based, Old Testament and New (cf. Deut. 4-6; 2 Chr. 6; Ezra 9-10; etc.).
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (NIV Luke 24:51-53)
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… 3:1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer… (NIV Acts 2:46-3:1)
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (NIV Acts 5:42)
- Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (NIV Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
6. Ultimately, the temple and home fellowships serve the same function—faithful sojourning—but the two forms are different and mutually exclusive. To mix the two forms convolutes the function of both. Thus the NT can speak of the analogous function and identity of the Temple and the church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16f; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21f; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pe. 2:5), while assuming a difference in form and ministry.
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (cf. Ex. 29:45) (NIV 2 Corinthians 6:16)
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV Ephesians 2:19-22)
As you come to him, the living Stone– rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV 1 Peter 2:4-9)
B. Brief History of the Church and Home-based Fellowships
1. Because of the early church’s sojourning theology in light of the kingdom and resurrection, early Christians lived in organic and easily multipliable house churches, equipped and guided by the five-fold ministry. As some have said, converts were “converted to marginality,” which had no place in the mainstream of wealth and power.
2. The early church thus had no corporate holdings. There were no “church buildings” mentioned in history until the final quarter of the third century. The question of house church versus corporate church was not even a consideration. As various missiologists have pointed out, if we want to return to the apostolic pattern of church planting, then we ought to aim at constructing our first building 300 years after we start!
When the church was very young, it had no buildings. Let us begin with that striking fact. That the church had no buildings is the most noticeable of the points of difference between the church of the early days and the church of today. In the minds of most people today, ‘church’ means first a building, probably something else second; but seldom does ‘the church’ stand for anything other than a building. Yet here is the fact with which we start: the early church possessed no buildings and carried on its work for a great many years without erecting any. This fact has something significant to teach us concerning the character of the church… There was practically nothing in the way of church building until the third century, and nothing with any pretension to architecture until after the conversion of Constantine early in the fourth century. During all this time the church carried on her mission without buildings of her own, without property, and without the burdens and responsibilities that the holding of property implies.
3. It was not until the conversion of Constantine that the church wholeheartedly adopted corporate holdings endorsed by the State. As the church systematically transitioned to an institutional corporate base, the war against gnosticism subsided, and the Romanized church assumed the identity of the Kingdom Now before an immaterial heaven, i.e. “Christendom”. The theology was thus adopted to validate the ministerial ambition for wealth and power.
4. In time the logical consequence of kingdom now theology and praxis led to the banning of everything outside of the corporate form. On 27 February 380, emperor Theodosius published the so called “Edict of Thessalonica”, which not only outlawed traditional Roman religions but also persecuted all unauthorized gatherings of believers, i.e. house churches.
5. Post-400 AD Christianity is a two-fold history of reformation of theology and praxis. Multitudes of books have been written on the reformation and restoration of apostolic doctrine, but few have even considered the restoration of apostolic ecclesiology. The reason for this: it contradicts the wealth and power of the church, so much so that the church persecuted anyone who even tried to live it out by themselves.
a) The first person to be executed as a heritic after Theodosius’ decree was Priscillian, bishop of Avila. Priscillian empowered a large lay movement in Spain and France of small fellowships called “brotherhoods” which met in private homes. Because they took communion and baptized new believers, the Roman episcopate put Priscillian and six of his leaders to death at Trier in 385.
b) Likewise, the Celtic movement of the 5th and 6th centuries initially came under Roman persecution because of their practice of peregrini (lit. “migrant ones”), who would travel in bands evangelizing and discipling new believers in unreached places.
c) The Arminian Paulicians and Tondrakians, the Bogomilians of Bulgaria, the French Henricians (a.k.a. Petrobusians) and Albigensians (a.k.a. Cathars) were all accused of heresy, but the real reason for their systematic persecution was their refusal to assemble in the corporate holdings of their respective Christendom churches. This threatened the wealth and power of the state churches.
d) The rise of the Inquisition in the 12th century led to the persecution and murder of millions of believers including the Waldensians (the “Poor Men of Lyons”), the English Lollards, the Bohemian Hussites, the Moriscos (Islamic converts) and Marranos (Jewish converts) of Spain and Portugal, and the Protestant Anabaptists, Labadians, Huguenots, etc.—all of which persisted though underground home-based gatherings.
6. Lest we think this a “Catholic problem,” the Protestant Reformers were no less brutal in their persecution of non-sanctioned Christian meetings.
a) After Luther gained the support of the German Elector, Frederick III, Luther ordered the massacre of over 100,000 peasants in 1524-25. From 1526-29, Luther began to organize his movement, which alarmed one of his disciples Kaspar Schwenckfeld. In 1530 Schwenckfeld parted ways with his mentor, and in 1535 he and his disciples were officially condemned as heretics (because of their views on Communion) and were subsequently “hunted like deer” throughout Europe.
b) The leaders of the Anabaptist movement, Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz and George Blaurock, were all sentenced in Zurich at the hands of reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Manz became the first Anabaptist martyr, drowned in Lake Zürich; Grebel died because of his time in prison; Blaurock was beaten, sent away and later burnt at the stake in near Klausen, Italy. Known as the “Radical Reformation,” the Anabaptist movement spread like wildfire throughout Europe as people sought not only a reformation of theology but also a reformation of praxis, the latter being the true source of their relentless persecution.
c) Dictatorial rule was likewise established in Geneva under John Calvin and his successors. Any meetings outside the city ordinances were strictly condemned, and Michael Servetus became the first “libertine” heretic burned in the city square.
d) If the inner motivations of the human heart were exposed, I suggest that the majority of the 30,000+ Protestant denominations were started because groups of people desired to meet outside the control of the corporate-based church, which would be a form of passive persecution.
7. The Protestant home-fellowship movement was given breathing room because of the folly of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and the subsequent retaliation of the Enlightenment (c.1650-1800).
a) The modern home-based church movement began primarily within German pietism, the father of which being Jacob Spener (1635-1705) who recognized that though everyone had a bible in their homes no one actually read them. Thus, he established collegia pietatis, “pious gatherings,” biweekly house meetings that discussed the Sunday morning sermon. Spener quickly encountered opposition from the local Lutheran churches, and the city council of Frankfurt subsequently banned the meetings.
b) In like manner, Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-60), the godson of Spener, began a Moravian movement of “societies” and “bands” throughout Europe, which John Wesley multiplied after his Moravian conversion on Aldersgate St. Wesley’s “circuits” and “classes” spread throughout Europe and America, setting the standard of the Protestant evangelicalism by the end of the Second Great Awakening. Essentially house churches, these small groups received intense opposition and ridicule (cf. “Methodist”) by the corporate-based churches.
c) Camp Meetings and the Holiness Movement
d) YMCA and the Student Volunteer Movement
e) Plymouth Brethren and the Little Flock Movement
f) Church Growth Movement and House Church Networks
Prophetically foreseen by Erich Reber and described by writers such as Robert Banks and Met Castillo, it was in 1996 when probably the first intentional house-church planting movement outside rather closed nations like China, Vietnam or Cuba, was initiated by Dr. Victor Choudhrie in North India. In later years, other initiatives followed, initiated by IBRA Radio, a Swedish Pentecostal Radio ministry, which started a new house church planting ministry in the Arab World, or apostolic persons like Bruce Carlton, inside, but clearly on the fringes of existing mission agencies like the Southern Baptists’ IMB (International Mission Board). First greatly ridiculed by traditional churches in almost all nations, the house church movement has grown to many hundreds of thousands of churches in an amazingly short period of time, and is, at this point, not only the main harvesting tool God seems to use in Muslim nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Indonesia, but making its presence felt in many Western nations as well. Apostolic church planters like Neil Cole or Tony Dale, Bernard Sanders and Guy Muse, Victor John and David Watson, Peter Wenz or Jonathan Pattiasina are leading the way, and many in traditional churches who were watching are not laughing anymore. By now (2009) we know of at least 500,000 newly planted house churches (outside China), and, if George Barna is right in his predictions, published in his book Revolution, it will take but a few more years for house churches to become not only an extremely vital harvesting instrument of God, but quite simply the new mainline church, replacing CAWKI [church-as-we-know-it] with something introduced to the mindset of most Christians only a few years ago.
8. The areas of the earth where the greatest growth of the Church is happening today is primarily facilitated through home-based meetings. George Barna, perhaps the most influential pollster and church growth consultant in Evangelical Christianity, predicts that “revolutionary” expressions (i.e. home-based churches) will soon account for one third of American spirituality.
 “When the Temple was destroyed, the synagogue became its surrogate. Much of the liturgy of rabbinic Judaism—even the times of statutory prayer and the number of services held on Sabbaths and festivals—was framed to correspond to the rituals and rhythms of the defunct Temple cult.” [“Synagogue,” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2009 (1997-2009 Microsoft Corporation); available from http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761557548/synagogue.html.]
“Where perfected into a system, the services of the synagogue, which were at the same hours as those of the temple, consisted, (1) of prayer, which formed a kind of liturgy, there were in all eighteen prayers; (2) the reading of the Scriptures in certain definite portions; and (3) the exposition of the portions read. (See Luke 4:15, 22; Acts 13:14.)” [M.G. Easton, “Synagogue,” Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897).]
 Wolfgang Simson, Houses that Change the World (Waynesboro: Authentic, 2001), xvi.
 See Eduardo Hoornaert, The Memory of the Christian People, trans. R. R. Barr (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988), 81.
 “We have no temples or alters.” This statement, referring to Christians, comes from the pen of the apologist (defender) Minicus Felix, c 200, and all evidence supports its accuracy. Throughout at least the first two centuries there were no church buildings as such, and this was so remarkable that to the pagan population, it was considered grounds for accusing the Christians of ‘atheism.’ In a world notable for the number of its holy shrines and the rivers of blood that flowed daily from the sacrificial victims, Christians were conspicuous in that they possessed neither the first nor engaged in the second.” [J.G. Davies, Secular Use of Church Buildings (New York: Seabury, 1968), 1.]
 Ernest Loosley, When The Church Was Young (Christian Books Pub House, 1989; orig. pub. 1935), 3-5.
 See Alan Kreider, ed., The Origins of Christendom in the West (Edinburgh and New York: T & T Clark, 2001); Judith Herrin, The Formation of Christendom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987); and Robert Lewis Wilkin, Seeking the Face of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).
 The tension between the Celtic and Roman Church continued until the Celtic Church came under the authority of Rome at the Synod of Whidby in 664. Differences in the appearance of monks and the dating of Easter (lunar vs. solar calendars) ultimately represented the differing authority structures of bishop versus abbot.
 “Only as late as 22 January 1998 did the Vatican, under the leadership of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, open its extensive archives on the Inquisition in the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio in Rome, where the bloody business of systematically persecuting and killing heretics is documented in no fewer than 4500 large volumes. ‘We are concerned about the truth, and this is an act of self-cleansing,’ said Cardinal Achille Silvestrini. It is believed, however, that those 4500 volumes represent much less than a third of the original material, the rest of which was lost.” [Simson, Houses that Change the World, 62.]
 See Peter C. Erb, The Life and Thought of Kaspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (Pennsburg: Schwenckfelder Library, 1997). During this time, Luther’s disposition toward his disciple changed dramatically from “Dear Kaspar” to “The stupid fool, possessed by the devil, understands nothing. He does not know what he is babbling. But if he won’t stop his drivel, let him at least not bother me with the booklets which the devil spues out of him.” [see Chester D. Hartranft, Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum, Letters and Treatises of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (Pennsburg: Board of Publication, 1997).]
 See George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation, 3rd ed. (Truman State Univ. Press, 2000); and Michael G. Baylor, The Radical Reformation (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991).
 Roland Bainton, Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus (Beacon Press, 1953); and Dave Hunt, What Love Is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God (Berean Call, 2004).
 See Howard A. Snyder, The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1980).
 Wolfgang Simson, The Starfish Manifesto: A Prophetic Roadmap for an Apostolic Journey (Starfish Publishing, 2009), 286-287; available at http://en.starfishportal.net/downloads. Some project this number as high as 700,000 depending on estimates of the Indian house movement. Estimates of house churches in China range from one to three million.
 In China over 100 million believers gather in house churches under the communist regime; in India over 100,000 house churches were started in only five years (2001-2006); and in Africa there are an estimated 1,200 new churches started every month [see Rad Zdero, The Global House Church Movement (William Carey Library Publishers, 2004); and David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World (Wigtake Resources, 2003).]
 George Barna, Revolution (Tyndale House, 2005), 49.