Wednesday, December 19

Intro to "City Church"

What is meant by "city church"? A lot of ideas, both pro and con, are circulating out there about city church. While not in total agreement with everything shared on this 10-minute video, it is still a good introduction piece covering the basic arguments for there being only one church per city.




Your thoughts on city church are welcome in the comments section below.

14 comments:

Rhea said...

Interesting video....if I didn't know any better, I would assume that the guy must be from a "church of Christ" background, but then he quoted Watchman Nee, so I knew that couldn't be the case. I wonder though if part of the reason that there was only one church per city had anything to do with the fact that there were SO FEW Christians at the time. I mean, if you've only got 200 Christians in one town, it would seem ridiculous to have multiple churches. On the other hand, if you have 20,000, then maybe I could understand it. Also, if it's all about location, well, then don't we need to think about the fact that a "city" in NT times was much smaller than a city now (area wise and population wise).

Rhea said...

One more thing....I went to the website of the group/guy that made this video, and I'm reading some 5,498 page thing on city church, and I ran across this statement that I just wanted to share: "Difference of locality is the only justification for division among believers." In other places it basically says that while we might not agree on everything, that really doesn't matter....we are still to be unified. Wow...that's just so refreshing to hear. I just wanted to share that :-)

GuyMuse said...

Rhea,

I have not visited the website of the YouTube video on city church. I had originally wanted to write something on the subject myself but did not know how to cover all the bases in a single blog post. Apparently there is a lot of material out there (5,498 pages you say? :)

When I ran across the YouTube video, there was enough there to hopefully stimulate some dialog on the subject.

Contrary to what the video suggests, most house church networks that I am familiar with hold to the very thing that he is saying about there being "one church per city". Of course this church meets in multiple locations, but in God's eyes, the only justification for division in the Body of Christ is locality/geography.

Of course, if one accepts this there are many questions that arise about church structure, leadership, doctrinal differences, how all the local ekklesias relate to one another, etc. There are certainly more questions in my own mind than clear answers.

Nevertheless, I do think that this is what the church was intended to look like in a city. I just don't know how to make it happen!

In our own Guayaquil house church network, we have begun to see glimpses of how this can work. Our house churches are indeed autonomous. We do not have any kind of hierarchy or governing umbrella structure. What we have is a kind of Eph.4 APEPT team that works amongst any of the churches who invite us for help. Each local ekklesia has their own leadership structure. What binds us together into a loose city-church network, is our common mission of "making disciples." Those that share our vision of making 500,000 disciples in five years are considered part of the "church". Of course, in our minds, all the other local assemblies in the city are also part of the church of Guayaquil--they just don't know it!

I personally feel we are still light-years away from ever making the city-church concept a reality. We have too much church baggage from the past 2000 years to overcome. I don't see us all coming together into one big happy family any time soon. But, I am intrigued to think this is what Christ intended from the very beginning.

Rhea said...

I think that the "city church youtube guy" would disagree though with your autonomous house churches in the same city. He seems to think that because they're in the same city, they must somehow be connected (though he doesn't specify exactly how that has to play out...just that they can't be autonomous from each other). I tend to see a problem with that though, b/c if you have a city like LA, it's in no way comparable either area wise or population wise to any NT city. If the NT were to be "re-written" today, perhaps we wouldn't be talking about city churches, but instead "subdivision churches" or "neighbourhood churches" or something else like that.

GuyMuse said...

Rhea,

The whole city church conversation is a broad topic. Like I said in my post, there are many pros and cons being thrown around by people. But what it boils down to is, what was Jesus intent for the church? When Paul writes each of his epistles to the church in Corinth, Ephesus, etc. he was writing to all of the church in those cities, not to the churches in these places. Why have we become churchES today instead of the church in LA, or Guayaquil? Along with so many other areas where our church traditions and practices have taken the place of the Biblical norm, this is yet another example where we have seemingly moved away from the Biblical standard. I am not saying that what we have today is wrong, just that it is not what we find in the NT.

David Rogers said...

Guy,

I have just had the time to glance at the web-site as well. While you already know the interest I have in the subject of the city church, to tell you the truth, this page looks kind of scary to me. I haven't looked at it enough yet, but it looks reminiscent of the Witness Lee local church stuff.

It seems to me that the guy on the video is not dealing with the fact that the churches in the houses are regarded as churches as well. I tend toward seeing it as both-and. The house churches, which were legitimately churches in and of themselves, were linked together in fellowship through the city church, which was also another expression of the church.

Also, I like what you have to say about those who are not in the house church networks being a part of the city church, even though they might not recognize it.

Admittedly, this gets a little more thorny when we talk about things like church discipline, ordinances, etc. If the city church is legitimately church, what role does it have in these things? But I agree with you. This does indeed seem to be an important element of NT ecclesiology we in Baptist (and other denominational) life tend to sweep under the carpet.

GuyMuse said...

David,

Thanks for the good input. I too am very interested in the subject. The intent of my post is not to endorse the ministry or teaching of whoever it is in the video, nor their website (I really don't know anything about them.) All I hope to accomplish with the YouTube video is introduce in a condensed format the main arguments from Scripture for city church vs. city churchES like we have today. I think the video does a fair job explaining with Scripture the argument for city church.

The reason this subject interests me personally is that I feel this is the Biblical ideal that we should strive towards. Granted we are still a long way from achieving this. But as new churches continue to be planted, we have the opportunity to influence the directions they will take. There is little I can do about all the existing denominations and division in the Body of Christ. What I do have some influence over are the NEW churches being planted. The Body of Christ in a city should not be divided like we have today. We need to do all we can in practical terms with these new churches so that we continue to relate and cooperate with all the ekklesia in our city.

It is encouraging to me, after seven years of church planting, that many of these indeed see themselves as part of what we are calling the "city church". They feel as free to share, relate and cooperate with any of the churches in town, and across denominational lines, without feeling like they are overstepping boundaries. My previous post on "One million disciples" is to me a positive example of the ever-growing sense of there being one church in our city. What I find hopeful in our own context is that people look for areas that we have in common; not what our differences might be. What unites us is a clear understanding of "making disciples" and obeying what Christ said to do in the Great Commission. This takes precedence over all the secondary issues that tend to divide us. Mature believers under the Lordship of Christ should be able to work through these issues without division. If we can do so on a small scale with those churches in our house church network (we have many differences between individual churches), why can't these things eventually be ironed out on an entire city-wide scale?

Yes, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for me, what is important is that we be working towards this ideal. I know I have a lot to learn, and am certainly no expert on these matters, but I do have a great desire to see God glorified through a unified church in our city.

Rhea said...

The biggest problem to this whole "city church" idea, is in my opinion, the fact that we have 5,498 different denominations, many of which (if not most) care more about belonging to their denomination than they care about belonging to Christ.

The next question then, is how do we fix this.....and the practicals of that, I'm not 100% sure. Perhaps we should be planting non-denominatinal churches....perhaps we should be "shutting down" denominations (of course that would never happen, but....).

Rhea said...
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David Rogers said...

Guy,

I hear you. It sounds like I'm right there with you on this.

It does seem to me that Rhea makes an important observation regarding the amount of believers in a given locality. It is a lot easier to consistently practice on a the "one anothers," at least on a practical level, with 200 than with 200,000.

Also, one verse that kind of messes up the thesis of the guy on the video, if I understand him correctly, is Acts 9:31 where it talks about "the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria." This seems to me like an additional level beyond house church and city church. I think this gives us good reason to avoid being overly dogmatic about one church per city.

David Rogers said...

Rhea,

I think history teaches us some lessons in this regard. Various groups that have started as non-denominational options to unity have ended up becoming more sectarian than the groups they were reacting against.

Also, I don't think the biblical solution is a least common denominator ecumenical approach like the World Council of Churches et al.

What I see as a better solution is recognizing all true Christian groups and denominations as legitimate parts of the same city church, while, at the same time, not compromising on teaching of biblical doctrine at a local (house church?) level.

GuyMuse said...

Rhea,

My understanding is that there are more than 20,000 denominations! And yes, it is a big problem. You ask, "how do we fix this"--my feeling is that all the new churches being planted need to have in their DNA this understanding of the Body of Christ. Maybe their growing numbers and example will begin to slowly impact the existing infrastructures that keep walls around ourselves. Or maybe I am just a dreamer!?! :)

David,

In my post I state While not in total agreement with everything shared on this 10-minute video... Your point is well taken about "the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria..." In other writings the term city/regional church is used, precisely for this very reason. The point still remains though that the only Biblical division permitted in Scripture seems to be based solely upon geography or location--not upon doctrinal or denominational differences like we have today.

John said...

Great topic. I'm really not sure how that plays out. The video didn't give us any practical starting points. We're not starting fresh. We do have lots of baggage.

I'm not sure how the whole city church thing works out. For instance - who controls the purse strings in a city church... the city elders or the local gatherings? Frankly if the city elders do, I can see the same kind of mess that I see in mega churches. ( I was a part of two different mega churches) Lots of money spent on maintenance - not much on the poor, evangelism, or making disciples.

Who decides who the elders are. We don't have any city recognized apostles. So it would probably come down to politics - the bigger your local assembly, the more clout you have to make decisions that impact everyone.

This would be ok if the people involved listened to the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I don't see a lot of that right now.

Instead I would like to see us learning to value one another and to cooperate where we can. You're effort to share with the AOG folks so that a million could be reached for Jesus is a great example.

As where it could go from there, I don't know.

GuyMuse said...

John,

You ask some of the same kinds of questions we have as well. I don't know if city church can ever exist, but I believe we ought to work towards these ideals in our new church planting. I agree with you when you say "I would like to see us learning to value one another and to cooperate where we can..." That is a good first step towards the direction of "city church". I find us much further along this path here in Ecuador than what I sense is true in the United States. Another important step is making people aware of how far we have strayed from our city church roots. Once people are aware they might try to do something about it--albeit tiny steps--but something!