Thought this was interesting...

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LaRhonda Torrence
Posts: 32
Joined: 4 years ago

Thought this was interesting...

#1 Post by LaRhonda Torrence » 11 months ago

This is not my work, but is something I read and am sharing from someone else. It is interesting in that it talks about how the early church met and how they viewed the concept of "Church". Give a read and see what you think.

Across most of the U.S. and in countries around the world, Jewish synagogues,[1] Catholic cathedrals,[2] Catholic churches,[3] Protestant churches, Muslim mosques, various religious temples, and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls now sit, for the most part, desolate behind closed gates or locked doors. Even the signature door-to-door ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses, though Scripturally ordained (Matthew 10:11-14; Luke 10:1-7; Acts 5:41-42), has effectively come to a screeching halt in the U.S.[4] and other countries.
After all, who wants COVID-19 knocking at the door,[5] especially given that the Witnesses’ credo has been, “our primary way of spreading the good news continues to be the house-to-house ministry”?[6] Of course, as noted, this statement was published before the COVID-19 calamity.
Although letter carriers with the U.S. Postal Service may also inadvertently be spreading the mystifying contagion, their work is considered essential, even as a potential shutdown loom.[7]-[8]
Indeed, as if straight out of the pit of hell, COVID-19 is the culprit that has closed convocational doors and has entangled pastors, priests, and politicians in a raucous debate.[9]
Might COVID-19 be the catalyst that returns religious organizations professing Christianity to their historical roots insofar as gathering is concerned (Hebrews 10:24-25)?
Back to the Good Old Basics: If Christians alive during the first century were somehow teleported to our day, they would doubtlessly be confounded by church buildings. After all, they met in the intimacy of a Christian home, a good old “house church.”
Here’s proof:
(1) “The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house” (1 Corinthians 16:19 [New International Version]).
(2) “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house” (Colossians 4:15 [English Standard Version]).
(3) “And to Aphia our beloved and to Arkippus our fellow laborer and to the church that is in your house” (Philemon 1:2 [Aramaic Bible in Plain English], see also Romans 16:15).
Interestingly, in conjunction with meeting at their Kingdom Hall, Jehovah’s Witnesses used to meet regularly in member homes for extended Bible study they called “Book Study” (or “Group Study”) where they had “pre-study work” before the Book Study started, which was a forerunner to “evening witnessing.” Over the decades, these homes were also called “Contact Point,” “Rendezvous,” and “meeting for field service.”
Although the Witnesses canceled the home “Book Study” or house church, COVID-19 has forced them to return to it. The plan now is to abandon Kingdom Halls—temporarily, they hope--in favor of meeting in the home again.
The Governing Body’s current message to the public is: “In many areas, we are not meeting at our Kingdom Halls or in large groups. Please contact one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for more details.”[10]
Regarding meeting areas for first-century Christians, Christianity Today reports: “The New Testament speaks of a large church in Jerusalem meeting together in a public space (e.g., the outer court of the temple in Acts 2:46) and in smaller groups in houses (e.g., the house of Mary, mother of Mark, in Acts 12:12). This practice must have been carried on in many cities of the Roman empire. For the most part, the church was dependent on members or supporters (patrons) who owned larger houses,[11] providing a place for meeting.”[12]
Yes, as stated, there was “a large church in Jerusalem meeting together in a public space” (Acts 2:46). But that they met together “in a public space” were under exigent circumstances: (1) the newly converted Jewish disciples were already in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, (2) they totaled about 3,000 at one point, with that number continually increasing (Acts 2:41, 47; 3:11; 4:4; 5:12-14; 6:7), (3) it was a matter of convenience since “a public space” was the only area that could hold thousands of new disciples, and (4) the event was a genesis of a new movement that would never be repeated in the New Testament.
Meeting “in a public space” was not seen as a model to be followed by future local Christian congregations. Church buildings--neither explicitly condemned nor expressly ordained anywhere in Scripture--sprouted later.
The peer-reviewed journal Church History notes: “From the fourth through sixth centuries, only a handful of ascetic authors wrote about the theological significance they found in the building of churches.”[13]
There is no indication in the New Testament that Jerusalem served as a holy center for first-century Christians. Neither did the city have the equivalent of a massive cathedral, ornate churches with stain-glass windows, nor a God-ordained world headquarters.
Admittedly, the apostles and disciples assembled in Jerusalem, with the former remaining there after a flare-up of persecution which scattered the latter (Acts 8:1).
Later, these same apostles and elders convened in Jerusalem to settle the matter of circumcision (Acts 15:1-35; 16:4-5). Still, the Romans eventually destroyed the city, and those Christian overseers shifted their operations to Pella, east of the Jordan River.
The Encyclopaedia Judaica acknowledges this fact: “Prior to Jerusalem’s siege by Titus [in 70 C.E.], its Christian community [including remaining apostles and elders] moved to Pella.”[14]
Also, instead of Jerusalem, “it was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians”[15] (Acts 11:26 [New Living Translation]).
All these factors argue against Jerusalem being the first-century Vatican City, Mecca, or world headquarters for Christians.
Are Church Buildings Necessary Anyway?: Christianity Today testifies: “In Rome, there are indications that early Christians met in other public spaces such as warehouses or apartment buildings.”[16] However, we have no concrete evidence of early Christians meeting in such locations.
To be sure, the Bible says meeting together as Christians is necessary (Hebrews 10:23-25). But it nowhere says they must meet in a church building or Kingdom Hall. As indicated, a network of house churches operated under the direction of the apostles and elders located first in Jerusalem (Acts 15:6, 22-23;16:4-5), then in Pella.
However, because Christian house churches were spread out does not mean Christian unity was disjointed. Christianity Today notes: “Even when there were several meeting sites in a city, the Christians had the sense of being one church. They maintained unity through organization.”[17]
But did the preacher get paid?
COVID-19 and the Collection Plate: Truth be told, the concept of salaried preachers appears nowhere in the New Testament. Likewise, Old Testament prophets were not “salaried,” either.
Ominously, the coronavirus has emptied the collection plate. Parishioners have been either laid-off or furloughed and are now unable to tithe.[18]
In their desperation, some pastors compel congregants to drop their contributions off at the church (“slide the envelope under the church door if nobody’s there!”). In contrast, others go so far as to defy lawful orders prohibiting large gatherings and have been subsequently arrested.[19]-[20]
And with Easter Sunday here, some churches are planning to meet in outright defiance against stay-home and social distancing orders.[21]-[22] Many preachers hunger to cash in on Easter Sunday money.[23]
One pastor, walking the fine line of violating stay-home orders when he met in church with a small portion of his congregation, went Live Stream on Facebook and urged the faithful, “‘Give Now’ through the church’s PayPal and Cash App accounts.”[24]
The fact is, many pastors are on salary and subsequently pay their bills with monies received. Some even shamelessly live extravagantly off the pennies of poor parishioners.
The other side of the argument is that there are sincere preachers, pastors, and priests in churches around the globe. In Italy, for example, some priests are putting their lives on the line--and are dying--as they try to console parishioners.[25]
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, member contributions on a global scale are likely to plummet given that many publishers are non-degreed blue-collar workers who, as laborers, don’t have the option of teleworking from home[26] (1 Corinthians 1:26; James 2:5).
But, to their credit, like first-century Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a paid clergy. Their elders are all unpaid volunteers.
Still, the Witnesses are taking a beating at the contribution boxes where members make voluntary donations[27] (no collection plate is ever passed). Soon, there may be more branch office closures (politely called “consolidations” by the Governing Body[28]) and layoffs of Bethelites (which the Governing Body characterizes as being “reassigned to the field”[29]), lowering morale among the faithful even further.[30]
Also, God forbid that COVID-19 sweeps through Witness congregations, branch offices (Bethel homes), Remote Translation Offices, and Warwick headquarters itself.
The Governing Body has already canceled larger Witness assemblies here in the U.S. (and perhaps abroad as well), until May 1, 2020 (as of this writing[31]), just before the tentative start of their worldwide regional conventions.[32]
How long the comeback house church lasts for all professed Christians, remain to be seen.
In the meantime, peace, blessings, and good health to all. Amen.

[1] The April 8, 2020, edition of The Economist states: “The Jewish holiday begins this evening with families observing the traditional night of seder isolated in small groups, instead of with the usual extended families and friends.”

ChetA
Posts: 4
Joined: 11 months ago

Re: Thought this was interesting...

#2 Post by ChetA » 11 months ago

I’ve wondered what the net effect of all this will be on the JWs. The organization I beheld 50 years ago could have weathered this storm without a hiccup, at least at the local level. I remember the accounts report from that era and it cost about $2 per day to keep things operating at the Kingdom Hall. I distinctly remember one accounts report and it was $28. There was another congregation at the same hall, so $56, which basically went for the light bill and to heat the building for the few hours per month it was used. There was a phone, but it had a discounted rate because it wasn’t meant for initiating calls, only answering incoming calls.

Even the Bethel facility ran much less expensively in those days. The food came in from Walkill and they scrimped for every dollar. Back in those days, they never even hinted about contributing more. That would have been unthinkable to a ‘70s Witness. I’m not suggesting that they were right about everything, but they were quite different from mainstream religions, back in those days.

The last two months have brought about a remote society, where people shop, work and communicate remotely. Religious services are mostly remote and meeting places are also places for collecting donations. As people get farther from religious services, they may question the need to pay for and maintain a local building, just as other business are finding that the overhead of a physical plant may not be justified going forward. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if commercial real estate values plummeted, at least with some types of properties.

So, what will happen to the Witnesses going forward? It’s an open question, because we truly have no idea how this whole situation will resolve, but I suspect that rounding up the stray sheep isn’t going to be so easy when all of this is over. I’ve heard of more than one case of people leaving the Organization after being away from the drumbeat of what is presented at the Kingdom Hall. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if at least some of the people on Zoom sessions are not as attentive as they would be in person. Witnesses arranged and held Memorial at their individual homes and the world didn’t end. I would venture that quite few people chose to partake when there were no elders to answer to about their decision.

It has been my opinion that the Witness Organization cannot continue much longer in its current form. It may persist i. Some other form, but from what I see, the model of a local congregation with a Kingdom Hall is probably not going to be the case much longer. I could imagine some large conventions, but I could also imagine that these conventions will be mostly online. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Regional Conventions Are never resumed.

As Witnesses become less of a face-to-face organization, their influence will decline. People will quit self-reporting sins and rely on their own consciences to a greater extent. The influence over individuals will decline precipitously. Contributions will decline as well.

I could be wrong, but I think it’s all over but the cryin’.

Bobcat
Posts: 3316
Joined: 7 years ago

Re: Thought this was interesting...

#3 Post by Bobcat » 11 months ago

I would venture that quite few people chose to partake when there were no elders to answer to about their decision.
My wife and I had it by ourselves in our home. I partake so I had the emblems on hand. What I found interesting was that my wife wanted me to hand her the emblems so she could hand them back to me. We're creatures of habit, I guess. But she didn't appreciate that in the homes where there were no partakers the Society said they didn't have to bother with having the emblems on hand. I wonder if they felt funny not having the emblems on hand to just pass to one another?

I could be wrong, but I think it’s all over but the cryin’.
I posted something about that a couple of years ago (here), never thinking this pandemic was coming. If this does result in the effective end to the WT movement, one might be tempted to say that it was ended by an act of God.


Bobcat

Stranger
Posts: 1901
Joined: 3 years ago

Re: Thought this was interesting...

#4 Post by Stranger » 11 months ago

ChetA wrote:
11 months ago
As Witnesses become less of a face-to-face organization, their influence will decline. People will quit self-reporting sins and rely on their own consciences to a greater extent. The influence over individuals will decline precipitously. Contributions will decline as well.
Hi ChetA,

Welcome to the forum, I'm thinking you might be the same Chet that has been posting on BP?

Anyhow, I read an article once about a congregation, I can't remember where but their government had banned JW literature from coming into their country for 10 years or more. The ban was then lifted after a certain period of time and the literature was allowed to be distributed again. Although for 10 or more years they could not get any new literature they continued to study with what they had. Now when the new literature was made available again to them they didn't recognize it and in their own way rejected it. Things had changed so much just in 10 years within the org., that this particular congregation came to the conclusion that they were receiving apostate material.

I wish I could pull this up, perhaps someone else may know what I'm talking about.


Stranger, (Heb 13:8)

AmosAu3
Posts: 440
Joined: 1 year ago

Re: Thought this was interesting...

#5 Post by AmosAu3 » 11 months ago

Hi LaRhonda,

Thanks for posting this article.In 2009, I started telling people that the WTS-JW.ORG, would eventually implode. Of course, I had no knowledge of this current COVID plandemic. (spelling intentional)

Regards, Amos.

AmosAu3
Posts: 440
Joined: 1 year ago

Re: Thought this was interesting...

#6 Post by AmosAu3 » 11 months ago

Hi Chet,

Welcome to the forum.

I agree with your post above. I have personally been expecting an event that would create a chaotic situation worldwide, for many years now. This may just be such an event.

Regards, Amos.

AmosAu3
Posts: 440
Joined: 1 year ago

Re: Thought this was interesting...

#7 Post by AmosAu3 » 11 months ago

Hi again Stranger....Amos to the rescue!

I believe this was in Romania (or Hungary). Rus Virgil can explain the exact details if he sees this thread.

This is why there are still today, two different groups in Romania/Hungary, the original Bible Students/JW's and the post war current JW's. From memory, the members of the original group use most of the pre-war books etc. published by the organization up until 1939/40. (CT Russell and JF Rutherford)

There also seems to be some current members of this original group who are writing and publishing new material, similar to the original.

I hope this helps.

Regards, Amos.

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