Error by Overstatement

“Lighten up, Francis.”
–Sergeant Hulka, in Stripes

Some people are just wound up really tight. Whenever they come to believe something, they clutch it with both hands and never let go. I guess some people are just hardwired with the temperament of a zealot. Do you know anyone like that? They dive headlong into what they do, consequences be damned, with fervor growing upon each encounter of resistance.

Passion is good of course. But this carries with it a kind of oblivion, a single-minded insensitivity to extenuating factors. I also readily observe that we men are the ones who suffer from this problem the most. I read once that men have fewer connectors between their left and right brain hemispheres. Maybe that makes us more tunnel-visioned. I don’t know. But I do know that the following imbalance happens most among groups that don’t value the input of women:

I keep bumping into folks who believe in house church, like I do, but they are dogmatic about it. They don’t merely believe house church is biblical, or that it is an effective way to do church in our contemporary society. No, they believe it is commanded by God. They don’t merely argue that home-based communities are ideal. They go five steps further to say that no other way of being church is valid.

Now, I’m someone who left behind my own denominational tradition to pursue meeting with other Christians in homes. In my case, that required a significant social risk. In a way, this simple/organic/home church thing is my life. I’d even call it a calling. But I’ve got enough education to question my own biases. And when I read the passages that validate our way of meeting, I don’t see the same things that some other people see. I don’t see prescription. I clearly see description.

Why am I making this point? Well, it’s not because I just want to nitpick. I think something important is lost when we overstate a biblical notion. There’s such a thing as error by overemphasis, and some of us are swimming in it.

First Corinthians 14 does not command that we meet in an open, participatory style. On the contrary, it chastens a group for being overly participatory, overly chaotic. If you really look at the surrounding text, you’ll see that Paul was trying to correct them because they were all talking on top of each other. It’s like everybody had to be heard, regardless of what really edified the whole fellowship. That’s a pretty selfish way to function in a meeting. Some people talk because they don’t know how to stop. Paul was giving them some guidelines about how to express all that they had to say in an orderly way.

This passage impresses us today because we have the opposite problem to the Corinthians. In our (traditional) churches, only one guy does just about all the talking! That’s the only way traditional churches know how to do it. And I consider that a problem. But I also consider it a problem that we house church folks don’t acknowledge that the first century church had variety in how they met, too. More to the point, I believe there is validity to a multitude of ways of meeting today. Let’s not be so one-sided.

We’re reacting against entrenched tradition. So I get the impetus to be extreme. But we undermine our own credibility when we teach that open, participatory meetings are the only New Testament way to do church. So give it a rest, will ya?

Lighten up.


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5 Responses to “Error by Overstatement”

  1. brotherjohnny Says:



    …just kidding!

  2. Mike Morrell Says:



  3. Bill Says:

    Amen a thousand times.
    Thanks, bro.

  4. peacebringer7 Says:

    Neal, that is a profound article and really speaks truth. In terms of the “Body of Christ” I find all too often that in how God has place a person in a part of the “Body of Christ” the mindset often becomes that of the “prescription” rather then the “description. It is often pointed toward being required versus beneficial. This is especially true when walking a part from what is the current norm. I have seen it from brothers and sisters walking the “messianic” part of the Body. Certainly, I can see how it could arise in the simple/organic/house church part of the Body. Ultimately there is a place and function for all. Yet, there may be a time coming when what is realistic is the house fellowships. I look forward to reading more of what God has stirred within you.

  5. e4unity Says:

    Just stopped by to thank you Neal for making your e-book available as a freebie. It looks great, but I’ll have to spend some quality time on it. I heard about it from SimpleChurch where I’ve started to blog.

    I agree with the spirit of this post, I’d love to say some things but will hope for another day.Added you to blogroll at my E4Unity blog.

    John Paul Todd

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