In response to a comment on my review of Pagan Christianity, I made this comment:
The big issue is that in reading the New Testament and holding what we see up to the institutional church, we don't see anything similar at all.
The response was:
You seriously do not see "anything similar" in local churches?
Along the same thought, would you say that you see an exact representation of New Testament churches in today's house churches?
So I thought about it more and I thought my subsequent response warranted a separate post. First I don't see the local gathering of the church as analogous to institutional local churches, the splintered dozens of churches that dot the landscape of America. In fact I don't see any warrant at all for fragmented Christianity, where some people go to "my church" and other Christians go to "their church". We are the church or we are not. Even the form of the traditional local church divided into Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical Free and a million other iterations designed to divide the church and turn local churches into competing entities and Christians into consumers and shoppers is unbiblical.
Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I see a pale shadow of what the New Testament describes as the gathered church in the institutional church. We read of the church devoting itself to prayer, what we have now is one man praying while others listen. We read that they were devoted to the apostle's teaching, today we are devoted to the teaching of the hired expert. We read of a priesthood of all believers, what we have is a priesthood of a few and a mute laity. The Bible speaks over and over again of "one another" and the institutional church is "one and all the others". The Bible describes early Christians as collecting money for the poor, the institutional church gathers money to sustain the institution. I see what is essentially a Roman Catholic ecclesiology of ritual and hierarchy and control that is changed in doctrine but not in practice.
As far as house churches, never been to one. I would assume that there are no perfect manifestations in house churches or other simple expressions of the gathered church but a lack of perfection should spur us to greater study rather than throwing up our hands and accepting the institutional status quo. I don't think the group we gather with is perfect, far from it, but all of the men of the church are active participants. We actually participate instead of spectate. We minister to one another and edify one another. Can you say that about the church gathering in a traditional setting?
I guess I would like to turn the question around: Do you see the manifestation of the institutional church anywhere in the New Testament?