Saturday, May 30, 2009

What can we learn from Tennessee Primitive Baptists?

I read an interesting post from Bob Gonzalez, dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary, concerning his vacation to Tennessee, in a little town called Cades Cove. Bob quoted from a visitors guide he picked up on his visit regarding Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church. I was not a fan of some of the theology or ecclesiology he described, but one thing jumped out at me.

Interestingly, according to the guide, the Primitive Baptist congregation only met together once a month for corporate worship. Apparently they met in homes on the other Lord’s Days. I’m not certain why this would have been their custom, but it may have been difficulty in traveling—especially during winter months.

I found that really interesting as well, perhaps not for the same reason as Dean Gonzalez.

Is that the right way to go, home fellowship three or four Sundays a month and then one gathering of a group of home fellowships in one big assembly? Maybe, maybe not. I am intrigued by the idea. It seems a way to bridge some of the concerns I have, you have close intimate fellowship with a group of believers in the home but you retain that idea of the greater community of believers in the area and you have an opportunity for more traditional gathering in a larger setting once in a while.

What is more important is that we think about alternate ways of fellowship. The day after Pentecost, Peter and the apostles didn't go to First National Bank of Jerusalem to take out a $3 million construction loan so they could build a "church" with a 4000 person capacity sanctuary, plenty of classroom space and a phat audio-visual system for streaming video. They devoted themselves to fellowship, to breaking bread, to teaching, to prayer. None of those require a "church" building and none of those require a liturgy or a schedule. In fact, I am more and more convinced that the traditional model of church with a building, a schedule and a clergy-laity fellowship impede the very activities that the church devoted herself to in the earliest days. Remember in those days, you see home fellowships being led by Paul and the other apostles.

I really like the idea of home fellowships gathering periodically together in a community. I worry that home fellowships might tend to become islands, unconnected from the greater body in an area. We shouldn't be afraid of new ideas that are really very old ideas. Think how great fellowship would be in small gatherings in homes and then a bigger gathering of several smaller groups once a month, perhaps an all day event with prayer and teaching and preaching and breaking bread. How much more would people know one another and be able to really love one another?


Dusty Chris said...

It seems to me that we can become islands in small groups or in large groups. I know of several large congregations (denominations) that are islands in the Christian community as a whole.

As a home church leader, I find the intimacy and fellowship of the home church more intimate and more meaningful. I think these Tennessee Primitives have a good thing going...they are years ahead of the curve...which is almost ironic that a primative church is so far ahead of the game.

Thanks for posting.

Arthur Sido said...

What is really ironic is that that church no longer exists from what I can tell, so they were years ahead of their time by being centuries behind the times so to speak!

How does your home church fellowship with other Christians in your area? In other words, do you meet with other home churches?

Steve Martin said...

I think that it doesn't matter if you are in a big building, or a small building.

What matters is if God's Word is proclaimed in it's purity and if the sacraments are offered in accordance with that Word.

Personally, I can worship God in a gymnasium, my apartment, or a church sanctuary. I do, however, prefer (if available) to worship Him in a place that looks like it has been set apart for that special purpose...with a pulpit, altar, and pews. That's my opinion.