A House Church vs. Modern Church Parable
by John Lepera

Copyright (c) 1998, John Lepera.

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The Parable of the Mower Turned Go Cart

A man once purchased a lawn mower which he used for many successful years. Eventually he removed the engine and wheels and converted them into a go cart for his son, who used the go cart many more years before selling it. Over the years the go cart was resold many times and each time a copy of the owners manual for the lawn mower was made and was handed over to each successive new owner. By now the copies of the manual were old and worn. It had been copied so many times that it was hard to read. Each copy was missing parts of its cover and the words "Lawn Mower," but words "Owners Manual" remained. It only had a few pages with two parts, one for engine repair and one for the blade.

It happened on one occasion that the go cart was sold without its left front wheel. The new owner, not knowing much about go carts or their repair--but a true enthusiast--figured he could make it work. So he turned to the manual. He knew it wasn't the engine section so it must be the blade section. It said, "If machine doesn't cut a straight path sharpen or replace blade and be sure it rotates in a counter clockwise fashion." Now normally this would not make sense for a go cart, but the owner knew that the copied manual was based on the original so he must change his interpretation.

Therefore he read, "If the go cart doesn't travel the assumed correct path, replace the wheel so it only turns counter clockwise." Now no one could convince him he was wrong because (1) he had the manual, and (2) he had the go cart that the manual described. Of course to this day his go cart drives, but it just won't go right.

The Parable Explained

Okay, besides the obvious (to house church types), what does this have to do with house churches? By now, if you are a house church member, you have come up with many examples on your own. For this article I have chosen as an example "women in ministry." No, No, not those arguments; hopefully something new.

Most don't read Koine (biblical) Greek and therefore don't see the different words used that the Bible editors translate as the same word. This leads to misunderstandings. Then add this problem to the fact that over the years (actually I mean the first 100 years, not the last 1850) the structure and worship service of the church has changed because of traditions being established and a return to a male dominated hierarchy in conflict with Jesus' teachings on servitude. I understand that traditions are started because of some need, such as the assemblies becoming large and requiring different structure and organization, but perhaps the intial solutions were not the best; afterall, today many megachurches are turning to cell churches.

Is a Wheel a Blade or a Go Cart, a Mower?

First, the Pastorals state that a woman is forbidden to teach a man (1 Tim 2:12). Therefore a woman cannot be a pastor in a church(?). In the New Testament churches (I don't really like this term since house churches existed before any NT books were written), there were no pastors by the definition of the first century. There were leaders who led worship, who blessed the bread and wine, who read scripture (OT), and who taught. Paul speaks throughout in 1 Cor and Ephesians of teachers, prophets, and apostles; we even hear about elders, and deacons later on in 1 & 2 Tim, but even these are still different than a "pastor."

Second, we know there were many women prophetesses, Philip had four daughters who were (Acts 21:9), Anna in the Temple (Luke 2:36), and Paul mentions women who prophesy and their decorum at Corith (1 Cor 11:5.) What were the roles of the NT prophets? They would speak discerningly, and sometimes extemporaneously, on God's word by preaching (keryma), using exhortation (paraklesis), and consolation (paramythia), for the edification (oikodome) of the members--a prophetic sermon as it were. This is different than the teaching (didache) of men that occurred by the leaders or elders. The early prophets were either community preachers (prophetic sermon givers) or itinerant preachers. Only after the churches grew into large gatherings did the role of the prophet merge into that of the leader to become a pastor; and ordained at that. So the problem is that today's churches (last 1850 years) are trying to enforce rules about women that do not apply to the areas that are under consideration. When a pastor is delivering his sermon and discerning God's Word to his flock he is performing the role of a prophet not a teacher.

The modern conservative churches are in error in not letting women be prophets in their churches. They are guilty of turning mowers into go carts, and blades into wheels, not to mention misinterpreting the Bible. We should remember that we are members of "the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone" (Eph 2:20).