Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luther on house church

I don't think Luther ever followed through with these thoughts. But at one point he proposed having three types of gatherings or church services.

"[1] The first, in Latin; which we published lately, called the Formula Missae..."

"[2] Next, there is the German Mass and Divine Service, of which we are now treating. This ought to be set up for the sake of the simple laymen. Both these kinds of Service then we must have held and publicly celebrated in church for the people in general. They are not yet believers or Christians. But the greater part stand there and gape, simply to see something new: and it is just as if we held Divine Service in an open square or field amongst Turks or heathen. So far it is no question yet of a regularly fixed assembly wherein to train Christians according to the Gospel: but rather of a public allurement to faith and Christianity"

"[3] But the third sort [of Divine Service], which the true type of Evangelical Order should embrace, must not be celebrated so publicly in the square amongst all and sundry. Those, however, who are desirous of being Christians in earnest, and are ready to profess the Gospel with hand and mouth, should register their names and assemble by themselves in some house to pray, to read, to baptize and to receive the sacrament and practise other Christian works."

(The German Mass and Order of Divine Service, January 1526. http://history.hanover.edu/texts/luthserv.html)
I find this an interesting mix of 'Divine Services'. Type 1 and 2 would focus on outreach to the general public.

I suspect Luther recognized that the large gatherings was not the best fit for continued spiritual growth. I suspect he was looking at what was modeled by the the New Testament gatherings as he considered a home based gathering of believers.

I find it especially interesting that he proposed having baptism and the sacraments practiced in these smaller house gatherings.


Eric said...

Very interesting. Thanks for posting this. Do you know if Luther ever tried to make this happen?

Jonathan said...

Hi Eric,

I don't know. I've read elsewhere that these ideas didn't become a reality for Luther. But I've lost that link.

However they did become a reality for the Anabaptist. Maybe the fighting between Luther's camp and the Anabaptists kept Luther's camp from embracing these ideas. This is pure speculation... I have no idea.

But it is comforting to know that some of these radical ideas some post-modern Christians are coming up with aren't so post-modern after all.

Thanks for the comment, God bless!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan- we had a discussion about some of this in adult class yesterday. Then today a friend from the huge Alliance church that was where your grandparents went in TB told dad that 60% of those out on Sundays are not believers..so that is where the house church communion would come in.
late night thoughts from Mom

Jonathan said...

Thanks Mom... I'll reply more by email. :)

Alan Knox said...


I ran across Luther's Divine Mass a few years ago also. I was surprised to see Luther say that what he describes in that article (he calls it "Divine Mass" in either Latin or German) he designed for those who are not Christians. And, yet, Christians today continue to follow his model for their own meetings. Meanwhile, his "third type" of meeting which he designed for Christians is completely ignored.

I do not know why Luther himself dropped his "third type." I've wanted to do a study of that question for some time. My hunch is that he dropped it for the same reason he eventually turned against the peasants: to maintain the church/state relationship.


Jonathan said...

Thanks Alan for the comment.

Your hunch is plausible. It seems the battles between the likes of Zwingli and Luther with the Anabaptists were not so much disagreements about correct thinking and practice, but more along the lines of who controlled the church. It would have been hard for those in political power to imagine a religious movement that they could not control.

Legitimizing church gatherings in homes would have required some letting go.

Thanks for your input! God bless!