Religious Church Clubs
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Ministry and Society 175

Old and Legitimate Clubs

Roman Historian Suetonius 69-122 A.D.Religious church clubs never suffered a blanket prohibition on their activities in this period. Even unlicensed religious clubs appear to have been dissolved only when they caused problems. They then usually received only minor penalties. E. Earl Ellis in "Pauline Theology - Ministry and Society" asserts that Suetonius wrote that certain religious clubs were exempt from the bans including "those of ancient foundation" or "the old and legitimate ones."

Club Names Used in Churches

Ancient Paved Stone RoadThis terminology was common to both Christian congregations and private religious clubs. The names "assembly" and "synagogue" and the terms "overseer," "elder," "leader" and "patron" are occasionally used to designate a club leader and club officers. It has been suggested that the same terms were borrowed by the church from the clubs themselves.✞

The Way Club

Ancient Synagogue CapernaumThe church is spoken of by believers in Acts 24.14 as "the Way," a term also used of some religious clubs, and it is tagged by its detractors as "a sect," a term employed for subgroups within a club. Such similarities are not really sufficient to show that the church viewed itself as a club or derived its vocabulary from them, but neither do differences in terminology prove that the church did not so regard itself. It goes beyond the evidence to say either that the church avoided club terminology or that it imitated such terminology.

Church Constitutions

Church CongregationCertain Pauline congregations favored viewing the constitution of their churches along the lines of a religious club. Essentially, there are elements that reflect practices of the synagogue, which had the status of a church club and from which the churches were originally drawn. They include particularly a church order like that of a synagogue type club and an organization of congregations in the homes of members or patrons that corresponded to the usage of some synagogues and other religious clubs.✞

"Religious Church Clubs"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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