This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
House Churches that
In this Issue:
Church Starting Smorgasbord The Magdalene Project An Open Letter from Victor Choudrie Postcards from the Edge Reality! Practical Issues of Home Church Life Home Church DNA and much more!
Whereas we recognize that God has called us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel”, and Whereas we know that our primary sphere of influence and place of first responsibility is Andhra Pradesh, and Whereas we know that the church as a whole has fallen so very far short of the goal of planting a church within every people group and language and village so that there is a living community of Christians within walking distance of every person in Andhra Pradesh, We do hereby resolve and commit ourselves both individually and with the organizations that we represent to: 1. Commit to working together with other Christians in the state by A. “In honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10) B. “Working together for the truth” (John 3:8) C. “Not being self seeking, not being
easily angered, by not keeping a record of wrongs... by always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, always persevering” (1 Cor. 13:5-6) 2. Honor God by our complete submission to His will as demonstrated by obedience to his word (John 15:13) 3. Be available to His Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of the Lord is upon us to preach good news to the poor... and to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18) as is demonstrated by: A. Planting churches into every community that will demonstrate the reality of the presence and love of Jesus (John 1:14 and John 17:21) B. Demonstrating the power of God to provide healing (holistic wholeness, salvation) to the individuals and communities that God calls us to serve (I Thess. 5:23). In recognition of this call, we have signatures below,
joined our hands and our hearts and do commit our time, talents and resources as demonstrated by our January 13, 2001
This declaration was jointly written and signed by representatives of twenty different mission organizations that met in January of 2001 in Hyderabad specifically to find ways to work together to further the work of church planting within the state. The group is meeting again this October, under the leadership of Dr. Victor Choudhrie, Dr. Shalem Raju, and Dr. Tony Dale, to further seek the Lord as to how to see a church planted in every village in Andhra Pradesh (27,000 villages) within the next decade.
2 - House2house
India is one of many countries where the Lord is currently moving very powerfully through the rapid proliferation of house churches. A number of churches that are very involved with House 2 House magazine in central Texas have already committed some resources to bringing local church leaders together across India for a variety of conferences and training seminars, under the leadership and direction of Dr. Victor Choudhrie from Madhra Pradesh and Dr. Tony Dale. However, significantly more funds could still be used to increase the number of village leaders that we can assist in bringing to these conferences. If any other individuals or churches would like to help support the work of these conferences, please direct any support by check to:
House2House: 1019 Meredith Drive, Austin, TX 78748.
Donations can also be made through the www.house2house.tv web site. Thank you for your involvement in these exciting projects.
4 5 6 11 14 17 18 22 23 26 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 37 41 45 46
We are pursuing the rapid advancement of the kingdom of God by saturating and transforming communities with a radical, home-based, church planting movement.
Editorial - “Unless the Lord Builds the House” Letters to the Editor Church Starting Smorgasbord: People from various professions share how their home churches began. Starting House Churches that Reproduce: Neil Cole, executive director for Church Multiplication Associates and founding leader of the Awakening Chapels, details the differences between starting a regional church and churching a whole region. The Magdalene Project: Robbi Sluder, the founder of The Magdalene Project shares how the Lord has been reaching out to prostitutes and exotic dancers all over the United States. Book Review: 95 Theses by Robert Lund and The Church in the House: A Return to Simplicity by Robert Fitts A Personal Journey: Tony and Felicity Dale challenge our presumptions on what is “Sacred & Secular.” An Open Letter from Victor Choudrie: Victor challenges churches to evaluate the outcome of their training programs. Postcard from the Edge: From Australia, Elyce and Justine Weatherall, ages 14 and 11, share their impressions of home church, while from San Fransisco, Mark Scandrette, cofounder of Re/Imagine!, an incubator for Kingdom Living, details the ups and downs of working out home church with “urban post-modern peoples.” We’ve Gone as Far as we Can Go: by Bill Cassada Reality! Practical Issues of Home Church Life: Wondering how to deal with church finances, correcting sin, small group dynamics? This compilation will provide many helpful ideas and principles. Biblical Correction: A Practical Application of Matthew 18 Reformation: 15 Theses - Towards a Re-Incarnation of the Church, Parts 7 - 9. Africa: Allan Weatherall shares about his adventures in Uganda The Man of Peace: by Erich Bridges Keys to a Healthy Small Group by Richard Oostra The House Church and Outreach by Richard Oostra Home Church DNA: Felicity Dale identifies essential qualities for healthy home groups. The Apex Story: Joe Boyd, a young pastor, shakes the dice on church Las Vegas style. Questions and Answers: Members of the editorial board answer some pertinent questions on the practicalities of home church life. Lucas on Life…Excuses! Jeff ponders whether we are truly willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
How to Reach Us
Phone: 512-282-2322 Fax: 512-292-5700 Website: www.house2house.tv Mailing Address: 1019 Meredith Drive, Austin, TX 78748
house2house.tv - This magazine openchurch.com - Open Church Ministries ntrf.org - New Testament Restoration Foundation themagdaleneproject.org - The Magdalene Project imb.org - International Misson Board of the Southern Baptist Convention tccm.org - Christian Care Medi-Share www.ptmin.org - Present Testimony Ministries www.outreach.ca/cpc/ housechurches.htm - Canadian House Church www.myideafactory.net - David Bradshaw www.95theses2000.org - Biblical Basis for HC
House2house - 3
Derek Brown Respected leader within the British “New Churches,” responsible for the King’s Churches across U.K. Frank Viola Church planter, author, Florida. John Reinhold President of Christian Care Medi-Share, FL. Andrew Jones Project director for the Boaz Project, NZ. John White Home church leader, Colorado. Nate Krupp Church planter, author, Oregon. Robert Fitts Church planter, author, YWAM Hawaii. Jim Rutz Founder of Open Church Ministries, author of “The Open Church”, CO. Lynn Reddick President of Open Church Ministries, GA. Linda Reddick Church planter and author, GA. Jeff Lucas Author, Vice-President of the Evangelical Alliance, U.K. Tom Pelton National Director of March for Jesus, GA. Wolfgang Simson DAWN Europe, author, authority on church planting movements, Switzerland.
From the Editor
We have an old boat that rather exemplifies the saying that “a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour your money!” Recently, we were trying to save some of that money by redoing the upholstery and box seating ourselves. Unfortunately, neither my son nor myself know anything about basic carpentry. Nothing we made fits perfectly. We’re still missing half of the upholstery. But let me tell you something. It doesn’t cost anything to try to do it yourself. And when you get in the driver’s seat and push the throttle, it may not go zero to 50mph in 6 seconds, but it still gets you there. Last year when Felicity and I were in Mozambique working with Rolland and Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries (see their web site at www.irismin.org for thrilling accounts of the on-going work of the Holy Spirit in that nation), we had a chance to see how much medical work could be done with just a stethoscope and auriscope and a few drugs that could mainly be bought over the counter in this country. Those working with us, who were not medically qualified, were often able to do as much or more as they poured out love and compassion in treating wounds and burns and passing out food with hugs. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. A friend of ours who works with a major denomination in church planting tells us that it costs on average $350,000 to plant a new church in their denomination. By the time you include a building, and training for
Unless the Lord Builds the House
the pastor, and advertising to reach out to the new neighborhood, etc., etc. you are probably going even higher than that figure. There must be a better way! Over a century ago, a godly Anglican (Episcopalian) missionary named Rolland Allen wrote a book that has become a classic called, “The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes that Hinder it.” He identifies a variety of factors that make emerging churches dependent on the “sending” churches, inevitably slowing new church growth. Issues such as money for buildings, training facilities for new pastors, expecting the missionaries to take care of the orphans and widows, all produce a dependence in the people that you are trying to reach. In modern psychological jargon, one party creating a dependency in another is termed a “co-dependency”. Both parties in some way “need” the crutch of the other party “needing” them. Much traditional church planting fosters this type of co-dependency. What a contrast this is to what we see in the Scriptures. Jesus seemed to make it tough for people to follow Him. Nobody was offering to carry your “cross” for you. In countries around the world today where your life is at risk if you follow Jesus, people are turning to Him in unprecedented numbers. The more people have to stand on their own feet the faster they grow. The quicker the “professionals” get out of the way the more rapidly the church grows. God loves to show that “even the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.” This applies even if we have become Christians! Various articles in this issue help underline many of the above points. Victor Choudhrie, the primary (human) figure behind the article in the last issue on rapid house church growth in India (5000+ house churches started in 7 years), wrote a stinging letter for us all to read. He speaks with authority. We have no choice but to listen! A variety of ordinary people such as an engineer, a customer service rep, a doctor, an attorney, and yes, a fulltime church planter, all share their stories. Each one is different, unique. From what I can gather, the cost of starting each of the churches they talk about is measured in sweat equity and time on their knees. It may mean opening your home, and cooking extra meals, but no way does it need to cost a quarter of a million dollars to start a church, even in this country. When ordinary people build churches, the “carpentry” or “upholstery” may be poor, but it works, and God gets the glory. Two young girls share in “Postcard from the Edge” why they love church in their home. It’s time that we re-examine what is in the DNA of churches that we may be planting and make sure that we are not letting anything hinder the spontaneous expansion of the church.
4 - House2house
Dear Tony, I have received the first 2 issues of your magazine and have found it interesting reading. You wrote in your editorial: “I see a bride that is mature enough to live with her differences rather that be in turmoil and divided by them. Recently, we invited all those that we knew to be leading within home church structures in the greater Austin area to come together to see how we could work together. That group represented people of Baptist, Presbyterian, Charismatic, Catholic, and unknown origin. This is His bride.” Are there any issues that you would say should divide people who claim Christianity? Are there any areas of Catholic doctrine (editor’s comments - or other denominations) that you believe should cause people to separate from them? Are there any differences in foundational beliefs that should divide Christians? I look forward to your reply. In Christ, Ken Crane
(In consideration of questions such as these, we have added a Questions and Answers column. Please look for the reply to this question in Q & A.).
...to the Editor
Dear Tony, My heart burns within me as I write to you because of all that the Lord is accomplishing through His Church on the earth. We are seeing the unleashing of the Holy Spirit in unprecedented ways. These are truly exciting days! The emerging culture of young people is rising up with passion to reach those who have fallen beyond the reach of mainstream Christianity. The older saints are gaining a renewed love for the Lord and for purity in His Bride. The lines that have long separated the Body of Christ are giving way to unity across theological and denominational boundaries. People are rediscovering the New Testament patterns that were taught by the apostles. God is empowering everyday believers to do extraordinary things in the church and in the lost world. Unreached people groups are being radically invaded with the gospel of Christ. The Kingdom of God is on the move and we are privileged to be a part. If these things don’t light you on fire, then your wood is wet! Joseph Cartwright, Dallas Baptist Association Network of Home Churches.
TELL YOUR BOSS!
Affordable Dental Care
Group Plans Available
$11.95/month individual membership $19.95/month for entire household!
Do You Need Extra Income
No Quotas No Collections No Deliveries No Employees No Products To Purchase No Capital Investment
80% On All Dental Services!
SAVE UP TO • NO Waiting Period • NO Limit on Visits • NO Deductible
Includes: Vision Care, Prescription & Chiropractic Discounts
Unlimited Income w/ Residuals No Sales Experience Needed Great Brochure Sells Itself Representatives and Managers needed to work part time, earn full time income
• Braces For Children & Adults • Pre-Existing Conditions Covered For Free Information Call The Covenant Group
Call Travis (800) 484-9292 ext 2002
House2house - 5
Johnny Foster, Engineer, Austin, Texas
“In the beginning was the word.” I started a home church because God told me to. Did He tell me in an audible voice? No. And, Yes! There were many voices around me, coming from people I love. They kept asking me questions about the Bible, which I was only too happy to answer. Inevitably, though, they began to ask the question I couldn’t answer: “Where can I go to church?” I honestly didn’t know what to tell them. So, one Friday night in early January, Rita and I were talking about it, and I said: “Maybe we ought to just start a church, honey.” “How would we do that?” she asked. “Where would we meet?” “We’d meet right here in our house, and we’d let the Holy Spirit show us how.” “Yeah, that’d be really cool,” she said. That night I took it to the Lord, and asked Him to show my heart His will in the matter. The next morning, my oldest child, Michelle, came over, and she and Rita and I talked about it some more. And then, all of a sudden, I knew. So, I said: “You know, I’m just going to do it. I trust he’ll let me know quickly enough if I’m mistaking His voice for another’s.” Then I turned to Rita: “Are you with me in this?” “Yeah,” she said. “Let’s do it!” Before the morning was over, we were all excited and full of newly imagined ideas, and we decided to have our first gathering on January twenty-eighth. That evening I struck up a conversation with a young woman who came around occasionally. In the course of our conversation, I found out that her parents are home church leaders. Twenty-four hours earlier, I thought I was being creative, dreaming up something new. It had a Biblical model so it wasn’t original, but I certainly didn’t know that a global network existed – or that there were at least three home churches within five minutes of my house. Of course, Rita and I met her parents, Tony and Felicity Dale, the next
House Church Interview with Felicity Dale
Holly: “How did you end up having church in your home?” Felicity Dale: “We evolved into home church after we had done a study on business principles from a Biblical standpoint with our business group, and all of them became Christians within one year of starting the study. We tried to slot our friends into church, which went well at the outset, until the church moved and it was too far for our friends to continue to attend. The pastor there suggested to us that we start something. We began meeting in our home – sharing breakfast together, having praise and worship, and praying for one another, as well as studying the Bible together. When we reached 55 people, we decided that we didn’t want to replicate the American church mindset of a pastor as the “everything” of the church, with a church building and program, so we divided into 3 groups. We still met together for our meal, praise, and prayer but then divided up into a teen group, a children’s group, and the adult group. The children’s group went over to a nearby home of one of the members, while the teens met in a different room in the home the adults were in.” Holly: “How do you balance the responsibilities of home church with Tony?” Felicity: “We pretty much divide the work in a practical way. Tony used to do most of the cooking, and I readied the house. Now lately, I see it as a mix of effort. We do a pot- luck meal, so no one person is doing all of the cooking. People help to put out chairs and to clean up after the meeting. Tony goes to pick up some folk from the housing project where we have started a house church.” Holly: “What do you like about home church?” Felicity: “I like that people are free to share, and the Holy Spirit is free to move. I really enjoy the Bible study method we are using where we read through a chapter of a book of the Bible and discuss it together. I
Home Church Phone Inter
6 - House2house
ing House Churches...
morning. The Holy Spirit led us to a model. Within thirty-six hours, the Holy Spirit had answered Rita’s initial question: “How would we do it?” We went home and called our friends and invited them to come to our house for church and to bring a potluck brunch dish. Our first Sunday, we had about a dozen adults, and seven or eight children. We keep gatherings simple. We sing along with CD’s we like. We mostly let the spirit move us through prayers, songs, and conversations. Sometimes I teach, but even then, I give everyone an opportunity and an invitation to contribute their voices. We’ve been vital for six months. So, listen. Do you hear the Lord calling you? Coaxing you? Sweetly nudging you along? Take a deep breath and get ready. Your life is about to change.
Mike Reed, attorney, Austin, Texas:
Several years ago, a brother at the office suggested that some of the men get together one day a week for prayer before work. Two of us gladly responded, and we began to meet on Friday mornings at 7:00 a.m. And for several years that was it, even though we prayed frequently for others to join us, and invited other believers in the office to participate. Then the man who had first initiated the prayer time moved too far away to make the early prayer meet-
ing. We were disappointed, because that time had become precious to each of us, so we looked around for a time when we could still meet. Finally, we decided to take a portion of our lunchtime on Fridays, when we could all be available. Immediately the Lord began drawing others to the meeting. There are now anywhere from four to ten men at our weekly prayer time, depending on who is around. And one of the most wonderful things is that several of those who come now are really learning how to pray for the first time. By allowing a disruption to our set practice, the Lord opened new opportunity for our group. ...Continued on page 9
by Holly Urbach
think it encourages a real growth in people.”
House Church Interview with Meri Reed
Holly: “How did you and your family get started in home church?” Meri Reed: “We originally were with the Vineyard and noticed that there were single moms who were needing some help. So we began doing home church, though it almost was more of a support group.” Holly: “How long did this group meet?” Meri: “We lasted about 3 years. After awhile, most of these women and their children went on to other church
homes. So we closed that fellowship at that point.” Holly: “How long have you been doing church at home? What do you like about it?” Meri: “We have been doing this off and on for around 8 years. For me, I really like the simplicity of home church. I appreciate that everyone can share.” Holly: “Why do you want to have a church in your home?” Meri: “Well, we are interested in reaching out to our neighborhood. We are currently meeting on a weekly basis, praying for God’s leading, and studying the Bible.” Holly: “Are many people coming?” Meri: “We have around 10 people are
coming. We are really looking to do whatever God wants us to do.” Meri shared with me that at this point, they have church with their family and friends on Sunday evenings and that they are praying to see what God is leading them to do next.
Home Church Experiences - Holly Urbach
We began our home church after we had been having trouble getting to church due to only having one vehicle and my husband’s work schedule. One evening, as I was picking up my daughter from a teen meeting, Tony ...Continued on page 9
House2house - 7
8 - House2house
...Continued from page 7
Neil Cole, church planter, California
In April of 1998, a small team in Long Beach, CA set out to start a new kind of church. Actually, it wasn’t a church we wanted to start but a movement of multiplying churches. We chose young urban postmoderns as our mission field. Knowing how much they loved coffee, our first idea was to start a coffeehouse. God had a better idea. With a still small voice He whispered in our ears, “Why start a coffee house? I sent you to start churches, not businesses. Why not simply go to the coffee houses where these people are already going?” That was the start for our movement. We quickly found a local coffee tavern and began hanging out. We became part of the community there. Within a couple weeks my living room was full of young people giving their lives to Christ, and Awakening Chapels was born. Within a couple months a second church was started reaching
out to another coffeehouse across town. At the end of the first year we had three Awakening Chapels. At the end of the third year we had nine. After three years there are about 14 Awakening Chapels, and we’re spreading from Long Beach to San Francisco, Medford, Portland, and all the way to Paris, France and even into Muslim North Africa. We are also now birthing new movements or networks of reproducing churches. To date we have nine apostolic networks of churches with a minimum of four house churches in each. These networks include: Awakening Chapels, Awakening Student Initiatives, Big Fish Chapels, The Fountain, Ichthus, Eternal Grace, Beacon of Hope, Contagious Christian Fellowship, and Cross Roads. A few times a year we try to bring together multiple networks regionally in our family of movements for a worship festival. Together, these networks are a part of Church Multiplication Associates
(CMA). In 1999 CMA started 10 churches. In the year 2000 we saw 18 started. Half way through 2001 we have already seen almost 40 churches started using the principles found in this article. Our goal this year is to see a church started every week for the year and we are already ahead of that mark. We hope to see a church a day by 2007 and we won’t stop until the nations are won to Christ and/or He returns.
Tony and Felicity Dale, Austin, TX
We wanted to reach our many friends in the business community with the good news of Jesus. They seemed very interested to study with us what the Bible had to say about wealth and finance. So we started a weekly Wednesday night Bible study in the book of Proverbs and invited these friends to our home. Over the ...Continued on page 10
...Continued from page 7
Dale asked me how things were going. I mentioned that we hadn’t made it to church much lately because of the car and Joe’s work schedule. Tony suggested that we might think about starting something in our home. I told Tony that I would mention it to my husband and pray about it. I was very open to having people in my home but didn’t want it to be a Lone Ranger experience where I did everything to make sure that it happened. My husband finally decided that we were supposed to have a home church, and we invited a neighbor and her children to come to church in our house. This neighbor hadn’t been to church in a long time due to some problems that occurred in the large church she had previously attended. We ate dinner together each week, spent time in prayer, and studied the Bible. The children got involved in doing the Bible study too and had some really great questions and comments. We also took some time to watch some thought-provoking videos, such as The Apocalypse, Revelation, Tribulation, and Left Behind. I enjoy having church at home. I like how everyone, including the children, are free to share. I think it offers a lot of opportunity for people to have their needs met in a way that is difficult in large churches.
by Holly Urbach
We are currently on a sabbatical from having church in our home because our neighbor was having difficulty getting to the evening meeting and we didn’t have anyone else coming. My husband and I are both praying about what we need to do when we start up again and how to launch home church so that it reaches more of our neighborhood.
House2house - 9
...Continued from page 9 period of the next year we had weekly discussions that ranged far and wide, but always focused on Christ. By the end of the year all of those in the discussion group (12) had become Christians or recommitted their lives to the Lord. Around this same time, the church that we had been a part of moved its physical meeting place even farther from our home, making it a practical impossibility to continue meeting with them. So we decided that we would start meeting on a Sunday morning with our kids, and any other neighborhood kids who would come. We chose Sunday mornings because we thought (hoped!) that the Christian kids in the neighborhood would be at church with their families, leaving us free to work with nonChristian children who were playing on the streets. Our kids invited their friends for Breakfast and Bible study. Around 6-10 came each Sunday. Within a year many of these had also become Christians. In two cases, parents had also visited us to see what we were doing with the kids, because of the very positive changes in their children. One of these sets of parents had also become Christians. At the end of the year, we brought together the Sunday morning children group, and the Wednesday night business people’s group and let everybody know that this was “church”. We haven’t looked back. Now there are 8 related groups in this area, and a variety of others within Central Texas that we have been able to link with and learn to work together on a variety of projects. For example, once a month we come together for a celebration meeting so that we can all enjoy the worship and praise with a larger cross section of the body of Christ locally. Again, on roughly a monthly basis, leaders from around 15 groups at varying stages of development across central Texas come together to fellowship, to pray, and to learn from whatever traveling ministry may be around at the time. Our latest gathering was to learn from Robert Fitts of the work that he is doing in using the ABC Bible Colleges within homes as a way of planting churches. We are actively planting out new churches as the Lord gives us wisdom and insight into what areas we need to move next. Currently we have church plants going on within several retirement centers and also into various low-income areas of town. The fields are certainly “ripe and ready for harvest” anytime that we are ready to pray and then to go! church for some time so we were familiar with the concept, but how to start a house church and where to begin were mysteries. We started with prayer, asking the Lord to reveal to us how we were to begin. Then we started to invite others to our home for a meal and fellowship. We felt we should do things a little differently and so decided to mix our Thursday evening meetings with both Bible study and the viewing and discussion of selected faith encouraging videos. So in the end, this hardheaded and stubborn man has learned a few lessons. First, if God wants you to start a church in your home, you will find the means to do it. Second, being worried, nervous and afraid is perfectly normal and expected. Third, you need be only one step ahead in your walk with the Lord in order to lead others. And finally I learned that no matter how much you plan out your meeting, the Holy Spirit has plans too, and often your plan will be completely, wonderfully tossed aside! Remember, the Lord promised that where we gather in His name, He is there. So rejoice!
Joe Urbach, customer service supervisor, Kyle, Texas
I have always been hardheaded and stubborn; it took breaking my leg and ankle for the Lord to get my attention, so that I could be saved. So, when I began to feel led towards having a church in my home, I resisted. “This can’t be right.” I remember thinking, “What could I have to say to anyone? I only just came to accept Christ into my life: who would listen to me?” The truth was that I was more scared than resistant. Scared that I was in over my head, that I was wrong and that God really did not want me to have a church in my home. Scared that I really did not know enough to teach, that I might tell people things that were wrong, and scared that no one would listen anyway. Most of all, I was scared that the Lord really did want me to do this! Oh No! I tried to pray that I not be led to start a church, that I might be given another way to serve God. I asked the Lord to, “Lift this away, please, I can’t do this, I can’t.” The very day I prayed those words I knew that I would indeed have a church in my home. The confirmation came that evening when my wife, Holly, told me that Tony had suggested that we should start a church in our home. “I’m not doing the work,” she had told me, “It’ll be our church, but you have to lead it.” So there it was, we were to have a church in our home and I was to lead it. We had been attending a house
It is neither the place nor the setting nor the ritual that is miraculous; it is the fellowship.
~ Elton Trueblood
10 - House2house
THIS ARTICLE IS ADAPTED FROM A BOOK BEING WRITTEN ON ORGANIC CHURCH PLANTING BY NEIL COLE AND PAUL KAAK
THAT IS DUE TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE FALL OF 2001.
Neil Cole is executive Director for Church Multiplication Associates and also the founding leader of the Awakening Chapels. CMA has been a vibrant ministry for ten years now, and Awakening Chapels started in 1998. He is also the author of Cultivating a Life for God: Multiplying Disciples Through Life Transformation Groups and co-author of Raising Leaders for the Harvest (both available through CMA Resources and/or ChurchSmart Resources).
Starting Churches that
Most churches today are trying to figure out how to get lost people to come to church. The key to starting churches that reproduce spontaneously is to bring the church to the lost people. We’re not interested in starting a regional church but rather to church a whole region. The house church, more than any other model, is best prepared to do just that because it is informal, relational, mobile, not financially encumbered with overhead costs, and is easily planted in a variety of settings. It also reproduces faster and spreads farther because it can be a decentralized approach to a region, nation or people group and is not dependent upon heavily trained clergy. We have taken our cues for how to start churches from two almost identical sermons delivered by Jesus. Once, when he taught the 12 Apostles how to reach the lost (Matt. 10), and the other when He instructed the 70 (Luke 10). When Jesus decides to repeat Himself in more than one of the gospel accounts, perhaps we should pay close attention to what He is saying. Nowhere else does Jesus get more specific in delineating outreach principles. In these two different sermons on two separate occasions Jesus gives us the key principles for how to initiate a ministry that reaches lost communities. We have uncovered five principles to help us in starting churches that reproduce. 1. Practice of Prayer. In both sermons Jesus begins with the same familiar words, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore
beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest.” We believe that church is a spiritual entity before it is a physical reality. We have a saying that goes like this: The church is conceived in heaven before it is born on earth. It must first be a glimmer in our Father’s eyes. So we begin churches by wooing the Father for new workers will come out of or from the harvest. The Father is easily wooed by the bride (as are most fathers) because He wants the church to reproduce more than we do. It is in the prayer that the romantic part of church planting is introduced. This is very important to the church, to the Father and to the community we want to reach. This is the first step in starting churches that reproduce. Pray first, pray last and in between, pray hard!
House2house - 11
2. Pockets of People. Jesus instructs His disciples to not go into the way of the Gentiles or the Samaritans but specifically to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He sends the disciples out in pairs to various cities and villages looking for a pocket of people, a community of lost people that are receptive to the message of peace. When looking for a pocket of people, we have another saying: Bad people, make good soil. Why is it that a majority of churches in America today are all trying to reach middle class suburbs? This has got to be one of the most difficult and hardest soils to reach, yet all seem to try. We have come to see the poor as the heirs of the kingdom of God (James 2:5). We find that it isn’t those who are well who need a physician, but the sick. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. In our experience, coffeehouses have proven to be fertile soil for the gospel. Now, however, we have expanded our vision to other arenas as well. We have churches that reach out to 12-step recovery groups, neighborhood gangs, homosexuals, occult groups, high school, college and university campuses, the homeless, and local bars. Besides homes and apartments, we’ve had churches that meet in parks, beaches, storefronts, restaurants, faculty lounges, student unions, locker rooms and even church classrooms (aghast!). The key is not in the building – whether it has a steeple or a chimney on the roof – but in bringing the kingdom of God to the people He is calling out. 3. Power of Presence. Jesus told the disciples as He sent them out that they had authority to do the works of God. They were to announce that the kingdom of God has come near – whether they were received or not. Where we go, the King goes… and that is POWERFUL! Jesus, in the Great Commission, said these words, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me…I am with you.” We must not forget this.
The enemy is hoping that we will not realize this important truth, because he is vulnerable to us when we learn it. Someone once asked my partner in the start of Awakening Chapels, Rob Ferris, what is the secret to our seeing so many people come to Christ. He answered, “Two words: Show up.” Non-Christians aren’t fretting trying to figure out ways to get into church. Church is not something that they feel they need, want or are even curious about. Jesus said to the church, “Go”. To the lost He said, “Come to me,” not “come to church”. We have another saying we often repeat in Awakening: There are two kinds of lost people in the world – the moths and the cockroaches. In the darkness it’s impossible to tell the difference. The best way to discover the difference is to turn the light on. The moths will be drawn to the light and the cockroaches will flee. Jesus told us that we are a light that should not be hidden behind a peck measure with stain glass windows. We should be brought out into the darkness so that we can shine. Jesus also noted that the disciples were not to import resources into the
harvest but to find all the resources they needed in the harvest itself. His instructions were to not bring any extra clothes, food or money to sustain the ministry. This is key. When Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful,” this was meant as good news! We often read it as bad news, because it means that there are so many lost and dying people in the world. While that is true, if you were to tell a farmer that his harvest is plentiful, he would rejoice at the good news, and so should we. The good news is not that there are so many lost and dying people, but that so many are going to be saved once we start taking the power of the kingdom into their world. All the resources needed for a great harvest are already found in the harvest itself, including finances, facilities and future leaders. All we need is to get out there and reap! There is much power in showing up. 4. Person of Peace. This forth principle is one that we are indebted to our dear friend and mentor, Thom Wolf, for uncovering for us. This simple concept has led to many churches being born around the world. Jesus said to look for and even inquire about someone who would be receptive to our message of peace. When we find such a person we are to stay there and reach his/her entire household (oikos). We are to eat what he eats and stay where he stays. When a person of peace is discovered, the birth of a new church is assumed. If you saw a human hand sticking up out of the dirt, the assumption would be that the rest of the body is yet to be uncovered. When someone comes to Christ in a new pocket of people, we keep digging until we see the person of peace emerge and a new church born. Three things characterize a person of peace: He/she is a person of… a. Receptivity. They are open to the message of the person and the peace of Christ. b. Relational connections. They know lots of people and are an
Speed is useful only if you are going in the right direction.
~ Joel A. Barker
12 - House2house
important part of the community, for better or worse. c. Reputation. They are people of reputation, whether it is a good reputation (like Cornelius or the Ethiopian eunuch) or bad reputation (like the Samaritan woman or the Gergesene demoniac). The Person of Peace becomes the conduit for the passing of the message of the kingdom to an entire community of lost people. His or her reputation gives credence to the message and becomes a magnet for a new church. A poor reputation can often be the catalyst for a dynamic church as the whole community sees the life-transforming power of Jesus. 5. People of Purpose. When the moths are drawn to the light and the person of peace brings several to Christ… a church is born. This is the formation of a people of purpose, born in the harvest, born for the harvest of the nations. Often, though not exclusively, the person of peace has the church meet in his/her home and may even be the new leader of the emerging church. A church that starts this way is unique in that it is born out of the harvest and is found among the harvest and is bent on a mission to continue to reach the lost. This missional element will be the important drive to reach out and to reproduce spontaneously. Many house churches suffer from koinonitis, where fellowship and community is the main and only thing. What is needed is a strong, healthy dose of mission. Churches that start this way are unhindered from cultural Christianity because they are born in the harvest. There is a simple purity to them that doesn’t have the stain of the more placid and established Christendom. The people learn how to reach their friends from the start and don’t know any better than to follow Jesus and expect Him to save their family, friends and ultimately, the nations. They become a people of purpose, a spiritual family called out by God on a mission.
It is the depravity of institutions and movements that, given in the beginning to express life, they often end in throttling that very life. Therefore, they need constant reviews, perpetual criticism, a continuous bringing back to original purposes and spirit. The Christian church is no exception. It is the chief illustration of the above.
~ E. Stanley Jones
SeedSowers P.O. Box 3317 Jacksonville, FL 32206 800-228-2665 www.seedsowers.com Call for your free copy of:
WHEN THE CHURCH WAS LED ONLY BY LAYMEN
Your headquarters for books on House Churches and The Deeper Christian Life 30 Years of the best in great Christian Literature
House2house - 13
Takin’ it to t
“You don’t know me, but I’m your brother/ sister”… words to a well-known song that took on a different meaning this past Easter as people in as many as fifteen cities in seven states across the nation took to the streets.
Last year, Easter 2000, eight men and women walked the dark streets in downtown Austin, Texas, and handed out eighteen Easter bags full of lovely gifts and a specially written note about Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ great love, and His power to change lives. With simply the love and acceptance of Jesus in our hearts and a bag in our hands, we celebrated Easter as Jesus did. We also visited the Salvation Army, told the Easter story and passed around two big baskets filled with gifts, toiletries and inspirational items. Every recipient seemed deeply moved. Our hearts were changed forever. This Easter, there was a sovereign move of God’s Holy Spirit upon the hearts of many across the nation. People in other cities and states began to hear of The Magdalene Project. Joyful reports have been pouring in since Easter. I got a call from a young man at 9:30 PM while we were handing out Easter bags Saturday in Austin at the Men’s Bars/Dance Clubs. The fellow said, “Is this Robbi Sluder with The Magdalene Project?” I replied, “Yes - as a matter of fact, we’re doing the Magdalene Project!” He went on to tell me that he had read the website just that morning. He was so moved by it, he and his sister bought enough gifts and items for 20 bags. He then said, “There are 10 college students going out tonight to do this. Can you tell me what to do?” I couldn’t believe it - how exciting! I gave him instruction and then we prayed together. What’s so special about this is I had felt that Phoenix was to do an outreach this year, but with so many other cities unexpectedly coming aboard, I just didn’t have the time to do it. My husband, Randy, asked about Phoenix right before Easter and I replied, “I just don’t have time. God will have to handle it.” When I found out the college student on the other end of the phone was from Arizona, I asked, “What part?” He replied, “Phoenix”. Thanks, God!
Takin’ it to the St
more bags to a girls’ lock-in!” These are girls between 12-17 who have been picked up for prostitution and are wards of the state. Teresa is now considering taking the Advocacy training program so she can take another step in helping these girls who need the love of Jesus. Please pray for Teresa as she seeks God’s direction in this. Kingston, NY – We hit the streets and met a girl named DeDe. I told DeDe my name and said, “I thought I heard Dawn introduce you as Denise”. DeDe looked at me real strange as my friend, Dawn reiterated, “No, her name is DeDe.” DeDe said, “My real name is Denise”. I said to her “Jesus knows your name”. DeDe said she didn’t like the name Denise. Linda, another woman with our group, asked, “If you could change your name, what would you call yourself?” DeDe hesitated and didn’t answer. Linda said, “I would call you Rose.” DeDe replied, “My maiden name is Rosebury.” I looked at her straight in the eyes and said, “JESUS KNOWS YOUR NAME.” I gave her the bag and added, “Jesus loves you. You are remembered and not forgotten.” DeDe began to cry. Linda extended her arms. DeDe fell into them, cried on her shoulder and allowed us to pray for her. Wells, NV – The manager of the “Men’s Club” had given us from 8:25 PM - 8:45 PM to pass out the gift bags and visit the girls. The manager’s wife (also the DJ) asked us why we wanted to do this. We explained we were just trying to spend Easter like Jesus did. We really had a good opportunity to visit with her, and she asked us, “Do you think we’re sinners?” We let her know we are all sinners before God, but He sent His Son for us, and He loves us. We were in the club a full hour. The doors were opened late due to our visit. We thank God for the doors He opened! Killeen and Waco, TX – Volunteers were overwhelmed at the receptiveness of the recipients. “The women in the treatment center were so grateful for everything we brought to them!
PROJECT REPORTS FOR EASTER 2001 –
Phoenix, AZ – As a prostitute received a bag, she replied, “No one has ever given me a gift my whole life.” They reported, “You could tell she was being truthful… it was such a powerful night for all of us. We don’t have to do this just one once a year!” Aberdeen, WA – “One lady we approached really looked intimidating – big, looked like a man, covered in tattoos, looking like she dared anyone to approach her…so we did. I will never forget how her appearance changed when she realized we didn’t want anything from her. Her eyes filled with joy and she was like an innocent little girl on Christmas morning. I just cry when I think of it.” Corpus Christi, TX – “The ladies on the strip were so grateful to receive these bags from us. “It kinda ruined church for me on Easter morning!” Atlanta and Kennesaw, GA – Tom and Teresa Pelton of March for Jesus/ Jesus Day have been a tremendous encouragement to The Magdalene Project. Teresa distributed bags through the Juvenile Court System’s Advocacy Program. She said, “The girls were blown away.” They asked her to come the following weekend and bring 25
14 - House2house
Sobering. There are so many young men going into the clubs. Men must become a target of our prayers and we should find ways to reach the men. “When I first heard about The Magdalene Project, I became ‘religious.’ After all, I had a Good Friday Service to attend! Then God spoke to me and said I was over-fed! “Once I was a Mary Magdalene, too. Every time my sister would see me, she never preached to me or handed me tracts. She didn’t condemn or judge. She would just say, ‘Jesus loves you and so do I. You are in my prayers daily.’ Her love for Jesus and her demonstration of love for me made a solid impact on my life. Here I am today serving the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, MY JESUS! So I know that those words, though small, yet so practical, will make a great impact on those lives. Rather than condemning their lifestyles and telling them that hell awaits them, it is the love of Jesus in action that speaks louder than words. It’s powerful! WALK THE TALK!” Austin, TX – A massive outpouring of love exhibited by more than one hundred volunteers from many denominations could be observed at the following sites: Maggie’s Place – An empty storefront where “Maggie’s Bag Ladies” assembled Easter bags and baskets. One of the “Bag Ladies” said, “I’ve lived alone for 20 years. It has given me great joy to serve by making these baskets and has brought healing to my heart.” Three Topless Bars – Two ex-dancers who now serve the Lord and participated in the outreach said, “This is close to the joy of childbirth. It was so incredible to see those ladies’ eyes filled with tears and their hearts open to the love that was expressed. Thank you so much for fulfilling the dream of reaching the women we used to work with.” Salvation Army – “Visiting the Salvation Army really encouraged me. I was touched by the drama, the music, and the message. I enjoyed hanging out with the families. I got to pray with a woman after the message.” We had prayer after the gathering. The spirit was sweet and there were those who asked Jesus into their hearts as we prayed with them. We are grateful to God for letting us share in this privilege. Street Reach – One of the guys who served as a guardian for our women “Street Reachers” described this as an answer to his prayer. He had a burden for the prostitutes working near his apartment, but as a young single man felt uncomfortable in approaching them. The Magdalene Project gave him a way to be part of reaching out to these women in a godly way. Church Under the Bridge (a church that serves the homeless) – “At first, I was uncomfortable as I stood there, trying to blend in, be a part and feel right. Then God put this in my heart, ‘Now you know how these people feel when you invite them to your traditional church!’” Travis County Correctional Facility – “On Sunday we went to bless the women inmates, but we were the blessed ones! We offered to pray for the inmates and about 80% wanted prayer. When I got to the first lady, her name was the same as mine! I told her it meant ‘peace’. She started crying. I hugged her and prayed with her.” Many ladies asked for prayer at the end of our celebration and there were those who asked Jesus into their heart. We had such a great time sharing Easter with these women. We pray for these sisters of ours. Myrtle Beach, SC – Some of our favorite reactions were not even from the ladies but instead from a “rippling” effect that was created. One taxi driver parked outside the club asked one of our ladies, “What are you doing?” When our lady told him, “We’re just bringing a little Easter to these ladies and letting them know that God loves them and we do too!” The driver pointed to the club with a confused look on his face and responded, “In there?” “Sure.” was the reply. He shook his head and said, “Lady, you’re treading where angels fear to tread!” At a “Men’s Club” the manager sent out a bouncer to get the baskets to be Robbi L. Sluder The Magdalene Project, Inc. www.themagdaleneproject.org
treets... June 13, 2001
delivered to the ladies. Robin, one of our coordinators, expressed disappointment at not being able to deliver the gifts personally. The bouncer wouldn’t budge! As Robin opened up her trunk to get the baskets, the bouncer’s whole demeanor changed. He was shocked at what he saw. He began to soften a little. He scooped up a group of bags and dropped a bottle of perfume. It shattered on the parking lot. He said, “Aw, go ahead and take them to the girls!” I can’t help but think of the perfume that was poured upon Jesus’ feet. The people thought it was such a waste! We thank God that once again, as perfume was spilled out, it was not wasted, and the fragrance of Jesus’ love was poured out to the hearts of many who are a picture of Mary Magdalene today. Not only were hundreds of Mary Magdalenes reached with the gospel this past Easter, our hearts were softened and changed to become more like Him. One of the coordinators from S. Carolina wrote, “We all marveled at the observation that when we go out with the intention of inviting people to church, we can’t seem to find the words or generate the interest we want; however, when we went out with no motive and just love in our hearts, they asked us the questions we’ve been longing to answer!” God reminded me of the greatest outreach in history: For God so loved the world that He GAVE… how can we do any less?
If you have not done so, please fill out the “Areas of Interest” Section on our website so we can keep you updated on upcoming outreaches and developing information. We will be updating our website soon to reflect last month’s Easter outreaches. The Lord bless you.
House2house - 15
WHEN IT COMES TO MEDICAL BILLS, SOMETIMES WE ALL NEED A LITTLE HELP!!
Pre-Paid Medical AdvocacyTM (PPMATM) provides a safety net for those who are uninsured or under-insured. PEOPLE LACK MEDICAL COVERAGE FOR MANY REASONS: • Employer is unable to provide cover to part-timers • Employee is unable to pay their share of the costs and so choose to forfeit access to any company program. • A person may be covered, but cannot afford to also have coverage for his/her family. WHAT CAN PPMATM DO FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT INSURANCE? Many people without insurance, or with inadequate coverage, will hesitate to see a doctor, even when they know it is urgently needed. PPMATM is able to work with them in all aspects of dealing with medical bills, from making plans before the ﬁrst doctor’s visit, to coping with payments on bills that have already been incurred. PPMATM provides a safety net by guiding you through the maze of governmental and charitable programs and, as needed, medical price negotiation, so as to minimize your bills. I ALREADY HAVE INSURANCE, DO I STILL NEED PPMA’S SERVICES? Yes, there are frequently situations where people with health insurance ﬁnd themselves with a need that may not be covered by the insurance company. For as little as $11.95 a month PPMATM could be working for you. Group plans are available, please call for more information.
Pre-Paid Medical Advocacy
by The Karis Group, Ltd.
TOLL FREE 1-866-BILL-HELP
16 - House2house
burden that God has placed on him and that he has lived out over the past many years. For churches to multiply, the multiplication process must be simple. Robert helps us see that it is not just multiplication, but church life in general that needs to be rescued to “the simplicity that is in Christ”. Many who are reading this review will have read the article in the last issue of House 2 House magazine that described the Alpha-Omega Bible schools that Robert is helping people all over the country to start as a means towards rapid church planting. Recently, I had the privilege of being in a couple of meetings where Robert was sharing about and actually demonstrating how these “Bible Schools” in homes function. It felt like “church” to me! We worshipped, we prayed, we shared and ministered to each other, and we simply read from and discussed the Bible together within the group that was present. One night there were 20+ of us. The next night it was just 3 couples. Both times the presence of God was powerful, and the “experience” of Bible School in the home was very real. The early Christians had no seminaries, little if any access to the letters and gospels that were in the process of being written. They had few, if any, formed traditions, and yet were able to turn their world upside-down. The apostle Paul could say of them that “few were wealthy, few were clever’”, but they were enough in God’s hands to change their world. May we be the same.
cannot be equated with scriptural norms. From essays on leadership, to challenges to the very idea of a clergylaity distinction, to questions on buildings and finances, this book challenges Christians who are serious about their faith to also be serious about their understanding of church and how church life can and should be expressed in this generation. We need a reformation. Many authors are challenging the current status quo and sending out a cry for radical renewal and openness to “new wineskins”. This book is not only a trumpet call for such a reformation, but provides many challenging and thoughtful insights into how such a reformation can actually come about. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly.
The Way Church Ought to Be by Robert Lund
What a title! “Is this pretentious or prophetic?” I asked myself when Robert sent me an advance copy of his book a few months ago. At that time it was sub-titled, 95 Theses on the Church, paralleling Martin Luther’s famous declaration pinned to the door of the Gutenberg Cathedral, which helped usher in the Reformation. Is that the intention here? If so, I believe that “The Way Church Ought to Be” does an extremely good job. In a clear, yet comprehensive way, Robert Lund pulls us alongside his own thinking and scriptural study to see why the current traditional settings
Publishing and Order information: Outside The Box Press, an imprint of Performance Press. Order from No Garbage Books (541) 926-5222. www.nogarbagebooks.com
The Church in the House: A Return to Simplicity by Robert Fitts
Robert is a quiet-spoken man, who shares simply from his heart, but with a deep sense of the passion and commitment that he feels to the work of the Lord. This book reflects the
Publishing and Order information: PREPARE THE WAY PUBLISHERS Web page: www.PTWPublish.com Address: 2121 Barnes Ave. S E Salem, OR 97306-1096, USA Phone: 503-585-4054 Fax: 503-375-8401 email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
House2house - 17
A Personal Journey
by Tony & Felicity Dale
Part 3 – from the soon-to-be-published, ‘Church Paradigms’ by the Dales.
When I grew up, I was allowed to swim on a Sunday, but not go to movies. If I forgot (or in public was too embarrassed) to say grace, then I would probably get stomachache after the meal! Girls’ dresses should not be too short, (or maybe even too long), as it might display their body to too much advantage. As for boys’ hair, definitely keep it off the collar. Somehow holiness seemed to equate with ugliness. As for joy, if that was what I saw on most Christians’ faces, then I would rather be miserable! Do the above have anything in common with Jesus-centered Christianity? Well, to start with, He didn’t seem to mind His disciples plucking the ears of grain on the Sabbath. He didn’t bother to ceremonially wash His hands before meals. All the pictures show Him with long hair, and – well, I guess that we could just go on and on. Jesus was not much of one for religious niceties. How have we gone so far off course? How could those who would die for the infallibility of scripture be so lacking in the love of Jesus that they would happily (sometimes even angrily and publicly) separate from their brothers and sisters in Christ over such “key issues” as whether Jesus is coming back before or after the millennium, or whether or not spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles? Why can a dress code in a Christian school not allow a dress more than one inch above the knees, but the cheerleaders can come to class in skirts that Playboy would be proud of? Somewhere we are missing the boat. We evangelicals have become the descendants of the Pharisees of old, somehow equating our Christianity with externals while ignoring the internals. As Jesus said, “You strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel!” Since when was Christianity judged by “do this and don’t do that,” rather than by “loving God with our whole heart, and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.” It all comes back to the paradigm through which we examine our faith. If my sunglasses are coated in green, then I will see everything green. If my Christianity is coated in externals and religious norms, then that is the perspective from which I will judge other Christians. For “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Maybe this is why we have become so good at the externals. Our meetings are more like performances. Who did we go there to meet, anyway? Our worship often is more like a concert. Our preaching is like the debates of old. We “go to church” rather like we might go to a ball game. It makes a pleasant interlude in our over busy schedules, and provides some light relief in our otherwise stressful lives. But does it make a difference? Not if the statistics are to be believed! I believe that it was Samuel Chadwick, the great Methodist leader, who said that, “The church that is man-managed rather than Spirit-led works no miracles.” When George Barna can write in The Second Coming of the Church that “in studying the major social indices there is no statistical difference between evangelicals and the nation at large,” we need to worry about whether or not the church is on the right track. While Christians are being imprisoned and dying for their faith in China and the Sudan and, many other parts of the world, the church in the West seems to be dying because of our faith. What is wrong? It comes back to what we are focusing on. Christianity is a way of life. Christianity is living as Jesus would live if He were in your shoes, which in fact He is! Anything other than this is just a religious system. “Churchianity!” We find ourselves doing what keeps the church happy
Let’s kill some s
18 - House2house
rather than what keeps Jesus happy. Paul warned about this when he told us to beware of anything that holds to “the form while it denies the power.” A Christianity that apparently has the power to save but does not have the power to change lives is arguably not “Christian” at all. Similar questions apply to “church.” Can something be the body of Christ, the pillar and the ground of truth, that which the angels longed to look into, and yet be so man-managed and selfcentered that Jesus is barely even allowed a look inside! As Tozer so aptly put it, “The church is like a constitutional monarchy, where Jesus is allowed the title, but has no authority to make any decisions.” If the “Kingdom” at its simplest level is any place where Jesus is the King, then how much of the kingdom does my life show? What does it mean for me, as for every Christian, to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”? Is there something that makes being a “pastor” inherently more spiritual than being an actress or an attorney? Can I naturally assume that it is more spiritual to plan to be a missionary than a politician? How about being a youth pastor instead of a coach? I wonder which one has more influence in many young people’s lives? In a powerful scene in the movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddle is challenged by his godly sister to forget the Olympics so that he can get on with the calling on his life to be a missionary to China. Eric’s response is, “But God made me fast.” So fast, in fact, that he first set a new world record in training for the 100 yards. He then set a world record in a race he hadn’t even trained for when he had to run in the 440 rather than the 100 yards so that his Olympic races would not be on a Sunday. The whole world watched his stand for Christ in his unwillingness to run on a day that he felt would violate his conscience. Our paradigm needs to shift to where we see all of life as service to God. When God called me to a medical training, that did not make me any less (or any more) spiritual than His calling to my friend Nick Cuthbert to leave medical school to be an evangelist. Both have equal responsibility and equal opportunity in God’s eyes. By the same token I am no more spiritual being in church than when I am seeing patients. In my experience I may even be less spiritual if I am playing along with the hypocrisy and judgmentalism that seems to be the norm in many church circles. At times we have destroyed one another in the name of Jesus in church deacons’ meetings in a way that would have embarrassed our non-Christian friends if it had happened in a company board meeting. I think we Christians could have had a thing or two to teach the businessmen in the movie, Wall Street. How can we accept as normal the fact that the average Christian has never led anyone to Christ at work, at school, or in the office? What has so emasculated our church members that the title of Dawson Trotman’s (founder of the Navigators) booklet, “Born To Reproduce” sounds more like a campaign ad for large families than a description of the normal Christian bringing many others to Christ? What have we done in our churches that leaves many Christians quite unable to even pray out loud, let alone obey Jesus? “Could you not stay with me for one hour”? It is interesting that Jesus wrote no book, and left us no theological treatise. Instead, He gave us an example. He became the Word. We refer to the Bible as the word of God, but the Bible itself points us to Jesus. See John 5:39, where Jesus states, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you will find
House2house - 19
Southern California Conference on
The Church in the House
~ A Return to Simplicity ~
On August 25th, the last Saturday in August, there will be a One-Day Conference on THE CHURCH IN THE HOUSE in the home of Clark and Nina McElwain at 27075 Blue Hill Drive in Sun City, California, about 25 miles south of Riverside on Interstate 215. The purpose of the conference is to encourage the house church movement in Southern California and to share how to multiply house churches through starting home Bible colleges. We will also share some of the things that are happening in other places where house churches are beginning to become a major force in helping to fulfill the great commission of our Lord Jesus to go into all the world and share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness with everyone. We will have copies of Wolfgang Simson’s new book, HOUSES THAT CHANGE THE WORLD as well as copies of the first two issues of the new house church magazine, HOUSE2HOUSE, which God is using in many places to spread the vision for simple church. God bless Tony Dale and his co-laborers in Texas for bringing to birth this powerful magazine! The conference will begin at 9 AM. We will have lunch together at noon and start the final session at 1 PM. The only cost for the conference will be the noon meal which is $5.00 per person. We need your help in getting this word out to others who may want to attend. Please forward this information on to them. We need to know how many plan to attend in order to prepare the noon meal, so please RSVP. . . ASAP!! You may call or email to RSVP. For more information, or to RSVP, email Nina at <email@example.com> or call her at 909-679-3180. Email Robert Fitts at <Robertjoni@aol.com> or call him at 949-489-9449 or his cell phone at 949-322-4197. Directions to the McElwain home are as follows: From Riverside, take Hwy. 215 south. Upon entering Sun City, take McCall exit to Bradley, on Bradley turn left on El Rancho, turn left on Griffith, turn right on Blue Hill. Address is 27075 Blue Hill Drive, Sun City, California. If you get lost, call Nina at (909) 679-3180.
20 - House2house
See John 5:39, where Jesus states, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you will find life, but you will not come to Me.” We prepare courses for seminary students on systematic theology to prepare them for “full-time Christian service.” Jesus apprenticed 12 disciples by living with them for three and a half years to prepare them for life. No wonder he could say elsewhere, “The letter kills; it is the Spirit that gives life.” Christendom appears to have been beset from approximately the time of Constantine onwards with a fixation on the professional “clergy” class as opposed to the laity. Through the Dark Ages this divide was so marked that services were even forbidden in the vernacular, as was translation of the scriptures, so that the laity could be deliberately kept in bondage to the professional clergy. The priest in this model becomes the mediator between laity and God. The Protestant model changed very little. Now the professional was allowed to marry, and the Bible was translated into the common language, but still the laity was kept from any place of authority with true power residing in those who had been “trained” for professional (so called full-time) ministry. What a far cry from tax collectors and fishermen who were the first apostles and church leaders! The most explosive period of church growth was when laymen led the church. In truth, the New Testament knows of no laymen. A possible exception to this is the “error of the Nicolaitans,” mentioned in Revelation 2, which may be a reference to an early separation between professional church leaders and an increasingly disenfranchised “laity.” (See Rutz, The Open Church, and Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church for further thoughts and documentation of these ideas.) This same thing is found throughout church history. The last century is replete with examples, from the growth of Pentecostalism worldwide, to the phenomenal expansion of the church under persecution in China over the past 50 years. When churches are freed from the shackles of needing a profes-
sional class to lead them, all of a sudden Mr. Average Christian finds that he/she is able to do and be all that God has been calling him to be! Sitting in the average church, which is what my wife and I did for most of our first 10 years in this country, opened our eyes to the incredible waste of talent that is represented by the people who fill the pews. Leaders of major corporations, people who run business-training seminars, and those who start up schools and factories are apparently not qualified to lead a Sunday school class. Even those who have been leading in other churches, and have spent time in Bible School, are left to waste in the congregation rather than released into fresh ministry. No wonder Paul (or whoever it was who wrote Hebrews) could say to the Hebrews, “by now you should be onto meat, but you are still babes needing milk.” We have helped our congregations to stay infantile by treating them as infants. Mr. Average Christian can no more, in his current state, “rightly divide the word of truth,” than the average 3-year-old can “rightly divide” up the Sunday chicken. After the first two years, the “average Christian” never brings a newcomer to church, and rarely, if ever, leads another person to the Lord. We condemn ourselves to perpetual childhood by a system that leaves all the power and all the responsibility for Christian growth in the hands of professionals, while the amateurs turn up for the show on Sundays, living the rest of the week as they please. It is no surprise that the committed amateurs, finding so little outlet in the churches, turn their God-given talents and vision to such parachurch structures as Bible Study Fellowship and Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International. From what I remember, our university meetings in groups like Campus Crusade and Inter Varsity often felt more like “real” church than what went on in the special buildings on a Sunday morning and Wednesday night. So why, when we started admitting that these meetings really were “church,” did it cause such a
stir? Inadvertently we were challenging the sacred cow that church must take place in a consecrated building, led by consecrated people. Thinking of special buildings, didn’t the church thrive in its first couple of centuries without putting all of that money into structures that would only be used for a few hours per week? Come to think of it, the churches under communist persecution seem to be proving the same point! The church clearly did very well without buildings and without many full-time leaders for the first few centuries. Qualifications for leadership included the ability to support one’s self as and when needed. The only promise was persecution, not professional perks and public praise. Training was in the school of hard knocks, not the seminary of intellectual questioning. The “simplicity of Christ” was valued, not scorned. The power of the Holy Spirit was expected, not explained away. There is a story, apocryphal, I presume, told of Thomas Aquinas being shown around the treasures of the Vatican by the Pope. “Well, we certainly can’t say ‘Silver and gold have I none,’” comments the Pope. “And neither can we say, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,’” replies Thomas! The contrast between the church in the West and the churches in Third World countries would tell much the same story today. It is time for Mr. Average Christian to start living as teachers like Watchman Nee envisioned in The Normal Christian Life. When I first read that book it opened my eyes to how abnormal my own Christian experience had been until that point. Why do we accept as normal, and even try to defend a practice of Christianity that has produced so few Christians who genuinely “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”? It’s almost as if we have turned that teaching of Jesus around so that we seek first “all these things being added to us,” and then we will have time to seek the Kingdom. So what is the Kingdom and where does the church fit in?
House2house - 21
Open Letter from Victor Choudrie -India
Editor’s note: We realize this may offend some readers, but due to the stature and reputation of the author, we feel that his views demand our prayerful consideration.
Lately wastage in the church and by the church has become a great burden to me. 1. There are only a handful of genuine Great Commissioners in the world today. Even so Praise God that 122,000 baptized believers are joining the church every day. Most of this is through the humble house churches and not through the congregational models of churches, however spirited the music and praise and worship may be. 2. If only 10% of the church members become active church planters, then we should be getting at least one million souls added to the church every day instead of the paltry 122,000. A country the size of India could be evangelized in one generation. 3. The worst criminals are the churches who keep their members in bondage. The bigger the church, the greater the crime. A mega church is a mega crime. This has resulted in spiritual wastage of global proportions of laborers who should be working in the harvest field instead of warming the benches on Sundays. All large churches that do not equip and send should be declared “den of thieves”, as they prevent the lost humanity of nations, tribes, languages and people groups from hearing the Gospel. 4. Another set of criminals are the Bible schools that produce Bible scholars instead of Church Planters. Many extra-cultural and extra-biblical teachings are given here, such as western music, western clothes, including tie, complete with black and red gowns and funny hats on the graduation day. The only thing they do not learn is how to plant churches, simply because their teachers do not know how to plant a church. Net result, an utter waste of ‘trained workers’ who have no training in church planting. It is time all the Bible schools were evaluated and ‘rogue’ bible schools closed down. 5. The worst set of criminals are the Mission Leaders who are not accountable to anyone, not even to God. They get an idea, then call it a vision from God, go off abroad to raise money and implement it. No wonder we have such bad models of churches functioning in this country, which have no resemblance to the Rapidly Multiplying House Churches of the first century New Testament model. Give the Devil his due, but please do not blame him for all the mess the church has created, all in the name of Jesus. Please feel free to pass this on to your network. Shalom, Victor Choudhrie mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
22 - House2house
A Postcard from:
Australia At Home in Church Downunder
by Elyce & Justine Weatherall
morning and sharing lunch together, people usually stick around to talk, sometimes even until dinner time. It’s great! But, most of all, my very, very favourite thing about home church, is the worship time we have together. Previously, when I have visited other churches, I have never felt a part of what’s going on. Though, I ‘m not saying that going to a church is not good, all throughout the New Testament it always refers to a home when talking about church. Take Romans 16:5, for example. Paul asks them to greet the church that meets in their home, and there are many, many more verses very similar. The first ‘church’ was probably not even built until about 300 AD. Before that time people would have met in homes because they could not afford to build big temples or churches. Why bother with majestic buildings when we are supposed to worship the majestic living God? When we raise money to build a church, shouldn’t we be careful not to make another temple like in Jesus’ time? Before we realise it, we might have built up courts, such as the Sunday school room, or the musicians’ practising room, or even the pastor’s office, to separate us from one another when we were created equally. By following routines that do not allow people to use their spiritual gifts to help others, we might subconsciously create a curtain that prevents us from entering into worship with God. Jesus also commanded us to help the poor. How can we when we spend our money on buildings instead of helping starving children? Hi, my name is Elyce Weatherall, and I am 14-yearsold. I live in Victoria, Australia, and have been part of a home church most of my life. I don’t have much experience in going to a church or to a ‘church building’, but I DO KNOW which one I prefer! I know some people who think my family and I are really weird just because we have church in our home, but I disagree! There are many advantages which we have that others do not. From a personal point of view, I appreciate the small community that comes with home church. It’s just like one big family. At our home church, we talk and share things with each other, and it’s not like one person gets up and preaches each Sunday. We all get to talk and say our different views. I also find, in small groups, that the parents speak in a way that all the children can understand, and we are allowed to ask questions without being told off for making too much noise. At a church, children often leave to go to Sunday school, where they miss out on what is being said and on being with their families. I also appreciate the fact that it is more casual, and I don’t have to worry about getting dressed up as much, because we are with our friends. Our home church has never had an exact finishing time either. Many times after having church in the My name is Justine Weatherall. I live in Australia and am 11-yearsold. I’d like to explain a few of the many reasons why I am glad that our family does home church, and why I prefer it to other normal churches. One reason I prefer it is because I know everyone and I feel comfortable in the familiar surroundings. Another reason is that the adults are aware of the children and speak at our level. Also, because I am friends with everyone there, I am not ashamed to ask questions in front of them. Because we are all included in the preparations and are allowed to play any instruments we know how to play during the worship time, it makes each one of us feel a part of what is happening in our group. I can also understand that everyone else may not share my exact view on home church. It may be they prefer their churches because to them, it may be more or less religious. Or some people may just feel at home in their church. I cannot speak for everyone, but I personally feel more at home with church in our house and being around my friends while we gather and worship. Whenever I visit another church I don’t feel as comfortable, but as I said, I cannot speak for everyone.
House2house - 23
A Postcard from:
San Francisco Where’s Jesus in Urbania? by Mark Scandrette
Three years ago my wife, Lisa, our three kids and I moved from Northern Minnesota to San Francisco to “start a house church movement” among what we used to call “Urban Post-modern peoples.” We bought an old Victorian house in the Mission District – an eclectic multicultural neighborhood including Latin American Immigrants, old Hippies, Punk Rockers, Bohemian Marxists, Art Activists, young gay men, lesbians, and Dot Com hipsters. We chose San Francisco because of its longstanding reputation as the most progressive, postmodern and post-Christian city in America. This is where we wanted to work out faith and Christian community. We had every hope that this venture would be successful. I had just finished a three-year stint working with students at a traditional church. They hated my best efforts at the classic youth ministry “thang” – the wanging electric guitar worship songs and comedy a la hardcoregospel-message routine. There was a disconnection between the realities of their lives and the culture-bound practices of our church. I invited them to come to our house, “the shack”, on Sunday nights. It started with Lisa and I and three students around a campfire in the woods behind our house. Eventually Sunday night “Rocks” replaced the youth program at the church. More and more students started showing up with their nonbelieving friends. Our living room was packed with skate kids, punk rockers, hippie girls, sports and band people from seven different high schools. Everything we did was participatory and experiential. I led behind the scenes and mentored 5 or 6 senior high students who facilitated most of the meetings. We had lively discussions on pop culture, sexuality, death, philosophy, and the Bible. We worshipped. We prayed. We celebrated communion. We had ministry times where people would pray and speak propheti-
cally over one another. The Holy Spirit manifested in some amazing ways! Students, who had never been to a church, were showing up with friends and engaging in our discussions, prayer and worship. They sensed a warm and different vibe. After six or eight months they would come to me and say, “Mark, what is this I hear about being saved?” We looked hard at the early chapters of the book of Acts and Paul’s writing on the fellowship of believers - and gradually came to the realization that this ragamuffin crew of kids was fulfilling New Testament functions of a church. Our very first experience leading a relationally based group happened five years earlier. Back then Lisa and I spent our time working with children and families in low-income housing projects. It grieved us to see that when these Jerry Springer style families found faith, they didn’t feel comfortable or accepted in our middle-class church. We also drooled over Acts 2:42-47,
where the church seemed like an empowered dynamic of relationships rather than a culturally bound institution. We wanted a simple and informal alternative to the highly organized form of the typical church. We invited two other couples to join us on Sunday nights to experiment with “New Testament church life.” Within two months there were 30 of us meeting, including 10 kids! It was a great mix of professionals, working class people AND families from the projects. We ate meals together, met for worship and communion, and served one another in practical ways. It was a great experiment! I was only 22, and was not prepared for the level of leadership and organization required to sustain such a group. So after a summer break we didn’t call the group back together. However, this experience gave us confidence that we could potentially catalyze relationally based Christian community. Roll forward to San Francisco 1998. In the first six months two house churches
24 - House2house
formed with 10-12 people per group. People were excited about the dream of true community and the possibility of seeing a faith movement happen in San Francisco birthed from these house churches. But quickly things got weird… Our group had a tendency to react to the traditional American expressions of the church. Many of us had never felt accepted by the church or had been hurt by church relationships. A lot of us were idealists who longed for the reclamation of the church in the book of Acts and its redemptive potential in society. And each of us faced some internal and external criticism for our decision to leave the dominant church paradigm. And, let’s face it, it takes a lot more commitment and participation to be in a house church than an audience-based worship service. This led some of us to develop a rather dogmatic “Biblical” rationale for the structure and functioning of our church. If we were giving our lives to this, and it was costing us so much time and energy, then it had better be the “right” way. We spent a lot of energy reinforcing and defending our position and “disciplining” those who weren’t as ardent or committed to the model. We were never able to settle issues of leadership and organization. All of us somewhat fit the stereotypical psychic profile of Generation X. Most of us grew up in single parent households where we learned to distrust authority and take care of ourselves. Others of us were reacting to over-authoritarian religious upbringings. Consequently, we feared and avoided anything resembling order, planning, organization or directive leadership. It had to be spontaneous and organic. There could be no leadership beyond the collective consensus. This made it extremely difficult for us to make decisions or take action. Sometimes the people who need a sense of Christian community the most are least equipped for community. We weren’t prepared for the level of brokenness among the people in our church. Most of us wrestled with depression, addiction recovery, gender and sexuality issues, relational tensions, or some type of mental disorder – issues common to the population of San Francisco. Everyone made valiant efforts to seek God and love one another. But, as a group, we simply didn’t have the collective energy to function sustainably in a healthy way. In our immature or misguided efforts to love, we often hurt one another. Our church stayed together for more than two years. There were some beautiful
moments along the way: courageous acts of love and self-sacrifice, care for the poor and marginalized, generosity, people sharing living space, opportunities to witness and tender moments of affection. There were lots of memories: retreats, camping trips, hikes, long talks, hundreds of meals, etc. We did some things as a church that we hadn’t seen or done before. We tried and did the best we could with the insight and resources we had. One of the more painful disappointments was the unrealized dream of seeing our generation experience life with God. We sincerely thought that reforming the structure and functions of the church would unleash the power of the New Testament church. In retrospect, I believe our house church ambitions were a premature resolution to larger issues facing the people of God in the West. We live in a society that is increasingly secular, post-Christian and postmodern – dramatically different from the cultural ethos and social structures that allowed for the expansion and maintenance of a Christian movement in the modern era. This cultural shift has prompted many of us to deconstruct our modernist American conservative evangelicalism. The modernist version of life with God simply doesn’t work for us – in form or content. We thought that merely changing the form of the church would adequately address the challenges of an emerging postmodern era. But the deconstruction and eventual reconstruction must be more fundamental. I’m convinced that a proactive movement of faith will not come from this deconstructive phase or a superficial reconstruction. Nor will it come from a preoccupation with maintaining “spiritual” market shares through pragmatic repackaging and image management of old-time modernist Christianity. I did not avoid the temptation to use relationally-based multiplication models as a utilitarian alternative to failing church growth technologies. I wanted to be successful. We moved to San Francisco without adequate sensitivity to varying spiritual atmospheres. Our positive house church experiences in the Midwest, developed in a culture bathed in a JudeoChristian ethos, was not enough. As a pastor I had positional credibility, language and cultural fluency and a ready audience eager for what I had to offer. People were looking for the “Uber-Spiritual” experience of a house church. We were naïve to think that the same approach would be effective in a thoroughly postChristian environment with a population
generally hostile to Christian faith. In our quest for the recovery of transforming life, we hadn’t gone back far enough. We were still coming up with answers that only work for people still in the shadow of a modernist Christian culture. We went to the book of Acts for a prescriptive solution. But the events in the book of Acts were prompted by a compelling primal reality – Jesus. We needed to go back to the gospels and rediscover the goodness and beauty of the kingdom of God. Jesus is the place where reconstruction begins. One time a guy in a tattoo shop told me, “Jesus is cool. It’s just that the church has F%#$ed with Jesus. I think Christianity was at its best when it was secret, hidden and you could die for it.” Jesus came announcing “the Kingdom of God is at hand”. His good news was that the Creator is caring, present and now active, bringing all of life back into the Genesis vision. We have begun to embrace Jesus not only as Savior, but also teacher. Jesus makes the way to life and shows us how to live life in the kingdom of God. In our exuberance to see a faith movement happen in our generation, we confused the questions. We started by asking, “What form(s) should the church take in this emerging culture?” When we needed to be asking, “What does the life and teaching of Jesus mean in this time and place?” We made the church the kingdom instead of seeking the Kingdom as the people of God. For now our family is exploring a primal pursuit of Jesus and His Kingdom. We are acknowledging that we know a lot less than we thought we knew. We have a loose network of fellow postmodern pilgrim friends also working out life with God in San Francisco. Our gatherings are about practicing and imitating Jesus’ life in our neighborhoods: eating with the homeless, creating art, engaging in classic spiritual disciplines, practicing hospitality, etc. Our vision has changed from a house church movement to an indigenous Kingdom movement. A while back we developed the following identity statement: “We are a movement of people in San Francisco, who, believing that our city is loved by God, seek a way of life that reverberates with the goodness and beauty of the Kingdom of God.” Mark Scandrette lives with his family in the Mission District of San Francisco. He is cofounder of Re/Imagine!, an incubator for Kingdom Living in San Francisco. He can be reached at Scandrette@aol.com.
House2house - 25
We’ve Gone as Fa
It was night number four of our “Five Days at the Crossroads,” and the subject tonight was “Where are we as a church?” I began the message by quoting what some of today’s contemporary authors were saying about the state of our churches:
form to any New Testament pattern. We can verify this from our own personal observations as we’ve traveled, and there seems to be a sense of frustration covering much of the church, as many are saying, “where do we go from here?”.
GOD’S GENETIC CODE
Howard Eberle (The Complete Wineskin): “The Apostolic anointing has been replaced by superintendents, district representatives, overseers, bishops, and others with various titles. The prophetic voice has been replaced by doctrinal statements and other accepted forms of practice. Evangelists last for a time, but eventually, they too are eliminated. What remains then is the pastor, who usually becomes exalted to a position that no human being can fulfill.” From Tommy Tenney (The God Catchers): “Our churches around the world manifest a nauseating kind of ‘spectator Christianity’, reflected in our heightened appetites for entertainment over worship...For too long the church has trumpeted to the nations, He’s here! He’s here! When the reality has been that there’s not been enough of His Presence in our churches to make them discernibly different from the world.” And this from Graham Cooke (A Divine Confrontation): “Most of the ministry of our churches is spent on the local church itself, maintaining the organization and structure, and producing a dependency culture of introspective, powerless, genetically engineered believers who live from week to week and believe the Kingdom of God is focused totally on them and only occurs on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings...The essence of pure relationship and raw power between God and His people, has been replaced by a creeping institutionalism; form without power, style without substance, and a performance mentality that elevates men, not God, in the presence of the people.” And finally, this also from Graham Cooke: “We have gone as far as we can go in our present level of understanding about the work of the church, strategies for reaching the harvest, and the deployment of gifts and personnel. We have hit the ceiling of revelatory insight under our present church methods and cannot go further without a most radical change of heart.” Among these contemporary authors, there appears to be collective agreement that our model of church today doesn’t con-
We’ve Gone as Fa
26 - House2house
I spoke about the work of the German Researcher, Christian Schwarz, who has studied church growth, recently publishing an English translation of his book, “Natural Church Growth.” Scharwz says that he learned more about church growth from watching plants grow than he did from any research. His concept is based on the belief that the church is an organism, and that God’s principles for growth in the church should be similar to growth and health in other parts of creation. Schwarz defines natural church development as releasing the growth automatisms, by which God himself grows His church. Automatism is a transliteration of the Greek word automatos, from Mark 4:28, translated “as all by itself”. The seed grew all by itself without any help from the sower. The concept is that, in nature, given the right conditions, plants grow, with no apparent cause, other than what God has built into that plant. Schwarz believes that in churches, as well as plants, God has programmed into their genetic code the qualities that will make them healthy and allow them to grow. He calls this the “biotic principle,” and says that we as leaders should learn how to cooperate with this principle in order to have our churches grow according to God’s pattern, not man’s. He also poses the question, “How long did it take the New Testament house-church movement to fill Jerusalem with the teaching of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:28)?” Maybe 2-3 years, maybe even less. Quantity started with quality. What stands out in the Jerusalem experience is that the growth was like yeast or sour dough; it was infectious, like a virus spreading, transforming everything it touched with a dynamic power. It was as if Christianity had reached a critical mass, and became a selfpropelling chain reaction and could not be safely contained nor controlled any longer, except by God. Each believer was a particle of yeast, carrying a core genetic code he was able to deposit through every open door into any possible house, and transform each cell with its Kingdom-of-God-genetic-code into a part of the Kingdom of God. And that was the essence of the message tonight — that our church model of today, has somehow lost or modified its genetic code, and as such, doesn’t grow according to God’s principles. Jesus declared that “He would build His church,” and that “every plant that was not planted by His Father
would be pulled out by the roots.” The question that was posed tonight was — Is our model of church today really accomplishing the objectives of the Great Commission — not only to “go into all nations and make disciples,” but to teach them to observe the things that Jesus taught us...namely, “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, and cast out demons.” Are we really being a force in our communities and cities, or are we just a powerless laughingstock that politicians and government leaders pay little or no attention to? Are we transforming our culture or being absorbed by it? Are we as a church making known to the principalities and powers of darkness, the manifold wisdom of God? Or are we, as they used to say in southern Virginia where I grew up, “just whistling Dixie?” (a colloquialism which indicates the undertaken effort is meaningless). I even gave them “the church test,” from Jack Deer’s book,“Surprised by the Voice of the Spirit,” in which he recounted a prayer session with some other pastors, where, prompted by the Holy Spirit, they began to ask questions about their church. Namely, if their church were wiped off the map today, would their community notice any difference? How many people are getting saved? How many failed marriages are being restored? How many people are no longer standing in line for their Prozac because they’ve received restoring ministry through their church? How many missionaries would have to come home because their support would end? How many drug addicts are giving up their heroin and cocaine because they’re being delivered of these addictions by the ministry within their local church? Their sad conclusion was that if their little church was to be “wiped off the face of the map,” there was the distinct possibility that no one would miss them at all! From the looks on their faces, there seemed to be a collective understanding of what I was trying to bring. Certainly, many of us in our North American culture are coming to this same conclusion: that our present model of church isn’t cutting it. We come week after week, meeting with many other people whom we hardly even know, sing a few songs, have a few announcements, listen to a singleperson-focused, boring message from the “hired holy man,” maybe have some ministry time, and then we go home, absolutely unchanged by the experience. But even as I could see from their faces that they were receiving the essence of the message, the effort tonight was not meant to have them go out and hire a bulldozer and raze the structure to the ground, but more toward planting the seeds of hope and faith that God would show them what to do and how to do it, which led us into a time of ministry.
ar as We Can Go
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH
Earlier, during pre-meeting prayer, one of the intercessors had been given a Scripture — which I felt was our direction for ministry time. It was 2 Kings 2:19-22 — “...Now the people of the city said to Elisha, “The location of this city is good, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw the salt into it, and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have made this water wholesome; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke. I also felt that this was connected to the Scripture in Matthew 5:13 — “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” My sense was that God wanted to form a “new wineskin” (“bring me a new bowl.”) in the hearts of the leaders of this region, and that into this new wineskin the Lord was going to pour in His vision for what the church of this region should look like. It would be a vision that carried God’s genetic code, not man’s. And also that God was going to restore their “savor” so that their new vision and direction would bring forth wholesome water and heal the barrenness of their land. So in obedience to the heavenly vision, we called forth the pastors and leaders of the church, as well as other pastors and leaders from other churches, for prayer. I prayed that God would form new paradigms in their hearts, that He would give them a collective, unified, harmonious vision for their city and their region, and that their hearts and minds would be in one accord. I also prayed that God would show them where their present model of church wasn’t effective, that they would know what to change, what not to change, and when to do it. And then we moved to lay hands on all of them. It was powerful — as we prayed, we savored the apostolic flavor of this moment, as God seemed to re-tool the concept of church into each of them. Although there were many different reactions, all of them were obviously receiving major touches of His Power. We prayed for
by Bill Cassada
unity, for harmony, for unified vision, for clarity and for discernment. Afterwards we offered prayer to those who were remaining, who wanted to be in harmony and accord with the leadership vision for this region. Nearly everyone came, and God continued to pour out on all of them. When we had finally prayed for everyone, the front of the church looked like the typical “war-zone following ministry time”, as people lay all over the floor, quietly absorbing the work of the Holy Spirit. For nearly an hour following, everyone just sat around, many of them looking dazed, and very much impacted by what God was doing. In contrast to the jubilant atmosphere of the previous evening’s ministry time, tonight there seemed to be a “spirit of peace” that seemed to settle over the people. They all just sat around, talking quietly, ministering to each other, soaking up the presence of God. Nobody wanted to leave. Tonight it was as if God had touched all of them in that deep “spirit and soul, bone and marrow” place. Their faces had that look that said deep had spoken to deep. “Not by might, nor by power,” says the Lord, “but by my Spirit!”
Heard the one about the talented team of Aussie web developers and the great sites they’re building for half what we pay in the States?
You haven’t?! Well, it’s a great story. See, thanks to loads of Aussie web talent and a really great exchange rate, the guys down at Cameron Creative in Melbourne are churning out top quality web sites— with all that e-commerce stuff like storefronts and content management—for around half the price we have to pay here in the States. And it doesn’t just mean more for the money, either. These guys are serious about Jesus too... they’re using their talents and resources to provide cheap or free development and hosting to ministries that can’t afford to pay commercial rates. So if you need a change from the “same old same old,” email Alister Cameron (the boss) at email@example.com and be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to do business with people on the other side of the planet!
ar as We Can Go
House2house - 27
Practical Issues of Home Church Life
In 1992, I left a 1000 + member traditional church. I was functioning as part of an eldership team. Including the Christian School, we had a million-dollar-a-year budget. The church was impacting lives in positive ways for the kingdom of God. A family we knew had a financial need around Christmas time but was unable to get help from the church because “things were tight.” We had large facilities, building upkeep, a large staff – in short a lot of overhead. I said to myself, there is something wrong with this picture. Around that time, I also made the mistake of asking God, “what is the church?” My adventure began. In reading the book of Acts, I came across Acts 4:34, “there were no needy persons among them.” I started coming across scriptures like 1 Corinthians 16:19, “The church that meets in Aquila and Priscilla’s HOUSE greets you.” Today we have a network of house churches in Central Texas where 80% of all tithes and offerings go to missions (local and abroad) and benevolence. We meet weekly in homes and have a joint meeting once a month. Our leaders are bi-vocational in an effort to model a new type of leader. The scriptures clearly state that a minister of the gospel is entitled to be paid. 1Timothy 5:17a says, “the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor.” Our leaders are committed to a model that is bi-vocational. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 has the apostle Paul saying, “for you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this not because we do not have a right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a MODEL for you to follow.” Again, Paul says in Acts 20:34, “you yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.” Remarkably, the book of Acts ends with Paul ministering for two years “In his own rented house.” Also, read 1 Corinthians 9 as Paul declares he had a right to be supported but did not use this right in preaching the gospel free of charge. Jesus tells us to “let our light so shine that they may see your works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Our network of house churches has incorporated and has its 501-C3 tax-exempt status. Currently, the network of churches in our area has a It just makes cents.
The of HouseJust Makes Cents Church It
part-time secretary ($350/month). We have a finance team that oversees the finances and the distribution of benevolence. We currently support ten local ministries on a monthly basis. Some include the Food Care Center, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, etc. We have helped plant over 150 churches in India since 1992. We also help church members and others with financial needs. Could you imagine a church of 1000 people meeting in a network of 50-80 homes, with a million-dollars-a-year budget? Could you imagine $800,000 a year impacting a small community like that one I live in? Imagine 1000 people meeting in 50-80 homes, with a leadership team made up of tentmakers (bivocational) with the majority of finances used to help people.
Authors Jim and Cathy Mellon founded the Association of Home Churches in 1992. Jim is a Church Planter and businessman. Cathy is the director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center. They are both active in the House Church Movement. They have 6 children and 3 grandchildren. They can be contacted at 254-690-5856 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
28 - House2house
The following is a true incident that has just come to our attention: Thank you for writing and inquiring about using our story in your magazine. I’m honored and humbled that you feel this situation could help others. I waited before I responded because I wanted to mull it over in prayer and to consult with my father. Both of us feel good about the process we followed and the result being used to help others. I would only ask that, as you said, you change the identifying details (names, location, etc) and you allow me to check the story after you’ve written it for accuracy. Sincerely, (Name witheld)
Correction A Practical Application of Matthew 18
going through this again. I assured him that he had a Biblical right to divorce my cousin and that I would support him in whatever choice he made. The past week has been a week of MANY hours of counseling with him and all the people involved. The man involved in the affair was previously one of our associate pastors. His initial reaction was not good, but he also broke, confessed, and repented. He told his wife, who forgave him. The next day, last Sunday, he and his wife spent a considerable amount of time at the altar. The church was aware of “something” going on, but not sure what. My reasons for taking it to the church were two-fold. Normally, the Matthew 18 principle of confrontation does not require a repentant brother’s sins to be told to the church. However, I Tim. 5 speaks of an elder’s ongoing sin being told to the church so that all may fear. My cousin taught a Sunday school class. I’ve already mentioned the leadership roles of the man involved. With my cousin and her husband separated, with his family in the church, with the church witnessing the other man’s family and time at the altar, it was only a little while until the rumors would be rampant. So, to stop that process, I chose to bring it to the whole church. We have a regular Wednesday night service, and I elected to bring it to that service. After a couple of worship songs, I presented the Matthew 18 process to the congregation without naming names. Everyone involved in the process was in attendance. Both the man involved and my cousin confessed to the church and asked for forgiveness. Neither the man’s wife nor my cousin’s husband responded (initially), although I gave them opportunity to do so. I shared with the church that the other man and his wife were working on reconciliation. I then shared that because this was not the first time my cousin has sinned against her husband in this way, he didn’t know if reconciliation would be possible. He knew he had to forgive her, but he didn’t know if he could trust her again. I asked the church to not put any pressure on him to do anything and reiterated my support of whatever choice he made. I then called for public repentance and for appropriate responses from the congregation. When I opened the service up for comments, just about everyone spoke
WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE LETTER THAT WAS ORIGINALLY SENT OUT TO THOSE PRAYING FOR THIS SITUATION
Hello everyone, Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement during the past week and a half. I assure you I have felt the power of your prayers. It’s been absolutely incredible to watch God work. I’ll do my best to update you all. I confronted my cousin according to Matthew 18. She confessed and repented. Unfortunately, this is not the first time in her marriage that she has had an affair, and she was afraid this would end the marriage. However, in response to my coming in the Biblical pattern, she was convinced to try to do things right. Her husband was out of town when I confronted her, and when he returned his immediate reaction was to tell her to leave, that he wasn’t
House2house - 29
over the next 2 hours. Some of the things that were said were greatly used by the Lord later in the process. Toward the end of the share time my cousin’s husband slowly made his way to the front. He told the church that he was so freshly wounded that he was not able to forgive. But he told the church that they had to forgive. And that they shouldn’t not forgive because of him or think that he would think they were taking sides. He said they needed healing and forgiveness. (I was blown away.) So many good things were shared that it was hard to draw it to a close. At the very end, as most of the people had left, I turned the corner back into the sanctuary and saw my cousin and her husband hugging and weeping in each other’s arms. Somehow they had hugged and she was weeping and telling him how sorry she was. And he told her he needed time, but that they needed to talk. (Later he told me that up until that night, reconciliation was out the window for him, but something someone said pierced his heart and told him there was hope.) They met the next day for three hours, which was tough on both of them but very good. He called me after she left and asked me to come over. During that conversation he told me that he was giving reconciliation some very serious thought. He was scared of being hurt again, but had sensed hope in the service the night before. I prayed with him and agreed to support whatever decision he made and to be a part of whatever healing process came out of that decision. During the service on Sunday morning he could barely hold his head up. It was obvious he was battling something, and I assumed it was the issue at large. I found out later it was something else. He wept through the worship and at the end of the teaching was the first one at the altar for some serious time with the Lord. At the end of the service I continued playing the piano and worshipping the Lord as people fellowshipped and left. And then I saw it happen – my cousin’s husband went to the other man and told him “I know I have to forgive you. If I don’t do that, I can’t go on with the Lord and the healing He wants to do in my life.” They fell into each other’s arms and sobbed like babies for a long time. (They had been best friends up until this incident.) We were all in awe of what God was doing. The next day my cousin and her husband met to continue their discussions. I had told them that if at any time they wanted me to be a part, I would be happy to. So I wasn’t surprised to receive his phone call asking if they could come talk with me. We met at my house, and my wife and I listened as they each shared their hearts. They were both broken but wanting to work on reconciliation. They had come clean with each other about EVERYTHING and recognized the parts they played in not meeting each other’s needs. They were committed to working this out God’s way and having the marriage God intended for them to have. I asked them to remain apart for a season of healing and courtship. I asked them to remain sexually pure during this season. I also gave them some resources to work through. I suggested that as this process continues that they have a public renewing of their vows, once they were ready to take the next step. They have agreed to all the things I requested and are excited about working through this process of healing. I believe through this courtship, counseling and their resources they will fall in love again. They are also going to deal with some issues they’ve never dealt with before and the marriage will be stronger than it ever was. I want to thank each of you for your prayers and support during this time. I’ve never seen this done in the local church. There’s no manual for what we’re going through ... I don’t mean the Scripture, because that’s our guide, but there’s not a manual that says, “Now do this, now do that.” So I am thankful to you for your prayers and the wisdom that has been shared with me. And I thank God for using me in this. I don’t know why He didn’t choose some spiritual giant who has an incredible intercessory life and preaches non-boring sermons! Instead He chose me! Maybe God’s not looking for those who have it down pat, but those who are willing to try to do it His way. And God’s work done God’s way always gets God’s results. P One month later both couples are .S. progressing very well in the healing of their marriages. The relationship between the men is strained, but improving. The relationship between the women is cordial and even friendly. While this process has been very difficult, it has also born fruit, and I believe we will see complete healing in the lives of these individuals, as well as a testimony that will bless the church.
If God, as we believe, is truly revealed in the life of Christ, the most important thing to Him is the creation of centers of loving fellowship, which in turn infect the world. ~ Elton Trueblood
30 - House2house
1. Church is a Way of Life, not a series of religious meetings 2. Time to change the system 3. The Third Reformation 4. From Church-Houses to HouseChurches 5. The church has to become small in order to grow big 6. No church is led by a pastor alone 7. The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way 8. God does not leave the Church in the hands of bureaucratic clergy 9. Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity 10. From worshipping our worship to worshipping God 11. Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing the church to the people 12. Rediscovering the “Lord’s Supper” to be a real supper with real food 13. From denominations to city-wide celebrations 14. Developing a persecution-proof spirit 15. The Church comes home
also found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places: they are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and ”independent” churches, accountable to no one. As it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new – and at the same time, age-old – forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual ”ministers” can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return back to the Maker’s original and blueprint for the Church. the most dubious of all administrative systems, because it basically asks only two questions: yes or no? There is no room for spontaneity and humanity, no room for real life. This may be OK for politics and companies, but not the Church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His Church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits, into the public domain, the hands of ordinary people made extraordinary by God, who, like in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume and revolution.
15aTheses (PartsChurch 7 to 9) Towards Re-Incarnation of
9. RETURN FROM ORGANIZED TO ORGANIC FORMS OF CHRISTIANITY
The ”Body of Christ” is a vivid description of an organic, not an organized, being. Church consists, on its local level, of a multitude of spiritual families which are organically related to each other as a network, where the way the pieces are functioning together is an integral part of the message of the whole. What has become a maximum of organization with a minimum of organism, has to be changed into a minimum of organization to allow a maximum of organism. Too much organization has, like a straightjacket, often choked the organism for fear that something might go wrong. Fear is the opposite of faith, and not exactly a Christian virtue. Fear wants to control, faith can trust. Control, therefore, may be good, but trust is better. The Body of Christ is entrusted by God into the hands of steward-minded people with a supernatural charismatic gift to believe God, that He is still in control, even if they are not. A development of trust-related regional and national networks, not a new arrangement of political ecumenism, is necessary for organic forms of Christianity to reemerge.
8. GOD DOES NOT LEAVE THE CHURCH IN THE HANDS OF
No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional ”holy man” doing the business of communicating with God, and then feeding some relatively passive religious consumers Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament. The unbiblical, heavy professionalization of the church since Constantine has now been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into laity and clergy. According to the New Testament (1 Tim. 2:5), ”there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in between people and God forever. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way. To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is
7. THE RIGHT PIECES – FITTED TOGETHER IN THE WRONG WAY
In doing a puzzle, we need to have the right original for the pieces, otherwise the final product, the whole picture, turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make much sense. This has happened to large parts of the Christian world: we have all the right pieces, but have fitted them together wrong, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy and a power-and-control mentality. As water is found in three forms—ice, water and steam—the five ministries mentioned in Eph. 4:11-12, the Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists are
House2house - 31
Great things happen when you obey God...
I had never been outside my own country before – much less ventured alone to ‘the Dark Continent’... and yet the conviction was undeniable – and wouldn’t go away! God has His own ways of persuading you (and your family) when you have doubts about His leading. By 1995 God had been speaking to me about Africa for a number of years, but my wife Roslyn was still unconvinced when I finally said to her, “Honey, I think God wants me to go to Africa...” I wasn’t a missionary! Even though I had done some Bible College, I hadn’t studied missiology or cultural anthropology and I had no links with any established mission organisations. I was inexperienced, untravelled, unprepared (or so I thought) - not to mention financially challenged (broke). You can imagine our reaction when a couple of days later we received a letter from a young lady telling us the story of how she’d been reading an article that I’d written in a magazine and God showed her a vision of me ministering among black people in Africa! This was about the first external confirmation that we had that God was actually leading us and that I wasn’t just going crazy. But what should we do now? Which part of Africa should I go to? Who should I meet? What would I do? With all these unanswered questions there was nothing I could do but continue to pray. Sometimes God takes His time – then suddenly everything
by Allan Weatherall
happens at once. We received another letter – this time from Africa! Francis Makoha was browsing through a second-hand bookstore in Kampala and found a Christian magazine all the way from Australia! It’s still a mystery how a magazine from Australia found its way into a bookstore in Kampala – but God has His ways! In it was a small article that I’d written, and Francis felt the Lord was telling him to contact me – and the Lord gave him no peace until he had written the letter and posted it. That was the beginning of our correspondence back and forth, and when I shared with him my sense of call to Africa, Francis responded with the challenge: “Please come to Africa – our church is fasting and praying that you’ll come!” I felt that this was the door that God was opening – to refuse would have been just plain disobedient! Roslyn and I asked some friends to pray – and then two significant things happened: People began to give us money (without us asking!), and convictions began to formulate in my heart about the state of the Church in Africa – God was giving me His prophetic perspective. I set foot on African soil in March 1996 and was led on a whirlwind tour around Uganda where I was called upon to preach more times than I ever preached before. It appears that God’s strength came to perfection in
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him? ~ James 2:5
32 - House2house
my weakness, because He did some wonderful things. Many churches received a message on understanding the New Covenant model for Christian ministry and community (ie: house church – or the culturally adjusted equivalent: under-a-tree church!). By the amazing grace of God all this was attested to by signs and wonders – conversions, healings, and a remarkable incident where a lady heard me speak to her in her own language whilst I was praying in tongues! People came to the meetings because God told them in dreams to go and hear the white preacher. It was an exciting time! I’ve now been to Africa four times a veteran compared to that first trip – but perhaps the most amazing thing to come from the these trips is the partnership that has been formed by believers here in Australia and around the world with our needy brothers and sisters in Africa in the form of Friends of Uganda Worldwide. Uganda, like many African countries, is being decimated by AIDS –
the consequence of which is that there are now too many orphans to be effectively accommodated through institutional care alone. FOUWW identifies the most needy Christian families who are willing to care for additional children, and then supplies them with what they need to start a business, which then provides income for the whole family. Through assisting these families that have responded to the needs of orphans, we are helping them become self sufficient as they care for these children. In doing so we try to avoid cultivating aid dependency. Friends of Uganda owns no assets and employs no staff. All workers are volunteers. In the last five years we have been able to distribute approximately US$20,000, starting 80 family business ventures, caring for 272 orphans – as well as 214 other children in their host families. All this has been done with a small number of committed givers who have chosen to indirectly share the burden of care for these kids through this project.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SUPPORT THIS WORK?
In America tax-deductible donations can be made to Friends of Uganda Worldwide through Bibles for All, 33 Skyline Drive, Cartersville GA 30120 Phone/fax + 1 770-387-4330 or alternatively in Australia: Friends of Uganda Worldwide, PO Box 700, Belgrave, Vic. 3160 Australia, or on-line at: www.fouww.org Short term mission trips to Uganda are also conducted about once a year, and are open to anyone who has the endorsement of their fellowship and a genuine desire to serve the Lord in Africa. For more information on a short-term mission trip to Uganda, please contact: Allan Weatherall email@example.com Allan Weatherall is a freelance Graphic Designer and church planter and lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife, Roslyn, and their 4 children Elyce (14), Justine (11) (See Postcards from the Edge - page 23), Joshua (8) and Jonathan (6). They have been involved in house churches since 1989.
Work From Home! Rapidly expanding Christian company, working in the health ﬁeld, seeking motivated individuals to work from home on a part time basis. Income directly related to performance
Pre-Paid Medical Advocacy
by The Karis Group, Ltd.
TOLL FREE 1-866-BILL-HELP
House2house - 33
Missionaries have unearthed a scriptural approach to evangelism that’s often been ignored: find a “man of peace.” When Jesus sent out the 70 to preach the good news, He commanded, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house,’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him... Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you... Do not move around from house to house... Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you’” (Luke 10:5-9, NIV). got better. He soon became a man of peace, opening his heart — and the whole village — to the gospel.
ofErich Bridges Peace by
many places. One people group’s region in India was long known as a “graveyard for missions” — and the literal grave of at least six Christian martyrs in recent years. Instead of giving up, a mission team trained workers to quietly enter villages, pray and seek men of peace. If they didn’t find one, they were to leave the village. If they did, they were to build relationships and share Christ with that person’s natural network of family and friends. Hundreds of churches have been planted among the people in the years since.
WHO IS A MAN (OR WOMAN) OF PEACE?
You can identify him or her by three R’s, according to Thom Wolf, a leading proponent of the concept who teaches at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The person of peace (1) is Receptive to the gospel; (2) possesses a Reputation to gain attention for the message among family and community; and (3) effectively Refers the bearers of good news to that larger group. The Roman centurion Cornelius was such a person, “a righteous and God-fearing man ... respected by all the Jewish people” (Acts 10:22 NIV). Encouraged by a divine vision, he invited Peter into his home, warmly welcomed him and called together his family and friends to hear the apostle’s words. Result: Cornelius, his family and many others believed and were baptized. Wolf contends Cornelius’ “sphere of influence” — his “oikos,” as the Greek New Testament calls it — was the normal focus for the first evangelists. Michael Green, author of “Evangelism in the Early Church,” agrees that the oikos, “consisting of blood relations, slaves, clients and friends, was one of the bastions of GraecoRoman society. Christian missionaries made a deliberate point of gaining whatever households they could as lighthouses ...from which the Gospel could illuminate the surrounding darkness.” Today, such lighthouses shine in
JESUS’ ADVICE REDISCOVERED
A Southern Baptist missionary in Asia discovered the power of that advice when he entered a potentially hostile unreached village with a coworker: “We prayed, ‘God, we know you’re at work here or we wouldn’t be here. We need a man of peace who will take care of us until we can feel our way around this village and know if it’s safe or unsafe.’ “I started my stopwatch. We walked into the center of the village where the well was. A person approached me out of nowhere and said, ‘Have you eaten?’ We said, ‘Not yet.’ He said, ‘Well, come to my home.’ His name was ‘Li,’ and he was the person of peace we wanted. This took three minutes, 21 seconds.” Li fed them, then properly introduced them to the village’s hard-faced leader — who might otherwise have had the strangers killed. Li told the village head, who was ill, that the newcomers’ God “is a great God, and they will pray for you.” They prayed; the leader
MEN OF GOODWILL
Not every “friend of the gospel” becomes a believer, however. Wolf also identifies “men of goodwill.” A man of peace is prepared to receive the gospel and follow Christ as Lord. In contrast, a man of goodwill “does not now and may not ever receive Christ”. Example: Chief Some Emmanuel, an important leader of the Dagaari people in Africa, invited Southern Baptist missionary Lynn Kennedy into the 20 villages under his influence to share the gospel. He hasn’t made a personal commitment to Christ yet, but he gathers his people to listen to one who “speaks the truth”. “Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; For the man of peace will have a posterity,” promises Psalm 37:37 (NASB). That posterity may include the salvation of many peoples. Taken from the International Mission Board News of the Southern Baptist Convention
34 - House2house
by Richard Oostra
Keys to a Healthy Small Group
Jesus has called us to go into the world and make disciples – not just in name, but in a degree of commitment we seldom see. After thirty years’ experience leading small groups, I believe the best way of discipling others is to follow the model Jesus Himself used – working with people in small groups. However, simply pulling people together in a small group is not enough. The atmosphere, the leadership, the different components – all must be carefully planned and executed to equip and empower people. The most important key is the central presence of Jesus Christ. The centrality of Christ brings in the supernatural dimension of an encounter with God. A small group is a re-enactment of the first small group of Jesus and His disciples. Better even, because He is not only with us, but also in us, and therefore present to others through us. The ultimate purpose of a small group is to see Jesus Christ in each of the participants. Another key is the development of “ownership” of the group by the participants. This can be done in various ways: a facilitative leadership style, participation in decision making, encouraging people to exercise their gifts, letting different people organize group events, and giving participants responsibility to prepare part of the meeting time. Remember, Christ is in each believer. Differentiation from the “organizational” part of the church is also important. The small group is not there to serve the church structure. The small group itself is primary and the rest of the church (discipleship, worship, and teaching time, etc.) is supplemental. So do not focus on other parts of the church during small group time. “Church talk” often prevents Christcenteredness and genuine community. Also, non-Christians and new Christians must develop a living, growing relationship with Christ and fellow Christians, and not feel that their primary identification is with the church organization. A small group will become stagnant if the same people continue to meet for more than a year without adding new members. The ideal is to multiply from one to two groups every year or so. This prevents in-growing and cliquishness. A small group is flowing water rather than a stagnant pool. Another principle closely related here is that small groups should never be closed communities. Outsiders, including non-Christians, must be welcome. And the small group needs to encourage involvement with the larger Christian community to develop a sense of belonging to God’s people in general. It is only when we allow the Holy Spirit to make us loving, caring servants to each other that small groups really begin to work, and we are all enriched. In our secular world, climbing the ladder is important: but greatness in Christ’s Kingdom begins with a descending ladder, becoming the least and a servant to all.
The Welsh Revival – an Example of an Open Meeting
The famous English preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, visited the Welsh Revival and then, upon returning home, preached on what he had seen. Here are excerpts from his sermon delivered in Westminster Chapel on December 25, 1904: ”We made our way through the open door to the first meeting, and the chapel was crowded from floor to ceiling with a great mass of people…There was singing, praying, personal testimony, but no preaching…It was a meeting characterized by a perpetual series of interruptions and disorderliness. Yet it was a meeting characterized by a great continuity and absolute order. How do you reconcile these things? I do not. “If you put a man in the midst of one of these meetings who knows nothing of the language of the Spirit, he will either leave saying, ‘these men are drunk,’ or he will be swept by the fire into the kingdom of God…I am speaking with diffidence, for I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. “While one man is praying, he is disturbed by the bursting forth of another in song; there is no sense of disorder, and the prayer of the first man merges into the song of the next man, then back into testimony by another, back again into song, for hour after hour, without guidance. “I can tell you that I stood for three solid hours (in this congregation of coal miners) wedged so that I could not lift my hands at all…All the while no human leader, no preaching. Yet the Revival is a Revival of preaching; everybody is preaching. (The editor of the London Times made a similar comment, ‘There was no choir there. It was all choir!’) No order, yet it moves from day to day, week to week, county to county with matchless precision, with the order of an attacking force!”
Keys for Small Group Members
1. Pray daily for each of your small group members and for your shepherd and intern. 2. Come prepared. Spend a brief time before you come, jotting down answers to prayer, requests, ideas you want to mention, things God has taught you or given you to share. 3. Be faithful. Try to be there on time for each meeting. If your absence is unavoidable, call to let someone know why you are absent and what you need to share. 4. Look for ways you can encourage the other members of your group. Be positive, not negative. 5. Respect the one who leads. Help out with your questions, comments, and smile. Your love and participation can make or break the group. 6. Share your insights and thoughts. Don’t be afraid to feel different. Your frankness and candid opinions can be very helpful to others. 7. Listen. Do not attempt to take over the meeting by talking too much. Invite others to participate by simply asking them about their feelings and views. 8. Seek to practice each week the spiritual concepts you have learned. Share these discoveries with the members of your group. It is the Biblical truth you discover and practice that will inspire and bless the others in the group. 9. Let honesty with love be your attitude to all members of your group. Everyone should feel free to express doubts and questions without feeling out of line or rejected. 10. Look upon your group as your spiritual family. Respect your authorities, help those who have needs, and keep an atmosphere of confidence and trust as you get to know each other.
House2house - 35
The House Church and Outreach
What are the positive aspects of a house church?
a. They dare to be different…but can easily become self-satisfied. b. They have low overhead…but can easily become slothful in giving. c. They have broken with conformity…but can easily fade away. no longer bound by a prescribed missionary method, we can now use today’s technology, and we will be able to reach thousands of people upon a daily basis. Every group or individual in order to be used by the Lord should always ask, “How can we be most useful for our Lord?” The Bible gives us three areas of responsibility as believers: first, the caring for each other in spiritual growth, second, to encourage each other to be witnesses, and third, the involvement in globally reaching the rest of the world.
by Richard Oostra
packages and is now diligently praying for those Chinese believers. The ministry I have been referring to in particular is a para-church group called, “Trans World Radio.” They are a 47-year old radio missionary group that is broadcasting presently in 166 languages all over the world. Their astonishing growth has made a global impact that gave them last year a response of 1.5 million listener letters from some of the remotest regions of the world and throughout China. Trans World Radio is now broadcasting 200 hours per week into China and catering to an estimated 50,000 house churches. These radio broadcasts are often their only Bible, pastor, educator, and means of Christian fellowship and encouragement. In order to reach and encourage our persecuted brethren, as well as the yet to be reached people groups that have never heard the Christian message, they are open to your participation. Contact information: Richard Oostra 13452 NE 148th Street Woodinville, WA 98072 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.twr.org
Caring for Each Other
Edifying one another is the purpose of home gatherings. We glorify our Lord by seeking meaningful relationships and ways to build each other up. We do this by proclaiming His Word, openness in sharing needs and through prayer, lifting each other up before the Lord.
Missionary methods available to us today along with your small donation can make an enormous global impact for God’s kingdom. One dollar invested, for example, in missionary radio time can reach as many as ten people daily for a whole year. This means that for each dollar given, 3,650 people will have been exposed to Christ’s message. It does not stop here. By using missionary radio, the messages in their own tongue are recorded and multiplied, nationals are mobilized as they carry these messages to others, persecuted believers without a pastor or Bibles are strengthened, daily messages help towards spiritual growth and maturity, many unreached people groups are now being reached for the first time, and the nearing of the completion of the Great Commission is now becoming a reality.
In contrast to the cooperative church, we do not seek to attract people with magnificent programs or performances, but through our personal witness and lifestyle. Our assembling from week to week must strengthen us toward personally influencing others for our Lord.
A Unique Opportunity
In countries like India and China, where believers are under persecution, there is presently an enormous spiritual harvest. In many communities, however, hundreds are turning to the Lord. With no pastors and often no Bibles, these seekers are gathering around the radio. At present, there is a campaign going on to distribute throughout the country 10,000 kits: containing one short-wave radio, a supply of Bibles, radio schedules, and study guides. One of these packages is placed with one believer per village. The cost of these packages is $75.00, and many of these within two years will have produced a house church. Our small group has already placed fifty of these
Instead of being an insignificant part of some traditional missionary method, in our house churches we should seek to be different. Giving is investing, and we must therefore put our money where it will do the most. By supporting an individual missionary, we may reach a few thousand people in a lifetime. But since we are
(Editor’s comments - We urge house churches to support this ministry and/or other worthy ministries. A major bonus to the house church movement is that it frees up the Lord’s money to be used to minister to a hurting and lost world and to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters in countries where they are persecuted for their faith.)
36 - House2house
by Felicity Dale
“You will be part of a move of My Spirit for a second time.” I was standing gazing out of the window at the beautiful English countryside. Tony and I were back visiting for the first time in several years, and I was asking the Lord (yet again) why He would move us from a place of great blessing in England to the US, where everything spiritually for us seemed so dry! Back in the 70s and 80s in England, we had been involved in a move of the Holy Spirit. Spontaneously, all over the country, churches had started, in homes, in offices and hospitals, with people gathering together using the New Testament as their textbook for church. Over the years these “new” churches had grown so that now they comprise around one third of British evangelical Christianity and with an influence that far exceeds that. And now God was saying that we would have the privilege and opportunity of being a part of a move of the Holy Spirit again a second time. What would this be? Could I have heard Him right? Did we dare to believe we would see revival again? Now, a couple of years later, almost
daily it seems, we are hearing of churches starting. Existing ones are linking together in networks. God is indeed on the move! We are right at the foundational stages of something that will go far beyond what most of us have thought or dreamed. In biology, it is DNA that passes on the hereditary information from one cell to another and determines the characteristics of any particular organism. Identical DNA is passed on to every cell in the body, even though not every cell looks the same or has the same function. What are the hallmarks that God wants to characterize by this present move of the Holy Spirit? What do the Scriptures say? What should our DNA be? As I have thought and prayed around this, there are several principles that I find coming to the fore. What I am trying to cover in this article are those values that will determine whether this is just a house church movement where groups of Christians meet together patterned after a New Testament model – or, valuable as that may be, can we see a house church planting movement where Christians “go into all the
world” making disciples and starting churches in homes or businesses, and seeing many enter the Kingdom. The principles that we build upon will determine the difference! The following are in no particular order of priority, but they do represent some of the principles that we are trying to follow.
In 1983, we had the privilege of visiting Full Gospel Central Church (with 350,000 members at that time) in Seoul, Korea. I remember thinking before we went that a church of that size had to be superficial. The night we arrived, the temperature was several degrees below freezing, and since the room where we were staying was unheated, we decided to go early to the all-night prayer meeting in the hopes of getting warm. Arriving at least an hour before the scheduled time, we found the place (which seated 10,000) packed out – women with babies on their backs, children sleeping on the floor, old people, young people, all worshipping. We did not understand a word of what was going on, but when the meeting started, everyone began to
House2house - 37
pray loudly in unison. They stood, hands raised, some with fists clenched, tears running down their cheeks. It was profoundly moving. After a while I looked at my watch. Forty minutes later, someone rang a bell and the praying stopped. Then another topic was announced and off they went again. And so it went on all night. I felt humbled, that I was only in kindergarten as far as prayer was concerned. And that was the pattern for the next few days. We met several people who had fasted for 40 days, and many who had seen amazing miracles in response to prayer. At the end of our time there I was convinced that we had been seeing a mighty and deep move of the Holy Spirit in response to the fervent prayers of His saints. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” There is a great need for intercessors to under gird and sustain this present move of God. I believe this move has been birthed in prayer, (e.g. by the current prayer movement), but if it is not nurtured on our knees it could rapidly go off course or just fizzle into nothing. We need to spend much time on our faces before the Lord. We cannot expect a move of God cheaply –let’s be a people who will pray the price. I find that there is one particular prayer that I am praying with increasing frequency and urgency, and that is in response to Jesus’ command in Matthew 9:38 to “pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers into the harvest.” For thousands of churches to be started, we need thousands of those who will be out in the harvest fields reaping.
to start a church in a certain apartment complex. So a group of us started praying for that complex and prayer walking it until one day we met our “person of peace.” (See Luke 10:1-10) Now, a few months later, that lady has become a Christian, her life has radically changed, and six or so of her extended family have also found the Lord. Let’s expect God to do something big, worthy of a supernatural God! Why shouldn’t there be a church (or several!) in every neighborhood, retirement home, school, office block, hospital and factory in our city.
3. COMMITMENT TO
EVANGELISM AND GROWTH. In this country, we in the house churches have a reputation, sadly well earned, of being insular and inward looking. We focus on certain aspects of the Christian life, emphasizing, for example, home schooling, or close fellowship - all good and necessary - while other things tend to get forgotten. We pay lip service to the great commission and pray halfheartedly for the conversion of our neighbors. Yet most of us have no meaningful relationships with nonChristians. When we were out in India last year we were put to shame by a group of teenage girls who spend their weekends out in the villages evangelizing and planting churches.
Until we provided them with bicycles, they would walk many miles from village to village and would sometimes get thrown out of a village for their work. And I find excuses for not speaking to someone in a grocery line! After Stephen’s death, Acts 8 tells us that a great persecution arose against the church and they were all scattered. Verse 4 states, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” If we want to be part of a rapidly growing, church-planting movement, then we need to be willing to have our lives affected and inconvenienced by a passion to see the lost find Christ. Without aggressive and purposeful evangelism, we are unlikely to see the magnitude of growth for which we long.
4. INTENTIONAL AND
STRATEGIC CHURCH PLANTING. One of the things that David Garrison stresses in his book, “Church Planting Movements” (see Issue 2 of House2House) is that in all the Church Planting Movements he investigated, churches planting churches was an actively planned strategy. “Lord, where do You want our next church to be?” For an answer to that question, let’s get a group to go and prayer-walk the area. Let’s look for the “person of peace” and spend time with them, or let’s send out some evangelists to work there. Part of what each house church should be praying and planning around, right from its inception, is where it should be planting the next church.
2. FOLLOWING THE HOLY SPIRIT
Experiencing God, a Bible study produced by Henry Blackaby and Claude V. King, encourages us to look and see what God is doing and then join Him in it. We need to learn to recognize the hand of God at work. One of our recent church plants occurred because in a prayer time, the Lord told me to walk a street here in South Austin. When I did so, the Lord clearly spoke and said we were
5. REPRODUCIBLE MODELS
In chemistry there is a concept that the speed of any chemical process is determined by a “rate-limiting step.” This is the slowest part of the reaction. In this context, “the rate limiting step” would be those things that hinder the rapid duplication of churches, or will in any way limit their rate of growth. There are a number of things that prevent a church being quickly duplicable. Baptist statistics demon-
38 - House2house
strate that it takes them $320,000 to start a traditional church. As house churches, we have already dealt with the primary financial hurdles in that we use homes rather than special buildings, and we would not normally expect or need paid leadership. However, we do have other more subtle hindrances. For example, how often do we delay starting a church or “multiplying” one that is getting too big because we have no one to teach or lead, or no musician available? If we found a way of getting past these issues we could start churches more rapidly. Here in Austin we are simplifying our meetings so that even young believers can take a lead. We are basing our times together on Acts 2 where “they met together for the apostles’ teaching, for fellowship, for breaking of bread and prayers.” We come together for a simple potluck meal (which means no one has to go to a lot of effort, although it has led to some interesting menus!). We share what is going on in our lives. We read aloud a chapter of Scripture, stopping for discussion whenever anyone has a question or comment. And we pray for one another. “What! No worship?” Not in every group! Some home churches will have musicians and so worship will flow naturally, while in others they may sing a cappella. Some churches may rarely have singing. Now, when we have our larger meetings, when the churches come together to celebrate, that is a different matter! However, in this way the simpler meetings, we have found, can be facilitated by anyone. So how do we pass on DNA? How are these principles to be imparted so that they become the very fabric of what we are about? There are a number of ways that we can help to facilitate this. Pray it into Being. If we are not strong in some of these areas, then let’s pray until we see them happen. God does remarkable things in response to the fervent prayers of His people. Live it. Paul could say in I Thessalonians 1
that they were to be imitators of him as he was of Christ. We have no right to be expecting anything of others that we ourselves are not living out. Talk/Teach it If we treat it as normal and nothing out of the ordinary that new churches are started in people’s homes, places of work and any other location that the Lord leads, then I suspect that many more people would take their courage in their hands. Let’s have the expectation that every church is in the business of making disciples in order to multiply out. On-the-Job Training The body of Christ needs to be trained to reproduce. The work of Ephesians 4 ministries, i.e. of apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The prophets should not so much be prophesying as teaching the people how to prophesy. The teachers should be training others to teach, the evangelists to evangelize and the apostles to plant churches. That way the body will be equipped to function and reproduce. We are becoming aware of several situations here in the States where this is already taking place. Mostly small as yet, but the DNA is obviously there and having an effect. This is not just a phenomenon for other nations. God is longing to do the same things here. Let us be those who press in to everything that God is doing in this day.
Our cultural norms, our personal expectations, and the condition of the Christian community at large have produced a dizzying array of challenges to churches. Across the nation, ministries of all sizes and shapes have responded with a frenzy of religious activity, producing more programs, buildings, events, and resources than would have been imaginable at the turn of the century. Yet, as we prepare to enter into a new century of ministry, we must address one inescapable conclusion: Despite the activity and chutzpah emanating from thousands of congregations, the Church in America is losing influence and adherents faster than any other major institution in the nation. Unless a radical solution for the revival of the Christian Church in the United States is adopted and implemented soon, the spiritual hunger of Americans will either go unmet or be satisfied by other faith groups. ~ George Barna
House2house - 39
The Cry for Spiritual Fathers & Mothers
Compelling vision for authentic, nurturing relationships within today’s church. A must read for Christian leaders and those serious about making disciples. By Larry Kreider, 186 pages: $11.95 Spiritual Fathering & Mothering Seminar Learn principles for a successful mentoring relationship! Practical preparation for believers who want to have and become spiritual parents. Held Friday evening and Saturday. Affordable rates: $59 per person, Groups of 6 or more: $49 per person. Spiritual Fathering & Mothering Audio Convenient audio tape sessions. Set of 6: $29.00 Biblical Foundations Series This series of 12 books by Larry Kreider covers basic Christian doctrine. Practical illustrations accompany the easy-to-understand format. Series is excellent for: • Mentoring Relationships Questions can be studied and life applications discussed. • Small Group Lessons Each chapter has a teaching outline. 48 teachings in all! • A Basic Biblical Foundation Course taught by a Christian leader for a local church. • A Daily Devotional The twelve book series adds up to an entire year’s devotions. Each individual book has 64 pages: $2.95 12 Book Set: $29.50 Quantity Discount! 20% off ten or more of the same title. Coordinating Book for Kids also available!
For more information or to order Call 800-848-5892
MasterCard or Visa accepted
Online www.dcfi.org Email HTH@dcfi.org
House to House Publications, 1924 W. Main St., Ephrata, PA 17522
40 - House2house
Joe, Debbie and Eli Boyd
The Apex Story
by Joe Boyd
The formation of the Apex Community began in a small group of twelve young adults. For nearly fourteen months, this core group met together to lay the foundation of the new church. By September 1997 the core group had grown from just a few to over fifty people who were committed to starting a church that would reach their lost friends with the gospel of Christ. Apex met as a church body for the first time on September 28, 1997 in the cafeteria of a middle school in northwest Las Vegas. Months of planning had gone into that first church service. We had been praying for two hundred people to attend the first service, and we just barely missed our goal. Over one hundred and ninety came with the excitement that can only accompany the birth of a brand new church. “We’ll get two hundred people next week,” I said with a naïve confidence as I closed the door of Lied Middle School behind me. We didn’t. We actually lost about twenty people each week for the rest of the year, until we had “grown” our church from 193 people to an anemic gathering of less than 60 souls in just three months not exactly the kind of growth that people write books about. That infamous week was our emotional and spiritual basement. We couldn’t get much lower. We had managed to lose virtually every person except the fifty who started the church, and by this time most of
The Early Days
them were burning out and fighting amongst themselves. Something had to give. I drove home alone that December evening, with tears in my eyes. I punched the steering wheel of my car and cursed God for forsaking me. Why would He let me fail? Why was He so bent on embarrassing me? What had I done to deserve this? It was that night that I realized how much of “me” was invested into that little church. It was that night that I was forced to make a choice. It was going to be me and my shaky foundation of dreams and insecurities or it was going to be God.
The Movement from Programming to Community
I will never forget that first Sunday in January of 1998. Just seven days after my bout with God, I sat on a stool in front of my little congregation. I told them that I was done pretending. “We can’t do this anymore,” I resigned. Somewhere along the way we had sacrificed the reality of the Kingdom of God for electronic drums that never quite sounded right and Power Point presentations that never quite looked right. We had sold a life of love and grace for a mediocre presentation of an empty gospel. And the worst part was that every member of the church knew it, even before I did. Looking back on that seemingly normal Sunday in January, two breakthroughs occurred that dramati-
cally, though slowly at first, changed the direction of the entire ministry. The first was a vow that I made during the introduction of my message that night. I promised on behalf of all the leaders of the church that we would no longer focus on programs and events that separate real people from the love of God in the name of “church.” It was time to covenant into true community. It was time to quit doing church and start being the church. It was going to take an entire conversion of heart and mind to truly build a Christian community from a crowd of strangers. We would have to surrender our individual egos and agendas to self-sacrificial love. We would have to invest the time into learning each other’s names and stories, fears and dreams. We had to figure out a way to live life together. And ever so slowly, through time and prayer, we did eventually become a true community of God-followers. It was after church that same Sunday meeting in January of 1998 that a 29-year-old local businessman named Jim approached me. Jim and his family had been coming to Apex since the first week, but remained virtually unnoticed. I knew him by name only. He had been praying for the church and for me since the first week. His question that night cut to my heart. “Is there a group of people who pray for you?” he asked. My instinctive thought was, “Prayer? We don’t have time for that
House2house - 41
yet. Maybe someday, but we are trying to start a church here.” My simple response was, “No, not really.” After a few minutes of conversation, I asked Jim if he would be willing to start a group to pray for the church. He rather sheepishly agreed. After seeing that Jim wasn’t very interested in a leadership position in the church, I did what any sensitive pastor would do. I invited this man, whom I really did not know at all, to join three other key leaders and myself on a planning retreat regarding the future of the church. That very week, the five of us locked ourselves in a motel room about forty-five miles west of Las Vegas. I came up with an agenda for our two days together. I had taken the time to sketch out about five different action plans or scenarios to “pull Apex out of its slump.” Once we were situated in the room, I passed out my agenda and began to lead a discussion. Jim interrupted. “Shouldn’t we pray first?” I could see the other leaders looking at me. I knew exactly what they were thinking, “Who invited the religious guy to the church board meeting?” But we prayed. As a matter of fact, we didn’t stop praying for two days. We confessed sin. We pleaded with God to save our church. We prayed for church members by name. Jim even received a “vision” of what our church could be someday by God’s grace. More amazing than that, the rest of us actually believed him. After three months of leading a church without God’s help, we ran into His arms and pleaded for His help. And, to His glory, He has proven faithful ever since.
The Movement from Seeker Sensitive to Seeking Together
The dream of Apex was always about reaching those who were far from God with the life-changing, revolutionary love of Christ. It had always been about living the Kingdom of God with the least of these.
At its core, Apex was birthed to save the lost and to be salt and light in a city built on illusion and sin. That never changed. And it never will. Apex will always be a church for those who are far from God. What has changed is the way we reach lost people. We slowly realized that being sensitive to seekers and post-modern pagans really boiled down to a few simple ideas: 1. Speak into their culture, but be counter-cultural. The only subject matter that a Christian should be more familiar with than the pagan culture where they live is the Gospel itself. The timeless and unchanging Gospel always falls into an ever-changing culture. Every disciple is called to be a missionary in his or her culture. However, we do not preach culture, we preach Christ. Culture is the language, Christ is the Truth. 2. Be completely open. Don’t hold back anything from them. Post-moderns don’t want to be eased into faith. They want to be surrounded by it. They want to see the guts of the whole operation. They don’t want to be ushered from the baptistery to the secret room where all the mysteries and theological debates are stored – they want to go through that room on the way to the baptistery. They want to taste Christ in the bread and wine. They want to witness authentic worship. They want the Bible to be, at times, complicated and paradoxical. After all, every other worthwhile truth in the world is. 3. Be consistent in practice and philosophy. Post-moderns are always asking if the person pushing the product actually uses it. They want to know if those preaching Christ are actually living Christ; if they doubt, if they sin, if they hurt. I used to pretend that I had no doubts or questions; after all, I reasoned, I was the preacher! Who wants a preacher who sometimes doubts his own faith? Post-moderns do. They want to know that their leaders are swimming in the same cesspool of depravity as they are. They
want to watch those ahead of them progress and become more like Christ.
The Movement from Addition Growth to Multiplication Growth
Find an average run-of-the-mill foreign missionary (if one exists) and ask him or her what the church looks like when it is really growing. Most missionaries will eventually begin talking about a church planting movement. Today the church is multiplying at a chaotic, innumerable rate in many regions of Africa and Asia. Most of these cultures have stumbled into their form of church planting because of unfathomable levels of persecution. The church simply jumps from house to house as the persecution increases. Many converts in places like China are told on the day of their conversion that they should begin preparing to plant their own church. The church is dying in America; therefore, the slightest hint of a growing church is highly celebrated in Christian circles. These churches are often adding 10-30% each year to their weekend attendance. However, a high level of celebration over this sort of “addition” growth may be dangerous if it does not ultimately lead to a “multiplication” way of growing, or what our missionary friend might call a “church planting movement.” As I stated earlier, prayer became central to our church in the months following our decline. We stabilized in the winter of 1998 and actually began to grow in numbers on and around Easter of that year. In our context, the rapid “addition” growth of Apex over the last two years (nearly 1,000% growth since our lowest mark) has brought with it many challenges, not the least of which has been an unspoken level of contentment about being a “growing” church. As we grew, excitement and energy increased, but once again, the value of community began to decrease. On a practical front, it became impossible to truly be a genuine community of 200, 300 or 500
42 - House2house
people. Some people started to long for the “good old days” when everyone knew the name and story of the person sitting beside them at church. Once again, something had to change. This time, however, the change was needed to somehow maintain the growth of our church. For years, we had flirted with small group ministries, lay shepherding systems, and involvement programs. The problem was an educational one. Our people thought that church was something to “attend.” It isn’t. Church is something you are, or it is nothing at all. Remember why Jesus came? To launch and lead…a Kingdom – not a meeting, not a service, not a program, not a system – but a Kingdom- a living, breathing community of King-followers. The disciple of Jesus doesn’t “go” to church. He never “leaves” church. He is never “late” for church. He cannot “skip” church or forget church. He is the church! This understanding completely transformed the way we viewed Apex. Apex is now a “community of communities” or a “church of churches”. Every member of Apex is also a member of a House Church. House Churches are holistic Christian communities of 20-70 people who live life together. Every House Church is expected to start (plant) a new House Church no later than two years from its inception. This is the most organic way to grow the church in any city or culture.
A prayer of
During a personal prayer time one August morning, I logged a prayer of apology in my journal. It was later obvious to me that the prayer had to be shared with Apex. To date, we have read this prayer three times in two years. Nothing else that we do is able to prick hardened and violated hearts quite like this simple confession. Allow me to submit it as an example of a new, perhaps well overdue, form of apologetics: I need to ask forgiveness for the ongoing corruption of the church at large since the early days of the church, for I believe that it is a sin to use the church for personal or political gain. I need to ask forgiveness for the silence of the European church during the Jewish holocaust, and of the American church during the years of slavery, for I believe that it is a sin for the church of God to sheepishly stand by while innocent people die. I need to ask forgiveness for the weight of legalism that has shackled the church, making it oppressively boring and guilt-centered, for I believe that it is a sin to deny people their freedom in Christ. I need to ask forgiveness for the thousands of church splits and denominational factions that have ripped the body of Christ in every direction except heavenward, for I believe that it is a sin to bring disunity to the body of Christ. I need to ask forgiveness for the thousands of churches who are set up as extravagant social clubs, for I believe that it is a sin to ignore the poor and hurting among you. I need to ask forgiveness for every sin of every priest, pastor, minister, reverend, teacher, elder, deacon, pope, nun, monk, missionary, Sunday school teacher, worship leader, apostle, prophet, and church member from Pentecost until this very second, for I believe that sin is the problem with the church. And lastly for me; for my sin - my pride, my lust, my anger, my laziness, my lack of faith, my lack of mercy, my over-analysis of life, my immaturity, my filthy decrepit heart that is bent to evil. Forgive me, if you can, for I am a sinner. Blame me along with others like me for a messed up church that has done more than its share of evil deeds. Blame me if you have to, but don’t blame the Bride of Christ whom I love. The church is perfect. Perfect in theory, perfect in origin and sometimes – even perfect in practice. Our sin corrupts her, but she never folds. Our pride limits her growth, but she never dies. For she is the Bride of Christ – perfect before him. She is the Body of Christ - His hands, His feet, and His voice. And she is the Hope of the World.
And so that is our story. We are simply a collection of movements: from a gathering of strangers to a small church, from a small church to a larger church, from a larger church to a collection of small churches. I would not trade our story for anything. I love to tell the story of Apex because it is God’s story. Jesus said that the Spirit-wind blows where he chooses to blow. He has, thank God, chosen to blow on us. We continue to pray, but these days we are praying more and more for the holy chaos of revival And we never stop praying that His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Praying for the Chaos of God
House2house - 43
YES, Please send me House2House Magazine!
U.S. Subscription ❒ $18.00 - One Year ❒ $30.00 - Two Years International Subscription ❒ $24.00 - One Year ❒ $42.00 - Two Years Bulk Subscriptions
(All Mailed to Address Below)
❒ ❒ ❒ ❒
10 Copies 1 Year - 10% Discount 25 Copies 1Year - 15% Discount 10 Copies 2 Year - 10% Discount 25 Copies 2 Year - 15% Discount
Name ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________ City _________________ State _______ Zip _________ Phone ( Payment: Card # ) _____________ Fax ( ) _____________________ Email Address _____________ @ ______________
❒ Check Enclosed
Amount: $ __________________
❒❒❒❒ ❒❒❒❒ ❒❒❒❒ ❒❒❒❒
Exp. Date: MM ________ YY _________
Signature _________________________________________ Please return this form to: H2H, 1019 Meredith Drive, Austin, TX 78748, USA Subscribe or order materials at www.house2house.tv Phone: (512) 282-2322 Fax: (512) 292-5700
Tools Order Form
Please send me: Copies of Houses that Change the World
by Wolfgang Simson. ($15 + shipping)
Copies of Church Paradigms
by Tony & Felicity Dale ($6 + shipping) (Advanced order pricing - book will be shipped as soon as printing is complete)
Sets of Wolfgang Simson in Austin - 2001
Church Conference - 8 Tape Set ($30 + shipping)
44 - House2house
Getting Started Right Packs
(6 Tapes and Literature) ($45 + Shipping)
Questions & Answers
f r o m
We have been receiving an increasing number of good questions from people on a wide variety of topics connected with church planting and churches in homes. Most of these questions do not have only one (Biblical) answer, even if the person phrasing the question was hoping for only one answer! In this and succeeding issues, if you send in questions that may help many readers, we will ask our Editorial Board to share their wisdom and insights. If there is no consensus on answers, we will try to include opposing points of view. Please give us feedback on whether this is a useful feature for future issues of House 2 House magazine.
t h e
P a n e l
may differ from ours, there are people who clearly know Jesus and seek to live for Him. Personally I would not let issues of theology prevent me from fellowshipping with them. In fact, I have considerable doctrinal differences with some of our closest friends, but it does not prevent us from being one in Christ. As is often the case, there are two conflicting principles. The one is that we have good doctrine, and that is important. The other is that we maintain our unity. Which principle applies here? I do not find Jesus praying lengthy prayers for our doctrinal purity, but I do find Him interceding that we may be one, even as He and the Father are one.
In the last 50 years, Christians have responded to the adolescent subculture with a huge investment of time and money in “youth ministry” (both church and parachurch). While there are individuals who have benefited, there are few that would say that “youth ministry” has been successful at producing generations of mature, Godly adult disciples. In the emerging house church movement, our first priority should be finding those teens and families of teens who are ready to return to the Biblical value of intergenerational extended families meeting in homes. (Titus 2:3-8 gives the Biblical model of “youth ministry”.) We must work hard to help these teens become fullfledged participating members of the house church. Should there be opportunities for Christian teens to get together? Sure! Is there a need for special strategies (like a youth house church) to reach those teens (both Christian and non- Christian) that have been too indoctrinated by the culture to handle intergenerational church? Certainly! However, our primary focus should be on developing prototypes of vibrant house churches where teens are fully incorporated and highly valued. This is how “youth ministry” was done in the Bible.
Q. FROM RALPH MOORE OF HOPE CHAPEL HAWAII
I have some questions that might help myself and others gather strength for planting house churches: Parents of adolescents will gravitate toward congregations that support the needs of their children. How can a house church best respond to their dilemma?
Q. KEN CRANE FROM THIS ISSUE’S LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Are there any issues that you would say should divide people who claim Christianity? Are there any areas of Catholic doctrine that you believe should cause people to separate from them? Are there any differences in foundational beliefs that should divide Christians? I look forward to your reply.
A. JOHN WHITE OF DENVER, COLORADO RESPONDS:
The real dilemma is that Christians have accepted the cultural concept of “adolescence”. The idea that teens are somehow a separate class and should be separated from those older and younger than them was largely unknown before the 20th Century and certainly finds no support in Scripture.
A. FELICITY DALE WRITES:
Within every denomination, however their church doctrines and practices
House2house - 45
L u c a s
L i f e
Mrs. Robinson was a bright, totally alive woman, who giggled uncontrollably whenever Jesus was mentioned; such was her infectious love for Him. She was a lone parent, with her two teenaged daughters. But she would soon be dead – the cancer in her a quiet, expanding labyrinth, uncoiling itself and spreading its deadly venom every day – not long now. I used to visit her every week, and she never failed to cheer me up. She told me her stories about her homeland, the West Indian island of St. Vincent, and she laughed at the thought of dying. This was no brave face, no denial. She knew that she was going to die, and she knew that Jesus had gone ahead of her. Her excitement about seeing Him was palpable. ‘No, Pastor, I’m not worried about dying, you see. But I am worried about my girls, Hazel and Denise. What will become of them? Oh Lord, oh Lord.’ And then her bright eyes would cloud over, and she would come back from heaven and land on earth again, real worry about her children causing her to rock back and forth, crying out to God. ‘Oh Lord, oh Lord…’ And I would do my best to encourage her. ‘Don’t worry yourself now, Mrs. Robinson, hasn’t the Lord promised that if we cast our cares upon Him, He would care for us?’ I would open my Bible and show her the scripture, 1 Peter 5:7. She knew it by heart, but would always look, as if checking to see that it was still there. Week in, week out, she would laugh, and fret, and I would quote another scripture each time. One day I found a scripture that talked about God looking after the widow in her plight, and told Mrs. Robinson that the Lord would make sure that Hazel and Denise were cared for. She seemed assured again. As I came out of her house, God spoke to
by Jeff Lucas
parents to Hazel and Denise. The catch was that Kay was to say, without any deliberation or hesitation, ‘sounds like a good idea to me.’ Kay is a thoughtful, sensible person. Impulsive is not a word I would ever use to describe her. I walked into the house, pecked Kay on the cheek, and said ‘I think we should foster Hazel and Denise’. Without a moment’s pause, Kay gave her response. ‘Sounds like a good idea to me.’ And so we did. Mrs. Robinson died without any concern about the future for her children, and we became five. It was a wonderful time, although the neighbours surely wondered how we had managed to get two black children and one white. Perhaps there was something in the milk. Don’t get the picture of the Lucas extended family as something out of The Little House on the Prairie. It was a learning time for all of us, not least me. But Hazel and Denise became a very real part of our extended family. I don’t recommend the ‘fleece’ approach to guidance, although it works for some. But then again, I don’t recommend clichés, pass-the-buck prayers, and making excuses for doing nothing either. Beware. God is about. He may just interrupt your life.
me, as he often does, by asking me an uncomfortable question. ‘So then, how exactly am I going to take care of these children?’ I realised in a millisecond, that all of my praying flowery prayers and my quoting of Bible verses could be reduced to cliché if I didn’t face the issue that God was raising. I considered the possibility that God was asking Kay and me to invite Hazel and Denise to be part of our family when their mother died. We had a young child of our own, and a very small house. This would mean disruption and inconvenience, and the ‘how exactly am I going to take care of these children’ question just wouldn’t go away. I decided to lay an impossible fleece before God. For those of you who are blessedly unfamiliar with this approach to guidance, it works like this: you ask God to fulfil a certain set of circumstances, and if those circumstances come to pass, then you agree that this will serve as a sign that God wants you to do something. It’s a very useful strategy for those who are worried that God might be asking them to go to the mission field. You can ask for the impossible: ‘Okay, Lord, I will indeed go to Burma if, next Wednesday, when I am in the frozen food section of Sainsbury’s, a Burmese soldier dressed as a leprechaun jumps out from the fish finger freezer chest, crying ‘Okay then, begorrah. Come to Burma, and make it sharpish’. If the leprechaun is carrying a yellow bassoon and has wooden Dutch clogs on his feet, then I will take this as a sign of your call, and will head off for Burma immediately.’ I hit on the idea of a slightly more subdued, but equally impossible fleece. I advised God that I was going to walk into our house and, without any discussion or prelude would simply announce to Kay that I felt that we should become foster
This article is taken from Jeff’s new book, “Lucas On Life”, which is published by WORD Publishing of Milton Keynes, England. The article is re-printed with permission. The book may be purchased at the House 2 House website or via booksellers in the U.K.
46 - House2house
Labor Day Weekend Conference
What? When? Where? Who? An exciting weekend for your whole family! Labor Day Weekend - August 31 (Friday evening) to September 3 (Monday noon) Clarion Inn - 800 S. 4th Street, Waco, TX Wolfgang Simson - Author “Houses That Change The World” Jeff Lucas - Vice-president of the British Evangelical Alliance And YOU Sharing what God is doing in your area
So WHY should I come? The expanding house church movement is challenging many to reexamine the role of rapid church planting as a means of reaching every person for Christ. This conference will address, through times of fellowship, play, relaxation with our friends and families, teaching, worship and experiencing Christian community, how each of us can become more effective for Christ. Join with hundreds of other believers who are exploring new forms of church life across this country and around the world for this GREAT weekend in Waco, TX. Can our whole church come? Absolutely. This three day weekend is designed for churches to come to as a group. Most home churches lack the resources on their own to enjoy something on this scale. Working together we can not only learn so much from each other’s experience, but we can also enjoy the blessing of ministry from people like Jeff & Wolfgang! Please contact the Clarion Inn directly by calling toll free 1-800-ASK-WACO or 254-757-2000 to book your room. We have a block booking under the name “Association of Home Churches,” for which they will charge you $55 room/per night until August 10,2001 ($79/night after this date). The rooms will hold up to four people. Please register me for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend Conference! __ Family $95, __ Couple $70, __ Individual $40 (Please check one)
Name ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________ City _________________ State _______ Zip _________ Phone ( Payment: Card # ) _____________ Fax ( ) _____________________ Email Address _____________ @ ______________
❒ Check Enclosed
Amount: $ __________________
❒❒❒❒ ❒❒❒❒ ❒❒❒❒ ❒❒❒❒
Exp. Date: MM ________ YY _________
Please return this form to: H2H, 1019 Meredith Drive, Austin, TX 78748, USA
House2house - 47
House2House 1019 Meredith Drive Austin, TX 78748
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?