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Church Planting Movements David Garrison
Lucas On Life . . . and Death Jeff Lucas Where Do We Go From Here? Tony Dale
YONE, DEAR EVER
magazine. f House2House o etting this copy because of the have enjoyed g that you f the magazine so , We hope But at they say d out free copie Central Texas. een able to sen in We have b ome churches still true in this f a number of h be biblical, but t generosity o end. ” (May no gs come to and “All good thin case.) L RECEIVE AT YOU WIL ST ISSUE TH L BE THE LA THIS WIL BSCRIBE. LESS YOU SU UN you to take a ould like to ask w out the form use2House we online or by fill en enjoying Ho e If you have be either subscrib the minimum s right now and bers, as this is te ri couple of minu for 2000 subsc is the source, e going! God We are praying . zin keep the maga on page XXXX !! e can afford to w s a subscription ractical ways a mber by which nu ch p is people in su He does use H but ription, please fford the subsc ta copies of ary who canno erseas mission ue sending you v ntin If you are an o 2house.tv. r pleasure to co it would be ou e at www.house d in ls let us know an the articles on-l cal Bible schoo u can also see use them for lo ouse. Yo nd e House2H copy articles a ge the magazin are welcome to you acknowled t Again you We just ask tha lanting efforts. and church p f the articles. as the source o tied in with the mber of issues on a nu ontact us via g for your help rticles should c a kin d in submitting We also are loo We are also ho are intereste ntact_us.htm. o se w hin ouse2house.tv/c magazine. Tho the cover or wit at http://www.h ight beused on ide web m se, the world w y children that icture of a hou tures created b uld include a p wo looking for pic subject matter Suggestions of the magazine. h meeting, etc. of a home churc you. The pictures nd hearing from a g to serve you e receiving this ard to continuin wish to continu ing forw ho We are look r all of those w ribe is now fo time to subsc magazine. In Christ, Dr. Tony Dale
Issue 2 | House2House
Editorial - So Where Do We Go From Here? Letters to the Editor Church Planting Movements: Exploring rapid church growth movements around the world with a particular focus on churches in homes Feature Interview: David Garrison, the author of Church Planting Movements talk with H2H about the role of house churches in providing a “new wineskin” for the current work of the Holy Spirit. The “Underground” Church: Larry Kreider, the founder of the Dove Network of Churches talksabout church, cell church, and how the Lord led him to plant “underground” churches. Postcard From The Edge: Josh Watkins tell us a story Saturation Church Planting by starting home-based Bible schools Viola on Church Planters Wolfgang Simson in Austin: A summary of the house church planting conference attended by 170 from all over the country Paradigm Shifts: The Dale’s continue their saga by exploring the role of significant changes in thinking; quantum leaps in ideas. A Bible Study Kreider on Underground Churches in China Book Review: Post - Modern Pilgrims by Leonard Sweet 15 Theses: Continued from the last issue The Future Church: David Bradshaw challenges our thinking on what “wineskin” is relevant to this generation House Church Explosion in India: Jim Rutz looks at the phenomenal growth of home churchesin Madra Pradesh under the leadership of the remarkable Choudhrie family. Church At Home: The Texas Baptist Standard publishes a front page article about home church in Austin and the conference with Wolfgang Simson Lucas on Life . . . and death: A personal tribute from Jeff to one man God used to change Jeff’s life forever
Mission Statement: We are pursuing the rapid advancement of the Kingdom of God by saturating and transforming communities with a radical, home-based, church planting movement.
HOW TO REACH US
Phone: Fax: 512-292-5700 Website: www.house2house.tv Mailing Address: 1019 Meredith Drive, Austin, TX 78748 Advisory Committee
Derek Brown, respected leader within the British “New Churches,” responsible for the King’s Churches across UK. 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.
Helpful Web Sites
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 | Issue 2
From The Editor
So Where Do We Go From Here?
Last night, Felicity and I were having a fascinating discussion with one of the other home church leaders who is also a part of the Austin Fellowship of Home Churches. Their background is Southern Baptist, while our background and journey has been shaped by the British house church movement which is thoroughly charismatic. We were discussing some of the tensions that can occur when our perceptions are still shaped primarily by where we come from rather than where we are going. So where do we go from here? The Lord has been challenging me to understand that the future marriage of the Lamb to His bride is truly to a bride “without spot or blemish”. When Jesus thinks of His bride, He does not see her as divided by all the “things” or “doctrines” that we see dividing His body. He sees one glorious church, the “fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Eph. 1:23 NASV As I look forward, I see a day that is truly post-denominational. I see a bride that is mature enough to live with her differences rather than be in turmoil and divided by them. Recently, we invited all of 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. “Our body’s have many parts, but the many parts only make up one body when they are put together.” 1 Cor. 12:12, The Living Bible The Father is preparing one bride for His Son. And this bride is glorious; she is the “joy of all the earth”. Ps. 48:2, KJV Part of our call is to actually view ourselves as Christians,
house2house.tv - This magazine Austin, TX Tony Dale, M.B., B.S., -Church planter, physician, businessman. austinfellowship.com - Dale’s home church TX Felicity Dale, M.B., B.S., Austin, -Church planter, physician.
and to be unwilling to be separated from any others who really love the Lord. We learn to rejoice when any part of the body rejoices. In this issue, we are learning from some wonderful men and women of God. In the excerpts from Church Planting Movements we can all learn from some wonderful things described mainly within traditional Baptist circles. Even though most of these church planting movements began as Baptist, they now rarely even use that “denominator” at all. In the articles by Larry Kreider, we learn from the Dove network of cell churches; yet they are clearly looking for the new wineskin that God is preparing. From the Choudhries in India, we learn of the powerful house church planting movement that God has initiated through them. Traditional/ Cell church/House church: all a part of the bride, all learning from each other, all looking for that “city, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:10, KJV Paul wrote to the church of God in Ephesus and Rome. Where would he write to today? Wolfgang Simson helpfully describes 5 types of churches that are commonly seen today. Home church Congregation - City/Regional Church - Denomination Universal Church. Currently, most groups are primarily defined as “congregations” and “denominations”. It appears that as the Holy Spirit pours out new wine, we are all seeing ourselves moving back to the more Biblical church pattern of Home - City/Region - Universal.
Tony Dale, Managing Editor
Jim Mellon, Killeen, TX -Church planter, business owner, entrepreneur. David Underwood, P.E. Fort Worth, TX -Church planter, business owner.
Web Site List Editorial Board
Issue 2 | House2House
Why The House Church?
By Victor Choudhrie
The Last Snack!
By Steve Atkerson And Eric Svendsen
“I am very excited about what you all are doing, because what I have found is that when you raise up a model or ideal, such as God has laid on your heart as in the H2H paradigm, you begin to see others pop-up all over the place.”
experience genuine love and care, often for the first time, they are drawn to Christ Himself. The discipleship process starts even before people commit their lives to Christ. They have seen something which they know is going to be costly and upon conversion, quickly and naturally embrace the values of the Christian community of which they are already a part. We look forward to learning so much from all that the Lord is allowing you to pioneer. God bless you ... PHILIP & HEATHER PLAYFOOT HORSHAM U.K. LIKE RALPH MOORE, I WAS greatly encouraged by the first issue of House2House. His letter was an excellent start for the “To the Editor”section of the magazine. I was taken by the paragraph in his letter that asked questions. Although my wife and I have been in a house church for a few years, I don’t have a clue to answering most of the questions he poses. I would say, however, that all the questions are good ones that deserve answering. I will take a shot at the question, “How do you insure that young children really comprehend a message in a room dominated by adults?” This question brings to mind a question I asked when we were looking into house churches after leaving the organized church. We were visiting in another state, and we asked our host, “What do you do with the children?” He looked puzzled for a minute or two, then he responded, “Nothing, we just let them be children.” That’s sort of how things go with the children when we meet. I’m sure lots of things go on that they don’t understand. Then again, lots of things go on that I really don’t understand either. I think God created families
Honk If You Love Jesus
By Jeff Lucas
DAVID GARRISON AUTHOR, CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENTS
I RECEIVED MY COPY OF THE house2house magazine and immediately began to devour it! About 8 years ago, I read the book by Jim Rutz called The Open Church. It had struck a chord of excitement then, but somehow it just never worked out for me to find or be involved in an open church. When I read your magazine, I found that same desire for the freedom of the open church rekindled in my heart. MELISSA HOWARD CONGRATULATIONS ON THE first edition of house2 house. I am a friend of Wolfgang Simson. We work together in the 5 fold ministry team called Kingdom Ministry (Switzerland). I just returned from Tel Aviv, where we introduced the house church concept to messianic leaders. As disciples of the Lord Jesus we also do house church planting in Switzerland. In India we work with Victor Choudhrie, in Pakistan with Rev. W. Johnson and in Russia with several apostles. H2H, you have appeared in time and are powerful. We will help you to make it known. MARCO GMÜR HAVING BEEN WITH YOU AND Felicity in the same church in the UK we were excited and inspired to hear of
what God is doing in Austin. About 3 years ago, we took some major steps in working towards “church in the home” here in Horsham, UK. The church we are a part of has about 275 adults and 120 kids. We had home groups but these were primarily focused on fellowship and maintenance, rarely growing except when new Christians moved into the area. With the lack of reality of seeing the Kingdom extended through these groups, vision and enthusiasm waned and many people remained on the fringe or completely detached. We wanted to see the church in the home as our primary building block for worship, building relationships with those outside the church, discipleship, all types of care and application of Bible teaching. It has been a slow and deliberate process of sowing into this, but we are now beginning to see many breakthroughs with people regularly coming to Christ. The key seems to be flexibility to enter into the lifestyle of those outside the church and enable these people to become a part of our home-based communities. Belonging often comes before believing. As unbelievers see the reality of Kingdom life lived out around them,
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so that children could ask their parents questions, and the parents could struggle to give adequate answers. In scripture, it’s pretty obvious that Jesus welcomed questions, even the hostile ones that were designed to trip him up. We need to trust parents of the children in our fellowships to do the job they were entrusted with. If they have difficulty, the Father is there to help. DON CARLSON SOME OF YOUR ARTICLES GAVE me a little rise for concern particularly when dealing with Britain. There is another side to the story with what happened to people who left their churches and joined ‘house group churches’, and it is still going on. The outcome was that many believers werebadly influenced by ‘heavy shepherding’ that did have a strong influence in Britain amongst the house churches and the consequence was that many left the new scene and unfortunately stopped going anywhere; their hurt was deep. We need to return to New Testament guidelines and let the Holy Spirit with Scripture be the guide and not certain personalities. Enough said… God bless you in your endeavours. JEFF POWELL
Church Planting Movements
Excerpts From the book by David Garrison
From every corner of the globe the reports are coming in. Only a few at first, but now more and more frequently, reinforcing one another with their startling accounts of hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands coming to faith in Christ, forming into churches and spreading their new-found faith. Southeast Asia When a strategy coordinator began his assignment in 1993, there were only three churches and 85 believers among a population of more than 7 million lost souls. Four years later there were more than 550 churches and nearly 55,000 believers. India One elderly man who came to Christ in a Church Planting Movement planted 42 churches in his first year as a believer. North Africa In his weekly Friday sermon, an Arab Muslim cleric complained that more than 10,000 Muslims living in the surrounding mountains had apostatized from Islam and become Christians. City in China Over a four-year period (1993-1997), more than 20,000 people came to faith in Christ, resulting in more than 500 new churches. Western Europe A missionary in Europe reports, “Last year (1998), my wife and I started 15 new church cell groups. As we left for a six-month stateside assignment last July, we wondered what we’d find when we returned. It’s wild! We can verify at least 30 churches now, but I believe that it could be two or even three times that many.” Ethiopia A missionary strategist commentated, “It took us 30 years to plant four churches in this country. We’ve started 65 cell churches in the last nine months.” Every region of the world now pulsates with some kind of Church Planting Movement. Sometimes we see only the numbers, but often they are accompanied by lively descriptions such as this recently received e-mail message: “All of our cell churches have lay pastors/leaders because we turn over the work so fast that the missionary seldom leads as many as two or three Bible studies before God raises at least one leader. The new leader seems to be both saved and called to lead at the same time, so we baptize him and give him a Bible. After the new believers/leaders are baptized, they are so ‘on fire’ that we simply cannot hold them back. They fan out all over the country starting Bible studies, and a few weeks later we begin to get word back how many have started. It’s the craziest thing we ever saw! We did not start it and we couldn’t
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Issue 2 | House2House
these 10 elements. 1. Prayer Prayer has been fundamental to every Church Planting Movement we have observed. Prayer typically provides the first pillar in a strategy coordinator’s master plan for reaching his or her people group. However, it is the vitality of prayer in the missionary’s personal life that leads to its imitation in the life of the new church and its leaders. By revealing from the beginning the source of his power in prayer, the missionary effectively gives away the greatest resource he brings to the assignment. This sharing of the power source is critical to the transfer of vision and momentum from the missionary to the new local Christian leadership. 2. Abundant gospel sowing We have yet to see a Church Planting Movement emerge where evangelism is rare or absent. Every Church Planting Movement is accompanied by abundant sowing of the gospel. The law of the harvest applies well: “If you sow abundantly you will also reap abundantly.” In Church Planting Movements, hundreds and even thousands of individuals are hearing the claims that Jesus Christ has on their lives. This sowing often relies heavily upon mass media evangelism, but it always includes personal evangelism with vivid testimonies to the lifechanging power of the gospel. The converse to the law of the harvest is also true. Wherever governments or societal forces have managed to intimidate and stifle Christian witness, Church Planting Movements have been effectively eliminated. 3. Intentional Church Planting In every Church Planting Movement, someone implemented a strategy of deliberate church planting before the movement got under way. There are several instances in which all the contextual elements were in place, but the missionaries lacked either the skill or the vision to lead a Church Planting Movement. However, once this ingredient was added to the mix, the results were remarkable. Churches don’t just happen. There is evidence around the world of many thousands coming
stop it if we tried.” What is a Church Planting Movement? In 1998, the International Mission Board’s Overseas Leadership Team adopted a vision statement: We will facilitate the lost coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ by beginning and nurturing Church Planting Movements among all peoples. This vision statement guides the work of nearly 5,000 IMB missionaries serving in more than 150 countries around the world. So, what is a Church Planting Movement? A simple, concise definition of a Church Planting Movement is a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment. There are several key components to this definition. The first is rapid. As a movement, a Church Planting Movement occurs with rapid increases in new church starts. Saturation church planting over decades and even centuries is good, but doesn’t qualify as a Church Planting Movement. Secondly, there is multiplicative increase. This means that the increase in churches is not simply incremental growth - adding a few churches every year or so. Instead, it compounds with two churches becoming four, four
churches becoming eight to 10 and so forth. Multiplicative increase is only possible when new churches are being started by the churches themselves - rather than by professional church planters or missionaries. Finally they are indigenous churches. This means they are generated from within rather than from without. This is not to say that the gospel is able to spring up intuitively within a people group. The gospel always enters a people group from the outside; this is the task of the missionary. However, in a Church Planting Movement the momentum quickly becomes indigenous so that the initiative and drive of the movement comes from within the people group rather than from outsiders. So why is a Church Planting Movement so special? Because it seems to hold forth the greatest potential for the largest number of lost individuals glorifying God by coming into new life in Christ and entering into communities of faith. Ten Universal Elements After surveying Church Planting Movements around the world, we found at least 10 elements present in every one of them. While it may be possible to have a Church Planting Movement without them, we have yet to see this occur. Any missionary intent on seeing a Church Planting Movement should consider
House2House | Issue 2
to Christ through a variety of means without the resulting development of multiple churches. In these situations, an intentional church-planting strategy might transform these evangelistic awakenings into full-blown Church Planting Movements. 4. Scriptural authority Even among non-literate people groups, the Bible has been the guiding source for doctrine, church polity and life itself. While Church Planting Movements have occurred among peoples without the Bible translated into their own language, the majority had the Bible either orally or in written form in their heart language. In every instance, Scripture provided the rudder for the church’s life, and it’s authority was unquestioned. 5. Local leadership Missionaries involved in Church Planting Movements often speak of the selfdiscipline required to mentor church planters rather than do the job of church planting themselves. Once a missionary has established his identity as the primary church planter or pastor, it’s difficult for him ever to assume a backseat profile again. This is not to say that missionaries have no role in church planting. On the contrary, local church planters receive their best training by watching how the missionary leads participative Bible studies with nonChristian seekers. Walking alongside local church planters is the first step in cultivating and establishing local leadership. 6. Lay leadership Church Planting Movements are driven by lay leaders. These lay leaders are typically bi-vocational and come from the general profile of the people group being reached. In other words, if the people group is primarily non-literate, then the leadership shares this characteristic. If the people are primarily fishermen, so too are their lay leaders. As the movement unfolds, paid clergy often emerge. However, the majorityand growth edge of the movementcontinue to be led by lay or bi-vocational leaders. This reliance upon lay leadership
ensures the largest possible pool of potential church planters and cell church leaders. Dependence upon seminarytrained-or in non-literate societies, even educated-pastoral leaders means that the work will always face a leadership deficit. 7. Cell or house churches Church buildings do appear in Church Planting Movements. However, the vast majority of the churches continue to be small, reproducible cell churches of 10-30 members meeting in homes or storefronts. There is a distinction between cell churches and house churches. Cell churches are linked to one another in some type of structured network. Often this network is linked to a larger, single church identity. The Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, South Korea, is perhaps the most famous example of the cell-church model with more than 50,000 individual cells. House churches may look the same as cell churches, but they generally are not organized under a single authority of hierarchy of authorities. As autonomous units, house churches may lack the unifying structure of cell churches, but they are typically more dynamic. Each has it’s advantages. Cell groups are easier to shape and guide toward doctrinal conformity, while house churches are less vulnerable to suppression by a hostile government. Both types of churches are common in Church Planting Movements, often appearing in the same movement. 8. Churches planting churches In most Church Planting Movements, the first churches were planted by missionaries or by missionary-trained church planters. At some point, however, as the movements entered a multiplicative phase of reproduction, the churches themselves began planting new churches. In order for this to occur, church members have to believe that reproduction is natural and that no external aids are needed to start a new church. In Church Planting Movements, nothing deters the local believers from winning the lost and planting new cell churches themselves. 9. Rapid reproduction
Some have challenged the necessity of rapid reproduction for the life of the Church Planting Movement, but no one has questioned its evidence in every CPM. Most church planters involved in these movements contend that rapid reproduction is vital to the movement itself. They report that when reproduction rates slow down, the Church Planting Movement falters. Rapid reproduction communicates the urgency and importance of coming to faith in Christ. When rapid reproduction is taking place, you can be assured that the churches are unencumbered by nonessential elements and the laity are fully empowered to participate in this work of God. 10. Healthy churches Church growth experts have written extensively in recent years about the marks of a church. Most agree that healthy churches should carry out the following five purposes: 1) worship, 2) evangelistic and missionary outreach, 3) education and discipleship, 4) ministry and 5) fellowship. In each of the Church Planting Movements we studied, these five core functions were evident. A number of church planters have pointed out that when these five health indicators are strong, the church can’t help but grow. Over the past five years, in as few as five Church Planting Movements, nearly a quarter of a million lost souls have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine 50 Church Planting Movements - or 500! The excitement, however, is not in the numbers, not even when we consider that these numbers represent individuals coming to new life in Christ. The greatest joy comes in being on mission with God in His redemptive plan for the nations - serving as His instruments in this unfolding miracle of salvation that is being extended to all peoples. It is for this joy that we press on.
Issue 2 | House2House
A TELEPHONE INTERVIEW WITH DAVID GARRISON
H2H: How did you come to write the book, Church Planting Movements? David Garrison: A key part of our vision statement is that we are “on a mission with God”. We define that as, “trying to see what God is doing in the world and joining Him there, rather than begging Him to join us”. We have more than 5000 missionaries from whom we get annual reports. We began to see enormous activity where many were coming to faith in Christ and thousands of churches were being planted. As we saw patterns in this, we asked the Lord how we could join Him in what He is doing. The book is our attempt to describe what we saw. The name that we put on this was Church Planting Movements. The case studies that we gave are our best effort to be faithful to what we actually saw God doing. It is then easier for us to align ourselves, to join Him in what He is doing to draw people to Himself. H2H: You mentioned in your book a church planting movement (CPM) in Western Europe. Are there many church planting movements in primarily western cultures? David Garrison: One of the common characteristics that we’ve seen of church planting movements is persecution, and in many open democracies you don’t have that. Persecution often creates a climate of urgent need in response to Christ. This is one of the factors noted in why we don’t see more CPMs in the West. One CPM that we did see was in Amsterdam among immigrants, refugees who came into the area. They were extremely responsive and began reproducing churches at a very rapid clip. H2H: Despite the lack of CPMs in the States, we are aware of incredible interest, both within and outside traditional churches all around the country, in what is happening through church planting in homes. Do you see this as a trend for the future? David Garrison: You know, it is hard to predict the future. I have a Ph.D. in church history. History teaches us that no one knows what the future will bring. But there is an awful lot to commend house churches here in the United States. There are quantifiable realities, such as the cost of church buildings, the exploding population, the increase in urbanization and the increasing cost of property in the cities. There is no way we can build enough church buildings. In the United States we have had the luxury of affluence and space, but quite frankly it becomes less and less feasible to plan on that basis. It becomes a question of stewardship. Can you justify putting 20-30 million dollars into building a church just so that you can add another 1000 people to a church that already has a couple of thousand people. When we understand that people make up the church rather than church buildings, more and more people will come to the conclusion that we have to have new wineskins for the body of Christ. H2H: Do you think that in a Western culture this movement will have any different characteristics to those you have described in an Eastern culture? David Garrison: Some of the things that we have learned about cause and effect will come into play here. One of the things that persecution does is weed out casual believers. In America, where you don’t have persecution, you have all of the positives that draw people in but no persecution to screen out those who aren’t true believers. The result is that you are always going to have more of the wheat and the tares than you are going to have in, say a Cuba or a China. And so there will be issues of morality, of church discipline. Do these just become intimate groups of believers who enjoy the community life of church but don’t know the holiness and Lordship of Christ? Willow Creek calls this problem “the train wreck.” When you bring in many people with “seeker friendly services,” you have to deal with such issues as immorality in the church, because some have not been truly converted. Freedom here is the freedom to do whatever you want to. It is hard to have standards of holiness and character. It’s not going to be much different whether you have a small church or a large church. That’s a difference in America compared with countries where you have to pay a high price to follow Christ. H2H: Is there anything else that you think we should be aware of? David Garrison: This may come across rather as a paid endorsement, but I believe it none the less. I’m very excited about what you all are doing because what I have found is that when you raise up a model or ideal such as God has laid on your hearts in the House2House magazine, you begin to see others pop up all over the place. They were there all along, but they thought they were the only ones in all the world that read the New Testament that way. It’s exciting to me to see the potential of a movement galvanize around the “flag that you have run up the flagpole”. This is something that God may be in right now. I like that. I’m excited by that. I’m eager to see what may emerge out of it. We don’t know what the future holds. So many people in the Southern Baptist tradition say that cell churches and home churches don’t really work in America, and they will proceed to explain why. I’m not convinced that it doesn’t work here. I think that we have just set a dynamic that allows us to comfortably go to a building and let others do the work for us. We kind of pay others to do our church for us. I am concerned over the 80+ million unchurched Americans. I’m not convinced that our existing structures will draw them in. The house church movement has the potential to do that. It does not yet appear what it shall be. We are still in a transition stage. I’m excited to see what the models are that will emerge from this. David and Sonia Garrison have served as missionaries in Hong Kong and Northern Africa. They are part of the home office staff of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
House2House | Issue 2
The “Underground” Church
by Larry Kreider
During the 1970s my wife LaVerne and I were involved in a youth ministry to the unchurched in northern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. One afternoon in 1978, I took a break from youth ministry duties in order to spend some extra time in prayer. I was startled when I heard the Lord speak to me through His still, small voice. “Are you willing to be involved in the underground church?” He asked. The words that I heard in my spirit were distinct, even piercing! Yet, at first I was baffled by what He was trying to tell me. My mind raced immediately to the Berlin Wall, and the barbed wire fences that then surrounded the borders of many communist nations. I thought of the persecuted church meeting underground in nations that opposed the gospel. It still didn’t make sense, yet I knew I had to respond: I had heard the call of God. “Yes, Lord,” I replied as tears formed in my eyes. “I am willing.” I chose to obey, even though I didn’t understand what it all meant. Soon after the Lord spoke to me about the underground church, I asked some of my Christian friends if they would be willing to meet with me each week for the purpose of enhancing our own spiritual growth. Two men responded. We began meeting every week for prayer, Bible study, encouragement and mutual accountability. Soon our living room was filled to capacity as this “cell group” grew and expanded. Eventually we multiplied into two groups as more people came to Christ and needed to be nurtured and taught the Word of God. New Wineskins For the New Wine Although we tried to get them involved, the new believers simply didn’t fit very well in the established churches in our community. It seemed clear that there was a need for new church structures to relate to converts from a variety of backgrounds. That’s why Jesus said we needed to put new wine in new wineskins. “... Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17). So began our church’s adventure into cell groups. We started a new church, DOVE Christian Fellowship, as a new wineskin for the new wine of new believers, in 1980. We met in a large living room on Sunday mornings, and in three small cell groups during the week. We discovered cell groups to be a place where people have the opportunity to experience and demonstrate Christianity built on relationships, not simply on meetings. In the cell groups, people could more readily share their lives with each other and reach out with the healing love of Jesus to a broken world. Home Cell Groups Are “Underground” In time, I began to understand what the Lord had in mind when He asked me if I was willing to be involved in the underground church. An underground church can be compared to a tree: its trunk, branches and leaves are only half of the picture. The unnoticed half, the underground root system, nourishes the whole tree and keeps it healthy. The underground church, I began to realize, was to consist of believers gathered together through a structure of small groups of believers meeting in homes to pray, evangelize and build relationships with one another. In this way, each believer is made an active and vital part of the body of Christ. When every believer is nourished and healthy, the whole church is strong. As water and nutrients feed the tree by climbing up through the root system, so the church is nourished and strengthened by what happens in the “underground” (unseen) realm of church lifebelievers involved in home groups. These small home group relationships are not to be mere appendages of the church; in actuality, they are the church. We have found meeting together in homes and experiencing relationships in cell group life was just as important as meeting together each week in a larger gathering to worship and receive teaching from the Word of God. Cell Groups Give Everyone An Opportunity to Get Involved Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but He spent most of His time with twelve men, His disciples. Cell groups give everyone an opportunity to get involved, a place where each person can begin using his or her spiritual gifts. The cell group is the place where he can receive training, instruction and encouragement as he reaches out to his friends and neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our small fledging cell church of about 25 people began to grow. We met in three small cells during the week. We soon outgrew the living room for our Sunday morning celebration and began to meet in barns, school gymnasiums, anywhere where we could find a place large enough to fit these believers. We met in cell groups during the week, in various celebration locations on weekends, and then on a regular basis, usually monthly or bimonthly, we
Issue 2 | House2House
rented the largest high school auditorium or local park we could find to celebrate Jesus together on a Sunday morning. It was exciting. By 1990, purely by the grace of God, we had grown to more than 2300 believers meeting in cell groups throughout rural south-central Pennsylvania. It was an amazing thing that God had done among us. We discovered that Christianity is not just sitting in a pew each Sunday morning, looking at the back of someone’s head. Christianity is knowing Jesus intimately, reaching out to the lost and making disciples. This must be the motivation of our hearts in order to fulfill effectively the Lord’s purposes for us as believers in Jesus Christ. And our homes are ideal tools for fulfilling the purposes of God. Preparing Future Leaders-a Priority The church of today should take a lesson from the early church. Often with only minimal success, we cling to traditional church structures that involve trying to reach people for Christ with extravagant church programs and high-tech methodology. Though such methods may have their place, they can never substitute for personal relationships formed in the context of genuine Christian community. When David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church from Seoul, Korea, was at our church for a pastors’ conference, I talked to him about the need to release local leadership in a small group setting. I will never forget his response. “Many pastors are threatened,” he said. “They are afraid to release their people.” Moses gave Pharaoh the mandate of the Lord: “Let my people go!” I believe that the Lord is setting every believer free to be an able minister of the new covenant. May every spiritual leader maintain his security in the Lord and
take the risk to release the people of God to minister to others. My prayer for those I am responsible to disciple and train is that they may be used of God in a much greater way than I have been used. Jesus told His disciples that those who believe in Him would do the works He does and even greater works (John 14:12). And John the Baptist, a type of New Testament Elijah, stated clearly, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John’s whole life was consumed with preparing the way for Jesus. The Lord has called us as home group leaders, pastors and Christian leaders to do the same-to see Jesus and others increase as we decrease. This must be our motivation. We are preparing servant leaders for the next generation. A few years ago, in 1996, I turned over the leadership and ministry of our church to eight pastors, twentyone elders, and a whole host of cell leaders as our church decentralized and became eight cell-based churches. Our new pastoral leaders were discipled at the grassroots level, in our cell groups. I now am able to focus my attention on training Christian leaders and being a spiritual father to church leaders and church planters. During the past five years, as new churches continue to be planted, the Lord by His grace has enabled our family of churches to grow to 80 cell-based churches located in five continents of the world. The Need for New Wineskins Once Again A few months ago, I turned 50. It has been twenty-three years since the Lord spoke to me about the “underground church.” During the past few years, I have watched and listened to the next generation, Generation X, those 18-35 years of age. I love to talk to these young men and women from all over America and the world as I travel and teach week after week.
Many are feeling what I felt more than 20 years ago. They want a new wineskin, a new type of church that meets the needs of their generation. We have come to the conclusion that it is again time for a new model of church in America that will be built mostly by the next generation. Many of those from my generation are being called by God to be the spiritual fathers and mothers who encourage and support this next generation as they experience church in a way that is different from what we have experienced. Generation Xer’s are looking for a church experience that focuses on (1) relationships (2) authenticity (3) the freedom to be creative, and (4) intergenerational connection. They want spiritual fathers and mothers. Thousands of their generation are convinced that they can experience Christ best in the new wineskin of a “house church” that is not an island to itself. These new churches can meet in a variety of places including homes, places of business, school classrooms, skate parks, shopping malls, anywhere that people meet. They seem to understand that each “house church” must be committed to network together with other house churches in their city or region to keep them from pride, exclusiveness, and heresy. House Churches As True Churches Generation Xer’s tell me they believe these new house churches in their area will meet together once every month or so for corporate worship and teaching. But this monthly celebration is not the church. The house churches are true churches, not just Bible studies or cell groups. They have elders, they collect tithes and offerings, and the leadership is responsible before the Lord for the souls of the people in the house church (Hebrews 13:17). Additionally, these young leaders are intent on the rapid reproduction of these house churches. These new churches remind me of
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a shopping mall. Most of the little specialized stores in a shopping mall would go out of business within a year if they were left on their own and not linked to the other stores in their mall. But together, they prosper. House churches that learn to network together in a practical way in their city will experience great blessing from the Lord. Those who do not will have a tendency to become ingrown, stagnant, stop evangelizing, and become critical of the rest of the church. We must love our Lord’s bride, the church. She is far from perfect, but He loves her and so must we. I believe in cell ministry in the local church more than ever. But right alongside cell churches and other types of churches, the Lord will raise up house churches as vessels for His harvest. Many of these house churches will have small cells for training new leaders and to give every believer the opportunity to minister. Only instead of constructing a church building, when the house or place where they are meeting in is outgrown, a new house church is planted. Sounds a bit like the book of Acts, doesn’t it? House Church Networks-A Wave of the Future Thirty years ago, home schooling was almost unheard of in America. But today, it is commonplace. All across America, I meet parents who are very comfortable with some of their children being home-schooled, some being educated in a public school, while others are learning in a Christian school. These three types of educational training exist together in nearly every community in America. There is no competition. All three options are legitimate. Ten years from now, I believe thousands of house churches will have emerged all across America in our cities and regions. They will network with one another, but they will also serve together with the hundreds of community churches of many flavors
and varieties. And both house churches networking together and those who meet in church buildings every Sunday will serve alongside the megachurches, the spiritual Wal-Mart Superstores of our communities. And guess what? God will bless all three-the house church, the community church, and the mega-church! He is raising up His church in every region. Some will worship Him as a part of a megachurch, others as a part of a smaller church in their community, while others will be involved in house churches networking together. I have two concerns as house church movements emerge among us: pride and persecution. As thousands of new house churches spring up in communities all over our nation, there may be a tendency for those involved to be filled with pride, feeling they are on the “cutting edge” while those not in house churches are “missing it.” This must be guarded against. Pride always comes before a fall. God is much more concerned about the attitude of our hearts than our church structure. Secondly, historically nearly every former move of God has persecuted the next move of God. May the church of our generation resist the temptation to criticize the next generation as they pursue the new wine of the Holy Spirit and the new wineskins they discern are needed to experience New Testament Christianity! Larry Kreider serves as International Director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a worldwide network of cell-based churches. For 15 years he pastored DOVE Christian Fellowship, which grew from one cell to more than 2300 people involved in cell groups. Larry has written several books, including House to House, and The Cry For Spiritual Fathers & Mothers. He and his wife, LaVerne, have four children, two grandchildren, and live in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
Issue 2 | House2House
Wolfgang Simson in Austin
Lining up for lunch during the recent Wolfgang Simson Conference in Austin, Texas
John White from Denver writes, I have several observations I’d like to pass on to you from the two seminars I was privileged to attend with Wolfgang Simson in March. The first seminar, on March 17, was hosted by Tony and Felicity Dale in Austin, TX. There were 170 people shoehorned into their house (quite a house!). Then, five days later, 100 people met at South Fellowship in Denver for a similar experience. In both seminars, Wolfgang primarily told stories about the revival that is occurring all around the world -China, Vietnam, India, Sudan, Germany, etc. In these places, he sees four characteristics that mark what God is doing: 1. Return to childlike faith in God’s Word (vs. manmade traditions) 2. Repentance of sin (learning to become overcomers) 3. Restoration of the supernatural to the church (especially apostolic and prophetic ministries) 4. Restoration of New Testament forms of church In addition to Wolfgang’s inspirational storytelling, it was very exciting to meet believers at the seminars from all over our country. I heard the same story over and over. Spontaneously and independently, people all over are beginning to “do church” in their homes. These are not “small groups” that are a secondary ministry of a large church but rather full-fledged churches on their own. Some common characteristics are: 1. Jesus brings the agenda when they meet. No church bulletins here. The priority is on listening to God and obeying. Open church. Jesus is the Builder of His church. He leads the meeting. (Mt. 16:18) 2. The mathematical formula is church = family. Therefore, the meetings are small (usually no more than 15) and highly relational. Eating a meal is a normal part of church. Church is not limited to one meeting a week but involves numerous informal contacts; it’s a way of life! (Acts 2:46) 3. Church is participatory. Sort of a spiritual potluck where everyone brings something to strengthen the others. (1 Cor. 14:26). No spectators. One tool that the Lord is using in a big way is Wolfgang’s book, Houses That Change the World. It first came out in German about 18 months ago and has stimulated the planting of 500 home churches in Germany and another 500 in Switzerland. Tony Dale, one of the house church pastors at Austin Fellowship, suggested that a similar response in the US would result in 10,000 new house churches. My sense is that God is using the book to identify “men/women of peace” (see Luke 10). These are people who, when they read the book, will respond with, “Yes! This is what God has been putting in my heart! I want to do this! I just need someone to show me how.” So, if you haven’t read the book, I would encourage you to do so. If you are one of the people who are saying, “Yes!” then I would encourage you to buy a few more copies and give them to people as the Lord instructs you. My summary would be, “It’s beginning! What we have heard that God is doing around the world is beginning to happen here. Praise God!”
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by John White
Feeling a little insecure about the idea of house church? After all, the house church is rather small and insignificant compared to the megachurch down on the corner. The house church can seem like an antiquated first century relic compared to the highly programmed modern church. Take heart! Because, according to Leonard Sweet in his book, Postmodern Pilgrims, the world is changing dramatically and the traditional church is largely clueless about the change. The changes which are now underway will require a form of church that is much closer to the first century than what we have known in the twentieth century. According to Sweet... “The institutional church in the next twenty years will continue more and more to look like the pink Cadillac with the huge tail fins.” (p. 2) “...the church’s leaders have Alzheimer’s disease. We still love them. We remember and pass on their stories. But they’re living in another world. They’re totally clueless about the world that is actually out there. The problem is that they are captaining the ship.” (p. 29) The change from modernism to postmodernism can be summed up by the four letters E-P-I-C: Experiential Participatory - Image-driven - Connected. Sweet is not saying that this change is necessarily good or bad - just that it’s the way things are moving. Here’s a summary: From Rational to Experiential. Modernism emphasizes reason and observation. Postmodernism emphasizes revelation From Representative to Participatory. Modernism says, “We need our leaders to make decisions for us.” Postmodernism says, “We want to make our own decisions and to have multiple choices.” “There are no more ‘professional clergy’ and pew-sitting laity...Postmoderns want interactive, immersive, ‘in your face’ participation in the mysteries of God.” (p. 72) From Word-based to Image-driven. Modernism emphasizes words and and experience. “In postmodern culture, there is no interest in a ‘secondhand’ God, a God that someone else (church tradition, church professionals, church bureaucracies) defines for us. Each one of us is a Jacob become Israel: a wrestler with God. The encounter, the experience is the message.” (p. 43) propositional truth. Postmodernism emphasizes images and the power of metaphor. “The lesson for the church is simple: images generate emotions, and people will respond to their feelings...The greatest image in the world, the image to which we draw people into a relationship, is the image of God in Jesus the Christ.” (p. 86.87) From Individual to IndividualCommunal. Modernism emphasizes the individual. Postmodernism emphasizes the individual in community. “The paradox is this: the pursuit of individualism has led us to this place of hunger for connectedness... The transiency of the culture requires that our community building and hospitality be more aggressive, not less; more premeditated, not haphazard.” (p. 109, 117) So, what must the church do to minister to this increasingly postmodern culture around us? Sweet suggests “that ministry in the twenty-first century has more in common with the first century than with the modern world that is collapsing all around us.” (p. xvii) While Sweet does not discuss house churches in any great depth, we know that they were the primary structure for ministry in the first century. His cultural analysis leads us to believe that, in the twenty-first century, house churches will once again be the primary structure for ministry. So, for the church it is “back to the future”. And right in the middle of that future is the church that meets in the home.
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A pubescent, teenage boy was on his second day on the job at a local grocery store when an elderly lady tapped him on the shoulder. “I would like to buy half a head of lettuce,” she requested. With a cracking voice, the boy asked, “Why?” “ Well, I go through lettuce so slowly that half of it gets rotten,” she replied. “ Let me go ask the manager for you,” the boy squeaked. So he walked to the back of the store, past the gray, swinging doors and into the manager’s dark, neon-lit office and said, “Some old bag wants to buy half a head of lettuce.” Then, when he turned around, he realized that the woman had followed him and he said, “And this lovely lady would like to buy the other half.” Later that day, the manager called him into his office and exclaimed, “I like you. You’re a quick thinker. Where are you from?” “Canada,” the boy replied with confidence. “Everyone there is either ugly as sin or plays hockey. My wife is from Canada,” the manager said sternly. “Oh really?” asked the boy. “What team does she play for?
Postcard From The Edg E...
challenges to get themselves ready for service in the military. Olympians prepare most of their lives for that one race. So, when God tells us to be prepared to give answers for why we love Him, that means that He expects us to actively display His image through what we say and do. Preparation without action is useless. Many believers tell themselves that when they get to a point at which they are reading the word
\Tell Me A Story\
by Josh Watkins
We need to be quick on our feet and ready for whatever life throws at us. 1Peter 3:15 says to “Always be prepared to give the reasons for the hope that you have.” Now, what is the reason for someone to be prepared? Preparation is necessary when action needs to occur. Mothers prepare both physically and emotionally before their child is born. Soldiers train through many mental and physical
more, praying more, and basically have their lives straight, then they will really begin to act on God’s agenda. Well, if you wait for all of that, you will always wait! I believe that God is using Generation X carry out a movement of action in the Kingdom like never before. In 1995, I
was a part-time Youth minister. Then, the youth functioned as a group of young believers that engaged in funfilled activities together instead of the dangerous and immoral things that their peers were doing. We went bowling, played miniature golf, and played games about the Bible. Today, I have seen a fourteen year-old prophesy and it came to pass. I have seen a seventeen year-old lead worship and a sixteen yearold speak in front of the whole school. I have seen healing, preaching, teaching, and apostleship from believers that are twenty or younger. No longer can we use the excuses like, “I am not experienced enough”, “I am not old enough”, or “I am not qualified”. The Bible is flooded with young people who were active participants in the divine nature such as Mary, Samson, and David. 1 Tim 4:12 says, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, and in purity. So, young people are told to set an example for the believers. Not when they are older, but now! As the Lord continues to prepare His children, let us act on it so that all those who cross our paths in life will see Him alive in us. Josh, along with his wife, Beth, minister at a student led church named, The Calling, in Ft Worth, TX. This church been meeting for the past 8 months.
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Saturation Church Planting
Starting Simple Bible Colleges That Meet in Homes By Robert Fitts
needy are all a part of the training. World Mission: Each ABC adopts an Unreached People Group for prayer and other support as the Lord directs. We work with other missionary organizations to help in the placement of students who are led to serve the Lord in other countries either short term or long term. ABC begins with a training seminar for leaders and students. The size of the class is limited to about 12 students in order to maintain the small group dynamic. Each meeting includes praise, prayer, sharing, personal ministry, reading and discussing the New Testament, and a time of refreshments and fellowship. The teaching method is Interactive Bible Study, which is simply reading and discussing what is read. All take part in the reading. Questions and comments are encouraged. The outgoing talkers are encouraged to practice holding back and the quiet non-talkers are encouraged to speak out more. The homework is to read the Old Testament consecutively, about two chapters each day, using a daily Bible reading schedule provided for each student. Listening to the Old Testament on cassette tapes or CD is also acceptable. There are two phases of the ABC, the study phase and the outreach phase. The study phase consists of attending the weekly meetings and doing the daily reading through the Old Testament. The outreach phase is to pray daily for divine appointments as mentioned above; to witness to the lost; to minister healing and deliverance to the sick and oppressed; to participate in projects to help the poor and needy; to pray daily for the adopted Unreached People Group and to help start a new ABC and a house church at the end of the school. The only cost of the ABC is the textbook, JESUS CHRIST, THE GREATEST LIFE EVER LIVED by Johnston Cheney, a unique blending of the four
he best way I’ve found to get a church planting movement going is to start a training school to teach church planting by precept and example. After eleven years of trying to do it other ways, the Bible College method has proven to be the most effective for us. Alpha-Omega Bible College (ABC) is a one-year through-the-Bible course designed to train believers to do the works of Jesus and be a missionary right where they live NOW. The Lord may send them somewhere else later, but they will learn to function as missionaries on their present mission field first. Each student will go through the New Testament in interactive Bible study in class and read through the Old Testament in his/her private devotions. The school includes a seminar at the beginning, one evening meeting a week, a mid-term retreat and a graduation banquet at the end of the spring term. ABC has a vision to train believers in every country for leadership in church planting, evangelism, discipleship, mercy ministries and world mission. Church Planting: ABC teaches simple methods of church planting that are effective and adaptable anywhere in the world, on any mission field. The method is called Saturation Church Planting and is primarily a vision to multiply house churches and return to the simplicity of the first century Church. Evangelism: ABC teaches evangelism in everyday life situations. At each ses-
sion, time is given to share experiences in ministry and personal evangelism as the Lord opens hearts and sets up “divine appointments” in answer to the following prayer: “Father, cause my path to cross the path today of someone who is hungry for you. Give me sensitivity to know when that happens and grace to open my mouth and s h a r e Christ in t h e p ow e r of the
Holy Spirit.” Discipleship: ABC is discipling each student and teaching them to disciple others in the basic fundamentals of Christian ministry. This is accomplished by multiplying these colleges into all nations and networking with other ministries, churches and missionary organizations. A part of the training is the assignment to start a house church and another ABC at the end of the oneyear commitment. Mercy Ministries: Ministering healing, deliverance, prophecy, personal ministry, leading a person to faith in Jesus and projects to help the poor and
Issue 2 | House2House
gospels that adds nothing, deletes nothing, and repeats nothing. An offering basket is available each week whereby the school leader/instructor is honored in the spirit of Galatians 6:6, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his
instructor.” Our goal is to see these Bible Colleges established in every state in the USA and in every country to help fulfill Jesus’ command to go into all the world and proclaim the good news of God’s love
and forgiveness to all nations. For more information Call: 949-496-9394 or 808-334-9682 Fax: 808-334-9673 Email: RobertJoni@aol.com Write to Robert Fitts at 76-6309 Haku Pl., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Introduction to Concerning Church Planters
by Frank Viola
From the editor: We are including this introduction to the writing of Frank Viola as he is both one of the most prolific and one of the clearest writers on issues that house churches are facing. Much of his material can be studied in depth on his web page. He also welcomes this material being down-loaded from the web and used as long as it is not altered. You can go to his site at http://www.ptmin.org/ planters.htm. Because of the focus of this issue of House2House Magazine, we wanted to introduce you to Viola’s thoughts on the importance of involving outside (traveling ministry) help in the planting of new home churches. The following introduction also mentions a number of the key books that have been written over the past 100 years by men of keen spiritual insight (Prophets ?) who have deeply impacted those who have followed in their footsteps. We particularly commend to you the books mentioned below by Watchman Nee and Rolland Allen. If you can find them - buy them! Over the last two years, I have publicly shared my burden on the dire need for a return to first-century principles of church planting. This burden has been articulated in my books, So You Want to Start a House Church? and From Nazareth to Patmos. It’s also been given air-play in my spoken messages The Overlooked Piece of the New Testament Pattern and Rethinking Our Approach to the New Testament. Though less extensively, I’ve treated the subject in my two paperback books. In chapter 5 of Who is Your Covering?, I discuss the role of the itinerant worker (i.e., church planter) who founds and nurtures house churches. I also describe some of the blatant abuses associated with untested workers. Likewise, in the last chapter of Rethinking the Wineskin, I discuss the need for outside help in beginning a house church. Recently, some have asked me when I came to discover the need for traveling workers. I mark the starting point in 1990. In that year I was handed Watchman Nee’s classic work The Normal Christian Church Life. This book is discusses how churches were raised up in the first century. Nee argues powerfully for the notion that virtually all churches in Century One were planted by extralocal workers. This was the first contact I had with such a notion. I later came across Rolland Allen’s popular work Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?. Allen makes the same point using different vernacular. Other men have written on this subject since then. Most notably Robert Banks and Gene Edwards. Banks gives scholarly attention to the Pauline way of raising up churches in his book Paul’s Idea of Community (Chapters 15-18). And Edwards has written a plethora of books tracing this principle throughout the NT. His best known are The First-Century Diaries and How to Meet in Homes. Since 1990, I’ve made many sociological and psychological observations
regarding the problems endemic to modern house churches. These observations were built upon the following experiences over the last thirteen years: · Gathering with a house church for eight straight years that had a very intense and multifaceted experience of church life. · Visiting and observing many house churches across the country, all of which gather in a distinct fashion. · Speaking at a number of house church conferences which represented a different stream within the “house church movement.” · Interviewing and observing a number of older men who are involved in the work of church planting. In addition to the above, I’ve had the unique privilege of planting a house church from the ground up. This includes bringing unbelievers to Christ and equipping new converts to function under Christ’s Headship. Today, by God’s grace, I continue to carry on this work in various places. All of these experiences led me to the following conclusions: 1. Most modern house churches have utterly ignored what Scripture has to say about church planting. 2. Most problems germane to our house churches could be resolved if we returned to first principles regarding church planting and nurturing. Visit www.ptmin.org/planters.htm for the full text.
House2House | Issue 2
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“The law and the prophets were until John the Baptist . . .” Luke 16:16 “In many and various ways God spoke in times past through His servants the prophets, but now. . .” Heb. 1:1 In the 1500’s, Martin Luther penned his 95 theses and in the process changed the way that Christians think about salvation by faith. At various times in history, seismic changes have come about over short periods of time. These are not gradual, “planned for” changes. Rather, they represent the convergence of ideas and technology in such a way that a dramatic shifting of opinion, a genuine “new way of looking at things” emerges. The current explosion of the Internet would represent such a paradigm shift. Within the space of a few short years, a concept within communications, along with the technology to undergird that concept, has emerged that is literally changing the way that people work, communicate and do business. When the Old Testament prophet Daniel said, “in the last days knowledge would increase,” he couldn’t have had an inkling of how dramatically this increase would occur. Millennia ago, it took several hundred years for the body of human knowledge to double. Now it doubles every seven years, maybe faster. The industrial revolution changed the face of England over the course of a generation. Recent
Chapter Two of the soon to be released book Church Paradigms by Tony & Felicity Dale
advances in technology, where a factory can literally be put together in a box (see Time Magazine article of July, 2000), is allowing comparable changes to made within months. Currently, similar major changes in the life and practice of the church worldwide appear to be going on. The 20th century has seen as much growth and as much change in the church worldwide as in all of the centuries from the end of the apostolic era to the beginning of the 20th century. Where does this place the church in America as we begin this new millenium? Arthur Wallis, the elder statesman of the “New Churches” in Britain, gives a masterful explanation of church development over the centuries in his introduction of the book, Another Wave Rolls In. His analogy of the onward flow of the Holy Spirit’s work through the church being like the incoming tide is powerful. What energy! What beauty and awesome power is displayed as the waves crash against the rocks. Nothing can stand in it’s way. Each wave represents a new truth unveiled that the church takes hold of. With the Reformation, that truth was salvation by faith. With the Baptists, it was the importance of baptism by full immersion that came to the fore. With the Pentecostals, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was once again brought to the attention of the whole body of Christ. God is progressively revealing (bringing new light from the timeless scriptures) truth so that He will have His way in His church, and one day His Bride will be “without spot or blemish.” Eph. 5:26 It again appears that we are on the threshold of a time of seismic change within the American church. The 20th century was the American century. However, as we look at the influence of the churches, it would appear that the impetus has moved from the first to the third world. Tremendous church
A Personal Journey
Tony & Felicity Dale growth in Asia and Latin America, with even more remarkable growth in parts of Africa, leads one to look outside the borders of the United States for the cutting edge of the Holy Spirit’s work in this generation. Can the American churches again have the influence for the Kingdom of God that would approximate to their size and financial clout? George Barna, the well known Christian pollster and writer says in his book, The Second Coming of the Church, that there is a very strong case for the American church being currently on the edge of irrelevancy. His statistical data seems to suggest that the vast majority of American Christians have already moved to a place in their daily lives where being a Christian has little, if any, practical import. How different from being able to say, “These people have turned the world up side down!” Acts 17:6 American churches need to re-invent themselves if they are to be relevant to the baby boomers and the X and Y generations. Certainly, the changes cannot come at a snail’s pace in this day of dot.coms and e.commerce. David Watson, a Christian leader of the last generation cleverly parodied the famous hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” to say, “Like a mighty tortoise,
So if we, in the churches, just looked with fresh eyes (and open minds) at what is so obvious in scripture, we would find ourselves with the clarity that we need to see “church” re-invented in God’s image rather than our own! House2House | Issue 2
Continued on page 27
A Bible Study: The House to House Principle
By Larry Kreider
How could the 120 disciples in the upper room possibly have taken care of 3,000 new converts? These disciples were trained by their Master to take responsibility to disciple these new believers. Part of their secret is found in Acts 2:46-47: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” How could the early disciples deal with the degree of persecution that came their way? What would happen when persecution forced them to flee from their homes and cities. We see a partial answer in Acts 8:3-4, “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. The Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with on accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” God’s people gathered at the temple and met in small groups in homes. They began to minister to one another and to the unsaved on an individual basis, and the Lord kept adding to the church daily! In Acts 20:20, the Apostle Paul declares to members of the church at Ephesus, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” Paul’s last years of ministry, before martyrdom where spent in teaching in Rome. “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and believers meeting in house churches. The Chinese church has a vision to train 100,000 missionaries to go into the Muslim world to take the Good News of Christ to the millions in spiritual darkness. God has poured out so much grace on the Chinese church. This “underground church” is probably experiencing the greatest move of God in history since Pentecost, all happening in house churches throughout China. About 25 years ago, the mega-church began to emerge in America. Only a few mega-churches existed in America before this time. Dr. Cho, the pastor of the world’s largest church from Seoul, Korea, came to America and told us it was possible to see change in the church in our nation if we would “pray and obey.” Could it be, that in our day, the Lord is speaking to us through our Chinese brothers and sisters in house church movements throughout China? It is time to “pray and obey” again. In II Kings 4:1-7 the story is told of Elisha miraculously multiplying the
received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” Acts 28:30-31 The letter that Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome was written to believers in Jesus Christ who met in peoples’ homes. In his letter to the Romans, Paul indicates that one of these groups met in the home of Priscilla and Aquila: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila…Likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:3-5 and see also 1 Cor. 16:19). In similar fashion we see in other places, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” Colossians 4:15. When Paul wrote to his friend Philemon, he expressed his greetings to the church in his house, “ . . . to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house” (Philemon 1:2). oil of a poor widow. As long as the widow had vessels to pour the oil into, the flow of oil continued. But when she ran out of vessels, the supply of new oil was halted. In many ways this story is a prophetic picture of the present purpose of God for the church. He has promised to pour out His Holy Spirit in these last days, but this will necessitate flexible containers to hold the great harvest that is on the horizon. Is it possible that the Lord is waiting for His church to prepare the proper containers so He can fully pour out His Spirit? Now is the time to prepare leaders for the coming harvest. We cannot force new Christians into our old wineskins-we must prepare new wineskins for the new wine. Forming new vessels will facilitate the Lord’s commission to make disciples. Many new types of vessels, including new house churches networking together in our communities, must be formed. Let’s get about our Father’s business.
Kreider on China
It’s Time to “Pray and Obey” A few months ago, I had the opportunity to minister to eighty of the key leaders of the underground church movements in China. It was life changing for me. I was deeply moved by meeting these humble men and women of God. I fact, I was trying to figure out what I could teach them. I felt they should be teaching me. Ninety five percent of these leaders, many who had traveled for four days by train to get to the leadership training seminar, had been in prison for their faith. One elderly leader had just been released from prison four days before our meetings. More than 25,000 people are coming to Christ every day in China through house church ministry. There are over 80 million believers in house churches in China today. One precious man of God, who sat at our breakfast table, told us very humbly that he is responsible to oversee 10 million
Issue 2 | House2House
Fifteen Theses Towards A Re-Incarnation Of Church
By Wolfgang Simson 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 House-Churches 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
Continuing from our last issue here are the next three of Wolfgang’s Theses, look for the next three in our next issue: 4. From Church-Houses to House-Churches Since New Testament times, there is no such thing as “a house of God”. At the cost of his life, Stephen reminded unequivocally: God does not live in temples made by human hands. The Church is the people of God. The Church, therefore, was and is at home where people are at home: in ordinary houses. There, the people of God: share their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, have “meatings,” that is, they eat when they meet, often do not even hesitate to sell private property and share material and spiritual blessings, teach each other in real-life situations how to obey God’s word-dialogue- and not professor-style, pray and prophesy with each other, baptize, ‘lose their face’ and their ego by confessing their sins, regain a new corporate identity by experiencing love, acceptance and forgiveness. 5. The church has to become small in order to grow big Most churches of today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become “fellowships without fellowship.” The New Testament Church was a mass of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not upward into big congregations between 20 and 300 people filling a cathedral and making real, mutual communication improbable. Instead, it multiplied “sidewards”-like organic cells-once these groups reached around 15-20 people. Then, if possible, it drew all the Christians together into citywide celebrations, as with Solomon’s Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is, statistically speaking, neither big nor beautiful, but rather a sad compromise, an overgrown house-church and an under-grown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both. 6. No church is led by a Pastor alone The local church is not lead by a Pastor, but fathered by an Elder, a local person of wisdom and reality. The local house-churches are then networked into a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called five-fold ministries (Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Evangelists and Teachers) circulating “from house to house,” whereby there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Eph. 2:20, and 4:11.12). A Pastor (shepherd) is a very necessary part of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of “equipping the saints for the ministry,” and has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.
House2House | Issue 2
The Future Church
The Shape of Things to Come
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I become a man, I put away such things.” -I Cor. 13:11 Scientists tell us that every cell in our body carries in it two DNA codes; one code to bring the cell to maturity and reproduction, and another code to bring the cell into harmony and integration with the entire organism. It’s part of God’s natural design. So it is in the spiritual realm. God has placed within every member of the body of Christ an individual destiny of maturity and reproduction and a corporate destiny to integrate with the whole body. This organism, the body of Christ, is called to conform to the head, King Jesus Christ, and then to transform the world into the image of His Kingdom. Today, a growing number of church leaders in America are talking about decentralizing, de-professionalizing and de-institutionalizing the church. The rise of the house church, cell church, meta church, open church and church planting movements are just an indication of the growing level of discontent with the traditional CEObusiness-as-usual, gospel-enterprise church structure among both clergy and laity. Thank God! The era of spectator Christianity is now ending because the urgency of our present cultural crisis in America and abroad simply won’t permit it! But what is the next step? This is an historic time in which we live; America is now entering a post-
By David Bradshaw
Christian era. The level of ungodliness in our culture is now triggering an alarm in the church - which is slowly awakening from a multigenerational slumber! Most leaders that I’ve spoken with agree that the crisis of our time requires swift action, but we must be careful to maintain our equilibrium as we accelerate the deconstruction of the American “churchianity”. The Kingdom of God is built with “some things old and some things new,” (Matt. 13:52). The implications of our first commission given to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 1:28), to reproduce and subdue the earth, was never revoked, only expanded and re-empowered by Christ. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus recommissioned each believer to evangelize and disciple the nations. As we strive to recover a more biblical ecclesiology (a New Testament patterned church), let us keep in mind that although the “latter shall exceed the former,” we must build on the firm foundation of historic, orthodox Christianity. If not, we risk falling into the trap of existentialism and pride - a snare that has befallen the last move of God, namely Pentecostals and Charismatics, of which I am a child. Let’s not limit ourselves by isolating the next move of God to our subjective experience. As the late Ern Baxter told me, “Divine emphasis does not come by way of a spigot, rather it comes by way of rain.” Remember, the New Testament love and grace of God are built upon the Old Testament righteousness and law of God. We are commanded to walk in both. This process of transforming society, of rebuilding the ancient foun-
dations, begins with self-government, family government and church government. When these foundations are in place, the stage is set for a reformation in all of society. During the past 20 years the home school movement has helped the church to take a quantum leap, restoring the proper role of the man and woman of God as the primary educators in the Kingdom of God. Likewise, the house church movement is restoring the proper role of the man and woman of God as the primary reproducers of the Kingdom of God. That explains why the house church and cell church movements are where the sustainable growth is now occurring worldwide. They are in synchronization with God’s stated goal of growing His Kingdom horizontally rather than vertically. The emphasis on relationship, covenant and accountability are the hallmarks of a healthy family both in the natural and the spiritual realm Consider a few “big picture” observations that are the result of a recent, intensive survey of hundreds of Christian leaders regarding the emerging characteristics of the next move of God in our country: 1. Crises will produce character - (Is. 26:9 states that, “When judgement comes it teaches people righteousness.”) As the intensity of spiritual, ideological, governmental and economic warfare accelerates, it will require more Christians to pray, think and steward God’s resources strategically, without collapsing under the pressure. This means that we will be forced to learn interdependence upon our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ as perhaps never before. Crises will force the Believers to function in utter togetherness, as God blueprinted all along. As Tommy Barnett of Phoenix First Assembly often has said,
Issue 2 | House2House
“We can either listen to God’s voice in mercy... or listen in judgement.” It is this critical mass of prepared saints who are now rediscovering the dynamics of house church life and sense that “part-time” Christianity will not empower them for the days that lie ahead. 2. Right thinking precedes right action (Rom. 12:2, “Be not conformed to this world’s thinking, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”). Perhaps Oswald Chambers said it best, “Most of Christian learning is to un-learn what we thought we knew.” Christians are now hungering to develop a more integrated, biblical world view. We’ve choked on humanism, declined under (democratic) socialism, atrophied under ultra-dispensationalism and now the “chickens are coming home to roost”. In the context of the house church, these and other “ism’s” can be systematically dismantled and replaced by a proper, biblical foundation for advancing the Kingdom of God. This will take time. The process of coming to maturity requires: 1) a period of deliverance for the new believer, 2) discipleship, including mentoring and apprenticeship, 3) commissioning and deployment, being sent back into our confused and hurting culture. Reread John 17:14-18 carefully for a restatement of this strategy by our Lord Jesus himself in His prayer for us. Note that maturity, in Jesus’ mind, involves a dynamic tension of recognizing: A) God’s sovereignty to “Take us out of the world system,” and B) our progressive, obedient yielding to the Holy Spirit, taking the world’s system of thinking out of us. It then culminates in C) our responsive action to His mandate to go back into the world system to be the Kingdom of
God. 3. This growing army of delivered, discipled and deployed Christians are now prepared to become active participants in the cosmic battle for every area of God’s terra-firma. They are ready to bring their spiritual gifting and ministries into the citywide or congregational celebration - to see I Cor. 14:26 actually functioning again! The future church releases believers to bring forth spiritual songs, hymns, teachings, exhortations and prophecies into the corporate gatherings and provides opportunities to share them openly with the whole body. 4. The rise of team ministry and plurality of leadership is already beginning to replace the “one-man-band” approach. This requires a new level of humility, faith and servitude by church leadership, characteristics that God is requiring of pastors who have a healthy selfimage, not linked with their title. We need leaders with ample trust in God, so that the “order of worship” need not be inscribed in stone. The open church of the future may, at first, seem risky, but the result will be the edification of the whole body, drawing the focus to the head, Jesus Christ. 5. As leaders and congregations begin to discern their unity of purpose - to advance Christ’s Kingdom - they will begin to discover one another. Periodic inter-church celebrations will be the forerunner of citywide corporate gatherings, concerts of prayer, praise and worship that will further unite God’s army and rattle the gates of hell. The early signs of this can be seen in the Prayer Summit movement which is bringing pastors together for weekends of prayer, repentance and healing. This dynamic is also growing among Christian businessmen and professionals who are awakening to the key role that God has given them in advancing His Kingdom in the marketplace.
Another indication is the growing number of grassroots Christian political leaders who feel called to mobilize the church to impact our society in the public policy arena. Add it all up and it certainly appears that the house church movement is the foundation for the next move of God. Yes, as the kingdoms of this world are maturing in unrighteousness, the Kingdom of God is maturing in righteousness. Jesus explained this maturation process in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13: 37-43). Note how they both grow side by side until harvest. What a clear reminder that it’s not our job to pull weeds, but rather to sow and grow wheat! Praise God that He builds from the inside out and the bottom up! “And I [John] saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Rev. 21:2. David Bradshaw serves as a public relations consultant for Swiss America and Open Church Ministries. He is the producer of The Future Church, a 12-hour audio-print resource.
House2House | Issue 2
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Issue 2 | House2House
House Church Explosion In India
By James H. Rutz with Victor Choudrie, M.D.
Want to know how good the house church model really is? Look no farther than India. There in Madhya Pradesh state a little experiment was started in 1995 to see if a pure house church planting effort could succeed ... without traditional pastors ... church buildings ... or even Sunday meetings. With strategic input from Friday Fax editor Wolfgang Simson, the project was launched and directed by retired surgeon Dr. Victor Choudhrie and his wife Bindu, a former nurse. They began sending out young church planters, mostly lower-caste men in their early twenties without a lot of training. After six years, the Choudhries estimate there are 3,500 churches with perhaps 70,000 people. Plainly, their approach works. They are meeting a tremendous need in that idolatrous country of 3,000,000 gods. And they are doing it under big handicaps: Unlike their Western brothers and sisters, they don’t have the luxury of occasional large meetings for encouragement and advanced training. As Mrs. Choudhrie explains tersely, Can’t do that. They throw rocks at us. Their Christian literature is sparse to nonexistent. For most, English is not their first language; many don’t speak English at all. The government and the religious establishment is against them. The ruling BJP party has a wing, the VHP, that harasses, persecutes, and sometimes kills Christians. They are now training and sending out 10,000 Hindu anti-missionaries across India with one main job: persecute all Christians. They don’t have any money. Most
Church Planters with new bicycles provided by American House Churches - One bicycle triples the number of villages that a church planter can reach!
House2House | Issue 2
But amazingly, there are 70 to 100 million secret Christians, people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ but have not acknowledged Him openly or been baptized. Why? Because of the long-standing mess in the institutional church. There is no true Indian church ... except for scattered house church movements like Dr. Choudhrie’s. There is only the traditional church, very European, very foreign, and very un-Indian. So when a secret believer looks around, he sees nothing that most Indians would ever want to join. Traditional churches are so foreign to Indian culture that joining one almost always causes a big upheaval in a family or village. Instant, severe persecution or banishment is the rule. House churches are indigenous, familytype gatherings that defuse much of the alarm and opposition which usually accompany baptism and joining a large, highly visible church. Many converts have joined them with a minimum of opposition or none at all. When the house church in India reaches critical mass, here’s how you will know it: Those 70-100 million secret believers will come out of the closet almost en masse and join that true Indian church.
Lunch is served at a church planting conference in India church planters have a Bible and a pair of shoes, and that’s about it. It breaks your heart to talk to fruitful, budding apostles who have to walk very long distances simply because they can’t afford $50 for a bicycle. And that brings me to an important question...Would You Like to Put Wheels Under a Highly Effective Church Planter? After a recent seminar in India, we handed out a survey form asking the attending church planters, “How many open/house churches do you expect to plant in the next three years?” Their answers blew me away. Based on the training and motivation about how to have a participatory fellowship run directly by the Holy Spirit, they now plan on starting over 17,000 churches in the next three years. That’s about 20 per attendee! I was stunned. These are not dreamers, they’re doers. They might fall somewhat short of their expectation, but then again, recent projects in India suggest that they might exceed them. The icing on the cake is that these new plants will be open, body life congregations meeting, almost always, in homes. So they won’t be sickly churches that are limited to whatever the pastor can accomplish by himself. They’ll be dynamic, self-multiplying fellowships that network with other house churches and itinerant teachers, evangelists, prophets, etc. In other words, they won’t be just churches, but church-planting movements. In still other words...It’s Happening! After a lifetime of praying that God would break out of the ecclesiastical box our forebears in the faith put Him into, we can see in scores of countries around the world that He has finally done it. In India we now have a sterling example of what the Lord can do through house churches. Hindus are being saved, lives are being changed, and churches are growing, fed by ongoing meetings several nights a week as an organic part of village life. Only one problem: the 10,000 trained, anti-Christian vigilantes who are now infiltrating the villages to pre-empt the church planters’ gospel message. We must enable our Indian brothers and sisters to get out to the villages and cities in their areas before the house church movement hits a growing wall of opposition and turns into a bloodbath. For the brave young apostles I met across India, it’s a matter of life or death. There are about 30 million known Christians in India. Not much in a nation of a billion.
If you or your church would like to donate funds to help support Indian Church Planters please send donations to: The address for donations . . . The address for donations . . . The address for donations . . . The address for donations . . . The address for donations . . .
Issue 2 | House2House
Paradigm Shifts Continued from page 19
moves the church of God. Brothers we are treading, where we’ve always trod. We are all divided, many bodies we. Long in truth and doctrine, short in charity!” The amazing thing about change, when it happens in God’s time, is that in retrospect you can see it was all in His word in the first place. King Solomon had it right when he said in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” As we examine the extensive changes that are needed in the way we view church, it soon becomes obvious that we are just “going back to the future”. It’s all there in the book of Acts. A management guru in the fascinating booklet, You2, states that quantum leaps (major changes) often come just from looking in the right direction. The fly that keeps hitting his head on the window to try to get out of the room could save himself a
lot of anguish if he turned around and saw that the door was open. So if we, in the churches, just looked with fresh eyes (and open minds) at what is so obvious in scripture, we would find ourselves with the clarity that we need to see “church” re-invented in God’s image rather than our own! Nothing short of another “reformation” will be enough to release and to empower today’s Christians to make an impact on this generation in the Western world. The time is past for gradual change. What else will prevent us from becoming totally irrelevant to the world around us? It is with these thoughts in mind that these two British doctors, currently in business rather than medicine as their means of tentmaking, are trying through the essays in this booklet to offer a way forward. We hope this is not presumptuous. For 30 years now we have been involved through medical work, missions, and more recently business, in the call
to plant churches. Experience on both sides of the Atlantic has led us to believe that the revitalization of evangelical Christianity that has been experienced in the UK over the past 30 years can be, and should be, paralleled by an even more radical transformation of the church within the USA. God is no respecter of persons, and despite our obvious prejudices, He is not an Englishman! So, let’s look at some of the changes that are needed to remain faithful to what God is doing in His church worldwide, and faithful to His word as revealed in the Bible. (To be continued in the next issue of House2House. Visit our website at www.house2house.tv to advance order Church Paradigms.)
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House2House | Issue 2
Reprinted with permission from The Baptist Standard March 26, 2001 Edition
CHURCH AT HOME:
Early church model gaining favor
By Ferrell Foster
Texas Baptist Communications AUSTIN--Church is different at 5 Katy Lane in Austin. At least it’s different from what most people today think of as church. The congregation meets every Sunday. They sing, pray, teach and worship. But they do it all in a house. And not just as a temporary measure. This is where they want to be. Tony and Felicity Dale started Austin Fellowship of Home Churches five years ago, WOLFGANG SIMSON shares a meal with participants in a house church seminar in Austin. and the congregation that meets in their home has no intention of ever being anything other than a house church. They do, however, have a vision for starting countless other house churches. Eight already are in various stages of development. The Dales are part of a growing worldwide movement toward house churches. Such gatherings are different from home Bible study groups or cell groups. They are fully-functioning churches of 15 to 30 people, with a commitment to reaching others not by growing a larger church but by helping create more and more house churches. Wolfgang Simson, author of “Houses that Change the World,” spoke to about 170 people in the Dales’ home March 17-18. He told story after story of the millions of people around the world being reached for Christ through house churches. House churches are a “global phenomena,” and they spread like a virus, he said. Simson, who lives in Germany, said traditional and cell-based churches have their place. He sees house churches, however, as reflecting the biblical model and being the best means for rapid worldwide evangelism and discipleship. The church must get small to get large, he said. “House church is the most effective way for making disciples.” Simson used an animal metaphor to illustrate the evangelistic impact of house churches. If you put two elephants in a room and two rabbits in a room, in three years you will have three elephants and 476 million rabbits, he said. Wonderful things happen in “elephant type” churches, but “with all of these elephant churches around” it’s “time for a rabbit plague,” he said. He compares house churches to rapidly multiplying rabbits. House churches began to experience a rebirth in 1949 when Mao Tse Tung forced western missionaries to leave China, Simson said. The West could not imagine how the church in China would survive; but 30 years later, the number of Christians in China had grown from 3 million to 60 million. They meet in house churches. Church is a “very simple thing” that has been made more complex by western cultural aspects that have nothing to do with the gospel, Simson said. House churches are the New Testament model, and they are a natural fit with how God has revealed himself in Scripture, he asserted. “The type of church we have on earth depends on the type of God we have in heaven. If God would be a father in heaven, the church would be like a family on earth.” Being part of a family is a “24/7 thing,” he said, meaning that it affects a person’s life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But families have their most intimate gatherings in houses. ”So many of the things going on in this country are very sophisticated,”
Issue 2 | House2House
the German speaker said. “One of the messages of God for this nation” is that the simple and weak things are “going to change this land.” Sunday morning activities at 5 Katy Lane begin with a potluck breakfast at 10:30. Church members eat and share informally in small groups that fluctuate as the people move around. “The food is as important as everything else,” said Tony Dale. After a leisurely breakfast, the congregation moves toward a prayer and worship time. Adults and children mingle together in small groups to pray. Music comes next. There is not a structured order of worship, and no one knows exactly what will happen. A couple of praise songs are sung to get things started, and the service moves forward as a free, interactive experience among the worshippers. Children occupy themselves around the fringes of the group. After a time, the children are taken to another area, and a speaker delves into a passage of Scripture. About 1:30 p.m., the gathering breaks up, but the churchgoers don’t rush off. Some eat lunch from the leftover breakfast. Others clean and straighten. Everyone talks. Lori Byerly has been a part of the 5 Katy Lane congregation for more than a year. Asked why she worshipped there, Byerly said, “Probably for a long time I was sort of dissatisfied with staring at the back of somebody’s head.” She wanted a closer fellowship. ”It’s been an incredibly healthy move for our family,” she testified. Her 10-year-old son is “all wiggle and always has been,” she said. “The traditional churches have been hard on him. Now, he loves church. If he gets wiggly, it’s more a family atmosphere. It’s the first church where he has felt really accepted.” It’s been good for her and her husband, Paul, as well. “It’s like we have real friends in this church, ... a real personal knowledge of each other and a real willingness to do the practical.” The church at 5 Katy Lane has reached out in varied ministries, and about 80 percent of funds collected by the church “go out to bless others,” Felicity Dale said. A housing project in south Austin has felt the congregation’s loving touch; and The Magdalene Project, launched by member Robbi Sluder, ministers to women involved in prostitution, exotic dancing and the street life. ”This is such a small body of believers, and they do so much,” Byerly said. Another member at 5 Katy Lane, Michael Reed, said in a house church “it’s all together up to you to lay hold of God; ... and that’s more out on a limb. I don’t like being out on a limb, but I sure like watching him come through.” The church is not affiliated with a denomination and does not have a pastor. Tony Dale functions as an elder, providing light-handed leadership throughout-guiding and directing the activities but not controlling them. When the family of God does come together, it should do four things, Simson said. First, they should eat together, he said, noting this was a “very important aspect of the ministry of Jesus.” Almost every day he was in someone’s house and eating, Simson said. “This is where it starts. Eating is a sign of your family.” When the church eats together, however, it is not just about food. Christians “need the power of the Holy Spirit for it. ... The Lord’s Supper is a family meal with God.” Second, Simson said, church is not about organized meetings. It is to share God and life with others and “to share life needs time.” That means to share in whatever way needed--spiritually, financially or whatever. Third, church involves teaching the word of God, which mainly refers to teaching through example, Simson said. “It doesn’t have to do with long monologue; it has to do with dialogue.” Fourth, church includes praying and prophesying. “Prayer was the lifestyle of the early church,” he said. Prophesying refers to how God speaks through individuals to the church. As for what’s happening at 5 Katy Lane, Felicity Dale admits it’s a lot of work, but she loves it. ”Once you’ve tasted something like this morning, when God touches you at a deep level, how can you be satisfied with anything else?” she said. “You don’t know what the Holy Spirit is going to show up and do.” Ferrell Foster is a news writer for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
House2House | Issue 2
By Jeff Lucas
Lucas On Life
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” Ps. 116:15 Perhaps there are more eloquent and formal tributes elsewhere, but I want to offer my own respects to one man, who, quite simply, changed my life. John Barr was a rare character with a chaotically toothy smile that usually attempted a takeover bid on his entire face. I first bumped into John at a youth weekend in Essex. I was a madly keen Christian young thing, newly save (about three weeks to be exact) with a wooden cross appendage hanging round my neck. I had so many fish stuck on the back of my car, it looked like a mobile aquarium. I was also determined to transform planet earth for Jesus by next Thursday, single handedly. I’d heard a faint whisper from God about preaching but didn’t know what to do about it. I told no-one about my aspirations. John was the guest speaker for our weekend, and began his ?Friday night talk with a gripping announcement. Although never one for high drama, he made it sound quite matter of fact. “There are three people here this weekend that God has called into some form of full-time Christian ministry,” he said. “God told me your first and last names on the way here tonight. I’ll let you know over the course of the weekend.” I was shocked, stunned and completely oblivious to the possibility that this may have something to do with me. I looked around the room, trying to guess the identity of the “lucky” three. But I didn’t have to wait long. Later, during that first evening meeting, I had
. . . and Death
- and he was gone. I remember crying myself to sleep that night, thrilled and overwhelmed, excited and terrified at the destiny that had swept into my life through the ministry of this most unusual man. There was to be a postscript. A few months later, I was at a conference. Around 6000 people were in attendance, and I heard that John Barr was one of them. I was desperate to see him, to ask his advice on a few matters that were popping up now that I was pursuing God’s call. At last I spotted him walking across the site, and hurried up to him. Would he remember me? “Hello, Mr. Barr. I’m Jeff. I’ve been looking for you” The big grin dawned again, and he interrupted me kindly. “No son, I’ve been looking for you” And with that, he laid his hands on my head, and began to prophesy a significant preaching ministry into my life. He declared that I would be a tool in the hands of God, a hammer that would break through the hardness of men’s hearts. Twenty-five years later, I am walking in the good of his words. I’m thankful that he managed to be prophetic without being incomprehensible, anointed without being cocky, uncannily accurate without making a fuss. Here’s to you, John. You were all right, “bruver”. Jeff Lucas is a respected leader within the New Church movement in the UK. He is the Vice-President of the British Evangelical Alliance. Jeff is the main speaker at this year’s Labor Day Conference - “Bringing In The Kingdom” .
a power encounter with the Holy spirit. Sitting there quietly worshipping, I suddenly felt a weight pushing me gently down (and remember, this was when Toronto was just a Canadian tourist attraction) coupled with a real desire to speak out loudly in tongues which I’d never done before. I gripped the chair tightly with whitened knuckles, and fought against the pressure. John, who looked almost asleep at the front, piped up and remarked, “Oh, there’s someone here who needs to speak out in tongues. . .” Rats. Found out. I decided that I didn’t like this guy to much - he knew everything. Still I fought, and then the pressure lifted, and, as soon as it did, someone else spoke out in tongues. God had found another more willing vessel. I felt shamed, and so wandered up to John at the end of the meeting. Without introducing myself, I mumbled to him about being a brand new Christian, and how I had fought with the Lord because I was scared. He grinned hugely. “Don’t worry son, Next time, obey God. You’ll be all right” And with that I turned to walk away. John tapped me lightly on the shoulder and dropped a bomb into my life. “Your name is Jeff Lucas, isn’t it.” I nodded dumbly. How did he know? At that moment, I wasn’t exactly sure of my own name. “God has been calling you into ministry, hasn’t he? You are one of the three that he spoke to me about.” I was stunned, and just nodded dumbly. “Get on with it then, son, “ John smiled
Issue 2 | House2House
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House2House | Issue 2
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