Tuesday, March 27, 2012

THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN'S GUIDE TO CHURCH PLANTING - Step 2: Know What's Suppose To Happen In A House Church

Now that you have rethought your image of church and hopefully realized that you do have the basic leadership skills needed for leading a house church we now, in step two, need to consider what actually happens in a house church meeting.  This is where the second wave of excuses start flooding in from ordinary Christians fearful that they can't start a church.  The excuses go something like this:

"I can't start a church because I don't have the communication skills to preach a sermon or the musical skills to play an instrument and I surely can't sing worth a darn to lead in a song!  
Those things require training that I have never received!"

But here's the question that I want to pose to you:  Are those skills and training really necessary for starting and leading a house church?  Do you really have to preach a sermon, play an instrument or sing a song in order to have a solid and effective church plant?  My answer to that would be an absolute and resounding:


A house church should never try to recreate, on a smaller scale, what is done in a traditional brick and mortar church where PERFORMANCE through preaching and music is the key to success for two reasons:
  1. A house church could never perform those activities (preaching and singing) at a level that is necessary for them to be successful.  Entertainment is the key to success with a church that emphasizes these activities.  So if you are trying to reach people who are looking to be entertained, they will always opt for the larger church that has mastered the performance and is able to deliver the entertainment they are seeking.
  2. The key to success for a house church is not in its performance to entertain but in its ability to develop sincere and meaningful relationships with people and God. That's right the key for success to starting and leading a house church is your ability to guide people into meaningful and authentic relationships with God and each other.  That's what people are looking for who will come to a house church.  If the people who attend a house church want a good show, they go to the movies and if they want to hear good music they go to a concert but when they want authentic relationships with God and others they attend a church (house church) where that is the emphasis.

So what actually does happen in a house church that ordinary Christian's facilitate that will bring people into authentic and meaningful relationship with God and others?  There are many different books that are available on that subject that would be good to read and would be helpful,   but for the purposes of this blog post I want to emphasize what the first church in Jerusalem emphasized and what they were devoted to doing when they gathered together in a house church.  In Acts 2:41-42:

"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about 3,000 souls.  They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  

In this verse four things stand out that should be emphasized at a house church meeting:  
  • First it says they were devoted to the FELLOWSHIP:  Now from my denominational background (Southern Baptist) when I hear fellowship I automatically think FOOD, POTLUCK and OVEREATING.  And I have to tell you that people from the south sure do know how to cook the best tasting food ever.  However, that's not what the Bible means when it talks about fellowship.  In this verse when it says that the people were devoted to the fellowship they were saying that they were devoted to each other.  The fellowship consisted of the people who made up the church.  This means that they were devoted to taking care of each other, meeting each other's needs, praying for each other, and sharing with each other.  They were so devoted to making sure that each person was taken care of that fellow Christians were selling some of their possessions to raise money to meet the needs of others in their church fellowship.  They sincerely cared about each other.  They would cry with one another, celebrate with one another, serve one another, provide for one another,  and encourage one another!  This devotion to the church family was so important  that we find this evaluation of the church in Acts 4:34,
"For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles feet, and they distributed to each as any had need." 

Now you need to understand that no one was forced or even made to feel compelled to sell anything, but because their devotion and love to each other was so strong these first house church members wanted to do whatever it took to meet each other's needs.  It is in small groups, LIKE SMALL HOUSE CHURCHES, that this kind of authentic care for one another can be nurtured and developed.  
  • Next they were devoted to PRAYER:  These first Christ Followers had an insatiable appetite for prayer.  They prayed all the time and for everything.  When the Holy Spirit first came at the Day of Pentecost the apostles were involved in a prayer meeting; when people were sick they prayed for each other; when Peter was arrested and waiting to be executed we find the church praying; it was during a prayer time that an angel appeared to Cornelius and instructed him to send for Peter to come and tell him the Good News; and when the Holy Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas for their mission work the church was praying.  Throughout the entire Book of Acts we see the church moving forward in response to the prayers of those early followers.  Jesus himself taught his disciples to go into their prayer closet and pray to our Heavenly Father for all of their needs with the expectation of all of them being met.  At the end of Jesus' ministry on earth he told his disciples to pray for anything in his name and it would be given to them.    The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians, instructs us to always be in prayer for all occasions and for all the saints.   For these early Followers of Christ and for the early church praying wasn't just a good thing but it was an essential thing.  It was as important and natural for them to pray as it was for them to breathe.  
  • In addition they were devoted to THE BREAKING OF BREAD:  Whenever the early church came together they would share together what was called a Love Feast.  A Love Feast was a common meal the church members would have together in obedience to the Lord to do the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him.  The Lord's Supper for the early church was not a small little wafer  bread and a little cup of juice performed during some ritualistic ceremony.  The Lord's Supper was a full meal that was shared as they remembered both the sacrifice of Christ and his promise to join them in that meal when he returns.  So for those early church members church also included eating a full meal together in the expectation of Christ's return. 
  • And finally they were devoted to THE APOSTLE'S TEACHINGS:  Whatever the Apostles taught in the house churches was retaught in other house churches.  This wasn't just any kind of random Bible study topic or series that the apostles decided to use because they thought it would draw a crowd.  No, the apostles had a set pattern, form or body, if you would, of teaching that they instructed to every disciple of Christ.  This body of teaching, or pattern, was taught and established in every town, village or city in which a church was started.  The teaching was both theological and practical.  It taught the truth about Christ, God and His salvation and then it taught the lifestyle that was to be lived out in every disciple of Christ.  The body of the Apostles Teaching is best found in the New Testament Books of Ephesians and Colossians and to a large degree in 1 Peter and James.
Now while there are other things that could be done in a house church meeting these are the four absolute and irreducible activities that must be done.  


Don't you think that if you are a fully devoted follower of Christ, and you have a vibrant and growing spiritual life that you could lead a group of 8 to 25 people to take care of each other and meet each other's needs; to pray for God's power, presence and provision to be manifested; to study and learn the Apostle's teachings on how to live the life of Christ; and to share a meal together in remembrance of Christ's death, burial and resurrection and his future return?

SERIOUSLY!  DON'T YOU THINK YOU CAN DO THAT?  Starting and leading a house church doesn't require you to be a great performer but it does require you to love people and lead them to do the four things discussed here.  

Take care of each other, pray for God's power, learn the Apostles Teaching and live it and finally share a meal together in remembrance of Christ death and future return that's all it takes to start and lead a house church that builds authentic and meaningful relationship with God and others.


Design a house church formate that includes these four things.  What's going to happen first, second, third and fourth.

Friday, March 16, 2012


As we begin this journey of church planting together I can already hear the first excuse that many of you are throwing out on why you could never be a church planter.  The excuse goes something like this:

"I could never be a church planter because I have no training, ability or idea on how to lead or administrate such a complex organization like a church!"

And if that's your reason for not starting a church chances are you probably were raised in a church where there were lots of budgets, committees, business meetings, deacon and/or elder meetings, programs up the wazoo,  staff to manage, buildings to build and maintain and lots of conflict management with which to deal.  So if that's your idea of church you're probably right and you're  not qualified to start a church like that.  AND IF THE TRUTH BE TOLD VERY FEW PEOPLE WOULD BE QUALIFIED!  One would almost need a Masters in Business Administration to start and operate that kind of church.

But listen to me carefully for I am telling you the truth!  THE CHURCH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT DIDN'T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE THAT! 


 In the New Testament the church was so simply structured that any Follower of Christ could start one.  While there are some character issues the Bible says need to be considered for the selection of a church elder the only leadership/management skill qualification is found in 1 Timothy 3:4,5.  It says,

"He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, 
how will he take care of the church of God?"

When it comes to LEADERSHIP ABILITY and the evaluation on whether a person is capable to start new church the only question needed to be asked is:

 "How well do they lead their family?"

If a person can lead their family well the Bible says they have the leadership skills necessary to start and lead a New Testament Church.  But how is that possible when the churches of North America are organized more like businesses and requires a person to have leadership skills far above that which is needed to run a household well?

The answer to that question is that we as North American Christians will need to change our conception of church from being some major corporation that requires a CEO to run it, to a church more closely akin to a FAMILY UNIT with spiritual parents guiding others to maturity.  We are going to need to move from a 21 Century image of the church to a 1st Century image of church.  

In other words we will need to develop a more 
Biblical image of what the church looks like! 

That's right I did say that!  "A More Biblical Image".  The church image that characterizes the North American landscape resembles very little to what the New Testament church looked like.  For starters the  Early Church for the first 300 years of its existence never owned any property and never had any buildings used exclusively for religious services.  The Apostle Paul in Acts 20:20 reminds the church in Ephesus that he did not shrink from declaring to them anything but taught them publicly and from house to house.  In the New Testament there was public teaching in large groups which usually happened at an outdoor public location or in a building that the apostle was able to use but its main use was something other than for Christian worship.  However, even with the use of large locations or facility the main teaching and instruction for the Christian faith took place in homes that met throughout the week in different locations.  An interesting note to consider is that once the church started experiencing persecution public teaching became less freqeuant and the small house church became even more prominant.  So let me share with you what  I believe is the best Biblical image of the church:

The New Testament Church was a group of 15 to 30  Christ Followers meeting in a home at least weekly but very possibly more often,  for worship, teaching, prayer and observing the Lord's Supper and then occasionally, when it was safe and as the need arose, gather in some public arena with other house churches for a larger expression of their faith.


So now let me ask you!

  • Don't you think, as a Fully Devoted Follower of Christ, that you can gather 15 to 30 people in a home to help them grow in their faith, meet each others needs, pray for God to provide His  power, presence and provision, and worship Him? 
  • Don't you think that you can love and help spiritually grow 15 to 30 people?
  • If there were no budgets, no committees, no staff, no salaries but just you and another leader with a dozen people living out your faith together as the Family of God, don't you think that's something you could do?

All over the world this is happening!  All over the world God is raising up, training up and unleashing ordinary christians, just like you, to start these rapidly reproducing house churches for His glory and to fulfill his mission.  This same kind of movement God is bringing to North America but it's time for the People of God to get prepared to plant these kinds of churches.

In the blogs that follow we will be discussing exactly how to gather a house full of people and actually takes place in a house church.  But for now just start by rethinking what the church looks like and the way God first developed.  

HERE'S YOUR HOMEWORK:   Read through the entire Book of Acts two to three times.  As you read take mental notes each time that the church is meeting in a house or how people along with their entire household comes to faith in a home.  READ IT BY VIEWING THE CHURCH AS A HOUSE CHURCH!