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:

NO!  

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.  

SO LET ME ASK YOU A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION!

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.

HERE'S YOUR HOME WORK:

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

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