Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Start a House Church

A few Sundays ago, the Session, Vision Team, and pastors shared what God had led us to share as our faith communities core values, new vision, and name. Part of our new vision that I was able to share during that time is that we will be a "missional movement: transforming culture by equipping its people to live as missionaries and form creative expressions of church." Here's a recap of what I shared about what exactly a "creative expression" might be:

"These creative expressions are basically forms of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet part of any church. Every creative expression of church is different. Some are in rural areas and others are in the suburbs. Some are in housing projects while others are on college campuses. Some are primarily for youth, children, or young adults just beginning their careers. Others are based in schools and some in homes. We envision that creative forms of our faith community will meet in other parts of our region.  Perhaps the Lord will send some of us to form missional communities in areas where we don’t attract visitors.  Or some from among us will start house-churches.  Some will gather worshipping communities where our current mission partners serve the community. Others may one day start satellite campuses that could become separate congregations. Our vision is to participate in the larger vision of our denomination. ECO is “committed to growing and planting flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.” As we are each equipped and called to participate in seeing God’s kingdom come, some of us will find ourselves changing our lifestyles dramatically, perhaps even moving as we feel called to reach different groups of people. Each creative expression is a new adventure for the gospel that brings the kingdom closer to people who might not otherwise experience the need for church."

Hopefully, like myself, this vision is an exciting call to see the gospel take root and blossom in new contexts and new communities. The hope is not that we would see new expressions for the sake of being inwardly focused but rather in reaching those whom Jesus came and to whom we are sent - "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost"!!! (Luke 19:10). At the same time, you may be asking, how do we actually do this! Here are some simple guidelines to starting one type of creative expression, a house church:

1.) Read the book of Acts. This is a great place to start to gain an understanding of how simple the early Church was immediately following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The early church model that thrived in the context of the Roman empire, is becoming more and more viable in our own postmodern context here in the United States. The early church didn't have official buildings, established clergy, or even formalized Scripture, they began with people committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

2.) How many people do we need? Scripture teaches that wherever 2 or 3 are gathered, that Christ is present (Matthew 18:20). Christ is the head of the church, His body. So don't worry about reaching a particular number. Wherever Christ's people gather together, there His Church is, because we are the Church!

3.) Where and when can we meet? Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that the time is coming when people will worship God in Spirit and in Truth, not in the high places of Samaria or even in the Temple at Jerusalem. God's Spirit inhabits us as believers so we can gather together anywhere to worship God because we are the Church!

4.) What do we do? Acts 2:42 says "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer." One simple way to remember what we "do" as the body of Christ is Up, In, and Out. We explore our vertical connection with God (Up) through discipleship, prayer, learning from God's Word and Worship. We love one another (In) through fellowship, discussion, and bearing one another's burdens. We love and serve others (Out) through serving, sharing the gospel, and being missionaries to a particular people group.

5.) Designate a leader. In Acts 14:23, its clear that even in the earliest forms of church leadership was established. It's important that someone take this key position. Where possible share leadership responsibilities. From the very beginning, also plan for multiplication. Jesus commands us to make spiritual children, making disciples of all nations and that can only happen if we multiply. Therefore consider not only who will be in a place of leadership, but also who your apprentice(s) will be.

6.) Get Connected!  Our desire is that "these creative expressions of church will share our vision and values." Practically that means being connected with our faith community through training, encouragement, and accountability. As you take these steps make sure you connect with the resources and leadership available to you! These are some basic thoughts to get you started on thinking about how to start a house church or a different creative expression. If you feel God is leading you in this way and want to talk more please don't hesitate to comment below or email me at sweems@trinitypres.net to set up a time to talk.