Monday, October 03, 2005

WHY THE HOUSE CHURCH?

Lately my wife Wendy and I have felt a calling towards the planting of a House Church out of our home.

This journey began, roughly, about two years ago, although the final piece of the puzzle fell into place for us roughly about three or so months ago.

To understand the “Why” of this, I have attempted to outline just a few of the core convictions and values that I have come realize are part of how God made me. These are factors that have helped us to come to understand the nature of God’s calling for us.

I will deal with the why the House Church model appeals to us after this list of statements, but hopefully this will pave a foundation to build upon.

How I’m wired:
I have a desire to be part of a church where the teaching and sharing of the Word of God is highly valued.

I have a desire to be part of a community where service to others, intimacy (with God and one another), and mission is practiced and encouraged.

I prefer a more simple, small, and uncluttered style of doing church, where it’s more about the building up of the disciples in their faith and the simple adoration of God for who He is and what He’s done.

I have a strong desire for the Church to be counter-cultural in practice and lifestyle, yet serving others in humility outside the four walls of the Sunday service.

I have a strong repulsion for the modern trend of the Christian Church towards a corporate-based model of doing church. I feel very passionately that the Christian Church should take most of her cues from the early church, and from the writings of the Church Fathers and the great “cloud of witnesses” we have available to us throughout the History of Christianity. (i.e.- Jonathan Edwards, William Wilberforce, etc. instead of Peter Senge or John Maxwell, etc.)

I have a strong conviction that leadership is done by example and that values expressed from the pulpit be put into practice in our actual life.

I have a strong conviction that a pastor should be available to those whom he is called to serve.

I believe that the Christian life is not a spectator sport but is a way of life that a follower of Jesus, a disciple, undertakes daily and therefore requires ongoing fellowship, pastoral care and immersion in the Word of God for direction, hope, guidance and life.

I believe that the Christian faith is very much about a lifestyle that follows the pattern of a “Jesus way of life”, more so than a series of meetings, a statement of beliefs or a prayer of salvation.

So, that's me in a nutshell. Because I'm wired this way, I've been feeling more and more called to an expression of Church that follows a similar pattern of conviction.

WHY A HOUSE CHURCH?

As my wife and I continued to dialog over these past few months regarding the planting of a church, we were informed by the writings and teachings of Dallas Willard, Todd Hunter, Professor Scott Bartchy, David Ruis, Greg Russinger, Mike Pilavachi, Justo L. Gonzalez, and several others.

One final piece to the puzzle was an article by Ray Mayhew concerning the radical practice of the early church towards giving of the tithe (or the “sacred revenue”) to the poor, rather than spending that money on itself.

The discussions that Wendy and I had after reading this article and discussing the implications lead us to the conclusion that what we were really hungry for, in the area of community, worship, service, missions, fellowship, and giving were all wrapped up in the simple, and yet revolutionary, model left to us in the form of the early church.

Why the House Church?
Here are just a few of the reasons:

Historical. The house church is the biblical church. All of the churches in the New Testament era were small assemblies that met in homes.

For the first three-hundred years of its existence the church met primarily in the homes of its members, not in specially designed buildings. Keep in mind that the United States hasn’t even been around for three hundred years. This is a huge statement to the effectiveness and the potential of these sorts of meetings. I have been reading a lot of great historical documents regarding the early church and have been excited and encouraged by what I’ve discovered so far.
*(See below for Scriptural references on the early house church)

Growth. The most explosive growth of Christianity in our own time has taken place in the likes of the People's Republic of China where its only expression has been the illegal, underground house church. Historian Del Birkey's studies (and several others) have led him to conclude that the house church is our best hope for the renewal in our times.

Resisting the Culture. Our faith is constantly being pulled towards conforming to the culture around us. (See Paul’s warning about this in Romans 12). The house church has always been counter-culture for this reason, just as Jesus said that his disciples should be in the Sermon on the Mount. **(See below for more notes on the Sermon On The Mount)

Practical Considerations. It is often argued that a large church is better equipped than a small church (or, in this case, a house-church) to organize and finance the sending of missionaries. However, this assumes that local churches are to be completely independent of each other. It certainly does not argue against a network of house-churches which cooperate with each other in the sending out of missionaries.

In fact, the argument backfires. One mega-church with one-thousand members could never match the resource potential of a network of house-churches with one-thousand members, for the mega-church must allocate huge amounts of its resources for the building itself.

According to one recent survey, as much as 82% of church revenues in an average Protestant church goes toward buildings, staff, and internal programs, while only 18% goes toward missions!

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
The church of the first century did not equate "bigness" with ability. The words of Paul to this effect bear repeating: "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1Co 1:27-29). The world system operates from the principle that bigger is better. To those in this system, success is measured by size and might is measured by muscle. In contrast, it was the “weakness and foolishness” of the Gospel and the lifestyle of the early Christians that “turned the world upside down”.

Mission. There are several opportunities in our communities that are especially suited for the house church. An invitation offered to a work-place acquaintance to a home is much less threatening than one to a church, just as one example. Another is the unique value of the house church as a ministry to "the damaged" and the poor and needy and the possibility of learning the joy of giving by elevating that practice to a personal level.

So…this is, in part, why we’re feeling God tugging us in this direction. We still have a lot of unanswered questions at this point, (like, “Who would go with us?”, “Where will we live next month?”, etc.) but the framework is clear and God’s calling to us has been very specific.

We pray now for God’s continued provision (for my employment situation and for a new house to live in before the end of this month), and for God’s direction regarding the formation of this (potential) House Church.

More later…

Peas,
Keith


Notes:
* Romans 16:5 (as well as 1Co 16:19) speaks of the church that met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. When Paul wrote to Philemon he also addressed his letter to Archippus and to the church in his house (v. 2). Likewise, when he wrote his greetings in Col 4 he mentions the church which met in the house of Nympha (4:15). When Paul taught the newly formed churches, he did so from "house to house" (Ac 20:20). There is an allusion to a church in Jason’s house in Ac 16:5-6, in Lydia’s house in Ac 16:40, and in Mary’s house in Ac 12:12. In 2Jn there is a warning to the church not to receive false teachers into their house (v. 10). Contrary to popular belief, this is not referring to individual Christians who might have unbelievers in their homes for social and evangelistic purposes; rather it is a warning to the church not to allow false teachers to participate in the meeting. Since participation in the meeting implied the opportunity to speak it would have meant potential harm to the church if a false teacher were allowed in the meeting. Hence there is much evidence for the "house-church" in the New Testament.

**Sermon On the Mount: That sermon outlines how the powerless disciple can be salt and light in a dark world (Mt. 5:13-14), how to withstand evildoers (Mt. 5:39) by showing God's love to the world through suffering at the hands of persecution (Mt. 5:39), foreclosing landlords (Mt. 5:40), and occupying Roman authorities (Mt. 5:41). It speaks of giving and lending to the most hopeless credit risks (Mt. 5:42). It speaks of a praying community ("Our Father, who art in heaven ..." Mt. 6:9) that fasts (Mt. 6:16), gives of itself (Mt. 6: 21), and depends completely on God (Mt. 25ff). It speaks of the non-judgment of individuals (Mt. 7:1), just as it speaks of the need to judge those who would be authorities in spiritual matters (Mt. 7:15ff).

3 comments:

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He remarks in his commentary... Great stuff . But one thing is still missing. We need a return to plain, honest, human language ; to be rid forever of management-speak and buzzcrud.
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Dan said...

Wow. That's amazing Keith. So many questions come into my mind about how it will all work out. But, it sounds like this is God's guidance and if so, then He'll take care of the nuts-and-bolts.

You're correct when you say that in our weakness He is strong. It's so encouraging to see how God is working in you. (I like the John Maxwell line too.)

othentic said...

Amen. So glad to finally read the steps in your journey as I also felt you being called to something new, as I mentioned a bit before beginning my road trip. Do you remember that conversation?

I absolutely support this decision and am only sad that I can't be with you to participate in this.

I believe there's room in this earthly kingdom for all sorts and styles of churches, and against all odds and personal predictions am loving the mega-church I'm involved with www.coloradocommunity.org. Somehow this pastor has managed to maintain an intimacy with the congregation which meets in 5 services. When God is in it, all things are possible.