Tuesday, May 13, 2008

HOUSE CHURCH Q&A

For some reason I've been doing a lot of thinking and counseling and talking the last few weeks about house church. Most of it has been answering questions for people interested in starting their own house church, a bit of it has been responding to people online in various conversations about how to overcome some of the challenges commonly associated with the transition to house church.

Here are some of the common questions and concerns raised about house church and a look at what we've done in our community at The Mission to address them.

*WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?
Usually this question is the very first one we hear. Most people can't imagine juggling little Billy while they pray for someone or engage in meaningful dialog about the gifts of the Spirit. Others are asking because they fear being the one elected to spend the two hours at house church alone in a guest room with six toddlers and a fussy baby while everyone else enjoys the fellowship and community in the living room.

THEIR CHURCH TOO!
At our house church we have invited the children to be with us throughout the entire gathering. They are the Church too so we allow them to share and speak and pray and participate along with everyone else. In fact, the children are usually the very first to speak up and share a scripture verse with the group. What's more, their insights often lead our discussions into challenging territory.

"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." - Matt 11:25-26

LITTLE ONES
We do have little toddlers who either play quietly on the floor under the supervision of their parents, or play in the other room with a parent nearby if they are fussy or disruptive. However, for the most part we tolerate children being children. We do not view the gathering and share time as a performance that needs to be "just so" and this means we're not offended when a kid laughs or talks out loud or whatever. Many of us are parents too and we have grace for one another.

ATTENTION SPAN
After about an hour to and hour and a half the kids tend to get restless so we usually dismiss them to go watch videos in the other room or to play outside in the back yard while the adults move into more serious talk and/or prayer and ministry time.


*WHAT ABOUT NON-PROFIT STATUS FOR THE TAX WRITE-OFF?
The next most important question (if not the first) is always money. Many are used to receiving a Giving Statement from their Church so they can write it off their taxes. I'm sure there are a few people who don't attend our house church because of the simple fact that we do not provide this service to them, however we felt a strong conviction against filing for Non-Profit Status and here two reasons why:

1) We give out of simple compassion and obedience. The gift is about helping others. It is not about us.

An example I always use is something like this: If you were walking down the street and ran into a homeless woman who was cold and sick and hungry on the sidewalk, would you say, "Wait here while I go find an appropriate Non-Profit organization where I can give my money (so that I can get a tax write-off) and then I'll be right back with clothes and food to help you." I hope not.

2) We do not not want the Government to have any control or say over what we do or say. We do not need the State of California's approval to meet or to worship or to follow Jesus. We are the Church.

Of course, others feel differently and if they depend on the tax write-off for their family financials I simply encourage them to give to another non-profit of their choice.

THE WAY WE HANDLE THE OFFERING/TITHE
We do not pass the basket in our church. We do not mention the offering as part of our ongoing conversation, except once in a while I might announce that we are helping someone who is need and/or send out a regular statement of how our offering has been invested in the lives of the poor in our community.

We take our attitude towards the offering from the Early Church and give 100% of our offering basket money to the poor. I do not take a salary and we do not use any of that money for food, rent, utilities, dessert, etc. All of it goes to help people in need, both inside and outside our house church family.

We are also 100% transparent with all of the money we receive each week and where and how it is spent each week. The ongoing log or book is kept in the same basket where the money is received so anyone, at any time, can see what's going on with the money.

Last year we were amazed to discover that our little house church had given over $3,000 to the poor in our community. We're on track this year to go over that amount.

Why? Because when people can see that the $100 they gave went to help someone pay their bills or feed their children or make it through another week they start to get excited about giving. They truly become "Hilarious givers" who take joy in providing help to others. Imagine that...

SPIRITUAL COVERING OR ACCOUNTABILITY?
I wrote a pretty comprehensive article on this very subject about a year ago and rather than re-type it or paste it I'll provide the link.

YOU CAN READ IT
HERE

Essentially, our house church is not under any official "Spiritual Covering" of any sort, which is Biblical. We do, however, have loads and loads of Spiritual Accountability, which is Biblical. As the pastor of The Mission I have mentors who I can call on (and I often do) for advice, guidance, and insight. These are people like David Ruis, Todd Hunter, Paul Martin and a few other pastors who are smarter and wiser than I am. At the same time, I am personally accountable to every person in our group. They are accountable to one another and to me also.

Spiritual Covering is a concept built on fear and superstition, not on Biblical principles or values. We believe in the Priesthood of the Believer. We believe that the Holy Spirit leads us into all Truth. We believe that the Word of God is active and powerful and effective to establish our Church and keep us on the path where Jesus walks.

If you have any questions about these three areas, or if you have other questions that I haven't addressed here feel free to comment below and let me know.

Blessings,
Keith

1 comment:

anthony said...

Great thoughts!

The question - "What about the kids?" seems funny. I see church as a family reunion, thanksgiving dinner, Sunday at Grandma's - sort of thing. It would seem weird to go to Grandma's house and ask - "Should we get a baby sitter?" or "Should we assign one of the aunts to watch the children in a separate room?"

Agree 120% about the money thing - the beauty of not being shackled by having to pay for a building or a clergy is a new found freedom to use the money to help those in need - within the congregation and in the public.