Friday, May 09, 2008
SO…YOU WANT TO PLANT A HOUSE CHURCH?
In the last few months I've had a chance to counsel a few people who feel compelled to launch a new house church. These are some of the questions and thoughts I've asked them to consider as they move forward. I thought it might bless others so here it is...
Questions to ask yourself before you take that first step towards planting a house church:
CHECK YOUR MOTIVES
First, why do you want to plant this church? Is it about rebelling against "the system"? Or against that pastor who won't let you have your way? Are you defining your house church based on how you're "not like those Christians in the church you just left"? If so, take a step back and reconsider. There's nothing worse than spawning a church that has its origins in bitterness and hurt feelings. Spend time praying for the people who hurt you, asking God to bless their socks off. Pray that until you really mean it. Then consider starting your house church.
When you do start that house church, try to build it on the good things that house church offers, and avoid establishing a Family of God that is focused on pointing out the speck in her brother's eye.
Secondly, is there any hint or trace of ego-building in this for you? If it is all about being the leader or the guy in charge, please stop now. Put down that Bible and step away from the communion wafer. House Church isn't designed to be leader-centric. It works best when the people ARE the Church and not mere spectators. I always say that our best house church meetings are the ones when I'm not even there. I'm right about that part.
Third, have you really heard from God about whether or not to step forward, and if so, do you have a specific vision for your house church? My wife and I were united in our vision to plant a house church. We both spent time talking and praying about what it would look like and how we would operate in practice. If you are doing this with a spouse, make sure that this is something both of you are committed to for the duration. Otherwise, wait until you can both share this passion. You'll need to be a team in order to succeed.
Fourth, do you have a vision already in place for what this new church might look like? If so, write it down. Be sure to connect your values to specific actions and practices that reflect your values. For example, our house church Vision Statement says, "We value service, therefore we will make ourselves available to those who are in need. We will invest our time and talent and energy into the work of the Kingdom of God, serving others as Jesus did, expecting nothing in return."
If value statements don't include examples of how you will live out those statements they are just empty words. This also helps to keep all of you accountable to the things you've written down and provides evidence as to your ongoing practice of living out your values every week.
We had to add a value to the Vision and Values statement early on that said, "We value the whole Body of Christ and therefore we will not spend any of our time tearing down another church, pastor or ministry." This was to cut down on the gripe sessions we can be so good at.
THE BIG QUESTION
The "Big Question" I'd want you to ask yourself is: "Would you do this even if no one else followed you?" Seriously...is the vision you have for the new church something you would do without a crowd behind you? Would you have the same passion about it if there were only 2 people? Or just you and your family?
DISCOVER YOUR DNA
Finally, I'd suggest you work out a basic outline of how your weekly gatherings will flow. Try not to adopt a cookie cutter approach. Your group is unique and there are some things that won't work in your dynamic that might be wonderful in another group context. Leave room for flexibility and shake things up now and again whenever appropriate or when you feel you've fallen into a liturgy that isn't organic.
Our house church has a basic format we follow, but I try to break that up frequently with Art-Focused gatherings, Meditative services (like Good Friday service), Interactive Services (like our Passover Seder), Testimonial times (where others share their testimony), etc.
I always say that the worst thing someone could do would be to visit our house church and then copy what we do to the letter. Let your house church be itself. Find the rhythms that define who you are and express your unique vision, values and practice.
You can read our complete MISSION HOUSE CHURCH Vision and Values Statment