Monday, July 26, 2010
10 THINGS I'LL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME WE PLANT A CHURCH
Over the last five years, my wife and I have been helping to facilitate a church which started in our home and has now begun to grow outward into various other expressions recently.
Like most people, what I've learned has mostly come from making mistakes. So, while I'm certain that I'll make more than my own share of new mistakes the next time I plant a church, here are the things I've learned from our first time around. Hopefully this will encourage some of you as you consider planting a house church.
1. Don’t call yourself the pastor.
If you're "the pastor" of your house church this means everyone will look to you for everything and it will paralyze the Body life of the Church. Instead, identify yourself as one of the functioning members along with everyone else. Involve others for sharing, teaching, testimonials, etc.
2. Don’t host every single meeting in your own home.
For most of the last five years, my wife and I have hosted a meeting in our home twice a week. That's a lot of meetings. We've only recently started rotating our Sunday gatherings. This allows others to share responsibility and to practice hospitality. The next time we plant a house church (assuming there is a next time), I will encourage others to open their homes as early as possible. As new people join, I will invite them to consider hosting as well. Sharing the hosting responsibility also reinforces the concept that anyone can facilitate the gathering and that they don’t need you to be present in order to gather as a Body.
3. Involve the children more.
In our group, the children have always shared scriptures alongside the adults and many of the greatest insights have come from elementary-age children. Even so, I wish we had involved them even more in our conversations, in prayer times for one another, in the communion of the Lord’s table, etc. I don’t think it’s really possible to have too much involvement from our kids. House Church provides the perfect opportunity to give our kids a hands-on experience of what it means to “be the Church” every single time we gather.
4. Have more fun together.
Over the last five years we’ve had occasional game nights and a couple of afternoons in the park, but I wish we had scheduled even more times to come together and just be the family of God. No songs, no teaching, no liturgy, just laughing and food and genuine intimacy with one another. Sharing life together is huge and later on as you grow deeper into Christ, those relationships will become even more important and necessary for keeping one another accountable and for loving correction. It's also important to reinforce the idea that we are the Church all the time, not just when we're reading scripture or praying out loud.
5. Talk less, question more.
I am plagued by a disease which compels me to answer every single biblical or theological question that anyone asks. I wish I had just shut up whenever a Biblical question came up. Instead of attempting to stun the inquirer with my Biblical expertise, I wish I had turned to the group and said, “I don’t know. What do you guys think?”
6. Emphasize the Gospel of the Kingdom more.
In my experience, people who really understand the Gospel of the Kingdom are able to grasp all the other concepts of the Kingdom more easily. I wish I had spent more time emphasizing that in our fellowship, and I know I will major on this more and more in the future.
7. Major on practicing our faith and less on theorizing.
Being the Church is so much more necessary than attending one. Because this is one of the core values of New Testament Church life, I would encourage everyone to live out their faith in more practical ways in the future – and make more room for sharing testimony and for continually challenging everyone to do so daily.
8. Pray more.
Jesus said that His house would be a house of prayer. If we are His Body, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, then we should be on our faces before God more and more. “An open meeting requires more time in prayer together, not less.” That’s why I would encourage every home church to gather for prayer as often as possible. Jesus is our Head, without Him we can do nothing. That's why we need to be on our knees, seeking His leadership and listening for His voice.
9. Confess my own weaknesses more.
For too long I’ve kept my own personal struggles to myself instead of opening up to the rest of the Body whenever I felt hurt, or depressed, or discouraged. My wife knew when I was having a hard time with things, but the church was mostly oblivious. In the future, I will openly confess my struggles and allow the Body to comfort me and to heal me and to strengthen me.
10. Share the duties of sacrament with the priesthood of all believers.
In our next house church, I will not perform the baptisms. Instead, I will encourage the Body to operate as equals and to baptize one another and to take turns leading all of us in Lord’s Supper together. Again, if I am the one doing these things, I am behaving like the “pastor” or the spiritual superior and that's the last thing I want to communicate. Instead, I'd want to emphasize the truth that any follower of Jesus is already ordained by the Holy Spirit of God to preach the Gospel, baptize new believers and administer the Lord's Supper to the saints - among other things. The less I am up front, the more the Body can be empowered to step into their priesthood and utilize their gifts in love.
Of course, all of this presumes that I will ever help to plant another church in the future. I'm not sure if I ever will, but if not, perhaps some of this advice can encourage those of you who are feeling called to step out in faith and follow God's calling on your life to do so.
The single best piece of advice I can offer is this: Stop trying to grow the Church on your own. That's not your job. Jesus said that He would grow His Church, and over the last five years I've learned that this is exactly what He will do...if we can get out of His way.