Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Pitfalls of Organic Church (Part 4)

Plan to Multiply into New Groups from Day One.

For a very long time now I’ve been of the opinion that our little house church is just too big. We’ve been hovering at around 28 people or so for the last few years now and this is just too many people to have a healthy and productive organic church, as far as I’m concerned. However, our house church is not a dictatorship, so I don’t get to be the one who decides what we do or when we do it. I try to leave all of that up to God, and so far He’s done a pretty good job of it.

For example, when we first started out our group only met on Thursday evenings. My family got together in our den every Sunday morning and shared together, but everyone else was at their home church on Sundays. After a while I really wanted to draw a line in the sand and force everyone on Thursday evenings to either come with us and commit themselves to us as a church that gathers on Sunday mornings, or hit the road. Luckily, God in his mercy gave me a very wise spouse. Wendy advised me to wait and to pray and see what God wanted to do. She reminded me that Jesus said that He would build His church and that He didn’t really need my help doing it. Of course, if He did I would know it. Until then, we waited and we prayed.

Eventually, without any help from me, someone suggested that we start meeting on Sunday mornings, and suddenly people started calling the Mission their home church.

I share this because it reminds me that God really is in charge of His Church, not me. So, whenever I get antsy about the fact that our house church family feels too big I can remember that God can take care of these things without my intervention.

About a year ago two families left our group to start house church groups of their own. Again, without any help from me, both families decided that God was calling them to leave and start something in their home. Both families independently decided this on the same weekend. One went to Indiana, the other just up the road from us. Neither group asked for our permission but we all certainly gave them our blessing and we prayed over them to send them out.

Still, one thing that I wish I had done differently in our house church family was to communicate from day one to everyone that our hope and our plan was to keep the group small and to plant new house churches out of this one whenever we got too large to function properly as a family of believers. Not necessarily to create a benchmark number of people for this multiplication process, but simply to remind everyone involved that one of our goals as a church is to plant more churches out of this one. How we go about this, and when, is still up to God, but if your group starts out from the beginning with a clear understanding that this multiplication is part of the process, the easier it will be to actually plant new churches out of your group when the time comes.

Thoughts? Please share them in the comments section.



Seth said...

Hi Keith,
I just started reading your blog. I think that it's easier if everyone in the group is coming for the general fellowship and love the saints, instead of following one man. It seems if they are all there for one pastor or preacher then none will want to leave to start a new group. Obviously I think its more rare that this would happen in a house church, but still very possible. And perhaps the other thing is having people recognize that some of them may one day host/facilitate a home group and if people can see that as a sign of maturity than they will be able to move in that direction when the Lord puts it on their heart.

Keith Giles said...

Agreed. If the people are in a fellowship because of the leader, why would they leave?

I'm very thankful that no one in our group is part of our fellowship because of me or anyone else other than Jesus!

Also agree that the Lord has to be the one to lead people to step out and plant a new church, not out of pressure from within.

Troy said...

Keith, I agree 100%. Our home church formed about a year ago with my wife and I and it has grown to about 15 adults and 10 children. We have a decent size house but we've outgrown it. The problem is that we all love each other so much that the thought of not being together every week makes us all very sad.

But as a shepherd called to this group, I feel that if it grows too much larger, it will be unhealthy. I want to multiply but like you said, I am not the "senior pastor" and I'm not going to impose my will on everyone else. So, I will continue to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit's leading on when and how to grow as a body.

Alan said...

Thanks for this. Just a small point...would it have been better for these 2 families you mention to have discussed it prior to 'deciding'? What I mean is, if it was considered that the group needed to divide (rather than split) I feel some discussion and corporate decision together would be better.....the word 'independently' concerns me..ideas?

Kent C. Williamson said...

Keith - A few years ago we were up to fifty people which is way too many to fit comfortably into most peoples homes. We went through an awkward phase that led to our "multiplication" into two groups for a while, but soon, some of those who left missed the other group and found their way back. Before long we started to see the natural life cycle play out... birth, growth, maturity, aging, and eventually death.

It took me a while to get comfortable with the death of a home church... but like Wendy reminded you, I had to remind myself "who's building this church, anyway?" From where I am now, I can see that it's a part of the organic nature of it. God uses things for a time and purpose. Man, on the other hand, often attempts (particularly in the traditional church) to keep the corpse propped up so that people think it's still alive and well!

We've now settled in to a style of family worship with occasional guest families joining us. It's hard to be patient to see where God will lead, what he will do, and how he will shape us. But there is comfort in knowing that he is actively working in each of those areas.