Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Answering Questions about Our House Church Family

Someone asked me some questions today about our house church and since I've already taken the time to write up these answers I thought I'd share them here on my blog, too.

If you have any questions that aren't answered here, feel free to add your own.

Do you have a leadership team? Elder/Deacon board, or what?

No, nothing formal. However, we DO have people who function as elders and overseers/facilitators, we just don't call them that or recognize these officially.

Why? Partly because we don't want to create any artificial offices and create the impression that only a select few of us are authorized to serve in the Body. Everyone can serve without reservation or hesitation as God leads them.

What authority do you have over your church?

None, really. I mean, I suppose I do have influence, but not authority. In other words, I wouldn't tell everyone "this is what we're doing now" but I might make some suggestions and ask people to weigh in on the subject so we can decide what to do.

This has changed since our first years together, however. At first, I really did mostly tell people what we were going to do. Now I try to ask the Body to make decisions.

Who makes the decisions?

We, the people, make most decisions together. On some issues people have requested that Wendy and I handle some things because they trust our judgement when it comes to working with the poor, etc. However, we try to involve them whenever possible.

For example: We recently went to the Body on a Sunday morning to ask whether we should use collected funds to help someone that we knew personally but not everyone in our Body knew them.

As we discussed the situation, we made sure that everyone knew that we were open to helping this person out of our own personal money and allow Mission funds to be designated for other things.

We all talked openly, people asked questions about the situation and the consensus among the Body was that we should go ahead and use our Mission funds to help this person out.

I WOULD ADD: We are striving to allow the Body to make decisions collectively rather than assign a few among us to decide for everyone else. So far this is has been wonderful and people appreciate being part of the process.

How do you handle church discipline?

Ah...here's the real test of "leadership" in the Body, right? In the last 4 years we've had to employ church discipline about five times. In some cases Wendy and I handled this ourselves privately, but in most cases we involved others in our Body whom we felt could speak wisdom and truth to the person/persons who required the discipline. In other words, who would they most likely accept/receive loving advice and correction from? This is always based on relationship.

I would also add that there have been a few other times when Wendy and I were not involved at all but one brother would ask another brother out to coffee to inquire about the spiritual health and well-being of someone and to offer loving counsel and correction.

Those times are sweet and I love hearing about them after the fact.

How are your roles defined?

My role? I've intentionally worked very hard over the last 4 years to graduate myself from founding pastor of the Mission to one of the many active and contributing members of the Body. I am now officially one of the brothers in the Mission Family.

How does your church handle finances, offering, tithes, etc.?

We're a cash only operation. We do not have a 501(c)3 and we do not have a church bank account. If people need to receive a tax break at the end of the year we encourage them to give their money somewhere else.

However, if people do give to our house church, we guarantee that 100% of every single penny given will go directly to help the poor in our community - and sometimes even others in our own church family who are in need.

We have complete transparency with all funds received and we give regular updates for how much is received, where it was spent and how it impacted people.

As people begin to see their offerings being used to help actual people in need, their desire to give increases and they become 'hilarious givers' to the work of compassion.

Why don't you have a non-profit status?

Several reasons. First, we don't need the state of california to tell us that we're an official church. God has lavished us with His love and we have been called the children of God. That's enough for us.

Second, since we do not use our funds to cover salaries, utilities, rent, etc. there is no benefit to us in receiving tax breaks. We do not operate as a business so there's no need to register ourselves, or run ourselves, like a business.

Who is your pastor?

Jesus is our pastor. It used to be me, but I finally realized that the only leader among us was Jesus and since it was His church anyway, it was time to surrender things back over to Him. He's done a much better job than I have, anyway.

Who is your spiritual covering?

Jesus is our spiritual covering. We do not require the authority of any person or denomination to make us an official Body of Christ. Jesus is what makes us a Church, and we are covered by His blood and filled with His Spirit.

The concept of Spiritual Covering is not a NT concept. Covering is not required, but accountability is. I am accountable to everyone in our Body, and they are accountable to one another and to me. We are also accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ for our behavior and our witness of Christ in the community.

Who does the preaching?

No one does. We do not have sermons, or a pulpit. We do spend a lot of time in the Scriptures together. Anyone who is present in the meeting has the authority to open God's Word, share an insight, give a testimony, or encourage the Body as God's Spirit leads. Our fellowship is blessed to have a great number of gifted teachers and once in a while one of them may bring us a study on a passage or a topic as God leads, but not every time, and not the same person every time.

Children, women, and men are all free to share from God's Word with the rest of the Body and all are free to comment, agree, disagree, or continue the conversation as God leads.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask below. I'd love to share what God is doing in our midst.



tommyab said...

can I put it on my blog (translated)?


David Cho said...

Excellent, Keith. I can barely remember sermons from pastors, but what people shared from their hearts stay with me and nourish me spiritually a lot longer. And they don't even get paid to "preach."

People these days get really worked up over the prospect of having to hire gays should new laws pass. The answer is simple. Get out of the non-profit status.

Rob Ross said...

Keith, I enjoyed reading your post. You answered the questions very clearly. I have often been asked very similar questions by individuals who want to better understand house church.

There are some additional questions I would be interested in getting your response to. How do you intentionally make disciples? How do you multiply the house churches? How do you network the house churches? Blessings, Rob Oikos Ministries http://oikosministries.com

Keith Giles said...

"How do you intentionally make disciples?"

Making disciples, for us, is highly relational. We don't use any curriculum or program to make disciples. Others do, but in my opinion those discipleship classes or programs create a false sense of graduation.

After 1 week, or even 1 year, you are not finished learning how to be a follower of Jesus. Being a disciple is a life-long pursuit.

Therefore, our emphasis in on creating disciples who see following Jesus as part of their everyday, ongoing life in the community.

Individually, some of us are discipling and mentoring others during the week. Most of those beng discipled outside the group do not attend our regular house church gathering, or have even visited us, but attend a weekly Bible Study held outside of our church and/or attend a local, traditional church.

Why? Because discipleship is about helping others to follow Jesus in their everyday life. It's not about recruiting more people to join our house church, or to join any other church. It's about making disciples.

Within our Church Body, we disciple one another by actively encouraging one another to discover our individual calling and mission field. Whenever we're together we encourage one another to follow Jesus in our everyday life. We hold one another accountable for our actions, we follow-up when people are hurting, and we do our best to keep them from being anonymous in the Body.

We are not perfect at this. Sometimes we fail horribly. But, it is our practice to allow God to work through our relationships with one another and to allow the community of Christ to shape our discipleship.

"How do you multiply the house churches?"

If it were up to me we would have already split this house church into two others over a year ago. However, it is not up to me.

So, right now we are in the process of empowering everyone in the Body to understand and use their gifts for the common good. We're learning how to lean on the Holy Spirit for leadership and guidance. We're also starting to share responsibility for the Body among the members.

Soon, I pray, we will take that big step and split off another house church, or perhaps Wendy and I will pull back completely and allow this house church to continue without us and we will plant a second one in our home.

I don't know yet. But, as soon as anything happens I'll be sure to write about it.

"How do you network the house churches?"

I assume you mean "with OTHER house churches" since we are only one house church at the moment.

Right now I meet regularly and correspond often with two other house church leaders here in Orange County.

I also created the online resource page, OCHouseChurch.com, to help people find house churches in the SoCal area, and to demonstrate that we are aware of one another and support one another, even though we're all radically different groups.

Keith Giles said...

I should also add that what works for our house church might not work for every house church.

For example, since we're such a small group (about 28 people, children included), the shared leadership works perfectly.

However, if we actually had a network of house churches, or a larger group, this shared leadership structure might not work as well.

As an aside, (or, to answer a question that nobody asked me yet), whenever our house church does split in two, I will not attempt to lead or control that house church in any way.

That new house church will be it's own entity and Christ will be the leader and pastor - if they so desire.

I will not ask that house church to call themselves "The Mission". I will not ask them to submit to my authority or leadership. They do not have to give 100% of their offering to the poor. They can become a 501(c)3 if they want to, etc.

My goal is not to be the Pope of the Mission House Church denomination.

Rob Ross said...

Thanks for your response Keith. I hope I get a chance to hear more about what God is doing through His people in Orange County. Blessings. Rob

Adam said...

How do people "join"? Do people actively seek the house church out? Do you invite people to come?

Keith Giles said...

Adam: People find us. Mostly through the Internet, this blog, the Mission blog or the OCHouseChurch.com resource page...but also word of mouth.

Of all the 28 people currently at the Mission now, most of them I never knew before we started it. Only 2 women and one family at the Mission now were our friends previously, everyone else we met as they came to join us.

What I love about this is that we don't recruit anyone. God is building His church, just as He promised. The people that are here are the people that God has drawn here by His Spirit.