By now, you’re saying, “Enough already! Is why you’re starting The House Church Movement all you have to write about?” This will be the last blog I write that deals with the “why” of house church (or, at least MY why).
Jesus gave a very simple mission to His church immediately before His ascension–go make disciples (Matthew 28: 18-20). I wonder how such a simple mission has gained so much complexity over the centuries. Jesus’ first disciples were told to disciple others, and the only example they had was Jesus. In Luke 9 and Matthew 10, we find Jesus going house-to-house throughout Galilee and Judea, and then Jesus telling his disciples to do the same. The Book of Acts certainly confirms this model of ministry.
The Apostle Paul, in writing his letters to the early church, wrote to churches that were meeting in homes, and the instructions he gave them were given with this model in mind. The concept of spiritual gifting was given to the Church with the understanding that the gifts of believers would be lived out in the community of faith–the house church.
A word of clarity, though. The Apostle Paul would use the word for church when referring to both the individual house churches and the gathered body, so using the one does not detract from the other. Again, I’m not anti-institutional (the fact that I keep mentioning that does make me wonder a little though). Wherever the body of Christ gathers, there is the Church.
Unfortunately, the “gifts” for ministry became formalized as the Church grew and transitioned from a house-based movement to the more “traditional” model we know today throughout most of the west. Pastors, teachers, evangelist, et. al., became church professionals. In the early church, there was a team of leaders–bishops, pastors, elders–who led the church in making disciples. Now, we depend on professional staff teams to lead us, and the individual giftedness of disciples is underutilized in the Kingdom economy.
The Apostle Paul was very specific in writing to the early church at Ephesus about the role of leaders in the church. He wrote:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up … (Ephesians 4: 11 – 12, NIV).
Each of these giftings were given by Christ Himself for the building up of His church, and the most fruitful discipleship model utilizes these gifts in their fullness to increase the Kingdom. This is the model wherein disciples disciple disciples, thus fulfilling the Great Commission Christ gave to His Church.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). He lists many different gifts that the Spirit gives to believers for the sake of the body. Then he explains how every part of the body is needed, and that we must be careful to not start to develop a mindset that some gifts are more necessary than others. Does every single believer in a church realize that they are just as needed and important as anyone else in the church? Or do they tend to think that the preacher and worship leader are more important?
The House Church Movement is designed to create space for everyone in the body to contribute in the meetings and in everyday life. The “pastor’s” is not the only voice that needs to be heard. Long monologue sermons are not meant to be the norm in house church meetings because no one person should dominate things.
Everyone is called to make disciples. We are all called to share the gospel with non-believers in hopes that they would follow Jesus. We are all called to take responsibility for the spiritual care of other believers. But discipleship is hard and messy. It involves intentionally getting to know someone, having hard conversations when sin is evident, working through conflict, and spending extra time with them when life gets hard.
The temptation in the church has been to replace discipleship with programs. If there is a married couple struggling, we suggest they read a book, enroll in a marriage class, or go on a retreat. Discipleship means having an older couple who loves Jesus to come alongside of them and do life with them through life’s challenges. Though marriage retreats, classes and seminars can be helpful, we hide behind them and ignore our responsibility to make disciples. It’s not that these programs are bad, but they run the risk of undermining what is best and most important. We end up trading the best for the good.
In The House Church Movement, the pastors are not responsible for discipling everyone, but rather they will each disciple a few and then ensure that those disciples are also discipling a few. And for those who are new to the faith, though they might not be fully responsible for the spiritual care of another person, they will be actively engaged in evangelistic efforts and be trained to take responsibility for others.
The House Church Movement, with its small, intimate, intentional group of believers provides no room to hide. Each person’s life is consistently before someone else. It means that each person is expected to be transparent with a few other believers about the things they would hide, while those believers walk with them through healing, repentance, and believing the promises of God. There shouldn’t be any room for people just “attend church” when everyone is being discipled for life and ministry.
Discipleship is taking responsibility for the spiritual care of somebody else. It doesn’t mean you’re the only one invested in that person, but it does mean you should be aware of what’s going on in that person’s life. Discipleship is life on life. Discipleship doesn’t happen with coffee dates once a week. You need to be around each other and observe each other’s lives almost daily.
Disciples discipling disciples. It can be messy work, indeed! But, it can also be the most fulfilling and transformative work a disciple can ever do. It’s another reason I feel called to lead The House Church Movement.
So, there you have it. The five reasons I feel called to do this new thing. Now, maybe we can move on to something else.
Until next time, keep looking up…