When you can’t find a church to belong to… Print
Monday, 08 April 2013 21:12

“I live in _________. Do you know any good house churches in my area?”

I often get emails like this, and here’s how I often respond:

“There are various tools that might help you discover a simple/organic church in your area, (I usually point them to the “find a church” feature on www.house2house.com <http://www.house2house.com>  ) but I’d like you to pray about a different approach. You’ve been a believer for a number of years. Why don’t you start something? Work with those who don’t yet know the Lord or the unchurched—it’s much easier. We’d love to help you.”
Most Christians, especially those from a more traditional form of church background, assume the obvious way to start any kind of church is to invite a few Christians to their home for fellowship. As other believers join them and the group gets large enough, they will multiply out into two churches and so on.

This is not the best way for several reasons:

  1. The Christians will bring all their preconceived ideas about church with them. It will be more of a challenge to think in the fresh, out-of-the-box ways that simple/organic church requires. The temptation will be to do “Honey, I shrunk the church!”
  2. It is more difficult to be missional. Existing believers tend to focus on the gathering. Many Christians don’t have non-believers within their sphere of influence.
  3. You are trying to create community where a natural one doesn’t exist. Yes, there is a “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” with all other believers, but as you add people to a group, it will take time for people to share their everyday lives together outside of meetings.
  4. Multiplication usually occurs very, very slowly.

It is far easier to make a disciple of someone who doesn’t yet know the Lord. In Luke 10, Jesus told his disciples to pray and look for a person of peace, someone out in the harvest (Luke 10:1-10 ). You can recognize them because not are they a person of influence (either good or bad), but they will also offer you hospitality. Work within their existing sphere of influence using their home as the base for what goes on. Use a pattern simple enough that within a few weeks they can lead it. As their family and friends find the Lord, multiplying churches is the natural result. Your ongoing job is to mentor the person of peace.
The advantages:

  1. The problems and issues that come up are those of life, not theology or ecclesiology.
  2. Community already exists and their shared lives will continue outside of the meeting context.
  3. New disciples have a natural mission field all around them and evangelism follows spontaneously along relational lines.
  4. It’s easy to create a vision and expectation of multiplication.

In the book of Acts, there are only two people recorded who became believers as individuals—Paul and the Ethiopian eunuch. The rest all were part of a group—Cornelius and his household, Lydia and her household, the Philippian jailor and his household. Each of these was a person of peace.

Several years ago we started a church in some low income housing projects. God led us to pray for this particular area, and one day, as Tony (my husband) and I were prayer walking there, we were surprised by a heavy storm. Running to take shelter under a balcony we joined two Hispanic ladies sitting in lawn chairs, chatting together. They asked us what we were doing there, and we told them we were praying for their area. Long story short, one of the ladies, Rosa, invited us into her home to pray for her family. God began answering prayer and soon we asked her if we could share Jesus with her family too.

Would it have been better for us to invite Rosa to the church that met in our home? I don’t think so. We would have extracted her from her environment and her family would probably never have come. But we met in her home, and it wasn’t long before there were 20-30 of us in her tiny apartment, nearly all brand new believers.

It’s time to put our theology into action. What might God do if we let him lead us into the harvest?

F. Dale