Changes Needed – A House Church – Part Three

Last time we spoke of the need to see a greater accountability to one another so that others really come to know us – this aiding in our actually living as ‘new creatures in Christ.’ As people come to really know us they will see who we really are and our lifestyle – and then they can speak into our real lives and not our surface existence. Then we can be real with others because we trust them and know that they truly do love us. This may not always be safe and secure – but it is life transforming.

For this to become a reality we need to be part of a smaller group of believers that meet together and are the church. They don’t meet to “do church” but come together as the church. Here in this true expression of the Church that Jesus is building we find life and walk in freedom so we can truly be dead to self and the new creature that we Scripture talks about (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In an apostolic-prophetic house church things are different. Some of the more practical consequences of a house-church setup and some key issues we may need to address are as follows:

1> We will start being the church rather than doing church. Rather than going to church, we will start becoming the church – seven days a week. In a true house-church movement, church will cease to be an organized Sunday morning or evening activity and will start being the corporate, organic, local lifestyle of Christians.

2> Church will be holistic, touching all of life. When church again becomes part of everyday life, all of life will become touched and transformed by God. The gospel of the Kingdom will again be expressed in ‘words, works, and wonders,’ reflecting the triune and holistic God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

3> Church will be financially secure. many traditional church-planting activities and mission movements have a significant limiting factor: money. They need money for outreach activities, a land or building purchase, and pastors’ salaries. Then they need money for church housing, chairs, a sound system, and an overhead projector. Not so with house churches. House churches don’t cost money, they produce money, which can then be used to financially support the fivefold ministry, which, in turn, supports the church spiritually. House churches simply do not need a full-time professional pastor; any person with the qualification of an elder will do.

4> Churches will have plenty of good leaders. After money, the second loudest complaint of the church is that there are never enough leaders. For a typical congregational church, a large number of people are needed to organize and lead the various programs, to preach, to teach, to lead worship, to raise funds, to organize and conduct meetings, and to run Bible studies throughout the week.

In considering the house-church model built on an apostolic-prophetic foundation, we would no longer require professional or semiprofessional leaders to fit the congregational structure. Instead we would have a structure tailor-made for al the people. Such a structure would also solve the global problem of spiritual unemployment.

Spiritual gifts’ research studies like the one done by Natural Church Development indicate that about 70 percent of all Christians are spiritually unemployed with no way to get involved in their church systems – even as the leaders of the very systems are crying out for more leaders. In a house church, everyone participates and has a spiritual task. It is a place where all believers can be trained and equipped and where there is a necessity of training new leaders on a continual basis because house churches are healthy and thus grow and plant new expressions of the Church thus needing a constant flow of new leaders.

More next time…

Transformed Lives – A House Church – Part Two

When we became born again the Bible states that we became new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we repented of our sins we were transformed into a “new creature” as we died to self and rose to new life in Christ. This is more than having Christ ‘in us’ as we teach happens when we are saved. This is us living ‘in Christ.’ This means His focus becomes our focus; His will is our will; His command is our obedience. We are His and we walk in His will, His plan, His purpose for our lives. We are transformed.

Without transformation that starts with repentance, the crucifixion of self, and, yes, even some of our cultural values and habits, there will be little redemptive power left to touch and transform our societies with the Gospel. Christianity has never been cheap; it was always meant to cost us our very lives.

For almost two thousand years people have tried to come up with a compromise between the claims of the Kingdom and the spirit of the world. Unfortunately, some of the sad consequences of aligning ourselves with the world in order to be fashionable and modern have become an institutionalized part of the way we thank and “do church.” Some have become part of our heritage and cherished traditions, and may now be painful and difficult to rethink. However, Paul’s message on the subject is short and simple: Since I became a disciple of Christ; I as my old self no longer exist, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

It is not only fairly easy, but also quite common, for Sunday morning Christians to live by double standards. Many have a secret second life hidden away for years from their friends and the congregation they are a part of. Many harbor petty sins for decades without anyone knowing. This is due in part to the fact that out of the 168 hours that exist in a week, Christians in traditional, meeting-oriented churches typically spend only three or four hours together. This is simply not enough time to effectively transfer life and Kingdom values, to develop deep relationships, to make disciples, and to lay down our lives for each other. Thus we go on living as the world lives and no one notices and even fewer care.

Around the world today we are seeing “house church” movements spring up. House Church Christianity is a necessity in some nations; a choice in others. But, either way, house church Christianity will greatly reduce the number of Christians leading a compromising lifestyle – one that tries to make the best of both worlds – because it involves us deeply in everyday community and healthy ongoing accountability. And, though it will cost us dearly, if our lifestyles changing like this can help save real people from a real hell, it is worth it.

A “house church” is not just a small number of Christians “doing church” in a home as apposed to a rented storefront, building, or community centre. A house church is a living organic expression of the Church that Jesus is building. It is not the ‘regular church’ expressed in a smaller form – but a whole different way of viewing and functioning as God’s people. It is God’s people being the Church and not just “doing church” or “going to church.” Because of this lives are transformed and a community can be influenced and impacted by the Gospel.

More on this another day…

House Church – Part One – Evangelistic or Apostolic and Prophetic

The long-term driving force of the Church that Jesus is building is not its evangelistic vision but its solid apostolic and prophetic foundation (Ephesians 2:20). In this way, the apostolic outward focus and the prophetic vision for the past, the present, and the future are literally built in. I believe that without this that we cannot build a strong church that will produce labourers for the harvest. We may see many come to Christ through our evangelistic efforts but few will actually become active and healthy members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Every church needs to be built upon an apostolic-prophetic foundation. This was the way the Church was designed to function by its founder, Jesus. This is the way the Church in the book of Acts spread to all of the known world spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom as it moved further and further afield from the city of Jerusalem where it began.

Evangelists have never played the main role in propagating the church; the growth of the church has always been the ministry of prophetic and apostolic ally gifted people. The apostolic and prophetic church as a new way of life is good news in itself, and it does not really need evangelism to drive it, especially considering all the unhealthy pressure to perform that come with it.

A good example of the problems of an evangelism-driven church can be found in Argentina, a country that has been experiencing revival since roughly 1982 when it lost the war with Great Britain. Gifted evangelists like Carlos Anaconda, Hector Gimenez, and Omar Cabrera sprang up at that time and had massive evangelistic rallies of almost unheard-of proportions, counting the “decisions for Christ” by the tens of thousands. However, since that time these men have had to honestly ask themselves where all these people are now. Pastors in Argentina have found it difficult to incorporate the many people who made decisions for Christ into existing or newly planted churches.

A September 1996 study done by DAWN Ministries revealed that Argentina then had one of the lowest church-planting rates of all of Latin America. The large number of decisions for Christ had simply not translated into church growth. There must be a missing like. “Evangelism which pulls individuals out of their family context and provides no new context is half-baked and may well do more harm than good,” saying Australian missiologist Alan Tippet.

Back in the 1990’s, Argentinian church planter Alberto Luca saw church planting and multiplication as the prophetic way forward. Together with a growing number of pastors, Luca has been developing a national church-multiplication strategy in an effort to move forward from being evangelism driven to functioning in an apostolic and prophetic way. Good evangelism supports and functions in unity with the fivefold ministry; it is never isolated as a single force or a cure-all for the lost.

This apostolic-prophetic approach also needs the intimacy of a “house” or a “home” to be truly effective.
As Alan Tippet stated (see above): “Evangelism which pulls individuals out of their family context and provides no new context is half-baked and may well do more harm than good.” So, as the gospel “pulls individuals out of their family context” house churches provide the best ‘new context’ in which to discover all that a person’s new found faith involves. So, as in the book of Acts, the church can grow from house to house and thus reach a nation and the world.

Let’s Stay Focused and On Target!

The Church is to have one focus – we are called by our Founder, Jesus Christ, to seek and save the lost as we go into all our world and make disciples. Anything less is simply not to be tolerated as it would be rebellion. Anything more would simply be clutter and extra baggage that we were not meant to carry in our journey with Jesus and His family, the Church.

Jesus commanded His disciples – we are His disciples today – to go out and make other disciples, recruiting others for the Kingdom and the work of the Kingdom. He never told them or us to create a Christian nation. He didn’t command that we impose our Christian standards upon nonbelievers. As someone once said, “Don’t expect them to act as Christians until they are.” I would add, “And when they do convert and are born again make sure what you are asking of them is really biblically and not just traditional or cultural.”

Jesus told us to win over the lost and teach them to obey everything He taught. Their goal was to persuade the lost, not to fight cultural wars as we see happening today in a number of countries. I for one am tired of seeing good believers wasting their time imposing their standards upon a culture or society – fighting to create a Christian culture in their nation or neighbourhood. I believe that we are called to change hearts. I admit that if we change enough hearts then maybe the culture will change. But, the reverse is not true. Changing the culture does not necessarily change hearts. In fact, never has.

Jesus commanded his disciples to go out and recruit other disciples. He never told us to create a Christian nation. The New Testament Church was birthed in a cultural and political cesspool. There were no family values. Sexual perversion was normative, human life was cheap and justice nonexistent for anyone except the rich and powerful. The government was fiercely opposed to the Christian message. All but one of the apostles died a martyr’s death.

Yet none of the New Testament letters say anything about what we call cultural wars. The focus of the early church was on changing hearts. And all the passages that deal with spiritual warfare are framed in the context of personal spirituality and righteousness. Let’s stay focused on the task at hand and stay on target. Let’s not wander off into things Jesus never asked us to be involved in even if they sound and look good.

Simple Is Better

An examination of Church history reveals the sociological reality that over time groups and organizations of people move from the simple to the complex. What began as something low in structure and organization eventually becomes higher in structure and organization and difficult to reproduce. This tells me that simple is better.

I have come to believe that if it is complicated then it is religion. The Christian faith is “simple.” Profound, deep, powerful but basically simple. Paul, the apostle who wrote a good portion of the New Testament, who was also a theologican and wrote much that gives us a deep understanding of the heart of God – wrote the following:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received … by which you are being saved… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriotures, and that he appeared…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5 selected)

Basic and simple. As soon as you add rules, regulations, formatting and organization it always reaches a point where it simply becomes another religion without power and influence. It’s impact is removed, gone forever. German theologian and Church historian Adolph Harnack once wrote of how Christianity spread across the globe so rapidly within a few hundred years. Though he wrote these words over a hundred years ago, they are a challenge to us today.

“This religion was the first to cut the ground from under the feet of all other religions, and by means of her religious philosophy, as a civilizing power, to displace ancient philosophy. But the reasons for the triumph of Christianity is that age are no guarantee for the permanence of that triumph throughout the history of mankind. Such a triumph rather depends upon the simple elements of the religion, on the preaching of the living God as the Father of men, and on the likeness of Jesus Christ. For that very reason it depends also on the capacity of Christianity to strip off once more any collective syncretism and unite itself to fresh coefficients.”

In other words, keep it simple and don’t complicate it. Go back to the basics as found in Scripture – and move away from the themes, trends, bandwagons, traditions, methods, and misinterpretation of the Bible used to suit man’s purposes. Just the basic Gospel of the Kingdom telling the story of Jesus, inviting others to share fellowship with you as you share fellowship with the Father God (1 John 1:1-4). It does not need to become more complicated than that.

This will mean massive change for many churches that have majored on the minors; churches that have interpreted the Scriptures to confirm their experience of God or their lack of experience. It is time to stand up and remove anything and everything that prevents us from doing the one thing Jesus told us, as the Church, to do – “go into all the world and seek and save the lost.” Back to the basics and keep it simple.

Then and only then, I believe, will we see the ‘end time harvest’ that Jesus speaks of because we will have the power to change the world one person at a time. Paul states: “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” The basic gospel of the Kingdom without all the added extras. Just keep it plain and simple; biblical and powerful. You will be amazed at what can be accomplished.