I work with a variety of churches in many nations. And often I am asked about a certain church – have I heard of it? Have I met so-and-so who pastors a large church in a particular city? What about this pastor who has a church of 10,00 or 20,000 – what do I think about him? And then, there are questions about networks or unions of churches? And, questions about new and different ways that a leader is building – G-12, multiple campuses, user-friendly, Spirit-sensitive? And then, of course, the constant is: How big is the church I work with in my home city? Size matters to some, it seems.
In the Bible www read about the Church on four different levels. The New Testament Church is seen as: The Church in the world (Colossians 1:24), the Church in the province or region (Acts9:31), the Church in the city (2 Corinthians 1:1), and the Church in the house (Colossians 4:15). The Church in the house is a microcosm of the Church in the city, in the nation, and in the world. Often, I hear detain in the voice of the person speaking to me about a house church as if there is something inferior or wrong with a church that meets in a house. As if it is really not a real Church.
The Church in the house is just as much THE CHURCH as the Church in the city, or in the province, or in the world. It contains all the essential elements of Church. The word ‘microcosm simply means ‘little world’ or ‘a universe in miniature.’ The Church in the house is Church in the fullest sense of the word. That is ho the Apostle Paul saw his work in the first century. On his first apostolic journey, he left a little group of disciples in four different cities – Antioch, Iconic, Derby, and Lystra. He referred to each little group as the Church in that city.
It seems that the house Church was part of the New Testament PRACTICE of Church planting. I did not say it was the New Testament PATTERN. God did not leave us a pattern to be followed as to how to build and function as a Church. The true New Testament pattern is to pray, hear from God, and obey what He tells us. If He tells us to build a gigantic cathedral, you must obey and do what He says. You will be blessed and so will the entire Body of Christ. The dynamic power of the early Church was just that. They were not trying to follow a ‘pattern’ that they read about somewhere. They were following the leading of the Holy Spirit day by day. Success followed. It is still safe to do the same in our day.
Many churches have tried to find the formula for growth from others who have grown large, influential churches for Christ. Many years ago the hero of Church growth and size was Dr. Cho who is the Senior Pastor of the largest Church in the world located in Seoul, Korea. Pastor Cho, when I was in a conference with him, shared that ‘formula’ in six simple words, “I just pray, and I obey.”
There is nothing wrong with meeting in a barn, a field, a cave, in a church building, or in a synagogue. The Lord is looking on the heart, not the method or the location.
But regardless of the size or method of planting and growing a Church, if we are encouraging a system that is stifling the life of a Church by heavy-handed leadership and a deadening clergy-laity caste system, we will not have the fruit we are seeking. The Church, whichever way it is being built must release the very life and nature of God in all aspects of its corporateness. It is the “life” that is the light that draws people from spiritual darkness. (see John 1:4 and Matthew 5:14).