Saturday, July 15, 2006

House Church and Missional Living

I have been mulling over a few thoughts since I attended the house church meeting a couple of weeks ago. I am very pro house church, but I'm not yet convinced it's the thing for us, at least at this time.

One of the things that isn't quite sitting right with me is that I don't want to live missionally because I have a house church to invite people to. Maybe because I feel like such a beginner at truly caring about and extending myself to people, I am hesitant to influence my motivation for doing so.

I want to have people in my home just to have them here, not because I'm having a meeting. I understand that the two concepts don't necessarily have to be polarized. For now, I can see a house church for fellowship, support and encouragement; but I'm not quite getting what it has to do with everday incarnational living.

The following blog post from Wayne Jacobsen hits on some of what I'm feeling. As usual, he explains things with much grace and wisdom.

I know few ‘established’ congregations that really help believers experience full maturity. Most times the effort over ‘gathering’ and ‘forming’ suck up the life of believers wanting to grow rather than actually helping them do that. I realize there are exceptions to this, but they are exceptions.

In the end, Jesus told us to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, and he would build his church. We do seem to get that backward. When we take it our ourselves to build the church, discipleship rarely happens and the demands of the institution almost always seem to overrun the relational realities the church needs to flourish.

I’ll give you an example of this. When I taught ‘church planting’ teams for an international missions group, I would break the class up into small groups the first day. I told them they were ‘church planting’ teams. They chose the country and city and then I gave them an hour to sort out the questions they would need to resolve as they were getting started. Their concerns and questions all revolved around finance, building rental, publicity, statements of faith and all the other things that go with a corporate endeavor.

Two days later I broke them into the same teams, told them they were going into the same city, but this time not to plant a church but to demonstrate who Jesus is to the people and help them learn how to follow him. The questions and issues they came up with from that assignment was remarkably different and far more powerful. Now it was about meeting people, getting jobs that would link them to the community, learning how to share their faith naturally not artificially and how to help people connect in a real way with him. Finances, buildings and publicity never came up.

That’s the difference I’m talking about, if that makes sense.

9 comments:

Roserella said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pam Hogeweide said...

please read an interview did with a pastor from California. you can find it at www.doableevangelism.com

he is doing what wayne and you have written about.

Steve Sensenig said...

This is good stuff. I like what Wayne said about it. And I agree completely with you that we shouldn't reach out to people just to invite them to our house church.

Somehow, we have to get to a point where we are actually living Christ out in front of others and taking those relationships whatever direction they go in the process of making disciples of Jesus.

Whenever evangelism or discipleship comes down to a "program", or is summarized in steps of a process, I fear we've already headed off in the wrong direction. I'm starting to think that there was a reason Jesus didn't give specific steps to follow in making disciples. He just said that as we are going into the world, we are to make disciples, teaching them what he commanded us. That can happen in so many ways.

You wrote: For now, I can see a house church for fellowship, support and encouragement; but I'm not quite getting what it has to do with everday incarnational living.

I think that's the point. Incarnational living is not about having church meetings. The point of the church gathering is to edify each other, and so that those gifted in an Eph 4 fashion can help equip the body. The "incarnational" aspect, as far as I can tell in Scripture, is outside the meeting (although the meeting times may occasionally have unbelievers present, who will be confronted with the truth, as in 1 Cor 14).

steve :)

jeff said...

I think the true problem is that we are taking something (the Gospel) which is faith based and we turn it into something that is seen. We walk by faith, not by sight. Trying to find a way to incarnate faith is tough! It took the perfect Son of God to pull it off. The odds that we will hit the right balance seem remote to me! However, here we are, having to do something with it. I'm not sure the spreading of the Gospel has to be made an institution. It takes people walking by faith. I suppose I'm not making sense. I know what I'm trying to say!

David Cho said...

This reminds me of what international students said at my college. Various ministry groups reached out to them to invite them over and "befriend" them to share the gospel, etc.

Many shared the feelings of being treated like projects, and not friends. And their observations were quite accurate. If you listened to people in this kind of ministry sharing "prayer requests" about international students that they were working with, keen observers would get the sense that they did this out of duty, and treated them as projects.

Of course, there were exceptions, and they were few and far between as most exceptions are.

trace said...

grace, thanks for these thoughts and for sharing wayne's as well. and I appreciate the thoughts of those who've already commented. it confirms the constant juggling of being a 'church' (legal entity) and its people just being the church. in my neck of the woods (new england), churches without church buildings struggle earning trust and credibility (are you guys really a church?). my own community started in a home and over the course of the past 13 years has met in a middle school cafeteria, a high school auditorium, and for the past few years, our ymca gym. we've done a great job at creating a culture and faith community that builds relationships, reaches out to our community, helps people connect with God, and that is our central focus.....but many many people we reach out to are reluctant to come visit a church that meets in the ymca....

Trailady said...

Good to see you are keeping it real. I too doubt my own motives after so many years of "evangelism" under the guise of bringing people into the same legalism that I was burdened with. I simply want to love because that's what God does- no strings attached. I love reading your thoughts! :o)

Bruce said...

Partaking of the bread together, “in My Name”- that's all that was asked of folk who wish to come together and ponder the holy wonder of the world. All bread is holy, it is the manner (manna! excuse the pun!) in which it is taken.

grace said...

You guys have such amazing comments. I'm sorry I didn't reply to them sooner.

Pam,
I really enjoyed the article. I was curious about the pastor's source of income. That seems to be the big difference between those who pursue this as a vocation compared to those who pursue this as a way of life mixed in with their responsibilities to career and family.

steve,
Thanks for your wise comments. I agree that the point of gathering would be for encouraging and equipping. Shedding the ingrained programmatic ideas for reaching "the lost" has required unlearning some traditional evangelical thought processes, beginning with removing the label in order to see people as individuals.

Jeff,
I think I understand you. How do we take our own walk of faith and translate it into something that is visible to others? Seems like a good question to me.

David,
This is exactly what I mean. I want to be able to see and treat people in a way that is sincere and doesn't put them in the role of a project. I think this means that I simply love them to the best of my ability and trust that Christ's love in me will make a difference in their life.

trace,
That is really interesting. The church we are currently attending has grown because they meet in a gymnasium. They will be moving to their own building in a few weeks and are concerned that the building may be a hindrance to people coming.

Trailady,
I love that phrase, "no strings attached." That's really what it boils down to, letting go of our personal agendas and expectations, knowing our role is to love, and trusting the holy spirit to accomplish whatever he will.

Bruce,
Amen. Wouldn't it be awesome if our cyberfriends could break bread together for real some day?