As my wife and I have been working through questions about the church, it has been painfully obvious for some time that the traditional church is not where we want to be. It isn’t like we haven’t tried but again and again we run into barriers. You can’t teach if you aren’t a “member”. You can’t join in our ritualized Lord’s Supper if you aren’t a “member”. You don’t hold to all of the same set of secondary doctrines that we do so you and you are new so you end up feeling like an outsider for years. So starting up a house church seems like the obvious step for us. We believe in the basic tenets of simplicity, community and fellowship, participatory gatherings, etc. To date we still haven't because it just seems overwhelming and we aren't sure where to start. I was encouraged by something I read this morning that touches on that very topic.
Felicity Dale is a pretty well known name among the simple church crowd so as you might expect she gets a lot of questions from people looking for house churches because they can't find what they are looking for. In a guest post at Alan’s blog today she writes about her response to these questions and it might not be what you think. Here is a taste of her typical response:
“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) 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.”
That sounds great but it is kind of scary. It is so much easier, at least in theory, to just form a simple/house/organic church from existing Christians, refugees from traditional churches. I believe this is due to our understanding of “church planting” being derived from traditional church planting methods which seem to mostly involved finding a likely spot, setting up shop and then filling your pews with Christians from other local churches. I don’t think that church planting should operate in this way. We should be planting new gatherings because of growth, not because of disgruntlement and dissatisfaction. I have seen more than once what happens when a church is formed by those who are primarily driven by dissatisfaction and it isn't what I am looking for.
On the other hand, the church needs each other to encourage and edify one another and to occasionally exhort or even rebuke each other. I think there are potential problems with being all disciple making without being built up at the same time. I certainly need to mature, a lot, in my walk and my witness but I can’t just hide behind that forever. So I know we as a couple and a family need the support of other mature believers as well as to reach the unchurched and the lost so some combination of the two is probably the right balance.
We certainly have plenty of people around us that either don’t know the Lord or are generally unchurched. My wife has had the opportunity to witness to a couple of Amish women, one from a family that sounds like they are definitely having some real issues with their religious upbringing with the Ordnung that they are required to follow. There are quite a few former Amish in our area who have come to Christ but they are also viewed with suspicion by current Amish in the same way that former mormons are shunned and avoided by current mormons, so I think we have an opportunity to effectively witness to them in ways that fomer Amish don't. It is an exciting mission field!
So we still muddle along in our walk with Christ among His people. I like what Felicity has to say in her guest post. My friend Kevin who lives in the area does the same thing in making disciples and planting house churches from the new believers. We certainly as a family need the support of other Christians but we also need to get out from the church culture, no matter what style, to be more active in making disciples. Multiplying is quite different from shuffling the same Christians around and that is where our efforts need to be. It is times like this that I am glad that God is sovereign over everything, including and especially the salvation of lost sinners and the sanctification of mediocre Christians like me!