I got the following question as a follow up to my recent post on simple church and thought you’d be interested in the conversation that followed:
I’m likely confused by your latest blog entry but want to understand. There is something there that resonates with me. Are you saying that formal netowrking of house churches/simple churches (whatever you want to call them), might not be a good thing because it’s kind of man made? Are you suggesting that simple churches are ok as long as Jesus is the focus and the leader? I just want to make sure I understand your points. My wife and I are leading a house church/simple church (and) half of the the folks in our little community come from different “networks” the other half don’t. We are on our own and don’t allign ourselves with any “network”, but do obviously have freinds that also do the house church thing.
’m not saying formal netowrking is a negative thing so much as I’m saying it is an unnecessary thing. Enjoy whatever relationships God gives you both in local and more regional environments. He has a great way of allowing his people to intersect. I find formal networking, while exciting in its initial stages, will eventually create machinery that will need to be baby sat and may even limit relationships to those ‘in the network’ when God wants to connect you with other folks. I find the more we define our relationships institutionally the more doors it closes not opens. But I know many people who I love and respect profoundly who are involved in forming networks of simple churches. If that’s what they feel called to do, fine! I just think it is a detour that will siphon time and energy away from the real kinds of work God does.
I am also concerned that by forming networks and linking with other networks nationally, we are creating the same system that we all left. Sure it is in a different format, but eventually people will end up thinking more about the model than they do of following Christ. That has happened in institutional church, cell church, house church, and organic church and I have no reason to think it won’t happen with this as well. I wonder how much of this formal networking comes from our need for approval, to give our group some kind of credibility with other folks (or ourselves) by joining something larger. That’s how I’ve mostly heard it talked about by those involved in building them. It also helps carve out a vocational ministry job for someone, but in it they will probably end up doing far more managing and facilitating than they will discipling. Why do we need that extra overhead, when God is so amazing (even though things like the Internet) to connect people as he desires and having no formal relationship among them except to love each other and keep following Jesus as he leads us on?
Wherever Jesus is the center and focus of life, his church will emerge quite freely. As I said in the article, I’m all for simple church, especially if it is not capitalized as a thing, but recognized as a reality God is doing with a variety of expressions.
Thanks. This does bring some focus to me on what you wrote. I agree with most of what you are saying. I guess my one concern is how we help train and equip leaders and future simple church leaders without some kind of structure. I’m sure I am just not thinking outside the box enough. Obviously, God will provide.
I think leaders are less-trained by a structure, as they emerge among folks because of what God is doing in them. In other words their growth wouldn’t necessitate any equipping different than anyone else. Their responsiveness to Jesus and their insight into his ways would make room enough for them to help others as it becomes a reality in their own lives. Having structures that recognize certain leaders, often only identifies the wrong ones—those who are good at managing or entertaining people, not those who know Father’s heart.
Whenever structures try to train leaders, it rarely separates those truly called from those who have ambition in ministry. What we usually train them in the Bible, but unfortunately more emphasis is given on how to teach it to others, than to live the reality of its message and example. We also train them how to structure church according to a specific model, which does more to limit God’s working among his people than it does to release it, unfortunately. I hope I’m not being too cynical here, but if there is training going on other than those two in structured settings, I’ve not heard of it, but would love to.
That said, I think too little equipping is done in simple church environments. Instead of helping people learn how to live deeply in Christ, know the story of Scripture and how Jesus builds his body, we gather people in a room and hope ‘church’ happens. In many cases the event will be controlled by those who are willing to speak up or those trying to build a ministry rather than those led by the Spirit. I see a great need for people to learn how to live the life and to help others do so as well.
If not, people will end up as bored and empty from simple church as they were in more systemic forms.