Do you want to read over my shoulder again? I had this email exchange this week with a brother the other day in New Mexico. I never know how to respond to stuff like this. I am blessed that people are willing to look outside the box and see what God is asking of them, but always a bit concerned when it looks like they’re just going to grab another box. While Paul talked often about the church in various’s homes, he never used the term house church. I took a chance on this one and wrote back what was in my heart:
God told me to prepare 6 months ago to start a house church and has been teaching me through prayer and his word all he wants me to know. Then a couple of weeks ago a brother pointed me to house2house, which finally confirmed to me that God is planting the same seeds universally. Then I listened to your series on ‘the relational church” and “The power of the Cross” and received further confirmation. Anyway, I am starting to network in to greenhouse, house2house etc., and our house church starts Dec. 1. If you are ever passing through plan to visit and share some of his love.
If God has led you to ‘start a house church’, by all means do so. I think it is fabulous when people get together in homes to share his life together. But could I at least have a shot at stretching your thinking a bit? While I love the folks at greenhouse and house2house and appreciate their passion, I think it is also possible that they are just building another box in which people will try to contain God’s working. And like all boxes, they won’t work. Our God is too big and his ways too mysterious for us to contain in any specific methodology. These resources can serve a valuable function in letting folks know they are not alone in their passion to discover more relational and relevant expressions of church life and give them tools God might want to use to help us live in him. But if we let them sidetrack us by putting all our marbles into a new box called ‘house church’, we’ll end up back where we started.
I’m convinced that building the church is Jesus’ job. Ours is to proclaim the gospel and help others near us find a relationship with God that is real every day. I much prefer people to think in terms of learning how to live in God and share his life together rather than starting a house church. The latter is already laced with so many expectations that it might actually do more to thwart God’s working than it will release it. Jesus wants us to free people to be his. By learning to listen to God together he will build a life among you that will reflect his glory and you will experience whatever expression of church life Jesus wants for you.
That may look like a house church, it may also look like a hundred other things. I have seen too many expressions of Jesus’ church around the world to know that any one box is unworthy of him and copying other people’s models won’t produce it. It also puts our focus on the wrong thing. By trying to ‘start something’ we often miss what it means to let Jesus lead us into intentional community with others that is life-changing. Only by following him and sharing our common lot as failed human beings on the way to being transformed by Jesus, will we ever discover life in the body of Christ as Jesus designed it for us. I certainly don’t want to dampen your excitement about opening up your home, but if I can save you a few years of being side-tracked into a specific form that may not be what God wants for you, perhaps it was valuable.
The title is baffling my wife and I presently, Do you have any suggestions?
Every group I’ve ever worked with confesses to struggle to find the right title or name for their group. Most just decide on something out of exasperation. That’s as true of names as it is of terms like ‘house church.‚ I was in a few of those myself.
Looking back, I wonder if the struggle itself shouldn’t tell us something. If God wanted us to make an it and name it, wouldn’t he give us clarity about what we should call it. I find great freedom now merely talking in terms of function, not names. Names are way we distinguish ourselves from others in the body and I‚m not sure it‚s a Godly thing we do. It‚s more utilitarian, which often leads us to convince ourselves that God is in it when he isn’t…. Just thoughts, at this point, Bro! I don’t have definitive answers myself.
So the people I’m with now are talking about learning how to live out intentional community together. It makes a lousy name, which is intentional on our part. We want to be focused on the relationship to God and our relationships to each other not on creating some kind of institution, even a household one. So instead of ‘starting a house church’, we’re ‘opening our home for people who want to share the journey of knowing Jesus together’. That keeps the focus in the right place and won’t separate you from others God might want you to touch who aren’t ready to join something else.
Fabulous… I think you’ve hit it on the head, Brother and pray all God’s best as you explore what it is to simply walk together with other believers as God calls you to!