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Home Church: It's Not Just About The Location...

Home Church is not just about location. Another name for a Biblical home church is a "simple" or "organic" church. Here are 6 distinctives that make us different from more institutional or traditional expressions of church:

 

Distinctive #1 – Organic Leadership.

Unlike most churches, our home church is not a corporation or formal organization. There is no president, secretary or board of directors. There is no Senior Pastor or Worship Leader. In fact, as you might guess, there are no titles or positions and no hierarchy at all. Our conviction is that top-down hierarchical leadership structures are not what Jesus had in mind for His Bride. Jesus instructed His disciples NOT to exercise this type of authority over one another. (See Matthew 20:25-26) He also said don’t be called “Rabbi” for One is your teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. In other words don’t elevate yourself over others, you are all equal under Christ’s authority.

The Body of Christ is not an organization, it is a living organism with Christ as the Head. Yes there IS leadership and authority functioning in the living body of Christ, but it is not a top-down hierarchy of an organization. Rather it is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit exercising true organic (living) spiritual authority in and through various members of the Body. The goal of this spiritual authority is ALWAYS to edify and equip others.

Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us Jesus gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ. And in Ephesians 5:21 we are instructed to submit to one another in the fear of God. SO instead of submitting to an individual because of a title or position, we submit to them because of true spiritual authority functioning in and through them and we are edified as a result. Likewise they are edified as they submit to God working in and through others.

Peter exhorts elders to shepherd the flock of God serving as overseers NOT being lords over those entrusted to them but being EXAMPLES to the flock. And he instructs the younger people to submit to their elders. Then he adds: yes all of you be submissive to ONE ANOTHER and be clothed with humility. (1 Peter 5:1-5) This voluntary mutual submission to one another and de-centralized human authority provides the context for Jesus to truly be the Head of the church.

As a leader I am learning to let go of my control and trust the Spirit’s control. My focus is shifting from:

  • from leading ministries to empowering others to lead
  • from constantly exercising my gifts to making room for others to use their gifts
  • from always speaking for God to helping others hear God’s voice
  • from being a visionary to awakening the visions of others

Letting go of control is the heart of the matter. Please hear me, I’m not saying this style of leadership does not happen in traditional churches, IT DOES! I am saying that it is our conviction based on scripture and experience that top-down hierarchy with titles and positions is an unnecessary hindrance to ministry, therefore in our tribe we have chosen to do without it.

 

Distinctive #2 – Organic Teaching and Worship.

In most churches teaching and worship leading takes place from the front of the church led by the Senior Pastor and Worship Leader respectively. This happens in nearly every Sunday morning worship service across the country. It’s no wonder the questions come up “Who is the Pastor?” “Who leads worship?” For our tribe the short answer is Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I realize that answer deserves some explanation:

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. – 1 Corinthians 14:26

When our home church gathers for worship and teaching, we usually begin with music. All are welcome to bring a musical instrument if so inclined. There is no pre-selected song selection, anyone who is led may choose a song. We sing, we worship and we pray together. Sometimes the words of a song will inspire a word of teaching or encouragement or a prayer. This is a time when we encourage spiritual gifts to be used. The Holy Spirit is welcome to speak to and through us.

Usually (but not always) at some point we will transition into our teaching time. Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13 to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine. So we start our time by reading the scriptures together. We make our way through different books of the Bible, currently we are going through 1 Peter. We’ll take turns reading through the next passage. Sometimes we’ll act it out as we read for fun.

Then we open it up and talk together. Someone may share what the Lord is speaking to them through the passage. Another may share about the historical and cultural context. Yet another will look up Greek words on their smart-phone for added insight. We always manage to pull out some application for our lives. Then we usually end our time together praying for one another. Sometimes we sing another worship song. We usually hang around for food and fellowship afterward…

You’ll notice I used the words “usually” and “sometimes” a lot. That is because we truly value the Holy Spirit’s presence and leading. We desire to remain flexible and yielded to Him. Sometimes (but not often) this means spending out entire time together in prayer and worship. Other times (again not often) a question will arise and will spark a discussion and teaching time that lasts our entire time together. Again letting go of control is the heart of the matter.

 

Distinctive #3 – Organic Children’s Ministry.

Another question that inevitably comes up in a home church discussion is “What do you do with the kids?” The idea of Sunday School where children are separated from parents during a church gathering is foreign to the New Testament and Old Testament alike. Truthfully we are given very little instruction regarding children in a church gathering. And to be honest this has been one of the biggest challenges in our home church, we are a work in progress. Here are some Biblical guidelines we stick to as we continue to grow in this area:

  • Children were not separated from their families anywhere in the Old Testament or New Testament writings.
  • Children were not separated from their families throughout church history till the last couple hundred years.
  • Jesus welcomed children to Himself along with adults, He rebuked the disciples when they wanted to keep children at a distance.
  • There is no “Holy Spirit Junior.” Children are capable of having a dynamic relationship with the Lord just as much as adults (maybe more).
  • Based on these convictions, children are welcome to actively participate in our gatherings as much as their attention span and maturity level will allow.
  • We give freedom to children to not participate.

That last point deserves further explanation: younger children with very little or no attention spans are given freedom to play quietly on the floor or in the adjacent room with a parent or teen. Also teens and pre-teens are not barraged with questions designed to force their participation. We believe more is “caught than taught” with our children. You may be surprised at what they pick up despite the appearance of non-participation.

A Pastor friend once shared with me “ministry is messy business.” And that is certainly true of ministering to families with children. Kids are kids; they are playful, excited, full of energy, disruptive. Kids are not very conducive to a quiet sanitized worship atmosphere. On one hand I see the advantages of a separated children’s ministry. On the other hand, if we are to live true to our convictions we will have to endure a little “messiness” of ministry. The benefits outweigh the costs: kids get to see the example of their parents worshipping and opening their hearts to God and others. Also they are given the opportunity to minister and be ministered to by adults and other children.

 

Distinctive #4. Organic Discipleship.

Of course we all know making disciples IS the mission of the church:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.  – Matthew 28:19-20

Also Paul tells the Corinthians to: imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). He further instructs Timothy: the things you heard from me among many witnesses commit to faithful men who are able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). In other words, not only is it the mission of the church to make disciples, it is to make disciple-makers who will also become disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ!

Discipleship and multiplication take place naturally in a home church environment without the constraints of time, energy and money required to reproduce and maintain a traditional church plant. All of our discipleship efforts are directly aimed at the goal of multiplication; making disciples who naturally become disciple makers because of our example to one another.

In other parts of the world God has used home church planting movements to expand His Kingdom rapidly and impact entire cities and regions for Jesus. We want nothing less for our community!

 

Distinctive #5. Organic Finances.

Another distinctive of our tribe is how we deal with giving and finances. Like I mentioned earlier our home church is not a corporation, we have no bank account, no overhead or paid staff, etc. So any and all money we give goes directly toward advancing God’s Kingdom – via funding outreach projects, giving away Bibles and Gospel tracts, feeding the hungry, etc.

Each individual in our home church gives to those the Lord leads them to. We also give collectively into a common pool and make decisions together about how the money is used. There is no one way how to handle finances in a home church. Again Jesus and the apostles spoke very little about such things, the focus is on advancing the Kingdom of God.

 

Distinctive #6. Flexibility.

One of the nice things about home church is the flexibility we enjoy. We usually meet in our home in FP, but at times our tribe is “nomadic.” Meaning once in a while we’ll meet at the top of Mount Pinos, or we’ll go camping and have church at our campsite, or we’ll join another church on a Sunday morning for worship and fellowship. We believe it is healthy to expand our spiritual horizons now and again. The fellowship is always sweet and I enjoy keeping in touch with brothers and sisters from other tribes and hearing about what God is doing in their lives.

Another area of flexibility we enjoy is the diversity within our tribe. We are beginning to experience a new paradigm of fellowship: Instead of gathering together because of what we have in common (theologically, culturally, etc.) we gather together in spite of what we don’t have in common. We may come from a wide variety of backgrounds but we have THIS in common: Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

This new paradigm exhorts us to gather together under the banner of love and relationships instead of the banner of a particular theology or label. It challenges us to overcome barriers and work through issues that would otherwise keep us apart. It puts to the test the age old adage “Love Conquers All.” And we are encountering new barriers to be navigated through, and to be honest some more successfully than others. For the record: We are a work in progress...