“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” ~ Matthew 17:20
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UNTIL YOU HAVE READ ALL OF THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS!!!
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HOUSE CHURCH PROTOTYPES
THESE models of church life in the Kingdom of God have mostly been seen in underdeveloped countries where they can’t afford the big buildings and glamorous entertainment. They are literally forced to minister “house to house”. In America or other developed countries we have to choose to operate this way, and with what is coming around the corner politically, and prophetically we need to choose quickly.
The Family may be the best prototype any of us may ever see and if that is as good as it gets that is GREAT! Think about it, a husband and wife with the blessing of children following Jesus, the head of His church. Praying together, challenging each other with the Word of God and worshiping the Lord as they ate their meals together. If Jesus came back and all they had accomplished was renewed minds concerning the fact that the family is the church and they walked in that new revelation, do you think they might hear “Well done” from our Lord?
A few years ago I shared this revelation with a Christian neighbor who truly had a wonderful Jesus-Following family. He was in total agreement and recognized that he and his family were actually “doing” what I had shared but made this heartbreaking comment; “It would take at least five years to bring most men to that point of leading their family in that way.” In reply I said; “Exactly! Let’s get started today!” He walked away shaking his head in unbelief. I put the date on my calendar and five years later to the day I noticed that this neighbor was still leading his family in the ways of our Lord but still only a single family. Had he only started, there could have been one to five more families in order, walking in the authority of the church with Jesus leading.
I am convinced by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that this is not only “do-able” but that it is the perfect will of Jesus the Head of His Church! I am also greatly encourage that our little study group has already passed this stage with several families walking in this level of church. Oh, some families said this was too hard and stepped out but even as we make mistakes every day, we are walking in this wonderful authority as our families, under the headship of Jesus, are the church.
A little side note of encouragement, It has only been two years since we have started this quest and I have been honored to walk with men who have been honest and vulnerable and have put their face in the carpet with me to pray and ask our Lord to continue to show us how to lead our families – His Church.
THE PROTOTYPE GROWS – COMMUNITIES AND NEIGHBORHOODS
The family can spontaneously walk in this authority and freedom of being the church without much formal organization or government outside the dad and mom. This next level deals with one family connecting with another. This takes some organization, even if it is only calling each other to see what time to meet for dinner, or if there was misunderstanding between children of different families, the need to understand how to submit one to another to work out the problem in a righteous way. A way in which our Lord would be pleased and a good example to our families and surrounding community would be seen. Two to four families could have the simple government of a mature father in the group simply leading by prayer and wisdom.
Great problem: when two or more gather together in Jesus, things start happening! Neighbors begin to notice the joy and love coming from your home when your friends come over. They will hear singing come from your living room and they will notice that your kids are friendly, respectful and kind. One speaker put it this way; “Every light bulb attracts its own bugs.” In this case your neighbors are the bugs and they will not be able to keep from solving this community mystery, the light in your home. They are going to end up in your gathering!
Another great encouragement is that our small study group not only accepted the fact that we are the church but has also embraced the understanding that we can connect with several families, with little organization. Now gathering with twenty some families, we are putting our revelations to the test!
MAX THE PROTOTYPE – THE WHOLE CITY
The truth is that our group has not experienced all followers in Christ coming together in unity in a citywide celebration yet. The closest I have seen has been when a major crusade like Billy Graham Ministries has come to town and 40,000 people in the city have met together with one purpose. That purpose to present the salvation message to the people that we would bring with us. It was all about salvation. I look forward to the day when all followers in a city gather together not for any special speaker but for the purpose of simply lifting Jesus up as a city. I can see in my imagination what a stir this would bring in any city! “May it be so my Lord Jesus, Amen.”
What I have experienced is what has been called a “City Celebration” where all of the groups that fellowship together with us would rent a hall, meet in the park or gather in the largest backyard of the family members and just spend the day! We would enjoy food, fun, prayer, games, singing and maybe even a water baptism.
As far as special days go, we wanted to fit into normal family lifestyle and schedule. We would eat together a lot because we as families would have to do that anyway. This was our loose schedule. The details will follow in the next few paragraphs. New believers studied an hour a day, five days a week and then met with their sponsor one day a week to pray through some of the issues raised in their study material. Wednesday was the smaller groups, Sundays was larger groups joining together geographically and the first Sunday of the month we had city wide celebrations where everyone would try to come. Later we had more of a regional wide celebrations once every third month that actually brought several small towns together. The last specialty meeting for us was some all day Saturday Schools. Just like it sounds, we would meet all day Saturday for a special teaching.
THE WEDNESDAY PICTURE
It is Wednesday night and four to twelve people gather in a living room. Is it a Bible Study, a prayer meeting, a birthday party, a counseling session, a fundraiser, a share group, a deliverance night, a potluck or what? Yes, and more. It is the church. It is like a single cell of your body. It is where the very essence of life is. It is flexible, movable, mobile and alive! Everyone comes with the promise and expectation that:
“…where two or three come together in my name, there am I (Jesus) with them.” ~ Matthew 18:20.
What makes this small group different from any other small Christian group? And how do you “control” it so that it doesn’t get into false doctrinal error and become a cult? Simple; first of all, this small group is recognized as the Church and Jesus is the Head. This one fact alone separates this group from any other small group in our world. Secondly, there is Kingdom Government in the room.
First of all the owner of the home is there. The owner is the host, and if they have done their job well, the home is ready to greet the folks coming in. Then there is a deacon or deacon couple in the room, but a guest would never know it. Deacons just look like everyone else. Except they are a little sneaky when they walk into the kitchen and open the cabinets and fridge to make sure that the host family has enough groceries for the week! What if there isn’t enough food? It will be taken care of before the night is over. How? There is a deacon in the room! But it doesn’t stop there; you would also find an elder or five-fold ministry gift that rotates into the group. They are a little easier to spot because they are apt to teach. They might even be the one to say “go” to start the meeting. If there is a rebuke in the room or if a demon is screaming out the door a pointed finger is probably coming from their direction. It is like dad being in the room.
It is safe to be yourself, to be intimate, transparent and encouraged to ask questions. A small-group where you can learn to walk in the gifts of the Spirit, understand the depths of the Bible, and to sing out in worship; a place where relationships are born and nurtured. It is the Church in its smallest single cell. Outside of “one on one” discipleship these small groups are the most important, highly valued part of our ministry. These small groups don’t get the “left-overs”, they get the maximum attention, resources and energy. THEY ARE THE CHURCH!!!
THE SUNDAY PICTURE
Just about the same as Wednesday, except several of the small groups assemble together, as one large group. Where do we meet? Everyone puts a folding chair in their car and we travel house to house of course. On Wednesdays and Sundays we try to never meet in the same house two weeks in a row. We keep a pretty good rotation so that we don’t offend any of our neighborhoods, or overuse any one home.
The “feeling” of the Sunday Celebration is one of a family reunion. We have no extravagant programs for children or youth. So the children might be outside playing in the yard or downstairs watching a video before the meeting actually gets rolling. Once most of the folks have arrived we say “go” and the children come into the middle of the living room and we begin to sing, testify, and worship the Lord with the freedom of the Gifts of the Spirit flowing. Once the meeting takes a path or the Holy Spirit begins to reveal a “flow” in a certain direction, we simply follow it to the best of our ability.
Our children armed with coloring books, drawing paper and crayons go to the carpet and listen as the Word of God goes forth. Sometimes we have a couple of adults walk the children to a nearby park but we really like them to experience the flow of the Holy Spirit by staying in the meeting. There have been times when a child has looked up from her coloring, and came out with a prophetic word or prophetic answer to a question. The children are reminded that at any time they see a picture, hear the voice of God, smell a unique smell, have an unusual pain or maybe even have a huge color in their mind that they may tug on the leaders hand and share it. We encourage participation, with honor and respect, from everyone.
The Prophet may proclaim scripture along a certain line. The Apostle may address a certain negative issue that has come up during the week or encourage those who have displayed a Godly character. The Teacher may correct an error in teaching that has entered the camp. The Evangelist may encourage the body to share their faith in Christ or show different ways to present the Kingdom of God to our world. The Pastor may stand and have the elders come forward to anoint the sick with oil or have the Deacons serve the Lord’s Supper. As the church moves in God’s Kingdom the following scripture passage is fulfilled almost every time.
“But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’ What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two – or at the most three – should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of the prophets. For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:24-33
Outside of an occasional all day Saturday School, Wednesday evenings and Sunday morning Celebrations are the only scheduled corporate meetings. What we find going on behind the scenes is families inviting guests over for dinner, sharing child care, or helping one another with a building or yard project, throughout the week. The relationships start turning into community! It does take time.
WHAT ABOUT GROWTH?
For us Home Meetings, now called “House Churches” consist of about three to four families, (around eight to sixteen people), with a Deacon or Deacon Couple to oversee organization. As the group grows and more deacons are raised up, one House Church can turn into two. About four to five House Churches, (sixty to eighty people), can make-up a congregation. As the House Churches continue to reproduce, one congregation turns into two. We try to keep them as geographical as possible. The key word is still flexible. From time to time we might rent a hall or hotel meeting room to have a ministry wide gathering, but nothing can replace the intimacy of a home.
Remember these are people and families. If relationships are to develop, the groups have to be fairly centrally located. Young and old, married and single, all are in the same gatherings and households. Remember the “feeling” is family reunion. How else can we fulfill this scripture?
“…be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good” ~ Titus 2:2-7
In every gathering from small to large we will always have three groups: children, young men and fathers, (this is both spiritual and physical senses). It is amazing how Jesus will lead the gathering to minister on all three of these levels!
“I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you and you have overcome the evil one.” ~ 1 John. 2:12-14
DISCIPLESHIP, TRAINING, MENTORING
One of the greatest tools of understanding is that our growth can be measured. We can measure the growth of a tomato plant from the seed to the stalk, from the bud, to the small green fruit, from the ripened red fruit, to the taste of that first bite of the juice matured-on-the-vine tomato!! The same with the construction of a house, we can measure its growth. Plus in the process we have a “good” expectation that the growth will keep happening until the job is completed, step-by-step.
Unfortunately, “the old religious system” has removed the growth stages from most discipleship so no one knows what the next step is, and then leadership becomes something mysterious and out of reach for the untrained. Why? I have observed at least three reasons personally:
- Leadership has gotten lazy and decided to bag the idea of Christian maturity, thus not having to be accountable to anyone.
- Leadership wants to keep everyone babies so that no one will threaten their position of authority, and they can maintain a witchcraft control over the unlearned and immature.
- Come on, it could be as simple as job security.
But it is great to know that we can measure our spiritual growth from children to young men to adults!! From; ankle deep, to knee deep, to loin deep and to neck deep. From milk to meat and carnal Christians, to Deacons and Elders!! WOW!! The list goes on.
Unlike the Jews, most American boys have a hard time with their manhood because they are confused of when they become a man. Jewish boys know from the beginning that they will be a man with responsibilities at the age of thirteen. American boys don’t know if they become a man when puberty hits, or when they can drive, or vote or go to war, or when they can legally drink liquor. Why? Because, most parents have never established their training, expectations or qualifications.
Saints in the church need to know where they are now, what they are shooting for and how to get there. We need to know when we have completed a certain level, so we can look back and Praise God for the progress in our lives!! Each member needs to know where they fit in the body or they will be dysfunctional, and controlled by strong “leaders” with evil motives or weak leaders with no vision at all.
We are using a discipleship process at this time which consists of an eleven-week confrontational study. The new person follows a study guide that has about an hour a day fill in the blank study and action steps, then at the end of the week, this person meets with their sponsor. They take an hour to go over the study and apply the scripture to their lives. This course is geared to lay a foundation of the Kingdom of God and help the new person break strongholds.
Training involves a “New Believers Weekend”, all day Saturday schools on certain subjects like “Through the Bible” in 7 hours, “Relationship Evangelism”, Prayer, Marriage, Parenting etc. Each of these gives different assignments to challenge the trainees on character issues, and opportunities to lead by serving. There is an ongoing suggested list of books to read, media to listen to and watch.
Mentoring is done as deacons model their lives to future deacons, elders to future elders and fivefold gifts to future fivefold. It is Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Paul and Timothy. A large part of mentoring is a process of deprogramming and reprogramming, taking out the old natural thoughts and replacing them with the thoughts of God. Truly putting on the mind of Christ as God’s Word reminds us to renew our mind or our thinking.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” ~ Romans 12:1-2
This is a simple family prototype of “House Churches”, discipleship and influencing your world. It is such a family, that is the name that stuck on us for several years; The Family Church. I hope this chapter was an encouragement to you as well as a motivation to evaluate where you currently stand.
What have we discovered in Chapter Twelve?
60. Family Prototype.
61. The prototype works.
62. Two families can connect.
63. Twenty families can connect.
64. Special Days.
65. Group will grow as fast as government grows
66. Personal Spiritual Growth can be measured.
67. Renewing our minds to the mind of Christ.
Personal Journal Insert: As a leader in our Lord’s Church I have been honored in many ways but today will always be at the top of my list. I purposed in my heart to be “late” to a Sunday Celebration to measure if this group was just following me or if they were maturing and following Jesus directly. I drive up to the designated house, cars are parked orderly, the front door of the house was open with a greeter standing with eyes shut and arms raised as the most beautiful yet powerful singing came from within. Truly, these people came to see Jesus.