House Churches: Dos and Don’ts

House Churches: Dos and Don’ts

I spent ten years on the journey, seeking to disciple those Jesus drew from our neighbourhood, discipling my own children as they watched and caught the vision of our journey and anyone who came to our home church via meal invitations, social settings and relationship building. It was a great journey until my wife endured a four year cancer journey and we had to put it all on hold. We learned so much about true Christianity, the ministry of Jesus and the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The highlight was attending the inaugural world house church conference in New Delhi back in 2009. In four days we got a glimpse of what God is doing globally. It is staggering! Now it is time to pass on some of the wisdom we built up so you can avoid the traps we fell into…

1. Leaving Christendom

Unfortunately the journey from traditional church to underground/home/discipling church is a difficult one for those steeped in the practices of Christendom like I was. It took us about three years to understand the difference. That is why I am writing this essay on the problem so others could understand the different mindset needed to make the transition. It is not a matter of just shrinking the church. It is placing the great commission at the centre of everything you do and creating whatever structure around that that helps facilitate that mission. In the west, mission has followed structure, Jesus did the opposite; structure followed mission. It’s that simple. Once you “get” the mission the rest will fall into place as you wait on the Holy Spirit.

If you can make the jump you will see a whole new world of spiritual growth and numerical growth open up. But you will have to model what you want others to do. You have to master the skills of discipling and multiplying disciples. That is the only type of leadership there is in simple church. Oratory and theological knowledge, doctrinal high horses and positions of power are out. Waiting on God, mirroring the life of Jesus, dying to self, having a passion for souls and serving are in. The Holy Spirit will be in control, not you. Before going any further please read this essay on the rise and fall of the Christendom worldview. It describes where we went wrong in history to get the western model of church.

Now analyse what you have been taught by the modern western church. Does it fit the Christendom or New Testament model? For a more in-depth study of the flow of Christianity through history go to the history tab in my website and read through each century of world history. You will see the slow decline out of New Testament Christianity into Christendom, then recently a flow back into New Testament Christianity around the world! Especially read the two last essays on what unfolded in the 20th Century and is now unfolding in the 21st century:

Many in the non-western world church leadership have re-discovered the New Testament model simply because persecution stops them from using the Christendom model. The result has sped up numerical growth around the world and enabled church leaders to create structures that combine their culture and their mission. Try to think through what model of church would best suit your local culture and mould your structures around that. Done!

2. What to look for in leaders

Typically a home church leader is one who has a passion for souls, has tapped into the heart of Jesus and wants to see Him planted in the hearts of others. If you want to transition to a house church model, seek out these people in your church and begin to train them. In the house church movement it is those who walk closest to Jesus who naturally rise up to positions of leadership, not those who are trained intellectually in Bible Colleges. Evidence from around the world suggests the majority of these leaders will be women as they are real networkers, servants and relational!

Begin to find out what everyone in your church’s spiritual gifts are and encourage them to use those gifts in the worksite and at home, on the street, anywhere. Invade the secular space of your city!

All home church movements must have strong spiritual dynamics within the marriage and family of those running them. Remember Paul’s letters to Timothy on the qualifications of leadership, so much of it was about leading your home well.

Another thing with house church is that people, including leaders, who have been hiding significant character flaws they do not want God to deal with won’t be able to hide in the smaller environment. House church deals with the sanctification of our lives much more thoroughly than larger church does. Leaders spend much more time building godly character than imparting theological knowledge. The result is a bride of Christ that is much more appealing to the wider community.

3. Food & Family!

When we met for house church we nearly always had a meal together. The result was that it was rare not to have a non-Christian present. Hey, who knocks back an offer to come to dinner! It is a great evangelisation tool, and it was central to the ritual of early Christianity that Jesus passed on in the communion meal. He was a master at knowing what would build community. At one dinner we were having once I looked around and there were conversations going off all over the house with people being encouraged, prayed for, built in their faith and loved. At that moment God spoke to me and said, “This is what I want Church to be, a spiritual extended family gathering.”

We also did a lot of Bible study to increase the biblical literacy of our group, which was woeful to begin with. I tried to incorporate Neil Cole’s system (see notes below) but my group was too lazy to do it. I soooo wish I had persisted and pushed them to get there as it would have been transformative. What we did learn is that you do not need any other resource outside the Bible itself, it has all the wisdom you need.

Kids fit into the whole house church scene much easier than traditional church as it is in the home, around meals, with an extended family of sorts. They watch and copy what they see, so if they see the significant adults in their life praying for the sick, reaching out to others, discipling neighbours etc, then they will begin to do the same. That was one of the delightful things we saw in our own children, they brought their friends to Jesus as well.

Super important is the issue of which comes first, discipling or house church? You cannot just shrink the church into a mini-church service in a house. It doesn’t work. Have dinner, argue, discuss, pray for each other, open up your hearts, share problems, vision together for unsaved loved ones and how to grow and duplicate the group, encourage budding leaders to have a go. But try not to preach, it is a killer. It is needed sometimes but not as a habit. Lead by discussion and probing questions. That’s what Jesus did with the group of 12 he was discipling.

Jesus set the perfect example with his house church, they ate together, did life together, became a family, argued, had their characters challenged and refined, watched the master do amazing things, and it lasted three years. That three year time frame by the way is about the limit of how long a house church should last, by then you should have raised up leadership and  duplicated, if not earlier. The whole purpose is growth, not stability. Build that into the DNA at the beginning of the movement or it will stall quickly.

4. Listening to God

Plan, but at the end of the day, let the Holy Spirit lead each meeting, and the vision for the group. Pray for wisdom, words of knowledge, healings, prophecies, encourage all the spiritual gifts in these meetings, especially encourage people to learn to hear Gods voice. To that end here is a great resource and a testimony to the power of the teachings in this website. This is where we learnt to hear God’s voice. This guy, Stuart Grimenz is an Aussie and had a big church and healing ministry. Then God spoke to him and said “do you want a big church or a massive movement?” so he left it all behind, became a chaplain at a jail and made a deal with God. He was not going to do any ministry there that he was not told to do by God himself. The result was 400 prisoners saved in four years. I even met one of them! Anyway here is the link, with a testimony:

http://www.spiritled.com.au/ 

Jacob Phiri is the leader of a house church network in Zambia which has grown from around 40 members to 25,000 in just a few short years. 

“I have taught in various Bible Colleges for 17 years, I regret that I instructed my students in things that don’t work in ministry today. My emphasis was on theology. But after studying with Spirit Led Academy, I have realized the most important thing in ministry is a deep relationship with God. My ministry has taken a new positive turn of imparting this knowledge to so many people. Because people have seen the difference it has made in my life, I have several men and women asking for this course to be introduced in many African countries, especially Congo D.R, Malawi, Angola and Burundi. Mary Wakuruzinza, the first lady, the wife of the President of Burundi is taking this course and she is now doing her final subject.” 

This is the sort of training that will change a nation. The amazing this is that Jesus modelled this for us all through the New Testament but somehow we have defaulted back to knowledge about God instead of knowing him deeply and doing his will, like Jesus did. Learning to hear God’s voice and teaching others to do the same is THE FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT task of a house church leader, as you can see from the testimony above. As branches, we must be connected to the vine. I am still a learner in this department, and always will be.

5. Other Website Resources

On my website, (www.setfreeseminars.com) there are a number of essays under the “discipleship” tab that would be good to look at. They catalogue a lot of points we learned in our journey from Christendom to discipleship such as prayer, mission, understanding the harvest, healing the sick etc. One essay highlights the prayers Jesus asked us to pray continually for the harvest. Another tab that is full of amazing teaching that is having a big impact on India is the tab that says Victor Choudrie. This is a digital version of his book I bought at that first world house church conference in India back in 2009. Victor is the spiritual grandfather of a mass movement of Hindus into Gods kingdom that has now grown to somewhere between 5-10 million in just over 25 years. Many of the leaders in India, because illiteracy is a big issue, simply teach their people through this book, and then start again when finished! There are many very powerful and solid teachings in these notes that are culturally and spiritually transformative.

The first thing the Indians teach a new believer is to prayer-walk their neighbourhood on a regular basis asking God to expand the kingdom in that area. Most of their leaders are women. They also told me the majority of new believers were coming in through healings and miracles, since Hindus were very resistance to a message-only gospel approach, even here in Australia where I live it is fast becoming like that as well.

6. Neil Cole

At that conference in India we saw that non-western church leaders were bringing hundreds of thousands of souls into the kingdom, while westerners were bringing in just a few, with the exception of one man, Neil Cole. Here is his website.

I have read some of his books. He started out as a Christendom style pastor and began to push further into Jesus, eventually branching out into evangelism and discipling, but with a difference. His movement is now the largest in the western world, numbering who-knows how many as it is untraceable. But it is in the tens of thousands or more. They meet in groups of a maximum of four, reading 5-8 chapters of scripture per day, every day, up-skilling rapidly in their knowledge of God. Then they quickly split/duplicate if a fifth person comes along. The first saved becoming the other leader. Their larger group meetings are always missional, reaching out to a local “Goth” hangout etc. All the time the goal is souls and discipling. His book Cultivating a Life for God explains his journey really well. It may not work for everyone, but it has certainly worked well in the USA. He is the only western church leader I would bother learning from as he has the runs on the board.

Another thing we heard over and over again at the conference in India was the sad story that house church leader after house church leader initially tried to shrink the Christendom church into a house church, but it always failed. Then, after seeking God, they just began to go out and win people to the Lord and disciple the ones and twos. They said their thriving house church movements grew out of the individual discipling process. It did not happen the other way round. They had to get the DNA and purpose right before the structure followed. This is the essence of what Neil Cole discovered as well. It makes sense since Jesus said to go out and make disciples, not start churches. In addition, it is hard to recreate the DNA for discipleship in a traditional Christendom believer, but it comes completely natural to a brand new believer as their world is a series of networked relationships that they can leverage to spread the gospel. Christendom believers have, by default lost most of these relationships and only move among other believers.

That’s probably enough for now! You are on a great journey. You do not need to do more theological studies, but lots of Holy Spirit training. Simple men and women turned the world upside down simply because they had met Jesus and were transformed by it.

So that’s a lot of what we have learnt on our journey. God bless.

 

 

 

Recent Posts

Too Proud? Fifty Years After The Stonewall Riots

Note from Kevin: The following article, by James Parker, is the best summary I have ever read about the homosexual movement. James is a former gay activist who today supports same-sex attracted people and their loved ones.

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots: What the LGBTQI+ movement needs is less pride and more humility…

Fifty years ago gay, lesbians and cross-dressers fought back when police raided a seedy bar in New York, the Stonewall Inn. The ensuing riot lasted for a couple of days. It was the opening shot in the gay liberation movement and over the years has acquired an almost mythological status. This weekend, “pride” events will be celebrated across the world.

I became a gay activist 20 years after the Stonewall Riots. I set out to fight for a better world, where no one should feel shame for being honest about who they were sexually attracted to. I had been raised to believe that a person’s future flows from facing their present reality. My reality was that I fancied men, and only men.

Accepting during puberty that I was erotically attracted to my own sex was an excruciatingly painful revelation, and not without suicidal undertones. By accepting my reality I found a new inner strength, purpose – and yes, pride.

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person to come out in my Catholic high school. I was also the first person to come out in my university college and consequently saw it as my duty to make a stand for lesbian and gay, or L & G, rights. (There were no BTQQIAAPP+2S minorities in those days.)

I learned of the successful attempt in 1973 by gay members of the American Psychiatric Association to tweak 81 words which suddenly redefined homosexuality and cast off its ancient shackles as a sexual deviance and a mental disease. Just this past week, American psychoanalysts offered an apology for labelling homosexuality an illness.

In the 80s, I engaged with leading gay strategists from the USA and the UK. I devoured their content which outlined all we are seeing transpire today.

Their strategy was that homosexual men and women should infiltrate and take leadership within key areas of society, most notably the entertainment industry, mainstream media, education, politics, healthcare – especially psychology and psychiatry, the military, religion and sport. The purpose was to use their positions to bring about homosuperiority. Yes, not homonormativity or even mere equality, but homosuperiority.

Homosuperiority was to be achieved by meticulously following the propaganda manifesto entitled After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays In The 90s, by neuropsychiatrist Marshall Kirk and communications consultant Hunter Madsen.

If you didn’t know, the manifesto is working exceedingly well, thank you very much, with its key themes on display in the Israel Folau debacle.

There were eight principles. Principle 5 laid down in After The Ball calls for portraying gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers, and the use of propaganda to rely “more upon emotional manipulation than upon logic, since its goal is, in fact, to bring about a change in the public’s feelings”.

Propaganda, it says, “can be unabashedly subjective and one-sided. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this.” Corporate Australia has dived headfirst into this principle.

To call people “homophobic” is also expected should opponents fail to wholly embrace homosexual ideology. Politicians and civic leaders have equally become puppets to this principle.

Any speech which opposes, or even questions, homosexual behaviour should be banned as “a clear and present danger to public order”. The school curriculum, psychology and psychiatry and mainstream media all now tow the rainbow party line.

Principle 5 states that “in time, we see no reason why more and more diversity should not be introduced into the projected image” citing “drag queens, bull dykes, and other exotic elements of the gay community”. Remember, this vision was cast over 30 years ago. You now need look no further than local bookshops and libraries to see this principle being lived out.

Once birthed, the seed of pride demands that layers of further lies and calumny be added to protect the original fault from being exposed. Welcome to the world of Gay Pride.

With every generation there is a growing demand to ensure each social stratum is more deeply inculcated with adherence to the original lie. No one must admit that the emperor has no clothes on. Therefore, “conversion therapy”, a term recently created by gay activists, has been used in the past decade to demonise any assistance given to someone suffering the pain of same-sex attraction.

To add another layer of lies to the conversion therapy myth is the phrase “internalised homophobia” which denotes that individuals who refuse to embrace and even celebrate their erotic attractions to the same sex are somehow turned in against themselves. Yes, they are their own problem.

No stone must be left unturned The same lie must be repeated incessantly that not only is gay good, but that gay is godly, and even that God is gay.

This of course requires a complete perverting of the natural world. Aldous Huxley wrote clearly of this when describing the results of social anthropologist J. D. Unwin’s study of 80 primitive tribes and six known civilizations through 5000 years of history laid out in the book, Sex and Culture.

Huxley wrote:

“Sex and Culture” is a work of the highest importance. Unwin’s conclusions… may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of four cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the rationalistic the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.

According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses its cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The process, says the author, is irreversible:

The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.

The LGBTQI+ communities barely bat an eyelid to open relationships – before, during, after and without same-sex marriage. Group or polyamorous relationships are fast becoming acceptable. Any additional minority that wishes to add its letter to the alphabet acronym must be welcomed and incontestably supported, meaning that any sexual activity undertaken by any minority group who “cannot help the way they feel” be accepted. This should both frighten and anger us.

It is no wonder that 50 years after Stonewall, contemporary riots are not being waged on the streets against the police and statutory authorities but appear online with rugby at the heart, one of the globe’s toughest team sports that was deliberately formed not only on Christian values, but with the purpose of forming a strong, robust and masculine spirit evidenced in the witness of Israel Folau.

Our online riot is foremost a fight against Judeo-Christian values, the very glue that has held together Western society and permitted it to excel as it has.

The activists’ world I embraced demanded that I take on a calculated intolerance, a bigoted mindset, a capacity to rabidly hate, and the ability to reject, or at least to distort, everything I came across that even questioned the establishment of a homosuperior world. And all of this while bowing to the mantra that #LoveWins.

I had to believe first within myself that the lie I was being sold was nothing short of the truth. There is no wonder that lavender militants are alarmed to discover that the younger generation they have been resolutely brainbow-washing are now growing less rather than more tolerant of LGBTQI+ individuals and ideals.

Stonewall and contemporary LGBTQI+ activism have never been about an equal, diverse, inclusive and tolerant world. No. The illusory pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is more a darkened cauldron. It brings to the table a diminishment, and ultimate eradication, of mainstream freedoms such as speech, thought, association or a belief or anything which fails to pay total homage to what for millennia has previously been defined as a sexual deviancy.

If you think I have an axe to grind, well, you are right. I care too much to remain silent.

On a daily basis I walk with young people coming to terms with their same-sex attractions, with individuals struggling with the concept of being male or female, and with men and women ditching their other-sex spouse and children (and now even their same-sex spouse and surrogate or adoptive children) to pursue a “more fulfilling” relationship with one or more people somewhere over the rainbow.

Fifty years on from Stonewall, with every pillar of society now rainbow-friendly and frightened, I see 50 plus shades of gay grey which continue to imprison those who pursue an LGBTQI+ utopia. Five decades later, dysfunction has not only been accepted, but in places it has actually worsened.

The cocktail of gay hook-up apps along with accessibility to the drug Truvada taken by HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of HIV infection has birthed a more sexually compulsive world than existed prior to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Unbridled sexual activity only leads to more addictive and destructive disconnection, which in turn is leading to more partner interpersonal violence and sadistic practices.

The sexual health clinicians I have spoken to in the past month report working on a constant level of overdrive trying to deal with the inordinate numbers of problematic sexual health cases they have to diagnose and process.

Self-harm is on the rise, even if only looked at from the perspective of time spent engrossed in the consumption of pornography which cuts off individuals from the healthy engaging relationships which we all need to survive and thrive. Then there are the mood disorders, panic, bi-polar and conduct disorders. There is a new rise in agoraphobia, and no significant reduction in suicides, even in pro-homosexual nations like Sweden, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Is this the Golden Liberation we should be celebrating? For the most part, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is a celebration of man’s ever deepening foolishness. The story of Israel Folau reads like a fable and yet unravels before our very eyes displaying layers of pride woven to cover pride to cover earlier pride, all based upon one man privately posting online three verses of the Christian Scriptures.

I fear for members of the LGBTQI+ community and for those who join their ranks. I equally fear for any society that embraces essentialist viewpoints about human sexuality without the balance of constructionist and developmental viewpoints which are presently being silenced.

My activism today is born out of a different heart. For nearly two decades I have facilitated spiritual support groups for those who experience varying degrees of same-sex attraction and for those questioning their biological sex. Those who attend can ask deeper questions compared to those who remain isolated at home or who engage with the gay community as a whole. Attendee’s desire answers – and many get them, and especially to matters relating to childhood sexual abuse, to emotional or physical abuse or neglect.

If one person can move from being homosexual to heterosexual (and believe me there are thousands across Australia and in every nation who are rejecting homosexuality) then it is clear that the fundamental LGBTQI+ narrative of being born gay contains within it a number of myths, each one of which requires dismantling, not celebrating.

I still fight for spaces where young and old alike can face the reality of their attractions. No one should be afraid to admit to, or be discriminated against for, being erotically attracted to their own sex or for questioning their own gender identity.

And yet as celebrations of Gay Pride unfold across the globe, today more than ever I believe we need to take stock of the Biblical proverb quoted consistently throughout the ages, “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

I was invited to reject pride. Today, my dominant attraction is very much towards women. I am one of the fortunate individuals who escaped the gay community and stumbled across professional therapy which enabled me to pursue the developmental viewpoint about human sexuality.

My earlier dysfunctions, still prevalent at the heart of the LGBTQI+ community, have diminished or disappeared. I am no longer a label, or divided from mainstream society, or fighting a losing battle.

Fifty years on from the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, much has indeed changed, but not all for the good. Instead of giving time and energy to matters of pride, I believe it is time to engage on a whole new level of forming a society where humility becomes ubiquitous at all levels. And for everyone’s sake, that is a battle worth fighting for.

 

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