As we contemplate the state of the Christian faith, we see a growing number of people walking away from the typical church experience centered around a Sunday service. Yet we also see more and more people who seem to be open to connecting with God, whether they are people who have walked away from church, or, never had any significant connection to a faith group in the past. To reach this growing population of people, a model other than the traditional church is needed, since the traditional church has not been very effective in reaching this group. The search began for a means to meet this growing need.
Looking at various alternate models, house churches look attractive but tend to become too ingrown and are not big enough to provide the variety and diversity most people seek in a traditional church. They also tend to do a poor job of providing worship through music and song, as well as fewer opportunities for quality training and equipping. Cell churches, or traditional churches with small groups, also show promise but tend to recruit from those who were already believers and typically already a part of the church. Additionally, there is usually an artificial urgency to grow and multiply the group which fractures the deep relationships that have grown over time. Even more problematic are churches with short term groups that are constantly changing, never allowing those deep relationships to take root.
Primarily seen overseas, a model has developed that is now also spreading within the United States. This model seems to resolve some of the difficulties with the cell church, traditional church, or house church models. The model is described as a network of house churches, or microchurches (the term microchurches emphasizes the purposeful limits on size rather than emphasizing where they might meet). The model doesn’t focus on growing the group or growing the church. Instead, the focus is on growing the individual, regardless of whether they are a new Christian or seasoned believer. This format is also conducive to recreating the New Testament community life which was experienced as a family rather than as joining an organization. Each person is introduced to, and equipped to lead a simple, reproducible Bible study that engages them directly with Scripture and focused on applying in their lives what they are reading. These are usually called a “Discovery“ Bible Study, but we use the term “Disciples” Bible Study. These individuals are then aided in reaching out to their unique sphere of influence or ministry interest and begin another community, which in turn equips others to launch another community, etc.. This enables believers to live out their Kingdom roles as a priest of God on mission to others. The network functions in a role best suited for larger group experiences, such as worship gatherings, training and equipping events, children and youth group activities, larger ministry projects, sharing of resources, etc..
For the first three hundred years of Christianity, the gatherings of believers met as simple home fellowships. They were connected to each other and referred to as “the ekklesia in Ephesus,” or whatever the city or region was called where they were located (learn more about the ekklesia). We seek to restore the dynamic of the early church by returning to our roots before the institutionalization of the church. While early in the process, we feel confident God will honor our commitment to build His Kingdom, rather than one of our own making.
If you feel your heart stirring to step out in faith and join, or launch a gathering, let us know of your desire and see if we can encourage each other through this process, all to the glory of God! Watch the video to see how this model ties into our Mission “to empower and equip every disciple through reliance on the Holy Spirit, to be a missionary and a catalyst for an expanding network of Simple Organic Christian Communities.”
Click below for a 2021 update on global house churches.
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