The Demise of the "Copy-Cat" Church
Baptism: The Sign of Decision

Learning to BE Church: An Interview with a House-Church Team, part 2

9f83I'm especially intrigued by this second of three installments as I interview Matt and Dawn about house church ministry -- and even more so in light of my earlier post and the amazing quote by Reggie McNeal. If you missed part one, you can find it here.


Chris:
How has pastoring a house-church changed “how” you encourage, participate-in, and facilitate ministry?

Matt:
As for myself, I experienced a shift in my thinking. For several years, I had the experience of being a full time music director at a large IC. This involved managing an "all volunteer" music program that included a worship band, orchestra, and singers. I found myself striving for nothing less than "musical excellence," and saw these volunteers as people with musical giftings who helped to make me and my department look good.

I cared for these people as much as I could with "thank you cards", pats on the back, etc. -- like a pastor would. However, I did not know these people with any spiritual depth. I never talked about what God was doing in their lives. I only saw what I wanted to see: "People who make me and my program look good". Never did I give any thought that maybe some of these volunteers had specific callings by God which were outside of the music department or even outside of the church walls. Could it be they themselves did not recognize their true calling by God?

Some people may have had a heart for… intercessory prayer, healing, teaching or evangelism – but if I don't help them find their calling and release them, as opposed to “keep on patting them on the back for their participation in my program, never acknowledging the calling on their life -- then I’m simply holding them "hostage" and keeping them from fulfilling their true calling by God. Also, if I never took the time to know my sheep, I wouldn’t identify their true callings in the first place. Pastors, shepherds and leaders (me included) need to repent of holding their sheep hostage – failing to release them to fulfill their true calling and destiny and using them instead for other purposes.

What would happen if we shepherds said "yes" to peoples' true calling by God, and then trained the body of Christ to say "yes" to each others' callings; resulting in ALL of us working within our callings? I would envision a lot of people would find their giftings/callings are to be used outside the four walls of the church.

At "The Gathering", there is not a committee, a church board, a staff, or even a Senior Pastor to tell us how our giftings shall be used or how we should live out our calling. We use our giftings as God leads us, we live out our calling under God's direction. At this level, I am able to shepherd people one on one more effectively. In fact, we shepherd each other. One of my personal passions, is to help people identify their giftings/callings and find a way to get them on a road to fulfill their destiny; thus forwarding the kingdom of God. Some of the giftings found in "The Gathering" are the prophetic, faith, exhorters, and listening prayer. Some are called to pastor, evangelize, teach, disciple and minister to the poor. (It's kind of peculiar, but it may well be possible to see the 5 fold ministry represented in one body – c.f. Eph 4) In fact, those of us in The Gathering know what each other's giftings/callings are, thus encouraging each other to exercise those giftings when we meet as well as in the marketplace.

Since doing church differently, I have surrendered to the fact that I do not believe in some the ways I used to do ministry.

Chris:
Since transitioning into the house-church model, how has your own spiritual life been impacted?

Matt:
My walk with God is being challenged weekly. I’m learning about God's heart through our discussion of His Word, and am challenged to live it out. As a result, I’ve grown to have more of an evangelistic heart -- looking for places to share my faith in Jesus. In addition, I’m experiencing the Holy Spirit's presence and am able to hear from God more and being obedient to what He wants to do both in my life and in our gatherings.

I’m also accountable to this group. I share the hard details of my life with them, and they hold me up in prayer; checking-in with me via email or phone.


Chris:
How important is “method” when it comes to communicating the “message,” and how do you see house churches responding to a culture that is oriented toward multi-tasking and multi-sensory experiences?

Dawn:
Methods come and go like trends (or as often as some might change their underwear), but the message is what remains central and important.

As far as multi-sensory [goes], I see house churches as more of an antidote for the culture – more like a place of healing or a safe harbor.

Yes, our brains CAN take in five video screens at once, but it doesn’t go very deep. Here, we’re allowing people to come to a safe harbor and connect with their senses -- maybe by having a candle lit room and singing one night, or taking communion in a different way, or simply sitting around a table and engaging in conversation while looking each other in the eye. I am all for engaging in 5 senses, but this is counter-culture to the idea of computers and screens and all that. It’s letting people bring their true selves to God rather than a portrayal of what someone else thinks they should bring or do or be.

I’ve been in some services myself where there were only two tasks at once: a screen with words to sing along and a video running behind them. I have a hard time with this because I feel as if I’m being asked to eat and partake of someone else’s interpretation of what they think is going on spiritually. What I want is “my” own encounter with the living God. I think we need less, not more. It’s something like what Richard Swensen talks about in his book, Margin. If you fill a piece of paper entirely with words, from edge to edge -- your brain gets edgy and doesn’t take in the information very well. But if you have space and “margin,” then you can focus and take it in. This is what we do in our house church – we practice the discipline of silence at times. We sit in silence for maybe 10-15 minutes to be that antidote, to be the opposite of what’s so common in the world. I think it’s dangerous to go the way of the culture and to run the screens and the videos, telling people “what” they should connect with a song.

A Catholic Mass is multi-sensory with the deep colors of stained glass, the nuances of Jesus’ physical body on the cross, the smell of incense, the water, oil, wine, etc but it is multi-sensory in a much more “earthy” sort of way. Today, I see people starving for some dirt, and for some quiet in their lives; and especially hungry for God time.

It’s an assumption for a leader to say, ‘this is where the culture is going and this is what you want… so I will give you what you want.’ That’s kind of like giving a kid candy all day and assuming he is full. And I personally, just don’t see that as being real or truthful to the gospel message.


** be sure to catch the final part of this interview, which will post in a few days**

Comments

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Thank you for posting this; this is fascinating stuff.

In some ways, the house-church model strikes me as analagous to the havurah (lit. "fellowship" or "group of friends") movement within American Judaism: both are home-based, both arose as a reaction to the size and commercialism of large religious institutions, both seem to attract people who are intent on a search for meaning within religious tradition. It's interesting for me to see how this happens in a Christian context...

(Dawn) What would happen if we shepherds said "yes" to peoples' true calling by God, and then trained the body of Christ to say "yes" to each others' callings; resulting in ALL of us working within our callings? I would envision a lot of people would find their giftings/callings are to be used outside the four walls of the church.

I like this thought...seems to fit what I'm experiencing as well.

(Dawn) Today, I see people starving for some dirt, and for some quiet in their lives; and especially hungry for God time.

You mentioned the predominate focus on engaging our five senses during gatherings. I'm finding a passionate preoccupation with what I call the sixth sense (the kingdom or spiritual sense). I think what we try to do is move people toward this "sixth sense" by using the five senses. I'm thinking this is counter productive. It makes us focus on the physical as we desire to encounter the spiritual. Does that make sense?

In response to HeyRick post:

Yes, the important thing is this connection to God and the spiritual realm. He truly is everywhere all the time. But, there is also a balance between the 5 senses and the "6th". I personally am more in tune with God and able to hear him more clearly when I'm alone in nature, or sitting in quiet contemplation midst a beautiful setting; it feeds me on all levels. So, the real question becomes is this "mood" stuff I'm setting for people in my church connecting them to God, or just entertainment. To disconnect entirely from the physical and only value spiritual though is Gnostic, not Christ. I believe to truly know and follow Christ is to allow him to awaken and bring to life the spirit and let him permeate every aspect of our being, including our bodies and how we mistreat them.

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