Please Can We Start Over with a Discipleship and Missional Emphasis?

    Frank Doiron made some great comments that again I would like to respond to in the main blog.  He said:

"I keep wondering if the house church in North America hasn’t made a fundamental mistake. It has gotten excited about home churches and not discipleship and training/equipping. On top of this it has focused on what we do when we meet instead of how we are trained to go into the world. It is my belief and it has been my experience that when we start with the meeting and what we will do when at that meeting…..its over. It is as hard to bring that house church back to a missional conversation as it is in the traditional church. After reading Floyd McClung’s article “Developing a culture of discipleship in your community” and hearing your words about India, “Their training is all geared towards this truth” and Neil Cole saying that his LTG groups are essential to the growth of organic churches, I am beginning to believe that we need that place where we are being equipped to “go.” I am quoting from memory Gordon Cosby of the Church of the Saviour in Washington DC. We thought that if we went to small groups we would become missional. Well that never happened. Not that it sometimes happened. It never happened. It was only when we put in place our discipleship night did things begin to happen. I have a lot more to say about this but if we have a chance to reboot this whole thing we call simple/house/organic church I think we need to start with creating a culture of discipleship instead of what we do when we meet. Finally, the only way to have organic missional churches is to have missional people in those house churches…………… Don't get me wrong, I am not against meeting simply asking the question "Have we put the cart before the horse and are unable to switch it back.?"

Frank, I totally agree with you!  This is our heart cry too.  However, there is just one problem.  It appears to be God who is engineering this movement.  It's not as if there is some location you can go to or some dynamic, gifted speaker that everyone is following.  The commonest communication we get through House2House is this.  "God less us to meet in our home/Starbucks/work.  We thought we were the only ones doing it, but now we've found your website, we realize we are not alone."  According to the latest research, there are now millions of people involved.  Estimates vary on everything from 5 million to 20 million depending on your definition of house church.  The latest Pew Forum research suggest around 7% of the population.  We reckon that between House2House and all our friends who might have extensive contacts around the country, we may be touching 3% to 5% of those involved.  Although we have come across some of these that have started with a missional DNA, I'm sure the majority of them, like you suggest, are more focused on the meeting.

If this is God's doing, He must have the answer to the dilemma.  Is the Holy Spirit going to somehow shift these churches to have a more discipleship and missional emphasis?  What part do any of us play in that?

Starbucks and Bible

Here's one story.  We have friends who have a network of house churches in a city about an hour away from us.  The network has been going for a number of years and so the men in the various churches had been meeting for several years for prayer on Monday evenings.  Several months ago, maybe as much as a year now, the Lord challenged them to move this meeting into the harvest, so they started meeting at their local Starbucks.  The very first week, someone saw that they were praying and asked them to pray for him.  He became a Christian that night.  Since then, more than 50 people have become believers and they are now involved in 3 churches that have resulted from that change in location.

One of the questions that Tony and I spend much time deliberating on is how to reach what we call, "Barna's 5 million" with the message of discipleship and mission.  Does anyone have ideas?

7 thoughts on “Please Can We Start Over with a Discipleship and Missional Emphasis?”

  1. Wow, great word from Frank and great response from you.
    The temptation is always to put the cart before the horse because the cart is much more attractive, experiential, and different.
    But at the end of the day, it is discipleship that is going to win. If we can get the whole Church to move to a house church model, but do not make disciples, it will all be in vain. But if we focus on making disciples (something I believe the house church is often better positioned to do) then we will have already succeeded.

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  2. Bullseye, Felicity! If most of what we’re doing is gathering Christians together who can argue the validity of house churches and talk about how to do it, we need serious course-correction. Jesus has more for us and He certainly cares more about the lost than that!
    Among students planting simple churches, the ones who start with the lost and gather them around Jesus’ teachings – these experience the most miracles and salvations. The ones who try to assemble Christians together and call it a simple church almost never bear fruit. The solution? I think we must take the risk of directly sending people to the lost, make disciples, and encourage the formation of church communities with the new believers. There is no other way I see a house/simple/organic church planting movement multiplying.
    We can do it!

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  3. My concern is that if we (the simple/organic/house church movement) do not find a way to impact the world by making disciples and gathering them together in church communities, then we will become increasingly irrelevant in Kingdom terms. God will find a people that will fulfill his heartbeat for the lost.

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  4. Felicity,
    You’ve written about the realities of India and persecution. I lived in Bulgaria from 1993-1995, just four years after the fall of communism. I learned that under the communist regime the church was a purer church. People did not take part in church unless they were serious about following Jesus – the cost was just too high for people who were not serious to be there.
    That may be where we face one problem with house/simple church or organic/missional church in the US. A lot of people will jump on the bandwagon thinking they’ll take part in the latest church fad without knowing what it is actually about and what a commitment it actually requires.
    As far as keeping the Great Commission in the forefront I believe we have to go all the way back and understand what the Great Commission actually is. Many believe the command is “go”. The imperative in the Greek is the verb form of disciple. So, the command is “MAKE DISCIPLES”. The Greek verb “go” is actually passive. So, the Great Commission is, “As you are going, MAKE DISCIPLES of all peoples…” Every follower of Jesus is to be making disciples as they go about their daily lives.
    Blessings – Stan

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  5. Stan,
    Great thoughts. We found the same in the UK too. Not that there was physical persecution, but there was plenty of ridicule. It made people think twice before they became disciples.
    In this country I suspect a lot of home groups are being renamed as house churches because it has become fashionable. I’m guessing that the term “missional community” will suffer the same fate. It was one of a number of problems I foresaw that I wrote about in The Rabbit and the Elephant.
    Thanks for the thoughts on the Great Commission too. The problem in this country is that many believers live and work in Christian enclaves and so “as they go” doesn’t bring them into contact with those who don’t yet know Jesus. So there may need to be some intentionality introduced–at least in terms of asking the Lord where He wants us to go.

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  6. Your first four sentences nail it, Felicity. Our mission is making disciples. The love and unity of meeting regularly with other believers supports that mission but doesn’t alter it.
    We need to consciously, vigorously communicate that realignment of priorities in every way available. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet. When persecution comes it will make the line between light and darkness more distinct. It will shake up traditionalists. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing.
    Right now, today, we need to both make disciples and talk about it everywhere we have a voice.

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