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?
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?