Back in the early 90's, Jim Mellon was on the eldership team of a megachurch with a $1 million a year budget. One Christmas, their church didn't have the funds to help a member's family where both husband and wife had lost their jobs. As he and his wife, Cathy, discussed it, they realized that church shouldn't be this way, that there should be resources available to help any members of the body in need (Acts 2:45, Acts 4:34-35).
As they searched the Scriptures, looking to see what the Bible had to say about church and finance, they came across the concept of church meeting in homes, and because of the financial implications, began a network of house churches.
From the start, finances played a big part in what they did. They now give to needs in their city, such as the local soup kitchen as well as to Christian ministries, and benevolence to people within the body has been a foundational principle too. They are known by their mayor and city council because of their faithfulness in giving. Their people not only give financially, they also involve on the ground in the places they help. They support church planting in India and Haiti and send mission teams out to these places.
After a while, they found that they were sometimes in the position of the megachurch–that in any given month they might run out of money before their financial obligations had been fulfilled, so they changed their pattern of giving. Instead of giving a set amount to a ministry, say $200, they now give a percentage, so they never run out of funds and there is always money available for benevolence.
They decided from the start that any leadership should be bi-vocational and to this day, only have very part time paid administrative help.
This network of simple/organic churches is profoundly effective with their finances.
Since their inception, they have given more than $1.2 million away to missions and benevolence.
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5 replies on “An outstanding example of the impact of a network of house churches”
I don’t quite follow the ‘After a while…’ paragraph. Maybe I’m being dull this evening, but they now give a percentage of what exactly? And how does that prevent them running out of funds?
But apart from that, I love this post. They’re clearly making an impact in their district, and perhaps getting a good reputation. Just like New Testament times when people said, ‘Look how they love one another’, and the followers of The Way were known for helping anyone in need.
I’m sure we need to make real efforts to understand how Jesus wants us to give. Individually? Corporately? Both? And what mechanisms should we employ? There are pointers in the New Testament, both in the gospels and in the letters.
I’m glad you’re having a season of posts on this topic. Thanks Felicity.
Yes I appreciated this post too. Sometimes (e.g. in the denominational church we are currently part of) evangelical christians talk as if helping people and making a difference in the community is somehow contrary to the gospel and lesser than evangelism. They sometimes call it ‘social gospel’.
But I think they miss the twin points that (1) it was clearly part of the good news (= ‘gospel’) that Jesus brought, and (2) with the church having such a poor reputation in many people’s eyes, showing God’s love in practical ways and winning a better reputation may be the best way to evangelise anyway.
great example of the church’s giving possibilities! Thank you, Felicity, for sharing!
Chris, they used to do what most churches do, ie pledge a certain amount of money to a ministry, but if giving was down that month, they sometimes didn’t have enough to fulfill their commitment. Giving a percentage meant they always had enough; they gave a variable amount depending on how much had come in that month. It also meant that other ministries prayed for them!
UnkleE, our experience is that being involved socially gives many opportunities for sharing the Good News. Anything that gets us out there and in contact with not-yet-believers. For many people the alternative to that is doing nothing.