What will it take for a second track approach to work?

In the past week, I have come across two (small) denominations who are revising their views on church planting. Rather than planning on traditional church planting with the expense of buildings and trained staff, both denominations are looking at a simple/organic approach to missions. They are encouraging their existing churches to plant out daughter simple/organic churches and any other church planting that goes on will likely be with simple/organic churches.
Photo credit: the real Kam75 (Creative Commons)
So I emailed a friend of mine (who for various reasons has asked not to be named) to tell me about his experience of transitioning a legacy church into a network of simple/organic churches. I also asked him to comment on running a second track–that is, of having a separate and parallel group with a missional emphasis that runs alongside a legacy church. Here are his thoughts as to the viability of doing so: 
  1. If the leadership team fully understands that the church is not the end, but the Kingdom, and is open to a variety of ministry situations that are not necessarily alike, or even traditional in nature 
  2.  If that leadership team is willing to give up control and simply see what God can do with believers who have a different mentality than the existing status quo
  3. If the senior leader sees the house church approach as being just as viable as the traditional approach and has a “releasing mentality” rather than a “containing mentality”
  4. If equal time and resources are given to the “house church ministry arm,” not seeing it as a fad approach for those weird people who don’t want to fit into a mold, but that it is “just as important as anything else in the church.”   (I remember from many years ago, that one church I was in enjoyed great success in a lot of areas.  But the truth was that if a ministry idea didn’t fit with the Senior Pastor, it never got off the ground.)
  5. If there is an expansion of the vision that  put the house church ministry on equal footing with every other ministry — so that even those who don’t want to participate can encourage and affirm those who do.   Its the whole idea of not thinking that “my way” is the only way.   Jesus said, “If they’re not against us, they’re for us!  

In another way of saying it, its moving from a church centric vision, to a kingdom centric vision!


In addition:
The framework of the existing church could be very helpful to those who do want to start house churches or be a part of them. All of the legal aspects would be covered by the existing church structure, releasing those who were  participating in the house churches to do so without some of the difficult issues which can arise in the whole area of administration. 
Again, I do think that this could be a viable alternative to transitioning the whole church. it would actually be like a two track church approach, (kind of like the many churches today who say they have a traditional service and a contemporary service!)    The key issue, I believe, is based upon the vision for the whole entity.  And it would have to come from the senior leader, if it was going to have any chance of success!   

20 thoughts on “What will it take for a second track approach to work?”

  1. This is an interesting post. I am still unaware of anything like this happening in the UK, but if it is I’d be glad to make contact with anyone involved. But I dare say it’s just a matter of time. Earlier today I posted an article about little and large expressions of church working together. ( http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/2012/05/little-and-large.html ) This is not quite what you are sharing here, Felicity, but the two are certainly related.

    In my article I mentioned the time in 2009 when one of the megachurches (was it Austin Stone?) helped House2House with badly needed sound and vision equipment and staff. Maybe you could share that story in more detail on Simply Church. I think it would encourage many readers.

    We do need, in every way, to see big and small working together, whether within a single organisation or between ‘independent’ organisations. There really is no independence here as we are all co-dependent on Christ and on one another.

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    1. Chris, I’m not aware of anything like this going on in the UK either, but like you, I suspect it’s only a matter of time.  Simple/organic church has been “above the radar” in this country for nearly a decade and this thinking is only just beginning to catch on within the denominations. It may happen more quickly in the UK because finances also play into it.

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  2. Most house church efforts are run entirely by volunteers which is a wonderful model of ministry. Unfortunately, folks trying to pay for their seminary education have a bit of difficulty with this model. 🙂

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    1. I agree and this is a huge challenge. I wish that seminaries used the old Jewish system, that students were taught a practical skill as well as theology!

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    2. Sadly that’s very true. I wish that seminaries used the old Jewish model of teaching a trade alongside of theology.

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  3. Read good old Juan Carlos Ortiz. I think he describes the same principle in “The Disciple”, a book among the first to influence me toward alternative church. 

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    1. I read that book too many years ago. I often think about what he said about teaching, I think in Disciple, that he would cover the same topic again and again until people started living it. 

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  4. Thanks, Felicity, for sharing an example of what this might look like for a traditional church to embrace organic church planting. I believe this will be helpful to those wanting to embrace it but not knowing where to start. The more tangible examples shared the better.

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  5. Just wanted to let you know that your blogposts has reached sweden =). I read your blog as often as I can and I find it very encouraging (and wise)! We are about three families who meet in our home (we are part of a small but growing network of housechurches) trying to help eachother to be more like Jesus. So, I just wanted to say thank´s!

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    1. Maria, it’s always a blessing to hear when anything I’ve written has been a help to someone. Thank you for letting me know.

      It’s great to hear what the Lord is doing with you in Sweden. Are you aware of many other networks like yours?

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  6. Hi.  I am a United Methodist pastor with an appointment to plant house churches in the twin cities area of MN.  I am aware of two other UMC pastors (FL and CA) with the same calling.  I have discovered that there are not many “denominational” pastors planting with the intent of keeping it small and simple.  But there does seem to be a movement in that direction.  It is one of my challenges to find the rhythm of the structure and accountability of a denomination (and being ordained, and polity and discipline) and the simple, organic nature of house church.   The points above are helpful for me to think about as I talk to colleagues about this movement in the Church.  Thanks.

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    1. Hi David, 

      I suspect you are pioneering in something God is doing. I’m very interested by the fact that three simple/organic church ministries that I’m aware of (including House2House which we helped to found) are shifting their emphasis to coaching legacy churches in  helping them become more organic.Are you familiar with Katie Driver who lives in the Twin Cities too? She may be a great resource for you.

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