It’s probably not what you think!
Most Christians, especially those from a more traditional form of church background, assume the obvious way to start any kind of church is to invite a few Christians to their home for fellowship. As other believers join them and the group gets large enough, they will multiply out into two churches and so on.
This is not the best way for several reasons:
- The Christians will bring all their preconceived ideas about church with them. It will be more of a challenge to think in the fresh, out-of-the-box ways that simple/organic church requires. The temptation will be to do “Honey, I shrunk the church!”
- It is more difficult to be missional–existing believers tend to focus on the gathering. Many Christians don’t have non-believers within their sphere of influence.
- You are trying to create community where a natural one doesn’t exist. Yes, there is a “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” with all other believers, but as you add people to a group, it will take time for people to share their everyday lives together outside of meetings.
- Multiplication usually occurs very, very slowly.
It is far easier to make disciples of those who don’t yet know the Lord, and to work within their existing sphere of influence. As their family and friends find the Lord, multiplying churches are the natural result. The advantages:
- The problems and issues that come up are those of life, not theology or ecclesiology.
- Community already exists and their shared lives will continue outside of the meeting context.
- New disciples have a natural mission field all around them and evangelism follows spontaneously along relational lines.
- It’s easy to create a vision and expectation of multiplication.
What has been your experience? Can you think of other reasons to primarily work with not-yet-believers?