Two weeks ago my wife and were having lunch with Aaron and Cindy, a young couple, when they said they wanted to talk about starting a new church.
The surprise was that, only days before, we had written their names down as people who would most likely be ready to "sprout" off from one of our existing churches. The church had become too large and was ready to give birth to a new work. The timing was right and Aaron and Cindy had confirmed it by their expression of interest. Ah, nothing like serendipity to give one hope that God is at work!
We got up from lunch assuring them that we would continue praying with them and seeing what God was up to.
Within a week they called saying that they had spoken to another couple, had had several conversations with them, and wanted to get together with us and both couples to explore more. Ooh... some initiative on their part... things are moving... and we're not the one "pushing" things along. Excellent!
Of course, this was no surprise. Aaron and Cindy, having grown up in "Christian" families and schools, had wandered from any kind of meaningful faith expressions. House church had provided a safe place for renewal and real relationships to ignite their hearts with a fresh wonder for God and enjoyment of the simplicity of church life. They were (and are) excited about God and exciting to be around. By their own admission, this is the best time to launch out... while the excitement is stirring.
Having just re-read Rolan Allen's "Spontaneous Expansion of the Church" I was struck by the reality that church planting is better accomplished by the newly empassioned than by those who have been thoroughly trained and indoctrinated. Aaron and Cindy are a perfect example of this.
So... we met with the two couples and found that not only were they raring to go, but they had talked to a number of unchurched friends who had expressed real interest as well. This is definitely going in the right direction!
So... next step was to plan a time for prayer. They want to begin church within the next week or two, but we will first meet this Friday night to pray together... and to begin to chart out some basics.
This is exciting for my wife and I as we will be able to walk alongside without trying to dictate the type of church that Jesus creates. They are younger than we are and will definitely do things differently than we have done. This is exactly what we want! We will be able to learn from their ingenuity and creativity. We are all learning how to allow God's church to be His church, His people gathered, whatever that looks like. Every church is a unique expression. We will see them make some mistakes (perhaps) and be there to support (hopefully) when it's wanted, but that's all part of the process. We look forward to all of it.
I am working hard to distill my understanding of "building community" to principles that can be applied in different ways by different people. Good principles can be useful as long as they don't define the form. The basic principles of community life that we will look at will include these:
1. Participatory Gatherings-- 1 Cor. 14:26
2. Consensus decision-making—“take it to the church”
3. DNA of reproduction
4. Family health=shared responsibility in finances, time, and other concerns (i.e. children)
5. Growing spiritual lives
6. Authenticity, openness, honesty in relationships
I'll keep y'all posted as this develops. Hopefully Aaron will be posting comments and you will be able to hear his perspective as well.