(Note: reprinted from 2007)
One of the most difficult things to communicate regarding simple/house church is that we really, really do not want to just re-invent a new (or ancient) form of church. Instead, we are seeking to re-capture the essential “church life” that Jesus taught—a way of life. We are, at the core, radical Jesus-followers lived out in the context of everyday life, not church-goers. The form (when and how we gather) should, simply and fluidly, support the dynamic life that Jesus’ lit-up followers are living and not replace it.
Andy Zoppelt wrote the following in an email:
"We have an obsession for form. We find some new truth and we quickly create a form. In the past 41 years I have experienced every form possible, all of which is designed to replace the life and power of God. Today it is the house church form. Everyone is seeking some aspect of the New Testament to restore the church…
"If there is a method in the NT church, it would be one based on life: humility, brokenness, love and faith."
Frank Viola stated the same thing:
"When we raise up a church, we rarely if ever talk about form. We do not talk about the wineskin. We give the people the wine. We preach Christ. We give them Christ. We show them how to know Christ. Out of that emerges naturally the ekklesia."
We have been programmed in our mechanical culture to do just the opposite. “Build the structure and the people will come.” Planning, building, and organizing is so engrained into our way of life, that we are certain that if we put the externals in place then life will flow.
The result is that when people want to learn about simple/house church, what they come wanting to learn is how to structure the thing. They want to start with form. They want to know how to get this thing “right”—referring to the external “how tos.”
I am not saying that we cannot learn a thing or two, from one another, about how to gather: letting the Spirit lead and releasing the spiritual gifts of the entire community. But I am suggesting that we cannot start there. I am suggesting that when these “how tos” become the focus, we are back to elevating form and we will snuff out the life. Structures are meant to support life. When they become the focus then we will soon find ourselves following an external form of religious practices instead of following Jesus. Before long, the structure itself replaces the living relationship and power of the Christian life.
Let me ask it this way. How much time did Jesus spend teaching on what to do when you gather for worship or prayer? How to do a Bible study effectively? What to do when the church gathers together? Conversely, how much did Jesus spend on the “way of life”:
Love God with your whole heart
Love your neighbor as yourself
Let your light shine
Do what you see the Father doing
Give (live generously)
Go into all the world
Following Jesus is life. Following Jesus is the way of life. Want to know how to do simple/house church? Do that: follow Jesus. Make it a lifestyle. Then find some friends who want to do the same thing. Then find some friends who do not know Jesus and help them to do the same thing. Then the rest will fall into place:
- You will learn how to share life with one another—building authentic community
- You will discover how to fully appreciate every person’s spiritual gift that you gather with
- You will continue to live missionally individually and as a group
- The dynamic life of a Jesus follower will multiply from one disciple (follower) to the next.
Voila! Simple church is birthed.
Categories for this post include house church, simple church, organic church