Always Learning: House Churches

Our church has morphed into a network of house churches. It’s been a fascinating transformation to experience.

My biggest learning so far has been that I find it much more energizing to start new groups of people, new communities, than to try to get people to come and participate in an existing community. As long as we were focused on an attractional model of doing church, I felt tremendous pressure to make worship into a show.

Now, I like the showy aspect of worship. I love bringing our collective creativity as an offering and presenting it to God. I love Marva Dawn’s description of worship as a “royal waste of time.” Pageantry and excitement, drama, music and storytelling help make our time “royal,” and it’s time which has no value (a “waste”) to those who only measure its utility, including Christians who think that any time spent in God-directed worship is time stolen from feeding the hungry or solving the world’s problems. I still eagerly look forward to our monthly large-group gatherings, when the band rocks and we make worship into a party.

But there’s little more exciting than getting new groups off the ground. I love experiencing the relief they have when they can ask the pastor a direct question during worship, when they feel safe enough to share what they really want to pray about for themselves, when they develop the kind of community in which they want to take care of each other (instead of waiting for the pastor to do it). I like it when the best sermon illustration isn’t mine, but something that someone shares happened to them that very week. Discipleship is amazing to watch.

There’s also something about approaching church this way that really puts flesh on the parable of the sower. Planting new communities by flinging seeds into the wind, letting them fall where they may, is inefficient; but I’m seeing God grow the church this way.