the weblog of Alan Knox

We gotta get outta this place

Posted by on Oct 2, 2009 in blog links, gathering | 11 comments

My friend Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” has written a very thought-provoking article called “Gotta Get Out of the House“. In one part, he says:

Most church plants begin in homes. The reason is simple: most church plants are small and therefore need little space. Over time, the hope is that as the church shares the gospel, people will come to Christ as Lord and Savior. This will in most cases cause the church to grow in number.

This is where the strange thing happens. There is an almost automatic and unquestioned assumption that the church must leave the home and get some sort of larger facility. What is implied in this assumption is that the house is not sufficient. The strange part in all this is that the house was sufficient for the church in the New Testament.

Read the entire article. Eric makes some good points. He is not saying that all churches should meet in homes, but that homes should be considered a valid and perhaps beneficial option.

In our little group of believers, we will soon be dealing with this question. If more people continue to meet with us, then our new meeting place will be too small. There are at least two ways we could approach this problem:

1) Find a bigger meeting place.

2) Have more than one meeting.

If we choose to have more than one meeting, keeping the meetings small, we will then have another issue to consider: how do we maintain fellowship (church) between the different meetings (church)? Can we?


11 Comments

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  1. 10-2-2009

    There is another excellent option…Multiply! Form a network of small simple churches. Works all over the world.

  2. 10-2-2009

    I’ve always felt like we should try to grow horizontally instead of vertically. Like Darrel said above, “multiply.”

    Growing vertically inhibits the dynamics of mutual edification. It encourages “pew sitters” and “spectators”. I like the idea of giving everyone an opportunity to be ministers.

  3. 10-2-2009

    Alan,

    Our house church is also at this same crossroads. For us the option to move into a larger building isn’t being considered. We are an intentional house church family, but this means starting a second house church in the community.

    I’ve resisted all my ingrained impulses to take charge and draw lines in the sand or engineer a new church plant myself. Instead I’ve been spending more time in prayer seeking the Lord’s direction and waiting for Him to make us all ready.

    Recently I heard a wonderful sermon by Lance Lambert about how the Body must be born of God, not something you and I can “set up”. He makes the point that our bodies were not “set up” by anyone and that the Body of Christ must also be born of the Spirit and not man-made. I agree.

    So, this allows us the opportunity to humble ourselves before Him and wait on Him to grow His Church. It places us in the posture of waiting on our knees before Jesus and allowing Him to be the actual head of our Body.

    Admittedly, it’s so much easier to “set up” a church on our own. But we didn’t come to Jesus because we were interested in what was the easiest path. We came to Him knowing that the way would be difficult, but entirely possible and full of joy, as long as we kept our eyes on our Lord.

    For now, we’re still praying for God’s timing and waiting on His direction.

    kg

  4. 10-2-2009

    Alan,

    how do we maintain fellowship (church) between the different meetings (church)? Can we?

    Should we?

  5. 10-2-2009

    There is also both-and. I know of one group in FL who meet 3x a month in homes and once a month they all come together in a rented hall. The home meetings are informal and folks frequently spend the afternoon together. It provides for a relational life together without requiring everyone go their own separate way. It also takes advantage of the home as a natural place of ministry and interaction, while growing large.

    It seems likely the early church considered itself one church in an area while meeting usually in separate homes (the use of the singular “church” in every city reference, but plural in regional references; the use of the phrase, “if the whole church be come together in one place…” in I Cor, etc.).

  6. 10-2-2009

    Another model that has been emerging for several years is the bivocational building. We have one locally in Garner, NC (http://www.hopecaferaleigh.com) and I know of another in GA. This is very common in SE Asia (I have been told).

    All week long, Hope Cafe is a coffee shop/snack bar. They have open mic nights, regular entertainment on Sat, and on Sundays they hold a church service in the shop. It is quite large and looks every bit a professional business–I’ve stopped by and met some folks for coffee there.

  7. 10-2-2009

    Darrell and Jack,

    That’s what I intended to convey with option 2, with the possible exception that sometimes “multiply” intimates separation.

    Keith,

    Yes, those are some of the issues that I’m dealing with. Perhaps the main problem is that there is not a single answer to this. We must trust God to form the church as he desires.

    Rick,

    As Art says later, it seems that in the NT, churches in an local area still considered themselves (and were considered by others) to be one church.

    Art,

    I think it can be both/and as well. I’m hoping that we can talk through some of these issues in the coming weeks / months. Thanks for the ideas.

    -Alan

  8. 10-2-2009

    Alan,

    A network of small congregations, all off-shoots of the one congregation, which I knew some years ago, hired a public hall once a month when they met corporately. I think they had a set rule that when they reached fifteen in number they would split up based on locality.

  9. 10-2-2009

    I know of some churches that meet in homes once a week and then gather together once a week from all the home groups.

  10. 10-3-2009

    Alan,

    I used to attend a church that had about two hundred people attending, including children. It was anti-program but pro-gathering. One of the refrains about what made us special was the “sweet fellowship” we enjoyed at these gatherings, which as far as I could see consisted of smiles and pleasant chatter as we all made our way to the particular small cluster of folks we usually hung out with.

    You mention in you next post a book called When the Church was a Family. Perhaps we ought to look to families for some clues about what the scale of a regular gathering ought to be. I could see meeting weekly for Thanksgiving dinner, but the church gatherings I mentioned above were more on the order of family reunions, something I wouldn’t want to attend every week.

  11. 10-3-2009

    Aussie John and Joe (JR),

    That seems to the prevailing suggestion here. :)

    Rick,

    I think the “family reunion” model misses something. In a family reunion we meet with people who are related to us, but who we don’t really know.

    I like the idea of thinking of the church as family (since we are family). I spend time with my family everyday, and it never gets old. When I recognize that the church is my family, I find the same attitude of wanting to spend time with them.

    -Alan