Mini-church Done Badly?

“I’m not really a proponent of house churches, since most of them are quite insipid in my opinion.” (Frank Viola)

“We can talk a lot about a 24/7, Jesus-following lifestyle, but the reality is often that the only real change is that we gather in a small, participatory gathering rather than a large, stage-oriented one.” (Roger Thoman)

“Often our small groups in our houses are run like mini-churches, aren’t they? We do the same thing we experience on Sunday, but it’s just bad. We have a mother and son combo on the guitar, and the Bible study is never quite as good as the pastor’s sermon. It’s a back up. It’s just mini-church done badly.” (Alan Hirsch)

What do you think about this? Is this an inevitable outcome? If not, what specifically makes the difference?

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52 thoughts on “Mini-church Done Badly?

  1. I don’t think just ‘meeting in one another’s homes’ is necessarily transformational… our thinking is still dominated by our past ideas/experience of what church ‘is’. Too often, as the quotes suggest, small gatherings are worse than large ones, because they are simply the same format with lower production values!

    I think the real transformational qualities that are possible with house churches/small gatherings are focused around genuine intimacy: actually having your life open, visible and accountable to others on a shared journey. The best ‘intentional communities’ make it very hard for you to keep your walk to yourself…

    Still, what these communities actually do with their ‘meeting’ time can still seem too much like church on the cheap…

    In short, I agree with the comments, but don’t think that means house churches should be written off as a concept.

  2. First off, I am certain that when we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized (or called if you prefer) into the church. Size doesn’t matter overmuch, but, I personally “feel connected” to Jesus most when I am worshiping in a large congregation, studying the Word in a small group, and praying alone.
    That being said, our family did “church” in the car on the way home from South Dakota because there were no churches open as early as we had to leave, and later when they were open we were in the middle of no-where. I think the kids thought it weird at first singing along to a CD but when we were reading and talking about scripture, I know we all learned something more about the Lord and I personally know that he was present and working through me as I was teaching and talking through the reading (Mrs. Inheritor was driving so it was a tad difficult for her to read the bible at that time.) We each ended with prayer. It was very good. On a later trip, the kids suggested we do it again.
    In regards to prayer, I know without a doubt that I am in very close relationship to Jesus when praying in a “ministry” setting. We usually do this in teams (pairs). In general, I do not have the words nor ability to “fix”, help, or solve any of the needs brought forward by people on my own. I can however bless them and I can bring them into the presence of the Lord in prayer. I can speak anything given to them by the Lord and this often encourages them and occasionally brings healing. At times I will be overwhelmed by the grace Jesus speaks to them. Sometimes they will come back and say something like “That was exactly right. How did you know that?” I KNOW at that point that the Lord was at work through me. This has happened in huge congregational (conference) settings, in our church on Sundays, in my own home in a small group setting, and amongst my family.

  3. Grace,

    There is just so much baggage with the word church. I see that in these quotes, and I agree.

    As you know, I work with “church planting” missionaries in places like China, India, Palestine, and other places in the Middle East. We fight this same battle. We try to facilitate “church” among Chinese, or Indian or Palestinian believers and often all we end up with is a bad version of what we do here in the west.

    I have been detoxing from institutional church for a year or so now. Our little house church, or family devotional as we are calling it, is sometimes amazing and often boring, but we keep trying. We are learning what it means to be the body, pursuing Jesus together.

    Some things I am sure of, if we focus on getting church right, we will fail. If we focus on community, we will fail. If we focus on good singing or “preaching,” we will fail. But, if we focus on Jesus, together, we will be transformed and we will be on the right path…

  4. Great comments so far. This is an area of keen interest to me (thanks Grace for getting back in the cage one more time and taking a swing).

    I believe that as our culture becomes more diversified (what is ‘Americanism’ anyway?), we will see the church become increasingly eclectic. The basis for this will be founded in the ability of the church to develop a much more organic approach to mission.

    As inheritorofheaven implied, whatever form the church chooses to take on, it must be transformational – and I might add missional. Transformational in that our lives are being transformed, and missional in that the lives of others are being transformed. The Kingdom is to be expanding through the organic process of making disciples.

  5. I don’t think any of this is about small or big, house or store front…in fact, I think thinking in that way is the problem.

    if house church is where mission is in your sphere, then do that well, if not then do something else.

  6. I think, as has already pretty much been said, that the quotes above don’t reflect so badly on house/mini/simple church as they reflect on our thinking.

    Even when we talk about “church on the cheap” or “lower production values” (not sure if the commenter was talking about their own feelings or others’), it belies a way of thinking that will always lead to disappointment and “failure”.

    Frankly (and no pun intended on the first quote above), I couldn’t disagree more that this is an inevitable outcome. And I’m not sure that it’s very helpful for those influential authors to speak in those terms. It seems to create a fear of stepping out into that type of community because we now have the expectation that it’s going to be boring or low-quality (as if “performance” were a criteria on which to judge our gatherings).

    I have often thought that it seems the only way to really go about this is to step away from the institution, forget everything that we think should be happening, read the New Testament, and seek the Holy Spirit.

    Only by allowing things to be built fresh from the ground up do we have a chance of avoiding these pitfalls that are so pessimistically trumpeted and broadcast.

  7. Antonio Egaz Moniz of the University of Lisbon Medical School found that cutting the nerves that run from the frontal cortex to the thalamus in psychotic patients who suffered from repetitive thoughts “short-circuited” the problem.

    Together with his colleague Almeida Lima, he devised a technique involving drilling two small holes on either side of the forehead, inserting a special surgical knife, and severing the prefrontal cortex from the rest of the brain. He called it leukotomy, but it would come to be known as lobotomy.

    Some of his patients became calmer, some did not.

  8. I kind of like what Steve said about walking away forgetting what we think should be happening and reading the new testament. That is kind of where i am personally , I really feel the lack of a worshiping body right now, but I know God is here. I still go occasionally to a local church & I really like it there, but I don’t see me showing up there for an hour a week making any real changes in my life.
    My problem ( as pointed out in the comments here ) is my thinking. My biggest problem is me . I am what is standing in front of my relationship with Jesus and the inevitable transformation that takes place from that.
    peace

  9. oh , well I meant to say , I don’t really think it matters much at all how we DO church. I really doubt anyone has it exactly right and I really doubt that our protocol or setting make much difference. It’s all in our mind( my mind ) and I really doubt that any of that changes how God feels about us.
    Peace for real this time :D

  10. andy,
    Very well said. I think the principles of house church are right on track, but I’m afraid the practical expression is still in its infancy. Not that there is anything wrong with that as long as we stay open to learning and experimentation.

    inheritor,
    Those are good thoughts. We can have intentional times of worship and ministry together regardless of the setting. I wonder in the natural course of relationships when or if we should have “services.”

    eric,
    I appreciate your input. It really is a process of learning to be the body together and pursuing Jesus. Leaving institutional mindsets behind is challenging.

    ken,
    Thanks for sharing. It seems messier to try to figure out what we actually mean by organic and missional if we push it beyond descriptions of how we meet together and worship.

    Great point Mak!

    steve,
    I hope you know that I didn’t post these to put down house church. I think now, more than ever, it is important that we wrestle through the issues of transposing institutional and consumeristic baggage onto the house church model. It has happened and will continue, but I also think that many groups are discovering the nature of authentic organic life together. And I think that the descriptions of that will be as unique as the individuals who are sharing life together.

    jerry,
    I interpreted your comment 5 different ways, and I laughed every time. ;)

    shaun,
    I can relate to what you said. I think in that void, there is a tendency to want to create something familiar. Perhaps there is transformation that takes place by dwelling in the tension as we shift from doing to being.

  11. I find the quotes so amusing because of their assumption that church is a production. That anytime we sing songs or study the word it has to be about performance. Maybe those things are just what the body likes to do when it gets together. If someone wants to play the guitar and sing, why must they be compared to a stage production? (I personally find both annoying, but I know I’m a minority on that count). I just don’t think that it should always be assumed that house churches are just trying to copy large churches. We are doing church – some things are similar, some things very different – it’s about what works for the community.

  12. Ultimately, the problem is one of the heart and so house churches can end up with the same problems as ‘traditional’ churches. We worship our worship services (an issue of the heart and idolatry). I too question the need to even have a “service” but that is a pretty scandalous thing to say (since it touches the golden calf).

    If we understand that we ARE the church, and that OUR LIFE is one of worship (IS the worship)… then we can gather for relationship and encouragement (to exhort each other in the faith) before we go back out to our ‘missional’ fields. We can sing together if we want (or not). We can share from the Word together if we want (or not). But I think we’ve confused the “service” with worship (which is a life to be lived) so that the we have a mindset that the Christian life is dependent upon the service (the program) rather than dependent upon the relationship and obedience to Jesus alongside fellow followers.

  13. Grace – it was meant to make you laugh … my one big accomplishment for the day:)

    House church is kind of like home schooling -when you find the kid is just like you – it’s hard to blame someone else. It kind of puts reality back in your face. Both are about the most rewarding frustrating things we’ve ever done in our lives.

  14. I tend to agree with the comments about questioning the need to “have a service.” That seems to be the focus and definition of “church” that we are all so uncomfortable with. The circles I live and work in would never even consider this question, however…

    Suggestions?

  15. That’s a good question, Eric. I think that just “living out” the alternative (by being the church and living a life of obedience/worship) presents the question without explicitly stating it.

    In our experience, when we began to do this, very few of our friends in the traditional paradigm of ‘church’ understood. But many of them didn’t write us off and maintained relationship regardless. People like to watch and see what will happen. I think many have been surprised by the good fruit.

    Sometimes when we “just do it” instead of try to explain it to others, or whatever, then people begin to see/understand what we were trying to communicate through words. (At least, that’s been my experience).

  16. Oh ya, I also wanted to say that in certain situations, organized teaching is very helpful – especially for new believers. (This is something that Hirsch recently blogged about: church happening on the backside of mission, or being birthed out of mission). But part of that teaching has to point people to relating to Jesus and obedience to Jesus as the foundation of their Christianity, rather than becoming dependent on a program to “feed” them.

  17. There have been a number of good topics thus far, and I think the trajectory of this conversation has landed in such a way that we have agreed small communities—if they are to be effective—must be both transformational and missional. Otherwise, how are we going to be the people of God to the world?

    I would argue that this lies most naturally with the community that you are involved in. First, how does the community that you are involved in view tradition? Does it view tradition as “old hat” that is not for today (that we need to find “new” ways to do things that are culturally relevent)? If such a view is being espoused, what about when cultural changes? Does that mean we must change again? Are we simply to be so fluid that we lose all vertebrae?

    Second, how does the church view ecclesiology? Do you have any tradition to guide how you will choose who is “in charge?” Do you even need someone to be in charge? Does someone being a “pastor” mean that others are laity? Should the burden of small churches be on these “pastors” who have to often have to take up second jobs to make sure they can provide for their families? It appears that perhaps we have to look at tradition to answer some of these questions.

    Third, how does the community view service? Service should be the primary activity where change is stirred among the people as they take the message of the Triune God and incarnationally embody this message through service to the poor and the least. This is where the transformation will take place.

    Fourth, how will your communities view scripture? Will it hold the highest authority? If people come from different traditions who will decide which is “right?” If we agree to disagree, how will the church handle situations where those particular disagreements make their way into the life and practice of the church?

    These four “sections” of study will help us to know whether a small group is ready to really be the church.

  18. coldfire – nothing meant to be offensive by this – but WOW, that is really organized and structured and very very modern as an approach to examining these things. I bristle when I read things like that – -just my personal “thing” but I really resist that kind of numbered “this is what we need to examine and answer” approach.

    however, I know many modern pastors who would dig it and it could be a good approach as a bridge

  19. I can’t help but think of those places in scripture where God tells us not to make an image of Him. And when Moses asked Him what His name was He simply said “I am”.
    He knows us so well. He knows how hard it is for us not to make Him into a form. I believe He’s all about saving us from ourselves in this area because as soon as we get Him all figured out…we’re off :), distracted, and potentially capable of worshipping a god of our own making.
    I get the feeling that church is the same way.
    His Kingdom is as mysterious as His name and His church…being made of human beings…can’t be defined entirely.
    I can honestly say that what has troubled my heart most since I became a Christian is an unrelenting desire to define both God and Church… (I’m trying to change that)
    Defining…not ‘knowing’. To me these are two entirely different things.
    So for now, I’m chewing on the idea that God is too big, too wonderful, and too mysterious to have a name which embodies all that He is…and His church…well, that’s what Jesus calls us….

    Having said all that… I would venture to say that because ‘church’ is made of people…I would like to listen to Gods voice and make myself available to the people He calls me too.
    That might be ‘little’ church, or ‘big’ church. Either way, so long as in my heart and mind, I don’t get stuck in a form.

  20. Yes! Julie and Sarah – I very much agree with your comments about “being church.” And Deb, I think you are on to something very important when you say, “I would like to listen to Gods voice and make myself available to the people He calls me too.”

    I would go further to say that what protects us, in some sense, from what Coldfire is concerned about is our submission to the Body of Christ, the people, the community, which is where we discern the Spirit’s voice. I would probably define the community as larger than just those I sit and worship with each week. I would say our hermaneutical community needs to also include our brothers/sisters across time and space. But when we submit to one another in love and commitment to our calling as a Body, I trust that God will lead us in Truth. As far as Coldfire’s question of authority, I do believe there are those called to lead with particular pastoral gifts, however, my Anabaptist tradition would also recognize the priesthood of all Believers as far as ministering to one another and breaking Bread together.

  21. so i am new here and have not read too much of what is going on. but this i know, there is a difference between our cultural and religious traditions of church and the actual church (meaning the body of Christ). i’m not saying that all organized churches are bad or that even institutionalized churches are completely bad. God can even speak through these settings and meetings (shock! horror!). however, for me, meeting a couple of hours a week with a bunch of people i don’t know or have much interaction with is not super meaningful. however, i have been visiting a local church and i do enjoy the sermons for the most part. the times i really enjoy are hanging out in smaller groups with people either after the service or sometimes as some other formal “church” thing and sometimes just for dinner. or today, when i had a great talk with a coworker and she really encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. that is more of the body at work…the life of Christ. we need that as a lifestyle, not an event. anyway, i a babbling now. thanks for a place to vent and process a little more.

  22. Deb said, “because ‘church’ is made of people…I would like to listen to Gods voice and make myself available to the people He calls me to.” Right on! This is the living stones being fitted together through relationship (being built up in love) and I think that is a more fluid picture of the Body of Christ. My “church” has changed over time as I have come into seasons of working alongside certain ministries or individuals, and then the season changed, and I moved or got involved in different things, or met new people. I consider all of the believers I’ve ever had relationship with part of my “church.”

  23. Grace, I’m waiting for Viola’s answer to the question. He seems to have some experience with organic churches that work. All he’s done so far is bash the establishment and warn us about plunging ahead too fast into house churches. I think he was intentionally a little overboard on his criticism, but given our propensity for baggage, he’s trying to pry our sticky fingers off our uncritically held traditions. There’s nothing like a little shock therapy, especially if a lobotomy doesn’t work.

    Frank’s been hinting at what the organic church should look like but it we have to wait until the book comes out. I think a lot of the discussion your friends have engaged in today has elements of truth but frankly I’ve spent my life in systematic indoctrination so I need a well thought out book to move me. I can wish can’t I.

    I hope and suspect that the answer to a healthy functioning church is not in some rigid formula but in vibrant Christ centred (that’s Canuck for centered) transformed life that flows over and infects others without the heady power structures of modern christendom (dum?).

    Grace, a little while back you were suggesting that this blog might come to some kind of end. That would be sad unless it marked some kind of movement forward for you. When someone you know dies and goes to heaven, you wish they could come back and tell you what it is like. If you do move on and discover something more than our common malaise, please come back and tell us about it.

  24. This past weekend I had the pleasure of sitting in on a lecture by Jason Clark. Some of his thoughts seem to relate to this topic: here’s a bit of it from his blog – http://jasonclark.ws/2008/01/24/church-as-the-original-3rd-place/. Here’s a question he posed that I wonder about in regards to house church: “What if, as Bretherton argues, our historic christian witness is a communal space dedicated to God which deliberately causes disruption to our lives to attend? A space and a place designed to frustrate us, disrupt us, disorientate us and help us find a new centre and reality upon which to do life together?”

    Also, Graham Cooke’s “Permission Granted” talks about group sizes and their purposes within the church functionality – very helpful.

  25. I have not read through any of the other comments due to the hour of the night, but I am a part of a house Church of sorts. We don’t call it a house Church, in fact we don’t have a name for it at all other than “Monday nights”. We (6-12 of us) have been progressing through a time of vulnerability and openness, that has brought a really exciting bond of brother/sisterhood. Now we’re in a position of trust with each other, that we are expressing the desires of our hearts, and we’re all helping each other in achieving those. Interestingly enough, every single thing we’re working together on, every desire people have expressed, is to reach OUT of our group and go after the poor and outcast in darn practical ways. But not to invent the wheel, we have all decided to find others already doing these things first and come alongside them and support them however we can. In my 20 years of faith, I have never, never, never seen anything so close as to what my definition of a real true functioning fellowship should be. I have stopped going to Sunday Church, it simply pales in comparison.

    Oh, and I must mention this. This last Monday, I was sick, and one other guy was on the other side of country. So we setup up a laptop with Skype, put it in the center of the group, and it was just AMAZING. Everyone could talk and we on Skype could hear them, and when we spoke, they heard us. Try doing THAT in your Sunday service!

  26. Viola’s experienced Ekklesia – and once you experience that – like Israel (above) – you just can’t go back to the institution where that is totally missing. It’s kind of like watching “Lassie” reruns after watchng Born Ultimatum or something – just not much action.

    I got in this whole thing because I was trying to figure out the pattern for the move of God in the meetings we were in. We started doing cell groups in 1991. Cells can be extremely hierarchical in nature. What I came to conclude was that – the vast majority of the times that God moved in a noticable, tangible way – was when the leader was absent – and particularly when another (defacto) leader had not been appointed.

    When the groups were “headless” they more often than not navigated away from “teaching” and “pre-established” agendas – and moved more toward the scriptural “one-anothers”. Instead of “the head” becoming the caregiver, teacher, or administrator – the group took on those roles. Much to my amazement – when I was the leader – it was as dead as when anyone else was the leader (imagine that!)

    By about 2000 – we were purposefully conducting “headless” meetings – and it didn’t matter a whole lot how you got into it – singing – a short revelation – eating together – whatever – as long as everyone there got involved in the meeting – it was (more often than not) very rewarding – even some of them were miraculous. I can tell story after story of the miraculous.

    Our struggle for that last few years – and this is invariably are frustration – is that someone always wants to come in, subtly proclaim themselves (or their agenda) as “the” highly anointed one or the “way to go” – and derail the whole thing into following them or their agenda. It always scatters a group. We’ve almost concluded that we really do need authority structures (or to perform frontol labotomies) just to stop type A personalities (pastors) from coming in and taking over.

  27. p.s. When you cut off the true head (Christ) – the body is about 20 seconds away from being dead.

    When someone else assumes the “head” role – they are cutting off the true head.

  28. Jerry, how do you start this kind of thing without becoming the head and without bringing in your own spiritual baggage?

  29. David,

    Most of the way we did it was – we were leaders (elders) in a local church, we had cells, and all we did was cut the head off the meeting. Eventually – this won us the left foot of fellowship from authoritarian leadership.

    Outside of that type of setting – we’re still trying to figure that out too. Many “house churchers” are fiercely independent and tend to be type-A personalities themselves. “Independence” is probably your #1 enemy. The reality is you “need” the person sitting next to you – and you need that person to function in their God given abilites. Most people don’t really believe that – especially in the U.S.

  30. I tend to agree that:

    “Often our small groups in our houses are run like mini-churches, aren’t they?”

    It is probably because of bad teaching and role-modeling about small groups.. also due to the perfomance orientation of small group leaders.

  31. Yeah, there’s one guy in our group that has ben in ministry a 5-6 years on college campus, and he occasionally assumes this “Pastor” role and leading us all. It has not been so bad that I have felt a need to talk to him about it, because he often talks about his experiences and how he does not want to “lead” the group like he has seen others do. It’s clear he does not realize what he’s doing. If I told him what he’s doing, I think it would hurt him a little, because I know it’s the last thing he wants to do. It’s not a problem. Grace…

  32. I think that these quotes are head on for a lot of the house churches. However, I do not think it is the case will all just like it is not the case for all large churches.

    I think tht many home churches spring out of people being frustrated with the “larger local church” and with good reason and the baggage carries over, no matter how hard they try.

    We, as individuals and as churches; however they are defined, really need to get back to the baiscs.

    My concern though is that we are so far removed from being what we were intended for, I am not sure if we really know what we are here for.

    We are in the midst of a paradox.

  33. While Frank Viola has many good things to say and has helped start some good conversations, it is important to understand the context of Frank’s comment quoted here. Frank believes that there is a biblical model for planting of house churches. That biblical model, as he sees it, is for a planter to spend time with the group wanting to plant a house church. It is his view that Paul, Silas, Barnabas, were such planters. He also believes he is one of those in modern times.

    So, if a house church is not properly planted it will not look and be like a first century church. It needs an itinerant planter to be successful.

    One may, or may not, agree with this, but it is the context from which he makes such a comment.

    BTW, I do not concur with his thinking on this. I believe gatherings of followers of Jesus can arise naturally and have no leader except King Jesus. As a number of pointed out here the problem is largely one of the heart and the brain. May Father renew both so we can be the ekklesia today

  34. “What if, as Bretherton argues, our historic christian witness is a communal space dedicated to God which deliberately causes disruption to our lives to attend? A space and a place designed to frustrate us, disrupt us, disorientate us and help us find a new centre and reality upon which to do life together?”

    thank you fellow Oregonian, AJ! this is exactly my experience at the local church my family landed in a couple of years ago, The Bridge, a place that I describe as being more like a tavern than a church!

    (fascinating conversation, but nobody has said a word yet about food and hospitality! i experience church every time i sit at a table with friends or strangers and share life. and, btw, thai curry at my house tomorrow night. consider yourselves invited….)

  35. Pam, yes! Thanks for bringing that up. That’s my favorite part about the rag-tag group of believers I’m currently engaged with. Food and shared meals is really important to us. And it’s where real fellowship takes place: gathering around the table together.

  36. Julie,
    Good point. I think sometimes the house church meeting can become silly when we try to reproduce the big-church production on a smaller scale instead of allowing the meeting to be something completely different and authentic to the group that is gathered.

    sarah and eric,
    There is an underlying question of at what point our gathering is “legitimate” for what can be considered being the church together. What are the necessary elements?

    I think that it is very ingrained in our thinking to first have a service (or gathering) and that mission flows out of that. However if we start with mission, as you said, we would see organic church grow in that soil.

    coldfire,
    I think that missional service is transformational and a necessary part of formation and discipleship. Interesting that we use the same word “service” for mission and gathering.

    deb,
    Awesome thoughts. I think that sometimes the distraction with methods and models allows us to avoid real relationship both with God and with one another.

    dawn,
    I loved your statement about defining the community or the body as more than those we gather with or worship with.

    davida,
    It’s nice to meet you. I think it’s good to have an awareness of the fellowship and encouragement of the body in situations beyond the church service. I pray that God continues to give us a greater discernment of His Body.

    david,
    I think that Frank would agree with your definition of organic church life as a “vibrant Christ centred transformed life that flows over and infects others.” Sounds so ideal, doesn’t it?

    AJ,
    Great to see you! I think that Graham’s ideas were important in realizing that not every kind of meeting is intended for the same purpose or function.

    Israel,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you are experiencing this fulfilling time of fellowship and church.

    jerry,
    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing your experience too. I can see that maintaining a “headless” ethos in a meeting could be difficult. There are so many personalities that are ready to step into the void and take charge.

    kansasbob,
    I agree. There is also the assumption that they really are supposed to be mini-churches.

    jeff,
    Yep, sometimes I think that all we understand is our baggage. It’s so familiar.

    traveller,
    Interesting. That is a good and fair explanation of Frank’s view. I also question the need for an itinerant church planter. I can see the usefulness of outside input, however I’m not sure that I would elevate that to a necessary requirement for a church to develop. I share your prayer that God would continue to renew our hearts and minds.

    Pam, Sarah, and Eric,
    So true. Is gathering around the table enough? Can we trust that life, transformation, and discipleship will flow out of that?

  37. Grace, your question to Pam, Sarah and Eric is a very good one: “Is gathering around the table enough? Can we trust that life, transformation, and discipleship will flow out of that?” Over time I have become convinced that it can but this looks very different from what most of us have previously experienced so it is often hard to see when there is no formula, no static structure, no programs, no “leaders”, etc.

    As the transition from institutional to less institutional it is questions of this type that will become more important. Will the ekklesia be able to see a practical implementation of these around the table? Or, will the ekklesia fall back on old patterns?

  38. Grace and traveller,

    I think it can be done, that is discipleship being life, being done around the table and as we live and walk together. I do think it has to be intentional, at least in the beginning, or we run the risk of falling back into old patterns of needing a service to feel legitimate. In other words, I need to keep reminding myself that discipleship is relational and relationships take time and the more time we spend together, both at the table and out in the world, the more we look like Jesus…

  39. Good conversation.

    As Traveler has pointed out, it is important to understand Viola’s context. “House church” and “the organic expression of the church,” may be two different critters. How did Viola say it in Bro. Maynard’s interview? (found it…)

    Meeting in a home doesn’t make a group of Christians a church anymore than meeting in a donut shop makes them police officers. (No offense to police officers. Sorry cousin Joey!) I trust you get my point. There’s nothing magical about meeting in a home. That’s not the issue.

    As Jerry has aptly pointed out, if we really want to be an expression of the Kingdom then our ekklesia meetings will need to be lead by our only legitimate Head–and for us that will take a lot of re-educating.

    And, yes Pam, practicing meal hospitality is an excellent place to start!!

    Tom

  40. traveller,
    It’s just great to be able to ask these questions around people who don’t think you’re crazy.

    jeanette,
    I agree with Frank about many things and have learned and been encouraged by his writing. The article you linked is the one I have the most trouble with. I have read it several times in the past, but for now, I’ve set it aside.

    eric,
    There is an element of intentionality needed in all of our relationships, even in our immediate family. If we don’t schedule a date night with our spouse it doesn’t happen. If we don’t stop what we’re busy with to spend time with our kids, it doesn’t happen. There is plenty that happens “along the way”, but being aware to make time for fun and fellowship is important.

    tom,
    It has been a great conversation thanks to all the insightful comments. Re-educating ourselves and thinking about church outside of the context of meetings and services is difficult. Maybe there is a time and place for that kind of gathering also, but we are so dependent on that format, that we sometimes don’t learn how to function apart from it.

    I thought that Roger’s article was excellent, which is why I put it on my sidebar, listed it in my Sunday links, and quoted it twice in the past week. ;)

  41. Ah, Grace, I like being crazy! There is so much pleasure in it. But I certainly understand your point…..how I pray we could learn to just be on the journey together, watching Father work in our lives without condemning every small, or not so small, variance in thinking. Unity of relationship is not the same as conformity of opinion.

    Eric, I believe it can happen as well. Sometimes it is not easy but who ever said life was easy?

    Jeanette, thanks for the link. I agree Frank does not state this as a requirement in his formal writings and interviews but in private conversations he comes on pretty strong about needing a planter, at least in my experience with him.

  42. traveller,
    This has been a great thread. The discussion has been really helpful to me. I look forward to your input on my latest post.

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