One of the most common criticisms of “house churches” is that they tend to be isolated. It is not good to be alone—that’s just as true for churches as it is for men (Genesis 2:18).
In the New Testament we don’t see isolated churches. We do see simple churches meeting in homes, but they were all part of a complex network of churches (e.g., Romans 16; 1 Corinthians 16; Colossians 4).
So, our vision is to plant neighborhood churches that are not only a “family of families,” but also part of a “church of churches”—a continually expanding network organized and strengthened by real structure and authority.
What will it take for this vision to become a reality?
- In the early church, it was the work of the Holy Spirit that made everything work. So, first and foremost we must all be praying that God would work through us in our time as well.
- The structure of our leadership is vital—with some leaders focused on shepherding individual churches and some focused on planting new ones. We see this all over the New Testament. For example, Paul and Barnabas—the key leaders in the Church of Antioch—left that church in the care of other leaders while they went out to plant more churches. Think also of Timothy. He led the church of Ephesus for a while, but was not the pastor. He was sent there by Paul to help strengthen the church by appointing new elders, then was given a new assignment. This was true of Titus and other leaders as well. Some stayed. Some were sent.
- The one-mindedness of our leadership is also crucial—remember that one of the qualities of the church at Philippi that Paul praised was their one-mindedness in the progress of the gospel (Philippians 1:27; 2:2; see also Acts 1:14; 2:46; 15:25; Romans 12:16; 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11). This is why we are utilizing BILD International’s Antioch School. The four foundational courses—Acts, Pauline Epistles, Leaders and Essentials of Sound Doctrine—will help us build that one-mindedness regarding the local church’s role in the progress of the gospel.
- In fact, one-mindedness is important for all of us—not just leaders. This is one reason why we are encouraging everyone to work their way through The First Principles courses. These will not only help establish individuals and families in the faith, but will help us all to be one-minded in our approach to discipleship and the priorities of the Christian life.
- The vision will also require a lot of hospitality. Families will need to think of their homes as mission centers. Whether you host a church or not, opening your home to extended family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and even strangers is the most natural way to let them see you living out the distinctive life of a follower of Christ. Perhaps one invitation to share a meal will lead to a regular time together that will lead to a Bible study that will lead to a church plant.
Can you picture it? A church of churches? A church in every neighborhood in Lawrence? A network that then reaches into Eudora? Baldwin City? LeCompton? Someday into Topeka? Wichita? Kansas City? In fact, through our partnership with BILD International, we have the opportunity to participate in a “network of networks” both in the United States and in other parts of the world.
Of course, this will require us to think very differently about the church, our personal growth, our leadership and our priorities. Basically, it will require a lot of hard work. But Christ was clear that following Him was not easy—though it is infinitely important and rewarding.