Why We Decided To Meet With Believers Before They Joined Our House Church

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A few years into our journey as a house church, I started to notice that the idea of house churches was intriguing to other believers that were part of a traditional congregation. We’d have existing believers join our house church for a short season, only to disappear without explanation. And because of our presence on Facebook or a mutual relationship in our city, from time to time we’d have people we’d never met wanting to join our church.

So after this happened a few times, we began to re-evaluate how we invited already existing believers into our context. Prior to this point, whoever wanted to come just came. But it became fairly obvious that just letting whoever wanted to show up come was unhelpful to both our existing house church and to the people wanting to come.

Why? It boiled down to relationship. In contrast to a traditional, larger congregation our house church was being built on relationship.  It was increasingly odd the deeper those connections became to have someone most or all of us had never met plop down in the middle of our house church and expect them to connect immediately the way everyone else did.

Also, many of our friends from traditional churches were coming from a church that was built around meetings, not relationships. Because of this, they would come for the meeting and leave as soon as the meeting was over. Often we wouldn’t see them until the next gathering of the church.  And after awhile, it became clear that we weren’t helping those joining us, either.

So, the next time that someone asked to join our house church, instead of giving them our address and next meeting time, we began to invite them over (or out) for lunch or coffee. We’d hear their story. We’d share ours. Sometimes these meetings became a time to share the gospel with people, like the time a Muslim woman began asking to join us. Other times, these meetings became a chance to encourage existing believers to start house churches of their own.  And what we began to realize is that relationship wasn’t just what our churches were built on, they actually needed to become the doorway into our churches as well.

Making this change helped everyone. Those who chose to join us after meeting with someone from our house church inevitably understood a bit better why we were meeting as a house church and they joined having already built the beginning of a relationship with others in our midst. It was a win for everyone.

There were also some other benefits to this, which I’ll explain a bit more on tomorrow…

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

6 responses to “Why We Decided To Meet With Believers Before They Joined Our House Church”

  1. gunnarlarmstrong says :

    I understand the problem you are faced with. And I appreciate you sharing how you have tried to resolve this problem in a prayerful and sensitive manner. A house church is smaller by design to facilitate spiritual growth through relationships. A traditional church can always fit in more people — even if they don’t participate, they can at least give some money or make the attendance rolls larger. But if your goal is spiritual growth, and if spiritual growth comes through relationship (discipleship the way Jesus did it was focused on relationship), and if your living room only seats 20, you will have difficulty if a large percentage of those people have no interest in relationship and view attending a meeting as the way a person grows spiritually.

    But I, personally, don’t see that prescreening people is the way to go. Immature Christians, who have never been taught that God calls us to relationship, and new Christians are really in the same boat. People need to be drawn into the deeper things of the Kingdom. I think the better route would be to invite them in and offer them relationships and discipleship (which I view as one and the same). Some people, new Christians or immature Christians, will leave abruptly. Some people, new Christians or immature Christians, will decide that they don’t want to grow or be discipled — and I think most of these will choose to leave when they realize that they don’t want what Jesus has called them too. But, I think, there are those who won’t realize the value of what can be found in a house church until they have had a chance to taste it and see that it is good. Consequently, I would rather invite them in than prescreen them. But, if screening has worked well for your house church, and you have seen good fruit from it, I am glad about that. And you probably have more experience with these situations than I have.

    • traviskolder says :

      Gunnar

      Thanks for your time and your thoughts. I always look forward to your comments.

      I guess the one thing I would disagree with you about is the word “pre-screening.” We’re not trying to necessarily evaluate whether someone is worthy of joining us or not as much as we’re trying to build a relationship so that their joining us is relational, not meeting based. Eventually that means they need to come to the meeting, sure. But so often what brings people to a group is what keeps them there and I would rather have people be a part of what God is doing because they love Him and have a relationship than just to be a part of a meeting. Frankly the main question I’m often asked about is how the meetings work…betraying a lot of emphasis in everyone’s mind that the meeting is so important.

      I’m not saying this is a model for everyone. It’s worked for us. It could work for others in the right environment. But my point was that we all need help in understanding what is truly the main reason God calls us together as a people…and this has worked for us.

      From your comments, it sounds as if you are part of some type of organic house church. How have things worked for you?

      • gunnarlarmstrong says :

        Travis:

        I will get back to you about your question, because I do want to answer it. But I have another question about what you do. Do you just meet with a believer once before inviting them to your “meeting” or do you meet several times, developing a relationship?

        By the way, I find that fascinating, what you wrote about people asking about how the meeting is run, “betraying a lot of emphasis in everyone’s mind that the meeting is so important.” I know that I would ask about how the meeting is run, too. But, at the same time, I have always felt that scheduled “meetings” weren’t really necessary if people were regularly getting together and worshipping together and speaking the word of God to each other. It seems that it should be hard to separate us, but instead it is hard to get us together. I have never seen a group of people, in a house church or not, who prioritized spending time together unless they were at a regularly scheduled meeting. But I think you can’t really have relationship and discipleship unless you are willing to spend time together, and use that time to speak the Word of God to each other in teachings and in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”. I also think that evangelism can best work when we are walking together in love and unity.

        And I guess that leads into your question to me. In the house churches I have attended it seems that the understanding of walking in relationship is an area where there could be growth. It is a burden in my and my wife’s heart, so we have sought to take advantage of the time that the Lord has given us to encourage the growth of deeper relationships and commitment within the house church. I guess established Christians need to grow in this. And, if the Lord brings in non-believers, how much more will they need to discipled in the area of relationship.

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