Now, if your friend can take your notes on the back of that napkin and with the help of the Holy Spirit, do what you do, congratulations! You have a simple enough ministry to reproduce.
If you can’t write out everything your friend will need on that napkin, go back and simplify things. You might be making followers of Jesus, but they may not be able to pass on the complicated strategy that you have. This is why you don’t see seminaries popping up all over the place or Christian Television Stations multiplying. They’re too complicated.
Simple is reproducible. Reproducible spreads. If you want to see the Gospel spread, make sure you can explain how on the back of a napkin.
So a month or so back I went on a little Tweetstorm about how Christians use the word “movement.” Looking back, I think I probably should have blogged those thoughts. But that’s the beauty of Twitter, right? Regardless, for those who missed it, I thought I would post the tweets in succession so my readers can think through these same ideas. Let me know your thoughts!
It’s a conversation that happens in house church circles and between those with some experience with house churches and the house church-curious. “What books on house churches would you reccommend?” The conversation then turns to what people have read and what people haven’t, the strengths of one approach over another, etc.
I originally started this post just as a resource to give people a jump start on their understanding of house churches. But as I began writing about the books that have been meaningful to me, I found that the books I was recommending were different than where most people start the conversation. You’ll notice that this is a global list, three of the five authors aren’t Americans and two of the five don’t speak English as their primary language. What I love about that, is while these books are applicable to our context, they allow us to sit at the feet of others who aren’t trapped by our particular world-view. They allow us to look at church and Scripture through a different lens than we do here in America. And I think that that is helpful.
So, submitted for your approval and in no particular order, the five best books on house churches are:
This was the original house church book for me. A leader I respected in the church we were part of said “If you want to understand what God is doing in our midst, you have to read ‘Houses that Change the World.'” I picked it up. I didn’t like it. I wrestled with every idea in the book. Eventually it pinned me. It begins with Wolfgang’s 15 Theses (worth the price of the book, btw) that challenge the state of the current church and then moves to a sweeping vision of why and how we do church in homes. What I love about Houses is that it’s written by a German who saw God raise up a multiplying network of house churches in India. It’s truly a global, apostolic book that challenges “Church As We Know It.” If you check out one book on this list, this is the one I recommend.
Neil Cole, founder of CMA Resources and Awakening Chapel, has written a book about organic churches that is extremely helpful. He tells the stories of his early days starting Awakening Chapel and the journey the Lord has taken him on multiplying disciples and churches throughout the world. Organic Church is extremely helpful because it places a heavy emphasis on the power of Jesus in the life of believers as the driving force in organic house churches. Many of the principles are based on church multiplication principles that originated in other countries like India and China, but are fleshed out in an American context. If you want to know what the multiplication of churches looks like in America, this is a great place to start. (Also, not exactly about house churches, but a great help in understanding context is Ordinary Hero and Church 3.0., also by Neil Cole.)
Viral Jesus by Ross Rodhe
Long-time readers of the blog may recognize Viral Jesus because I reviewed this book several years ago and gave a copy of the book away. This book is an absolutely fantastic invitation into a lifestyle centered around the mission of Jesus, especially how he describes it in Luke 10. Ross shares multiple stories about planting house churches in a Western context. All of these stories have Ross or one of his friends following Luke 10 and sharing the Gospel with men and women of peace. Miracles happen, people come to Jesus, and new organic house churches are started as a result. I highly recommend this book because of its strong emphasis on the church growing through apostolic mission.
The Global House Church Movement by Rad Zdero
This may be the book most unfamiliar to my readers, but it is a gem. Zdero crammed a ton of good theology and practice into a short space, which makes for page after page of profound insights. This book was foundational to me at a time when I was beginning to think about planting my first house church and answers questions with wisdom I haven’t seen anywhere else. The real asset of this book is its global perspective. It’s not limited by our normal western grievances with “Church As We Know It,” but really pulls the reader into an understanding of what God has done and is doing around the world. If you’re looking to plant a Kingdom house church and not just an Americanized-version of house church, this is a great book to pick up.
The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway
Okay, so this one is not technically a house church book, but I included it because it captures the heart of what I believe the house church movement could and should become. It’s the story of Brother Yun, a Chinese leader in the underground house church movement. It’s basically his testimony of following Jesus, preaching the Gospel, starting churches, and enduring persecution. All of this happens in the context of churches that meet in homes and send out others to do the same. The book is simultaneously filled with miracles and heartbreak. You will be inspired by the stories of believers who have sacrificed much to follow Jesus and challenged to see your church embrace many of the realities described here. While this book was the Christian Book of the Year in 2003, many people read it as an inspiring story and not as a life to imitate. Don’t make the same mistake!
You’ll probably realize that I left some notable titles off. Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and The Rabbit and the Elephant are just a few. Some of these I haven’t read and others are good books, but much of their content will be found in these books as well. No matter what our jumping on point is, moving towards a more organic, missional, apostolic form of church that results in Christ-formed followers is the goal.
Now, what about you? Which books have been helpful in your journey towards an organic, missional, apostolic church?
Note: The links to these books are part of my Amazon Store. While my opinions are mine and offered freely, I do stand to benefit from the purchase of these books through these links.
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.
This week marks the return of me to blogging after letting that part of my life slide for a few weeks. I’ve had a chance to hang out with some of the coolest people who aren’t part of our house church recently. However that time spent has taken me away from writing, so I’m going to try and get back in the swing of things. This post represents the best posts from the last few weeks. Enjoy!
I think that Jesus is most frequently the part of community that we leave out when we begin to discect a Christian community. Alan writes about Jesus’ centrality in a way that makes his whole discussions on the elements of a church more palatable than most similar discussions.
One of the things that gets left out of most discussions about discipleship is the necessity of being able to make other disciples. Here Ray writes about the paradox of following Jesus and leading others into following Him.
One of the shifts that I’ve seen help people move from a static church mindset into a movement mindset is discovering the spirit of multiplication that the apostles walked in. Here J.D. talks about how that happens with a group people who currently have no vision for reproducing churches.
One of the common misconceptions in the body of Christ is that house churches in the third world are effective because persecution happening around them fuels evangelism and discipleship. Actually persecution causes the church to return to her organic roots and when she does that, she spreads quickly and naturally.
With the house church movement in the United States as new as it is, little has been written about what mature house church networks look like. This post has an incredible visual that says volumes about how a network of house churches can function interdependently.
Simple Church Europe just released its findings of its latest survey. The survey is an attempt by the leaders of the organization to uncover meaningful trends in the house church movement in Europe. You can get the full survey by following by jumping to their website here.
I won’t quote much of the 21 page report because, though it won’t cost you any money, Simple Church Europe does want you to download the report straight from their site. It’s important to look at their conclusions because the United States is quickly becoming a post-Christian nation, much like Europe. Their findings will greatly help us in the future.
The report actually breaks down three types of house church networks that exist in Europe:
- (a) Apostolic networks: simple church groups started by an apostolic worker ‘straight in the harvest’, mostly along the lines of the instructions Jesus gave his disciples in Luke 10 (planting a new simple church group in a household/social circle instead of inviting people to an existing church meeting). These networks are primarily made up of new believers who just heard about Jesus, are being discipled, and win others to plant new groups.
- (b) Bridge networks: simple church groups made up of existing Christians who intentionally seek to be ‘missional’. They try to build relationships with non-believers, often using conventional forms of evangelism and a ‘come to us’ approach.
- (c) Christian networks: simple church groups formed by existing Christians who mainly seek a more relational and participatory alternative for conventional church. These groups tend to be inward-focused and sometimes reactionary: seeing their way of church as more biblical and healthy than the churches they come from.”
Not surprisingly, apostolic networks grew at a faster rate than Bridge networks and Christian Networks (which as best as I can determine are more like small groups that have a larger meeting once a week). Apostolic networks see house church groups dissolve at a slightly higher rate as well. The most encouraging finding, however, is that apostolic networks see the highest number of conversions among people from previously non-Christian backgrounds.
What this points to is that fact that Luke 10-style church planting (Person of Peace, building on relationships around that person of peace, etc.) is both risky and incredibly rewarding for the Kingdom. Not surprisingly, the authors of the study suggest that bridge networks and Christian networks learn from the apostolic networks in a way that causes Kingdom expansion.
What does that mean for us? No research of this kind has been done in the United States, but these stories seem familiar from what I’ve seen in the house church movement in the United states. All three types of networks exist here and are growing. The major difference between our context and Europe is Europe’s population is much more secular than ours.
I think one of the major points this report emphasizes is the need to learn from apostolic workers who are building house church networks accoridng to the Luke 10 principle. Everywhere I see significant Kingdom expansion happening in the house church movement, this seems to be the model.
I think this report also highlights the tendency of churches that are not started out of the harvest to draw on already existing relationships with believers or those with a Christian background to fill our churches. We definitely want a place for everyone to belong and be equipped. But if our concern is for the harvest then those starting house churches among primarily Christians (myself included) need to adjust our models and strategies for church planting in the future. We want to avoid doing ministry that only attracts Christians and focus on those activities that are bringing lost individuals to Jesus.
This also highlights a great need however in the house church-community-at-large. That need is for those with apostolic and evangelistic giftings to seriously consider training and equipping others. Without more apostolic and evangelistic giftings functioning in and training our house churches, we will continue to draw people but we may not impact the Kingdom significantly. This will also require a significant amount of humility on the part of existing house churches, because until now many house churches have been reluctant to accept this kind of help.
I would love to know what you think. Does this survey reflect your experience with house churches in the United States? If you are participating in a non-apostolic house church network, are there changes that need to be made to grow in apostolic methods? What are the hindrances to that? Jump to the survey here, read it, and come back and let me know your thoughts.
If you’re looking for more information on the house church movement in the United States you can check out my previous post on house church stats here or pick up the book Missional House Churches, by J.D. Payne (Amazon Affiliate Link).
Tonight I was on the phone with one of my good friends from Kansas City that I haven’t had a chance to chat with in a while. I was describing some of the wins we are experiencing and some of the challenges that are occurring at the same time. After two or three minutes, my friend gently broke into the conversation and challenged me. “You know what you should be spending your time doing right now is developing leaders for your third and fourth house church right now, right?”
I was dumbfounded (for a couple of reasons). I was shocked by how quickly he saw straight into the heart of some of the problems I’ve been facing. But more than that, I was shocked at how obvious what he was saying was and how clearly I had missed that fact. It seems that in preparing a church for the harvest, I had totally neglected leadership development in our midst.
But the conversation gets right to the heart of a problem that I believe we face in the West. Our ability to reach further into the harvest depends significantly on our ability to raise up new, harvest-minded leaders in our midst. We think finding the harvest is our biggest issue. We often forget that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Join me today in praying that God would raise up workers for His harvest here and where you are.
“Jesus lives on in an apostolic mission that advances by church multiplication.” – Wolfgang Simson
If you’re familiar with the New Testament, you know Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke as a historical account of Jesus before, during, and immediately after the cross. What some don’t realize is the book of Acts is Luke’s historical account of the resurrected Jesus’ activity as He leads and guides the church into the very activities that characterized His ministry on Earth (cf. John 14:12-14, Acts 1:1-3). The heart of the matter is this: Jesus’ post resurrection ministry was lived out through the church in the book of Acts in the form of a multiplying church movement.
Let’s look at some quick facts. The Church Jesus left was insubstantial compared to the crowds who had followed Him before His death. Paul speaks of Christ appearing to 500 people after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Since this is the highest number of post-resurrection numbers spoken of and Paul refers to these men as brothers, my assumption is they were the lump some of Jesus’ followers. Yet, by the early third century, this relatively obscure band of five hundred had become somewhere between 5 and 10% of the Roman Empire and up to 30% of some major cities.
The book of Acts records the harvest in language that should both stun us and move us to action. When Peter preaches at Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, a massive harvest of 3,000 new believers come to the Lord. Luke describes it this way: and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41). This continued on for a season in the life of the early church (Acts 2:47, 5:14) and the results were significant growth that all of us would love to have.
However, eventually the church began to feel the burden of it’s growth. The result was a decision to multiply leadership beyond the apostles to the men we refer to as deacons in Acts 6. When this multiplication of ministry happened, a small but significant shift occurs in Luke’s story. Instead of the church having new members added to them, the church begins to multiply (Acts 6:7). The church didn’t just multiply one time. It multiplied several times (Acts 9:31, 12:24)
This is more than just semantics. The shift in language represents the fact that instead of just a few people doing much of the work, many people were embracing the mission of God. See, addition works like this: 2+2+2+2+2+2=12. Multiplication works like this: 2x2x2x2x2x2=64. The more multiplication you have happening the bigger the results. This is why Paul would tell Timothy to take what he had taught him and teach it to faithful men who would teach it to other faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2). It was a God-sized idea to expand the Kingdom.
And you couldn’t stop this multiplying church. Its multiplication made it hard to know where it started or ended. Before you knew it, this little group of Jesus followers became a multitude that had no visible leader. You could kill one of the leaders, but another would rise in its place. It’s why human’s hate viruses: they multiply out of control. This is what allowed the first century church to reach an unprecedented amount of people in such a short period of time.
Beloved we find ourselves in a season of history where we must recapture the spirit of evangelism and multiplication that gripped the early church. This isn’t a call to return to only first century practices, but to capture those elements that made them vital and caused the Gospel to spread like a virus throughout earth. Jesus is worthy of His name going forth and redeeming many in this hour. May we, like them, be consumed for His name’s sake and see the church multiply in the Earth.