Category Archives: church planting

For a small fee…

You, yes you, for a small fee can franchise a house church network…

If the mega-church is a failed model, then what is a better option? Recently the house church network (not affiliated with, thank you)  has become the new solution. Small groups trained on discipleship which are loosely connected into a church network are cropping up all over America. Ministries like the British company 3DM will virtually franchise you a house church network for around $10,000. Boasting high success rates, coaching, and curriculum, 3DM will teach you everything you need to know about how to start your own house church network. However, undergirding the house church movement are the very same assumptions which fund the mega-church model — only this time it isn’t Applebees, but the boutique restaurant which they are peddling. The house church network is the boutique mega-church model.

China – Not Your Daddy’s House Church

Is it not fascinating to see what now passes for a “house church” according to this short CNN video?

Such a thing doesn’t disturb me though as I am not of the “house church only” school of thought.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The one Lord is more interested in hearts than in locations, I do believe.

Can you believe that I once lived in the same town as Franklin Graham? But I don’t remember much about Montreat as we moved from Western NC when I was about 3 years old.

Large Churches Looking to Small Groups

Traditional churches have taken note of the growing desire for more simple ways to worship.

“Every large church I know is looking for ways to get small, to provide intimacy that may be missing,” says Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at the 500-member University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., and co-author of Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.

Many of these small groups are actually called house churches, btw. I have a feeling that as much small grouping is happening among them as us. And yes, I may be wrong. God knows.

Regardless of the name, number, or terminology, let every man, woman, and child in every place join in prayer and in praise to the name of our Lord Jesus, the Christ.

House Churches Unlimited

Free ebook!

This book addresses the dangers and delights of the house church format. It covers support and accountability, advantages and disadvantages, leadership and mentoring issues, worship and sacramental needs, conflict resolution and preaching, starting and multiplying house churches.

This work originally appeared in a book titled “House Churches Unlimited” by I. G. Spong in 1998. This is an updated version.

Pagan Christianity? Hope or Hype?

Pagan Christianity? is a win-win for the “co-authors” and the “co-author’s publisher. A well known pollster discovers a book written several years ago by a lessor known, touches it up, and uses his name to promote it. Ultimately though, all of us win whenever truth is revealed, errors are exposed, and the church is brought closer to her Lord and to each other.

In actuality, George Barna and Frank Viola team up in PC? to inform us how to meet, where to meet, how to sit, how to dress, how to speak, how to sing, when to speak and sing, how to read the Bible in the proper order, how to discover Paganism under every stone – in the church bulletin, the windows, and even in the carpet – how to finally get it right in a world where everyone else got it wrong. If this book represents the house church movement then it has chosen to go negative.

One almost gets the idea that church meeting/leadership structure is the beginning, middle, and end of the faith. So much so that if outward things aren’t configured accordingly – “God’s eternal purpose is defeated” and it becomes your privilege and obligation to pack up, per the “Final Challenge” section.

In summary, small groups are vastly superior to large ones and those outside the institutional churches now possess the higher moral ground and the deeper Christian life.

The book’s perspective is that Jesus, rather than making good on his promise to build and guide his church despite the gates of Hell, somehow long ago lost control, became dependent upon humans, is now lonely, hands tied, looking for freedom, romance, and a place to go. In contrast to that sickly figure is the apostolic proclamation of Jesus – now exalted, reigning, the self-sustaining King who stands in need of no one, no thing, ruling and over-ruling in all things which come to pass above and below, adding to his church daily, his word not returning to him without effect, seeing the former travail of his soul and being satisfied, always in the midst of those gathered in his name. Neither is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Acts 17:25.

The authors point the reader to an impotent Jesus one would rather pity than worship and serve: “The Protestant order of worship strangles the Headship of Jesus Christ. …. Where is the freedom for our Lord Jesus to speak through His Body at will? … Jesus Christ has no freedom to express Himself through His Body at His discretion. He is held captive by our liturgy! He too is rendered a passive spectator!” page 68.

False dichotomies, strained analogies, historical distortions, private interpretations occur throughout but valid points also abound. The readers’s challenge is sorting it out… Most chapters leave the reader in a state of reasonable doubt, to muse: “So what?” , “Yea, but…”

PC is truly an in-your-face book with an in your face cover containing an in-your-face message. The father’s have truly eaten the sour grapes this time and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Heading off the grape list – I mean the gripe list are:

Pastors who interfere with, subvert and usurp the headship of Jesus That’s apparently ‘pastors’ as in all pastors. Now why must this be when it is Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, is the very one who has appointed and ordained shepherds in his church? 1 Peter 5, Acts 20. Jesus and pastors are not competitively opposed but complementary in purpose. True, there are bad eggs out there just as was forewarned. No surprise.

An overseer/pastor/elder is required to be a teacher. Scripture is clear that all Christians are not teachers and that pastor/teachers are God’s special gifts to his church. No doubt there exist pastors who are domineering but most would be delighted to see others engaged in ministry. It is likewise true that for every controlling pastor there are countless lazy “laymen,” not looking to get involved – certainly not being suppressed. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Meetings in which everyone participates Viola, the real author of the book, must be unaware that most churches offer participatory and interactive Sunday School classes where spontaneous and vigorous dialogue is invited and all are encouraged to say their peace. Not to mention home meetings which lately have been adopted by churches of all varieties. Add congregational singing, special music – solos, duets, etc, responsive readings, church suppers, the Lord’s Supper, prayer meetings, picnics, and just hanging around in the parking lot or lobby. Sounds rather ‘participatory’ to me. I’ve been there and I was not a “passive observer.” Who is to suggest that these participants are not seeking the glory and fullness of Jesus Christ in these activities?

The priesthood of all believers, contrary to the unrelenting drumbeat of the author(s) is not associated with participation in Christian gatherings or the lack of such participation – it’s about an all-inclusive lifestyle of direct access to God. Furthermore, “Jesus-led meetings” or “meeting under the headship of Jesus” are also unknown to the scriptures because every aspect of life, 24-7-365, has already been claimed under his headship. His presence is explicitly guaranteed to each individual and groups meeting in his name, seeking to draw near to Him. No conditions are attached.

George Barna sought to demonstrate in chapter one of Revolution that a Sunday morning round of golf with a golfing buddy is a perfectly legitimate form of “doing church.” Now, the authors in PC are inquiring if the rest of us are really “meeting by the book.” Unbelievable. As their book unfolds, “meeting by the book” translates into one-size-fits-all house churches with a 1 Corinthians 14 type of open meeting. That sort of meeting, however, is a tongue-speaking meeting and a direct revelation prophetic meeting, much to the delight of our Pentecostal brethren. Do the authors insist on those elements as well?

Orders of worship or liturgy The apostles appointed order – not merely spontaneity. Order beats disorder. Boredom, sadly, happens in every sort of meeting. Many if not most house churches follow a regular order of doing what they regularly do. Although unwritten, it is just as real. Formal meetings are not for me either – others find them beneficial, even awe-inspiring. Let each decide.

Buildings which suppress body life Where does the scriptures warn us against such? Why didn’t Jesus and his apostles enter the temple and synagogues and command everyone to vacate the premises, go back home, and sit in a circle “without any human leadership” in order to “just share”? If the end of the Temple meant the end of the legitimacy of buildings for any Christian purpose, the apostles would have received and conveyed the message. They would have ceased to preach, teach, fellowship, and operate in the synagogues and the temple courts. The end of the Temple meant the end of animal sacrifices and the accompanying Levitical Priesthood. The authors keep repeating that “we are all priests now” as if that somehow proved their case. Exodus 19:6 demonstrates that all were always a “kingdom of priests.” As priests, the saints have forever been a separated people having direct access to God, able to mediate for one another. The priesthood of all does not and has never precluded the existence of physical structures or official leaders. Our Lord made it plain via the conversation with the woman at the well that true worship depended not upon location but upon “spirit and truth.” Be it a church house or a house church, it’s still bricks, boards, and mortar.

The OT contains references to a highly detailed and artistically appealing tabernacle which Jehovah gave the plans for, an ornate and colorful temple which his glory filled and which Jesus called “his Father’s house.” Choirs, full-time musicians, chief musicians, instruments of every description were employed in public worship. The idea that these forms of expression originated in Paganism is an absurdity beyond imagination. The thought that NT saints now have less freedom to employ these forms in their worship than their OT counterparts is unsustainable as well.

I can’t help but notice that church buildings, at present and throughout history, have been the community centers in many localities. Why would not the attendees desire to look and smell their best when they arrived? What business is it of others? I am familiar with churches which have owned their buildings debt-free for more than 250 years. These are often used for public events which would totally overwhelm the private home of any member. Things like food and clothing storage and distribution, home school cooperatives, athletics, day care, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, dance instruction, music instruction, plays, concerts, movie viewings, marriages, funerals, family reunions, burials in church owned cemeterys, youth events, senior activities – even local house church meet-ups.

The Jewish people had a long tradition of meetings in large groups which extended backwards in history for thousands of years. Every Sabbath was a holy convocation. Our Lord is aware that folks really do draw strength by being in a crowd of like-minded ones just as in smaller groups.

In fairness to history, it should be noted that in some localities early Christians were severely persecuted – even thrown to wild beasts. Some were forced to meet secretly in private dwellings – even in caves. The fact that neon church signs from the apostolic age have not been unearthed should surprise no one. Many priests are said to have been converted in the apostolic age. Whole synagogues may have been Christianized over time – we don’t know for certain. A believer in this era would have attended public and private meetings, just as recorded in Acts 2.

What I do know is that liberty in Christ entitles Christians to own and use whatever they will for his glory, be it a house, meeting house, house boat, or tree house. Yes, if something such as a building becomes a financial ball and chain or is seldom utilized, it should be dispensed with. It shouldn’t take the study of Paganism to figure all this out. I have yet to meet the person who claims that a building is necessary for church. It’s simply a matter of convenience.

Elders? Deacons? Overseers? These seem to get swept aside in the name of a contrived definition of the priesthood of all believers. Why are these characters minimised when there is line upon line concerning their appointment, moral requirements, duties, and connectedness to the first churches? To posit, as do the authors, that “the word ‘pastor’ appears only once” doesn’t take into account the other uses of the word and the other synonyms for it. (1 Peter 5, Acts 20, Titus 1, 1 Tim 3, 1 Tim 5, etc.).

And why, pray tell, do the very ones who so devastated by “main speakers” and chairs alligned in the same direction, etc. regularly participate in conferences and workshops where they are the “main speakers” – chairs aimed forward, carpet on the floor, money exchanging hands, worship leaders and bands up front “leading the music,” recording machines capturing their “monologues” to be later converted into articles of commerce? Are the authors bemoaning the priesthood of every believer being violated, spontaneity being pillaged, and Jesus being robbed when the attention is upon them?

Viola has stated that he really wants everyone to read this book. OK, why not do that which Christians writers could not have done in the past and put the book on the internet where anyone, anywhere can access, read, print, or email it? That was his practice in the past, I recall. Barna should make it his, too – then they can open up meaningful, much needed dialogue about “paid ministers”, “love of money” and “making merchandise of the word of God.

This is remarkable: George Barna doesn’t believe that the traditional church or the traditional pastor has any warrant to function and that church today has zero impact on the community but he is all but stumbling over himself to sell his wares to traditional churches and their pastors. The authors drone on that the Christianity is too cerebral and academic. Why do they fuel those fires by publishing “must read” books and educational materials one after the next with more “cranium-swelling” works on the way?

Hey, how is that “simple church” requires reading one book after another?

Viola in the original edition of PC, page 294, writes: “Take note, the NT is not a manual for church PRACTICE.”

George Barna, in like manner, wrote in Revolution: “The Bible does not rigidly define the corporate PRACTICES, rituals, or structures that must be embraced in order to have a proper church.” page 37

And: “We must also address one other reality: The Bible never describes “church” the way we have configured it. The Bible goes to great lengths to teach us principles for living and theology for understanding. However, it provides very little guidance in terms of the methods and structures we must use.” page 115

Such quotes would seemingly dismiss questions of church governance and style, leaving them open for expediency and preference according to one’s conscience before God. Furthermore, according to Revolution, a true Christian needn’t attend nor be attached to any local assembly. Take it or leave it. So, I must inquire, why would Barna have the least scintilla of interest in the methods of others? How could anyone get it wrong?

What of the extensive footnotes? The primary sources are conspicuously missing in a book alleged to be a historical study. Likewise missing are word studies of the original terms in question. Taken as a whole, the notes, however interesting, do precious little advance the conclusions of the book. An equal sized collection of notes could be gathered to demonstrate the Pagan roots of the model of church/spirituality/mysticism/individualism/allegoricalism which the authors advocate. Few – microscopically few – of those cited did/would sign off on the core message of this book which, I suppose, is why “no such book was ever written.” If it were a real historical work, historians and theologians would be endorsing it in significant numbers, which they aren’t.

In short, this book is about externals, most of which are erroneously linked to Paganism and to an all-powerless Jesus who isn’t available, isn’t around unless everything specs out. In their attempt to champion freedom and simplicity in Christ, the authors actually do the opposite. While being assured that they “have both scripture and history on their side,” neither is in the end.

It’s also a book about unsubtle guilt manipulation. It closes with a ‘now that you’ve heard the real story for the first time you need “to step out” of the toxic wasteland known as the institutional church.’ The passage about “voiding the word of God by traditions” is evoked as support as the guilt gets piled higher. What is conveniently overlooked is the fact that Jesus is dealing with unbelieving Pharisees in the context – not believers and not about matters of church practices. Twice on the same page we are reminded that externals count for little. Mark 7:6 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Mark 7:15, Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.” Or as another puts it: To the pure, all things are pure.

Furthermore, if Christianity had adopted Paganism to the extent of this book, the Pagan world would have noted that fact and gloated in it.

Personally, I’m into house type churches and I disdain overt institutionalism, clergyism, and commercialism wherever I encounter it. Most of all, I’m into the church – one, holy, and universal. The bottom line is that there is but one faith, one Lord, and one church. You’re in or you’re out irrespective of your meeting format and leadership setup, however important. We’re obligated to love every other saint enough to die for him or her. In that context alone, Christians should inquire how God might further reform their church structures and roles according to Scripture. The book, along with hundreds of others out there, is right on in that certain foundational elements are amiss and that changes are in order, past due. The book, however, is grossly mistaken that “most every practice is rooted in Paganism.”

Meetings are but a means to the end of conveying the hope, love, and fellowship of Jesus who is all and in all. Getting the externals right, though highly desirable, is not the end. Truth is, due to the lingering effects of sin, alternate forms of church have unique problems to overcome despite all the romantic idealism dripping off the exaggerated reports and bogus statistics.

Very soon, Jesus the Judge will inquire of us what we did each day in his name for others, not if we had perfectly ordered meetings.

The arrogant talk by Viola of certain parties having “no right to exist” is but a shameful echo of an unlearned lesson from the past: “What need have I of you?” 1 Corinthians 12. Far away may be it driven, readers! (In the newer edition, it does appear that “right to exist” has been changed to “right to function” but the condescending, self-righteous tone of the book remains.)

Despite the failings of men and all those misconfigured churchs, Jesus has indeed been preached worldwide and has emerged as the most influencial person of all time, His church is the most influential institution of all time on planet Earth. For the most part, house churches have played a non-existent or lesser role thus far. That may change if God wills. The number of those needing Jesus now is greater than existing structures can hold.

Even in China where house churches are touted as pristine Christianity, few remotely resemble the model set forth in PC – things like human leadership and distracting wooden benches, you know. The history of the church reminds us that God is willing to use whom he will, despite how they meet.

What’s the house church movement in America accomplished so far? Where are they – those tens of millions of super Christians, “growing exponentially” in number? They should be highly visible on every street in every town in America. And since, according to Barna, Revolutionaries give more than a tithe, the effect of 10’s of billions of dollars in charitable donations should be apparent.

It’s been several years now since Barna’s Revolution came out. I’m starting to suspect that his Revolution is rather his hallucination about the way things ought to be. ‘Announce the Revolution – they will come.’ Another house church advocating guy, interviewed by Time Magazine, reported (elsewhere) that a thousand house church planters had been trained in two months in the USA but… later he wasn’t sure what country this training actually occurred in. Be that as it, it does speak volumes that when it’s time for this movement to get its message out via the big league media, the message is not a positive, transformational ‘we’ll show you because we’ve done it – not just tell you’ message about what God has truly accomplished but rather a winding diatribe about how the institutional church has failed because of Pagan influence.

Ancient Paganism, the term loosely used, espoused beliefs about an omnipresent diety, a son of god in human form, an invisible god-spirit, a world-wide flood, expiation of sin by blood sacrifice, a priesthood, laws from a diety, future punishments below, glory above – why not just dismiss the whole Bible as Pagan? Some do, of course. Pagans also drank milk, took wives, and raised children. Where does it end?

Give me a few minutes and I can, with merely a one dollar bill, demonstrate (I speak as a fool) the Deistic, Masonic, Egyptian, Zoroastrian roots of modern American practices. Then you’ll be given the opportunity to renounce your citizenship and to leave the premises. Interested?

Hey, maybe Pagans got their best ideas from us. It is the genuine article which gets counterfeited, is it not? Imitation, the best form of flattery?

Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Rowland Allen published a fine book by this title in the early 1900’s based on his experiences as a foreign missionary. I dig that title. Bring it on, Lord.

I found a text version of the book. In it, the phrases “church planting, church planter” did not appear. That is significant in that we too often see the church as something we plant rather than God adding to.

One plants (the gospel), one waters, God gives the increase!

Tracking house church growth in the USA

From the Editor of Joel News and a similar account on the home page of Dawn Europe, etc:

The organic church guys from North America broke the rules again: instead of a Powerpoint with numbers they took a collective time-out to model simple church – basically listening to Jesus and doing what He says. It touched me to see three ex-megapastors, one ex-normalpastor and a seminary professor do just that. No program, just Jesus. John White challenged us with what he calls ‘the leadership solution’, daily praying the Luke 10:2b prayer for laborers, together with a soul mate. Since he started doing this, and teaching this organic principle to other believers, God sent people on his way, one after the other, asking advice on how to plant churches, and he could simply coach them in doing that. This way, the simple church networks in the States are growing exponentially.

While 530 simple churches were planned ‘in faith’ for 2005, they hit the 6,000 mark. While they intended to train 530 church planters in 2005, they saw 1,000 church planters trained in the first two months of 2006 alone. With this kind exponential growth (the current growth rate is 70%) they could reach their target of 4 million simple churches in North America (400,000 networks, 40,000 network coaches, 4,000 lead coaches) by the year 2018. Then they still have two years left to rest from their labors.

In a message dated 8/14/2007 10:12:14 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time
—–Original Message—–
From: D Anderson
Sent: Tuesday, August 14, 2007 11:24 AM


I am very interested in studying, visiting, and writing at length
about the house churches and church planters reported by DAWN. I just
had a few quick questions for the present.

Is there a detailed report already available? I would be happy to
link to it in my research which will result in a free on-line paper.
What are the 2007 numbers and where are these churches concentrated
in the USA? Who is keeping these records? Who is the “they” which
trained 1,000 church planters in two months?

Much, much thanks in advance,

David Anderson
Bristol, TN

On Aug 14, 2007, at 1:45 PM, (withheld @ DAWN) wrote:

Dear David,

I’m afraid we won’t be much help in providing the numbers you requested. We have attempted over the years to estimate the number of house churches in North America. However, we have slowly come to the conclusion that it is an impossible task and perhaps not even that necessary. For instance, we did a study of just the state of Colorado and were able to identify 13 networks of 5 to 10 house churches. We were quite sure there were many times that number but it just took too much time to track them all down.

Perhaps you have seen the little article comparing the reproductive capacities of elephants (traditional churches) and rabbits (house churches). Not only are rabbits way more prolific than elephants. They are also much more difficult to count. You will have no difficulty determining the number of elephants in a large field. Counting the rabbits is another story.

Rather than trying to keep track of rabbits, we have felt that our calling was to do all we can to pray for, identify, connect and support the apostolic church planters. Currently there are about 120 of those folks that we are connect with. Our feeling is that if those people are healthy, the number of healthy churches will increase naturally and spontaneously.

In reference to the “1000 church planters trained in two months”, Mike Steele said that had mostly to do with a large gathering in Norway a couple of years ago led by Neil Cole. The attendance at that training event was combined with several smaller training events in the US to come up with 1000.

I’m sure you are familiar with George Barna’s book Revolution. That’s the only source that we know of that even begins to estimate the number of house churches in the US. And, he is, of course, only extrapolating from sample groups.

Again, I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.

(name withheld)

Me again. I’ve been trying to track down this unprecedented work of the Holy Spirit via house churches for awhile now. I doubt that it is occurring in Norway as Marc, cited above, is from that part of the world. Have you seen it?

The original report of “exponential growth” was more than 2 years ago. What would the numbers be now?

Carolina House Church Workshop – Feb 2008

What: A Biblically-based workshop on New Testament Church Life:

  • The Lord’s Supper as a Celebratory Fellowship Meal
  • Participatory Church Meetings
  • Elder-Led Congregational Consensus
  • Apostolic Traditions & New Testament Patterns
  • A General Question and Answer Session.

Where: Smithfield, NC (30 minutes SE of Raleigh), just off I-95, in central NC.When: Friday Evening – Saturday Evening, February 8-9, 2008.

Who: Workshop leaders will be Steve Atkerson & Tim Melvin of NTRF (New Testament Reformation Fellowship).

We advocate historic, orthodox Christianity poured into the wineskin of New Testament church practice.

Please register by e-mailing the mailing address and name of each person attending to:Larry Carterlmnacarter AT or call 919-938-0688 (after 7 P.M.)

Web site: 

Children: Although children are welcome, please understand that this will be an all day seminar, geared toward adults, in a hotel conference center. Small children will quickly enjoy all that they can stand of the workshop!

Questions? E-mail or Phone Larry Carter. [email protected] 919-938-0688 (after 7 P.M.)

McLaren to the anarchists: Organize or die.

Take, for example, a church with an anarchist ecclesiology. (Don’t laugh-it’s more common than you think.) This ecclesiology sees problems in “the institutional church” (which is another term for “the church wherever it actually exists”) and concludes that they result from its being “organized.” According to this way of thinking, the early church was blissfully spontaneous. The Holy Spirit led individuals with such power and mastery that the early church performed like a symphony without a score. The beautiful music poured out harmoniously from the untrained musicians as they were moved extemporaneously by the Invisible Conductor.

Never mind that no one has ever actually seen a church like this function for very long, or that when a church appears to so function, it turns out to be the product of covert human leadership and training from a real-though-unwritten rule book. Never mind that the whole second half of the New Testament seems to be about problems arising in the early church, with organized yet Spirit-inspired solutions being developed to deal with them. Never mind that organization is a fact of life for every organism-from paramecia to blue whales. Never mind, because some good folk in every generation are going to try to start churches that operate with as little overt organization as possible, fighting organization with at least as much zeal as they use in fighting sin.

Despite these words of criticism, I call these anti-organizationalists “good folk” with good reason, and not only because I was once one of them. They are idealists, and their idealism is attractive. They are driven to work hard and love long and bleed deep for their dream of building a community unspoiled by institutionalism and organization. And I wholeheartedly concur that organization and institutionalism can obstruct community as effectively as telephone wires can ruin a beautiful view. I sent one of these “good folk,” a most enjoyable friend, a copy of this manuscript, and he replied, “I read your unfinished manuscript twice …. My experience tells me that [real Christianity] won’t work in the institutional church no matter what side. The truth, as I see it, is that the visible and the physical work against the invisible and spiritual… If God is leading you to write this book, I am in your corner. However, in my heart, I just don’t think “the church on the other side” will ever exist.”

My friend is working out his perspective by lowering his expectations of the institutional church to near zero, focusing instead on interpersonal relationships-“loving my neighbors,” as he would say. And I don’t quarrel with him; I like what he is doing. But the fact is, if some well-meaning people like my friend, wary of the side effects of organization, gather regularly as friends in a home or a restaurant-not in an elaborate “church” building forming a group that thrives on unstructured relationships with no formal leadership and as little as possible of the dreaded “O word”- then one of four things will happen:

– The little proto-church will thrive for many years as a small circle of friends requiring very little organization, perhaps aided by the fact that (1) they don’t call themselves a church, and (2) they don’t invite too many people to join them.

– The little church will die after a few months or perhaps a few years.

– The little church will adopt a “cell church model,” dividing in two as soon as the size of the group requires organization, thus increasing in numbers by multiplying small groups. However, if this works long-term (which seems to happen less in reality than in theory), they will soon discover that they are indeed organized-just differently-and that the organizational demands of keeping a cell-multiplication movement going (such as leadership training or problem solving) can equal or surpass those of a more traditional church.

– The little church will grow, change its ecclesiology – with agony, of course-and get organized. In the process of changing its ecclesiology, many late-night discussions will take place featuring heated debates that rival Luther’s at Leipzig.

More than likely, this group, if it capitulates to organization, will enfranchise an ecclesiology that will allow the fledgling church to grow from, say, 40 to 150. At this level, the following structural elements will be typical:

– One pastor-volunteer, bivocational, or salaried

– A formal or informal board that serves as the volunteer staff of the church, attending to administration and ministry

At about 150, a church that wishes to keep growing will probably hire a second pastoral staff member. This move is far more monumental than it seems, for at least four reasons:

– The pastor, who may have excelled with volunteers, now may be asked to supervise the second staff person. Managing staff requires skills that are in many ways antithetical to those previously required with volunteers. Few people are good at both. If neither pastor is seen as the chief of staff, the church will generally slide into another slick of risks and problems, ranging from ineffectiveness due to a lack of accountability to ineffectiveness due to power struggles.

– The board must give up some of its power to this new staff person. It is human nature not to give up power without a struggle unless those who hold it are thoroughly exhausted and tired of the responsibility that comes with their authority.

– The second staff person, besides dealing with an inexperienced pastor and an ambivalent board, is working for a church that can barely afford to pay a salary and has little patience with setbacks or delays in productivity. To make matters worse, this person generally joins the staff with high ideals, boundless goodwill, and a bit of naivete. He may also bring any number of his own needs or pathologies to the situation – seeing the pastor as a father-figure, ministry as a way to be liked, associate-pastor status as a means to power without responsibility, or some other image.

– The congregation, with many idealists from the first stage, welcome the new staff person and fear him at the same time. Will this person compete with their beloved pastor (or, conversely, will this person compensate for the pastor they secretly distrust)? Will this person change the homey church they love by making it more “corporate” (i.e., organized)? Their unspoken mandate – an impossible assignment if ever there was one.. is this: Help our church grow, but don’t you dare change it.

If the church survives this structural transition, it will more than likely grow toward numbers between 300 and 800, but another ceiling awaits it there. This ceiling results from some or all of the following:

– As additional staff are hired, the now-senior pastor’s role changes: less ministry, more leadership, more staff management, more administration. Few pastors can survive a change in role of this magnitude.

– The additional staff hired at these early stages are nearly always generalists, or at least multitalented. A music director, for example, may also direct Christian education or small groups. But with growth in numbers comes greater demand for specialization. A “B+” musician who is also a “B+” Christian education director was a godsend to the church of 250; she may be an embarrassment to the church of 600 that wants – and can now afford – “A”- caliber staff in both categories. To put it bluntly, the same staff that helped the church surmount the earlier ceiling can create this one by being good in general but not good enough in specialized areas.

– A fully staffed church no longer needs the board that helped create it. In place of volunteer administrators or unpaid pastors, it now needs a board that does one or both of the following: (1) provides oversight in a way more akin to a nonprofit board of directors, skilled in strategic planning, oversight, organizational management, budgeting, and whenever possible, fund-raising; … (end quote)

THE CHURCH ON THE OTHER SlDE by Brian D. McLaren, Zondervan Publishing, pp 96-99.

Brian McLaren is considered by many to be the leading spokesperson/writer for the emergent church movement. Certainly, he is the most popular in terms of book sales.

Case Study – Paul at Macedonia

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, Come over to Macedonia and help us. After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Pauls message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. If you consider me a believer in the Lord, she said, come and stay at my house. And she persuaded us. Acts 16:9-15.

Notice that Paul associated “helping” in Macedonia with “preaching” in Macedonia. Nothing here, nor anywhere else, about planting churches or starting something. It was rather the gospel seed which was to be planted. Nothing here about cleaning up the social ills of the city or beginning a never-ending conversation.

Notice that Lydia’s conversion is attributed to God, not to the latest methods. Are we overly dependent upon methods, books, and techniques or are we knocking at heaven’s door?

Where, oh where were the men? No doubt some in our day would have scolded these women: How dare you assemble without men and without elders and deacons?

What do you see or not see in this account?