House Church


"If your church is not innovating, it is dying."

“Innovation is changing organizational systems to provide service or produce your product more effectively, efficiently or more profitably. When the organization is crystal clear about the new results that are expected, innovation thrives and eventually becomes a part of the DNA of the organization. The organization that constantly improves stretches, takes risks, and finds new ways of delivering excellence welcomes the changes that are involved with innovation.”

This was a journal entry during the time that I was in a class on creativity and organizational development.  I look at many of the mainline churches in America and realize that the concept of constant innovation is not embedded in their DNA.  Many of these congregations are declining and struggling to reach new people, grow disciples and maintain the active fellowship. They run programs and hold events but never address the systems in the church that produced the challenges that they are currently facing.

Designing intentional systems of faith sharing, stewardship, discipleship, and worship design are essential for a church to be relevant and vital in the 21st century.  Churches that are more concerned with having church in a way that appeases the wants and desires of church members rather than intentionally designing systems to reach the prodigal sons and daughters are voting to close their doors.

There are more prodigals outside the church than disciples who are in our churches.

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Do you remember when you experienced a life transforming worship? Prodigal Worship Conference 2011 is designed to empower you and the worship design team to develop powerful worship that transforms individuals, congregations and communities. Our theme is 180 Degree Change and we have dynamic speakers that provide practical advice:

·         Jason Moore and Len Wilson of Midnight OilTaking Flight with Creativity: Worship Design Teams that Work

  ·         Shane ClaiborneThe Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

  ·         Jenny SmithTransforming Worship in Small Membership Churches

  ·         Robbie MorganfieldThe Power of Transformative and Authentic Worship

  ·         Paul NixonI Refuse to Lead a Dying Church

  ·         Marvin MossEngaging the Culture to Preach to the Prodigal

  ·         Kim MillerDesigning Spaces for Connection and Community

  ·         Rudy BroplehThe 3A’s Business: Doing & Being the Church, Consistently & Holistically

Prodigal Worship Conference 2011
April 2, 2011
Glen Mar UMC, Ellicott City,MD

Register today – www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship

Bring three people from your church and the fourth person registers for free.

We’re also offering a special live streaming session of the event at Hancock UMC in the Western region.  Participants will hear and see the three keynote speakers and two workshops. Lunch is included in the registration and participants will have the opportunity to browse the marketplace for books and other materials to assist in worship planning.

Our special rate for Prodigal Worship conference is $99 which will be effective until tomorrow, Feb 22. But, we would like to offer you this special rate until Friday, Feb. 25. Learn more about Prodigal Worship Conference and register today, www.bwcumc.org/prodigalworship.

Please contact Tonia Bennett for registration questions, tbennett@bwcumc.org.

Definition of Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God’s spirit, for the transformation of the world.

1. a process:

  • gradual, life-long movement, not single, momentous conversion
  • goes against grain of “quick-fix, instant results, Five Easy Steps” culture
  • draws us by God’s magnetic attraction, awakening our desire for God

2. of being conformed to the image of Christ:

  • Christ is the image of God made visible to us (Col.1:15)
  • image of Christ is pattern of human wholeness — we share God’s image (Gen.1:26)
  • God’s likeness feels strange since we are misshapen by images of worldly culture
  • the Christ image heals, renews, restores us
  • moves us from being centered in self to being centered in God

3. by the gracious working of God’s spirit:

  • we want to make things happen in our self-reliant culture
  • but cannot conform ourselves to Christ by own will power
  • we can open ourselves to gracious working of God’s spirit
  • the Spirit enables us to choose way of Christ over self-interest
  • grace helps us give reins of control to God and to cooperate with Spirit
  • we resist Spirit’s work because change in ideas/habits/ behaviors is scary
  • spiritual disciplines (practices) are ways of opening ourselves to grace

4. for the transformation of the world:

  • being like Christ means living in self-giving love
  • spiritual life not about “me” but about the world God loves
  • as we are conformed to Christ we embody more of God’s love for others
  • fruits of spiritual formation are compassion, patience, truthfulness, reconciliation
  • transformed persons are leaven for transforming the world

This definition adapts and expands Robert Mulholland’s work Invitation to a Journey (InterVarsity Press, 1993). Companions in Christ Training © 2004. All rights reserved.

This is the best definition of spiritual formation that I have found. I like it because it emphasizes the process. We can not take a class to learn to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can not go on a weekend retreat and expect to be a fully mature follower of Jesus Christ. It is a reforming,re-engineering, realignment and repositioning of our core values that shapes our lives as disciples and allows us to live into the call to be completely devoted follows of Jesus Christ.

As a disciple of Christ my commitment to the community of faith will have priority over many of the culturally popular social trends. Soccer, football, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, and other sports practice schedules will not take priority over the gathering of the saints. Our family obligations will be aligned with the priority of small groups and worship. We can not make disciples in anyway shape or form but we can create an environment for men and women to grow.

Our faith communities must strive to be the most empowering, engaging, enlightening and the most significant high impact event of our members lives. This is the total life engagement precess that Jesus engaged with the disciples. They followed him around, observed his disciplines, participated in his life encounter groups with other “sinners” and eventually became the men who would carry the message to the world about our resurrected Savior.

Making disciples is about asking the question “How do we engage people’s lives?” rather than “How can we attract them to an event?”

Can the modern mainline church re-engineer its ecclesiastical culture from events and committees to life style engagement and the beloved community of God? Can the administration of the church be driven by technology and the life of the church center around meals, coffee, pray and studying the scripture? I believe the answer is yes but the resistance will be significant because the old way must be evaluated and then sentenced to death. Holding on to mediocrity in ministry is the enemy of excellence. Holding on to the past is the enemy of God’s vision and call to the future.

Using Acts 2 to define the core values of Koinonia, what activities does a church in the 21st Century engage in, to effectively realize true Christian community?  Which comes first discipleship or koinonia?

With so many people experiencing shallow spirituality and wearing multiple masks to cover up the pains, trials and challenges of everyday life, should the church re-evaluate how we are the representatives of God to the world?

42 They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. 43 Everyone around was in awe – all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! 44 And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. 45 They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. 46 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, 47 as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
Acts 2

Their lives were committed to the disciples teachings.  Everything they did and said was reflective of what they learned.  How many of our church members take what they like and leave the rest in the sanctuary. How often are we preaching rather than teaching?

The concept that they were all living together is amazing when we live in such an individualistic, self centered, let me get all that I can society.  If we were to commit to true community we would purchase (as a community) large tracts of land  and ensure that everyone had what they needed.  The economically challenged in our communities are often left out because no one wants to admit they do not have enough money to hang with their peers. The poor are totally excluded.  Can we discuss Koinonia and not include a serious discussion and strategy to address the poor in our community?  I believe suburban living numbs our spiritual senses to those who are marginalized in our communities.  One radical idea is that an urban church and suburban church can switch buildings for one Sunday. Driving pass the homeless, interacting teenage mothers, watching the soup kitchen lines form and seeing the hopelessness in the eyes of people being served in an urban emergency room will change your perspective on what you can do to minister to those who are hurting.  Most pastors will not push that envelop because it might threaten their comfortable situation.

People are seeking authentic communities where they can experience significance, and sanctuary.  Can we actually engage in this discussion as 21st century churches who are dependent on worship and married to administrative structures that are counter productive to producing Koinonia?

Pondering, exploring and searching………………

 Saturday, April 17, 1736

Not finding as yet any door open for the pursuing our main design, we considered in what manner we might be most useful to the little flock at Savannah. And we agreed 1) to advise the more serious among them to form themselves into a sort of little society, and to meet once or twice a week, in order to reprove, instruct and exhort one another; 2) to select out of these a smaller number for a more intimate union with each other, which might be forwarded, partly by our conversing singly with each and partly by inviting them all together to our house; and this, accordingly, we determined to do every Sunday in the afternoon.
John Wesley

The wisdom of John Wesley’s practical theology is still relevent in the 21st Century. Why are we trying so hard to develop “new systems”  when we already have the model of what works.

New Testament leadership, on the other hand, was clearly a servant role (didn’t Jesus say something about that?) that provided a support structure for the people-movement to take off, multiply, go crazy, and otherwise careen madly (by the Spirit) out of control.

New Testament leaders did not occupy positions on boards; they did not have control of buildings nor all-church finances; they did not have the limelight of admiration or attention (except by those who enjoyed physically beating them).

Their role was to facilitate, plant, nurture, release, build up, serve… not dominate, nor control, nor set the one-man-vision course, nor have all the answers. They were not set above, but rather, set below. The Holy Spirit, after all, works through and leads the entire Body of Christ.

This is extremely radical for those of us who are traditionalist.  The scriptural observations are accurate and actually defy the current “church structures” that are found in mainline churches today.  If the church is to become focused and effective at making disciples, rather than recruiting church people, then we must begin the journey in the Biblical text.  This may also mean that we become counter church cultural.

What will be the role of a bishop?  Can the church function without committees?  Who administers the Lord’s Supper?  Will seminaries become extinct?  This type of discussion could start a revolution and I am sure that it will not be televised.

I am searching for ways to be a New Testament servant leader in a mainline church structure.  We also have to teach the people to share leadership.  I have served in Presbyterian, DOC, UMC, AME and Baptist churches and pastor’s who lead like kings burn out or burn up in ministry quickly.  Pastors who learn to serve the people and share leadership live much longer.

House Churches Are More Satisfying to Attenders Than Are Conventional Churches

January 8, 2007 (Ventura, CA) – With the growth of house churches across the country, a new study by The Barna Group sheds light on how these independent, non-denominational churches operate.

Levels of SatisfactionPerhaps the most compelling insight from the national study was an evaluation of the levels of satisfaction of those who attend a house church compared with the views of adults who attend a conventional local church. Four aspects of people’s church experience were gauged. Overall, people attending a house church were significantly more likely to be “completely satisfied” with their experience in each of the four dimensions examined.Two-thirds of house church attenders (68%) were “completely satisfied” with the leadership of their church, compared to only half of those attending a conventional church (49%).Two-thirds of the house church adherents (66%) were “completely satisfied” with the faith commitment of the people involved in their gathering. In contrast, only four out of ten people attending a conventional church (40%) were similarly satisfied with the faith commitment of the people in their congregation.Three out of five house church adults (61%) were “completely satisfied” with the level of community and personal connectedness they experience, compared to only two out of five adults who are involved in a conventional church (41%). A majority of those in a house (59%) said they were “completely satisfied” with the spiritual depth they experience in their house church setting. In contrast, a minority of the adults involved in a conventional church were “completely satisfied” (46%).

Click Here to Read the Full Article

The house church movement is growing at an astonishing rate.  Any organization with these type of satisfaction numbers will grow.  What are we doing in the mainline churches to fulfill spiritual satisfaction? As a pastor I often find myself asking the question “Am I meeting God’s expectations for spiritual fulfillment or am I enabling a spiritually dysfunctional person to feel good about being in our fellowship.”  Does the order of service really matter or that someone reads in a  monotone voice or full of expression.  Do the colors on the altar or the robe impact a person’s satisfaction in worship.  What I fear will happen is that some mainline denominational bureaucrat develop the church satisfaction quotient and 101 ways to fill your church through congregant satisfaction surveys.  (you know someone is thinking about it now)

Mainline traditional churches are challenged to have meaningful worship services where lots of people are involved in planning and implementing the ministry. The emphasis should be on how people will live lives of significance based on the scriptures as a result of worship.  The worship event itself must not be so exaulted that people worship the event instead of God. Contexulization of worship must not be to indivuals persoal whims but to help the congregation based on their everyday realities connect their very exsistance to God’s work in their work, family and community.

Many people are functioning members of the church social club and dysfunctional as The Body of Christ.  They want little or no responsibility, they don’t attend Bible Study unless required and their service in outreach is only if they have any extra time.