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Your local church is the most important gift God has given you outside of the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is the body of Jesus Christ on earth and God is building the church right now and fitting you into it. You can either work with this process or work against it, but until you find the right place in your local church, you will never flow in your destiny.
Obviously, the basics are go to church and be there: get involved in a small group and make some friends and serve. My friend Duane Sheriff says Christians will never grow unless they do three things: 1. attend local church consistently, 2. join a small group, 3. serve in the church. I believe that very much so.
But let’s step beyond that. Here are 5 ways you can find your place and walk in step with your local church:
- Grasp the Vision of the House
- For example, our vision is for a church “Full of the Word, Full of the Spirit, Full of the Nations, Filled With Love”. If you don’t like 50 minute sermons, filling you up with God’s Word and priming you for victory and life, you probably won’t fit in at Tree of Life. If you hate the gifts of the Spirit, you won’t like us. If you want to be in a church that is just your nationality, you won’t fit in here. And if you are not prepared to be part of a small group and get to know some people – you will miss out.
- People often want to change our church – preach less, stop the gifts of the Spirit, I want the church to be more black, less black; can we have a mid-week service and a weekly prayer night. No – we are keeping to the heavenly vision.
- If you want to fit into your church, learn to flow with their vision.
- Grasp the Culture of the House
- Our culture is the Word – what is the Scripture. We reject things you cannot find in the Bible no matter which big name speaker is on God TV saying it. Many people can’t deal with that, they are media driven not Spirit led. That’s not healthy.
- What is the culture of your church? We have a culture of life long learning, a culture of a balance between inspiration and challenge. Culture matters.
- Follow the Standards of the House
- We expect our people to be faithful – to their spouses, to each other, to the church. We expect honesty and integrity from our leaders. That won’t change.
- Find out the teachings of the House
- We teach the complete work of Christ. That’s central to us. We teach spirit, soul and body. If you don’t accept these teachings, it won’t work. You need to learn what your church is teaching and grasp it.
- Follow the emphasis of the House
- Right now we are emphasising great overflow. We always emphasise health and prosperity. We always emphasise the Word of God.
- Don’t march to your own band, march with the house – it will be better for you!
It’s so important you catch what is going on in your local church. It’s how you will develop.
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (John 5.44)
I believe that looking for the honour of man is the greatest influence on people today that takes them away from the leading of the Spirit of God. The honour of man is having other people admire you and respect you. It’s nice when it happens, but it should never be our motivation as Christians.
It’s amazing but people will buy a car to get other people to honour them, they will marry someone because someone who isn’t in the marriage will respect them, they choose a church on the basis of what others think, they choose a house on what others think, they eat food that impresses others! It’s amazing, but true!
And it can be the most tragic force in the universe.
- I have seen people turn down the heavenly calling to be a pastor because it does not bring honour to them with their family, the friends, people around.
- I have seen other people turn down the church that God is calling them to pastor, to build, to grow – and take a church that has more honour of man.
- I have seen people marry the wrong person because the community approves – oh, it’s so nice that person married a doctor. Yet they never ask the Holy Spirit to lead them, and problems come around!
- I have seen preachers change their message and change their vision to impress and get honour from those around them, rather than preach the truth in love.
- I have seen people hold back from using the gifts of the Spirit in case they lose the honour of people
- I have seen people not enter full time ministry because they want the respect and admiration of men
- I have seen people get into terrible debt to buy things to impress others!
- I have seen minister’s afraid of talking about money and raising money to change the world because they do not want to lose the respect of people
And they love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called men, Rabbi (Matt. 23.6-7)
I have seen it – pastors clamouring to sit in the best seats, make sure they are in the right row. I have heard ministers tell me that their biggest problem in some meetings is the seating arrangement of the leaders not the lost. Here is an idea – have a stage without seats. Problem solved.
We have to learn to be Spirit led. Equally, we have to learn not to be led by the praise of men.
10. A great idea is to employ people from your local church. You are boosting the church, showing loyalty and love, and helping the church in a practical way. You are also (hopefully) getting an employee who knows Jesus and who wants to work in a Christ-honouring way and who shares your worldview.
9. Never be afraid to fire anyone who is not performing adequately. Even if they are from the same local church as you!
8. Employ as few people as you can. The less work people do the more disgruntled they become. Better to have no employee than a disgruntled employee.
7. Employ people to do multiple task. If I was employing an assistant pastor today, I would make them lecture at the Bible School, do school’s work, do admin, and so on and so forth. If you type everything into a computer, do you need a full-time secretary? Can they have a second role as well.
6. Use machines rather than people if you can. Machines don’t get tired, they don’t get in moods, they don’t need to be paid overtime, they don’t have maternity leave, they don’t resign with eighteen seconds notice.
5. Ensure they all know who is boss. Develop a bit of knowledge in everything. You don’t need to be a lawyer, but get enough knowledge to know what the lawyer is doing. You don’t need to be a marketing expert, but get enough knowledge to know what the marketing guy is doing.
4. Put Everything in Writing. Discussions are not a suitable basis for dealing with employees (even if they are in the same local church!)
3. Train your employees. Education is the basis of successful employment.
2. Supervise your employees. Have meetings with them, visit them, set targets and monitor them, and make it all serious.
1. Be generous. Be kind to your staff, make sure they know you genuinely care for them. If you don’t have a good salary to offer, people will work for more love and less money. Re-assure the people you work with.
Pioneers take responsibility.
Politicians blame the previous government/ leaders/ people/ cat/ whoever they can blame.
Pioneers see what needs to be done
Politicians see what is expedient to do
Pioneers raise people up to higher levels
Politicians reduce people to statistics and opinion polls.
Politicians follow the opinion of the masses
Pioneers create and add to the wealth
Politicians take from the wealth
Pioneers bring life
Politicians stifle life
Politicians muddle through
Pioneers take risks, looking at the goal
Politicians miss the goal, terrified by the risks
Which are you, and which are you following?
A number of years ago, a significant number of Christians turned their back on 10am services on a Sunday, public worship, preaching and structure – what they called the “institutionalized church” and started meeting in small groups in houses. This has a number of names: house church, irregular church, organic church; but the principles are the same: you meet in houses in necessarily small groups and you focus on building relationships with those people. This then leads to a disdain and a critical attitude towards any church that meets in a building, that is large and that has structures.
This step is understandable. There is something missing in your faith if you turn up at church 5 minutes late every week, rush out the door afterwards and never build a relationship with anyone. There is something missing in a church like that. But what has happened is people have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Rick Joyner says that all error in the church is simply people embracing a newly revealed truth at the expense of other truths. So as people realize the power of small, they reject and neglect the power of big. In fact, they will say things like “it’s not about the numbers”, “size doesn’t matter”, “small is beautiful” that make you think that they really do not care about reaching their cities and towns for Christ, but rather care about their culture and small group to the exclusion of the people who need Christ.
So why is this a mis-step and why is this a problem for the body of Christ? Well, as an experienced church planter who has planted six churches from nothing, five of which I am currently supervising and pastoring, we have had a number of people come from these groups and bringing the house church mentality with them. We have also met people from these groups at conferences and spoken to them and discussed church with them. I am absolutely convinced this is not a revival of love and joy and peace and a new way of doing church as some of them think, but a big mis-step that leads to some of the most unhealthy expressions of Christianity I have seen.
Here are 10 Reasons the House Church Movement is a Mis-Step:
- It is not Biblical. The Bible has to be our plumb-line. The Bible is not just the plan of salvation (it would be a much shorter book if it was), but it is the key to how to function as the body of Christ on earth and we should function as a church in the same way the New Testament church functioned. We find out in the New Testament that they met in the house and the temple (Acts 2.46). A healthy church needs small house meetings and big temple meetings.
- It creates a very insular atmosphere and an indifference to the world. I live in a city of 9 million people. How you can turn around and say “it’s not about the numbers” I don’t know. Of course it is. If you have 8 people in a house, you are not reaching the city. You are not fulfilling the great commission. You can start with 8 people in a house (I wish I had 8 people in a house when I started, we started with 3) but don’t end there. Reach out, go into all the world, make disciples who make disciples.
- You cannot raise leaders quickly enough to multiply house churches. It’s simple maths. If you want to grow and impact the world as a house church, you need to raise up an “elder” or “pastor” who can look after the new house church. But the group is not being fed the Word, does not have access to the fivefold ministry, is not being sharpened by the larger group, so the people grow slowly. They will love your little group because of the low-challenge, high-acceptance nature of the group, but they will not grow. So you stay in your one off small group, chasing people all the time, wondering why people are hard work and why the gospel isn’t changing their lives, and get frustrated.
- You do not have access to the fivefold ministry so your church is underdeveloped Christians. I would hate to think how impoverished Tree of Life people would be in 2015 if they had not heard Terri Savelle Foy, Gregory Dickow, Greg Mohr, Robert Maasbach, Bengt Wedemalm and Will Graham. These people are true fivefold ministries – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – who know the love of God, who can equip the saints to do the works of ministry. Without access to them, or people of their calibre, you are impoverished. Do you realize Terri Savelle Foy doesn’t come to preach to a “church” of 8 in a Living Room? Do you realize that Gregory Dickow’s wisdom and depth would never reach a church of 8 in a Living Room? You need a temple meeting to attract the fivefold. It’s that simple. And so because of that, people in house churches are growing at a slower rate, they are not being inspired and challenged and equipped the way they should be.
- You have no size, so you have no structure, so you don’t know how to work in a structure and honour a structure. If you have 8 people, you don’t need any structure or formalization. I have pastored many growing churches, and as things grow you need to inevitably formalize that which is informal. Some people are just opposed to formality and structure. They don’t like it. The reason for that, if you cut away all the theological masks and step through the fog of pious sounding platitudes is that some people do not like structure because some people do not like to submit to anyone else. Jesus said you will never be entrusted with anything if you cannot be faithful to that which is someone else’s (Luke 16.12). If you do not learn the power of honour, then you will never truly live. If you cannot honour your parents you will never have life in abundance (Ephesians 6.4). If you cannot honour a church, you will never have life-changing experiences in church.
I have found that the people who come from house churches and small house groups to the Tree inevitably struggle with showing honour where honour is due, because they have never had to before.
They think that honouring someone is foolish, yet it is where life comes from. They want the same privileges as everyone else in the church – you preach, so I can preach; the elders can flow in the gifts, so I will just yell out in tongues wherever I want; the preacher preaches for an hour, so when I get up to give my 5 minute testimony I will take one hour; there are people up the front with musical instruments, so I will just walk over to the front and bring my musical instrument to church. Never following protocol because it is a blind spot to them, and so they then clash with the church because the church is of a certain size and therefore has protocols, they then get disillusioned, call the church harsh, and retreat back to their tiny groups.
Whenever we get people from house churches, I am always careful to see they are learning honour and learning the culture of honour, because otherwise they will be gone soon.
- You only welcome people like you, so you never clash with anyone so you are never sharpened. In any church of more than 15 people, you will clash with people. That’s not a bad thing, the Bible says we sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27.17). When we clash, we can look at ourselves and sharpen up. A bit of introspection is good for the soul (too much, not so much, but that’s a different post for another day). People who have only been in a cosy small group don’t clash often, so don’t develop the skills to handle conflict. In fact, generally the first conflict is when they leave the church family. Missing out on being sharpened and growing. Some of these people can be Christians for decades, they can minister the Word, they can flow in the gifts. But they cannot handle conflict. As such, that is a danger for any church. Be aware!
- You never benefit from the vision of a large service. One of the greatest things about a large meeting is that it gives vision. When we had 280 people in one service this year, it envisioned the whole church – this is what it can be every week, we can impact people, we can dream big. There is something so powerful about people walking into a big meeting – it makes them big people. Never underestimate the power of vision – vision gives life purpose. People from small groups do not generally have a purpose that keeps them going through the storms. They instead rely on the group in a dysfunctional way to keep them going through storms that really they should be laughing through.
- You never benefit from corporate worship. Worship music is one of the most important gifts of helps in the New Testament – it helps people focus on God, it helps people consider how big God is, and it prepares people for the life-changing, preached Word. Don’t get me wrong, there is something special about worship in a small group – all of our small groups have a time of worship in the Tree. It’s cosy, it’s refreshing, it’s good. But when you all get together at once, and you have worship leaders who know what they are doing, and that worship is a prelude to a powerful equipping sermon, man that is something else. You don’t have that in a house church, and so they often don’t understand the power of worship, they don’t understand the role of worship as a help and prelude to the Word. (Again, for another later post, why worship all night long or all service long without the preached Word will never change anyone’s life and is never once found in the New Testament).
- You do not have a pastor, so you are in a bad place. The people running house churches are not fivefold ministry pastors. That’s a given, because if they were the group would eventually grow. True pastors over time grow churches because they tend to their needs and feed them. Look at this verse of Scripture:
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd (Matthew 9.36, ASV)
You need a shepherd (shepherd and pastor are the same word in the Greek). You need a pastor. You need to be part of a church that has a pastor. If you are not, you will end up distressed and scattered. You will come to your house church every week and be soothed and forget about Monday, but you will never be fed and tended to so that you can eat Monday for breakfast. You end up scattered – a word that means confused. That is the greatest problem with the house church movement, it is breeding confused people, people without pastors. That is a tragedy.
- Finally, confused people deep down in their reborn spirits know that the house church is not enough. But because the house church does not teach them how to submit to authority, how to handle conflict, how to show honour – when you do decide to step out of the pond into the sea, you clash, you feel out of sorts and you don’t know why. You fail to learn why and cannot submit to another church structure long enough to find out why, so you storm off and attack the church, never realizing the problem is in your own heart and own lack of wisdom, and because the nice little house group where everybody knows your name, never prepared you for reality. Never challenged you to stand up, to honour, to submit, to do things you don’t feel like, to prefer another over yourself.
I have had people get furious at me because I will not let someone I do not know pray for the sick at the end of a service. It’s not that they are spiritual and keen, and I am envious and jealous. It’s because they don’t know protocol, they don’t know honour, and they need to learn. Their fury is prove they need to mature, and have been in a dysfunctional “church”.
So what is the solution – it is simple. You attend a healthy church that has small groups. That has a big temple meeting and house meetings, just like the church in Jerusalem, in fact just like every church in the New Testament except Rome (The Roman authorities would not allow the church to have big meetings), and Rome had problems due to that! You learn how to honour and prefer others, you learn how to submit and be involved in protocol. You learn how to be faithful with and steward that which is anothers.
Then you end up with true growth, true life and true abundance. This is the way forward, saints. Those who are wise will hear.
Grace and peace,