A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Six

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days. If you would like to see the whole article, go to my website at Strategic Church Network.]

                                                                 

CHALLENGES AND CONCLUSION

There will certainly be challenges regarding this strategy both internally and externally. Change is never welcomed, especially if it includes you! There is no problem with change if it only includes the other guy.

The Congregation – The challenges amongst the congregation will be in the area of understanding and then agreeing with the proposed changes. Therefore, approach these challenges with love and gentleness but without compromising our purpose. Time and patience will be of utmost importance. Knowing when to wait and when to initiate takes the wisdom of the Lord. Therefore, the congregation will need to spend much time together not only in discussion, but prayer as they seek the Lord’s will together.

In the areas that seem to contradict simple, organic church. This will be in the areas of the clergy/laity issue, using a traditional church facility, being part of a perceived institution such as a denomination or “covering” organization, distribution of funds, and those who come expecting to be part of an attractional/program centered church. Each of these areas will need to be discussed, taught and understood. This will take much time and patience as well.

Expectations from the denomination or “covering” organization. One of the greatest challenges will be to get them to not only understand what is being done, but to accept it and give us space to experiment and follow the Lord’s leading. Our desire would be to always follow scripture rather than tradition. This may be perceived as rebellion or foolish by some, but I would attempt to maintain a loving respectful relationship and hopefully this experiment would prove to be a model to help the churches of the organization to become more fruitful and effective in making disciples and transforming communities with the gospel of the Kingdom.

Concerns regarding finances. Most organic, simple church folk do not subscribe to using tithing as a binding principle but see it as an Old Covenant law and practice. This does not mean that giving is not practiced; in fact statistically it is usually greater in organic, simple churches as much as we can tell. There is a strong belief in biblical giving from a New Covenant perspective which has greater sacrifice than the Old Covenant. There is very little measurement of who gives and how much other than the results of what we see many networks accomplish. Funds are usually not gathered for buildings, programs or clergy, but to help the poor and accomplish mission. The congregation can continue to take up offerings, and encourage those who may be gathering outside of the Sunday morning service at the church facility to participate in giving as well. But if they determine to use their gifts for other reasons, they should be free to do so.

How will the challenge of the traditional need to pay for the facility and staff be met? The staff will need to be providing a service that is not merely tied to the institutional activities of a church, but are truly providing a service to the congregation. Of course, this should never be true in the area of discipleship and ministry, which is the main purpose of the church. Instead funds are provided for those who are accomplishing tasks whose time requirements prohibit them from working in the marketplace.

Keep in mind that working in the marketplace is not less spiritual than working in the church. In most simple, organic churches which are small and usually home based, there is no need for a paid pastor or minister. In a blended model, a full time senior leader could easily justify receiving a salary based upon responsibilities and time commitments. The key is for the senior leader never to allow folks to become dependent upon them, but to be dependent on the Lord for all things. Full time ministry does not position us to have a closer walk with the Lord or a special relationship that allows us to hear God better nor does it qualify us to lord over others. It should be merely practical and not mandated.

All that being said; offerings will still be taken at most events and understanding biblical financial principles will be part of the discipleship process.

Concerns regarding the facility. Make the facility available to the community. The facility could be rented by several congregations which would help to pay for the upkeep and expenses of having a facility and possible supplement the cost of any staff including the senior leader. See the facility become more of a community center for the surrounding area. This would lead towards the facility being used throughout the week rather than one or two times.

It would be continually affirmed in word and practice that the facility is merely a tool of the Lord, but not a sanctuary or temple. It would be clear that the body of Christ, the people, is the only temple or house of the Lord.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned previously, this is not an exact science, but an experiment in doing church in a way that is familiar to many who are meeting in houses and are detached from a traditional denominational structure. But many are now attempting to bring the simple, organic way of being the church into their traditional context. This will not be easy; in fact organic, simple church can be more difficult than what we are used to doing. This is not because in its methods or practices we find greater difficulty, it is really much simpler. But, it is because we are not used to going in that direction or doing things that way. It is so much easier to do things the way we always have done and know how to do them. We have all heard the famous quote; “The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” In this age we live in, we must seek and do something different in order to get different results. This dilemma is truly at the heart of the challenge.

It reminds me of when I used to drive in the snow before the roads where plowed and the ruts in the snow were deep and if you went into them you were sure to get stuck. Therefore you had to force yourself to drive out of the rut, straddling the ruts and fighting the tendency to fall back into them. This was very difficult, but fighting the wheel and staying out of the rut was the only solution. It is the same regarding changing the way we “do church” as we make our way in these changing times to reach our communities and bring transformation to those who live among us by the simple gospel of the Kingdom. We can drive into the ruts with ease. In fact we can just drift normally right into them; we don’t even have to fight the wheel! But if we do this, we find ourselves stuck and going nowhere.

I believe the simple, organic way of being the church is more than a model, but it is the way God intended his church to be and be seen. As we see our nation become more and more distant from the gospel, plus embracing a more post-modern worldview, we must be brave and trust the Lord to lead us beyond our previous understanding and traditions. Thus we see the changes around us as a tool of the Lord and not a barrier to the gospel and relationship with Jesus.

What do you think? What have you experienced in attempting to assist a congregation to function in a more organic, simple way?

God Bless,

Don

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Here are several of the books that have helped me shape my understanding of simple, organic church. This list is not exhaustive, but will give you an idea of the foundation regarding my thinking.

Atkerson, Steve ed. Ekklesia: To the Roots of Biblical Life, New Testament Restoration Foundation, 2003

Atkerson, Steve, ed, Towards A House Church Theology, New Testament Restoration Foundation, 1996

Banks, Robert and Julia, Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Hendrickson Publishers, 1994

Banks, Robert and Julia, The Church Comes Home: Building Community and Mission through Home Churches, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998

Banks, Robert, Going to Church in the 1st Century, Seedsowers, 1980

Barna, George, Revolution, Tyndale House Publishers, 2005

Birkey, Dale, The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church, Herald Press, 1988

Bunton, Peter, Cell Groups and House Churches: What History Teaches Us, House to House Publications, 2001

Cole, Neil, Cultivating a Life for God, ChurchSmart Resources, 1999

Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005

Cole, Neil and Helfer, Phil, Church Transfusion, Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Josey-Bass 2012

Dale, Felicity, An Army of Ordinary People, Karis Publishing, 2005

Dale, Felicity, Getting Started: Planting and Multiplying House Churches, Karis Publishing, 2005

Dale, Tony and Felicity, Simply Church, Karis Publishing, 2002

Edwards, Gene, Beyond Radical, Seedsowers, 1999

Edwards, Gene, How to Meet in Homes: A Revolution in Spiritual Depth and in the Practice of Church Life, Seedsowers, 1999

Fitts, Robert, The Church in the House: A Return to Simplicity, Preparing the Way Publishers, 2001

Frost, Michael and Hirsch, Allen, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, Hendrickson Publishers, 2003

Garrison, David, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World, International Mission Board, 2004

Gehring, Roger W. House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity, Hendrickson Publishers, 2004

Halter, Hugh and Smay, Matt, AND – The Gathered and the Scattered Church. Zondervan 2010

Hirsch, Alan, The Forgotten Ways – Reactivating the Missional Church, Brazos Press, 2006

Hirsch, Alan, and Catchim, Tim, The Permanent Revolution – Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century, Jossey-Bass 2012

Jacobsen, Wayne and Jacobsen, Clay, Authentic Relationships: Discovering the Lost Art of ‘One Anothering,’ Baker Books, 2003

Jacobsen, Wayne The Naked Church, BodyLife Publishers. 1998

Kreider, Larry, House Church Networks: A Church for a New Generation, House to House Publications, 2001

Lund, Robert A., The Way Church Ought To Be – Volume I: Ninety-Five Propositions for a Return to Radical Christianity, Outside the Box Press, 2001

McKenzie, Ron, Being Church Where We Live, Kingwatch Books, 2004

McNeil, Reggie, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Jossey-Bass, 2003

Nelson, Stanley A. A Believers’ Church Theology, House Church Central, 1996

Peters, Mike, Meetings In His Kingdom: Jesus Personally Leading His Church… : In Home, City, And Multi-City Gatherings, Kingdom Publishers, 1990

Peterson, Jim, Church Without Walls, Navpress, 1992

Rutz, James, Megashift, Empowerment Press, 2005

Rutz, James, Open Church, Open Church Ministries, 1992

Scoggins, Dick, Planting House Churches In Networks: A Manual From the Perspective Of a Church Planting Team, Fellowship of Church Planters, 1998

Simson, Wolfgang, Houses That Changed the World, Paternoster Publishing, 2001

Smith, R. Maurice, A Kingdom, A People & A River – A New Paradigm For The Post Modern House Church Movement, Spokane, WA, The Parousia Network,  2006

Snyder, Tom and Tina, Cultivating Christian Community: Training for House Church Facilitators, Communities of Care, Melbourne, FL 2006

Viola, Frank, Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices, Present Testimony Ministry, 2002

Viola, Frank, Rethinking The Wineskin: The Practice of the New Testament Church, Present Testimony Ministry, 2001

Viola, Frank, So You Want to Start a House Church: First Century Styled Church Planting for Today, Present Testimony Ministry, 2003

Viola, Frank, The House Church Movement, Seedsowers, 2001

Viola, Frank, Who Is Your Covering: A Fresh Look at Leadership, Authority and Accountability, Present Testimony Ministry, 2001

Viola, Frank, Finding Organic Church, David C. Cook, 2009

Wilson, Mark and Kathi, Tired of Playing Church? Rediscovering the Book of Acts Church, Ampelos Press, 2004

Zdero, Rad, The Global House Church Movement, William Carey Library, 2004

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