The Shape of the Church

For those who don’t know, I’m a part of what some would call a ‘house church.’ We meet in each other’s homes and exist with a paradigm that tries to break ‘Christianity’ down to its essentials – relationship with God, and man. (See Matthew 22:36-39)

Some members of the Body of Christ have been recently making house church as the ‘new thing’, the best thing since slice bread, and crying down the more ‘traditional’ types of church assembly (where ‘traditional’ in this context isn’t just whether you meet and sing hymns, or meet and sing contemporary songs.) 🙂 (Gentle jab to one of my new blog acquaintances and her blog post on modern vs contemporary church services – Hi Lynese!)

I used to be one of them.

But I’ve come to realize that the container doesn’t matter as much as the commitment to the purpose, if you get what I mean. Whether the church meets on Sunday morning, or Tuesday night, whether we sing hymns or just sit in a circle and discuss life – the main purpose for the church is put pretty succinctly in the Scriptures (Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-19. )

And now I see a blog post that gives me what I’ve heard recently is an ‘Aha!’ moment!

In Discipling Viral Disciplers, the author had me at the first line: “I no longer try to start house churches.” Wha…. Interesting. Let’s continue.

The post says:

Jesus invited us to join him, organically, in the reproduction of life. (my emphasis) His church is a living, thriving, reproducing organism (Mark 4) that allows life-in-the-Spirit to spread virally from one disciple to the next. His church is alive as illustrated by a seed (Mark 4) that brings forth 30, 60, or 100-fold reproduction. That is the life of the kingdom. His life in me is passed on to the life of another (2-fold) which is passed to the life of another (4-fold) which is passed to the life of another (8-fold), etc. That is the way of organic/viral life and this is what the kingdom IS. This is ultimately what Jesus invited us to become part of: discipling viral disciplers.

I’ve been a part of a house church for over ten years. When the Lord first called me to join it, I turned away from everything that was, in my view, ‘rigid’ and ‘structured.’ It took a couple of years for the Lord to finally get into my skull that even an amoeba (a one celled organism that flows into any shape and reproduces by splitting in half) had a structure.


So I came to realize that house church, in itself isn’t “it” – the author puts it beautifully when he said that:

When I have made house churches the end game, I have discovered that they do not naturally reproduce nor become movements. In fact, house churches have a shelf life. They may serve a purpose for a season, but when that season ends (and it will) the “movement” is over. The influence of a house church is temporary.

He says had commented earlier that “Kingdom life is viral, organic, and, by nature, a movement.” and he expounds on this by continuing:

This explains why Jesus did not ask us to go and “make gatherings or churches.” He did not ask us to go and “make house churches.” He said, “go and make disciples.” This shift from starting gatherings to making disciples (who go and make disciples) goes to the very heart of the matter. Discipling viral disciplers is the end game. This places us squarely in the midst of reproductive life that the kingdom is intrinsically about. We become movement-starters not church-starters. We release disciples who will influence the world throughout their lifetime and beyond as those they disciple disciple still others.

WOW. I couldn’t have put it better myself. This is the missing link in my thinking. But does this mean that we have to look for another container to house the church in? Not according to him – but house churches themselves are not the goal, they are the means to the end of spreading the gospel….

Now, not to confuse the issue, but often in the work of discipling viral disciplers I will be gathering people together in a manner that looks an awful lot like a simple/house church. Absolutely! But the underlying DNA makes all the difference. When I reach and disciple a viral discipler, that person is going to gather with other viral disciplers for encouragement, and then, as each of them reaches others, still more gatherings will take place. So, along the way, house churches are started. But, but rather than being the end game, they become a means to support the life that is being reproduced from one disciple to the next.

Just like the amoeba, “[the] house church gatherings themselves will shift, change, morph, end, and re-establish themselves in new forms but the movement of disciples who are reproducing disciples will continue.”

I like his comment here: “When we start house churches, our focus tends to be on the gathering—what to do, how to do it, what it looks like, etc. We say to ourselves that we are learning to “be” the church 24/7 (and we may even go do missional things), but often our priority remains on developing the structure/form of simple house church gatherings.” I dare say, that this is also the priority of those who gather in more ‘traditional’ settings as well. He contrasts this way of thinking – “church starters” – with being “movement starters” by saying

When following Jesus and inviting others to follow him becomes our focus (discipling viral disciples), we will have to shift from the “gathering” mentality to the “lifestyle-going” mentality. This shift changes the processes we walk out from top to bottom. And, this shift will propel us from being church-starters to movement starters (where churches spring up along the way).

I love this comment in his conclusion: “Jesus, the adventurous, undomesticated, on-the-move God invites us to join him daily where He is working.” He challenges that this change of thinking calls us to ‘examine our own “followership” as a starting point.’ (his words)

I will echo his concluding questions: What does this mean for us, to really be the church in the world? I am not calling out those who gather in church buildings on Sunday and saying they’re wrong – they are not. I am asking – what does it really mean to be the church? If we move from starting churches to releasing viral disciplers, how does this change our paradigm? What will it look like?



22 Responses

  1. I remember running across this house church article recently. The ideas do flow along with the ideas presented in Wayne’s post. In both cases, I believe the priority is to keep the relationships the emphasis, allowing whatever structures develop to serve the relationships, rather than putting our focus on serving structures whether simple or institutional.

    • I believe the priority is to keep the relationships the emphasis, allowing whatever structures develop to serve the relationships, rather than putting our focus on serving structures whether simple or institutional.

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! The structure is to serve the relationships! They are important, but not as an end to themselves! Awesome insight, Grace…. I’m glad you stopped by! Come again!

  2. […] off of the last two posts on The Shape of the Church (part 1 and part 2),  this series, taken from the Purpose Driven Connection – the weekly email […]

  3. I think any time we make a version of church “the one”, we decide to put limits on God. I think there is a role for megachurches, medium-sized churches, house churches, coffee shop churches, churches in the pub, etc – basically God has and will bless any of these. It’s not my role to decide other people are not following God’s will, but more, am I doing what God wants me to do?

    Thanks for your post!

    • I agree, Phillipa… the version of church isn’t as important as the two major relationships in the church – love God, and love others! There is room for any structure that works….

      Awesome insight!!!! Be blessed!

  4. […] The Shape of the Church […]

  5. […] The Shape of the Church […]

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