Church In Many Houses Read-Through: Ch. 1

Chapter one: Signs of Hope

Summary: The cell based model has numbers to demonstrate its effectiveness in reaching a group of people with the gospel.

Quotes and Commentary:

“But the effectiveness of these dynamic cell churches demonstrates that a local church can significantly penetrate a region with the light of the Gospel” (Loc. 178).

Note: Models can be effective even if the founding principles are not biblical. And models can be ineffective even if the founding principles are biblical. We have to strive to see both.

“God has chosen to make his Church the instrument through which He will extend His kingdom. When the Church reaches the unreached by demonstrating and proclaiming the Gospel, God’s kingdom advances.”

Note: This wording used here of “Kingdom advancing” is often thrown around without a proper understanding of the theology of the Kingdom.

“Noted cell church researcher Joel Comiskey offers this simple and clear definition of a cell church: “a church that has placed evangelistic small groups at the core of its ministry” (Loc. 215).

Note: While a “cell group” is “a group of 3-15 people that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and discipleship with the goal of multiplication” (loc 236).

“One way cell groups differ from other small groups is that they are fundamentally outward focused“ (Loc. 240).

Note: While not a strict distinction, I think the concept built into cell groups is distinct from most small groups, at least in practice.

“The goal of the cell-based church is to help equip Christians for the ministry of making disciples who make disciples” (Loc. 245).

Note: Again, this is in contrast with many small group models which attempt “to keep” people a part of the body. It can do both, but when we focus on “keeping people in” I think we forget to focus on “bringing people in.” You can have the “keeping” without the “bringing”, but I don’t think you will see the “bringing” without getting the “keeping” tossed in.

“We can see the early church’s rhythm of ‘cell and celebration’ in these passages from the book of Acts: ‘Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts’ (Acts 2:46) ‘Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.’ (Acts 5:42)” (Loc. 249).

Note: This is very true. So much so that I think we could handle a lot more development of the New Testament texts here.

Overall, relying on numbers and “effectiveness” can be misleading. Models can be effective even if the founding principles are not. And models can be ineffective numerically even if the foundational principles are biblical. The point is to be faithful in doing what is biblical. So this chapter could use a whole lot more biblical basis, which would be easy since the concept of small groups meeting together to study the Word and inviting pre-believers in is biblical.

What if the COVID reality could strengthen our churches?

What if it could? That is a big question. I am sure that you have seen some strengthening of your church, maybe through your online engagement, maybe through more people “watching services”, maybe through other means. But I am thinking of something different. What if people were actually more engaged in evangelism and discipleship during the COVID reality than then were before it? Could it happen?

In thinking about this question I remembered a book I read back in 2012. While I had disagreements with the author and some of his ideas, it was the book which got me thinking along these lines. I am posting my review from the first time I read it, and then will be posting quotes, notes, and summaries of each chapter over the coming weeks. Would you be willing to pick it up and read along? Maybe some of the quotes will get you thinking or enable you to share some of what you think about the issue.

The Church In Many Houses: Reaching your Community through Cell-Based Ministry

by Steve Cordle

Point: The cell-based understanding of the church facilitates and stimulates personal growth and community outreach.

Path:The book is divided into three sections: 1) The emerging cell movement (background and general principles) 2) Laying the foundations (what it looks like) 3) Strategic Issues (moving forward and answers for difficulties).

Sources: Cordle relies on personal experience, statistical data, Methodist methodology, and Biblical principles.

Agreement:

The overarching principle is right on – we are not a church “with” cells (or small groups), we are a church “of” cells. Whether we admit it or not, the local church functions at a relational base. If there is no relationship going on, what are we considering the “church”?

He uses the terminology “pre-Christian friend” instead of “unbeliever.” I loved that!

Everyone is involved.

There is a focus on prayer.

Multiplication is the purpose.

This is not a program.

Disagreement:

His view of the worship service, or celebration, is geared toward unbelievers.

He uses numbers all the time to prove points, but numbers are not what Jesus focused on.

I have questions about his view of woman in leadership. I don’t think that woman should be relegated to the back seat, but he has them in pastoral roles.

He sees spiritual gifts as things to be discovered and stressed.

Personal App: Am I seeking to reach outward and multiply disciples? If so, how am I implementing that?

Favorite Quote: “Meeting in homes also locates ministry in the midst of multiple neighborhoods, spreading the gospel across an area instead of stockpiling believers in a central building” (34).

Stars: 4 out of 5

The concept gets a 5, but I had to let a lot of terminology, specific application, etc. slide through.

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

Church

It is because of the church’s diversity that the followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. You could not call them Jews or Gentiles, for both were in the church. You could not label them wealthy or poor, intellectuals or idiots, because the church was made up from all categories of humanity. The only thing that all these diverse people had in common was Christ, and therefore that was the only title you could give them: Christians.

Leonard, Get Real

One small step

If we call upon the average church member to take up arms as a gospel minister or a disciple-maker or an evangelist, then (rightly or wrongly) many will feel sufficiently threatened to run in the opposite direction. But what if we were to say the following instead? “Why don’t you pray for the person next to you (wherever that might be), and see if by your word and example you can encourage them to take one step—even one small step—to the right?”

  • Vine Project

The Vine Project

Book: Payne, Tony, and Colin Marshall. The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture around Disciple-Making. Matthias Media, 2016.

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Point: Making and maturing disciples is not something that a church does, it is something a disciple does. Here is a workbook on how to pursue disciple making in all of church life.

Path: The authors lay out five phases to work through, making sure that everyone understands that this is not as much of a how-to-manual, but rather a workbook. They lay a biblical foundation, explain logical truths, and give practical examples. This isn’t a book to just read, but to work through with others.

Sources: Based on their previous book and the interactions they have had since then, the authors do a great job at walking the reader through both biblical truth and e

 

veryday experience.

Agreement: Top shelf book. I am so thankful how they presented these truths not as a “five steps to your best church now” but “take time to think through these principles with others and you will change”.

Personal App: Am I seeing every relationship as an opportunity to encourage the other individual to take one step toward Christ?

Favorite Quote: Engaging unbelievers on Sunday is ”like taking in a gues

 

t at your house for Christmas dinner. This often happens in our part of the world. If there’s someone at church who doesn’t have any family to share Christmas with, then you invite them to join your family for Christmas lunch. Now in doing so, you don’t change who you are or what your family does in any significant way at all. But you make very sure that your guest is looked after. You warmly welcome them, and introduce them around. You explain what is going on at different points— why Uncle Fred always has to sit in that chair, what the background is to your funny family games or rituals, how to play, and so on. You put yourself out to make your guest feel at home and part of the family, even though it’s not their home or their family. Likewise in church— outsiders are not part of our church family. We don’t stop being who we are, or pursuing God’s purposes, just because we have guests present. But we do welcome our guests, who, like the ‘outsiders’ in 1 Corinthians 14, turn up and (God-willing) come to know and worship the living God in our midst.” (Kindle loc. 2967).

 

Stars:  5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • is planting a church
  • is leading a church
  • is
    serving in a church

Other books along this theme would be:

Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? 9Marks. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Expanded. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004.

Marshall, Colin, Tony Payne, and Matthias Media. The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything. Kingsford, N.S.W.: Matthias Media, 2009.

Rainer, Thom S., and Eric Geiger. Simple Church. B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

All nations

A common thread running through most of these extraordinary passages is that the people God is gathering into his kingdom are from every nation. To our modern ears, this idea sounds rather lovely—that all the peoples of the earth might finally be brought together, and might celebrate together, despite all the linguistic and cultural differences that separate us; a kind of heavenly United Nations in which all the rich diversity of humanity is represented. This, after all, is how most of us in the post-enlightenment West have been taught to think about the diversity of human language and culture—as a gorgeous human tapestry, with each people group contributing its own unique and wonderful colours and threads. And indeed, we do find all the goodness and beauty that God has woven into his creation present in every corner of it. But in the Bible’s depiction of history and of God’s plan, the scattered diversity of the nations has a dark underbelly. It is a consequence of the judgement of God at Babel. According to Paul in Acts 17, it is meant to induce a humble searching after the true God who has scattered us. The gathering of all nations around the throne of God in Revelation is not so much a celebration of cultural diversity as a celebration of how God has overcome the one foundational problem that all the nations share—that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

  • Vine Project

 

What do you do on Sundays?

One of the frequent questions that we are asked, and for good reason, is “what do you do on Sundays?”
Here is the reasoning behind the question:

If we are trying to plant churches, that probably means there isn’t one that we are part of right now.

Not good.

This absence of a church leaves us with a few options.

1. We could ignore the idea of regularly meeting together with believers. Bad idea.

2. We could go to the Brethren church, or the Pentecostal church. We have attended services before, but this could cause confusion on various levels.

3. We could rent a building and start hosting services, inviting people to come to church. There are several problems with this approach.

  • A building isn’t a church, it can only house the gathered body of believers which is the local church.
  • We would just be duplicating our own little style of services that could be very unlike what a church gathering would end up looking like in our context, and nearly impossible to reduplicate without another person just like us.
  • Inviting people to “church” in our context means, “would you like to go to Mass with us?” Not exactly the message we are trying to get across.
  • Etc.

 

Here is the option we have chosen:IMG_8672
Sunday mornings we meet at alternating homes (between our home and the Templetons). Our desire is to feed our souls, encourage other believers in the gospel, and proclaim the gospel to those who have yet to believe it. In order to do that we:

  • Read Scripture
  • Sing Scripture
  • Pray Scripture

Our normal gathering begins with prayer and a couple songs geared toward teaching verses and biblical truths to our girls. Then one of us walks through the chapter we are all studying (currently we are working through the book of Luke) in a way that the little girls can understand. After a few more songs (and handing out snacks to keep he little ones happy!) we read through the same chapter together. The discussion is led by either Jon or I, depending on whose home we are in that given Sunday. The main questions we discuss revolve around the context, observation, meaning, and application of that chapter. We end our time of study with more singing and prayer. This is done in both English and Spanish, depending on who is in attendance. We finish our morning by sharing a meal together, seeking to bridge the conversation over into our time around the table.

IMG_8813

It may sound fairly static, but we are adapting as we go. Nearly each Sunday we change something, or ask the question, “How should we adjust our time?” As more people join us, the decoration will change, but the structure will not. We will continue to read Scripture, sing Scripture, and pray Scripture.

 

How churches have encouraged us

We have had the opportunity to visit many churches around the Midwest over the past 1.5 years. We have been blessed in ways we never imagined, and each church has been unique. This post is a way for us to praise God for these churches, encourage churches for how they are blessing us, and give ideas for individuals who are looking for ways to be creative in loving disheveled wanderers like ourselves.

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Best practices to help the missionary wife:

  1. The week before, pastors have shown a photo of the missionary family (us) and shared our names, status (are they on deputation, furlough, etc?), country of service, and even prayed for us.
  2. Having someone to show us around the church has been so helpful! It can be daunting at times when it is a new church. Where are the bathrooms? Where is the nursery or the Sunday School classrooms? The missionary may prefer to have their children (if they have them) sit with them, but it is nice to have the knowledge. This same person can be the one that the missionary can go to if they have any questions throughout their time spent at the church.
  3. They gave us an order of service and a bulletin.
  4. Informed us with whom we will be eating (if there is a meal involved), introduced us to that family, and made sure we have very clear directions as to how to get where we needed to go.
  5. Asked us questions, checked out our display table. Showed interest and tried to get informed about us and the ministry opportunities.
  6. **Bonus- Missionary cupboards are nice in certain circumstances, but we have found that the most helpful thing (to us) is when the church has a binder full of gift cards and they let us know that we can pick out X amount of cards (or dollar amount). This has been wonderful as it helps with gas, meals out, a drink from a coffee shop, or groceries. Many missionaries don’t want more material things that they have to pack and lug around in their vehicles, but gift cards can be a great help!