1. Where do you get your servant leaders from? By praying the Lord of the Harvest to send us those He is calling to serve him in this way. In the beginning nearly all came out of established traditional churches. Currently most of the newer church planters are second generation. Our conviction is that as we pray Luke 10:2, He answers that prayer. Personally, I am doing less and less training, as those whom we have trained are doing more and more. In the past we have used radio spots to announce upcoming training opportunities. Now it is mainly by word of mouth, talking with people, and simply being open and available as the Lord touches hearts to allow us to work with them. We let it be known that if there are at least ten people willing to be trained to start churches, we will go to where they are and work with them.
2. Do lay people baptize and serve the Lord’s Supper? Are they ordained? Yes, lay people baptize and serve the Lord's Supper. No, they are not ordained. Amongst Baptists this has been more of an obstacle. The general feeling seems to be that only ordained servants of God can serve in these capacities. We try to not make a big deal about these issues, but nevertheless are always questioned about this as if we were going outside the Scriptural norms by allowing non-ordained ministers to serve in this way. What we try to stress is the need for baptizing new converts ASAP, not WHO should do it. We downplay the WHO and emphasize in WHOSE NAME they are being baptized.
3. Are not these house churches breeding grounds for heresy and false teaching? Over the years we have not seen nor heard any false teaching done by the servant leaders whom we have trained/mentored. However, I have observed practices that I am personally uncomfortable with when outsiders come in or are invited to a HC meeting or event. My own observations is that there is more poor teaching coming from the established traditional churches than from the new works.
4. How do you train servant leaders? Over the years we have continuosly adapted our materials and training to best suit the needs of those being trained. What we keep discovering is the need to further simplify what it is we do. Our tendency is to want to give more than can be absorbed by those being trained. Currently we use COSECHA (harvest) which is a step-by-step process on what to do to start a new church (see previous blog entry.)
5. Materials? What materials do you use? Where do they come from? They come from all over. The only materials we use in the house churches themselves are 1) Bibles, 2) a songbook that we put together with accompanying CD/cassette, 3) short discipleship lessons which can be xerox copied according to the number of people in the group. Most of the lessons are adaptations from other sources (eg. "Pioneer Evangelism" by Wade Akins, other missionaries lessons, etc.) Others are lessons we put together as a team. The truth is they have been copied, begged, adapted from all over. We need to do some work in crediting the sources from which the materials have been taken, but haven’t done so yet. There are lessons for one full year of house church meetings. All the lessons are supposed to be done in 30-40 minutes. One of the things we found is that most lessons out there are simply too long and too complicated for those studying them. We place more importance on understanding and obeying a given lesson, rather than simply completing a lesson.
Our COSECHA church planting manual and the discipleship manual can be downloaded from
6. Do the servant leaders leave their home churches to dedicate themselves exclusively to the new house churches being planted? Some do and some don’t. In the beginning some are very loyal to their mother churches and wouldn’t think of leaving. Most start out doing both but find that the new church plant begins to take up more and more of their time and their interest. Soon they find themselves with their first allegiance to the church plant. Over the years we have found that most usually end up leaving their tradtional church home and give themselves exclusively to the new house church plant. We don’t make it a requirement that you have to forsake your local Body of Believers in order to plant a church, but this is what usually happens in most cases. Again, we leave these kinds of issues to the Holy Spirit for Him to deal with the person.
7. How do traditional churches react to the house churches? Most do not consider them legitimate churches. They will call them cells, Bible studies, preaching points, or even a mission of an existing church. Very few, if any, really accept the house church model as being a true New Testament church. Some pastors are extremely opposed to our working in this fashion and consider it a threat to the stability of the work in general. The idea that lay people can do the work of professional, ordained clergy has been threatening to many and walls of defense have gone up to protect the establishment. Much work needs to be done yet in prayer and in dialoging with pastors and leaders about these issues.
8. How many people come to a typical house church meeting? On the average between 10-13 adults and young people will be present in a house church meeting. Of these about a third will be visiting not-yet-believers. There are always children present who fully participate in the meetings along with the adults.
9. What do you do about tithes and offerings? Every house church tends to do their own thing. We have several discipleship lessons that deal with the subject of money, giving, stewardship, etc. Most use their small offerings for purchasing Bibles, or for planned evangelistic events. Others will use their gifts and offerings for needs of the local Body of believers (medicines, food baskets, medical expenses in general.) More and more they are giving to missions (this is what we encourage.) The house churches in our local network are currently helping to support a foreign Ecuadorian missionary serving in South Asia. We are in the planning stages of wanting to send out a second missionary in the near future. I am only aware of one house church that actually gives their leadership a love offering. The rest use their monies for outreach or helping the needy amongst them.