1) Gather people.
2) Make disciples.
Both are bathed in prayer day and night.
Gather people. It is much easier to gather people and win them to Christ than to win people and then try to gather them. The best way we know to gather people is to use food (yes, the real stuff!)
Invite friends, family, and neighbors to eat. The idea of the gatherings is to get to know one another. In knowing one another better, we build trust. Eating together is a natural way to begin relating we want to be church with. There is no planned devotional. No Bible under the table that we pull out as people are finishing their dessert. If a spiritual topic arises in the natural flow of conversation, follow the Spirit’s lead. Share openly as a Christian, but not dominating the dialog.
If things seem to go well, encourage everybody to bring one or two others with them next time. Ask who might be able to bring sandwiches, drinks, empanadas, fruit, etc. to the next gathering.
Make disciples. Continue meeting with food being the drawing card. As the servant-leader senses the Lord’s leading (remember we are praying day and night about all this) begin introducing participative group activities to encourage spiritual dialog. In our context (Ecuador) where there is an openness to the Gospel, we can begin introducing the below elements early on, even in the first gathering. This is especially true if the ‘person of peace’ is well known and respected by those who are gathered.
We use a variety of tools. Which elements are utilized depends upon the group, their spiritual receptivity, etc. Some of the more common and widely used are:
- Short general-interest downloaded YouTube videos burned to DVDs that help generate dialog
- Listening to one another’s stories, spiritual journeys, testimonies
- Singing Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs from our green songbook accompanied by CDs.
- Ice-breakers (some fun, others of a more serious nature)
- Simple group sharing and praying for one another
While continuing to encourage everyone to bring their guests to the “eating meetings” we prayerfully ask them a key question, “HOW MANY OF US WOULD SAY WE LOVE GOD?” After a show of hands we share Jesus’ words, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” What are the Ten Commandments of Jesus Christ? To be a disciple of Jesus we must obey those things He said were important. No one can be a disciple unless he keeps Jesus commandments.
At that point we start with #1, the Great Commandment. We ask three people to read aloud Matthew 22:36-40. Then ask three questions:
- What does Jesus say? (Tell it to us in your own words what you understood.)
- What did He mean? (What do the words mean?)
- How are we going to obey this commandment? (What specific actions can we take to obey?)
At this point we generally introduce the second major discipleship tool which is to get everyone into a “GRUPO DE TRES” (Group of Three) discipleship group. These are very similar to Neil Cole’s LIFE TRANSFORMATION GROUPS. We try to encourage everyone to be in a group of three. Everyone receives a bookmark card which serves three purposes, 1) Bible reading plan, 2) accountability questions, 3) praying for one another and the lost.
The final element we phase in for the “eating meeting” is a time of “one another” ministry where prayer, exhortation, encouragement, counsel, sharing, etc. are openly shared amongst those gathering week by week (1 Cor.14:26.)
There are a few more “nuts and bolts” but this is the gist of how we train house church leaders to start in our context here on the coast of Ecuador.
To see the above in action, click the previous video posted below, It's All About Jesus to view scenes from the Guayaquil house churches. Many of the photos are actual shots of implementing the two steps described above. If you still have doubts that this will work for you, try it first! We welcome any questions that might arise, but TRY IT FIRST first before writing with a bunch of questions. We will gladly walk you through the steps.
*Over the years we have taken several similar approaches to starting house churches. What is shared here is the way we have been working for the past two years. Our context is the coast of Ecuador, particularly in Guayaquil, the largest city in the country. Some of the earlier successful approaches were LIETC (La Iglesia En Tu Casa), COSECHA (Harvest), and the most recent described above CPM (Capacitar Para Multiplicar).