Planting churches in the homes of new believers

Some more quotes from Organic Church by Neil Cole. Our practice in The Crowded House is normally to host a new church in the home of one of the church planting team. Starting in the home a new convert is quite conceivable within TCH. But Cole’s suggestion of waiting so you start church in the home of new convert in an interesting one for us to think about. Perhaps it is not an either-or. Perhaps you can start in the home of a team member, but move to a new converts home as soon as possible.

Most people setting out to start new churches automatically think of starting in their own home, but Jesus’ idea of starting in the home of the new converts is a small shift with global implications. I suggest that if it takes a little longer to find an open home, it is worth the wait rather than starting in your own home. Trust Jesus plan. He felt it was a strong enough plan to repeat it. (186)

The traditional approach to outreach is that you go to the neighbourhood, knock on the first door, and pray that no one is home. If anyone is there, good, but if no one is there, you feel relieved. Then you knock on the next door. If some one is there, you talk.

Imagine, in a best-case scenario, you go to the third door and find a single mother struggling to make ends meet with two or three jobs. She feels weighed down with guilt and concern for her kids, and she is lonely. She hears your message of hope and a relationship with Jesus, and she accepts Him. What you do next with her is the difference between a church planting movement and just church growth. Usually you would take her six blocks away to where the church is and ask her to become a part of your community. In so doing, you have added one member to your church.

In Matthew 10, Jesus instructs us to use another strategy. You go to the first door, knock, and hope no one is home (you are still human). A friendly but cautious man comes to the door. After you talk with him, you find that he is not really interested in the Gospel.

What do you do next, according to Jesus’ plan? You do not just go next door; you ask the man a question. Jesus said, ‘When you come into a town, inquire who is worthy in it’ (Matt. 10:11). His idea is genius. You ask the non-Christians who the people are in the community who need to hear the message most, and they will help you start a church.

What does Jesus mean by ‘who is worthy’? Later in the same chapter Jesus defines it for us: ‘He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matt. 10:3 7). In other words, it is someone desperate enough to give up everything for Christ. So you ask the people in the house, ‘Is there anyone here in this commu­nity who really needs to hear this message?’ The man says, ‘Yes, four houses down, that guy is partying all night. The music is loud late into the night. There are always beer bottles all over his front lawn. Please go save that guy so I can get some sleep.’ You will find that even self-righteous unbelievers who are not interested some-how intuitively know the people who will be open to your message of hope and peace. They often try to help.

Now you do not go next door; instead, you go four doors down, step over the beer bottles, and knock on the door.

A burly guy in a white tank top that is stretched thin around a large beer gut comes to the door. His eyes are red, his breath smells, his beard is a few days old, his hair is sticking out in all directions, and he doesn’t care. He looks you over, stares you down, and with the nastiest voice you can imagine spits out, ‘What the [bleep] do I you want?!’

As you try to recover your strength, you hear a noise in the background and look past him. You see a woman in the back room throwing her clothes into a suitcase, a look of anger on her face, but also tears. You hear obscenities flying this way relentlessly and realize they come from a teenage boy who has no respect for the man in front of you. You are reminded of why you are here, and you muster the strength to say, ‘I was just in this neighbourhood, and I felt that I should come to your door and ask if I can pray for you. That’s all! I have nothing to sell. I just felt that this home needed prayer.’

You suddenly see a completely different man. Before, he was covering his weakened condition with aggression, but his hardened exterior is ed, and he now appears vulnerable. He says, ‘Yeah, you can [bleepin’] pray for me.’ In a few minutes, you discover that this man is about to lose his family, his home, and his job, all because al­cohol has consumed him. He accepts Jesus as a last desperate chance. His changed life is noticeable to all almost instantly. The rest of the family is also hoping for one last chance. Within a short time, his wife and son come to Christ as well. What do you do next?

You do not take him out of his community and add him to your church. You assume that a church is about to start here in this neighbourhood. All the neighbours immediately notice a difference in this man as he goes from door to door to apologize. They see the family change, and the Gospel message takes on a new level of power in their eyes. A few neighbours come to Christ.

There are many other guys, just like him, who used to come to the party every day. Some of their lives are also circling the drain, and they are drawn to a last chance as well. Soon, not only has a church started in the house that used to have a different sort of party, but other churches start in other homes that were equally devastated by sin and havoc.

I have tested Jesus’ plan, and I must say, over and over it has come out this way. Here is one example.

Michael is a painter in Long Beach, California. He owns a busi­ness, called Michael’s Painting. He was also once a addict. His house was a constant party. People knew that if they ever wanted to party, Michael’s house was the place to find and good times. Everything seemed good for Michael, until his speed habit took over. Soon everything began to fall apart. His truck (which is im­portant for a painter) was repossessed, his business fell into bank­ruptcy, his home went into foreclosure, and his wife left him. Michael fell on his knees in his living room and said, ‘Lord, I give up!’ and gave his life to Christ. God has graciously restored every­thing Michael lost-and more, much more.

Now, Michael’s house is a church, a people of purpose. This church started six years ago, and the members have given birth to twenty other churches. They have sent out church planters who have moved to Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Indiana, France, Jordan, Kosovo, and North Africa. The church in Mi­chael’s house has only fifteen to twenty people coming regularly, yet it has ‘missions’ that are more extensive than those of most megachurches. (187-189)

One thought on “Planting churches in the homes of new believers

  1. Sounds interesting idea. We’ve already got people who are not Christian asking about joining our group to see how we live together and what the Bible is about. Could it be conceivable that we meet in the home of a non-Christian?

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