Tue, 06/24/2008 – 18:29 — David Watson
Following is a reply to a posted comment. (Click here to view comment.) I think this is another subject that is important enough to promote to the front page.
I never set out to start a house church movement. Even today, when I am working with new people in new locations, the objective is not to start a house church movement. The objective is to meet and address lostness in every segment of society through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I truly have no preconceived ideas of what form the local church will take as lostness is addressed, the Gospel is presented, families and affinity groups come to Christ, communities are transformed and new churches are started. Check out my blog entry on Strategy and Structure.
The church belongs to Christ, and it should be Christ who determines how the church will grow and what it will look like. We certainly have to do our part, but the Christ is the Head of the Church. Different segments of society and different cultures will put church together differently as they are obedient to the Word and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their own context. My job as a church planter is to present the Gospel as honestly and as culturally neutral as I can. As families, affinity groups, and individuals come to Christ, I teach and guide them by example and word to discover what the Bible has to say and to obey it. I do not think there is only one way to obey the mandates of the Word in connection to the church. By this I mean we do not all have to worship the same way, pray the same way, serve the same way, fast the same way, sing the same way, or do anything else the same way in order to be obedient to Christ. As we obey the Word in our own context there will be differences, but obedience continues. In some circumstances this may mean house church. In other situations it may lead to some other structure of church that is appropriate for that context.
The single greatest hurdle any of us have is to unload our culture before we start new work. Our Christian culture can have an extremely negative impact on church planting. So I do avoid the “churchy” words, phrases, titles, and etc. Most people in North America have been exposed to Christianity, so it is not unusual for them to adopt the Christian cultural words when they describe what is happening to them, or to label leadership roles and etc. But, I let them make these determinations. I do my best NOT to transfer my Christian culture, denominational terms or doctrine into the new work.
Of course, this got me into trouble with my denomination. They wanted all new work to look and act like the rest of the denomination, even though this was a barrier in the past, and continues to be a barrier as new people engage the Gospel. All who are comfortable with traditional church are already engaged with a traditional church. The statistics show that traditional church is losing ground to population growth. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTvEuknfxVo.
It is indeed difficult to deculturalize ourselves. I continually battle my Christian culture when I am engaged in church planting. I often work in the traditional Christian culture world one day, and find myself in an antichristian world the next day. I spent from 1973 until 1997 working in a denominational setting. Ignoring, reversing, or changing twenty-five years of cultural immersion is difficult, but I choose to continue working on it. The less religious I am, and the more spiritual I am, the more effective I become as a church planter.
We must never equate religion and spirituality. Religion is about how we do church. Spirituality is about how we live out our relationship with God is such a way that we, our families, and our communities are transformed. Lost people are mostly repulsed by religion, and inexplicably drawn to spiritual men and women. When church planting, I strive to be less religious. In all settings I want to continue to grow spiritually. By this I mean a deepening relationship to God through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that changes me and impacts my family and community positively for Christ.
When we love people, they will know it. When they know it, much of what we say and how we say it will be of little consequence. What we do will speak much louder than our words, but what we do will open the ears of those who want to hear the words we have to speak. Love the people, and they will come to Christ as you minister to them and lead them to discover God for themselves.