Wednesday, March 12, 2008


[Subversive Underground]Presents:
Something Different
By Keith Giles

I want to ask a question, "What if there was a way of doing church that made community easier, facilitated discipleship, and inspired organic growth? Why would anyone oppose something that helped people to follow Jesus in their everyday life, set them free to discover and practice their spiritual gifting in the context of worship, and helped encourage lifestyle of evangelism and personal mission?"

As someone who has been a licensed and ordained pastor for over 18 years now, in denominational, independent and charismatic expressions of church, I've witnessed first-hand the angst and frustration at the pastoral level in the traditional church. "Why can't we get people to give more? Why don't people feel connected here? Why don't these people take the words of Jesus seriously? How can we get people to share their faith and increase community?"

Even as I've agonized over these thoughts myself, I've also heard other pastors lament in much the same way when comparing their church with the one we see in Acts. "Look at the incredible devotion these people had for one another," the pastors say. "Why don't our people give and share and love in the same way?"

After years of struggling to help put butts in the seats, inspire the frozen chosen to serve others and live out their faith in their daily life, I finally did something out of desperation- I tried the method outlined in the New Testament, and what do you know, it worked.

Our house church has been thriving now for over 2 years and I can honestly say I've not once had to preach a sermon on tithing or giving, and yet our small gathering gave thousands of dollars to the help the poor in our community last year. In fact, we're on track to double last year's amount, and I've never had to beg or plead for our members to dig deep or give more. Why is this? What's the big difference?

The simple fact is that our people can tangibly connect every dollar and penny they give with how it directly assists people in need. We keep nothing for ourselves and give all of the money we receive away to the poor. When our members connect their dollars with actual people receiving assistance they are glad to give all that they can to help others.

I take no salary from the offering. We don't even use it to buy paper plates or coffee. All of the offering, every single penny of it, is spent on the poor in our community, and that inspires people to give hilariously.

In our house church I've also seen people discover their personal mission and start to walk it out in their everyday life. One dear woman had always felt called to be a missionary to children overseas but that door never opened for her. Instead, she discovered that God had given her a mission field with her Fifth Grade class each week at a local elementary school where she teaches. We get to encourage her every week as she loves and serves these dear children God has given to her to bless.

Another woman has discovered that her art can speak to those outside the walls of the church and have a greater impact alongside works of art at local galleries. She's been liberated to take her art to the darkness and allow it to effect people who need hope and light. We get to support her art and encourage her as she encounters people in deep spiritual need who would never darken a church door.

Another man has realized a profound concern for the local homeless and has begun to spend his weekends befriending the homeless he encounters during his weekly job as a security guard. Our house church has helped him to purchase food and supplies to share with these new friends he's made. We get to encourage him and cheer him on as he struggles with how to love and help these people who are in desperate need.

Others in our house church have begun to identify their spiritual gifts and are being encouraged, many for the very first time, to utilize those gifts in the context of the weekly gathering, and to advance the Kingdom of God and make new disciples to Jesus, and live out the Gospel in their everyday life.

One thing about community is that we quickly realize that none of us is perfect. As our masks fall down we see the beauty, and the serious flaws, inside each of us. We get to learn how to forgive one another, how to love one another unconditionally, and how to extend grace to each other as we grow in Christ.

We know the early church wasn't perfect either. The New Testament makes no attempt to cover up their infidelity, pride and in-fighting. Yet it also makes no attempt to correct these flaws by changing the methodology. Instead, the Apostles encouraged the early church to love more, forgive more, serve more and be a true Family of God.

No, the house church isn't perfect. We are not more perfect people because of house church, in fact, we're probably a lot more imperfect than most, but that's part of how the power of Christ is revealed in us, as we embrace our weakness and cling to the goodness of God. (See 2 Cor 12:9)

Someone once said, "To experience something you've never experienced before you will have to do something you've never done before." The same logic applies to the modern church in America. If we hope to experience something we've never experienced before as a Body, we will have to entertain the possibility of doing something many of us have never done before.

So, if there were a way to take our traditional churches into a new place of life and hope and encourage real community and empower every person to live out their mission and utilize their gifts, why would anyone oppose this? Why would anyone be against putting these New Testament principles into practice? Are we so committed to our corporate-inspired, big business model of doing church that we cannot imagine any other way?

It's very curious to me how Jesus could inspire his disciples to start a certain kind of family-based system of worship and community and fellowship, which had never existed before, and how those disciples could promote and build and encourage a household of faith for over 300 years, only to have the entire thing thrown out in favor of a new model that effectively chokes community, stifles the spiritual gifts and encourages a retreat from the culture at large.

We could go into the history of how it happened, but I won't take the time for that now. I simply want to ask the question, "If we knew a way to fix what's wrong with the Church today and inspire community, family, mission, evangelism and discipleship, why wouldn't pastors be lining up to give it a try?" Why is it we'll try everything else under the sun except for this Jesus-inspired, Apostle-promoted, family-based, Biblical model outlined for us in the New Testament?

I know I'm a dreamer and an idealist, perhaps. But it seems to make sense to me that if we want what the early church had, we should at least be willing to attempt to do what they did in order to get it.

Even as I write this I know that the vast majority of Christians out there, and probably most of you who are reading this now, are part of a traditional church built upon some of these same principles I am calling into question.

Please know that I do not raise these questions to be divisive. My own parents attend a traditional church that they love and I have several friends who are currently pastoring traditional churches that are doing amazing things for the Kingdom of God.

My aim is not to tear down the good that God is doing within the traditional church, but at the same time I do have to ask these sorts of questions, because the answer to these sorts of questions are necessary to help all of us understand who we are in Christ and how the whole Body fits together in God's Kingdom.

God is at work in every expression of His Church and no matter what form or model we employ Gods Kingdom is advanced, peoples lives are transformed and the Gospel is preached. I fully acknowledge and celebrate this fact.

However, my struggle lies in finding the best way to communicate the joy of what I've discovered as part of a house church, and affirming that God loves and is at work in the entire Body of Christ, worldwide.

Please extend to me a little grace on this issue, my friends. I know that whenever I talk about the freedom and the excitement I've experienced in the house church, there are some who can only hear it as an attack against those who are not part of the house church movement. This is not my intent and I'm honestly still learning how best to share what good I've seen over the last few years without insulting everyone else.

What I hope to do is to allow the testimony of God's wisdom to be released like the aroma of warm bread from the oven and tantalize each of us to imagine what being part of the Family of God could be like, if we try something many of us have never tried before.

"If there was a way to help facilitate discipleship and community and mission within the Body of Christ, and if that way were clearly outlined in the New Testament and if that same method was proven over a period of 300 years, why would anyone oppose this?"


The Non-Con is only days away now!
For those of you who didn't make the registration deadline, and/or can't wait until this Saturday to hear Jackie Pullinger, my friend Bob Moffat posted a whole host of great sermons from Jackie online.


Now available at Best Buy, Amazon and fine bookstores everywhere.

My great friend, Kent Williamson, has completed his film, Rebellion of Thought which is an amazing discussion starter for people who want to know more about why the modern church is broken and how our post-modern society views our faith and message.

The documentary release "Rebellion of Thought: Post-Modernism, The Church and the Struggle For Authentic Faith" explores the challenges of living a Biblically-oriented Christian life within the framework of an increasingly complex and confusing postmodern culture. ~ Nathan Southern, (All Movie Guide)


Well-worth your time and attention. My friends John and Lisa Wahrmund have a few songs on the soundtrack album too, along with J.J. Plasencio (formerly of Sixpence and Plumb). Check it out.



Kent C. Williamson said...

Keith -

Great posting! My struggle (prior to converting to the house church) was that I was (like most of us) a creature of habit. I had a Sunday morning habit/addiction that looked like this...

- wake up
- race around the house getting myself and my kids ready for "church"
- drive 20+ miles (as fast as possible) to a good sized church-building of my liking
- drop kids off at various Sunday School rooms (all the while hoping they'll learn something and simultaneously releasing myself from the responsibility of teaching them)
- teach an Adult Sunday School class (which I often viewed as baby-sitting the grown-ups who wanted their kids to be in a Sunday School class and had nothing better to do for the hour)... did that come across as cynical? Sorry!
- cut my lesson short due to time-restraints.
- race down the hall to the "sanctuary" for "worship" and to fulfill my obligations as a deacon (which mostly consisted of serving the "found" instead of those truly in need of Christ)
- drop a check in the plate (and wonder what really happens to the money besides keeping the machine running)
- wave goodbye to people I didn't really know on any deep and meaningful level, but found myself with week after week

I was addicted to the traditional church. God had to take me all the way to China to get a glimpse of the underground house church to break me of my addiction. I had a habit that at that particular church had lasted for 9 years, but the Holy Spirit broke me of it.

There is hope... He is moving still in the hearts of people. Hopefully he'll use postings like yours to keep nudging people toward true community, toward deep and meaningful relationships with other believers, toward the image of Christ without all the trappings of modern day Churchianity.


Kent C. Williamson
Director of the film "Rebellion of Thought"

P.S. let's both drive back to Texas and meet a Taco Cabana for a late night snack... man, I miss those days!

Unknown said...

You should read the early church fathers (~100AD to the Reformation) and see how they dealt with this same situation. The post-Edict-of-Tolerance church became a real dynamo. The Celtic Church was in revival for hundreds of years and spread revival and Christian work back through the continent of Europe. All of this because of the monastic movement.

It started with the hermits and the Desert Fathers and became the monastic movement. These groups shaped not only Christianity but also their world. With monasteries in every time zone, the worship and praise of God as a 24-hour-a-day activity as the hours of worship crossed the entire world. (As did the service to the peoples of the world.) It is worthwhile to read and understand the ancient "rules" of the monasteries as they incorporated the ancient rules of the nation of Israel and the faithful of preceding generations.

The Refomation, for the most part, closed the monasteries and convents. (The Anglicans have these to this day.) The great spiritual strength built within the monastic movement and system is quite astonishing.

The modern/post-modern house church movement may be a move back to the proven power-house of the middle ages. If only it were so.

It is good to embrace all Christians. If they meet in so-called traditional" churches or in other ways. We are all in need of Christian love and are all brothers.


PS. May I join you all at Taco Cabana. I miss real Tex-Mex food.

Parke said...

Sounds like I'll have to eat at Taco Cabana soon on your behalf. No question. They're great.

As a person who shares some of your heart for our friends who are poor and the marginalized, I really do value your heart for people. I'm glad that even in your bold statement this comes through.

Yesterday I sat with friend who was talking with me about the right size for a church. He was convinced that it was around 120 or 130. "Just a little more than we are but not too big," he said to me. ;)

I wonder if the greater part of wisdom is to humbly admit that God uses many different community structures across cultures to accomplish good and meaningful, God-focused community. When we do that fully, we're then free to say "Look what God is doing here!" and trust God to work out His will in the communities of others that are led by God-fearing people.