“Is what we are doing really a church? I thought churches were buildings with crosses on top. Don’t we need to have a pastor? And a pulpit?” These are typical questions people ask when we talk about multiplying house churches. We must help new believers understand what the church is.
This is much easier to do after they’ve experienced church life together. For most, it is a significant paradigm shift to understand that the church is not a building. Without a deep change in this kind of thinking, the movement will struggle to grow.
Strong Biblical Basis
In the modern era, we have shifted far away from the Biblical understanding of church. As a movement leader or trainer, you will need to teach both new believers, and team members, what the New Testament church was like. You will need to help them see how to follow that Biblical model today.
A strong scriptural basis will be needed to help them make the shift from their formerly established ways of thinking. For some, it will not be difficult. Their hearts already long for something more than what they have seen. For others, this will take time. Gently stir them to think and ask questions regarding the models they are used to seeing.
Be sure to do more than teach missions strategy. Teach the Word of God. What you are doing and training others to do must be deeply grounded in His Word.
Returning to a More Biblical Understanding
The New Testament church provides us with the model of the church God desires. Our drift away from this pattern of church has created major barriers to the growth of God’s Kingdom. We must do all we can to return to a way of “doing church” that is more Biblical. As we do, we will see organic churches growing and multiplying naturally, as God designed them to do.
The church is more than a building. It is also more than a weekly meeting. The church is a living body, a fellowship of obedient Jesus followers who interact as a community…who choose to obey the commands of Jesus together. It must function as something more than a gathering to learn about the Bible or a social club.
“Transition the group from one that meets to learn about the Bible, to a body that cares for one another and the lost.”
In the last few blogs (see Part 1 and Part 2), I’ve written about the change process. A home fellowship, Discovery Bible study, or prayer cell can smoothly transition into a functioning church. Today’s blog focuses on the key elements of a Biblical church.
Key Elements of the Church and How to Introduce Them With Scripture
If you work in an area that has many traditional Christians, train your disciple-makers about what the church is in a thorough way. If you are working among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. (those who don’t have as much Christian influence) you can cover this more quickly.
Their main experience of church will be from meeting with you. It will seem normal to them to “do church” this way. Even for those from non-Christian backgrounds, however, you must establish a strong scriptural basis for what the church is. At some point, they will need to explain (or defend) their way of doing church to other Christians they meet.
In Part 2 of this series, I suggested studying Acts 2:41-48 in your disciple-making group. In that passage, we discover many of the key elements of the early church. This scripture is one of the clearest places we look to for an understanding of how the early church operated.
Acts 8:1-4 is another passage you can do a Discovery Bible study on. That passage deals with persecution but is also descriptive of the church. Likewise, the epistles are full of examples of the functions of the church listed below.
In the Acts 2 passage and others, we find the church engaged in the following activities;
1. Worship- Acts 2:47 “praising God”
2. Learning from God’s Word – Acts 2:42 ”they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”
3. Prayer- Acts 2:42 “…and to prayer”
4. Giving- Acts 2:45 “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
5. Lord’s Supper- Acts 2:42 “to the breaking of bread…” and Acts 2:46 “They broke bread in their homes and ate together…”
6. Ministry to others – Acts 2:45 “they gave to anyone as he had need”
7. Baptism -Acts 2:41 “those who accepted his message were baptized,”
Other notable things in this passage are:
– The presence of miraculous signs “many wonders and miraculous signs were done…”
– Growth “the Lord added to their number daily…”
What Do We Not See?
It can also be helpful to ask the question, “What do we NOT see here in this passage or in the New Testament church?”
– Buildings (especially as the church moves out to the Gentile world). We do see in Jerusalem they sometimes gathered in the temple. The temple, however, was not the center of their worship and fellowship. This took place from house to house.
– Pulpits and platforms
– Big worship teams on a stage
If you are working with those who have been a part of traditional churches, you may have to tear down some of their false understandings of church. Then you can build a more Biblical understanding. Be sure you are tearing down ideas, and not people!
Keep a humble attitude as you train on this. Don’t attack the traditional church. Don’t say “That church is not Biblical.” Or, “That is not the real church.” These kinds of judgemental statements are not helpful. They do not honor God or others.
Instead, ask questions and get people to look at scripture. Encourage them to think about what God intends His church to look like. How does He want it to function? Are they seeing that happen?
Every Disciple a Disciple-Maker
It is an important DMM concept that every disciple is a disciple-maker. This we see operating in the New Testament church. Every disciple was a minister of God. They functioned as royal priests.
As the church scattered and grew, ordinary disciples went out and made more disciples. Ordinary disciples started new churches.
In the next blog, we will talk about the life of the church in greater depth.
Making It Practical
Think about your discipleship group, fellowship, T4T group or DBS. Which elements of the church are already present? Which do you need to introduce? Start planning to transition your groups into a greater function as Biblical churches.
What will your first step be? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or in the Disciple Making Movements Facebook group.