Some of you know that we recently brought on our first “official intern” for Intentional Gatherings as an organization here in Vegas. We have had many people come in and out of our different communities in Ft. Worth AND Vegas over the past three years. They have all been “informally trained” to take what they’ve learned back to wherever they came from. We have also moved quite a few young people in and out of the different I.G. Houses in both cities. Here in Vegas we do, on paper, call those who have come into the I.G. House, “house interns”. We’ve also seen hundreds of students trained to start simple/campus churches through the various trainings we’ve hosted/been a part of. We would also hope that ANYONE who is ever a part of any of the I.G. communities would be equipped/discipled in such a way that they could ALL go anywhere in the world to start their own simple church. However, this is our first “formal” intern who has come in to learn specifically about planting simple church communities with the end goal of starting his own community when he’s done. We’re about a month in and things have been really exciting…Pray that it continues to be fruitful. Welcome Aaron Fullmer!
I have another friend who spent some time with our community here in Vegas last summer. He went back to school in Reno, but we’ve stayed connected. He’s doing some cool stuff in his neighborhood with his roommates to facilitate “Missional Community”. He’s in a college class right now, and had to write a paper/do some sort of study on The Church in America. Unfortunately, it was a discussion about “Institutional Church” & “House Church”. He asked me to comment on this issue for his paper. I’m not a huge fan of debating these two things anymore. However, I thought it was worth sharing with you guys for some more healthy discussion to continue our wonderful chat from this past weekend…
“I’m just looking for one or two quotes for an article for a class I’m writing. Just sum it up…
What’s your opinion on home churches compared to the institutionalized church?”
“Dude you know I can’t make it that short-haha! This is as short as I could manage….
It depends on how you’re defining “church”. Biblically, The Church is defined by the people of God, The Bride of Christ, etc. To put the word “institutionalized” before the word “church” is a bit scary and dangerous to me. However, placing the word “house” before the word “church” is also very dangerous. When we do either we confine the people of God to a place, and put the Holy Spirit in a box.
Practically speaking I do feel that institutional churches do a poor job of “equipping the saints for the work of service”. Because they are run like a business they are dependent upon money, infrastructure, staff, programs, etc. When those are the dependent variables the God-given purposes of His people get distracted. In our current day and time most businesses AND institutions across the board are struggling. This is the VERY same with MOST churches that operate as institutions. When money is NEEDED to survive as a business (institutional church) then certain things MUST be done in order to get people: 1) into the church (building) 2) Make/Keep them happy 3) Please/entertain them 4) Get them to pledge membership-tithe & volunteer their time. When the primary focus becomes the above we very quickly throw TRUE discipleship out the window. (Please know I am not questioning the motives behind why these churches do what they do. They are obviously pursuing what they feel God has called them to in making disciples-I would hope & assume)
I have found, in my experience, that more organic expressions of the ecclessia better facilitate discipleship & “equipping the saints for the work of service”. Not only that, but because it is NOT dependent upon any of the above variables it is much more reproducible. Anyone from anywhere and in any context can follow Christ, make disciples, and facilitate Gospel centered community ON MISSION when the “criteria” for “what/how/why” we do church is made more simple & organic by nature.
God has used the institution to do wonderful things, and change lives-we’ve forced Him to have to work in that box here in America (Generally). He’s working in crazy ways OUTSIDE of the box of the institution all over the world. The Church-the people of God were never created to be institutionalized (Thank you Constantine) and sure as hell never meant to operate as a business. We prove our lack of faith when we insist that the movement of the Spirit of God, and the Gospel can/should only operate inside the realm of an institutionalized business. God is moving, and there is a HUGE shift happening among the Body of Christ. May we welcome it gladly, appreciating some of our past healthy tradition, but not cling to it in foolish pride.”