“Preaching” vs. “Good Teaching”

A close friend of mine who I love and respect asked me this question over text message a couple weeks ago:

“What role does preaching play in simple/house churches? Strengths, weaknesses, ways it could grow, ways it could teach the church.”

This friend of mine has been a part of many types of churches. We have also had the pleasure of starting a house church with his family and some others. He is sharp, loves Jesus, and wants the best for The Church. We have an incredible relationship, and sharpen one another in the areas we may disagree. The mutual respect is refreshing in a day in time where it seems all anyone wants to do is argue their viewpoint. My friend places a high value on “good teaching” (primarily in the form of sermon style preaching) I do not yet have the answer to this “issue” in terms of a house church setting. Below are the initial thoughts I sent back to him via email regarding this topic based upon our observations and past several years pursuing Jesus in the context of simple/organic/house church settings: (Would love to hear your thoughts on either/both ends of the spectrum. Us “house churchers” definitely have a lot to learn about how to champion “good teaching” & placing a high value on the Word of God in our various settings)

“Hey buddy,

The role of “preaching” in simple/house/organic churches is relatively non-existent in my experience. However, in some older generations of house churches their gatherings look much like a typical church service in a living room. The only difference is the type of structure they meet in…(even chairs in rows, and a podium, etc.-haha!=) In our experience (much different from the above described older generation HC’s) we have moved from a desire for good “preaching” to the pursuit of healthy’good “teaching”. (These are not synonymous in my mind, and the minds of many we have observed/practiced with) You see, many of us spent most of our lives listening to sermons. While they are not completely absent from the lives of those pursuing “house church”, it typically does NOT happen in a house church gathering for various reasons, and on purpose. (many may continue to find good sermons online and enjoy listening to them for various reasons) Our reasons for not involving “sermon style teaching” are numerous, but the most basic are below:

1) Practically speaking it has been proven that humans retain about 20% of what they hear. The percentage goes up drastically as you factor in SEEING (visual), WRITING, DOING, etc. So, I look at it (preaching) as a very use of time/energy based upon those findings. I know that growing up I was lucky to remember more than 1-2 “good points” I heard from a sermon. I might remember a bit more if I took notes-rarely would those notes be referenced in the future.

2) In a HC setting there is a high value for EVERYONE participating. If one person is PREACHING this becomes difficult, and we fall right back into spectators coming to hear a sermon. We place a high value on the Holy Spirit speaking to every believer, and know that Spirit speaks to everyone for the mutual edification of the body.

3) So, we seek for what we feel to be more effective ways to “teach”/equip the body. Of course, we are far from figuring this out, and it constantly changes as we pursue being more effective. Here are some examples of things we’ve done in the past:
-Inductive studies: these involve little to no “prep work” on the part of anyone, but make it easy for a believer of any age (including a brand new believer) to be empowered to play an active role. Sometimes ONE person WILL do some before hand research or read commentaries, etc. in order to guide the group as tough questions come up. This usually involves helping the group to understanding the historical context of the scripture, who is writing, who they are writing to, etc.
-Breaking up into groups to discuss portions of scripture. Coming back together to share findings/revelations/etc.
-Sharing at random what the Lord has been speaking to individuals throughout the week during their own personal time, etc.
-Reading through a section of scripture together and then discussing it as a church family. This is so fun because everyone involved has different backgrounds, knowledge, perspective, etc. Everyone benefits, and walks away sharpened, more equipped, and knowledgeable of the scriptures.

These are just some off the top of my head thoughts/responses to your question. I do think that “GOOD TEACHING” could improve in HC’s, and a higher value placed on studying/knowing scripture. However, I’m not convinced that this will be in the form of sermon style preaching. Again, preaching and teaching are much different to me. I also cannot ignore the sermon style preaching that is found in scripture. I wonder, though, if these types of “preaching moments” took place more in the form of evangelistic pursuits rather than the day to day equipping of disciples who make up the Church…this plays into my strong feelings about church services not being for the purpose of evangelism. Most sermons or churches try to accomplish both discipleship and evangelism in a once/week sermon. This is impossible to do, and BOTH get watered down/suffer.”

Again, I’d love to hear any thoughts/additions from you guys from your experience/convictions regarding this topic. Have fun, and keep it civil! =)

 

Life “Outside the Walls”…

We are often asked by people all over the world, “what does a typical simple/house church gathering look like?” While many of the house church communities we have started or been a part of cannot be defined by what takes place during a weekly gathering we did feel like our friend Chris Kosho did a great job of capturing a bit of what the life of the King Street House Church looks like on a regular basis…(Much of which takes place outside of the context of the powerful weekly gatherings that take place within this community)

Chris made a documentary film capturing short samples of videos from the past year or so as this community has formed…the unique way this documentary was developed uses some pretty cool technology, which selects random/short video clips based upon your click. Take a minute to peruse the site, and make sure to click on “Film” at some point. Check out a few of the short clips, and take a powerful peek into what God is doing in Austin through some ordinary young people who started taking the Great Commission seriously…

***A pretty cool side note not mentioned in this documentary is the fact that there are several other house churches that have been started as a result of the King Street House Church sending out lay church planters***

“Permission” – Part Two…

(Part one of “Permission” can be found HERE)

In His grace, Jesus has allowed us to be a part of these incredible people’s lives. The King Street House Church family was birthed after a group of these young people went through Student CPx in Austin two summers ago, and then helped me run SCPx Austin this past summer. In the last few months I have had the pleasure of watching this house church community flourish & grow into a healthy spiritual family. There are some things about what is happening with this group of radical young people that I think are worth taking a look at. Below are some things that come to my mind when I think about these close friends. (You read in “Permission” Part 1 about the team of 7 this house church is sending out to S. Asia over Winter break to train University students there to plant house churches)

What is unique about this community?

1) It is completely lay-led (There is no paid staff) – There is something powerful about a group of people who are pursuing the Kingdom in radical ways when there is no paychecks or any kind of financial gain attached…They birthed, lead, and pursue the healthy growth of this family out of the pure love for Jesus in their hearts.

2) It was birthed by women in their early 20’s – I almost did not mention this because it seems so normal and natural to me – like, “so, what’s the big deal?” However, after thinking through it I realized how unique and POWERFUL this really is because of the negative view that MANY have towards women in “leadership” or “ministry” in the American Church. Anyone who sees what God is doing in this community would have a tough time arguing their opposing view-point about women not being able to be in positions of leadership/authority in the Kingdom of God.

3) It is healthy, producing NEW disciples, and releasing people to walk in their gifts (Men are being raised up to lead) – This has not been easy, and without much pain, mistakes, failures, etc. I’ve seen and been a part of communities with “strategies for multiplication”, and others who are complacent; both are dangerous. The strategic ones bring death to relationship for the sake of sticking to a formula, and the others never see the beautiful power of the Gospel working in the lives of new people. This community seems to walk out a decent “balance”. They are quick to recognize when things are “off” and fix it. They hear God’s voice, and have faith to obey what He says. It’s hard to be a spectator in this community.

4) They have a deep desire to see new house churches planted all over the place, and have already seen a few planted since August! I have been in many different streams of church planting all over the world in the past few years. Nowhere have I seen twenty year-old’s who have BIRTHED and are leading new churches where new believers are being Baptized as a part of the natural DNA of how they “function and grow”. Not only that, but they are sending others out in two’s to start new “spiritual families”. They don’t have it all figured out, & are not perfect, but what God has done with them in the past year puts most “church planting strategies” I’ve seen in my life to shame. God seems to be showing off through the lives of some humble/passionate young people.

5) The power of God is present. I have also been in various environments in the past few years that seem “spiritually dead”, as well as others that are freakin’ CRAZY, which seem far from the nature and character of God. AKA: very conservative & highly charismatic. This community can be placed in neither of those camps. However, the power of God through the work of His Holy Spirit displayed through the obedience of these radical followers of Jesus is not arguable. They are seeing supernatural physical, spiritual, and emotional healing take place. They are seeing the fruit of the Spirit displayed in people’s lives (Gal. 5:22-23) as well as the power of the gifts of the Spirit on a regular basis. They are not afraid.

6) They walk in a humility & refusal to pursue personal gain/attention that is like nothing I have experienced in most of my life.

I suppose I could go on and on. I want to make it clear that I am not bragging on anything other than the miraculous work of Jesus in the lives of these people. We like to call out the Christ-like qualities of Jesus we see in people as a way to edify them, and bring glory to Jesus. We are not “puffing them up”, but recognizing the redeeming work of Jesus in their lives. Obviously, I care about these people a lot. I am so proud of the Jesus I see in them, and wanted to share them with you a bit. I hope it has encouraged your Spirit.

Permission…

The King St House Church Community is a crazy spiritual family of radical Jesus lovers in their early 20’s. This church was birthed after a group of these young people went through Student CPx in Austin two summers ago, and then helped us host SCPx here in Austin this past summer…

This community is sending an apostolic team to South Asia in December to train 40 university students to plant new house churches in their villages & surrounding towns. Our prayer, and hope is that as these young people go on this trip it will give their generation “permission” to go and do likewise – to realize they don’t need a big organization, church, mission trip, etc. to hear God’s voice and ACT in obedience. (Read the story below of how God miraculously orchestrated this opportunity)

If you are in the Austin area you won’t want to miss the S. Asia info session where the team will share about the trip, and how you/your Spiritual Family can partner with them to go. They truly have the opportunity to partner with the Holy Spirit & equip a few local people to spark a Church Planting Movement in a dominantly Buddhist Nation. The Austin Stone’s 100people network believes in this team & has allowed them to host the session at the Stone’s St. Johns Campus. Details below…

Come hear about something amazing that God is starting amongst the unreached in South Asia using people from Austin and how you can get involved.  **Story below.**

When: Tuesday Nov. 30 @ 7:30

Where: Austin Stone St. John Campus

Who Should Come? Anyone who wants to help make a difference in one of most unreached nations in the world.

What do you do about a nation where the majority of the people have never heard of Jesus?  A nation that is one of the last remaining Buddhist strongholds on earth?  A nation whose doors are closed?  What do you do when Jesus tells you to go there with less than two months notice?

Jon, Meghan, Ashwin, and Lauren said “YES” to the call last year and traveled to India to get as close as possible to the border of this unreached nation (we can’t tell you the name of the nation for security reasons). They lacked earthly understanding of how they would reach the people. But they saw the things that were unseen, the promises of God, and they envisioned a people that were far from Jesus becoming his inheritance. So they moved forward in faith.

The closer they traveled toward the border of this nation, the less likely it seemed that they would have the opportunity to minister to the people. They found themselves immersed among the Nepali people who lived there in India. The believers welcomed the team wholeheartedly, adopted their vision as their own, and began to pray for them.

Upon returning to Austin, however, it almost seemed that their vision had failed.  Nonetheless, the team continued believing in faith that the word the Holy Spirit spoke would come to pass.  Soon they found out about a pastor in Austin who was a refugee from the Buddhist nation. They went to Brother John’s house to meet him, and a door opened!  His heart was still beating for the nation he had left behind. Brother John couldn’t go back, but he could empower the team to go and take the gospel to his people.

Brother John and their contacts in India worked together to prepare a special place for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit. They reserved a Bible school in India that sits right on the border of the Buddhist nation. This January, the team will put on a training at this Bible school to equip students in church planting.  Their Indian friends traveled into the nation and recruited 35 youth to cross over the border and come to the training. They believe God wants to do something greater than they could ever imagine. They believe they will see 35 youth trained to plant underground house churches, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and equipped with a fresh measure of the glory of God. They believe God will use these young pioneers to flip a nation upside down! Let this Buddhist kingdom become the kingdom of our God and his Christ!

The team this year is Jon, Meghan, Lauren, Caryn, Courtney, Cameron, and Michael. They submit to the Holy Spirit and give themselves fully to his purpose, each of them willing and ready to use their specific gifts for building up of the brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. They have come together hand in hand, committed to Christ’s cause, praying together with joy for what God will do, and excited that they get to experience this together as a family.

Please join us on Tuesday November 30th at 7:30 PM for an info-session about this nation and how you can be involved.  Let us all join hands to take the Gospel to this unreached nation!

CLICK HERE to go to the Facebook events page to RSVP!

 

 

 

“Spiritual Family” Reunion…

Back in October we did a little “Spiritual Family” Reunion for those who have become a part of the “King Street House Church Community” (New network or house churches that birthed as a result of Student CPx in Austin). We had a blast…

NBC News Reports on House Church In U.S.

Below NBC News Reports on House Church Trends in the U.S. This is a great picture of some practical reasons why many American Christians are seeking out more personal, intimate, & financially practical ways of “Being the Church”. Statistics show that billions of dollars are spent each year in America on church buildings. Many Americans are choosing to meet in places that already belong to them…their homes! This frees up tons of money to be used for other purposes. Of course, there are many other reasons that we, as a family, and I.G. as an organization choose to pursue Jesus in these types of contexts. Yes, it is beautiful for financial resources to be freed up. It’s great that in these contexts each individual gets to, for the first time, start playing an ACTIVE role in where their resources are used. But, we also love things like the beautiful intimacy of relationship that cannot be avoided in these contexts. We love that each person involved must play an active role in the community and making disciples. We love getting to see ordinary followers of Jesus empowered to live out the most basic teachings of Jesus for the first time in their Christian lives. This is a beautiful thing…

Check out the NBC News Report…

“On Becoming Homeless…”

A couple friends of mine, who’s names I will not mention until a later date, are writing a book together. One of them asked me to do a short write-up about our (Intentional Gatherings) time with the homeless on the streets of Ft. Worth for them to publish in the book. It was so reminiscent to think back two years ago and write out our story. Hope you enjoy…

On Becoming Homeless…

For a group of white, middle-class, suburban kids the journey we were about to embark on would prove to be quite shaping. We had been exploring what life as a follower of Christ should look like based upon what we found in scripture. It was not long after that we “broke it off” with our beloved pew, and said “goodbye” to the church as a building. While we stayed closely connected to the Body of Christ as a people we refused to allow that to hinder us from intentionally spending more time with non-Jesus followers than we did followers. From Starbucks and other “third spaces” to our neighborhoods, schools, and jobs we began exploring a life on mission outside the context of the bubble we had so unknowingly been seduced into previously.

As we devoured the scriptures communally it was not long before we noticed a theme throughout Jesus’ ministry of service to the poor and needy; not to mention His commands to us, as His Body, to take care of them. At this time in our lives ministry to the homeless was not the “hip-&-cool fad” it has become today. As we began seeking ways to live out these Gospel principles found in scripture we learned about what we would soon label the “modern-day leper colony”. About 20 minutes from our comfortable suburban homes, tucked quietly under the intersection of several major highways near the downtown area, we found what would soon become a place our souls longed to be. The majority of Ft. Worth’s homeless population called this area just off East Lancaster Boulevard “home”. For the most part they went unnoticed, and were ignored by society. Those who knew they existed steered clear of the area, or pointed down from the overpass as they attempted to teach their kids a lesson about “responsibility”.

We began taking regular trips to the streets in pursuit of being obedient to what we felt God was instructing us to do. We became students of those who had “worked” there for many years, as well as the homeless individuals we sought to “serve”. We learned very quickly how ignorant we were to the real needs of these people based upon the real reasons they were there in the first place. It did not take long to realize the abundance of tangible resources available to the homeless on East Lancaster. From churches to various non-profit, and government organizations the basic needs of the people on the street were met with excess. They did not need our Wendy’s dollar menu burgers, or our hand-me-down fashion from the closet.

A man named Michael Hatcher became our close friend and mentor. Michael had been “ministering” among these people for years, and taught us everything we know about working among the homeless in Ft. Worth. He and his family had moved into the “hood” several years before, and were dedicated to seeing lives transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus. Michael was known on the streets as “The Rev”. He was someone the people trusted, respected, and would give their lives for. Michael walked the streets during the week ministering to these people. He helped them get their ID’s, jobs, bus passes, but most importantly he gave them himself as a friend. We naturally followed in the footsteps of our mentor. We made a commitment early on: while countless others brought material goods to hand out to the people of the streets we vowed only to bring ourselves; a “hand-up” not a “hand-out” if you will. While others handed out food and clothes we sat on the curb to listen. Conversations led to prayer, topped with hugs, and a side of comfort knowing they had made a new friend. You must understand that many of these people had not engaged in conversation with another human being in years.

Things were going well, and we were seeing fruit from our labor. However, there was still something missing. While we had close relationships with our new friends on the street they knew we came from our comfy suburban homes, and would return there after our short time with them on the streets. We could not truly relate to them. Around that time several twenty-something’s from our newly formed “organic” church community felt a strange pull to move in, and “set up shop” among our new friends from the streets. We all began praying that God would provide a house for communal living among the poor…

By the grace of God our little crew of 15 broke college-aged kids began to make quite the impact on East Lancaster. We had organized the annual “Art-n-the Park” celebration, birthed the “Unity in the Community Network” of organizations who served among the homeless in Ft. Worth, and had the attention of many in the city. We still felt we had so much to learn. After all, we were in this for our new friends on the streets, and God’s ultimate glorification, not our own narcissism. Michael Hatcher decided that we needed to know what “life on the streets” was really like. He and his wife put together “Ghetto 101”, and about 10 of us agreed to a weekend we would never forget; a weekend our parents would not be happy to hear about…

We knew that we had to “be in their shoes” to really know how to best serve them. We had no idea what it meant to sleep on cold cement without a wallet full of plastic, or a cell phone to call mommy and daddy when things got rough. Our weekend began with turning in everything we had come with, a cold shower in the Day Resource Center, and a hopeless search through a box of clothes that would be our only possessions for the next two days. For those two days we were on our own in this place we had deemed the “leper colony”. Luckily, we had made many friends who “showed us the ropes” and “had our backs” if things got weird. We ate what they ate, walked where they walked, begged where they begged, slept where they slept, collected cans for money, and endured life disconnected from the rest of the world. The weekend was incredible. We learned a lot, gained the respect of our homeless friends (Who now saw that we were “for real”), and scared the mess out of our parents.

After eight months of praying God decided it was time. We found two duplex’s on the same property. Two of the four units were for rent, and they were cheap. By this point our organization, Intentional Gatherings, had gained its non-profit status, and donations were coming in from people who believed in the vision of the “I.G. House”. We moved two guys into one unit and four girls into the other. It was then that we truly began to learn the in’s and out’s of homelessness, and how to attack the problem at the root. We were in a neighborhood about a mile from the “leper colony”, which was full of the “working poor”. (Those who are not-yet-homeless, but hanging on by a thread) The primary focus shifted from the already homeless to the almost homeless; the work among the already homeless continued, and the relationships that had been made were fostered. The “I.G. House” crew grew close as they lived in tight-knit Gospel centered community, and sought to make a difference in the neighborhood in which they resided. As the crew grew they eventually took over three of the four units on the property. From weekend kickball tournaments to front porch after-school tutoring & Saturday morning breakfast in the yard this group of immigrants was serving Jesus in a way previously foreign to us all.

We had finally learned that in order to make a true impact among a people we had to “incarnate” ourselves among them. We had to put ourselves in their shoes, eat what they ate, sleep where they slept, and live life in their context. It was then that we truly gained a door into their lives. We refused to simply come from the outside bringing in the “answer” to life. We brought our lives to the inside of their lives, shared life, and discovered what the “answer” was with them. Thank you Jesus for “incarnating” yourself among us, sharing in our lives, and teaching us of yourself, the answer.