“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.

“Just Look At The Math”

This is a post written by my buddy Aaron Saufley. You can frequent his blog by CLICKING HERE. He and I share a lot in common, so when I read this post I couldn’t help but ask him if I could “steal it” to post here on “a holy discontent”. I’m a sucker for a good analogy about the church…

From “The Road Less Traveled” on September 9th, 2010:

I’m always looking for ways to help other churched people understand why I’m a simple/organic/house church guy, because I get asked about it quite often.  I often have used construction terms–the structure of the traditional church needs a lot of metaphorical scaffolding (programs, finances, staff, etc.) to hold it up, where as a simple church doesn’t need any of those things.

I may have found a new one.  And it involves my least favorite subject ever.

Math.

I always hated geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus (which, thank God, I avoided taking).  I just don’t get the idea of adding letters.  And I want to get to a final solution, not a final balanced equation.

So here’s the idea when it comes to church and why I’m not a traditionally structured church guy anymore:

2 + 2 = 4

13x – 21y(7z – 43) = 4

These two equations are essentially the same, because they both equal four.  The difference, however, is obvious.  One is much simpler than the other.

When it comes to the church, I truly believe most Christians want the same solution–more people following Jesus.  The problem, however, is that we build an equation that is way too complicated.  We’re convinced that with enough finances, staff, and programs, we can figure out that solution.  The only wrench in the gears are the variables (for those of us who’ve forgotten how to do math without a calculator, the variables in the above equation are x, y, and z).  If we can just figure out the variables, then we’ll have the magic formula–a new program, a great idea from the latest how-to-grow-a-large-trendy-rocker-church book, another staff member, a new location, a viral marketing campaign, etc.

When the equation is too complicated, we focus on the variables and forget about the real solution:  Jesus.

The church isn’t a bunch of programs, resources, staff, events, and cool marketing.  Plain and simple, the church is about Jesus.  The church is the people of God doing life together on mission with Jesus.  The church is the people of God letting Jesus live His life through them, whatever their circumstance.  The church is about helping people to become better followers of Jesus.

That’s it.  Pure and simple.  And that’s what organic/simple church is all about.

I’m convinced a great majority of churches need to take a hard look at themselves and simplify.  Big time.  There are many programs that are dead that need to be cut loose.  There are many programs and events that are causing too much sideways movement (they’re meant to do the same thing).  The church needs to drop a lot of weight and get back into “fighting shape.”  In order to do that, ego and agenda must be put to death, and this question must be asked and acted upon:  What is the simplest (notice I didn’t say easiest) way to help people become followers of Jesus?

The time is long past for churches to stop adding, adding, adding.  It’s past time for some major subtraction to begin so that the multiplication of disciples can commence.

Movement “Nuggets”…

There’s a lot of talk about “movements” these days. Whether it’s  “Church Planting Movements“, or a youtube video that goes “viral”, there’s no question there are some “Kingdom principles” to glean from current happenings. There are many faith based organizations pursuing and contending for a “Gospel movement” that surpasses anything we can make happen through our own man-made efforts. These movement characteristics often cannot be explained outside of being described as “miraculous moves of the Holy Spirit”. Many missional strategists have gotten together years AFTER a movement has begun to study the various steps that were taken leading up to the movement.

I have been fascinated by these studies for several years now, and have made it a personal/organization goal to pursue practices that have “movement principles” within their DNA. I certainly do not have anything “figured out”, and there is definitely NOT a formula one might “plug in” to produce a “movement”. However, I can’t help but think that some of the things we are beginning to see happen here in the states as a result of our various organizational practices contain some powerful movement “nuggets”. Lots of people are labeling what they are doing a “movement”…I can’t say that we are “there” yet, or ever will be. (Or, for that matter, that we would ever be a self-described movement, but rather allow outsiders who look in to describe what they see as “that”) What I do feel confident about is that these things we are seeing happen are heading in the right direction, and are rooted in the multiplication of individual disciples in the context of new Spiritual Families being birthed. What you will see in the below video is something we have the pleasure of seeing take place on a regular basis all over the country…Praise Jesus.

Cameron is a student who went through SCPx in Austin this past summer. He lives in DFW and is back there living out the training he received at SCPx. Cameron is one of MANY students who are being equipped and RELEASED to live out their faith in “movement” ways.

Spiritual Family…

This is a phrase that is becoming more popular among evangelicals in America. It is something that we, as individuals, and as an organization have been fascinated with and explored for a couple of years now. How do we promote the DNA of healthy disciple-making/church planting movements while fostering a sense of strong spiritual family? For the first couple of years we fell to an extreme side that neglected seeing healthy “spiritual families” fostered while attempting to see new churches multiplied – this is simply not possible. We are now moving into a season where our language is changing, and taking on more of a “familial” feel & practice…

Anymore, we try to focus much more on the well-being of the individual disciple, & health of the “spiritual family” that disciple is a part of (or has birthed) than we do “how many new churches have been planted”/how “sustainable” this or that “church” is. Families are made up of both genders, and reproduce quite naturally. It has been in God’s plan from day one in the garden. We now view “churches” more like families in our own lives, and in how we equip & release lay-people to live out their faith. It is only natural for an existing family to send out it’s kids to start new families. If a new family is birthed and remains healthy it will contain a culture that empowers and releases the “family members” to birth new families. They are sent out to start new communities of faith! Of course, the relationships with the extended family are still there, and have frequent “family reunions”! The key is that the new family is no longer dependent upon their “parents” anymore. This is a good thing. This SHOULD happen. Any “spiritual family” (church) that is not birthing new “families” (churches) must examine itself to see what has grown unhealthy in their DNA.

We have learned a lot about Spiritual Family from our friends, The Orme’s, in San Diego. Brian, and his family are who we partnered with this past summer to host Student CPx in SD. They equip students at UCSD to make disciples and start new simple churches on campus. At the same time, they place a HUGE value on healthy “Spiritual Family”. Check out the below video they recently posted about how they view this type of family in San Diego…

What are you learning about “Spiritual Family” in your current context? How important do you feel it is? Is it necessary to foster this sense of family in the context of Church Planting and “movements”?

Student CPx Austin 2010…

“We had our first Baptism last night. He was a gang member and has been hanging out with me and my friends”, was the text message I received from Cameron, an 18 year-old student from SCPx Austin 2010 a few days after he got home. This is one of many stories that we get to hear all throughout the year as ordinary followers of Jesus step out in faith to live out the teachings of scripture. Yes, we are training EVERY believer to Baptize new believers. Yes, we are equipping EVERY believer to make disciples, and start NEW CHURCHES. (Yes, “real” churches. YES, it is their “HOME church”-meaning they don’t ALSO go to another one. =)

There was a lot of freedom being experienced in Austin during Student CPx. Many people were, for the first time, experiencing the love of the Father, and uncovering their true identity as children of God. As this reality hit home they began realizing the most basic commands of Jesus found in scripture. When all the “extra stuff” that has been added to “being a Christian” is removed, and students begin walking in confidence in who they are in Jesus the sense of freedom becomes tangible. You can see it on their faces…

After our session on Baptism and Communion several students decided to get Baptized! So, we did what anyone would do…we went down to the river and had one of their friends Baptize them! Check it out…

Thanks Caryn Werner for taking some LEGIT pics for us!

We spent lots of time in the prayer room worshiping and praying. We encountered the Spirit in fresh new ways all week! The Holy Spirit ISN’T the “black sheep” of the trinity anymore! It’s so cool that we get to “soak” in His presence.

Part of the DNA of SCPx is creating a culture of honor everywhere we are, and everywhere we send students. One of the ways we start creating that culture during SCPx is to pray and impart blessings/prophetic words over each guest who comes to pour into us. This is the students praying over Neil who joined us from Long Beach to teach us about Church Planting Movements and Multiplying Disciples.

We met for dinner one evening at Jon & Cherie Werner’s house where we got a real taste of what “house church” might look/feel like. We worshiped, prayed, & talked about sabbath rest & communion as we celebrated the Baptisms from that day.

Overall, this is definitely a group of world changers. I am super excited to see how God uses them in their individual contexts this next semester, and for the rest of their lives. Stay tuned for more on what God is doing directly in the city of Austin as a result of SCPx. Also, feel free to watch the short slide show of pictures from Student CPx below…if you are inspired by what you see here, and want to sow into what God is doing through Intentional Gatherings and Student CPx then CLICK HERE to give.