Below are some of the practices we have found helpful in achieving our values.
Daily Bible Readings. We want people to be obsessed with Jesus. We believe the most effective way of cultivating this is by spending time alone with God in the Scriptures daily. Our members follow the same reading plan, which enables us to talk about the Scriptures with one another daily.2
Meet in Homes. There are more than fifty “one another” commands that call us to care for one another in a supernatural way. God wants meaningful interactions when we gather. For this reason, we keep our churches small (ten to twenty people), meeting in homes to create a family atmosphere. This way each person can be known and use his or her gifts to bless others.
Multiply Leaders. In Luke 10:2, Jesus told His disciples to pray that God would send more workers out into the world. For this reason, we pray and constantly develop new pastors and elders to be sent out. Each church has two pastors, who train future pastors for the next church plant. Pastors are the spiritual parents of the congregation, having both the responsibility and the authority.
Elder Authority. Some of you have experienced a form of home churches where the leader is rebelling against authority and simply doing what he or she wants to do. That’s not healthy. The size of the church has nothing to do with this point. As we have seen, God designed His Church to function under the leadership and humble, service-oriented authority of elders (1 Pet. 5:1–4). At a time when everyone bashes leadership, God calls us to show the world something different: people who love having a King and joyfully follow godly leaders.
Everyone Discipled. It is the Church’s responsibility to bring people to maturity (Eph. 4:11–16). Jesus set a wonderful example of living life with His disciples. We expect every member to have a more mature believer shepherding him or her toward maturity and greater holiness.
Everyone Disciples. Jesus rose from the dead and then commanded His followers to make disciples (Matt. 28:16–20). He was calling them to share the good news with those who didn’t know Him, teaching them to obey His commands. We want all our members to share the gospel with those who don’t believe and to teach them to become disciple makers.
Everyone Exercises Gifts. Paul said, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). He went on to list various gifts and emphasized the necessity of each member. We create space for everyone to contribute at gatherings and in everyday life. We aim for total participation, where each member blesses others with his or her gifts.
Regular Multiplication of Churches. We must stay focused on reaching those who don’t know Jesus (Acts 1:8). It is so easy for house churches to become selfish rather than missional. We naturally run toward comfort. Our churches aim to multiply annually to maintain a healthy pressure toward developing leaders and reaching more people. Let’s face it: without deadlines, not much gets done.
Simple Gatherings. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). We want the same. We want believers excited to break bread and wonder at the mystery of His body. We want people thrilled to come before a holy God in prayer. So we work hard to keep from adding elements to our gatherings that could distract us from what we must be devoted to.
Share Possessions. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44–45). The early church was known for how they cared for one another. They focused on eternity and cared little about earthly possessions. We joyfully share our resources as we learn of needs locally and around the world (2 Cor. 8:1–15).
Assume Missions. God wants to be worshipped by every nation and language (Rev. 7:9–10). There are still billions who have never heard the gospel. For this reason, we ask everyone to consider going to unreached people groups. Rather than assuming you are staying until you hear a word from God, it seems more biblical to assume you are going unless you believe God called you to stay.
I don’t believe we have found the solution for the future church, only a solution. But the changes we’ve made have felt more like the New Testament Church than anything I’ve ever encountered in the States. Again, I’m not trying to push the model we’ve been running with, but I do think we’d all benefit from innovative thinking where we jump back to the essentials, forget about “what we’ve always done,” and ask what expressions of Church God wants to see in our setting.
Francis Chan, Letters to the Church (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2018).
I have just completed a nine-session Bible study based on Francis Chan’s new book, Letters to the Church. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book. Sessions include:
- Chapter 1: The Departure
- Chapter 2: Sacred
- Chapter 3: The Order
- Chapter 4: The Gang
- Chapter 5: Servants
- Chapter 6: Good Shepherds
- Chapter 7: Crucified
- Chapter 8: Unleashed
- Chapter 9: Church Again