Thursday, December 30, 2010

So what is this Simple Church thing anyway?

Over the next couple of weeks I am teaching on what a Simple Church where the Biblical proof for what we are doing is, and helping is others understand the path that we are on.  I have borrowed
some material that my friend Tom Wymore has posted on the Foursquare Simple Church site.  I am using it as a guide along with some other material to walk through this. Here is what we went through last night.


What is Simple Church? Simple Church is our preferred term for what is often called house church. One of the best definitions comes from House2House ( Their definition is below (slightly modified). By “simple church,” we mean …
• a way of doing and being church that is so simple that almost any believer will say, “I could do that!”

• the kind of church described in the New Testament, flexible and changeable to enable quick responses to the needs of the extended family and God’s call to extend His Kingdom.

• people who listen to God, follow His leading and obey Him.

• spiritual parents raising spiritual sons and daughters to establish their own families.

It’s More Than a Change of Location! Simple church is more than a move away from the confines of a building. It is a response to God’s call to re-examine everything about “church” in light of Scripture and to simplify what has been complicated by events and programs. It is best described by common core values and practices such as … 
• Simplicity. Formal programs give place to informal, spontaneous expressions of life and outreach.

• Intimacy with God and one another. Intimacy with God is foundational to everything else.

• Community. SC folks know that relationships are at the core of everything in the Christ life.

• Family. The church is family, healthy families are the church, and leaders are spiritual parents.

• The Gospel of the Kingdom—this is the message that Jesus and the NT believers presented!

• 24/7 Christian walk. Folks in simple churches have a sincere desire to be devoted followers of Jesus all the time, everywhere; the level of personal accountability and involvement is very high.

• Spontaneity. Life and ministry together are characterized by the informal and spontaneous.

• Supernatural lifestyle. Simple church folks generally seem to be very open to the supernatural and keenly aware of the need to live naturally supernatural lives in today’s broken world.

• Intimacy-based, missional praying (e.g., praying Luke 10:2b for workers for the Harvest).

• Participation (for everyone—everyone has something to contribute, not only when the church gathers but as the church ministers to its own community and beyond).

• Leadership by example, serving and spiritual influence, carried out in and by a leadership  community, not a single leader. Simple church leaders allot most of their time to intentional relationships in both formal and informal settings.

• Modeling and discovery-based learning as the primary means of teaching/training; this is a return to the Hebraic model used by Jesus and other NT leaders.

How is this different from more traditional forms of church?

Many of these values are shared by the traditional church models, so how is Simple Church different?
Traditional Church vs Simple Church

Meetings: the major focus is on the large gatherings, even in cell-celebration models.
Meetings: the major emphasis is on small group meetings; tends toward the informal and spontaneous.

Community: is often assumed that community results from regular services, events and the members’ involvement in the specified programs.
Community: is pursued very deliberately,with effort given almost exclusively to building relationships rather than to events, meetings, programs.

Leadership: is typically reserved for those appointed to pastoral roles and position of authority.
Leadership: is viewed as the shared responsibility of every member in the community

Participation: is limited to only a few by the size of meetings and often by the ministry philosophy.
Participation: is by every member (including children!) in all gatherings and all expressions of ministry.

Personal care for one another is primarily done by the pastoral staff or those they appoint.
Personal care for one another takes place through all the members of the group.
A Biblical Definition of Church—Is that a church?!

The question “Is that a church?” was never asked in NT times. There was only the church: the “universal” Church, the church in a region/city or the church that met in someone’s house (Romans
16:3-5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15). So a better question would be, “Is that a viable expression of the church?” What helps us recognize the Body of Christ regardless of its “clothing”? Consider the following.
·        The church is the result of the extension of the Kingdom of God. Whenever the Kingdom of God invaded an area it created a community of Christ followers, a family, known as a church (ekklesia).
·        Although there are many descriptions of the church in the New Testament, perhaps the simplest  yet fullest description of the church is “God’s Family.”
o   Although the church is called “family” only rarely: Galatians 6:10, 1 Peter 4:17 (oikos:household) and Ephesians 3:15 (patria: family descended from a father), the early believers clearly understood their relationship with God and one another in terms of family. In Romans 8:14-15 and Galatians 4:6 believers know God as “Abba” (Aramaic for “papa” or “daddy”), and the most common term
for believers in the NT is “brothers.” 
o   I love my friend John White’s definition of the church: “A spiritual family called together by Jesus and functioning under His leadership.”

• All believers in the New Testament had entered the family having experienced the following.

They had …
o   been unmistakably born from above (“born again”) through repentance and deep, total trust in Jesus.
o   confessed Jesus as Lord, the complete master of their lives.
o   baptized in water as a means of identification with Jesus and His family.
o   inundated by God’s Spirit (baptized in the Spirit).
o   undergone a process of inner healing and spiritual cleansing via deliverance as needed.

• Although we are not told a lot about the gatherings of the church, we do know the following:
o   They usually gathered around a meal, integrating at some point the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (see Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 11:20-26).
o   The gathering could be as few as two or three (Matthew 18:20).
o   The following were characteristic of every gathering.
.. The Presence of God. Early believers expected the experienced presence of
Jesus through the Holy Spirit to be among them (Matthew 18:20 and 1 Corinthians
.. The Power of God. The early believers expected the supernatural power of God
to be expressed in their midst (see 1 Corinthians 5:4, 12:7-11, and Galatians

.. Participation by all. The early believers expected each person to contribute
in their gatherings as the Spirit led (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 14:24-26.
Ephesians 5:19-20 and Colossians 3:16-17 also imply participation by many.).
Meeting in homes helped maintain the smaller size needed for participation. The
NT also describes other, occasional larger gatherings, but the regular
gatherings remained small to allow for participation by all.
• Leadership in the NT church was servant-oriented and not hierarchical, and leaders led by example as much as by instruction and training. Paul’s letters are filled with evidence of this.

Four passages that show this are Acts 20:17-28, 1 Corinthians 4:14-17, 2 Corinthians 4:5 (your “slaves for Christ’s sake”) and 1 Thessalonians 2:6-12 (Paul likens himself to mother and father).

• The purpose or mission of the church has many facets (see 1 Peter 1:9, for example), but it always flows from intimacy with Jesus (John 15:1-17) and derives its power and direction from individual and corporate relationship with Him.
Summary: Is it a viable expression of the church? Yes, if you see the following:
• People being transformed by the power of God, relating to God and one another as family, who are in various ways transforming the world around them.

• Leadership that leads by loving example and serving as well as by instruction/training.

• Gatherings that are filled with God’s presence and power and in which everyone participates. 
Permission to reproduce for non-commercial purposes granted so long as document is left intact. Thanks. (ok so I had to make a couple of format changes but the content wasn’t changed)
This is the ride that we are on, the place that God has been preparing us for and the direction we are headed….  are you ready to do something different?

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