1. Why did we feel the need to move out of the
gym and into homes?
Very simply, we perceive a strong resistance
here in the “Bible belt” among many
outsiders (this term works better for us than “unchurched” because
it more accurately describes what people feel
like who are not accustomed to the world of what is called 'church')
to "church." It doesn't matter who
you meet -- everyone has a preconceived idea
of "church." And whether we like it
or not, that idea - whether it is correct or
totally mistaken - creates an obstacle over which
many will not venture. Getting away from the
external & institutional trappings of current
models goes a long way in bypassing that obstacle
to create immediate opportunities for outsiders
to see clearly that "church" really
is "people" first of all.
Quite frankly, whether we want to admit it or
not, the traditional model of building-oriented
church life is drastically impersonal the vast
majority of the time. This is not a slam on people
or a judgment of anyone’s hearts or motives.
It is an observation strictly about systems and
models. God is completely personal, however;
personal in the sense that he has always been
involved with people. He has always worked in
relationship with people, and his church is founded
on principles of operation which are entirely
personal in this sense. We do not at all here
convey the idea that God is defined in personal
ways, as though each individual can create a ‘personal
God’ in a relativistic sense. God is personal
in that deity is comprised of Father, Son, and
Spirit – 3 persons, and he calls us into
personal relationship with himself and other
people. Thus church, as he designed it, should
be a personal and interactive experience, reflecting
God’s own nature and fulfilling his instructions
The home-based approach creates the most effective
format and context for expressing the fullness
of the primitive church we read about in Acts.
The standard of practicing "one-another" passages,
hospitality, relational ministry, restricting
the tendency to categorize "church life" from
other areas of life, avoiding tendencies toward
a clergy-laity distinction, being personal
with each other while we’re “at
church,” and restoring the 4 pillars
(as we like to call them) of the early church
as described in Ac. 2.42 actually become realities
in the most powerful ways in a home-based context.
Evangelism can also happen naturally since
it happens in the flow of natural life.
2. So how do things work in a "home-based
IT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD HERE: simply relocating
our proverbial you-knows from a pew (or in
our case, a chair in the gym) to a living room
does not in and of itself a thriving church
create! We are not so puerile as to assume
that just because we're going to meet in homes
we're suddenly going to explode spiritually
or numerically. Values drive behavior. We
do what we value. If there is no value change, then geography is meaningless.
Structures and systems simply facilitate or
hinder the real goals of living out values
that are characteristic of the kingdom of God.
Our activity and gatherings in homes allows
us to live out our true values – relational
ministry, personal interaction, friendship,
etc. By meeting in homes as well as connecting
with each other in various other ways and places,
where life happens, we have the freedom to
fulfill our vision – every soul in daily
communion with God, and every soul in basic
Christian community. We have observed in Encounter
some amazing things and God is clearly at work
people - both through saving the lost and equipping
Regarding “how things work,” it’s
all through a strong relational network. Simply
put, we keep in touch. We try to keep in contact
with each other in various ways through the
week and look out for each other. We operate
very much like a large extended family; the
only real difference is that we eagerly welcome
newcomers! When something needs to be done,
we work it out together. We can’t all
participate in everything with everyone, but
one problem we just do not have is people “falling
through the cracks” or remaining anonymous
and never getting any personal attention.
Through relational ministry, discipleship, hospitality,
etc. we'll do our best to be his body and fulfill
the great commission. It is very demanding personally,
and a bit unusual in some ways, but
we are confident of God's call. And if in fact
he is in charge, then he will certainly show
us whatever arrangements he's already made and
waiting for us to discover.
3. What are your gatherings like?
We have two kinds of gatherings: Sundays, with
everyone, and during the week in men’s
and women’s partnership groups.
We meet weekly in a home on Sundays, with everyone
together. After a time of welcoming and conversation,
we focus our attention on the activity of singing
praises, sharing what is going on in our lives,
sharing the bread and cup of communion, spending
time in God’s word, and even planning ministry
assignments together whenever we can. We also
spend time in ministry with our children, so
after some time with everyone together we take
turns with our children in another room teaching
them lessons, singing and praying with them,
and teaching them to minister to one another.
Once a month we all remain together for the entire
gathering for learning and interaction that incorporates
We also meet in men’s and women’s
groups during the week. In these meetings
we get deeper into study and discipleship, and
time in personal prayer together and ministering
to one another as needs arise. These are times
of fun and seriousness, study and interaction,
questions and answers, growing and serving.
4. If I were to visit one of your gatherings,
what would be expected of me?
Just your presence. We have an intentional but
relaxed atmosphere. There is no dress code, no
sense of expectation or familiarity with any
heritage or ritual, and no “entry level” of
Bible knowledge or spiritual ability is necessary.
You would be free to engage in conversation and
discussion, but just as free to simply observe.
As you will find out, nobody’s a stranger
5. If I visited one of your gatherings, what
could I expect?
An atmosphere of welcome and friendliness, a
wide variety of people, to not be the only newcomer,
to find that you’re not alone, cool insights
from God’s word, some good clean fun, to
meet the Lord Christ, and to leave with a sense
of excitement about coming again.