Friday, May 7, 2010

Church Planting in Mexico

The following is a letter that Wayne DeYoung sent me in regards to me asking hi about house church.

(We) Would love to talk with you about house church or organic church if you get the chance some time. I am not an expert by any means. I have read many of the books and have gone to many house church conferences, but the only and main focus is not so much using a strategy but in doing it. It is really the only way to learn what works for you in your context. It is simply using your gifts in a way to develop churches that can multiply.

It is not a controled environment like a church building which is built to house your program. But the intimacy and people involved from day one are keys to growing new believers who multiply themselves in others. We do most of the "church" stuff but food is always one media to bring people together. The people catch on to that quickly. We have tried doing classes and seminars to teach the principles but they are too far removed from the reality I think. So just starting with 2 or 3 is the key. More keep coming if you have a few people willing to reach out who have a people gift.
We really do love each other. We don't do church, we are church. Leadership comes from the gifts that come with the people.
Some of the unique things that we are doing which developed from our context are:

1. For prayer we often just go around the circle and say, "I want to thank the Lord for..... These people come from a culture of not knowing how to pray. That is often the start.

2. We read through the New Testament, one chapter each week.

3. Each person that wants to and can, reads two verses. This familiarizes the people with the word.

4. Afterwards, anyone can comment or ask questions about the passage, I often lead out with a key question about the text.

5. We sing and then do something else and then sing again, break things up.

6. No preaching is done from a pulpit, ususally it is done sitting down if there are enough chairs.

7. We meet in very small rooms and cram 15-20 people in.

8. We usually do something with the kids like a story particularly for them.

9. We don't use books usually or bible study materials or hymnals. The exception is we often start out the groups using the Bible League Bible Study books to give people the basics in salvation.

10. Everyone participates in some way in every meeting and often with testimonies or prayer concerns which have brought them to the group that week. Testimonies are about what God did in your life this week, not the full history type.

11. Short and sweet is what we train people in, so no one dominates the discussion. We shut them down if they do it often. It harms the atmosphere.

12. We move toward as time goes on, pop corn style prayer rather than praying around the circle so people can if they want to and short! But they can come in a number of times. We try to quiet the people who want to pray outloud while others are offering a prayer, because people can't often hear what is being said.

13. We usually only take offerings for local things or people in need.

14. We often do baptisms in a cow tank in the front yard or patio for the neighbors to see.

15. Preaching is short but to the point and focused on needs at the group.

16. Kids go out to play if they get bored after the singing or they stay in the group to learn. We tried taking them out to a back room but it was divisive and hard to organize.

17. We love to have joint parties between the network of groups. We do that a few times a year.

18. Pastor leaders and others circulate between the different groups which meet any day of the week on a once the week schedule. There is overlapping everywhere especially as a new group gets started.

19. The leaders don't always show up. The house hosts have to sink or swim with their group sometime.

20. The groups are encouraged to start a daughter group and most do in short order of about 6 months.

21. We don't worry about numbers, we do worry about depth of growth by those coming. Do they really want to serve Christ and be his disciple. We stress discipleship related to Christ and his pastoring the group.

22. We are not really denominational and rarely mention what affiliation people have. Christians come from many persuations and accept eachother, but the leaders will draw the people toward their version of Christianity in most cases, but we don't push our individuality as Christians. In many cases we are the only Church in town or in the infonavit which has 1000 homes. They all know we are Christians. And we don't put up signs.

23. We use tons of tracts to hand out to our contacts during the week to leave something of the gospel in their hands, usually Chick Tracts.

24. Most of the attendees are seekers, brand new believers, or young Christians. The old believers are constantly trying to make the church group in their image and usually don't last. And we usually have at least one non-believer at every house group. It is a DNA issue (see Greenhouse).

25. We emphasize reading the bible. This is the foundation of our faith.

26. We have fun! People like coming.

27. There is no strict order of service. If someone walks in, in the middle of the meeting, the meeting almost always comes to a stop for greetings and often the meeting almost starts over if it is a large group even if we are near the end of everything. We minister to the new people who have come. We love for people to come and feel welcomed.

28. Most things just happen naturally, you don't have to teach or orchestrate much unless the people are used to a format in a church somewhere that they left. Those people have a hard time changing to natural and usually don't stick. They usually want to take over and direct things too. We don't encourage them to stay with us. They have a home and should go back, they probably had a problem there and take it with them.

29. We are about reaching the lost not about saving the found to our "new way of church".

Hopefully this may stimulate some discussion. Would like to hear about your experiences too and what works for you. Also about your experience or interest in the house church principles.
We have been missionaries for about 30 years in many contexts and countries. This is our first almost pure use of organic house type churches. I love it because it fits me and because it works to bring in unbelievers and disciple them. But I like all types of churches. My wife and I both come from large congregations of the Dutch heritage. But we have worked in missions since we were youth. I learned a ton from Roger Greenway way back in 1968 in Mexico City and after that as my professor in seminary courses for a ThM. He will stand out as my number 1 mentor in life. But we are very different in our abilities and focus. I just try to be me.

God bless you and yours.
Wayne and Sandy DeYoung

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