Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Last night at "The Mission" (our weekly house church gathering) we were blessed with first-time visitors Brent and Clara from Fullerton. (Brent discovered our house church listing over at "House2House.com").

During our meal we had a wonderful discussion about something that I've been meaning to write about for a while now and this is a good time to do so.

What we began discussing was the tendency in our traditional churches to centralize certain people as leaders and, in turn, we disqualify everyone else from participating.

For example, most pastors and on-staff ministers can relate to the fact that only a handful of people do all the work and ministry in the Body while 80% to 90% sit back and do nothing. This creates frustration, burn-out and, honestly, a large group of underdeveloped disciples.

Brent's comment was that he realized in his church that it was like a classroom of people from various levels of maturity who would never graduate. So, the First Graders and the Twelfth Graders (and everyone in between) must sit through the same lecture each week and there is no homework (so the pastor/professor cannot ever really tell who is listening or putting things into practice or not) and the fact is that no one ever graduates from this "Class" and becomes an instructor themselves.

Here's a great solution: Teach your people to become teachers. If you are in the habit of training others to become trainers of others (this is a very basic principle of discipleship), you will eventually end up with a church full of teachers and trainers who are training others to also be teachers and trainers. Over time your church will become so full of mature ("Graduated") leaders and disciple-makers that your small staff will act mostly as facilitators and not the one's who must always be "hands-on" for every single event/class/lesson/bible study, etc.

I have personally been shocked to see a lack of basic trust among most lead pastors to "give away the ministry" in this way. Many pastors are too afraid to actually empower and release others to do their job. Why? Well, it's pretty obvious that this threatens their authority and job security. But, it doesn't have to. I believe any pastor who actually put this into practice would quickly become the envy of other pastors in their community. They'd get phone calls from other pastors asking, "How do you do it?" and "Can you show me how to do this?"

Here's a quick reference of how to empower others contrasted with how to expoit others. See where your church fits in this matrix:

*Give them something to do / *Give them something to attend
*Believe in them / *Make them believe in you
*Delegate authority / *Require submission to your authority
*Further God's plan for their life / *Make them part of your plans
*Invest in them / * Use them
*Love them and show it / *Love the task more than the people
*Give them what you have / *Take what they have
*Provide resources for growth / *Harvest their resources for your own use
*Discuss with them / * Preach at them
*Spend time freely with them / *Require appointments that suit your schedule
*Give them the keys now / *Hold back until you retire
*Serve them / *Get them to serve you
*Praise them / *Accept their praise graciously
*Transfer masterhood to them / *Demonstrate your masterhood to them

**Modified from Wolfgang Simson

Brent and I also discussed a bit about Barna's book "Revolution" and how, in the next 20 years, he predicts that the traditional church will decline and "organic" or "house" churches will flourish. I agree with Barna, however, I think as this begins to gather momentum many "smart" pastors will begin to look around and say, "Hold the phone! Why are all these people leaving the church? What is it they are hungry for? How can we modify what we do to provide the same opportunity?"

Most of those "smart" pastors will shift from an "Exploit Others" methodology to an "Empower Others" methodology. Many of the smart ones already have...

Brent and I both shared testimonials of how we've seen requests from church members to start Bible Studies or Prayer Meetings in their homes have been told "No" by their lead pastors because there wasn't a recognized pastoral figure who could oversee such a meeting. So, this means pastors are actually discouraging their members from meeting and praying and studing the Word of God together because they're not qualified to do so.


What happened to the Priesthood of the Believer? What happened to opening the Word of God and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth?

Sadly, our practice betrays our heritage of The Reformation and the liberty offered to us by God to empower every believer to become a committed and devoted disciple who, then in turn, goes and creates other committed and devoted disciples.

I've mentioned it here before, but the goal of an apple tree is not to produce more apples. It's to produce more apple trees. This is the organic purpose found in nature, and it's the organic purpose of the Body of Christ as well.

Let's go and make disciples. Let's empower every follower of Christ to go and exponentially create as many Bible Studies, Prayer Groups, Spiritual Discussion Groups, etc. as the Holy Spirit desires.




I've had to eat some crow the last few days.

So much of my attitude of late has revolved around feeling that, in general, the contemporary church has it all wrong. The solution, of course, is to go back to the beginning and to re-visit the values and the vision of the early church, before things got so corrupted.

I know that God still loves His Bride as it is today. I know that, by the Grace of God, people are still touched by Him, lives are still transformed and the Gospel is still preached, and often, even actually reflected in the lives of those who call themselves Christian.

But, I have felt frustrated, even angered and deeply disappointed by most of what is called "Christian" today. I do feel that Church has become an event that must be paid for, not a life that must be lived. I am saddened that our churches today focus more on putting butts in the seats than on actually helping people in need, discipling young Christians and putting feet to their faith.

Still, as I said at the top, I have had to eat crow.

What happened was, I was visiting one of the families in the motel this week where our Church has been ministering and I began to see the amazing fruit that has come in their lives. Granted, yes, this compassion ministry into this motel was something I had been working on for over a year, but the recent advances in their spiritual development I can mainly attribute to their involvement in the traditional church I've been part of for 3 years.

Because of the ministry through prayer that these guys received at a recent Sunday morning service, they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They sat and told me about how they had never been to a church like ours before, where people didn't look down on them because of their poverty, where people actually cared for them and shared the love of Jesus in real ways.

"We love our church," they said. "We want to have our kids baptized and we want to come every week now, no more excuses."

I was forced to admit that our church, our contemporary, traditional church, had accomplished something truly amazing in the lives of my friends.

I have to admit that God is able to do whatever He wants with whatever system of worship is available to Him. Whether it's a system that takes its cues from the big business world, or the mega-church model, or the simple, early home church version, God is able to produce fruit and transform lives, no matter what.

Of course, on one level, I 'knew' this already. I haven't ever said or felt that the over-riding methods of "doing church" were evil or bankrupt, although I do feel that changes towards a more relational, community-focused sort of gathering are more likely to impact the culture than the system we've got.

This brings up another subject I want to address. Most of the house churches that I've looked into are characterized by their common hatred of the modern Church system, and most often directly defined by how much they are not like the church they all left to form their gathering in protest.

I really don't want our group to be defined this way. In fact, Wendy and I have promised each other that we will be vigilant to cut anyone off who starts spewing out negative monologs about why we're better or why that "other church" has it all wrong.

What I want is to focus on what we're called to do and to live out the convictions we have, without defining ourselves as an "anti" church.

So, in the future, whenever I write about the failures of the modern church, or critique the methodology of American Christianity, please keep in mind that God is still at work in all of the various forms His Bride might take and that He loves, and redeems, and is completely in love with us all.



By Keith Giles

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had….There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”- Acts 4:32-35

As I read about the early church in the book of Acts I am amazed at their simple devotion to one another, to the poor, and especially to Jesus.

Reading about how “there was no needy person found among them” I am humbled and inspired. As I see their eagerness to share, not just to give an offering, but to take what is their own and give it away to others who are truly in need, I long to know this kind of “koinonia” or “Agape Community”.

How did they do it?

As someone who has been involved in ministry and on staff at various kinds of churches over the last sixteen years, I know first-hand the frustration of reading the book of Acts and then trying every possible program and gimmick available to duplicate this kind of simple Christian life within the congregation I’m helping to pastor.

Anyone who’s ever tried to lead a group of believers, or to pastor a church knows the pain of this same frustration. We attend seminars taught by high-powered business executives turned church consultant gurus. We buy their books, their tapes, and we try every possible way to produce the fruit we see in the book of Acts within our own church body.

What happens is, we get larger churches, we get happier churches, we get culturally-relevant churches, we get hip and cool and slick, but the one thing we don’t get is more like the people we read about in the book of Acts.

Why is that?

Here’s my oversimplified explanation. Let’s pretend that what the early Christians in Acts were great at was making waffles. They made the best waffles known to man. Their waffles were legendary. We read about those amazing waffles and we determine to make waffles like they did. So, we go to the successful culinary experts in our modern world and we ask them for advice. They tell us to buy the biggest Barbecue Grill we can find, the one with dual propane tanks and the built-in meat thermometer. They tell us to get the complete serving dish set, all the chrome cooking utensils and even a chefs hat and matching apron. We buy it all and we even put a cross on it to make it holy. Next we start trying to grill up some waffles, and of course, those waffles are lousy. No one wants our waffles and we can’t understand why.

Why won’t we accept the fact that, unless we start trying to make waffles the way the early church did, we’ll never ever be any good at making waffles?

Very simply put, I feel very strongly that if we don’t do what they did, we’ll never get what they got.

That’s why we’re starting “the mission”, so that we can begin to learn from The Holy Spirit how to actually love, and share, and give, and live out our faith the same way the early church did for over 300 years.

Even the big business executives agree-“The systems you currently have are perfectly designed to give you the results you are now getting” (Peter Senge).

If we want different results than what we’re getting, it means we’re going to have to completely change the system we’re using.

I’ll be mixing up the batter in the kitchen, please don’t forget to bring the syrup.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”- Acts 2:44-47




As my wife and I begin to move into this new phase of our calling to start a missional house church in a new neighborhood, we've been reading a lot and studying up on the early church and how they operated.

Our goal is not to copy the early church verbatim, but to glean from them a basic method of operation and to understand the core values they embodied.

In this process, I came across a quote that stirred me to think in a new way.

In discussing the way that the house churches exponentially grow outward via a process similar to organic cell division, one author noted that "The goal of an apple tree is not to produce apples."

This made me stop and re-think what I understood about nature and about church.

If the goal of an apple tree is NOT to produce apples, then what is the goal of an apple tree? And more importantly, what the heck does this have to do with planting a house church in the O.C. today?

Here's what I discovered. If an apple tree only produces apples all of it's life and dies, what has it accomplished? At first glance, a lot. It's provided the world with nutritious food and fulfilled one of the basic design elements inherent in its nature. But is that really all that an apple tree is really designed by the Creator to do?

That's when I realized the mistake we all make when thinking of organic structures, as compared to the living Body of Christ. If the apple tree dies without having produced another apple tree, it has failed miserably. Mainly because future generations will never taste of the fruit.

Unless an apple tree produces more apple trees, it is a total failure.

In a similar way, if the Church only makes converts, or even true disciples, and not more churches, then it has failed.

Look at the early church as an example. They quickly spread throughout the known world and "turned the world upside down" with the Gospel. How did they do this? Not by simply making converts or disciples, although this is an important part of the process, but by making more churches just like itself.

What made this process ingeniously easy and effective was the fact that the church was a family-based, household of faith. To plant a new church just like itself all it had to do was outgrow the largest room in the house it was currently meeting in and send out five or six to start meeting in another house in another part of town.

These churches then grew exponentially as each house church sent out more and more groups who then also sent out more and more groups, they quickly took over a region for Christ.

The beauty of this system is that it inspires community, allows the full use of the gifts for the building up of the body, and it costs nothing. In fact, these house churches not only cost nothing to maintain, they could only create funds through the gifts and offerings of the members who gave on a weekly basis to the poor among them, both inside and outside the community of faith.

The early church was known, even by its enemies, as a radically inclusive group that cared for the poor and even buried the dead of the pagans in their city whose families couldn't afford it.

Of course, the Church must produce disciples. It's our mandate from our Lord Himself, but if all we do is create more and more disciples and never plant new churches, we're not fulfilling our organic, natural, God-designed calling as the Body of Christ.

I could write another article all about how, for the apple tree to produce another apple tree, those apples have to leave the tree and then to die in order fulfill its mission. Much like the follower of Jesus is called to die to himself/herself and take up the cross daily to be a productive disciple.

In John 12:24 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

Now, let's go plant some apple trees for the Kingdom.



A Wedding A Week?”

By keith giles

Has the modern church become a “Wedding-A-Week” event?

Think of what it takes to pull off a wedding. You need an event planner just to make sure everything comes together logistically and that the ceremony is successful. Someone has to take care of the flowers, the food, the cake, the dresses, the tuxedos, the gifts, the parking, the DJ, the lights, the video, etc., etc. It’s a very big deal and no one in their right mind would attempt to put on a wedding every weekend…or would they?

Think of what goes into a typical Sunday morning worship service. Someone has to put together the bulletin, the order of service, the flowers, the coffee, the visitors table, the information booths, and clean the building before and after the service. The band, or the choir, has to be practiced, prepared and ready for the performance. The announcements have to be loaded on the power point slides in advance. Someone has to make sure that the ushers are ready, that visitors are welcomed, and that the Sunday School and child-care workers and rooms are all set up and staffed.

We haven’t even mentioned the pastor and his sermon yet.

Most Sunday morning worship services are a big production.

Is that what the early church went through?

Not even close.

The early church met in homes. They read scripture. They prayed for each other. They sang hymns spontaneously and they shared a common meal among their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here’s another thing I find interesting about weddings. Do you think that community happens during a wedding? Not really…but why not? Isn’t a wedding a gathering of two families and all their friends into a single place? They’re even in a church building. So, why don’t we have community at weddings?

Before I answer that, let’s take that same family and look at what happens when they get together for Thanksgiving or a family reunion. Do you think community happens during these gatherings? Probably so…but again, why is that? It’s the same family isn’t it? What’s the difference?

The main differences are that, in the home setting of Thanksgiving dinner, no one is acting as an event planner. No one worries if the kids play outside before or after the meal, or if Grandma wants to tell her fond stories about the old days before desert or after they say “Grace”. The gathering is spontaneous. It’s about being the family, not acting out roles.

Something happens when you take that same family and place them in an event or a performance. They loose the environment necessary to facilitate community.

It’s almost funny to me to hear pastors and Christian leaders go on and on about how they wish their churches could develop community. We all wonder why talking about it and reading books about it and having potlucks don’t solve this problem.

We ask ourselves, “Why can’t we have a sense of community the way the early church experienced?”

The answer? “Because we’re not living the way those early Christians lived. We’re not meeting in homes they way they did. We’re not sharing all that God has given us with our neighbors and our fellow Believers. That’s why we don’t experience the same sense of community.”

One family gathering is large, and focused on following an event schedule. They other gathering, of the same family, is smaller and less formal, focused on being the family and enjoying a shared meal in a home.

Which of these is most like the early church?

Which is most likely to provide the atmosphere necessary to inspire community?

The early church was a divinely inspired system designed to create community, facilitate discipleship, mentoring and exponential multiplication, and we should be grateful that it was successful or else none of us would be here now.

For 300 years the church that Jesus inspired and that the Apostles crafted withstood persecution, created disciples, evangelized the lost, penetrated the culture and “turned the world upside down”.

I for one feel that it’s time for the people of God to return to this system of being the church and embodying the message of the Gospel, rather than bringing people to a building where they can hear a message.

By Keith Giles


Here are just a few of the reasons:

Historical- The house church is the biblical church. All of the churches in the New Testament era were small assemblies that met in homes. The churches that all of Paul’s letters were written to met in this way. His directions for their order of worship, attitudes about the Lord’s Supper, community, giving, etc., were all instructions for how to do house-based church.

For the first three hundred years of its existence the church met primarily in the homes of its members, not in specially designed buildings. Keep in mind that the United States hasn’t even been around for three hundred years. This is a huge statement to the effectiveness and the potential of these sorts of meetings.

Growth- The most explosive growth of Christianity in our own time has taken place in nations where Believers meet in homes (China, Korea, etc.). The studies of Historian Del Birkey , researcher George Barna, and several others, have concluded that the house church is our best hope for renewal in our times.

Resisting the Culture- Our faith is constantly being pulled towards conforming to the culture around us. (See Paul’s warning about this in Romans 12). The house church has always been counter-cultural for this reason, just as Jesus said that his disciples should be in the Sermon on the Mount.

Practical Considerations- It is often argued that a large church is better equipped than a small church (or, in this case, a house-church) to organize and finance the sending of missionaries.

In fact, the argument backfires. One mega-church with one-thousand members could never match the resource potential of a network of house-churches with one-thousand members, for the mega-church must allocate huge amounts of its resources for the building itself.

According to one recent survey, as much as 82% of church revenues in an average Protestant church goes toward buildings, staff, and internal programs, while only 18% goes toward missions!

Strength In Weakness-The church of the first century did not equate "bigness" with ability, (See 1Co 1:27-29). The world system operates from the principle that bigger is better. To those in this system, success is measured by size and might is measured by muscle. In contrast, it was the “weakness and foolishness” of the Gospel and the lifestyle of the early Christians that “turned the world upside down”.

Mission- There are several opportunities in our communities that are especially suited for the house church. An invitation offered to a work-place acquaintance to a home is much less threatening than one to a church, just as one example. Another is the unique value of the house church as a ministry to "the damaged" and the poor and needy and the possibility of learning the joy of giving by elevating that practice to a personal level.

Evangelism- If a mega-church of 1,000 or more people were converted into 56 churches of 51 people each, they would reach 1,670 people for Christ every 5 years, easily doubling their own number.

If that same church of 1,000 plus members stays a mega-church, they’ll only reach 122 people in the same 5 year time span.

Another way of looking at this is that the mega-church is actually preventing 1,548 people from coming to Christ every 5 years.
*(Taken from the book "Natural Church Growth" by Christian Schwarz)

Financial Responsibility-The House Church model literally makes money because they produce more than they consume, by design. The modern, traditional church model costs enormous sums of money to establish and even more to maintain and propagate.


the mission

OUR VISION: To be a community that models the life and love of Jesus to our world and to one another.

OUR MISSION: We are a community in love with Jesus. We are the Church. We have a mission to be Jesus to our friends, neighbors and our world.

WHO WE ARE: We are an outward focused Christian community with an inward commitment to love and disciple others to Jesus’ way of life.

OUR PRACTICE AND VALUES: We value the Word of God, therefore we will read it, study it, talk about it, meditate on it and, by the Grace of God, we will put the Word of God into practice every day of our lives.

We value the Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus came and died to proclaim, therefore we will proclaim the message of God’s Kingdom as “here, and not yet”, and live our lives in obedience to His commands, as citizens of His Kingdom and servants of the King.

We value people, therefore we will gather together to eat, fellowship, sing and pray for each other. We will make people feel welcome. We will listen to others. We will embrace their pain. We will make their burdens our own. We will see their need and share whatever God has given us to share. We will laugh. We will rejoice. We will celebrate together.

We value service, therefore we will make ourselves available to those who are in need. We will invest our time and talent and energy into the work of the Kingdom of God, serving others as Jesus did, expecting nothing in return.

We value giving, therefore we will demonstrate our dependence on God for all things by freely sharing what God has given us with others. All funds given to The Mission will be distributed to people in need, whether in the community or within our own church family.

We value worship, therefore we will worship God with our entire life. In homes, on the street, at work, in the marketplace, wherever we are there is worship. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and we will offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice that is pleasing to Him. (Romans 12)

We Love The Whole Church- God loves His Bride, in all forms and in every mode, denomination and organization. We ourselves have been, and continue to be, massively blessed by what the Holy Spirit and His people have done in our lives through the traditional church expression.

Therefore, our house church will not be established as an entity that is against the traditional church. We do not ever want to spend our time tearing down what God is doing