Deep or Wide

Deep or Wide

Is your church nurturing or is it a “weapon of mass induction” when it comes to the Kingdom of God?

Most of us want to answer “both” but I don’t think this very often true.  Churches are, for the most part, great at defense (teaching, pasturing, caring, and nurturing) and terrible at offense (going, evangelizing, and being apostolic).

Here is where the rubber meets the road for me.  Our house church started in part because a number of us wanted to “go deeper” in our relationships.  That’s more of a nurturing thing.

A few weeks back, at the Greenhouse training our house church attended, the challenge was to split up our group and not be “holy huddle;” to get out there and do outreach.  From my perspective, this is going wide rather than deep.

John 13:35 states, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  For me this means that we must live community out in front of those who are not Christians.  Like it or not, this is an attractional strategy. It calls us to invite others into our community.

Pragmatics is forcing the discussion. as much as anything else.  Our group now regularly gets to over thirty people.  We can’t go on meeting like this.  That’s a good thing.  And a bad thing.

So that’s our dilemma.  Deep or Wide?
 

6 thoughts on “Deep or Wide

  1. Here I am, being the first to comment on my own post.

    I noticed that I typed "pasturing" instead of "pastoring" in the above text. When I saw it, I really chuckled at myself – it's 100% a type only.

    However, the more I thought about it, it's an unfortunate but true statement. Often, our church life puts us "out to pasture" when it comes to our circle of influence. We start hanging out with Christians only – that's a piece of the issue this blog post is about.

    So… I am leaving it as is.

  2. I would ask why can't you have both? When I was a youth pastor I hung out with mostly Christian friends, and evangelism and outreach were programs we did on occasion to try to get people to come to our church. When the Lord called me out of that ministry and started me on the journey I am currently on, I started learning about "house church", along the way my family started gathering with other Christian families to "do church" in a smaller setting than where we had "done church" before. It was a matter of time that the families we were gathering with were scattered because of job transfers and stuff like that, we are still in contact with those families, but from a distance now.

    What I felt the Lord saying to me at that time was, "Son, you have made this weekly gathering of your Christian friends into your church, but I want to teach you and your Christian friends how to "be the Church" to the lost and dying world around you." I learned that it's okay for us to gather with our Christian friends for worship, fellowship, community, etc., but that we need to make sure that as a group we don't get so inward focused that we forget that we are all called to "make disciples".

    What I learned is that there are seven days in the week, and it's great if one or more of those days we gather with our Christian friends, but we need to also make sure that we and our Christian friends are "living sent" to those around us the other days during the week. We have learned that "making disciples" begins with the non-yet Christians and continues through all of the relationships we have with everyone around us. When we view "being the church" and "making disciples" as something we just do because of who we are and not something we do as a program, event or activity, then we find that we can be both deep and wide with both our Christian friends and our not-yet Christian friends.

    I think my friend Ross Rohde stated it great on his recent blog post:

    I’ve watched a lot of people launch into simple church ministry. I’ve also watched it lead to a lot of turbulence and chaos. That is the problem in a nutshell. They were launching a ministry. It was not actually integral to their life (at least yet); it was just a ministry. If we are to have actual integrity the “ministry values” we espouse need to be reflected in everything we do. No, even that’s not deep enough. These values we live need to be so deeply a part of us that they happen without us thinking about it. They need to leak out of us like the aroma of a flower. Roses don’t smell like roses because they are trying hard. Roses smell like roses because of what they are. Source: http://thejesusvirus.org/2010/06/26/integrity/

    1. Well, I think the issue is that if the simple church starts growing (and it has for us) then you just don't FIT anymore. Let's say this happens to us every six months.

      When we started we purposefully decided to keep the gathering "in house" because we had folks there that felt they needed a break from a programmatic approach. Now that we are open to others joining, we are having a growth spurt. The thought of breaking us up into two or three different simple churches (the goal all along) is the hard part.

  3. The beautiful thing about organic church is that it in itself not a model, but a way of understanding who the church is, and what her purpose is. Organic church is really a set of kingdom principles that can work in any model. At it’s simplest form organic church is simply members of the Body of Christ living out the following commandments of Christ daily:

    “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”

    Some call it house church or simple church and some call it organic church, but what I have learned is that where the “DNA” of Christ is present among people, there is Church.

    “D” – Divine Truth — our commitment to live out a life following Jesus & the Scriptures in today’s world
    “N” – Nurturing Relationships — our mutual love for one another as a spiritual family
    “A” – Apostolic Mission – our common mission on this planet

    Because it's not a model or a structure and not a way of "doing church" but rather "being the Church" daily there there are no rules saying that your group can't continue to gather on a regular basis as it is growing if that is what the Holy Spirit is leading you to do. I don't think you can force those in the group to be sent out to start "planting" or multiplying other groups, that would feel like you are breaking up the group or causing a "church split". I do believe that as full "DNA" is embraced and understood within the group, that you will start seeing many within your group start reaching out to others around them as part of the apostolic mission that the Holy Spirit is leading them on, and you will see other groups or expressions of the Body of Christ start to pop up organically as disciples are being made.

    As this is happening, there is still no reason why your group can't continue to meet and gather on a regular basis as your group is growing. Members of your group starting other groups or making disciples doesn't mean they are no longer allowed to continue to gather with your group on a regular basis. I would see that as the beginning of a simple church network or a network of house churches. There are quite a few examples of this already happening around the country. Here are a few:

    Doxa Church in Ocala, FL has a network of house churches living life together daily that have formed missional communities that gather on a regular basis and they all continue to gather in a larger setting on a weekly basis for a time of corporate worship and sharing.

    Doxa Church: http://www.doxachurch.com/Doxa_Church/Community.h

    SentChurch in Sanford, FL launched last fall as a Church family starting a journey together learning about what it means to "live sent" in their community. They have a regular weekly gathering for fellowship, worship and teaching but will be launching a network of house churches this coming Fall. You

    SentChurch: http://sentchurch.tv/

    Two examples of these types of simple church networks still gathering as a larger body on a much larger level would be Apex Community in OH (http://www.apexcommunity.com/) and The Austin Stone in TX (http://www.austinstone.org/). Both of these have a network of house churches that meet around their cities during the week and still gather for what some would say are "mega-church" size gatherings for worship and sharing. I think Northland in FL is moving towards this model as they are preparing to launch their network of house churches that they are calling Distributed Churches.

    I said all of that to simply say, don't feel like you have to "break up" your group, just keep following and listening to the Holy Spirit together and as you learn, understand and embrace the full "DNA" of Christ and His Church together, just do what the Holy Spirit leads!

    We would love to have you join us at the Florida Organic Greehouse monthly gatherings, we will all be using these monthly gatherings to share life together and find support as we are all walking on this journey together in the many different forms and models that it exists in. You can find out more and RSVP here:
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=12617062

  4. I'm going to have to agree with Jonathan about with the comment "why not both?" because that's what I was feeling the whole time. Now, while I do agree that most churches seem to forsake one for the other, I do not believe that this was the original intent for the church. Jesus said to go and make disciples of the world, not converts. This is, in my opinion, where a lot of our seeker-sensitive churches falter. They're going for pew-fillers and definable numbers and goals. They are not set up to be able to guide and teach and grow the people that do walk in further and deeper than they already are.

    Take my church, for instance, which does a good job of making everyone comfortable on a Sunday morning. We're slowly gaining new people in our pews… but not having anything to help go deeper. We're not stressing a missional approach to the gospel, and it's disparaging for someone who works with a missions organization (although, I do admit my bias).

    I think the only way for the church to be like it was intended is for it to be both wide, with people going out into the community and the world to spread the gospel (and NOT just flyers for the church); and deep, providing rich and fruitful discipleship inside the doors. I'm not saying that there cannot be some "easier" stuff for the n00bs, I'm just saying that there needs to be something that leads the seasoned church pros to action and life in the faith that should be rocking our world.

  5. bman and Jonathan,

    I think the "rub" for us is that there is a push within the organic church movement for growth. This push is not altogether different from the push in the mega-church movement for growth. The difference is that former is a push toward going out of the church and taking the Kingdom to others (the missional). The latter is about inviting people into the church and introducing them to the Kingdom (the attractional).

    These are obviously different.

    If one is always seeking to do outreach by church planting (splitting the group into smaller units as it grows) that's tough on relationship longevity. My experience with the attractional model suggests that over time these churches become Christian-culture-dominated and irrelevant.

    So, I know it sounds reasonable to say "both." I feel the tension, though, since our little house church is now over 30 people in size and we are feeling the need to birth a new group. This will mean giving up on some of these relationships in the way we enjoy them now.

    Growth pains!

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