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More Church Planting Lessons from the LivingRoom

11 October, 2004 1:33 PM

I just had a good MSN chat with a fellow explorer of all things church and he asked - 'any more wisdom to share concerning house churches?'

I'm not sure how wise I am - I'm a newbie to this planting of churches thing and am learning as I go along. I sprouted a few things off the top of my head that I thought I'd keep a record of and float here publicly for your thoughts, experiences and comments. By no means is what I'm sharing here definitive or universal - its just a little of what I'm learning in our context. It's not rocket science - but here goes:

1. Go Slow - It takes time to build relationships with each other and with the wider community. I've seen a number of people start churches who have gone in with guns blazing and the up shot of it was that it didn't last.

We spent a long time getting to know each other as a core group of people, spent a lot of time working on our values/dna and whilst I was a little frustrated at the time at the slowness of our growth (we had one new person in a year!) I'm really grateful for the strong foundations of values and relationships that we now have.

My online buddy asked me at this point about buildings and how early to start talking about them. I responded:

'I'm not against buildings - but I think they should emerge out of the dna and the opportunities that arise and that takes a lot of time to discern. If we'd got a building when we started it would have been the wrong building for where we are now.'

I'm not sure if or when we'll have a building - at the moment I doubt that we will - but if we do I'd hope that it emerges out of our missional activity rather than anything else.

2. Make it as connected as possible to people's real lives - We've really tried hard to ground what we do in our weekly gatherings in what people do in the other 98% of their week. I think the temptation when you are involved in a little group like ours is to hide away and be all 'spiritual' and 'holy'. So we don't do just 'spiritual stuff' - or rather we've widened what we see as 'spiritual stuff' and talk a fair bit about real life - work, friends, social issues. Our recent 'food' series was good in this way.

3. Don't just meet in Houses - This is related to the last one I suppose but I have been pondering it today. I think we can begin to break down the wall between the 'holy huddle' mentality that its easy to fall into the trap of and the 'everyday spirituality' that I talked about above by actually shifting the gathering space to an everyday space on a regular basis. I've documented some of our attempts to do this on this blog and I find it to be an incredibly rich experience every time we do it. I think its easy for a church to be defined by the building it meets in (house church, pup church, cafe church) and think its useful to mix things up a bit and to find other words to describe what you do (the reason why I rarely describe LivingRoom as a 'house church').

4. Don't let Church Dominate Life - Again this is related but its been such a big lesson for me personally. Its so easy to let Church become an overwhelming dominant thing in one's life. Now I've got nothing against church - as far as things go its probably on the good end of the spectrum of things that you could allow to dominate your life - but as a minister I think I've been guilty in the past of expecting my congregations to give every spare moment in their week to the programs and ministries that I run for them. In the process I created a monster that consumed people's lives. In the process I ran the risk of disconnecting them from their families, work places, social clubs, friends, neighbors and personal hobbies and interests and what God was doing around them in their natural rhythms of life.

I'm learning that if we allow people (and ourselves) time to live a little that they actually become much more effective in mission and that they find God and grow in their understanding and relationship with him in some amazingly surprising places!

Again - I have nothing against programs or ministries - but I think that we need to really take our time and ask some big questions about them before we rush into adding another expectation into people's lives.

5. Be Shaped by the Outsider - I'm reading a business book by Seth Godin at the moment called 'Free Prize' and today he talked about how when developing a new product you should focus your attentions NOT on your satisfied customers but those who were dissatisfied and who had a need. There is no point in developing a new product for your existing happy customers because they will probably buy it anyway - the way to expand your customer base is to focus on the dissatisfied ones. Now I'm not wanting to say that those who attend church are 'customers' - but it made me wonder who most churches spend most of their time and energies focussing upon.

I've got a friend who once said to me - 'What we do in our church is defined not by who attends it - but by who doesn't attend it.' In saying this he was advising me to spend time thinking about my culture, my neighbor, my work mate and allowing who they are to help shape what we do as a church. I think there is some real wisdom in those words. Not that we forget about those in our community when thinking about how we are shaped as a church - but that we also allow those on the edges and outside our community to shape it also.

I'm sure I'll think of more things as the day/week progresses as I'm in a bit of a reflective mood these days. Again - these are not meant to be definitive or 'the answers' but just some lessons learnt so far for us. Interested in others thoughts and experiences.



Yeah good stuff there Daz, particularly points 4 n 5. I think when you let church run your life your doing a disservice to God, yourself and your community.

I'm interested to hear what point 5 looks like practically-does that mean putting on 'better' services and church meetings, or does it mean simply spending less time at church.

What did it look like for your friends church that was shaped by the people that weren't there? Love the concept, but am struggling to see what it practically means.

Digger » 11 October, 2004 2:21 PM

I do agree that we should not expect those in our church to be at every program or meeting. However, maybe the reason for that is because we are over programmed? I am a big believer in the church. I believe we should not neglect our families at home. I also believe we should not neglect our church family. They are very, very closely related. American culture is driving a fast food mentality when it comes to the church family- I'll take this, I wont take that, wait a minute that's too expensive! Give me what I want and I'll hit the road wihout committing to hanging out with anybody. That's not the church seen in the book of Acts. They met together daily! It's time for the church to dictate to the culture what is true. Cares of life need to be laid at the altar instead of us attempting to appease busy people with a decreased responsibility to their church family. I would definately say that the gathering of the believers, the church, is critically important. I stress to folks here to be at at least 2-3 family events each week. Most of what we do here is prayer and worship, so it's a great time for the church family to grow strongly together. Yes, our other sphere's of influence (work, etc.) are important, but not nearly as important as the regular and passionate gathering together of the church family.

John Burton » 11 October, 2004 8:21 PM

Thanks for this Darren. I'm at the starting point on planting a church and am going through all sorts of emotions about the length of time it's taking.
it's great to get some easy, practical tips form someone a little further down the road than me.

Saint Gaz » 13 October, 2004 2:39 PM

Hi Darren. It was good to chat to you at the recent Forge and I really appreciated you sharing your thoughts on church planting, which I found very helpful and relate well to our similar experience (now 3 years into the process).
Good on you mate,


Brett Marshall » 20 December, 2004 9:15 AM

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