A Conversation with Pastor Jake Davidson: Covocational/Bivocational Church Planting

Covo and Bivocational Church Planting: 3 Lessons From Jake Davidson

In the fall of 2021 I interviewed church planter Jake Davidson of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Pembroke. NBBC is a part of the Christian County Baptist Association and is partnering with the association, the KBC, and others to reach the lost with the gospel. As we talked, three main principles kept coming to the top: church planters must be Focused in their Evangelism, Be Thankful in their Covo/Bivocational Work, and always Learning.

Jake is a very evangelistic pastor. His sermons are centered around the gospel, he teaches evangelistic principles to those attending NBBC, and schedules time each week with his church to go into the community and share their faith. One member told me, “before coming to NBBC, I wasn’t sure how to share my faith or how people would receive me. After going out on Wednesdays with my pastor, I feel confident to share with anyone!” Jake and the church are praying that the Lord will give them relationships with those in the military community as Pembroke is very close to Fort Campbell. Pastor Darrell Crawford of Living Hope Baptist in Hopkinsville is very excited to be partnering with Jake and NBBC as their sending church. “Jake loves sharing the gospel with people. If you’re not sharing the gospel, you can’t plant a church.”

Jake and his wife Ashley are very grateful for the business that the Lord has allowed them to run from their home. Jake says this has not only provided for their needs, but has given them a way to work together to raise their children at home. “There is no way we could have started this church without having the freedom to work like we do. The Lord provides for our needs through our church, partners like our sending and supporting churches, the KBC, and our business. It’s through our business that that the Lord gave that we are really able to provide food and keep our household running.” Together, they design and build custom seat cushions using the Etsy platform. You can support them at https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheDavidsonDesign.

Jake is also an avid learner. He is working to complete his MDiv from Gateway Seminary and gave this advice to anyone in ministry: “I highly encourage other bivocational pastors to keep getting as much education as possible. It’s grown me spiritually, taught me how to exegete scripture, and how to lead. God uses the current classes I’m taking for situations I’m encountering. I’m thankful for the KBC’s partnership with Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and their Certificate Program for Bivo pastors. Programs like this one and the one I’m going through are excellent for church planters.”

Jake mentioned the amount of spiritual warfare he encountered was unexpected. “Satan will go after you, your wife, and your family. God has grown us through it and has blessed our family. If you are praying about planting a church, be ready for spiritual warfare. Satan will attack you.” When asked how Kentucky Baptists can partner with him and the church, he said, “We ask for and need your prayers. We are small and don’t need much right now. Evangelism is free and we have plenty of work to do, but we need prayer partners.” If you’d like to sign up to pray for planters like Jake Davidson, please visit http://www.kybaptist.org/pray4.

“Too Small to Send?” 7 ways every church can train church planters

Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (Acts 9:31 NKJV)

Chapter nine of Acts provides the account of Saul’s miraculous transformation through the power of the gospel to Paul the Apostle. He went from breathing threats and murder (9:1) against the disciples to being called Brother Saul (9:17) by Ananias. This new believer, anointed by the Lord to boldly bring the gospel to the nations, was strengthened by the church and IMMEDIATELY going to preach Christ in the Jewish synagogues. What an amazing transformation!! What a testimony from a group of believers supporting, loving, and encouraging one who is sent!!

How can the rural or smaller church do the same today? Is it possible that a body of 20-60 believers encourage, equip, and send in the same way? Let’s take a look at Acts 9:19-22:

So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

How can the smaller church partner with a planter or one who is sent/being sent (I use the phrase “being sent” because all churches are tasked with not only supporting/sending, but making disciples. Every church needs to do their best at identifying and training the next generation of leaders.)? Here are some principles that all churches can follow:

  1. Every church can provide strength to those sent/being sent. (So when he had received food he was strengthened) Every believer needs to learn more about scripture, the gifts that God has given them, and have a safe place in which they can do these things. Every church can provide ways to practice ministry while encouraging, equipping, and giving helpful feedback to those eager to learn. If the Lord has not provided your church with a hungry disciple, open your doors to local/regional church planters who want to learn how to preach, teach, or evangelize. Give them much love, grace, and be a place they will remember with fondness 20 years from now!
  2. Every church should provide an atmosphere of learning/training. (Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus) Churches big and small should be practicing a 2 Tim 2:2 ministry of looking for and teaching faithful men (women) who are able to do the same. This starts with creating a learning/training culture. Does each leader have an “apprentice,” is there an expectation that the church will assist financially with those who may desire theological or practical ministry training? By creating this type of atmosphere, those who may feel an internal call from the Lord will not be left guessing if their local body will support them outwardly. While you are praying for one among you to be sent, putting steps in place that allow you to partner with a “sent one” in the neighboring town/county.
  3. Every church can encourage those gifted in missionary work to practice their gifts. (Immediately he preached the Christ) Give those who are learning an opportunity to preach, teach, lead, or organize. Give them some basic guidelines, act as a coach, and praise them for a job well done! When the task is complete spend some time asking questions like, “What went well?” “What would you have done differently?” “Did you achieve the goal you set?” Paul was very gifted in preaching, discipling new leaders, and defending the faith because he boldly practiced. Ask those who are mentoring new disciples in the church next door to include your church in some of their exercises. They will get a chance to practice and you will get a chance to learn how others are training disciples.
  4. Every church should learn about and understand their context. (in the synagogues) Paul knew the Jewish culture better than those around him (Phil 3:4-6). How well do you know your Jerusalem? Order a free demographic study from your Baptist convention, do a “windshield survey,” or do a 300-500 home door to door canvasing in the spring or fall. Better yet, do all three and sit down with some key leaders to review what each of you have learned to share collectively with the church. You will be surprised how many churches think they know their context, but are surprised of what they find when they dig. Help those in your church who feel led to “go” understand the basics of cultural exegesis. You can partner with the church planter in your area by offering help for his door to door efforts by going, writing follow-up cards, praying, or simply asking their sending church how you can help.
  5. Every church needs to focus on preaching and teaching a biblical gospel. (that He is the Son of God) We get the cart before the horse when we create a plan and tack this on to the end. Paul understood who Jesus was and clearly preached the gospel to the Jewish people. He also had a group of believers who encouraged him as he was doing so. Is your church clearly articulating the gospel in Bible study classes, small groups, one on one, and in the worship service? If you asked each of those attending on a Sunday morning, “What is the gospel?” what would they say to you? The gospel is a first tier issue and should not only be clearly communicated, it should be expected that those who are training for ministry be able to articulate is as well. Ask a sister church to send you one of their apprentices, planters, collegiate ministry assistants, or new disciples to do a training on sharing the gospel. Your church will be blessed and encouraged as well as the one teaching.
  6. Every church can encourage believers to embrace their personal testimony. (Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?) I felt out of place for the longest time in the church due to my testimony. I didn’t run wild in the streets as a teen, steal my neighbor’s car for a joy ride, or spray paint the school purple. My testimony prior to my conversion was not spectacular. It took me awhile to be okay with the fact that my testimony is my testimony. One day while on lunch break I was flipping through the radio and stopped on a radio preacher. While he preached I grew convicted that while I had told people I was a Christian, I had not truly received Christ and was not born again. The weight of my sin was so heavy that I cried out to God for forgiveness in my truck and was born again. Your testimony is probably different and it’s yours! Embrace it. Learn to share it and encourage others to share theirs. An easy way to find those who are “faithful men/women” (2 Tim 2:2) is to think about evangelism and discipleship in a two-part manner. 1). Has the person you are talking to been born again? You are sharing the gospel with them and learning where they are with the Lord. 2). If they are born again, are they currently being discipled by another, or are actively involved in a 2 Tim 2:2 ministry? Sit down with your local church planter and encourage them in their evangelism/disciplemaking ministry? Ask them about books they are reading, sermons to which they are listening, and favorite mentors they currently have in person or virtually.
  7. Every church can help those sent grow continually. (But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.) This one is very easy because it’s super practical. Your church can help the one among you who is called to go by buying him/her books, paying for all or a portion of a conference, or hosting a weekly/monthly study or encouragement group. You can ask them what the Lord is teaching them and praise them for being obedient to His calling. Amazon cards, Logos Bible Software gift cards, or a scholarship for an online class is super helpful! Your church can support your own 2 Tim 2:2 apprentice or send some love to a sister church who is doing a fabulous job with sending disciples.

Here is the link to the Kentuckytoday article…the shorter version. 🙂

Pastor Appreciation: Church Planter Edition

Looking for some ideas to encourage your pastor or group of elders? What about the church planter your church sent, supports, or that is in the town next door? Idea lists abound this time of year! Here are a few…

https://get.tithe.ly/blog/pastor-appreciation-month

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/homelife-pastor-appreciation-five-ways-to-say-thanks

What not to do… 😉

What church planters want…

They want:

  1. Prayer. Please pray for them AND let them know you are praying for them. This is a good month to sign up to receive an email a week with a different planter and their prayer request. (www.kybaptist.org/pray4)
  2. A weekend off. Sending church or partnering churches…offer to preach for them. Take the initiative and ask them which weekend works for them. When you arrive, thank the church for their hard work, praise their pastor, and quietly leave a gift for the pastor and family.
  3. A gift card or gift related to a hobby they enjoy. Not one you think they enjoy, but one they actually enjoy.
  4. A meal away from home. You might need to watch some kids and do some sleuthing about his (and wife if married) favorite restaurant. Be sure to be generous enough that you know the entire meal and tip will be taken care of with the gift.
  5. Clothes! Find out where he enjoys shopping and get him a gift card.
  6. A money tree! These are fun and the planter and family can spend it on whatever they want.

If you are looking to bless one of our Kentucky Baptist church planting pastors this year, please contact me or check out this list online.

Discipleship “bait”

Several years ago a godly man gave me a sheet of paper and asked me to “read it and let me know what you think.” The paper was something like the below link I have included. It didn’t take me long to realize that he had threw out some bait and that I was going to bite down hard!

This “baiting tactic” is not a new one. Fishermen use it. Hunters do so; legally and illegally. And salespeople sometimes use a bait and switch. Bait can be seen as a counterfeit to the real thing, a trap, or even something with which to lure a possible sale or next meal. Bait can also be seen as something that piques or gauges interest; a helpful bait!

As a Christian I use various types of bait as I try to share the Good News of the gospel with those who may be far apart from Christ. It may take the form of a spiritual interest question or two. Gospel tracts are great pieces of bait. Those who have zero interest in spiritual things will tell you “no” right away to the offer of a tract! A simple question may serve as bait. The other day we had the windshield repair man working on one of our cars. He was super outgoing and talkative. I took the bold approach and asked him, “are you a Christian?” As soon as he answered conversationally, I could tell his heart was not ready for further spiritual conversation.

Using bait in a potential discipleship/making relationship is equally important. Remember the Great Commission from Matthew 28? Not only are we to go, but we are to make disciples:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (bold are mine for emphasis, reflection, and serve as wonderful tools as you take one through this verse while describing active disciplemaking.)

For far too long I behaved as if this verse was optional, or for a specific set of believers; but not me. I never would have said that if confronted, but this is how I behaved practically. I am learning to treat discipleship with the same urgency as evangelism! Not only are the majority of people I meet far from Christ, those who have been born again (Jn 3:3) are not being discipled by a more mature believer nor are they discipling others in an intentional manner. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that almost everyone we meet will fall into either the category of “needs evangelizing,” or “needs to learn about discipling.”

One of the ways that I gauge interest regarding discipleship with new Christians is by asking basic questions: “What are you reading in the Bible right now?” “Are you attending a local church?” “What are you doing to grow in your faith?” Simple questions such as these enable me to guide the conversation and not only see where they are as a believer, but discern whether or not they are open to spending time with a more mature believer for the purpose of growing, fellowship, and eventual multiplication.

I often use the document below when discussing intentional disciplemaking with believers. The godly man who shared an earlier version with me said something like, “take a look at this when you get a chance. If it resonates with you, let me know and I’ll show you what another godly man has shown me.” Since then, I have updated this document to my own liking. It seems that each year I add or subtract as I prayerfully work to better clarify the need for believers to be in a one on one discipling relationship with a new or less mature believer. I have passed it out at discipleship training conferences, emailed it to pastors and friends, and am seeing wonderful results! Christians are hungry to learn to disciple another Christian! Most believers have not been taught how to disciple someone else and are intimidated. This simple training helps! I am now seeing disciples train disciples, who train disciples (2 Tim 2:2)!

Dr. Randy Craig from http://www.disciple-makers.org has graciously allowed me to publicly post this document that first came from his and Dr. Billie Hanks Jr.’s material. Please let me know if I can share more with you or if you’d like to join in on a Zoom call describing how to be a disciple who makes disciples. Blessings! Toby-Matt 4:19

Practical Help for the New Church Planter

Those new to church planting ask a lot of questions. And they should! Here are a few ways I encourage new and prospective planters/replanters as they begin their journey.

1. Begin with prayer.

Pray while you read scripture and discern your calling. Pray that the Lord will make you a bold evangelist. You will not find a mandate to plant churches in scripture, but a mandate to evangelize and make disciples! Are you already doing this? Pray with your spouse and family. Do they feel the same calling? Are there any issues that you need to work out? Pray with your sending and/or partnering church(es). Are you seeking godly counsel from those who know you most and are willing to support you? Start a prayer network. A church planting mentor of mine told me that I needed at least 100 people willing to pray for me before I began. I would encourage you to do the same. It is best to speak in person or on the phone. A one-on-one connection is so encouraging! Church members, family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors are a good starting point. Ask them if they will allow you to send them a short monthly update. Utilize video, social media, a basic web site and other tools to allow people to pray for you. Keep it simple and set up a template to use each month. If I have to scroll through an email outside of work, I am very unlikely to read it all. Keep it short and sweet! A few helpful articles are found here and here.

2. Read, read, and read!

Read the Bible. Read it to receive instruction and encouragement regarding evangelism and disciple-making. Read it to receive wisdom as you focus on a target area/group. Read it to learn how to multiply yourself. Read it to remind yourself that wolves in sheep’s clothing WILL enter and cause destruction (some are wolves and others may be “well-intentioned dragons”). Read it to learn about biblical church discipline, polity, ecclesiology, soteriology, and biblical evangeliziolgy (Dr. Thomas P Johnston MBTS).

Read church planting books, blogs, articles, and journals. Reading these can help you steer clear of potential mines and trouble. Learn from those who have went before you!

Read material on disciple-making. Read books on overcoming discouragement. Read material that encourages you to care for your wife and family. Read for enjoyment and to refresh yourself. A friend of mine once told me, “I don’t have time to read.” When I asked him if he had time to watch TV at night, he changed his mind. Get up 30 minutes early and cut out 30 minutes of television at night. Read!

3. Evangelize regularly.

Make it a practice to share the gospel. Paul encouraged Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). Really, you are not a church planter; but an evangelist and disciplemaker. Churches come as a result of people being born again and desiring to grow, worship, and praise the Lord together. There’s no need to be legalistic, but set a goal for yourself. 1). How many times can you realistically share the gospel each week? 2). How many books would you like to read this year on the subject? 3). How many easy personal evangelism guidelines can you set up (Some of my guidelines are sharing the gospel with servers, using the homestead rule [if someone sets foot on your property-share the gospel!], and always keep gospel tracts on or around you.)? Friend, new churches reach more people for Christ than older, established ones! When pastors and elders create an evangelistic environment, believers will follow and lead their friends toward repentance and receiving Christ!

4. Disciplemaking

I believe each church planter should be discipling their families AND those the Lord has given them within the church. General disciplemaking can be done in small groups (Bible study), or D-groups. Christians should be looking for those that are “hungry’ as one of my mentors would tell me. I argue that these should be discipled in a one on one manner. I am not against using one on some or one on many disciplemaking models with those who are teachable (2 Tim 2:2). I am just convinced in the reproducible power comes with one on one disciplemaking. A wonderful example is found in the ministry of Dawson Trotman. Please check out this article and listen to the accompanying recording online. Every church planter needs to be pouring into faithful men who are able to teach others. Some good resources include scripture alone, the basic Bible study material at CGI, and the A Call to Joy/A Call to Growth Discipler’s Pack. I like the Call to Joy/Growth material because it takes a believer through the basics of the faith and shows them 1). how to feed themselves, 2). evangelize, and 3). models reproduction. It is a very good “train track” to guide you as you learn how to both be a disciple and disciple others in their faith.

5. Mentor/Coaching/Cohorts

Each of these have different purposes and I will encourage you to study the differences on your own. The purpose of my mentioning them is that the church planter be open to learning from those who have been there, receive regular feedback, and to join a small group of guys who are currently going through the same thing. Your state convention (Southern Baptists) or local association are good resources to get you started. If there are no church planting cohorts in your area, join one by video or start one: you are prone to that sort of thing anyway, right?!?!

6. Organize

Organized church planters often have an easier time getting started. The principle of “organization” just makes sense. When my home is organized, I am able to enjoy it more. I am able to find things in an organized work space. I know where to go this week because my calendar is clear and organized. As you begin to seek the Lord and pray regarding a future church plant, begin by organizing your time with the Lord in order to protect it from being overrun by other activities. Organize a concerted effort to evangelize and make disciples. Organize the beginning steps of understanding your context (order a demographic study, do several windshield studies in your car, begin to talk to local pastors and Associational Mission’s Strategists, speak to people about their perceived needs for their community, etc).

I hope these have been helpful for you as you seek to learn about your call to plant a church. I would love to be an encouragement to you on the journey the Lord has placed before you. Please reach out to me if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them or point you to a resource that may help. Blessings to you as you serve our King!

Partnering with Planters/Apprentices in a Pandemic

The KBC annual meeting was held in Owensboro this year and included a scaled-back slate of events; and of course, social distancing, mask wearing, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Kentucky Baptists from all over the state gathered to hear reports on mission work, evangelistic efforts, and to praise the Lord for those we as a state have seen come to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior over the calendar year. The tough year was definitely evident in many of the conversations. Pastors are concerned about their members; many of whom have not returned to church since March. Churches are having to reinvent many of their current ministry models. Some new ministries have been born while others have stalled or even died.

As I talked with pastors about their work, inevitably their question to me would be, “how are the church plants doing in the pandemic?” My general answer is “good,” yet each planter has their own unique issues just like pastors of established churches. The question they posed tells me several things about these godly pastors:

They care!

I’m incredibly honored that pastors and churches are asking about the work of KBC assisted church planters. Their question not only tells me that they love me and the ministry that I do, but those I serve! Some of the pastors know a church planter in their area and many do not. By simply asking about the ministry of planters, these ministry partners are acknowledging that they care. One way that I encourage churches to care for KBC planters is by visiting our Planter Portal to learn more.

They understand the struggles of the pastorate.

These guys are not “asking to be asking.” They are genuinely concerned about other pastors. Church planters are pastors! Not “when you get a building,” or “when the crowd reaches a certain number,” or “when assistance from a sponsoring church or state convention ends.” The majority of church planters are bivo or covocational (called to a profession AND as pastor).These guys work hard and who knows this better than other pastors? Here is a great article on Bivo/Covo pastors at the BSCLN.

They know about the work!

These pastors know that planters, replanters, and apprentices are active throughout the state. They are befriending planters within their association and are seeking to educate their church on the work of church planting. An AMS friend of mine sends me a text several times a month letting me know he is praying for KBC assisted planters. He often asks about a specific planter or family to learn more about their work or to pray in a more specific manner. Have you signed up to receive an email a week to pray for a different planter?

They are currently, or are thinking about actively supporting the work of a church planter.

One pastor friend asked for and received a list of twelve planters-one for each month-and is actively praying for and encouraging them. Another friend is connecting his church with a planter to pray regularly, send them a few small gifts of encouragement, and possibly send a team of volunteers next summer to help with an evangelistic project. At our REACH Evangelism Conference this coming March, I will be leading a conference on how you (particularly smaller churches) can partner with and encourage a church planter. 

They are connected to the evangelistic work of others.

Simply being around other evangelistic people encourages me to evangelize! When I pastored a local church, I did my best to not only surround myself with evangelistic pastors, but I strove to expose the church to examples of godly men who made a habit of evangelizing regularly. Church planters are an excellent example! I like to tell young or prospective planters that they are not church planters unless they are very active in two things: evangelism and disciple-making. Intentional evangelism leads to discipleship. Healthy disciples who understand scripture lead to the beginnings of a local church. A healthy local church who understands the mandate of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and the 2-2-2 Principle (2 Tim. 2:2-training faithful men, who train faithful men, who train faithful men), is one that multiplies itself into another church(es). I would love to connect you to the evangelistic work of another brother in Christ; particularly a KBC assisted church planter!

To those who have encouraged me during this COVID year; thank you!! Your love for me and the planters/replanters/apprentices I work with are much appreciated. As you close out 2020 and look toward 2021, I would ask that you consider including a partnership with a Kentucky Baptist church planter in your evangelism/missions strategy. You can sign up to pray for a planter, partner for a short-term mission project, or simply send the planting family a small gift of encouragement occasionally. I am here to help you learn what a partnership with a planter may look like for you! toby.dehay@kybaptist.org

Organic/House Church: 6 Model Summary

A paper written for Dr. Tom Johnston’s Church Evangelism course in 2010.

Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to study church planting as part of my course requirements for a degree in North American Church Planting. I have learned about many different models, have listened in on various seminars, and have been a participant in a few as well. One thing that I have learned through all of this is that church planting is most definitely a field unto itself with cultures and subcultures only understood by those active within it’s realm. One of these cultures (models) will be discussed in this paper along with a look into a few of its subcultures. 

The house church model has been around within Christianity for a long time. Acts chapter 2 discusses how the early church meet, received the Holy Spirit, fellowshipped daily, and met in one another’s homes. This model is able to withstand persecution and tribulation from outside sources. It multiplies faster and produces more new believers who are more grounded in their faith. It also struggles with many of the same things that their traditional, non-traditional, and experimental church sister models struggle with. 

Within this paper I will look at six subcultures within the house/organic church model. These by no means cover all the subcultures, but at the same time will overlap or be able to fall into other subcultures that could easily be found with a Google search. I will give an overview on the Institutional Home Church, the Glorified Bible Study, the Special Interest Group, the Organic Church, the Missional Communities/Networks, and the Insider Movements. Since these subcultures are not written about in many books or online sources, I have pulled together and condensed the little information I could find through three years of house church study and summarized it here. 

The first subculture is what some would call the Institutional Home Church. This house church is simply what its title suggests; a traditional, institutional type church that meets in a home or other place other than a “church” building. This church has all the looks and feels of First Baptist County Seat without all the space and most of the programs. This church has a paid traditional pastor, a worship leader, possibly a youth guy/gal, a Sunday School hour, a discipleship time, a regular budget, meeting time, etc. The pastor of this type of church preaches each week much like he would in the County Seat church he may have come out of. The order of service is identical to that of County Seat and the people who attend this church like it this way. 

Why would anyone “do” house church this way? A few reasons: 1). It is the only way these believers know how to do church. I have found in my church planting and organic church journey that when I do not know what to do or how to do it I tend to fall back to how I used to do things. 2). The pastor is charismatic and for any number of reasons he “left” the church building to do it his own way. Sometimes pastors leave do to conflict, some are forced out, others are burned out, and some just want to start a church of their own and do not have a clear calling from the Lord so they do what they know, only smaller. 3). They like the intimate feel of the Sunday School/rural church and want to feel that each week. Many people join a church and get lost in the crowd. I run into people all the time who attend a particular church near my place of employment and have no clue who are in their fellowship outside the folks in their bible study group. 4). More and more churches are intentionally moving this way. Whether they call it a transition into “house church networks” or “cell churches”, they are moving outside the building, freeing up tons of resources, and using these newly found treasures for the kingdom. Personally I find this fourth reason the most noble, yet least practiced. Many churches would try to get back to the biblical roots of meeting in smaller groups in someone’s house or a “third place” like Starbucks, but most fail in their efforts. A friend of mine in Tennessee tried to do this after pastoring a very “successful” church, but ultimately the members wanted the opposite of what they tried to do in meeting in homes in order to impact neighborhoods.

The second subculture is what Frank Viola calls the Glorified Bible Study house church. An ex-clergy type person or someone who has aspirations of becoming a bible teacher often facilitates this church. This type of house church does a good job of studying scripture, but fails at almost every other aspect of what the New Testament describes a fellowship of being. Those who have “superior” knowledge of the bible dominate the group and those who do not know as much participate very little. The shelf life of this subculture is usually on the shorter side of the average house church. One reason being is that people get tired of it very quickly and move on to something else. The bible teacher may get sick of being the only one who studied the lesson that week. The participants may grow tired of hearing a few people dominate the conversation. And the whole group may get sick of coming together to do the same thing each week. A variety of reasons could spell the demise of such a group. 

The Glorified Bible Study group is a common start to a house church. Many people come out of fellowship where they feel the pastor or the bible teachers are not sharing the same thing that scripture teaches and set out to start their own church. They hear about the house church model, do a little research (I mean a little!), gather a few friends who feel the same way and get started. Like any group that gets started the new wears off, people get on ones another’s nerves, and religious hobbyhorses take front and center at many of the meetings. People soon grow tired of arguing, find a hobby on whatever night the meeting takes place, and drop out. 

This church does not realize it until it is too late, but they operate much the same way as the church or group that they all came out of and were trying so hard to run from. The bible teacher becomes the pastor, the utmost importance of getting the bible study done become the new order of service, the religious hobbyhorses become the bad teachings they were trying to turn from, and the people are left feeling frustrated and even more dissatisfied with “the church” than before. 

The Special Interest Group house church is the third type I would like to summarize. This house church can include, but is not limited to, affinity-based churches, business group house churches, and “gap-filler” house churches. The special interest group is common in the house church world. Every now and then I will have an email pop up in my box from a person interested in house church. This person, or couple, will have experienced house church before and is looking for a group sort of like the one they came from before their job transferred them. They might throw me clues like, “Are all the families home schooling their children”, or “I hope everyone in your group believes and firmly teaches the so and so end times view”. This is my cue to lay it all on the line in an attempt to be as frank as possible without coming off as rude. We have never had to seriously deal with anyone bringing in any crazy ideas due to simply sharing with them that we generally do not worry with such matters to the extent that they would like us to. 

This type of church might have their members sign some sort of statement of faith espousing their particular slant on scripture (an eschatological view, Calvinism, Arminianism, a branch of a denomination). Anyway you look at it, the special interest is very evident and not going anywhere. Anyone coming in who would dare try to change things is either put in their place or shown the door. 

I lump affinity based churches, business group churches, and gap-fillers in simply because they tend to follow this trend. The affinity-based church might be an ethnic church with one family that does not fit the mold on the outside, but on the inside identifies with the group. The same is true for businessmen, bikers, cowboys, recovering homosexuals, or even sex workers. In the church-planting world there seems to be a church for everyone! There might be the exception to the rule, but the church is based on the special interest. 

The unique group that I have discovered is the gap-filler church. This church exists solely for the purpose of filling a religious void of some sort. A friend of mine in Kansas City discusses this type of church often with me since he is struggling to stay out of this category with his own group. His group consists of many people who started attending a house church simply because his group meets on Sunday night: the very night that their traditional church stopped having services. They consider the house church valid, support it’s efforts, participate openly each week, and talk about its merits with their friends, but do not see it as the primary church they attend. They do not tithe or give any type of offering (this would take away from the mission of the “real” church) or invest any significant amount of time or effort into the evangelism and mission strategy of the house church they attend as the gap-filler. Although they are unique in our house church network, I do not feel that this type of church is unique in the house church model. Many people love the feel of the house church but cannot and will not give up on their traditional way of fellowship and worship. 

The Organic Church is the next subculture. Viola describes this type as a “living, vibrant, face to face community that has no other pursuit but Jesus Christ Himself”. In this type of subculture titles are not used, but gifts are exercised. I would be lying if I said each group in the organic camp did not have the one guy who would be labeled as the pastor, but this pastor-type does not look anything like his contemporaries. He might have the gift of shepherd, but this gift does not play out as an “office” as some would suggest. This idea is against the very grain of Southern Baptist ecclesiology, but nonetheless is a valid and real part of many churches that are a part of the convention falling under the organic church subculture. 

This person might have the gift of pastor (mentioned only once in scripture) and never look like the typical pastor in a meeting or in public. In this type of subculture, a one man preaching event on a regular basis is seen as a dominating factor and would not happen for long. Each person who makes up the body of Christ is encouraged to participate and share according to the knowledge and gifting given by the Holy Spirit. 

In a single meeting there might be a word of encouragement followed by a song of praise that is followed up by a time of group or silent prayer for a person or issue. This type of church is led solely by the moving of the Holy Spirit and His agenda for the evening. You never know how the night will turn out! Organic church is natural (as suggested by its name) and cannot be put in a box and made to follow any sort of order of service or rule of thumb. Neil Cole explains it in his book Organic Church in several phrases. “The Church is a living organism not a static institution.” “The Church is so much more than a building.” “The Church is not to be bound to a single location.” “The Church is much more than a one-hour service held one day a week.” “The kingdom of God is meant to be decentralized, but people tend to centralize.” “We are each God’s temple and together we are also his temple.” I have met many people who scoff at the idea of organic church, but when I have presented them with these ideas they have no argument. The trouble comes when these statements are played out in real life and non-conventional ways of participating in church are acted on and seen by others looking in. 

I once described this method to a man in an “institution of higher religious learning” and he told me that this method was not biblical. Not only did he say that, but also he went on to say that there would be no way a church like this could ever get off the ground and even if it did it would not last a year. He invited me to share a cup of coffee with him a year from the date we talked and we would talk about why the “organic church” did not work and what I could do to start the right type of church. I never shared that coffee with him. Good resources on this topic abound on the Internet and within the movement. Although not usually a scholarly source, reading enough blogs and online postings can give an impression of this type of church to an interested person investigating organic church. 

Another type of subculture within the house church movement is the missional communities/networks. Andrew Jones, a Southern Baptist blogger and emerging church type reports on subcultures of house church in his blog. He includes an article written by Wolfgang Simson, a house church leader and writer from Germany, called “Another Six Pack of House Churches”. In it he discusses the missional communities that are popping up in large denominations like the Anglican Church and the Assemblies of God. These missional communities are essentially house churches within denominations. The Southern Baptist Convention has them too and all have similar characteristics. One is that they are under the radar of church and denominational leadership. These groups have learned the hard way that making their cause, methods, and ecclesiologies known to the national leadership is denominational suicide. In order to remain under the umbrella of the denomination, they remain quiet about how they meet and what they do. 

Not only is it suicide to “come out”, but it goes against the grain of what they are trying to do. These missional communities or networks are not interested in being the next method that is paraded coast to coast in conferences and in printed materials. They are interested in changing people’s lives with the message of the Gospel and watching God work, not themselves. 

The final subculture is called Insider Movements. Insider movements are not the same as above, but are started within other religious movements. These might include Buddhists, Hindus, or even the Roman Catholic Church. These believers firmly believe that the Lord uses them within their old religious system and culture to reach those still practicing pagan worship. They are culturally immersed in whatever religious system they came out of and start churches that might have the look and flavor of a false religion but in actuality is Christianity. Southern Baptists are no strangers to this as those working with the IMB have been doing this for years. We have learned that indigenous church planting is the most effective manner in starting new faith communities. Charles Brock wrote a book on this subject with the very same title for eager young Christians to soak up and enjoy. 

I have only touched on a few of the subcultures within the diverse house church movement. Although there are many more types, most would tend to fall into, or hover around, one of the groups mentioned above. I have not used too many outside sources, as much of this material is firsthand knowledge to me. I will include a brief bibliography of materials that influenced me in the forms of books and web sites. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Banks, Robert. Paul’s Idea of Community. Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody MA, 2007.

Brock, Charles. Indigenous Church Planting. A Practical Journey. Church Growth

International, Neosho Mo. 1990.

Cole, Neil. Organic Church. Jossey-Bass. S.F., 2005.

Payne, J.D. Missional House Churches. Patnoster, Colorado Springs CO, 2007.

Viola, Frank. Finding Organic Church. David C. Cook, Colorado Springs CO, 2009.

INTERNET

Jones, Andrew. “6 more types of house church”     

            http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2009/11/another-six-pack-of-house-churches.html. Accessed February 11, 2010.

Vu, Michelle. China’s Relentless Persecution of House Church Head. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080219/china-s-relentless-persecution-of-house-church-head/index.html. Accessed February 09, 2010.

CONTACTS

Mickey Mooney. www.networkvine.com Paris TN 38242.

Church Planters, Study Past Leaders!

Two Key Leaders Every Planter Should Study

I love history! I’m the guy who pulls over and reads the old roadside historical markers when I travel. I am often reading a biography of one of our nation’s heroes (I’m currently reading John Adams by David McCullough). And who doesn’t like to watch YouTube videos on 18th-century food preservation, fire starting, and using letter sealing wax? History fascinates me!

As a practitioner and consultant, I also love to read about those who have made major contributions to church planting. Two of the most influential men who have made the greatest impact on me and my philosophy of church planting are Roland Allen and John Livingston Nevius. These pioneers, along with many others, gave me an appreciation for trusting the Bible’s sufficiency for evangelism and discipleship. They helped me focus on biblical ecclesiology instead of trying to find the perfect model to follow. They also began to teach me the importance of applying the 2-2-2 principle that I share with Kentucky Baptist church planters on an almost weekly basis (2 Tim. 2:2 teaches us to look for teachable believers who can teach others as well.)

Allen was an Anglican missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen. He served in China from 1895 until 1902 due to the Boxer Rebellion, and again for a very short time in 1905. Two of his books, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours; A Study of The Church In The Four Provinces and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, have both been formative to how I view the planting of churches. Also, Dr. J.D Payne’s Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion has been a great help as I read and studied the work of Allen.

A couple of truths I have learned from Allen is to understand biblical missionary methods and to focus on indigenous church planting rather than applying one method from a particular culture or context directly into another.

Biblical Missionary Methods

According to Allen, the missionary methods of Paul were the ones to emulate. As I began to read the New Testament, particularly Acts and Paul’s letters, I saw how Paul had the support of local churches as we do today. Partnerships matter! Paul also relied upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the gospel, and training correct doctrine within the churches he planted. Allen noted the churches that were being planted did not need to repeat the exhortation of the Great Commission and how the believers naturally shared their faith!

Indigenous Church Planting:

Allen believed churches that are planted should be indigenous in that they are 1) self-governing, 2) self-supporting, and 3) self-extending. New churches often need the outside help a parent or sponsoring church can provide, but in the long-run, it should be able to conduct its own business, support its ministry, and multiply itself through evangelism and discipleship. Early in my seminary education and church planting journey, these ideas were groundbreaking to me!

John Livingston Nevius wrote The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches in 1886. He and his wife were Presbyterians and served in China as missionaries. Nevius is noted for his Nevius Plan/Method which, most notably, took off in Korea in the early 1900s and jump started the church there from a few hundred believers to almost 10,000 in ten years. Nevius helped me see that the bivocational ministry along with continual biblical training is a must for planter/pastors.

Bivo/Covocational Ministry Model:

Nevius believed that believers (particularly leaders and pastors) should live in their local areas and continue in their occupations. He thought that the fully-funded national leader may become a Christian mercenary, have attitudes of entitlement, promote unnatural church growth, and no longer have natural contact with the people of whom he is ministering. While this is not necessarily always the case, Nevius’ thoughts on bivocational ministry reminded me of the importance of empowering men to pastor churches while serving a role as a business owner or employee. In Kentucky, most of our church planters adopt this model out of financial necessity. This model needs to be championed within our nation! Godly men who are firemen, plumbers, teachers, bus drivers, and loggers are leading urban, suburban, and rural churches to thrive and are providing a model that is biblical to follow.

Ongoing, Available, and Intensive Biblical Training:

Nevius also taught that local leaders should receive appropriate biblical training throughout the year. As these men were put into place, they were expected to not only desire training but to receive training that would equip them to carry out the work of the Gospel within their context. He believed this training should not only include studying books and other material but through physical work, trials, and suffering! He wrote that when the church thinks they are helping a young man by relieving him of his daily worries, he receives little in the discipline of suffering. Today this training is readily available for church planters and pastors. Bible software programs offer electronic books, resources, and courses (Wordsearchbible.com). Free or low-cost classes are also available from seminaries and bible colleges (seminaries such as Southeastern Baptist http://www.sebts.edu/academics/distance_learning/free-classes.aspx and Bible Colleges such as Clear Creek Baptist ccbbc.edu/academic-programs/certificate-in-bible/).

Men like Roland Allen and John Nevius have helped me think through what I practice as a planter, pastor, and state missionary. Long after they are gone, their writings continue to encourage me as I read how they struggled, succeeded, and strove to share the Good News of the Gospel in their setting. Planter/pastor/leader, are you spending time each year reading material from past innovators and practitioners? Do you wrestle with concepts you might not agree with as well as making note of principles that challenge your current way of thinking or practice? Taking time to study men such as Allen and Nevius can provide the challenges each of us needs.