Below is a note from a full-time missionary to Africa after asking the question “how do you conduct ‘church’ on the mission field”?
Well certainly many pastors are concerned about having, say 500 members and they feeling connected in a special way and they calls that unity. In that situation we would have 25 house churches and they would literally KNOW each other. The level of community and connection when you literally confess your sins and support one another, in a real way that unity is redefined. In a large 500 member congregation they feel a unity around a charismatic leader, identify with a huge choir and such things. But in all honesty, they don’t know each other, confess sins or even KNOW of the true issues a person may have. They love identifying with a location, a leader, and a large group. But the interesting thing about all of this is that while God loves and desires unity, it is an ancillary benefit from loving Jesus and each other and not a goal in itself. The great commission is not to gather and be happy. But to GO to the lost and make disciples. No mention of unity anywhere. I love unity. We TRULY know each other and stand together. A church building and congregation in the traditional model reverses the Great Commission to COME, and it calls the last. Jesus commanded the Saints to GO to the lost. By using house church models we implement the Luke 10 evangelism Jesus trained his people to use. They WENT they did not call me to COME. Even Jesus moved around and stayed mobile. The Church was a vital and living thing that covered the entire known world in 200 years and did not build a single building. Now we spend all of our resources building and furnishing something Jesus never commanded us to build, finance or attend. I think we still have a book on our website called the Church in the House. I will be honest, I work in Africa and we do NOT try to change the traditional church. It is an institution and institutions resist change. Africans have fully embraced the “building is the church” Western model of Christianity down to the fancy music, buildings and all the dressing up for a church. They love this model and it is perfect for having the “super star” successful leader that Africans so love. Whether animism, tribalism or any other ism, African’s love to adore a leader and identify with them and the Western model of the church is the perfect platform for a location centric, leader focused, professional/elite oriented and centered institution. The early church was not institutional but organic. It grew in many directions, sought the lost, went into all the world and the five for ministry was to EQUIP the Saints for the work of the ministry. Not for the church to fund an “awesome” Sunday “event” but rather met to equip the Church to GO, and do the evangelism and work of the ministry. We tried very hard to work with the traditional church and gave up and focused only on going to the lost and worked with a clean slate. It was easier to introduce the Kingdom Culture to the Lost than to try to change Christian institutions to a more biblical model.
I am Glenn Roseberry, a missionary serving in East Africa since 2012. I serve with Kingdom Driven Ministries expanding the Kingdom of God in two countries to date, Tanzania and Kenya. We teach and practice obedience to the Great Commission: to go into all the world to make disciples, teaching them to observe ALL Jesus commanded.
In spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, making disciples who make disciples, planting house churches and serving the least of these, we work with multiple people-groups. I live in Tanzania immersed in the culture of the Meru people, having been adopted by them last year and given land. I live in a 300 sq ft mud and clay home on a small family shamba (farm) with members of one of our house churches. From there, we are planting house churches and making disciples in the area.
I also work in the slums of Nairobi and the refugee neighborhoods in Kenya. We have house churches among the persecuted Christians that came from Islam, where we serve refugees from five countries. I have two safe houses there and we work with seven language groups.
Our heart for the least of these, as modeled by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has led us to serve and partner with many widows and the poorest of the poor in East Africa. We have joined with over 30 families to start businesses to help our members become self-sustaining and obedient followers of the New Testament commands to provide for themselves and have enough left over to help others. From sewing machines to fish fryers, we are empowering the Saints to provide for themselves as they extend the Kingdom of God.