So, how would such a church work? (Part 5)
If we first look at an HC started from scratch, then later we can look more closely at how a traditional church or cell church can be transformed into a HC.
In church planting situations the church planters would start a single House Church. Through their ministry, testimony and invitation, others would be added to that HC. It is natural that nearly all the initial members would relate closely to the original church planters, but as the group grows we would begin to see different natural groupings within the cell. It is normal that when a group gets to about 20 natural secondary groupings appear. In traditional structures these secondary groupings would be seen as negative cliques, in a HC each person would have been taught the need for the right character in spiritual leaders. Therefore when the church planters note the natural groupings they should look for the natural leaders of these groupings. Then in consultation with others they should examine their characters in the light of the scriptural qualifications for leadership. If they fit the descriptions in 1 Timothy and Titus, they should be recognized and encouraged to split away from the original group, whilst still maintaining a good relationships and meeting together At least once per month. The new leaders would also meet in a leadership discipleship group with apostolic leaders.
If the “natural’ leaders of a group do not have the necessary character qualifications, they should gently be told, and shown that if they submit their characters to God, then in the future they would perhaps be ideal leaders or co—leaders. In this way you turn possible problems of dissatisfaction into strong supporters of the work. Because everyone understands the need of right leaders, this leads to support and encouragement for folk who are working hard with God to achieve positive character change. These potential future leaders should be encouraged to attend leadership discipleship but alongside or as assistants to proven leaders.
The size of the individual HCs is not as important as is made out by the cell church movement. I believe that 4, as a minimum is practical, as less than 4 can defeat the object of growth. But I don’t believe that there is any reason to put an upper limit on the size of group. I have seen cells of up to 30 working well, with a deep and real fellowship among the members. I believe that the only reason for a cell to split is that the cell is ready, that is, there are clear and deep sub—groupings within the HC and those sub-groupings have clear, qualified leaders. When these sub-groups form and leaders are available I feel that the sooner separation takes place, the better for the spiritual health of all.
The separation of HCs is always difficult, as close friends do not wish to be separated. However, I believe that these separations can be made less painful in several ways: (1) Stress should be placed on the links with the members of other HCs, which we have in congregational and celebration meetings. (2) Inter-HC social activities should be encouraged —Barbecues, Picnics, Games, Evenings, etc. (3) HCs should be seen as open groups, not closed. Therefore if Miss A, who is in X’s cell also wishes to visit Y’s cell with her friend B, then why not? Just as long as each person knows their cell where they receive care and the leaders respect that. (4) At the end, before final separation, the groups should be encouraged to do things separately within the original group. For example, discussing separately the study of the day or praying in groups. All of these things help in the transition from one group to two or three.
The resulting HCs would normally remain within the same congregation. However when a group reaches around 180, natural stresses and groupings begin to appear. Therefore when this happens, the leaders should encourage splitting into two congregations, preferably geographically. However the two congregations would continue to share together within the framework of celebration meetings. It would be simple to see this as the typical cell church pyramid. But there are key differences (1) flexibility of cells. (2) Leadership and (3) inter—leadership relationships.
The flexibility of the HCs is fundamental. No HC is totally like another although aII share the same nucleus vision within the local church. The cell is the local church and should be allowed to develop as the Lord guides. Other leaders, together with the HC leaders, will seek the Lord for direction for the HC. The leaders would also be aware of the prophetic and apostolic direction. However, the responsible leaders of the HC are the real leaders!
(taken from Organic House Churches and Healing Communities by Keith W. Smith. For a complete copy please contact the author)
© 2000 Prof. Keith W. Smith Reprint by written permission only