by Church Renewal Lab Intern Robert Van Zanen

At Middleville CRC the past two summers we have combined outreach, support raising for World Vision, and our love for coffee at the Middleville Farmer’s market. Each Friday a number of us set up a table where we give out cups of free coffee...

August 21, 2017 0 0 comments

As I sit at the table, I have not said one single profound thing or come up with any solutions. But I am hearing stories, learning about the brokenness, and gaining a sense of the opportunities that exist. 

August 7, 2017 1 1 comments

Are you from Amy’s church?  Is there ice cream tonight? How much cheese did you bring? These are just some of the questions we commonly receive from the residents of the People in Need House (PIN House). 

July 13, 2017 0 0 comments

A few years ago Providence Church (Holland, MI) harnessed the energy of HGTV and remodeled a home while also raising thousands of dollars for a Uganda missional move. Here's a to-do list if your church is interested! 

June 29, 2017 0 0 comments

Even with all the books and coaches and renewal team retreats, no change was going to happen in our congregation if I didn’t lead it. This was the quintessential money-where-my-mouth-was moment.

June 12, 2017 1 0 comments

Sunnyside CRC in Sunnyside, WA, discovered a powerful way to demonstrate the love of Christ to neighbors while also building deeper fellowship among believers.

May 25, 2017 2 0 comments

With the growing trend toward digital media in society, it should come as no surprise that churches can, and should leverage this opportunity to connect with a wide variety of people. Learn about how LifeQuest is using Facebook to grow membership.

April 29, 2017 1 0 comments

Rock and Roll and Food Trucks was easily the largest outreach event that Faith Community has undertaken in the last twenty years. It grew out of the ideas and culture cultivated by the Church Renewal Lab. 

April 12, 2017 1 0 comments

Up and coming writers are often given a simple piece of advice: write about what you know best. I think the same could be said of starting new ministry opportunities!

March 22, 2017 1 0 comments

I was the only pastor there among people with graduate degrees in environmental science and ecology. When it was my turn to present, I unapologetically said that we are a church and are called to care for God's creation.

March 7, 2017 3 4 comments

Our stately, traditional church building and dated signage gave the impression that the people inside were old, boring, and stoic. Our new image is fresh, modern, welcoming, and rooted in our identity.

February 23, 2017 2 4 comments

What a timely and helpful post by Chris Pedersen. It clearly describes how complex the act of listening is. The four-direction model is helpful in demonstrating this. I find that this issue is especially pertinent in making room in the church for people with mental health challenges. Not only might there be no room at the table for them, there may be no "table".

As one who spent his career as a social worker listening to others, I am conscious of how imperfectly I listened; it is still a challenge. Several factors get in the way.  Here are four reasons / excuses:

1.  Time - I don't have (or take) the time. How can I be a better steward of my time to include listening?

2.  Fear - I don't know how I would respond to something I don't understand. Actually listening doesn't require solving anything - it requires only my presence. Many husbands find this out the hard way.

3.  Skill - I don't know how to listen. Our churches can do something about that. how about Listening 101 as an Adult Discipleship class?

4.  Apathy - I am not sure I care enough to listen; I have my own issues to deal with. Closely allied with fear.

The challenge of listening is much more than an individual one, it is institutional as well. Churches are noisy places - we sing, pray, drink coffee and chat, and do service. but our churches by-and-large do not structure themselves to allow listening to flourish. Small groups may help to make this happen but not uniformly.

I would be interested in hearing from people whose churches have structured themselves to help make listening easier. We all have stories to tell, but is anyone willing to listen?

David Lundberg

Volunteers in Service, Grand Rapids, MI​​​







posted in: Sustained Listening

Hi Doug, Thank you for writing this. I can't help but wonder what tasks on prayer that you would put the church membership ? Those not staff, or leadership ?

Just last week, we held our Community Wide VBS at the local public elementary school. It was Group's "Maker Fun Factory" and to pull it off, RedArrow again partnered with other churches in town including Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, & Roman Catholic. Out of over 200 kids who attended throughout the week, when parents registered their kids, more than 50% said they have no Church family. As the week ended, Crew Leaders and other volunteers confirmed that many of their students were hearing the Gospel of Jesus and other Bible stories for the very first time. While I agree that investing in those new relationships is absolutely essential, we should NEVER underestimate how the Lord can use outreach events like these to plant the seeds of Faith. 

There are good things said in this article.  At the same time, I couldn't agree more with Eric's comments as to a couple of things said in this article.

Today's culture seems to demand that we must "be the best," that whatever we take on be "incredibly exciting," that we must have "great impact on many."

None of that is bad, but insisting on them is.  I love churches that are faithful, regardless of whether they have a "unique vision," or whether they have embarked on "uncharted waters."

The Gospel story is pretty old.  Preaching it may require churches to address the particularities of their own congregants and communities, but the revolution has already happened.  Churches don't have create a new one.  The old one, preached and lived well, is pretty exciting actually, and pretty satisfying.

Perhaps hyperbole sells, I don't know.  But it can also disappoint.  If we demand from elders that create a new vision, they just might.  Or, they might just become discouraged for doing the mere stuff that needs to be done, that apparently has no value.

"Articulating vision is the primary work of elders."  No, it is not. 

"Elders consumed with the daily doing of ministry have lost sight of their essential calling."  No, they haven't.

Great post! For further reading, this post from 2011 has additional ideas: Vacation Bible School as Missions. 

Yes! Philippians 2 is an important key to what's needed in our congregations (and our own lives and communities). We are supposed to look like Jesus - and so we need much more of this mindset that empowers others, and does not live for self - that's how the transforming power of our Lord gets multiplied in the world bringing him much glory.

How does this work when the leaders are the council, a group of volunteers that is constantly in rotation, and their vision is constantly changing?

Thanks John for the encouragement.

Thanks for an insightful and incredibly practical set of guidelines. This is something I've innately tried to do, but never have put words to it nor have I ever seen it distilled into a principle like this.  We really appreciate the work you at the church renewal lab are doing!

As the author of "Keeping Your Eye on Your CVI" I'd like to make another try at speaking into the CVI.  

As I read the helpful and thoughtful comments made about the article I heard folk saying "numbers should not be the measure of ministry."  To that I say a hearty "amen."  Numbers cannot capture the full story of an authentic missional move.  I was reminded of that during a recent visit to several Northern New Jersey churches who's Yearbook numbers do not reflect the vibrancy of their after school programs, half-way houses, investment in local neighborhoods, discipleship programs, youth projects, dynamic Gospel preaching and the like.  I was humbled by what I discovered.


So numbers cannot be a measure of ministry but they are often a helpful reflection on aspects of ministry that need our attention in the same way that high cholesterol numbers are a call to action even if a person feels entirely healthy.  

Take for example one of the CVI numbers; namely, persons coming into the life of the congregation through evangelism.  If evangelism is defined as persons who were disconnected from faith and faith family who are now connected to faith and faith family and if that number is a small handful over an entire decade then those numbers may indicate the need for a congregation to focus on a more intentional discipleship pathway.  In other words, the congregation may be good at building bridges from the church into the community but not so good at building bridges from the community into the church.  Evangelism numbers can identify this concern and lead to practical solutions to an important ministry opportunity.

Numbers, rightly understood, are a friend to ministry leadership. They provide the opportunity to increase urgency, focus resources and develop a renewed vision of becoming intentional missional congregations that make more and better disciples.




 Is this Church Vitality Index formula a valid measure of a church’s missional health?  Consider which of these two churches is responding most faithfully to Jesus’ commission on the Easter Sunday evening in John 20:  

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.


Church A has a 50 year history in a neighborhood which over the past 20 years has transitioned into a largely Spanish-speaking population, most of whom are first generation immigrants.  Most members of the congregation have chosen to move to newer neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, where many have joined Church B.   But around a fourth of the members have remained committed to Church A—either because they were not financially able to move or/and because they sensed a call to remain a presence and witness in the older neighborhood.  Most of these people are past childbearing years, so there are few child baptisms.  Language and preferred worship style are barriers to bringing in new residents in the neighborhood, so there are few transfers or converts joining the congregation.  Nevertheless, members have actively sought to welcome and become acquainted with new residents.  Most of this is done by personal contacts and conversations, but periodically a bi-lingual event—concert, informative discussions, talent shows, games and always with food—is held at the church building to which many in the neighborhood now show up.  At some of these events the four Latino congregations in the area are invited to publicize their calendar and make literature available, Recently a fifth church has begun and worships at Church A’s facility on Sunday afternoons.  Members have also organized an ESL class, with day care for young children, which meets two mornings a week at the church.  When it became evident that undocumented immigrants had become very fearful over changes in government policy, a men’s Bible Study group decided to approach the city council seeking ways to modify or at least clarify things so as to relieve some of this anxiety.  The church’s budget includes a sizeable benevolent fund to be available for basic food, utilities, and transportation needs that become evident among neighborhood families.


Meanwhile Church B has grown rapidly, mostly through younger families with children, so child baptisms are monthly happenings.  People are joining from a variety of denominational backgrounds, and since many adults do not have a baptismal record they too agree to their being baptized upon joining.  The leadership of the church is pre-occupied with planning a building expansion, helping new folks assimilate into the fellowship and hiring staff to plan and organize activities.  The vision statement of the church is primarily about attendance projections along with the building space and fund-raising needed to facilitate this growth.

Ditto for the context in which I currently minister. In rural, Midwestern America, the missional edge is much more with what Barna calls the "prodigals/nomads/exiles" - rather than than the formally "unconverted". It is with the "dechurched" not the "unchurched". To quote a Barna 6-3-13 article:

"Over half of Millennials with a Christian background (59%) have, at some point, dropped out of going to church after having gone regularly, and half have been significantly frustrated by their faith. Additionally, more than 50% of 18-29 year olds with a Christian background say they are less active in church compared to when they were 15."

I just had a conversation with two such individuals a half hour ago who are dealing with a lot of past pain and hurt. When they come back into a church community and find healing and a new start - they don't show up in a CVI - but I would suggest they still reflect a sign of vital kingdom ministry for which we should give thanks.


I agree. We submit the information but it doesn't seem to show up, neither in the printed yearbook nor on the website.

Does anyone know why this information is no longer published in the yearbook? It would only be an extra ten or twenty pages.

We also struggle with a definition, but it is the definition of "member". We have a significant number of people who come to church pretty much every Sunday, and we consider them a member of our church family. But they do not, and do not want, to go through the formal membership process. That seems foreign and unnecessary to them. 

I'm not saying we never go through the formal membership process - we do. But it seems wrong to narrow the definition of "member" to that piece of paper when we're talking about people who have been beloved members of our church family for years.

When counting our numbers each year, we struggle over the definition of evangelism. We welcome people into membership in the church who have not been part of a church for many years. They are not transferring from a non-CRC church. Still, we wouldn't say that they were new believers. They were believers, separated from their community. This group doesn't seem to fit either label. It seems that there may be a benefit to creating a fourth indicator.

Thanks Keith, that's helpful!

Thanks Marian for your insights and your question.  

Yes, you are exactly right that sharing faith is all about relationships. Relationships are God's tilled field for the Gospel.  The Church Renewal Lab emphasizes this reality as we teach the importance of nurturing a "personal parish" where everyone invests in intentional relationships with those God places in our path.  


The three-step plan suggested in this article seeks to provide simple training so followers of Jesus are able to give answer to the hope that is within them.  Recently I put this into practice with a young person God put in my path.  Our first meeting was not faith connected but during subsequent gatherings I began to introduce "God-words" into our conversation so he understood that I was a person of faith.  During an extended coffee time a couple months later I asked if I could share my testimony with him and when he tragically lost a couple friends in a drowning accident I was able to share the hope of the Gospel.  

Moving from God-words, to testimony to sharing the Gospel has been an important part of my own faith sharing journey.

Thanks for this article.  I wonder if you could share a story of how this has played out?  It would be so helpful to read an example of how this has been put into practice. 

I have seen that one of the pieces of sharing a faith story is the need to develop relationships with people who are far from God.  As we develop relationships, we begin to see the places where someone might be open to something of the Gospel story.  In my experience, I've had opportunity to share really only once I've developed a relationship.  The sharing typically takes on a unique shape, depending on the story of the person I'm connecting with.  Also, the story is told over time, through the rhythms of life - rhythms of eating together and simply doing life together.  We need to know the basics of sharing a faith story, certainly.  However, the relational piece of ministry I believe is equally important.  Many of us struggle to get beyond our church community.  We need to rub shoulders with people so that they will "ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have".  

I hope you will share a story, to give a context for faith sharing. 


Go and Tell is an easy and practical way to equip you to become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). This three hour interactive seminar will provide you with the tools to “be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 6) Go and Tell is free online at

Great article! Also want to invite readers to check out the Faith Storytelling toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries . . . it offers dozens of practical, doable ways to shape and share testimonies and faith stories. You'll find it at

I am inspired by this article. It conveys what I know to be true and my experience in leadership. The metaphors of "a journey" and "marathon" are right on.  Listening and making room for people who have different perspectives, cultures and experiences are critical in Christian leadership.

When I read articles in the CRCNA on leadership, I try to see myself , an African American woman who did not grow up in the CRCNA, and others like me in what is being said. This article is transparent and relational. 

I especially like, "As a white male; I need to keep before me the need (if I am going to be a good leader) to seek out the voices of others who will bring wisdom and insights that I would miss—if I am not deliberate to listen and learn from them. If we really see value in a chorus of witnesses, we need to be willing to seek those voices out to be part of that choir. For me, this mean that I must seek the counsel of women, Canadians, African Americans, Brazilians, Chinese, Koreans, Latinos/Latinas and the list goes on.  (I have a lot to learn.)"

A key question is really, "What do we value?"

Thank you. Have a blessed time as you continue the Reformation Tour.

Its good to be well equipped with some resources. Here is a really great video that I appreciated from Tim Keller, who was invited to address Google. He was addressing the skeptical and also to promote his latest book. 

I also appreciate Keller's "accessible prose"... it reminds me that the goal is never to win the argument but win the heart in order to share the gospel. Much like Koukl, he speaks in an "inoffensive" manner.  He also beautifully uses the offensive approach (2 Cor 10:15) by showing the often self-refuting nature of others' belief systems. In addition to Keller, I would highly recommend (at the top of the list) anything written by John Frame, a former student of Van Til and a champion of presuppositional apologetics.

One can also find on youtube some great debates between Doug Wilson and the late Christopher Hitchens.  (really good stuff!)

Also, while I'm not familiar with all of the suggested sources, I am aware of Hugh Ross and what he advocates and promotes. Since I'm unaware of the others, do any of them come from a six-day creation belief?  It may be wise to state up front, some of the beliefs of these men. Perhaps a quick sentence so as not to mislead anyone. Much more could be said regarding that issue, but suffice it to say, there is much apologetic material supporting textual evidence that is contrary to what Ross believes... and it maintains theological consistency in regards to doctrines on the nature of man (historicity of Adam), the doctrine of sin and the sufficiency of God's Word.

I think the listening piece is key. Thank you so much for sharing this. 

Wow great work Trinity. Thank you for being such an inspirational example of what local creation care means. I hope your work has ripple effects in the hearts of all those who are involved and learn about this project. 

Thanks for putting your love for God and your "neighbors" into action, and then sharing that with us. As an upstream neighbor of this church, it is inspiring to me to know that there are others who put their faith in action by showing up and counting macros! I've seen kids suddenly come to life when they realize that things live in the creek.  These little insects have a lot to say if anyone is willing to slow down and listen. The type and quantities of insects reflect the health of the stream environment, and that alone is a life lesson worth experiencing.  Slow down, show up, take notice, and take action. Keep up the great work, Trinity CRC!

Love this! It's great to hear about Trinity's passion for creation care. Please keep us updated on this project and other future creation care projects you may take on. Keep up the good work!

Kris, this is spot on.  The six points you listed are key for sure. Why we think de-churched or people far from God should act like Christians when they come to church is beyond me.  It makes no sense.  Thanks again for posting.

Thanks for posting, Gerry, and even more, thanks for taking on this project.  I have done some stream invertebrate study myself, and found it fascinating and eye-opening, a window into the wonder of creation that is right in front of us, but usually goes unnoticed.   I completely agree with you that we have a "we have a strong calling to care for God’s creation".  I am so grateful that CRC congregations across North America are taking this responsibility seriously.  Thanks, Trinity,  for taking a leadership role in our denomination!   And good luck with securing your 2-year grant. 

Thanks Elaine and Herb for your helpful responses.  As I said, I've seen a lot of CRC churches go the same route.  Some have gotten rid of their "Christian Reformed" middle name altogether (many replacing it with a new middle name of "community").  Some have decreased the size and prominence of "Christian Reformed" but continue to add it as a tagline ("a Christian Reformed ministry"). Others exclude it from the name and signage but do nod to their CRC heritage in the "about us" or "what we believe" sections of their website.  

Your explanations about the reasons behind this make a lot of sense. Churches should want to be more inclusive and accessible. If our names are a hurdle that block people from walking through our doors, then we should humble ourselves and change them. 

The flip side, however, is that when more and more churches remove their denominational name, it becomes harder and harder for people to understand what we're all about.  Herb mentioned that people don't understand the term "Christian Reformed" and think that it might be related to prison ministry.  How can we help the term have meaning when we use it less and less?

I'd love for the term "Christian Reformed" to become synonymous in our broad culture with a people called by God to live a life dedicated to faith formation, servant leadership, gospel proclamation, worship, mercy, justice and mission. I wonder how we can better build up that understanding when we downplay the words. 

Then again, maybe we need to humble ourselves and not worry about how well our denominational name is known or understood, but just focus on how well Christ is known and understood. 


Thank you for your question Kristen. The brevity of the article doesn't adequately communicate the complexity of our decision. I'll attempt to fill in and clarify a few things. Although it's difficult to convey the tone of the healthy conversations that took place in Council and with the congregation through out this process.

First, it's worth mentioning that we didn't approach this decision with a desire to "get rid of our denominational identity", to be "more appealing", nor "to appear non-denominational".  The decision was part of a larger conversation to clearly communicate our commitment to and life in Jesus Christ. We chose to humble ourselves by removing our middle name to be inclusive and accessible to those who didn't grow up in our tradition. The motive for minimizing of our middle name was not an attempt to achieve something better. We lowered ourselves so others could experience the richness of reformed faith.

We are still Christian Reformed; we just don't lead with it. We lead with being followers of Jesus Christ.

Talbot Street Church changed their name from the First Christian Reformed Church in London 4 to 5 years ago.  I voted for the change for several reasons.  There is no "Second CRC" by that name in London.  Our public do not have any association with the words Christian Reformed.  Ones that I have asked focus on"reformed" and think we have an association with reforming prisons or people in jail.  Some stumble on the idea of a church being "Reformed".  They cannot relate to it in any way. Finally, Talbot Street Church tells a "story". This is where we are located and our mission is to serve the downtown area by Talbot Street Church.


Hope that explains it from my perspective....Herb Bax


PS We were relatively new to London and had  no history to the church which perhaps made it easier.

Thanks for your excellent post, Elaine.  As Director of Communications and Marketing for the CRCNA, I'm curious about why discussions about a church's identity led to a decision to get rid of the denominational identification?  This question isn't a judgment.  I think a lot of churches have reached the same conclusion. They feel that getting rid of the "Christian Reformed" part of their name somehow makes them more appealing. I'm just curious what the term "Christian Reformed" seems to communicate to the public that makes us want to avoid it?  Why has it become so appealing to appear non-denominational? 

I really appreciate these suggestions. Might a corollary to "refusing to compete" be to "partner or cooperate with other churches when appropriate" (which probably wouldn't apply to the grocery store)?

Joe, Thanks for inviting conversation around this topic.  We are currently in a new church development process here in Detroit which is asking those questions and experimenting with answers.  We are building relationships among three different "house church" communities across the city.  Once a month, we borrow space in a building from another church in order to gather with the combined groups.  We don't have intentions on worshipping as a large group every week, because each neighborhood/house church already has their own rhythms of meeting weekly in their own community.  We do not desire to own a building of our own for both financial and mission-minded reasons.

The benefits of not having a building are multiple: not having the costs associated with it, not having people get in the mindset that the building is central to the ministry, interacting with our church and community in spaces that are not owned by us, having to be creative rather than getting into routines based on a consistent meeting space, we don't fall into a consumeristic mentality of providing goods and services to the church.

 The challenges are: The need for good communication is critical because of a lack of a consistent meeting space for people to depend upon.  It can also be challenging to be nomadic in setting up for a gathering (even once a month).  People with needs also seek us out in our homes rather than a building, which can be a challenge to have need coming to our doorstep rather than an "organization" like a church building provides.

If we were to settle on a consistent space for our monthly gathering (or if we decided a more frequent pattern of gathering with the larger group was better) we would try to find a space to utilize that was already a neighborhood asset in order to partner with other community-serving agencies.

Those are some initial thoughts to keep the conversation going.

posted in: Organic Church


Here are what I see to be the most disturbing trends:

1. redefinition of the Gospel to be more of a social Gospel along the line of classical liberalism as see in some writings of the leaders of the Emergent Church movement. 

2. removal of God's wrath from the atonement. Substitutionary atonement is divine child abuse. Jesus suffered our wrath to become an example of how to overcome human violence. 

3. universalism replacing the doctrine of limited atonement.

4. there seems to be not enough preaching that fits this description stated by John Piper: " a sermon is is an expository exultation over the glories of God revealed in his word.”

5. the loss of the authority of God's Word. The Bible has become a collection of stories about God which become authoritative as the Spirit applies it. Karl Barth's view seems to have gotten a hold in churches.

6. loss of Christian identity. It is said we are all "broken people now." What about "new creations?" With the loss of Christian identity comes the loss of concepts of mortification and vivification.

When pastors or churches adopt these disturbing trends they do so in the name of being relevant to our culture. However it is these very things that make Christianity irrelevant because its no longer Christianity. No wonder why people are leaving our denomination or others.


Iain Murray, in his book, "Revivals & Revivalism" documents how, from about 1740 until the early 1800s, revivals took place. They took place in churches where the pastor preached the word of God fearlessly, at times for many years, and the church had a deep concern for the "lost". The revivals were always instigated by God and not by man's pleading or emotional gatherings.

Do Calvinists have a deep concern for the lost or do we leave it all to God? If so, why did Jesus command his disciples to go into all the world .......?

If those trends are true then the church is on a slippery slope.

"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:7-8)


I think the author is right about these trends and they all seem to focus on the convenience of the worshipers. Sometimes we lose sight of the first priority of worship which is to bring glory to God, our comfort and convenience should be way down the list.

The article is very superficial in its analysis. I agree that we need to move with our changing society, but it's not all about attracting converts or building attendance numbers.

My other gripe is his assertion that less preaching makes for better preaching. Those pastors who wrote 100-150 sermons and messages each year were excellent at exegesis and applying the Word of God. They had lots of practice, and an urgent need to rely on God's guidance every week. I would say they were the better preachers.

Thank you Ken.  You definitely offer a lot of "food" for thought.  My assumption would be not to meet in people's homes, but in a facility owned by someone in the community with whom we can build a ministry partnership.  

My biggest concern is that the building can be seen as a "safe" place for the congregation, but viewed as a "members only" club by folks in the community.  If we are to be seen as missional, and connected to the community, I think we offer some level of vulnerability by being willing to meet in another's "space".  

In my humble opinion, "church" is not primarily about a worship gathering or a Bible study, but rather the people serving the community, being Christ's hands, feet, ears, heart, and at times His voice.   In order for that to happen we need to be intentional about engaging our community.

posted in: Organic Church

I like the idea of "House Church".  As a missionary with CRWM for 20 years in Mexico, this is where we often began: Sometimes in the back yard under a tree for shade: but there were certain disadvantages:  If you hold it consistently at the same place, what do you do when they need to leave for whatever reason for a few weeks or a month: sure, you tell everyone that normally attends where the next service will be: but not everyone has the space for a growing house church: sure, develop leaders and  hold multiple services in more homes as needed: that's the goal: eventually home groups will either want to join a larger group of worshippers where there are more options available for children's ministries, or for youth ministries or for the worship experience with larger groups, good music, liturgical experiences like baptisms and Christmas programs etc.  Home worship and small group experience is a great way to get started or to reach the unbelieving neighbor.  But sooner or later the group itself will be asking, "where can we meet where there is more space to accommodate our growing need for "Sunday School rooms", for a vacation Bible School program, for ceremonies like weddings, baptisms, and funerals?"  The host may eventually realize that their home is no longer their home: it becomes everyone else's space: people will assume that the bedroom can be used for a class, or that refreshments for the kids can be taken from the fridge: and you have no control over perceptions of how well a host welcomes or resents the intrusion of everyone taking over their space.  We have had people say to us, "we want to attend your worship service but we won't go into that home: her husband or her unbelieving family that lives with the host have said inappropriate things or behaved rudely towards me or my children."  Some just don't like the idea of continually entering in someone else's private space as if it was a public space: because there is always the possibility "that my turn will come soon and I don't know if I want people in my home." Some are too embarrassed to let everyone see how they live. 

When you have to "rent" for the moment, or share the worship space with another congregation in order to make more use of the same facilities, there is always tension over use or abuse of materials shared, space shared, sound equipment or musical instruments shared, etc.  or if you have to move in, set up, take down and clean up after every event, yes things break down or wear out quicker, including the people you count on to help do the work.  I've been there too. 

So there are benefits to pooling resources and owning property for the purpose of public worship and providing the options large congregations can provide when it comes to ministry.  I didn't even point out the limitations for handicapped or those in wheel chairs and those who need walkers in order to be mobile:  House churches are less likely to be "handicapped accessible" unless they have someone with those needs living there. What a blessing to have a church facility that is accessible to be able to host "friendship" or other events that are a delight for all to attend: for events like baptisms, funerals, weddings, Christmas and Easter programs, etc.

Pastor Ken Vanderploeg

posted in: Organic Church

Thank you for your comments, Larry and for sharing the anecdotal story.   

However, my question goes a little deeper than simply the logistics of hosting a weekly worship gathering.  I asked if there are those who have "intentionally" chosen not to have a building.  The intention is to focus ministry energy in the community in a more expeditionary manner.   The intention is to purposely find a kingdom partner in the community with whom the church can serve in exchange for meeting space when it is needed.   The service would be to incorporate the people from the community organization into the worship gathering.   For example, here in ABQ we have a number of special needs folks who worship with us each week.  I wonder if we chose to focus our ministry and even worship gatherings to serve that population's needs; meeting in their space.   Then also using their facility for space to develop disciples within the serving congregation as well as the population served.

The intention is to be wholly "organic"; a living body integrated fully into our community.   

I am not sure this model of ministry will work everywhere, and I am not even certain this is the model that everyone should follow.   I only wonder what it might look like for those who have been called to intentionally partner in this manner with their local community?  

Thanks again, and I invite any further comments you may have.

p.s. I am almost certain that this model will require the "pastor" to find bivocational employment. 

posted in: Organic Church

I have always been drawn to the "house church" of the NT.  The idea you present, a church without a building, is attractive and resembles that idea.

However, there are practical concerns that make it less attractive.  My brother belonged to such a church.  Over some years they met in various places, until they finally bought a place of their own.  Why?  Well, he was in charge of sound setup.  He and the other sound people, and the computer people, came to where "church" was meeting 1-1/2 hours before worship to set up and then test everything.  Every Sunday.  After worship they tore everything down and carted the equipment to store in a trailer.  Stuff broke.  Too much wear and tear.   After time, the people on the setup team "burnt out" and quit.

This is one anecdote of personal experience.  I guess if one has a large enough church to rotate people, burnout might not be a problem.  But a church that large has it's own problems.  Another possibility is to have simple worship without these additions.  But most churches (and guests?) seem to want technology. 

Is this a case of a great idea that doesn't work well in practice?

Rev. Larry Lobdell Jr

posted in: Organic Church