...and why not?
This is an important question. Felicity Dale has written an encouraging book titled, "An Army of Ordinary People." If you've read the book, you'll know the answer to the above question. And if you haven't I'll later quote from the book to help us reach a definitive answer. (Felicity's and Tony's books and free e-letter available from, www.house2house.net
First though, let's look at another question: What constitutes a Church? Neil Cole asked some students this question and they came up with answers like; must have elders, deacons, communion, baptisms etc. He pointed out that there was one necessary aspect they had missed. It was, (of course) Jesus! The meal at the home of Zacchaeus probably didn't have any 'elders', but they had Jesus. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were only three, but they had Jesus. Nicodemus was only one but he had Jesus. I believe Matt. 18:20 defines a Church. If Jesus promised to be in the midst of two or three, that constitutes Church. True, it's the smallest possible number and anybody with a mission vision wants that number to expand. But if you've been "gathered together" with just "two or three" others, you've got Church! And, when you get a larger number of people attending, does your gathering become more Church? Robert Fitts, in his book, "Saturation Church Planting", answers this question saying, "It only becomes bigger church."
Back to the main question of this letter. Felicity Dale's book has 19 chapters, that start with, "Hanks story..." "Lisa's story..." each of the 19 stories are fascinating and encouraging examples of ordinary people involved in starting simple/organic churches. People such as Felicity and Tony planting a simple church among their medical contacts in England (they are doctors). Also among their business associates in USA. Their daughter planting a church of hotel staff - even bouncers - (handy for casting out demons!) from the hotel where she worked. A doctor in India overseeing the planting of thousands of "triplet churches" (Matt. 18:20 ones) as well as 3,500 larger groups planted in a four year period. The book describes new converts hearing from God, responding in obedience to his directions, serving people (like collecting all the students' rubbish at a university) so they can first befriend them and if they are open, talk with them about spiritual matters. Then leading them to Jesus and involving them in regular fellowship. And all of these true stories happened without special buildings or trained, professional church staff. Easily reproduced and very economical!
Where can you hold these get-togethers? Almost anywhere! Your home, McDonalds, at your friends homes, at your work place. In Mexico City medical students were banned from holding Bible studies on Campus. They could not find a meeting place until they discovered the hospital morgue was available. Capitalising on this weird location, they sent out invitations: "You are invited to the morgue for a social discussion. The topic will be, 'Evidence for the Resurrection'. Here among the dead some seekers found new life. (From "Kingdom Without Borders" p. 105. Intervarsity Press).
But how do we get started. First pray. Then ask yourself, do I know people who wouldn't go to regular church, but are interested in talking about things that matter in life. Suggest a get-together and take things from there. Some years ago, we met some parents through our Kids' Club and invited them to a few BBQs at our house. Out of this came a regular home and meal meeting that continues to this day. A team from our church meets regularly with a small group of prisoners at their jail. Who would say that for these 'seekers' this isn't church? Why not get a friend and pray-walk in your street or neighbourhood. See what God-surprises comes from this powerful activity.
I'd love to hear about your experiences - good or bad! Other readers would like to hear and comment too.