I've given some thought to that. In particular: How might a denominationally-oriented conventional congregation support and nurture a house church expression?
The idea I keep coming back to is that such a congregation could support a pastor as a house church planter in the same way they have often supported missionaries sent overseas to plant churches. This could even take the form of a formal pastoral call within the practice of the denomination. The key would be to have the same kind of expectations for these "home front missionaries" as you have for the missionaries who serve overseas. And, you'd need to have the same expectation for the house churches formed as you have for the churches formed overseas. For example:
- We don’t expect the evangelized people to join the sponsoring congregation “back home.”
- We don’t expect the new congregations to look like us, but to reflect their own, indigenous culture.
- We don’t expect the new congregations to suport the missionary financially - that’s our job back home. But we do look to them to develop and support their own indigenous leadership in order to carry the work forward and grow the Church among their own people.
- We don’t expect to see the missionary show up at the home church very often, except perhaps on occasion in order to share stories about the work and renew the partnership relationship. We certainly don’t expect the missionary to care for the members of the home church!
- We don’t expect the converts to become members of our denomination, but we hope and anticipate that they will be blessed by the theological, spiritual and cultural gifts we have as they gather themselves into their own “denomination” (or whatever larger expression fits in their context and culture.) We do hope and anticipate that they will emerge as a natural partner with us in the work of the Kingdom.
I think using the "overseas missionary" as a paradigm for "home-front house church planters" can be very helpful, as long as people can accept that it’s mission work, not just another tactic to get more people into the sponsoring church. In my own Lutheran tribe, I see no insurmountable barriers to this approach. In other denominations, it could present more or less of a challenge institutionally.
I'd like to hear comments and critiques around this idea, especially from anyone who knows of something similar to this already in use.