Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Well - A Congregation that Became a Network

From time to time I come across examples of conventional congregations that literally left their buildings in order to transition to a network of house churches. One such example is The Well, which is based in Orange County, CA but has recently branched out by planting a community in Denver Colorado. You can read their whole story to date here but I've lifted out a couple of tasty tidbits for you below. The story is told by their pastor, and the first excerpt comes shortly after he had come to the congregation which was still in a building.
I soon discovered that although the church had almost a million dollars in the bank, the money was untouchable. They were convinced that cash would someday buy land so they could build a new building. Perhaps they forgot that a million dollars would not even get them an acre of ground in Orange County. Nonetheless, the funds were off limits, and I was left to figure out how the church could afford its $5,000 per month rent. I felt like I was steering a sinking ship, filled with untouchable cargo that would surely capsize us sooner or later....

I got online and decided to Google the words “house” and “church.” My heart started to race as I saw thousands upon thousands of websites and articles listed before me. I dove in and couldn’t read the blogs and articles fast enough, especially those by house church advocate Wolfgang Simpson. I was immediately obsessed and terrified all at the same time. I had no idea what this surge of energy and excitement meant, but I continued to seek out more information. I talked with a man named Mike Goff who had already begun a house church. For three hours, he described how his church family would meet in each other’s homes for corporate worship and fellowship—and then go fix the neighbor’s fence together....

We realized that the Church was everyone’s responsibility, not just the pastor’s. And everything a “normal” church did—missions, study, growth, evangelism, and so on—each person could do, because their change of venue did not negate the responsibilities and privileges of any other church....

So what do I do now as “pastor” of The Well? Since our beginnings in 2005, my part has transitioned from spiritual guru to church planter. As new branches of The Well form throughout homes in Orange County, I will typically stay for a couple of months until the gathering has a solid foundation, and then let go....

But not every church plant is the same. In fact, there is one gathering whose door I have not even darkened, because I have a sense that my presence might actually snuff out what God is doing there. The Church is certainly not about me....

I am now convinced that many other congregations in America are being held back from actually being the Church because of something as simple as a building. While mortgage payments, capital campaigns, custodial duties, and even well-structured programs are not bad in and of themselves, those things can tie us down and prevent many from following God’s footprints....

Like Lazarus, do you hear God calling you to, “Come forth!”? Is it time to strip down to the bare essentials and see your local body resurrected to become church all over again?

2 comments:

Brian Bajari said...

thanks for your ongoing posts Tim . . . I admire the resolute courage it takes in someone who is so willing to shed the old for the new - not for the sake of novelty but in obedience to the Spirit. And this is not easy to do . . .

The Feral Pastor said...

Thanks for stopping by, Brian. I appreciate the encouragement!