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This article is actually part of two different series on The Borough – The Innovate Series and The Prototype.

The Innovate Series is a gallery of ways that people are innovating as they apply Scriptural principles to multiple areas of church, life, business, and more.

The Prototype is a chronicle of what we, The Borough, are actually doing in our own context to help our city.

And now, on with the article…

I can say that we are innovating in our church meeting structure.  And I can say that without arrogance because it was not my idea.

Jeff Reed of BILD, International has written a really great encyclical about church structure in the early church which we simply applied to our own local culture.  His research is solid and he makes a compelling argument.  In this article, I’m only going to describe our meeting structure, but if you want Scriptural arguments as to why we do it, then check out Jeff’s encyclical.

Let me also make one more disclaimer:  The attributes of our meeting listed below have been extremely beneficial to us as we work to take care of our own church and our city.  We have Scriptural reasons for everything we do.  But we are NOT saying that it is the only way to do church.  It worked for the early church, and it works for us, but we’re NOT saying that you must do it our way.

Alright, all that being said, here we go:

Meet in Homes

simple church house church neighborhood cobblestone streetFirst of all, we meet in homes.

I know what you’re thinking – “Yeah, but I know of a few house churches.  They’ve either really watered down the gospel or they’re straight up cults.”

Admittedly, many house churches have gone one or both of those routes.  But you can also say the exact same thing about churches which meet in designated church buildings.

It took a while for me to get over the baggage attached to the term “house church”, but when I looked at the idea for what it is, rather than at the ways other people have done it wrong, it changed my life.

Let me just make a brief list of the benefits we’ve personally seen in our meeting-in-homes model, which we never achieved when we met in a large gathering every week in a church building:

  1. Very strong community, full of love and encouragement
  2. More opportunities for leadership development
  3. More participation from every single person
  4. Neighborhood outreaches where the churches are
  5. People taking ownership of reaching out into their own neighborhoods and loving their neighbors, whether a church is present or not
  6. Focus on hospitality
  7. Focus on doing good works in the community
It worked for the early #church, and it works for us. #housechurch Click To Tweet

Time of Sharing

1 Corinthians 14:26 describes a time during the meetings where multiple people share their use of spiritual gifts with the church.

So for our “worship service” (so-to-speak), we don’t sing songs.  Or at least I should say that we don’t always sing songs.

Every person has gifts and talents from God and we ask that every person use those gifts to worship God.  So for the first session in our meeting, people share something they have prepared during the week with the intention of building up everyone at the church.

I have personally shared some of my poetry.  I also play guitar, so I have shared music.  Others have brought in their paintings.  The children recite a passage of Scripture they have memorized or a very special character development event they experienced during the week.  Those with the gift of teaching have brought in a 10-minute teaching on something they learned over the past few days.

And on and on, only limited by the gifts God provides.

It’s actually really beautiful.

But all of it is done to build up the body through encouragement or admonishment, and in so doing, we worship God as everyone uses the gifts He has given them.

We ask that every person use their gifts to #worship #God. Click To Tweet

Discussion Lesson

Photo credit: Reiner Girsch via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Reiner Girsch via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

We don’t have a sermon.

*Gasp!*

Our lesson is discussion-based.  We teach on a number of things – Sometimes, we do a series going through a book of the bible.  Other times, we spend time talking about a specific topic, like neighborhood outreach or establishing the church.

I’m currently in the middle of a study where we analyze current events and discuss what our response should be as Christians based on Scripture, and how we deal with or help people as we experience these events together as a culture.

Full Meal with the Lord’s Supper

We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week, and we eat a full meal with it.

I will generally prepare a brief 3-5 minute sermonette, in which I highlight our communion with one another and the death and resurrection of Christ, and then we read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.  And we partake of breaking the bread, and pouring the wine (or juice, depending).

Then we eat a full meal together.  It’s awesome, actually.

Complex Network

Photo credit: jared via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: jared via Foter.com / CC BY

If our churches are simple, our leadership network is very complex.  I’ll give a brief overview.

First of all, our churches are tied together by common leaders – elders and Paul-like leaders.  We meet weekly, and every month, we get all our churches together for what we call a Network Gathering.

These gatherings are opportunities for us to spend time together as a large group, and also to do a community outreach event – for example, when we celebrate the full-meal-Lord’s-Supper, we will invite the homeless on the street to eat with us since we’re meeting in a park.

Secondly, we’re developing a city-network.  This includes other church leaders, entrepreneurs and local businessmen, local government leaders, and cultural creatives.  The purpose of this network is to see how we can all work together to take care of our city.

Thirdly, we are involved with a national network of churches who are doing very similar things with their church structure.  We meet 3 times a year to discuss what new things we’re trying, and what works and doesn’t work.  I’ve developed some of my best friends through this network.

Fourthly, we are involved with an international network called BILD, International (referenced above at the beginning of this article).  It is an international church planting network of indigenous church planters and leaders, which mostly serves India and China, but also serves the Global South and other small areas in the Western world.

We participate by going to an annual conference where the leaders from around the world meet.  And we give financially toward the development of those indigenous leaders.

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