Tim Chester lists several differences between House Church meetings and Missional Communities. Read them over. Are there any missing?
House groups often tend to be a weekly meeting. People talk about ‘house group night’ – the evening in which they ‘do’ house group by attending a meeting. A missional community is about a shared life, a network of relationships, a genuine community of people.
House groups are often centred around a Bible study. The Bible is central to the life of a missional community, but the Bible is read, discussed and lived throughout the week in the context of a shared life.
House groups are often insular and focused on the mutual care of their members. Pastoral care is a feature of missional communities, but they are also groups with a strong sense of mission. They can articulate their vision for mission and identify the specific people they are trying to reach.
House groups are normally managed centrally by the church leadership. Leaders are often fearful of house groups becoming independent. Missional communities are given a mandate to reproduce organically or spin off into church plants.
J.R. Briggs has a creative post on how he has trained his house church leaders with an ashtray.
Deb Hirsch, wife of missiologist Alan Hirsch, recently gave a talk on Seven Obstacles to Engaging in Mission at an Organic Church conference.
My earlier critique of Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Ways, was incomplete and imbalanced. Though there is too much self-coined jargon to wade through, making it a frustrating read, after the first half of the book there are some real gems. So while my earlier praise and critique stand, Hirsch is due more praise, especially from a church planter’s perspective.
The chapter on “Organic Systems” is very helpful. He nicely sets traditional churches in contrast to organic churches:
Planting a new church, or remissionalizing an existing one, in this approach isn’t primarily about buildings, worship services, size of congregations, and pastoral care, but rather about gearing the whole community around natural discipling friendships, worship as lifestyle, and mission in the context of everyday life. (p. 185)
Hirsch then proceeds to lay a theological foundation for why Organic, which is primarily rooted in allusions to the biblical doctrine of creation, especially as it pertains to the church. Noting organic metaphors such as living temples, vines, bodies, seeds, trees, etc. he argues that this imagery is not haphazard but latent with are intrinsically related to the essence of the church (180). Next, he rightly tethers this creation imagery to the triune Creator noting that “an organic image of church and mission is theologically richer by far than any mechanistic and institutional conceptions of church we might devise” (181).
After laying this foundation for Organic church, Hirsch develops insights based on his research and reflection on the nature and function of organic systems. I will briefly list them here: 1) Innate intelligence: trust the organic nature of the church 2) Life is interconnected: follow this impulse in community 3) Information brings change: free and guided information flow is vital to growth. 4) Adaptive change: constantly adapt and react to your environment.
In turn, he advocates building relational networks that have “viruslike growth.” More to come…