book report: 2 house church books

today's link goes to a wiki entry on house church with abundant links. First i read Getting Started: A Practical Guide to House Church Planting, by Felicity Dale from House2House. Then my friend Anton who hosts the Bethlehem House Church in Amsterdam, recommended The Church Comes Home: Building Community and Mission through Home Churches by Robert and Julia Banks.

Mrs. Dale keeps it simple and offer a lot of encouragement. The Banks offer a much denser book with many caveats and options. One concern with the Dale book is their emphasis on the "fivefold" ministry, which is a negotiable doctrine. The Banks operate from the concept of a "Pastoral Core," which is analagous to elders, a term that they feel is pretty meaningless in our curent culture. Dale is more comfortable with the inclusion of children in the meeting. Both feel that the best analogy to house church is a large family gathering. Both books reference an author under whom i've personally experienced abusive shepherding, so that rattled me each time. He wrote his book after my experience with him, so maybe he's repented. Dale views numerical growth and mulitplication as very important. The Banks aren't as concerned with multiplication. Perhaps they would disagree with my assessment, but since i read Dale's book first, they sure don't seem as evangelistic. Hence, Dale has great ideas for mulitplication. Instead of asking members to break off as a church grows, she suggests sending a member to help start a new group among those interested in joining. Dale enjoys the model Jesus used in Luke of sending out pairs to find a household of peace and use that family as the base of operations. The household of peace has a network in the community who will come at their invitation and not the evanglist's.

The Banks offer abundant information on facilitating groups. If one hasn't led groups before and lacks experience, then these pointers are very helpful. One weird aspect of their book was how bothered they are by people who sing with their eyes closed. It comes up a couple times in their discussion. Their perspective is that we are supposed to sing songs to one another so why would you close your eyes unless you were being offensive and not with the plan. Just a little weird to me.

I have a few more books on the book trunk to read on this topic, including House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity by Gehring which is a technical historical work and simpler stuff such as House to House by Larry Kreider. However, before I read these, I picked upa tome at the library called The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln by Sean Wilentz. This one will take awhile.

Overall, I'd recommend both books, but if you can only read one get Felicity Dale's "Getting Started."

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