Sending vs. Multiplying

Charles Kiser —  October 6, 2008 — 6 Comments

We experienced our first house church sending ceremony last night. It was wonderful. Thanks to all of you who are praying for Storyline in this significant transition.

The basic movement of our gathering was: 1) celebrate God’s work in the first house church; 2) reflect on the way God calls the church to be a sending body; and 3) pray and anoint leaders to go and start a new house church.

The foundational text for our gathering was Acts 12:25–13:3:

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark. Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

In the same way Jesus sent out his disciples, in the same way the early church followed God’s leading to send teams out in mission, we sought to send some out. Our house church commissioned Julie and I and the Cones to start a new house church.

The sending of the Twelve by Duccio di Buoninsegna

The Sending of the Twelve by Duccio di Buoninsegna (14th Century)

The approach we took was decidedly different than the traditional small group multiplication model where the group splits in half and goes in two different directions.

Our model—influenced by the insights of Jared Looney, Kent Smith and John White at the Abilene Summit just a couple weeks ago—looks more like the traditional church planting model: a church sends out a team of church planters to plant a new church.

Such an approach preserves the fabric of community in the sending house church and sends those who are called by God to go.

I have not had stellar experiences with the multiplication approach in the few times I’ve tried it. People are resistant and even resentful when they’re asked to abandon relationships they had come to cherish.

John White mentioned that in his experiences, after the third or fourth round of multiplication, participants refused to invite new people to their gatherings because they were so exhausted by constantly investing themselves in new people (only to be dragged away from them later).

The sending approach seems like a much healthier alternative and was affirmed by coaches, mentors and Storyline participants. Many of our Storyline people told us in one way or another: “I feel good about this.”

That kind of feedback is important. Sending shouldn’t be ominous, painful or scary. It should be inspiring, exciting and invigorating—because it is!

I think it is significant, too, the way this experience points to our value for adaptability. We were expecting up until just a couple weeks ago that we would be facilitating a multiplication ceremony and not a sending ceremony.

But after listening to Looney, Smith and White in Abilene (all of whom are experimenting in mission in ways similar to us) — the one class I attended while I was there, by the way — I began to sense God was leading us to do something different. So we processed, discerned and adjusted accordingly. God has his ways of getting our attention.

So, starting next Sunday, the Kisers and the Cones will begin to gather with new friends in hopes that God will bring another church to life in the midst of them.

God has done it before. He will do it again…

Charles Kiser

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Dallas, TX. Church Planter with Storyline Christian Community. Equipper and Coach with Mission Alive.

6 responses to Sending vs. Multiplying

  1. 

    God has done it before. He will do it again…and who better for Him to do it with than those who are listening for His call. What promise I see in the Kisers and Cones. May the Lord bless and keep you.

  2. 

    I’m curious–did you wait until your first house church had reached a certain number of regular attenders (and how many?), or until you’d been meeting together for a certain length of time or did it just otherwise seem like the best time to split off? Was this the timing planned from the beginning?

    I like the model you’re using and I think it makes so much sense. It’s the way successful small groups at our church have been established.

  3. 

    Good questions, Katherine.

    To your second question: Yes, we had planned this from the beginning. We had hoped the first one would take place this fall.

    I’ll copy and paste part of what I wrote on another comment below to address your first question:

    “Numbers is part of the determination. You sacrifice relationships if the house church size gets too big. So when the group grows to about 20 people regularly, we have one indicator of readiness.

    The other (larger) part is purpose: is the house church embodying the values of the kingdom? The particular manifestation of those values in the Storyline community is dependence on God, mission, life change and genuine relationships.

    To translate those values into questions:
    1) Are people growing in their relationships with God? (dependence)
    2) Is the community serving, loving and participating in the work of justice? (mission)
    3) Are non-Christians becoming Christians in the house church, or at least joining the life of the group to explore further? (mission)
    4) Are people being spiritually formed? Is transformation occurring? (life change)
    5) Are people experiencing deep relationships with other people in the house church? (genuine relationships)

    These questions are much harder to quantify than numbers alone, but they are the right questions, I believe. Essentially we’re changing the scorecard when we add questions like the above–to win is no longer to grow bigger (necessarily) but to embody the life of the kingdom.

    If answers to these questions are no, then a house church is not ready to [send]. It may be big enough, but it is not embodying the life of the kingdom. It begs the question: what is attracting people to this house church if it’s not the kingdom of God? Such a scenario might require that the house church disband and roll into other more healthy house churches.”

  4. 

    Charles,

    I really like this – I wish I’d made it to that class.

    I’ve already been talking to Chappotin about the starting of new house churches. To me there needs to be some very clear distinctions between house churches and a small group ministry. The primary distinction is that the house church is our basic source of community. Small groups, which are a great ministry of the settled church, provide an opportunity for people to develop deeper relationships than they previously had with the people they go to church with every week.

    But we do not live in the settled church; we are seeking to exist on the edges of God’s advancing Kingdom, and the community of the house church – a beautifully messy mixture of people at various stages of their journey with Christ…or even friends who are not yet acknowledging Jesus – is an essential not a luxury.

    But that cannot be an excuse to simply cling to our small community and somehow hope that we can figure out ways to start new house churches. If we are seeking to be a part of church planting movement and not just a church plant then our DNA must involve sending at every level. We have entered the journey of planting churches that plant churches…so our house churches should also plant house churches.

    This is really helpful Charles – thanks!

  5. 

    Charles,

    I spent some time with your parents last week. It was very nice. And GVR sent me your blog address. Look, I’d like to sit down and visit with you via phone concerning what is happening at Storyline. I’m leaving a comment so that you can have my e-mail address. Contact me, I’d like to talk. Grace and peace.

    Sean

  6. 

    Sounds good to me buddy. Go for it and God bless it. I’ll be praying for y’all for it to go well and God be praised for all the good that will be done in it and through it.
    Zack Blaisdell

    zackblaisdell.wordpress.com

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