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 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…