VISION & MISSION OF THE GLOBAL HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT
David S. Lim, Ph.D.
How does the global house church movement (GHCM) understand its biblical vision and practical mission? Here is a set of answers from the perspective of an Asian (Chinese-Filipino) house church leader who has been trained as a biblical theologian and has been advocating for house church movements in Asia since 1987 and fully practicing house churching since 2001.
In short, we believe that God desires His people to bring all peoples to inherit eternal life and enjoy abundant life (= shalom/peace) as they obey Him as their Creator and Master through their faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He thus made a simple plan for world redemption called “church multiplication movements” (CMM) by which all peoples and nations will be made into disciples/followers of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. By His grace, the global house church networks will seek to work with all Jesus-followers to realize His reign on earth until He returns to set up His eternal kingdom (Rev. 11:1).
Biblical Basis of our Vision
- God created the world as good, and humanity in His image to develop cultures as stewards of His creation (Gen. 1-2; Ps. 8).
- Misery and evil in the world (including problems within a society and between societies) is the direct or indirect result of human sin, i.e., rebellion against God and His moral order (Gen. 3-4; Rom. 1-3).
- God has provided the way of reconciliation and restoration of all things through the redemptive work of Christ applied among those who submit to his rule as Lord over all of life, by the transforming power of His Spirit (2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 Tim. 2:3-7).
- The role of Christ-followers (= the Church) is to disciple all peoples in all societies to follow his will, as people of His Peace (OT: shalom) or His kingdom of light, through holistic/transformational ministries, which include both evangelism and socio-political action, with signs and wonders (Mt. 28:18-20; Lk. 4:18-19; Rom. 15:18-19; 1 Pet. 2:9-10).
- Following the missionary method of Christ and the apostles (called “disciple-making”), the church models servant leadership, which persuades and equips people to live according to God’s will voluntarily rather than coerces or disempowers them, whether the church constitutes the majority or the “overwhelming minority” (Mk. 10:42-45; 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
Our Vision: Kingdomization or Societal Transformation
We shall pray and work for “societal transformation,” by which the individuals, families, communities and institutions in our nations will be enabled to relate with each other and with other communities with biblical (= God’s kingdom) norms and values. We seek to build Christ-centered communities that are growing in righteousness and justice marked by self-giving love (Greek: agape). Righteousness refers to right/moral relationships (usually using one word: “love”) between persons which promote goodness and discourage evil. And justice (which is “love in the public sphere”) denotes moral relationships where every person and community is enabled (given the democratic space and skills) to participate actively in determining their destiny for the common good.
These Christ-centered individuals and communities will be living in harmony and cooperation, and empowered by their leaders (both religious and secular) who serve as facilitators in the holistic development of their personal and communal lives, so they can share their blessings as partners with other communities in establishing peace (shalom) in every nation, region and world.
Please refer to Appendix (see below) for more details of what any discipled or transformed nation will look like, especially with reference to God’s provisions in the Torah (Mosaic legislation). The Appendix also includes the “Implications for our 21st Century mission.”
Principles to Achieve our Kingdom/Transformational Vision
Our objective is for the general population to accept the biblical worldview and behavioral patterns, which shall have been contextually institutionalized into laws, policies and structures. This will be achieved through the processes of education, evangelization and disciple-making, using the democratic approach in all our programs and projects to form Christ-centered communities in places of residence (neighborhoods) and in places of work or study (schools, factories, government offices, banks, stores, etc.), where God’s word is discussed, applied and lived out relevantly in all aspects of life. Note: There is actually no need to build Christian or church buildings, for all properties of Christ-followers belong to (and should be used for) His kingdom!
We will find opportunities to network and partner with people of goodwill and any group (religious or secular, government or private) to address communal needs (following Matt. 5:13-16; 25:31-46; Rom. 13; Gal. 6:10). We will initiate activities, and found and maintain structures, which can then be turned into public or private institutions as “common grace” functions of the state and the market. Any action for social reforms will be done through peaceful means.
We will use all the technical, professional, financial and spiritual resources available in the body of Christ, mainly but not exclusively through church bodies (esp. our local churches, parish councils and ministerial fellowships), which will serve as close yet critical/prophetic partners with the socio-political counterparts at their local government units (LGU), as well as in national and inter-national bodies.
Evangelism is necessary for people to gain the right perspective and motivation to live meaningful lives to fill the world with God’s love here and hereafter. We thus seek to persuade people to have a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, doing this with respect and sensitivity towards our audience and their (sub-)cultures. Our missionary efforts locally and cross-culturally will include word, works and wonders in communion with all denominations that affirm “Jesus Christ alone is Lord and Savior.” (“Evangelical unity” will further include the affirmation that “the Bible is the final authority for all faith and practice”).
Biblical Basis of our Kingdom/Transformational Mission
We also hold the following seven (7) biblical basis of our Kingdom/transformational mission:
1. God intended His redemption plan to be spread to all nations (from Jerusalem) in the quickest possible time – for His desire is to save all! (cf. 2 Pet.3:9, 1 Tim 2:3-5).
2. For rapid fulfillment of His desire to save all, God’s plan of world evangelization must be simple, so simple that ordinary believers, including new, young and/or illiterate believers can do it! The gospel message is simple, too: “Jesus Christ is Lord who alone gives eternal and abundant life,” which any believer can share immediately with others!
3. The quickest way possible is to mobilize as many believers as possible (if possible, every Christian), perhaps by the millions to evangelize and disciple the nations! The Great Commission is given to all believers. This is the priesthood of every believer in real action (1 Pet. 2:9-10; cf. Exod. 19:5-6).
4. Each believer can and should be discipled to become a disciple-maker. It is possible to plant and program the right DNA into new converts, so that they will grow and develop into reproducing Christians for the rest of their life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
5. Life is relationships; all the rest are details! Hence to disciple means to equip others with just three relational skills: (a) hearing God through prayerful meditation to turn His word (logos) into a word (rhema) to be obeyed; (b) making disciples through leading a house or simple church in Bible reflection and sharing, thereby each one learns how to do personal devotions (or “Quiet Time” = lectio divina) with fellow believers; and (c) doing friendship evangelism to share what they learn of God and His will with their networks of non-believing kin and friends.
6. These millions of reproducing believers can be produced through mentoring (or better, “discipling”) by disciple-makers (= servant-leaders) who seek to equip all believers (cf. Eph. 4:11-16) right in their house church meetings, usually in their residences and workplaces.
7. This can be done through the disciple-making movement (DMM) or church multiplication movement (CMM) mission paradigm, so as to produce “people movements,” especially if combined with Community Development and C-5 (high contextualization) strategies, which many missiologists label as “insider movements” (IM) nowadays. Thus we have found like-minded partners in the campus evangelism, marketplace ministry, business-as-mission and tentmaker movements globally.
Our Simple Mission: Effective Disciple-making
In the Philippine house church movement, disciple-making is being done effectively through catalyzing simple church multiplication movements (CMM) across the nations. Our Lord Jesus trained his twelve apostles to do this “master plan for world evangelization” in and through the Jewish diaspora and they did it (Lk.9, 10)! The Apostle Paul did it, and in seven years he testified that he had no more people (Jews and Gentiles) to evangelize in the northern Mediterranean area (Rom. 15:18-20, cf. Ac.19:1-10)!
Effective disciple-making consists of seven simple steps, all of which can be done in 6-10 months by beginners, and less than one month by experts.
- 1. Make a second home. When disciple-makers arrive in any new place, they should quietly settle down in such a way that people they will invite later will feel comfortable to visit their new home. This includes: loving the people, learning the language, appreciating the culture and religion, and following their cultural customs as much as possible (1 Cor.9:19-23)! They should never criticize their host culture (esp. politics and religion) in front of them, even in private.
- 2. Make friends. The disciplers must aim to make 2-6 “best friends” (called “men of peace” in Lk.10:6). They must be approachable and sociable. They must be good conversationalists by being good listeners. They must spend much time with their new friends, making most of their interests their own, too. As much as possible, they must give gifts in special occasions, be hospitable and invite their friends to eat, cook or even sleep overnight at their place. Above all, they should help their friends in their time of need!
- 3. Make friends with leaders. They must try to make 1-2 leaders to be their friends, too. Upon arrival, they should visit key leaders and give them a gift or at least offer to help in community affairs. They must do their jobs well, as excellently as possible, and give extra free service sometimes. They should participate in community activities, volunteer as member or officer in working or planning committees, and share any suggestion for improvement with their leader-friends, and proceed only with their approval.
- 4. Make converts. When opportunity arises (and there will be plenty), the disciplers should be ready to share Jesus with these friends (1 Pet.3:15). According to their need or concern, they can share their testimony with them: how Jesus works in their life. Then they can share about the life and teachings of Jesus that are relevant for them (each one may need a different emphasis). Once they are sure that the friends truly want to follow Jesus as their leader, helper, forgiver and/or guide, they can invite them to be baptized; and when they freely consent, they can baptize them in private! The key is to be sure that the friends have changed their allegiance from idols (religious or material) to Jesus! If trained, they can opt to wait until the time is ripe for the converts’ whole family or whole community to be converted and baptized!
- 5. Make disciples. They then must disciple the 2-6 converts in one-on-one and small group discipling relationships. The more times they spend together right after their conversions, the better. There is no need to use any materials; they just urge the new believers to read the Bible in the language(s) they understand, and discuss their questions and insights with them. They must trust the Holy Spirit to speak to them through the Word, and they will have the wisdom to guide them to learn from the Bible (cf. Acts 20:28-32). For “Bible sharing” sessions, they just choose a short passage and ask, “What lesson or insight do you get out of this text?” and “How do we apply what we have learned?” The goal is to bring each one to spiritual maturity in Christ-likeness (Col.1:28-29), which is to live a life of obedience to God – a life full of agape-love/grace (out of sinful self-centeredness to sacrificial service for others, esp. the poor, cf. Matt.22:37-39; 25:31-46; Gal.6:1-10).
- 6. Make disciple-makers. As they are discipling their new converts, they should encourage the latter to make their own converts and disciples from among their own friends, relatives and neighbors, a few individuals or groups at a time. Their disciples can start discipling their own disciples by just following what they have been doing with them. The new disciplers just have to be a couple of steps ahead of their disciples! They should lead their own group and not bring their disciples to the discipler’s group. It’s best that they do not even visit their disciples’ groups. After all, their disciples will be growing spiritually faster as they learn to relate with Jesus and His Word directly, and as they lead their own group in our life-based (not material-based) interactive mutual learning model of discipling!
- 7. Make a planned exit. To disciple is to Model, Assist, Watch and Leave (M.A.W.L.)! This is actually step no. 1: to plan to exit as soon as possible, so that our disciples “graduate” to be our equals – disciple-makers and servant-leaders in their own right! The discipler’s role is just to be a mentor, guide or coach for a while, and then stop meeting them regularly and tell them, “Greater works you will do without me,” just like what Jesus told his disciples when he was about to leave them (Jn.14:12). They must not be surprised when their disciples (esp. the leader-types) do better (contextual) witness and multiplication than them! Of course, they can keep in touch with them, as Paul did with his disciples. Then God can send them to another unreached area, so that they can repeat the same process there!
In the Philippine HCM, we emphasize that our mission strategy is to plant a “people movement” that equips disciples to multiply simple biblical Christianity — contextualized, holistic and transformational “indigenous churches” that are truly replicable: self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating and self-theologizing. They will be planting “churches” that will be copied by future generations of Christians, so they should avoid transplanting denominational churches (= complex Christianity) which are often non-contextual (= foreign-looking), hence have almost always produced marginalized Christians who are separated from their communities — despised and rejected by their family and friends, not because of the Gospel but because of their extra-biblical forms.
So, we prefer that they will not encourage their disciples to attend an international fellowship or denominational church, if there is any, perhaps except in special occasions. They should just focus on making disciples and multiplying “simple churches,” for where two or three believers are gathered prayerfully, there is the church (Matt. 18:19-20)! They should encourage their disciples to just “gossip Jesus” and form small “disciple-making groups” among their friends and kin in their neighborhoods and work-places. They are to just do this spiritual “network marketing” of the Gospel from city to city – till the whole world knows and obeys Jesus!
Appendix: Transformation through Insider Movements
Actually, Jesus’ mission paradigm was “Insider Movements” (IM). His church multiplication movement (CMM) was radically contextualized – Jews multiplying disciples among Jews without creating another organized religious system parallel or counter to the synagogue (of early Judaism). He did not intend to found a new religion (though his simple spiritual transformation became a complex religious institution later on). He even had converts in Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and perhaps through them, Gamaliel, who were entrenched in the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish socio-political structure of his time!).
The early Christians followed the same pattern, too. They reached out to their compatriots as Jews to Jews within the Temple and synagogue structures of Jewish society, and just met “from house to house,” evangelizing and discipling a few households at a time. Within a few years of such IM, they had literally turned the Roman Empire upside down (Ac. 17:6 KJV). They did not create a clergy class, nor construct (or even rent) a religious building nor hold regular religious services, except to break bread weekly in their homes. It was the teaching and practice of the apostle Paul (perhaps the best model of a cross-cultural missionary) not to plant a growing “local church,” but an indigenous disciple-making movement in house churches that are formed by converts who did not have to be dislocated from their homes and communities (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). With just seven years of three missionary journeys, he claimed that he had no more region to evangelize “from Jerusalem to Illyricum” (Rom.15:18-20)!
This New Testament practice is not different from that of Old Testament (OT) Israel, which shows God’s design and structure for a reached, discipled or transformed people:
1) There were no local shrines or temples in each village or town.
(2) There were no weekly Sabbath worship services (synagogues came later in 200 B.C. for teaching Diaspora Jews).
(3) There were no weekly nor monthly collection of tithes and offerings. 1 Cor. 16:1-4 shows weekly collection in the early church were mainly for immediate survival needs, esp. of widows and orphans (cf. Ac. 6:1; Js. 1:27).
(4) There were no “full-time” clergy; the levitical priests were provided not just with cities, but also with pasturelands (Josh. 21). They were not exempt from being stewards of God’s resources, thus they were shepherds and cowboys to provide livestock products for their neighbors and nation (cf. 2 Thess. 3:6-10). This was how the priests learned to be expert butchers for animal sacrifices in the Temple.
(5) The OT Jews were required to celebrate communally as a people in the national Temple (note: God’s original design was a portable and transportable Tabernacle) only three times a year: Passover (= Holy Week), Pentecost (= church anniversary of each community) and Tabernacles (= Christmas or Harvest festival) (Dt. 16:16).
(6) The actual teaching and obedience of the “way of God’s righteousness” and the commemoration of the Passover Meal were in the homes (Dt. 6:1-11)!
Biblical Christianity is therefore structured as a network of simple churches (usually called “house churches”). It is not “churchless Christianity” nor “religionless Christianity, but “simple Christianity.” Its mission is to reproduce simple groups of Christ-worshippers without elaborate religiosity. Thus the mission statement of the Philippine house church movement is: “to multiply God’s church throughout the world, one household at a time.” This seeks to fulfill God’s covenants with Abraham that through him every family on earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:3, cf. Gal. 3:14, 29), and with Israel that she will be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6, cf. 1 Pet. 2:9-10).
Implications for 21st century mission
Our vision for societal transformation includes the following:
Political – We will work for the development of nations into model democracies, each with (a) a sovereign charter which encourages citizens to work in solidarity with their neighbors to promote national, regional and international interests, and in freedom to chart their internal and international policies; (b) clean and honest elections; (c) a multi-party system in which each party stands on a clear ideology and program of governance; (d) a properly-paid professional bureaucracy (civil service), police, military and impartial judiciary which all serve the people honestly, effectively and efficiently; and (e) a commitment to decentralization (principle of subsidiarity), to devolve decision-making to the lowest government unit possible, that is, groups of ten families each (cf. Exod. 18).
Goal: All will be truly empowered to participate in making the decisions that affect their lives in society (Ps. 113:7-9, cf. Dt. 17:14-20). Recommended strategy: strategic alliances with like-minded political advocacy groups.
Economic – We will work for economies where all basic needs are met, where all will enjoy affordable access to basic services, like education, housing, employment/livelihood, medical care, etc. All will have equal opportunity to gain wealth and be freed from poverty and injustice. Through wise policies, efficient government and honest business practices, the market will enhance our productive potentials through proper incentives for labor and profit, while also distributing justice, so that no one is exploited or oppressed, and all can share in the corporate prosperity of all. Such developmental stewardship includes the care of our environment, God’s gift for us and our future generations.
Goal: All will enjoy and share the fruit of their labors, and own a decent house and lot, as an inheritance for their children (Isa. 65:19-23, cf. Acts 4:34f). Recommended strategy: savings-based cooperatives, micro-, small & medium enterprise development, including ecological income-generating projects.
Social – We will work for societies that respect each one’s human rights –across gender, socio-economic, ethnic and religious lines, and settles disputes by dialogue/debate and not by violence. All will have the opportunity to develop their fullest character and professional potential — through a holistic educational system that encourages the development of loving personalities, disciplined lifestyles, sound pedagogy, professional work ethics, scientific research and creative arts. The media shall enjoy press freedom to inform, educate and entertain the people for their common good.
Goal: All will live in loving harmony as civilized and creative people (Rom. 12:9-13:10; 1 Tim. 2:1-2). Recommended strategy: leadership training programs for professionals and businesspeople on political advocacy.
Religious – We will work for societies where all are free to choose their own religion and propagate their religious beliefs as long as they do not disturb public peace. We will maintain a clear separation between church and state, yet both in close coordination and cooperation, whereby church leaders and bodies can participate in all civil affairs and even partisan politics (esp. when moral issues are involved), but short of making absolute claims to divine authority in political pronouncements.
Goal: All will be free to choose their religion (1 Pet. 3:15; Col. 4:5-6). Recommended strategy: inter-church (ecumenical) and inter-faith dialogues and development programs.
Note: As people mature spiritually to trust solely in Christ and Him alone, their faith will ultimately develop simple religiosity, each living for God’s glory in obedience to His will. They will be active in community services, with less and less need for religious services (Isa. 58:1-12; Mic. 6:6-8; Amos 5:21-24; Js. 2:14-26; 1 Jn. 3:16-18). With confidence of having everything good in Christ (for God is always near and loves them forever), they will walk with Jesus humbly with a disciple-making lifestyle without having to act religious or do religious rituals!