House Church Manual William Tenny-Brittian
I was given this book by a colleague to begin a conversation we are having about house churches. With a title like House Church Manual, I assumed this would be a great how to guide for starting a house church. Unfortunately, that is not what I gleaned from reading it. Parts of it were helpful how to’s. Much more of this book reads like an infomercial for The House Church Network. I wanted more how to start/lead/sustain a house church and less use this specific form and attend this specific class.
This manual makes me feel like I am an alien who was dropped into a new place with a new language. This is not a good feeling for a pastor reading a book about church. Everything has its own acronyms. Everything is mentioned and (partially) explained in a different chapter or appendix. The first chapter is titled Basic Training, and yet, it seems like an introduction before basic training would have been helpful. Or maybe talking about the important parts of a house church and ending with basic training for starting one.
I love some of the ideas shared here. A prayer walk around one’s neighborhood is a way to pray for your neighbors and possible even get to know one’s neighbors. I love focusing on relationships within a faith community and with those who aren’t in our faith community. I love that meals are a central focus of the faith community. I love that each member of the house church is given the opportunity to do a spiritual gifts inventory to help discern where he/she is gifted and can best serve (44-45).
This book left me with many questions-
There was a big push for house churches to join together to form a network. This way the small groups could do everything a big group could do. It is beginning to feel like a non-house church. Which made me wonder what is different about this model? Wouldn’t those who object to the institutional church also object to this way of being church?
Why are children not included in worship? It seems like a house church is an ideal place for all ages. And although the guide encourages children to be part of worship, there are sentences like this one. “Toddlers and young children may stay in the same room and be given quiet toys or art supplies to keep them occupied during the House Church worship service” (22). Is it really our job to simply occupy children so the adults can worship? No, it is not!
According to the House Church Manual worship is to include praise, prayer, Scripture discussion, offering, and communion. Why only praise? I think it would benefit those leading a house church to read Bryan Sirchio’s book on worship music.
This book encourages growth in a house church by everyone inviting their “friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors (FRAN)” and when those people have all been invited to begin to build “an expanding network of friends (ENOF)” (26). While I believe we have good news to share as Christians, I don’t think we need to see every person we meet as a potential recruit. I believe we are called to see everyone we meet as a child of God. For me, there is a big difference in those two things. This book presented an us/them mentality. We (the believers) are trying to save them (the unbelievers-also called “irreligious and unchurched” by this author). To me, this is not a healthy way to view the world. [Read more…]