For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20 RSV
The events leading up to our house church celebration were many. I had been surfing the Internet for some information on leadership training for elders in house churches. Through various links I came across a site dedicated to Simple Church (www.simplechurch.org). On this web site I read about Joseph Cartwright and his work with house churches in Dallas. What caught my attention was that his official position read “House Church Planting Catalyst” for the Dallas Baptist Association (SBC). There were Southern Baptists involved in starting Simple (house) Churches! The necessity to contact this individual became overwhelming. So I immediately emailed him regarding what we were doing in Calgary and questioned him on his work in Dallas.
Joseph responded to my email in a very short time. He requested my phone number so he could have time to talk to me. Within the week we had a chance to share over the phone the work he was doing in Dallas. I also had time to share what was happening here in Calgary. We found that we had mutual contacts that included Murray Moerman (Outreach Canada) Mike Steele (DAWN) and others in Canada who continue to be involved in starting home based churches. The Lord had provided a fellow pilgrim to walk with on this amazing journey.
Events that could only be arranged by God continued to occur. I had shared about Joseph Cartwright with Gerry Taillon (National Ministry Leader, CCSB) at one of the local CCSB church prayer meetings. Gerry indicated during our conversation that it might be worth having Joseph come and speak to us here in Calgary. As God continued to arrange events Joseph emailed me saying that he would be in Vancouver, BC (March 6-11, 2003) and was open to coming to Calgary for a few days if it could be arranged. God worked it all out according to His will.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 RSV
On March 9, 2003 our family picked up Joseph from the Calgary Airport. The leadership team for the Calgary Network of Home Church Ministries (www.bivomin.addr.com) had already arranged a Celebration time for that evening. We had many adults and a number of children involved in our gathering. Contacts were made with house church leaders in Airdrie as well as in various parts of Calgary. It was a time of fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer and teaching.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 RSV
Shortly after we shared the Lord’s Supper we had a time of sharing. We were blessed to be able to hear from Joseph about his work with home churches in Dallas. After he had shared his testimony the questions that were being held back by those in the circle began to gush forth. How does your network operate? What type of training materials do you use? Is there a particular outreach method that you have found effective? How are your elders/pastors supported? Are all your house churches affiliated with the DBA? The questions came from many directions. However, each of the questions seemed to seek an answer to the central question. How do our house churches become like the Church of Acts?
How does your network operate?
Joseph did his best to answer each of the questions posed. He shared about how the network he is working with operates. One of the key ideas that came forth was his concept of “Learning Communities”. These communities are designed to help individuals strengthen their spiritual giftedness. He has begun starting learning communities for those with apostolic giftings, prophetic giftings, evangelical giftings, pastoral giftings and teaching giftings. These learning communities are being mentored so that future leadership will be raised up in the house churches in Dallas. Many of these mentors are pastors recruited for these ministries from traditional churches.
And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, Ephesians 4: 11-12 RSV
What type of training material do you use?
Training material among house churches has been as varied as the house churches themselves. The primary material has and will always be the Bible. This brought an assurance to me that the house churches in Dallas have been seeking the right path to follow. Some house churches have used material to enhance their study of scripture but the main focus has been the Bible.
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 RSV
Is there a particular outreach method you use?
House Churches in Dallas have been using a very effective outreach method. They have been developing relationships. This method has not been a short term project. These people have been investing their lives into the ministry that God has called them.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10 RSV
How are your elders/pastors supported?
This discussion was raised because of the busyness of each of our leaders lives. Joseph shared regarding his own dilemma. He has been supported by the DBA as a House Church Planting Catalyst but has been in the process of becoming bivocational. A number of the house church leaders in his network are former pastors who are intentionally bivocational. There only financial support has come from their secular work. As well, a large portion of their ministry also comes through their work. The question about support was never truly answered but raised the need to continue the discussion on how to integrate work and ministry.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2: 15 RSV
Are all your house churches affiliated with the DBA?
Joseph shared that his initial call was to start house churches that would affiliate with the DBA. As he has been involved in starting new house churches some have affiliated with the DBA. However, others have not been interested in affiliating with any traditional denomination. Each house church is independent of any other house church and will make that decision according to a concensus within their church.
and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 RSV
There were many more questions raised than answers provided. But the opportunity to hear what God has been doing in other parts of North America was inspiring. Through spending time with Joseph I felt confirmation regarding the work we have been doing here in Calgary. Our Network has defined three strands for our house churches. These three strands define our basic DNA. Our Network of house churches will be Biblical, Relational and Missionary. Each of these strands works with the other to strengthen our house church networks. May God continue to call His workers to the harvest.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, they are warm; but how can one be warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4: 9 -12 RSV
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10 Apr 2003
AMEN!! Thank you for sharing! My prayer is that this will stir the hearts of all who read it and inspire the growth of more home churches! I believe this is God's timing and purpose for such an hour as this.