Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco and check out the house church network (We Are Church) led by Francis Chan. I was incredibly encouraged by the visit and left the trip feeling hopeful for the future of the church.
Francis Chan is a well-known Christian author and speaker, he previously pastored a megachurch in California but felt increasingly uneasy about how they were doing church. He struggled to reconcile the American way of doing church versus what he saw in the scriptures. After much prayer and thought, he left his church and began a journey of following Jesus into the unknown. During this time, he encountered Christians in Asia who were living out their faith in simple, yet powerful expressions that resembled the book of Acts. This gave him hope that it was possible to see New Testament Christianity happen in the 21st century.
He and his family moved to San Francisco and have been experimenting what it looks like to do church differently in the States. They currently have 17 house churches with a monthly gathering at a local park. There are no ministry expenses and no paid staff. It?s different? but it?s working. Here were some things I learned:
- They have a strong culture. Many people will say that you need a weekly service in order to establish a strong culture with Kingdom values and DNA. But what I saw in San Francisco was the power of life-on-life discipleship and intentional leadership development. They didn?t rely on a weekly service to build the culture, it was through relationships. This is obviously aided by Chan?s strong leadership presence and gifting, but it didn?t feel out of reach for the average leader.
- The worship is simple. In today?s culture, worship music is better than ever before. Many church bands are on par with the quality of secular music. You can visit a large church and feel like you?re at a rock concert, complete with fog machines, fancy lights and beat tracks. All that can be good, but it?s also complicated. The worship at We Are Church was incredibly simple- focus on Jesus and seek Him together. You don?t need a musician, you don?t need speakers- you just need worshippers. Loved it.
- Scripture is central. Their church carries a passion for the Word. They try to read the entire Bible every year. In their house church meetings, the discussion is based on that week?s reading of scripture. They discuss what they read and how to apply it to their lives. I love that their focus is purely on the Word, and not on a sermon.
- They give generously. Personally, I was most convicted with this reality. Since they don?t have ministry expenses, they are able to give away their resources to those in need. While I was there, they had just given away $300,000 to a missions group focused on kids in Africa. Wow! A church of 250 giving away that kind of money is unheard of!
- Growth has plateaued. Their original goal was to multiply groups on a regular basis, and that happened until they reached 17 groups and about 250 people. This is a common growth barrier for churches to overcome, and they are expanding across the Bay Area to address this issue. I believe they can continue to grow, but it will take intentionality to understand why the growth has stopped.
I applaud the initiative of We Are Church to innovate what Church in America could look like, and I believe that it could be the future. Some believe it?s not possible to do church this way in America, but I believe that it has to be! The population of the United States increases by 2 million every year and the church isn?t keeping up with that growth. The church expanded without limit in the New Testament and I believe that it can happen today. Let it be!
If you are interested in leading a house church, check out my other article ?The 4 Components of Leading a House Church?
If you would like coaching or consulting for house churches, shoot me an email at [email protected].