|One of the more difficult things in the organic church movement is lack of numerical growth. No, this doesn’t mean the movement as a whole isn’t multiplying. It is. But sometimes, individual house churches either stagnate or seem to stagnate. What’s going on?Well, there’s a number of things. Sometimes we’re too eager for numerical growth. Sometimes we’re not actively making disciples apart from our house churches. Sometimes, a house church is in its golden years and, at some point, will die and open the door for a whole new crop of house churches.
There’s a Time for Everything
Excerpted from King Solomon’s writings; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
While the answers to this question are not cut and dry, here are a few things to consider or things you can proactively do when stagnation sets in.
- Enjoy the golden years: My community is a 4th generation house church. While I think we may have some more reproducing to do, menopause may have already kicked in. Every church has a life cycle: birth, growth, stability, decline, death. Referring to his death, Yeshua (Jesus) said, “…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (Jn 12:24). I have several theological reasons to believe this cycle occurs at the community level as well. Don’t fight it; the golden years are some of the best.
- Make disciples: Remember, Yeshua will build his church (Mt 16:18). Our job is to make disciples. Never ever think poorly of your community because it’s not growing. Let it be. If you want to do something (and we all should), pray for the lost, scatter lots of Kingdom seed, and begin discipling those who respond. I guarantee that if this is happening, your church won’t stagnate for long.
- Start another fellowship: There’s no reason why you can’t take part in an existing community and start another one; Paul the apostle made a regular practice of it. I may be in the middle of starting another community myself, but I’m still discerning. The disciples I’m making are just on the cusp of taking that next step.
- Talk openly with your community: Sometimes, fellowships close up because of past hurts. Allowing others to join opens the door to additional pain. When this happens, be sensitive. Before inviting new people, ask your fellowship if it’s okay. If they say yes, then proceed accordingly. If they say no, that’s the time to gently ask why and address the issue. If the answer remains no for too long, make some more disciples and start another community.
- Remember who’s in charge: Yahweh is, you’re not. Sometimes I think we need to take a collective chill pill. My eldest son just entered high school. He’s going to try out for the baseball team and I think he needs to gain a little weight. Every once in a while, I’ll get on to him about taking protein supplements. When I feel my “pushing” get a little out of hand, here’s what I try to remember. First, there are seasons for growth (he has yet to hit his pubescent growth spurt). Second, artificial growth has it’s dangers. Third, my un-contentment can sometimes send the wrong message – I don’t like you the way you are.
As you press forward, just remember that if you scatter lots of Kingdom seed and keep yourself close to Yeshua (Jesus), good things will happen. And no matter what, let’s keep things in perspective: we’re nothing really. Paul writes, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor 3:6, 7).