Recently, I spent some time with Chad and Leslie, a missionary couple, who have served in both India and China. In both of these nations, the House Church Movement is rocking the communities wherever a House Church is planted. I was curious why the House Church is doing so well there, but is only just beginning to ramp up over here—and the ramp up seems agonizingly slow. I believe the answer can be found in the way we teach and the choices we make about what we teach.
In both India and China, many of the House Church leaders are illiterate. They cannot write and they cannot read. One might think the question would be how to teach the Gospel to people who cannot read scripture? But in our society, that probably wouldn’t be the burning question. The key question for most in the North American church would be, “How can we possibly raise up (read that as “trust”) illiterates to lead the church?”
But it’s exactly this kind of teaching that I believe is the key to raising up effect church leaders.
Chad and Leslie said that the House Church leaders are taught the Scriptures by repetition. In the House Churches they’ve visited and the training they received in both India and China, they’ve seen this in action. A leader will teach a story from the Bible and then ask the House Church participants to repeat it back. If they leave anything out (or add anything in), they are corrected and asked to repeat the story. When they have it right, they repeat it a couple of more times and then they’re instructed to go and tell a seeker or an unbeliever the story. When they return the next week, if they haven’t told the story to anyone, the same lesson is repeated and they’re sent out again. Then, when they’ve shared the story, the leader will ask them to repeat what they taught. If they got it right, they move on to the next lesson. If they told the story wrong, they repeat the lesson until they get it right and then are instructed to go and correct everyone they taught.
There are a couple of clear advantages to this kind of teaching. First, it depends on repetition. The fact is, most of us in North America don’t really know the Bible stories all that well. By repeating the story until we get it right, we lock it into our minds as a handy reference tool.
The second advantage is found in the requirement to share the story with seekers and unbelievers. Jesus said it was our job to scatter the seed—it’s God’s job to grow it. But the seed we’re supposed to be scattering all across North America seems largely to be stored in an airtight seed warehouse called the church—and the House Church isn’t exempt from the indictment.
A third advantage is found in accountability. When each House Church participant returns, they give an accounting of what they’ve done—or not done, as the case may be. If they’ve done well, the next lesson is taught. If they’ve not done well, they are re-taught and re-deployed until they’ve been faithful with what has been entrusted to them.
The fact is, a similar three-step method was used by Jesus to train His disciples. For instance, Jesus teaches His disciples in Luke 9 how to heal, cast out demons, and how to share the Gospel. Then in Luke 10 we see Jesus sending them out two-by-two to heal the sick and to announce the Kingdom of God. Then, when the disciples return, they give an accounting of their actions and a report of the fruit of their faithfulness. Teach, send, and hold accountable. It seems to me, we could learn something from both the Scriptures and from our brothers and sisters who are reaching thousands for Jesus and then planting House Churches using this same method.
Imagine what our churches would look like if next week we taught each of our House Churches how to pray for their neighbors and then sent them out to do it during the week. What would the results be if we were faithful—really faithful—in this one task? I suspect we’d start seeing the increase like those around the world. And who knows, the Yellow Brick Road to the Kingdom might come into sight when we did.