A primary function of the training center is to provide instruction and training for would-be house church pastors and leaders and a act as a dispenser of current information and up-dates for pastors and leaders already in place.
The center should be prepared to teach the foundations of Christianity, as well as deeper subjects such as deliverance, inner healing and counseling. Each potential house church leader should undergo strict training before being ordained as a minister. This a necessary in order to maintain a high level of purity in the churches and to eliminate possible cults wherever possible.
The true church of God will all have the same beliefs and doctrines. Therefore, from the outset, it must be determined which doctrines are false and which are true. This is an important step. After agreeing, each pastor or potential pastor must agree to strictly adhere to these doctrines and practices that have been determined to be pure and true.
During times of persecution, Bibles and other publications may be scarce. True, no matter what the abundance of these items is, the government is likely to confiscate and destroy all Bibles and other Christian literature. Nonetheless, it is incumbent on the training center to produce as much as it can, especially during times of relative peace and liberty. During revival, it will be very helpful to have literature to distribute to the many new converts.
It is always helpful to print and distribute current news and to introduce other saints in the network, regardless of peace or persecution. The training center should be the central headquarters.
At the outset, may be profitable to print and distribute outlines on the foundational truths of Christianity, evangelism, spiritual warfare and the like.
Although there are no five-fold ministers today, at least in the mold of the early apostles, we believe that God will restore the five-fold ministry in His time. The training centers will serve as headquarters to send various workers, five-fold or not, to the mission field or remote areas to monitor the existing churches and help plant additional churches. The initial group should work as a team.
Over time and assuming that the house church movement is successful, there will be a time when house churches will spread out over a geographic area that is too wide and broad to maintain contact and communications. At this point, a second training center should be established to minister to the new house churches on the outer edges. Ultimately, there should be many training centers all over the city and region. This is precisely what happened in mainland China.
Chain of Command
As suggested earlier, there should be a chain of command in the shape of a triangle, with the regional head at the top, five or more regional leaders under him/her. Each regional leader will have five to ten provincial leaders under the and each provincial leader should have five area leaders under his/her command. In turn, each area leader should have five to ten house churches to tend to.
It should be emphasized that house churches work as a team. Everyone must contribute. Therefore, there must be a bonding of minds and hearts and a common vision. That vision should be concentrated on furthering the kingdom of God through evangelism and building the church. There are no prima donnas and those being trained for leadership should be reminded constantly of what Jesus said in Matthew 20:25-27:
… Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
The word “servant” is interpreted as “slave” in the original Greek. Those who are promoted to leadership roles are those who serve more. Anyone who covets titles and positions is disqualified. There is nothing wrong with desiring to serve and being promoted as a consequence; but to desire title for the sake of personal benefit is pride. Such persons can greatly damage the church by setting a bad example for the rest to follow.
Recommended Organizational Structure:
REGIONAL TRAINING CENTER
(Possibly the originating church)
FIVE REGIONAL LEADERS
Who each supervise:
FIVE ZONE LEADERS
Who each supervise:
FIVE DISTRICT LEADERS
Who each supervise:
FIVE AREAD LEADERS
Who each supervise:
FIVE HOUSE CHURCHES
Tithes and Offerings:
There are two recommended scenarios:
1. All tithes and offers go to the regional training center (that is tax-exempt where required).
Records are kept by the regional training center.
At year’s end, the regional training center provides receipts to each donor for tax purposes. Each donor can thus deduct the donated amounts from their taxable incomes.
2. Two possible ways for the regional training center to handle the funds:
A. Keep 10% for administration expenses and return 90% to the house church providing the tithes and offerings.
B. Or, allow the regional training center to re-distribute the funds to wherever it deems wise or necessary.
Additional Training Centers
As the numbers of house churches increases, additional training centers should be formed. These sub-centers do not have the same role as the Regional Training Center in terms of monitoring and tithes and offerings. However, this is not to say that these additional training centers remain static. In time, the need for another Regional Training Center may arise. The original regional training center must then duplicate itself by passing on responsibilities and duties to the new regional training center in terms of the house churches in the region to be supervised by the new center. No attempt should be made to control the new regional training center other than assisting, training and helping in other ways.
Training of House Church Pastors
There are many ways to train pastors and we only make suggestions and recommendations to assist those who are interested.
1. Emphasize love, obedience and service. Without love, all is lost. Without obedience, there is no outward evidence of love. Without service, there is no way to truly express love.
2. Teach prayer, fasting. The main idea is to connect up with God. Without a relationship with God, one cannot mature.
3. Teach on how to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and how to flow with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to live our lives for us.
4. Teach the six foundational truths found in Hebrews 6:1,2: Repentance, Faith, Baptisms, Laying On of Hands, Resurrection from the Dead, and Eternal Judgment.
5. In addition, teach Kingdom Living. We recommend Watchman Nee’s teachings on the Normal Christian Life.
6. Teach Spiritual Authority and Obedience. Again, we recommend Watchman Nee’s book entitled Spiritual Authority.
7. Teach Evangelism. Without evangelism, the house church format is dead in terms of world evangelism.
8. Teach Deliverance and Inner Healing. We are in a war against the kingdom of darkness.
9. Teach vision. Why house churches? Why evangelizing? Coming revival and persecution.
9. Teach networking and unity both within the house group and with other groups.
10. Teach on five-fold ministry and its proper role regarding subjection and cooperation.
APPENDIX N - OPEN FORMAT FOR MEETINGS AND SERVICES
CONDUCTING SERVICES AND MEETINGS
IN HOUSE CHURCHES
Changing the structure of the church from a traditional to a house church setting is just the beginning. The format or structure itself does not completely bring us back to the early church. We need to have the courage to change the way we handle services and/or meetings.
AN OPEN FORMAT
Traditional services usually involve the following sequence or some variation of it: (1) processional; (2) praise and worship; (3) scripture reading; (4) announcements; (5) collecting tithes and offerings; (6) a sermon or message; and (7) recessional. Pentecostal churches usually dispense with the processional, recessional and sometimes the scripture reading. Some are dressed in gowns and other traditional paraphernalia, light candles and have large pipe organs. However, the common trait is a spectator congregation that just sits and listens or is entertained. Very little participation by the people present is solicited and the main feature is the sermon or lesson for the day. In some churches, even the sermon or lesson for the day is a minor element compared to the singing and music. In some churches, sermons and teaching are limited to 15 minutes or less, as ordered by the church board. In other churches, the message is determined by a Prayer Book and is chosen from two or three topics already pre-set and decided upon by the authors.
Cell group meetings, even among Pentecostal churches, usually follow along similar lines: (a) opening prayer; (b) singing; (c) a sermon or teaching; and (d) sometimes prayer. As with the above services, the persons present are entertained or act as spectators for the most part and the leader establishes and format and content of the meeting.
As Watchman Nee claims, there is no evidence in the early church that sermons were ever given by a pastor or teacher from behind a pulpit. Certainly, there was a place for teachings and exhortations, but for the most part house churches followed what we call an “open” format. There was no pulpit preaching. In a number of cell group meetings this writer attended, the leader was the pastor of the church and he actually brought along his wooden pulpit.
In the “open” format, there is no set plan or order of service. The Holy Spirit is invited into the meeting and asked to speak through His people. As the Spirit moves, individual members get up and share, testify, give praise reports, quote a scripture, even give a short teaching. If they receive a word from God, they share it. It could be something they received at home or outside the meeting. It could also be a vision, dream, thought or a spoken word that God has given him or her. During the meeting or service, God may give someone a prophecy or message. Someone may have a song in his heart that he wants to share or feel that God wants them to sing a certain song. Another may stand up and announce that God wants everyone to pray for healing for certain people, or deliverance or blessings. Others may have a word of knowledge or wisdom. Some may have a revelation regarding scripture. Still another may have an announcement to make. Another may have a need.
The object is to depend on the Holy Spirit and to give Him the liberty to direct the meeting. The saints learn to expect the Holy Spirit to move in their minds and hearts. They learn how to receive from God and how to share publicly. Soon, they begin to move with certainty and boldness. There are no set formats and only a rough structure to maintain order. God is not a God of confusion. The pastor and leaders are coordinators and moderators, but direct the service as the Spirit moves.
At times, God may give the pastor or some other person an important message to share. This should be done without eliminating the other essential elements of public sharing and ministry inherent in an “open” format.
The above format has been used successfully even in large churches and there are books on the subject. Churches with a traditional foundation have also used the open church format; however, we find that it is most needed in the house church format.
While researching the Great Welsh Revival, Azusa Street Revival and other movements, this writer was struck with the common openness of church services. William Seymour and Frank Bartleman both shared that their services had no format or pre-arranged structure. The Holy Spirit moved freely among the people present and some would have visions, others would burst into song and it seemed that a heavenly choir had joined the singing. Sometimes, a word of knowledge or a prophecy would come forth. The services would go on and on into the wee hours of the morning, often without any guidance by the leaders present. Nobody wanted to leave.
Evan Roberts relates that he was invited speak at an evening service and when he arrived the church building was already filled to capacity. Outside the church building, a crowd had gathered. The crowd outside the church was bigger than the one inside the church. He was ushered to a front seat as people were already worshiping the Lord. The Holy Spirit was moving among the people. Songs would break out and both the people inside and outside the church would start singing beautifully. Sometimes it was as if a heavenly choir had joined them. The sounds were so wonderful that no earthly group could possibly have produced such singing. People would spontaneously run to the front and fall on their faces, begging to be saved. Amazing testimonies and praise reports were volunteered and people were healed and delivered with no human hands. When Evan Roberts left at midnight, he hadn’t spoken a word. The meeting went on to 3 in the morning. No one wanted to go home.
Evan Roberts was so attuned to the Holy Spirit that he rarely committed himself to speak at certain places until 24 hours before the meetings. God would change his itinerary so often that he dared not commit himself and then disappoint people when God changed his speaking engagements. In fact, the plan during the revival was not to plan.
In an open format, it is often unnecessary to use musical instruments. That is not to say that we should not use musical instruments. Musical instruments were widely used by God in worship, especially in the Old Testament. What is meant is that a house church should not be hampered by the fact that there are no good musicians in the group or no one has a musical instrument. When this writer was ministering among house churches in mainland China, most groups sang hymns without using musical instruments.
Certainly, if there are good musicians in the group and musical instruments, they should be used.
Unlike traditional churches with a clergy, the responsibility for the conduct of the church’s services and meetings is placed on the individual saints. Each must come to the meetings with the intention to share and testify to the goodness of God. Each must participate in some manner. The Holy Spirit wants to use each individual but He will not or cannot use people who are fearful or unwilling to participate because of embarrassment or some other reason. Those who desire to be used must overcome fear of rejection, embarrassment or shyness. This may take a few meetings. Of course, the new converts may require some “breaking in” time.
In a house church format, each member must contribute to the welfare of the group and be willing to be more than a mere spectator. The well-being of the group includes more than just sharing during services. The individual must be clear that he or she has the duty to see to the growth and expansion of the house church he or she attends. Duties must be eagerly assumed and carried out. If one desires power from God, he must also desire responsibility. One comes with the other and they cannot be separated.
This writing, however, addresses mostly the conduct of meetings and services and duties and leaves the enumeration of duties to others.
THE REASONS AND RESULTS
In a “open” format, the members learn how to receive from the Holy Spirit, how to respond and obey the urgings of the Spirit and how to share the Spirit’s thoughts or directions publicly. In addition, they learn to take responsibility for the welfare of the entire group. Their discernment and senses are sharpened by their desire to hear from God and to share. The behavior of the more mature members automatically teaches the younger ones to hear from God and respond. The Holy Spirit speaks all the time to each one of His saints, but the young in Christ often do not realize that it is the urging of the Holy Spirit when they notice a song coming to them or a thought, word or scripture. Therefore, they do not respond to the Holy Spirit.
Since one of the most urgent needs of the body of Christ is mature Christians that are able to hear from God and obey Him, the “open” format is a most effective tool in training the saints.
One of the most vital and vicarious benefits of the “open” format is the boldness that each member seems to receive from being invited to share at each meeting. Their willingness to obey God and speak out in church also trains them to be bold outside of the church. As faith increases they become more evangelistic than ever. The end result is an empowerment from God in each individual saint. The power is shifted from a paid or appointed clergy to each member. Recent reports speak of many miracles taking place during open services.
Our experience is that the presence of the Holy Spirit is much more evident in our open meetings than in the traditional meetings we once held. We believe that God wants us to go back to an “open” format as in the early house churches. We want to emphasize, however, that although the “open” format can be used in a big, traditional church, it is meant to be widely used in small house church groups, although there are many benefits, even in a larger church - say a church with more than a hundred members Large church meetings do not allow each member to participate and grow, although it is possible when meetings go on for hours. In fact, it is recommended that an open format be used wherever possible.
Each member must be clear that he or she has a responsibility and a duty to participate and not be just a spectator. God does not intend to just entertain. Each word from God must be as precise as possible. Sharing should be limited to no more than ten minutes since some members have hours and hours of stories to tell about the tragedies in their life. The members need to be as spontaneous as possible, but also need to discern what is from God, their own mind or the Devil.
There is room for mistakes since we learn from them. Every prophet remembers times when he spoke out of turn or erroneously, but they also know that they learned through their mistakes too. One of the objects is to learn how to flow with the Spirit.
Another benefit of such an open format is to relieve the pastor or leader from having to prepare a formal outline for each service or meeting. The teaching will come directly from God. This does not mean, however, that God never tells a leader in advance to prepare a lesson or message. He often does. Teaching or preaching can be easily incorporated into any meeting as the Spirit leads.
A RECENT PHENOMENON
It has been recently reported by Jim Rutz in his book entitled Megashift, that an unprecedented transfer of divine power is underway, from clerics into the hands of ordinary people. Other writers who research recent movements in the church, claim that there is a fast-growing house church movement that is gripping the world. Hundreds of thousands of house churches are being formed in countries such as Indonesia, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and many Third World countries besides China. At many of those meetings, the Holy Spirit would manifest Himself and speak through the members. The meetings eventually evolved into an open format because the Holy Spirit would just flow through the meetings. The plans of the leaders were never completed and in the end, they just gave up planning and began to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Zeal for sharing the gospel spread throughout the house churches and many new churches are springing up because of what is going on during services and meetings.
God is empowering each saint to preach the word with demonstration of signs and wonders following.
We too need to learn how to let God have His church back - not just structure, but how we approach God through our meetings and services. Let God be God. Give Him back His church.
THE FALSE VERSUS THE TRUE GOSPEL OF SALVATION
One of the most insidious and dangerous deceptions today is the new doctrine of salvation being promoted in the body of Christ in America and elsewhere. This false doctrine is drawing people into churches by the millions. The problem is - hardly anyone is being saved.
It is a gospel of blessings and prosperity. It goes something like this: “Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and He will bless you and give you everything you ever wanted in life.” It is a message of “I, I, I and Me, Me Me.” “Jesus wants you to have a good life and success in everything.” “He wants you to be well, rich, free from debt, healthy, wealthy, prominent, filled with peace and joy.”
This new gospel avoids any requirement of self-sacrifice and concentrates on fulfilling the desires of the flesh. It ignores the issue of sin and repentance and caters to the emotions. In order to entice people into church, the new wave of televangelists and pastors focus on short, funny sermons that avoid confrontation, conviction, judgment, exclusivity, scary, unbelievable messages. Instead, they give what the audience wants to hear. Take a survey and find out what the people want and then give it to them is the new technique.
In addition, be casual. Wear shorts, slippers, T-shirts, informal leisure wear and be one of the guys. Emphasize a relaxed, informal, casual atmosphere with lots of music and fun. Go drinking with your male members and engage in sports to show them that everything is fine and God wants us to have a good time. Establish many different programs on how to succeed and have a better life that appeal to a wide spectrum of members. Have gatherings for the singles and some for the divorced.
Many large churches are built on entertainment, self-fulfillment and self-esteem. The members remain carnal their entire lives and have no interest in self-sacrifice or denial. It is a false gospel.
THE TRUE GOSPEL
The true gospel is directly opposite. In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus said,
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
The true gospel speaks about giving your life to the Lord in order to follow Jesus into heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Jesus said further, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followed after me is not worthy of Me.” Verses 37-38 Salvation can cause family rifts and even require your life.
In the episode in Mark 10, where the rich, young ruler asked Jesus how to attain eternal life, Jesus replied, “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me.” The young ruler was unwilling and he walked away.
The Lord said in John 12:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” The ticket to heaven can cost you everything. “He that findeth his life shall lose it]: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” V. 39. Again, in Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus said,
… If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross; and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Indeed, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Perhaps a man does not know how great a treasure it is to escape hell. One can hardly know what hell is like if no one preaches about it. The modern gospel avoids talking about hell and damnation. After all, it makes one queasy and uncomfortable. How can one know of the inestimable value of saving your soul from hell if the church no longer speaks about hell? If one knows of the horror of eternal torture and the hopelessness of being thrown into the fires of hell, what would he be willing to pay for a ticket to heaven?
Jesus told two parables in Mt. 13. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In the next verse, Jesus talks about a man who found a pearl of great price and sold all he had to buy it. The complete surrender of all possessions is the essence of salvation. “I give up everything. I deny myself. I offer my life, both in terms of death, if need be, and in terms of obedience in life.” The pearl of great price is the saving grace of Jesus Christ that we are hopelessly undeserving of, but that we can claim as our own by denying ourselves, picking up our cross daily, and following Him. That is the true gospel.