House church members are allowed to switch to another house church only once, during the first 6 months after they join our church. Afterwards, they may not switch. The reason for this is that the house church is a place where people are trained to conform to the image of Christ. People become like Christ through conflict. We change as we work to get along with people whose temperaments are very different from our own or try to love people who hurt us. People usually leave house churches because they can’t handle conflict. If everyone is allowed to do so whenever conflicts arise, we will never learn to become like Christ.
There are exceptions to this rule. When members move a long distance or when shepherds judge that members do not have the maturity to resolve their conflicts, the shepherds may arrange for members to join another house church.
I wrote a Pastor’s Corner on June 19th called “Switching House Churches”, but there still seems to be some misunderstanding about the proper procedure; I hear about issues between shepherds and house church members caused by people switching groups. Sometimes the blame falls on house church members who simply leave their house churches. At other times the blame falls on shepherds who accept people from other house churches without going through the right process. I want to make the procedure for switching house churches as simple as possible.
So from now on, house church members can join other house churches only with a recommendation from their shepherd. (Needless to say, there should be discussion between the shepherds of the involved house churches beforehand.) This recommendation must be made in writing, not just verbally. Shepherds must firmly refuse people from other house churches unless they carry a written recommendation from the other shepherd.
In American churches, people bring their membership to another church when they move. But in Korean-American churches there is no such procedure. People leave and join churches freely. Many churches welcome new members without asking questions about their previous church membership. This lack of proper procedure makes church discipline impossible because people simply leave their church for another church that welcomes them with open arms when they are about to be disciplined.
To build a healthy church, I believe that we must follow the example of American churches, by making changes in house church membership only possible with a recommendation letter from their previous shepherd. This will give shepherds more authority as lay pastors, help members understand that house churches are autonomous churches, and discourage people from leaving house churches on a whim.
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