When Shepherds Leave

Someone once described the difference between cell churches and house churches by likening the purpose of the former to getting married for the sake of having children, and the latter to getting married after falling in love, and having children as a natural outcome. For both, evangelism is important, but it is the only goal of cell churches, while for house churches, it is a natural side effect of restoring the New Testament church.

Cells disband and are reorganized when they don’t multiply after a period of time, because cell church advocates believe that such cells are like cancer cells in a physical body that make the whole body sick. But house churches never disband simply because they’re not multiplying. They are true churches. You don’t close a church simply because it isn’t growing.

I have actually seen many cases where once-struggling house churches thrived and once-thriving churches dwindled to two members – the Shepherd and his wife. These things happen because of our policy of not allowing people who have lived in the Houston area for a long time to join our church, since most of them have been members of area churches. As a result, people who become Christians through our churches tend to be transient. They are students from Korea, medical doctors who came to Houston for training, or businessmen who were temporarily assigned to Houston.

This high turnover rate includes Shepherds. Until now, when Shepherds moved, a new Shepherd took over from within the house church. This practice will continue, but an exception will be made. When a house church has not attracted any new members for three years, instead of finding a successor in their house church, it will be disbanded.

The reason for this new policy has to do with reaching non-believers. If the same house church members have been together for a long time without bringing any new non-believers, they tend to form a clique. It becomes progressively harder for a stranger to join the group and evangelism will suffer. So we decided to take this drastic measure.

The policy concerning the supported missionary of a house church will change as well. When a house church disbands, their missionary will be evaluated before they are reassigned a new house church, because some missionaries were supported because they were friends of the Shepherds.

Even when they are supported by a new house church, the house church will adopt a new name to show that it is not a continuation of the old house church but a brand new one. Our Lord said that new wine must be stored in new wineskins.

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