Answering Questions about Our House Church Family

Answering Questions about Our House Church Family February 21, 2019
Image: Keith Giles
Someone asked me some questions about our house church in California and since I’ve already taken the time to write up these answers I thought I’d share them here on my blog, too.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, feel free to add your own in the comments.

Do you have a leadership team? Elder/Deacon board, or what?

No, nothing formal. However, we DO have people who function as elders and overseers/facilitators, we just don’t call them that or recognize these officially.

Why? Partly because we don’t want to create any artificial offices and create the impression that only a select few of us are authorized to serve in the Body. Everyone can serve without reservation or hesitation as God leads them.

What authority do you have over your church?

None, really. I mean, I suppose I do have influence, but not authority. In other words, I wouldn’t tell everyone “this is what we’re doing now” but I might make some suggestions and ask people to weigh in on the subject so we can decide what to do together.

This has changed since our first years together, however. At first, I really did mostly tell people what we were going to do. Now I always ask the Body to make decisions.

Who makes the decisions? 

We, the people, make most decisions together. On some issues people have requested that Wendy and I handle some things because they trust our judgement when it comes to working with the poor, etc. However, we try to involve them whenever possible.

For example: We recently went to the Body on a Sunday morning to ask whether we should use collected funds to help someone that we knew personally but not everyone in our Body knew them.

As we discussed the situation, we made sure that everyone knew that we were open to helping this person out of our own personal money and allow Mission funds to be designated for other things.

We all talked openly, people asked questions about the situation and the consensus among the Body was that we should go ahead and use our Mission funds to help this person out.

I WOULD ADD: We are striving to allow the Body to make decisions collectively rather than assign a few among us to decide for everyone else. So far this is has been wonderful and people appreciate being part of the process.

How do you handle church discipline?

Ah…here’s the real test of “leadership” in the Body, right? In the last 4 years we’ve had to employ church discipline about five times. In some cases Wendy and I handled this ourselves privately, but in most cases we involved others in our Body whom we felt could speak wisdom and truth to the person/persons who required the discipline. In other words, who would they most likely accept/receive loving advice and correction from? This is always based on relationship.

I would also add that there have been a few other times when Wendy and I were not involved at all but one brother would ask another brother out to coffee to inquire about the spiritual health and well-being of someone and to offer loving counsel and correction.

Those times are sweet and I love hearing about them after the fact.

How are your roles defined?

My role? I’ve intentionally worked very hard over the last 4 years to graduate myself from founding pastor of the Mission to one of the many active and contributing members of the Body. I am now officially one of the brothers in the Mission Family.

How does your church handle finances, offering, tithes, etc.?

We’re a cash only operation. We do not have a 501(c)3 and we do not have a church bank account. If people need to receive a tax break at the end of the year we encourage them to give their money somewhere else.

However, if people do give to our house church, we guarantee that 100% of every single penny given will go directly to help the poor in our community – and sometimes even others in our own church family who are in need.

We have complete transparency with all funds received and we give regular updates for how much is received, where it was spent and how it impacted people.

As people begin to see their offerings being used to help actual people in need, their desire to give increases and they become ‘hilarious givers’ to the work of compassion.

Why don’t you have a non-profit status?

Several reasons. First, we don’t need the state of California to tell us that we’re an official church. God has lavished us with His love and we have been called the children of God. That’s enough for us.

Second, since we do not use our funds to cover salaries, utilities, rent, etc. there is no benefit to us in receiving tax breaks. We do not operate as a business so there’s no need to register ourselves, or run ourselves, like a business.

Who is your pastor?

Jesus is our pastor. It used to be me, but I finally realized that the only leader among us was Jesus and since it was His church anyway, it was time to surrender things back over to Him. He’s done a much better job than I have, anyway.

Who is your spiritual covering?

Jesus is our spiritual covering. We do not require the authority of any person or denomination to make us an official Body of Christ. Jesus is what makes us a Church, and we are covered by His blood and filled with His Spirit.

The concept of Spiritual Covering is not a NT concept. Covering is not required, but accountability is. I am accountable to everyone in our Body, and they are accountable to one another and to me. We are also accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ for our behavior and our witness of Christ in the community.

Who does the preaching?

No one does. We do not have sermons, or a pulpit. We do spend a lot of time in the Scriptures together. Anyone who is present in the meeting has the authority to open God’s Word, share an insight, give a testimony, or encourage the Body as God’s Spirit leads. Our fellowship is blessed to have a great number of gifted teachers and once in a while one of them may bring us a study on a passage or a topic as God leads, but not every time, and not the same person every time.

Children, women, and men are all free to share from God’s Word with the rest of the Body and all are free to comment, agree, disagree, or continue the conversation as God leads.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Wendy and I have started a little Podcast called “Table Talk” to answer your questions about house church, and the new house church we are starting here in Idaho.
LISTEN HERE>
**
If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask below. I’d love to share what God is doing in our midst.

Peace,
Keith

**

Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Terry Tremwel

    Keith– How did you know it was time to leave Orange County, CA, and move to Idaho? How long ago was it? How did that transition go? What factored into that decision? How is the Body in OC doing now? Please tell more about your new adventure in Idaho.

  • John

    Interesting how all of those questions regard accountability, organizational structure and oversight. Traditional church folks do tend to get stuck on those when dealing with the house church movement. I’m more interested in the culture of your house church, and how people have acclimated to the format. Have you had much difficulty with people really “getting” what you are doing as they come out of a formal church structure? What routines, if any, do you have – communion, sharing, talking or discussion structure, meals together, communication, planning, etc.? When do you meet and for how long? How do you address small children, infants, families with kids? What other avenues of community and friendships have grown out of your church, meaning do people do things together outside of church and get involved in each others lives more as a result of being a part of your church? How does the teaching, looking at scripture together really work? What does the talking/discussion time look like? You mention this a bit above, but looking to get a feel for how it goes. Thanks.

  • robrecht

    Very interesting! I have a question about this:

    “We do not have a 501(c)3 and we do not have a church bank account. If people need to receive a tax break at the end of the year we encourage them to give their money somewhere else. …

    … since we do not use our funds to cover salaries, utilities, rent, etc. there is no benefit to us in receiving tax breaks.”

    I understand that your organization would not be be eligible for a tax break, but why wouldn’t you want your benefactors to receive a tax break? If the government wants to encourage charitable giving, why not allow your benefactors to participate in this?

  • robrecht

    Like John, I’m also interested in whether you have communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist? If so, is there any attempt to reach common agreement about the meaning of this practice?