As the leader of Scriptures In Use, I often am asked what I consider a success in terms of new church plants. What is a “healthy” oral Bible house church? It’s always good to discuss this topic with our US based leaders but most importantly to seek the Lord and to seek out those who live, breathe and participate in these oral Bible house churches in the field, our indigenous men and women of peace.
Characteristics of Healthy Oral Bible House Churches
The following are some of the important characteristics of healthy oral Bible house churches that have been shared and frequently reinforced by our proven SIU Partners (the courageous, indigenous men and women of peace) in the field.
- Healthy oral Bible house churches tell stories that help people with their needs. The believers and storytellers in newly formed house churches must quickly learn to choose the right Bible stories to share. These stories should speak to the needs of those who listen among their families, friends and neighbors. These needs may be physical, spiritual or social. Well-chosen stories will change the lives of those who listen.
- Healthy oral Bible house churches memorize the stories they hear. All the house church’s participants should be actively learning and memorizing new Bible stories. Over the course of one year, most participants can memorize and accurately retell around 30 stories. New and gifted storytellers are encouraged to get more training at Bridges Training Hubs (regional training locations).
- Healthy oral Bible house churches pray often and closely obey God’s Scripture. They also follow the leading of God’s Spirit. Faithful believers in healthy house churches pray often and consistently. They pray on their own. They also pray together in their churches. These disciples obey the truth of God’s Word. They follow the teachings of Christ. They follow the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Healthy believers are motivated and joyful to share the message of Jesus and God’s Kingdom.
- Healthy oral Bible house churches experience joyful, reverent worship. Healthy new churches can easily be recognized by their inspiring worship of God. This is best expressed within the cultural context of the local community. Healthy churches are not afraid to develop songs, dance, poetry and drama based on Scripture to use in their gatherings. They also share these expressions where secure and appropriate with their unreached families, friends and neighbors. Healthy new believers hear the story, memorize the story, re-tell the story, sing the story, dramatize the story, dance the story and love the story. They joyfully “live the story” as a natural and spontaneous act of inspiring worship.
- Healthy oral Bible house churches love God and their neighbors. In John 13:34 Jesus says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Healthy storytelling churches are noted for their love for one another and for those around them. Healthy believers and house churches practice hospitality to neighbors and strangers. They reach out to those in need. They are actively encouraged by their leaders to love others. Joy and laughter that come from the love of God is a characteristic of every healthy storytelling house church.
- Healthy oral Bible house churches train all their believers. Healthy churches recognize that every believer in the church has a gift with which to serve God and others. These churches train every believer to serve God and others with their gifts. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Healthy churches encourage ALL believers to use their gifts.
- Healthy oral Bible churches are led by servants. Leaders of healthy oral Bible churches serve others like Jesus served others. These leaders care about people. The time they spend with people is very important to them. It is important to them to work with others as a team. They are servant leaders, not authoritarian leaders. Leaders of healthy oral Bible churches concentrate on empowering each member to grow in serving one another. Servant leaders focus most of their time on discipleship. They coach and mentor new leaders to multiply the Word of God throughout the community.
- Healthy oral Bible churches plant new oral Bible churches. Healthy oral Bible churches multiply. They reproduce by planting other oral Bible churches. They use Bible storytelling to make disciples in households of peace. They are faithful until these households of peace become storytelling house churches. The continuous multiplication of new storytelling groups is a key in healthy oral Bible churches. SIU’s Bridges I & II training provides a model for the development of storytellers and leaders within recently planted storytelling groups. Churches that continuously multiply understand that they must work in partnership with local church planting teams and other oral Bible churches. Oral Bible Church Planting Movements can be described in the following words:
In oral Bible house churches, every believer is a worker in God’s Kingdom!
What we like to say around SIU is:
- Every believer is a storyteller. Each believer can tell the stories they have learned.
- Every storyteller is a church planter. Each storyteller can gather those who listen to the stories into a new storytelling group within a new household. This gathering can become a house church.
- Every church planter is a trainer. Each storyteller who gathers a group together can train those in the storytelling group and oral Bible church. They train their disciples to multiply by sharing the stories with family, friends and neighbors.
Please share your thoughts or additional learnings about these characteristics of healthy oral Bible house churches, as well as any observations you might have. If you have a moment, we would really like to hear from you!