plant a church

Experimental House Church

Experimental House Church (a work in progress)

By R. Cody Smith (also a work in progress)

House Church Planting Missionary Work“What do you mean, experimental house church? Are you saying, you don’t know what your doing?” Yep, that’s correct, and I’m trying real hard to become an expert at it!

At first it was a little disconcerting, but I’ve grown to like the concept very much. It seems that the more I think I know, the more likely it is, that I’ve left God behind, somewhere in my wake. By not knowing—and proud of it—I have purposely left all the important decisions up to the one who really does know—God.

Please don’t misunderstand, I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck (too easy)—no—I’ve lived long and studied hard to discover just how little I really know.

The following however, are some things that I’ve picked up along the way. I think God has showed me some; the others just make a lot sense to me and seem to work. You’ll have to decide for yourself, which is which. I guess we could also call this, “Everything I Think I Know About Starting a House Church.”


Let’s get real and not start out by kidding ourselves about the possibilities (nil) of a prayer-less ministry. Having tried and failed at all other methods I am convinced that the most important thing I can ever do, is to pray.

I personally find consistency in prayer to be one of the biggest challenges in my life. If I’m not vigilant, my lofty goals can easily slip on down my list of things to do, and show up somewhere after “check your email.” More often than not prayer requires a lot of discipline and often resembles plain old hard work. Sometimes it helps me to think of prayer as the heavy lifting of ministry. I imagine myself lying on the bench in a pool of sweat, my biceps are quivering and burning under the strain, just one more repetition, 350 pounds of dead weight slowly climbs aloft, and clink, finds its way onto the rack. Another prayer sent home…

Prayer also enables me to work from daily guidance, remember, even Jesus only did what he saw the father doing. One day is about all I can usually handle anyway. When I get too far ahead of myself I am easily overwhelmed by the possibilities. Simple obedience is always easier, like falling out of bed. Why make things more difficult? One day at a time.

Praying for the lost has the added benefit of allowing God to work his way in my own heart, enabling me to begin to love them just the way they are, just the way God loves them too. The Kingdom is for everyone who God is calling, not just the good candidates, not just the ones I like personally.

Some church planting experts have pointed out that intention is an essential part of beginning a church movement. Ok I agree, It’s sort of like tennis, if I hit the ball without a thought of where I want it to go, it could end up just about anywhere (usually does).

There is a difference between being intentional, and developing programs with five-year plans, and the balance is struck in prayer. So I say, by all means pray, and pray intentionally; pray with a purpose, pray specifically that God will fulfill the vision set before us. He wants us to succeed even more than we do, but please let’s not make our plans in a boardroom and then expect him to give u some kind of rubberstamp approval after the fact.

Pray for and expect miracles, but if they don’t come right away don’t worry, we’re going to need a lot of maturity on order to respond well when they do.


Do less, be more: When you get that gnawing feeling that you should be doing something, don’t. Just as Jesus did only what he saw the father doing, be patient and wait on the Lord, then do only what he shows you. One simple act of obedience can accomplish more in the Kingdom of God than years of toil in the flesh.

Be an ambassador. If a stranger came to my hood and asked to meet the “Man of God,” would he be directed to my house? Everyone knows who an ambassador is, and what he represents. Preach the Gospel on all occasions, use words when necessary” (Mother Teresa). Remember, you and I may be the only Jesus they ever meet.

Humility is of key importance. Beyond what I say I believe, I must truly understand and live as though there is absolutely nothing that I can do for God. He is fully capable of accomplishing whatever he wants. The only thing left to me, and that by grace alone is that I would be a true disciple of Christ, waiting on his every command.

Be yourself at all times, get beyond what other people think about you and persist against all odds to fulfill what God has put in your heart to do. Being a pioneer is lonely work at times and can be compared to swimming upstream, when the current is strongest and our strength fails, the most natural thing in the world would be to give in and go back to the status quo, mainstream current flow.

The late Keith Green, a radical—ahead of his time—pioneer, continues to inspire me by his own personal motto—“NO COMPROMISE.”

The house church strategy doesn’t change anyone; people only become changed when they meet Jesus. It’s Christ in you, having communion with Christ in me—God becoming flesh once again in our midst—that creates a Body relationship that is indispensable to authentic Christian living. Be the Body of Christ with others.


Church planting is really more of a strategy rather than a goal. Our real purpose is to be obedient to what Jesus actually commanded us to do and that is to, make disciples. In another place he also clearly stated, “and I will build my church.” I guess that means I can just be a disciple, invest myself in the lives of others, and leave the rest up to him. Wow, what a relief!

In the New Testament there are to be found at least twenty-two instances where we are clearly instructed on how to share relationships with other believers. Sometimes known as the “one anothers” They include such commands as: loving (Jn13:34), forgiving (Eph 4:32), honoring (Ro 15:7), sharing with (Heb 13:16), encouraging (Heb 3:13), and even confessing our sins (Jas 5:16), all to be done, to, for, and or, with one another. If seems certain, that if there is one activity of the church that brings joy to the heart of God, it would be the regular practice of “one anothering.”


Keep it simple: Jesus said, “we need to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of God.” I’m taking him at his word on this one. If little children can get it, it must be simple. Of course simple is not the same as easy, and generally the more church experience you have the harder it’s going to be (it’s the unlearning curve). Be spontaneous, avoid organizing, and avoid repetition. Get the pulse of the Holy Spirit. Meet when you are led and when you have something to do. Perhaps weekly is too often. Variety is important.

Church should be fun most the time. “Emerging Church” guru Andrew Jones describes his innovative work quite simply as, “throwing parties, telling stories, and making friends.” That’s so clever, I wish I had been the one to say it.


Proximity matters: Great community requires ongoing contact (daily is good). I have a dear brother who lives across town. We get together about every two weeks, and while we enjoy our infrequent fellowship, it seems we spend most of our time together catching up instead of going forward. On the other hand there are people on my street that I see several times a day. So why not work locally? Drop that net in the shallow water of your own hood. Anyone who breathes is a potential candidate for the kingdom.

The meetings between meetings that occur informally are of vital importance, church as community is meant to be a way of life 24/7.

Be church with your own family first. Then you can simply add new people when they show up. It amazes me to hear of professional ministers who neglect the spiritual life of their own family while busily pursuing loftier goals such as church expansion or the great commission.

Start with your own heart felt desire for a community of loving friends. That’s what they’re looking for too.


Thou shalt have no agenda for my people. Sounds more authoritative in King James English doesn’t it? When I have a plan for someone else’s life, it usually doesn’t take them long to figure it out. A Christian with an agenda is just about as welcome as a multilevel marketer. Purge from your heart any hidden design that you may have for the people that God has sent you. Don’t see them for the gifts they bring, nor as a means of populating your program. People can smell wrong motives a mile away. Yours must truly be a reflection of God’s only motive, selfless love.


(a miscellaneous collection—not a bowl of stinky flower petals and spices) Start discipling them even before they believe. First they belong then they become saved.

“Never do anything a one week old Christian couldn’t do on his own.” Felicity Dale.

Everybody is a priest and an evangelist: sharing your testimony keeps it fresh for you, seeing others experience salvation will keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

Trust God in others long before you think of trusting them as people.


  • Pray
  • Be
  • Make
  • Kiss
  • Community
  • Freedom
  • Potpourri

That’s seven, the perfect number, so I’ll stop here. I’m certain you’re going to have some ideas of your own to add to this list.


Just memorize this tongue twister acronym, and perhaps some day you’ll know as little as I do. PBMKCFP, more than vowel-less prattle is actually the phonetic spelling of the Klingon word for spontaneous growth.