Household Evangelistic Project
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4. Household Evangelistic Project

Home-Based Parish Evangelism

HammerThe Household Evangelistic Project is a new approach to church growth based on the Early Church model of the extended Christian household. Jesus often spoke outdoors and indoor to smaller groups of listeners. A good example is Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-38, "When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them." Households are to be satellites of the local church that trains and nourishes Christians. Ideally, groups are mandated to divide and double their membership every two years. According to the late Archbishop Terence Finlay (1937-2017), the Archbishop of Toronto, the household should be a model of "relational evangelism." The Household of Faith is an ideal vehicle for home-based parish evangelism. The development group in the Diocese of Toronto prepared an internet manual designed to be a guide for parishes who choose to participate in this evangelistic project. The preparation group outlines the history of the project and its philosophical underpinnings. Some of the original impetus came merely from the felt need to better equip parishes for evangelism. Considering the possible consequences of the severe decline in traditional church attendance all over the Western Mainline Churches lent a sense of urgency in developing contingency plans for the provision of "churches without buildings."

House of Faith Diversity

Thatched HouseHousehold of Faith diversity would accommodate all churchmanships, whether evangelical, liberal, charismatic, or catholic. In its deliberations, the Household of Faith study group considered the demographic trends and the institutional church's future, particularly the steady numerical decline of those who attended and financially supported it. It needed to meet the specific needs of baby-boomers aged 55-73 in 2019 "millennials" aged 23-38 in 2019, and even the "Snowflakes" or children under ten. They need to have a relational focus instead of an institutional one, offer flexibility in worship, and attempt to address household of faith diversity in a secular culture to which folks are more likely to respond.

Accommodate Diversity

CathedralThe House of Faith can accommodate the diversity of churchmanship, whether Evangelical, Charismatic, or Catholic. House groups can be built in many different ways to satisfy this diversity with so many widely divergent interests and styles. Their precise shape and self-identification are always "contextual." The development group has worked hard to figure out how best to articulate this vision and develop the appropriate tools to support its implementation. Walking the group through some of the committee's documentation, Ron described how the household of faith would work within Episcopal and parish structures.

Faith House Experience

Each Household of Faith experience will hopefully become, in essence, an incentive to build a Christian identity in the community. Each experience will be limited to two years in that the Household of Faith movement is intended as transitional and continually changing as time goes by. Each household will agree to a two-year program and should not go beyond that time limit. Participants will contract to begin a new House of Faith at the end of this period. The development group is determined to ensure that the covenanting form and process is carefully thought out and documented.

Accountability and Connectedness

There are other issues of accountability and how a Household of Faith connects to the institutional church. The Area Bishop may play a vital role in the process and oversight of the process. Clergy may also play a key role in equipping the leaders, both in launching new Houses and preparing for their eventual "multiplication." As a point of clarification, the House of Faith initiative is different from the "house church movement," in which there is no structure or central organization. Instead, the latter model consists of independent home-based groups that sometimes grow into conventional congregations or often wither away. They usually fade away as the group ages or moves out. In contrast, the House of Faith will maintain a strong link to the structure and ministry.

House Faith Worship

Ancient HouseHow the Household of Faith can worship, pray, and grow like the Early Church vehicle of growth. It is sadly a neglected model today. The New Testament and Early Church until the middle of the fourth century AD derived great inspiration and energy from the household's central role in worship and community. House faith worship is an ancient but largely neglected model of Christian practice today. Beyond the theological rationales, the Household of Faith model's implementation could play an important role in three different circumstances.

Exponential Growth

House Faith Pastor

Household PresentationThe role of the House of Faith pastor or ordained minister is to provide mentoring training and communion to the Household of Faith group when appropriate. The Household of Faith is formed only with the full knowledge, blessing, guidance, and support of the worship congregation that is "home" to the house. Therefore, the pastor may be required to provide mentoring, training, and support for the household's leader. While not needing to attend House worship regularly, the pastor would preside at communion when and where appropriate. Each House of Faith would consist of a minimum of eight participants and a maximum of twelve. In an ideal configuration, the house would consist of a leader, a host, two other active or "core" parishioners, and four to eight others, including seekers, inactive or intermittent churchgoers.

Affirm and Maximize Faith

The preparation process would maximize the house's chances for a successful and blessed experience and affirm faith for committed Christians, newcomers, and lapsed members alike.

"Household Evangelistic Project"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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