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 Christ often spoke outdoor and indoors 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 intended to be satellites of the local church that trains and nourishes Christians. Ideally, households are mandated to divide and double their membership every two years. According to the late Archbishop Terence Finlay (1937-2017) the Archbishop of Toronto, they are intended to 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 that may be used as a guide for parishes who choose to participate in this evangelistic project. The history of the project and its philosophical underpinnings are outlined by the preparation group. Some of the original impetus came simply from the felt need to better equip parishes for evangelism. Consideration of the possible consequences of the serious 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 Faith Diversity

Thatched HouseHouse 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 future of the institutional church, in particular, the steady numerical decline of those who attended and financially supported it. It needed to meet the express needs of baby-boomers aged 55-73 in 2019, "millennials" aged 23-38 in 2019 and even the "Snowflakes" or children under ten to have a relational focus as opposed to an institutional one, to offer flexibility in styles of worship, and to attempt to address household of faith diversity in a secular culture in terms that folks are more likely to respond to.

Accommodate Diversity

CathedralThe House of Faith can accommodate the diversity of churchmanship whether Evangelical, Charismatic or Catholic. House groups can be constituted 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 to 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 the context of Episcopal and parish structures.

Faith House Experience

Each faith house experience will hopefully become in essence an incentive to build a Christian identity in the community. Each Faith House experience will be time-limited in that the Household of Faith movement is intended as transitional and constantly 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 House of Faith will be connected to the institutional church. The Area Bishop may play a key role in the process and oversight of the process. Clergy may also conduct a key role in equipping the leaders, both in launching new Houses and in preparation 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. Rather, the latter model consists of independent home-based groups that sometimes grow into conventional congregations or often wither away. Normally they wither away as the group ages or moves away. In contrast, the House of Faith will maintain a firm link to the structure and ministry of a congregation.

House Faith Worship

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

Exponential Growth

House Faith Pastor

Household PresentationThe role of the house faith pastor or ordained minister is to provide mentoring training and communion to the Household of Faith group when appropriate. The House of Faith is formed only with the full knowledge, blessing and with the guidance and support of the worshipping congregation that is "home" to the House. The pastor may, therefore, be required to provide mentoring, training, and support for the leader of the House. 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, and two other active or "core" parishioners, and from 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, to affirm faith for committed Christians, newcomers, and lapsed members alike.

"Household Evangelistic Project"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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