Growing the Church . . . at Home

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Given the impact that the phenomenon called COVID-19 is having on us and the need to respond as a church to this new reality, we recognize, among other things, the great opportunity to fulfill the mission that the Lord Jesus Christ commands us. Likewise, we reaffirm that the church is not a building or house of prayer where we have gathered week after week through the years, but rather the group of believers wherever they may be.

In response to this ongoing reality we’re facing, we present to you the biblical foundations of our faith and the strategies to establish family groups for personal evangelism and local church growth.

Biblical foundations

Every Christian mission must look for its roots in the redemptive revelation of God, contained in the Holy Scriptures. There we find its origin, the source of its inspiration and reason for being.

The statements we list below are simple points that support the biblical-theological framework for the work of family groups.

God has a plan that He is carrying out. As the Word revealed by God throughout history, the Bible communicates the immense love of God and His decision to redeem creation from the slavery of sin. It reveals the constant presence of God and His powerful intervention in human life as He saves and liberates throughout history (Genesis 12:3; Psalm 96; Isaiah 55; 65:16-25; Acts 17:24-31; Romans 8:19-23; Ephesians 1:3, 4; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 20:1-4).

Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the universe. According to the ancient promises and proclamations of the prophets, Jesus is a sacrifice for sin, achieving the redemption of the world. Jesus Christ is the only way, sufficient and perfect to reconcile and save the lost, thanks to His death and glorious resurrection.

Because of these two monumental events, God has re-exalted Jesus as Lord. He reigns with full power and lordship over all creation, especially over His church, to reconcile in Him all things (Matthew 28:18; John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 2:22-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:17-23; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 1:9-19; Hebrews 13:8; 1 Peter 1:18-21; 2:21-25).

The church has a mission. In their call and redemption, Jesus’ community of faith has a reason of their own to be sent. The Lord has charged them to proclaim good news and become a sign of the kingdom of God in the world. The church is commissioned to be salt and light in a corrupted, dark place, announcing the gospel of Christ to the lost. In short, the community of faith is sent to preach, to serve, and to give themselves just as our Savior, Lord, and Master did (Matthew 5:14-16; 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:9; John 20:21).

Each believer is a minister. Throughout the Bible, we discover God’s purpose for every human being. In all His chosen people, He looks for personal sacrifice in obedience and love toward Him. God’s divine desire is to form people made up of holy priests and ministers who will serve for the benefit of others.

In the New Testament, we find a clear calling for each believer to become a servant (minister: diakonos) and slave (doulos) who embodies the gospel’s redemptive purpose. This means that every believer is called to exercise their ministry to edify the body of Christ. This ministry consists of being sent out, of becoming a living witness of the faith in evangelizing and personal discipleship, teaching the gospel, and sharing the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:10; 20:6).

The family is our foundation. The ministry of all believers is a family (home) experience in the New Testament context, except when particular conditions occur in the church, such as persecution.

At home, Christians have their first opportunity to make their faith and preaching a reality — to give a coherent and authentic testimony of what Christ has done in their lives (1 Timothy 5:8). When a family is willing to go beyond preaching and serve others, the Lord will provide what they need to accomplish their ministry. In a world that increasingly confuses moral and spiritual values, the Christian family must emerge as a healthy and pure reality of love and trust in God (Philippians 2:15).

From our homes, the teacher develops skills, and testimonies solidify. In this environment and beyond, we can proclaim the love and salvation that the Lord has made a reality in us (Acts 10:1, 24, 30, 33; 16:31; Mark 5:19; Luke 5:19; John 4:53; Matthew 5:16).

Definitions

Before we cover strategies for effective family groups, let’s briefly define a few terms.

Family groups for church growth system: a method, based on the Bible, that helps the church fulfill God’s mission in five main areas: evangelism, worship, edification, communion, and service.

Family group: A gathering of five to twenty people who meet once a week in a member’s house in order to fulfill the mission of the church.

Goal of a family group: to bring new believers into the body of Christ, to baptize and disciple them. Once this is accomplished, the group should multiply into other groups as much as possible. The lifespan of the family group lasts until it stops being productive.

Strategies

Forming a family group

The group is made up of two or three church families who live close to each other. One of those families is the host of the group. A responsible leader should be in charge of sharing the Word of God. A musician should lead in worship.

Operating a family group

Church members who make up the group must

  • choose a day and time to meet weekly, preferably on non-established worship days;
  • meet for an average of one hour each week;
  • focus on the Word of God and teach it.

Group members are encouraged to bring guests, who may be their own unconverted family members, friends, or neighbors.

Work of the local pastor in the family group system

A pastor committed to the work of groups must

  • encourage the congregation to open their homes to establish groups;
  • make sure that all members are part of at least one family group;
  • appoint responsible leaders for each group;
  • train leaders on their weekly topic;
  • supervise the development of each group so that it fulfills its purpose.

Key factors for a family group to achieve its purpose

  • Each pastor must be seriously committed and involved with evangelization.
  • Every member of a local church must belong to at least one family group.
  • Members of the group should invite guests.
  • Allow the Word of God to be preached at each meeting.

With these strategies in place, we can reach the world with the gospel no matter what obstacles we face. May God’s blessings be on our homes for the sake of His kingdom.

Editor’s note: To learn more about the home evangelism model that was pioneered with great success in the Mexico Conference, look for the Home Evangelism BAP lessons in the second quarter adult quarterly. Order at cog7.org.

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Ramon Ruiz has served within the Church of God (Seventh Day), pastoring several local churches in Mexico for over 40 years. As president of International Ministerial Congress since 1994, he works for the international Church in the day-to-day operations of ministry. Recently, Ramon moved to Dallas, TX, with his wife, Rebeca. They have one son, two daughters, and several grandchildren.