Towards a better ecclesiology – the way we do church matters.

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Most churches around the world operate from the same basic model – each Sunday morning, people sit in rows, sing some songs and listen to a sermon. Some churches are big, some are small, some have young people, some are older, some have modern music and preaching, some are more traditional – but despite the external differences in style, the “sit+sing+ sermon” model is essentially the same.

But what if this model is holding the church back from its full potential? What if the purpose of church is not to entertain and educate and attract greater numbers, but to build each other up towards maturity and unity, as each one of us participates and contributes (Eph 4:16)? What if rows are preventing God’s people from seeing each other face-to-face, loving one another and encouraging one another as the Bible commands us to? What if group singing has replaced mutual ministry and “one-anothering”? What if monologue sermons are not the most effective way for people to learn and engage with and apply God’s Word?

A growing number of God’s people are becoming dissatisfied with what churches are offering. They don’t feel a need to take time out each week to sit in rows in a room, staring at the backs of people’s heads, without having a chance to interact with them. They don’t see why they should listen to just one person speak on their behalf, rather than allowing all of God’s people to share and discuss what the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. They don’t get the point of sitting passively through a performance, rather than meeting together face-to-face as a relational, interactive, supportive community.

Some of these people are giving up on church altogether – not necessarily giving up on God, but certainly confused and frustrated by his people. Others are seeking out organic church communities – often struggling to find groups in their local area, often feeling disempowered and ill-equipped to start their own.

Some brave churches and groups are exploring a different way to do church, seeking a more biblical ecclesiology. It’s not easy for them. The existing structures, seminaries and Christian society don’t support them. They haven’t got many role models or examples to follow. They are often wandering in the dark, making it up as they go, experimenting and learning along the way.

There are a few bold pioneers who have trekked this path, who have wisdom and experience to share with you and I on our journeys. I highly recommend reading Thom SchultzAlan KnoxKeith GilesDan White JnrNeil ColeMike BreenFelicity Dale andHouse2House Magazine – just to mention a few – not just novices, but spiritually mature elders and mentors advocating and practicing a participatory, empowering ecclesiology rooted in good theology.

The way we do church matters. Possibly more than our theological position. If we can empower God’s people to discover their gifts and their voice, maybe we will see the subversive, upside-down kingdom movement Jesus spoke of, spreading like yeast through the world, unstoppable and uncontainable.

11 thoughts on “Towards a better ecclesiology – the way we do church matters.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Eric! You are also one of the thinkers/writers in this area who can teach and challenge people in their journey.


      – Kathleen

    • More than happy to connect you with their work. I’ll add you to a list in a post one day too – I love your blog.


      – Kathleen

  1. We’re prayerfully but boldly going down this road – establishing house churches in Auckland New Zealand. Not as alternative to traditional “church”, but as a complement, giving people the opportunity to fully engage in the One-Another ministries. Thanks for the links! Your prayers for God’s people in this country would be much appreciated.
    Onehunga, Auckland

    • That’s exciting, Paul. We’ll certainly pray that God moves in and through his church in New Zealand.


      – Kathleen

  2. Biblical ecclesiology is rooted first in the Head, Jesus, not an egalitarian western expression of mutual self-gratification. The early church followed the model of temple celebration and house to house ministry. Today, most Christians in the U.S. are justifying their selfish motives and and actions by excluding the Ephesians 4 five-fold ministries, rejecting God’s gifts to the church on the premise that we are all equal. This is resulting in a shallow ecclesiology with shallow Christians have are not growing up in The Lord, but merely growing old in The Lord. The church has hidden her light and become unsalty.

    • Thanks for the reminder, Jeff. The church is not a “flat” organisation – we have one head, one Lord, one instructor, one teacher, one father (Matt 23:8-12). Those who have gifts and different levels of maturity have much to offer the church.


      – Kathleen

  3. To push the conversation a bit further, even, how do multiple circles in a place intersect? Or, should they? Could you check out this picture:

    and comment on the viability and desireability of an interconnected Church-of-YourTown?

    • I like your picture, Dan! I’d certainly love to see it in action. Any specific ideas on how to achieve it? I know these kinds of relationships can and do happen organically in my life and in the lives of other active “elders” in my local area, but do you have strategies for making it less ad-hoc and more strategic?

      Looking forward to following you on Twitter and hearing more about your ideas,

      – Kathleen

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