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What if We Did Church Like This?

I love the partnership I have been able to have with Catalyst Conferences. I enjoyed blogging from there earlier this month.  (You can read my posts HERE.)  One of the things I love most about Catalyst is that I’ve met many of the people behind the scenes.  They are authentic, transparent, and passionate about Christ and helping the church better reach a lost world.

Jesse Phillips is one of those guys.  I’ve had several opportunities to hang out with him and I absolutely love Jesse’s heart.  He has some passionate ideas about the church today. I think one of the thing my generation needs to do a better job with is listening to his generation.  So, recently I asked him to guest post some of his current thoughts on the church here on my blog.  (Help Jesse process by commenting on this post.)

HERE is a guest post from Jesse Phillips of Catalyst:

What if we did church like this:

What if we got a group together on Sunday morning. We’d pool our money – maybe up to half of what we would have tithed that morning. We’d ask around, share needs we knew of, and that morning we would use the money and our time to meet needs around our community.

Maybe we’d buy a new washer for a single mom. Maybe we’d fix a fence. Maybe clean-out gutters for an elderly couple, throw a party for the neighborhood or just go around and pray for people. The more often we did this, the more we’d know people in the community, where to look for needs, and more people would come to us with needs.

Then, that afternoon, what if we got together at someone’s house (or a facility) and had a potluck meal. We could all hang-out, enjoy one another, and encourage one another. Then, after we eat, gather those gifted to teach, preach, prophesy, etc and have a church meeting.

I like this idea for a few reasons:

It engages the community. The unchurched often criticize Christians for not doing much for those around them. Imagine if 10 Million Christians were weekly (or monthly) serving & loving their neighbors in a public fashion. We would be acting as the hands & feet of Jesus in an undeniable way.

It utilizes money to help those in need. Another criticism the unchurched have of Christians is: “they just want my money.” By using our resources to serve them in a significant & regular way, we could fulfill God’s call to take care of those in need while presenting a more Christ-like picture to our neighbors, and removing unnecessary stumbling blocks.

It’s a regular outreach to unchurched people. Not only are you engaging people in need, but you’re also inviting outsiders to join your work party. Many Christians are living in the “Christian Bubble.” This kind of regular engagement with outsiders gives them an opportunity to meet and make friends – creating further opportunities for relationship and eventually, discipleship.

The potluck meal afterward is a natural transition to invite people to “come and see” your community. Also, sharing a meal with other Christians is a great opportunity to share life & fellowship – much like the “love feasts” of the early church. (link:

Utilizes Pew Sitters. This strategy gets everyone involved. Many Christians are content to sit, hear & pay the tithe. Most ministry work is delegated/entrusted to the paid “professionals.”

Engaging the community as a team teaches Christians how to love their neighbor, empowers them by giving them money to do it, let’s them be creative, possibly let’s them use their gifts to solve problems, protects them from the perils of Matthew 25, and trains them toward a lifestyle of service & generosity.

What do you think? Why is this a good idea? Why is it a bad idea? Grace & Peace to you!

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 54 Comments

  • @BradBlocksom

    When I read your section on the potlluck, my thoughts immediately went to the agape feast in my vision of the Pauline house churches, even before I got to the end of the paragraph. Just add some bread as an appetizer and a cup of wine for dessert and you would have it – Christ is the reason for and center of our fellowship!

  • Dan says:

    As I read what you wrote, I agree totally with the practices but not sure it has to happen on Sunday in replacement for a larger gathering. It seems like a lot of churches are doing these very acts of compassion and people getting involved in it. But also meet Sundays in a larger group. So I have hope that the church is now organizing herself to do these very things and mobilizing masses in the churches to do so, so it doesn't mean having to disconnect from a more structured larger church. I am very optimistic as I see it happening. So love the actions described and may they increase in small, medium, large and momma-large churches!

  • We'd LOVE to be involved in a Church like this for sure.

  • liz says:

    If there was a church like the one he described, I'd go there.

  • Ben Lemery says:

    Or maybe we can buy them a new car? a pony? =P

    This is ideal for house churches but it also tends to suggest that churches (organized) aren't doing this already. Most churches have funds to help the poor, some have food pantries and others do service projects with the money they get every week. It simply goes into the larger budget that goes for salaries, community functions and building operations.
    Of course, if you are someone who doesn't really enjoy that type of church, then Jesse's vision would fit perfectly.
    Considering how much money is given by Christians and churches for countries after a mass devastation, I already think this is going on.
    Do people need to be more engaged in where their money is going? Sure. Can you make people more engaged? Nope.
    By the way….this is simply a snapshot of a larger conversation Jesse and I have already had so don't think I am hatin on my bro who I love greatly. We simply see it a little differently.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Ben for engaging. Good conversation.

    • Jesse Phillips says:

      Brother Ben, love you!
      Two items of push back:
      1) most churches don't have much money for outreach type stuff like that, benevolence, whatever. Usually 10 or 20% or so. So I would disagree and say it's not already happening nearly as much as it could. Yes, I propose a model that doesn't require paying for a building or staff, but it can be hybrid as well.

      2) current models have me give money, but don't really let me get involved in the service. There's a huge difference between me giving to support people that do this, and me rolling up my sleeves and me doing the work. I think having us do the work is 100 times better b/c the growth happens in my life, I do work & get credit (heavenly credit, b/c God tells us to do this kind of work – will I get credit if I just give money to people who do this stuff?) – it's less about money & more about getting out there & digging in.

      3) another thing that happens w/ this strategy: people get out in the street! They meet their neighbors, they love their neighbors – this is a strong apologetic, it is evangelism. This also doesn't happen as much in our current models.

      Thoughts, brother! Love you, Ben!

  • Alberto Medrano says:

    You read my mind. What if…?

  • Matt Rampey says:

    Love it! I'm part of a church that's doing something very close to what you're talking about. We give away over half of what we take in to help with needs inside and outside the church (Paying rent, bills, buying used car for single mom, etc.). We meet weekly in homes, share meals with each other, pray for each other and share what God is teaching us. Once every 6-8 weeks, all the churches gather together for a meal, teaching, music, and sharing what God is doing in our lives and churches. Also, once every 6-8 weeks we get out into the community together to help out (Habitat for Humanity, Toy Drive, home repair/improvement for those who can't physically or financially do it). We only have one person who gets paid and that's the one who is concentrating on starting new churches.

    Doing church this way has pretty much ruined us for a more traditional form. Just wanted to let you know that what you've laid out can and is being done.

    • ronedmondson says:

      This is very cool Matt. It will be curious to see how this plays out over time. Keep us posted.

  • pgowesky says:

    Those are some really cool ideas. I wonder if the modernization of the world around us and the "ease" of global missions now has caused us to neglect those who are right in front of our faces? It would be pretty cool. I'd like it.

  • Michael says:

    Hello all.

    Always been a big fan of Jesse's line of thought concerning the Church. So many times, it is so radical, that it almost sounds biblical. 😉 (Apologies for the sarcasm.)

    I am stunned by the simplicity of such an idea. The "problem" with simple things is that they usually draw on deep wells. We don't just do it, and we don't just do it for a reason, but we do it from a heart/identity to do it.

    And that is why we probably aren't doing it.

    I don't intend to throw stones. Truth is, Jesse has this idea because he identifies with it in Christ. More of us need to do so, myself included.

  • Leanne says:

    I think we've created a consumer mentality when it comes to church (waiting for the first drive-thru church to appear to make it even more convenient!).

    But I also know that many Christians are not satisfied and even frustrated with not being able to personally make a difference. And I don't know that fitting people into slots to serve in various ministries does the trick.

    I love the concept of house church and have seen some successful models (one in Atlanta) but it can be hard to find a good one (solution: create your own).

    If you're stuck on the traditional model, then the next best thing is small groups within that context because church is all about relationships rather than running around trying to feed the machine we call church today.

  • Kevin Glenn says:

    I agree with the concept here. Just be careful not to criticize churches that do this, but do it in a way that looks different from a scheduling perspective. Great post, and compelling call to the church!

  • Bj forwood says:

    Hey guys start small. How about neighbourhood groups and be other motivated not church motivated. Remember Jesus started with a gang of 12, many other starts have built momentum by starting small and spreading. Remember The other important thing start praying ahead of time and keep it up as you go.

  • @Bryankr

    I have to agree with you Jesse, the Church is not getting the credit it deserves and I seem to one that falls into that category. It was mentioned earlier that we get caught up playing church, she's right! We have that nasty tendency to play this game and I am one that gets so frustrated with seeing it played and then tripping over it! Which leads me to not looking at what is actually being done, thus not giving them the credit. I'm sorry guys! You live, you learn!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Bryan for adding to this discussion. It does appear Jesse is offering a wake-up call to many of us!

  • Kristin says:

    The core of what you are saying is totally awesome! We need to get out in the community more and fellowship more and change our view of what church means!
    Relationships begin to develop when people serve together.
    Many of those who are served will begin to pick up the towel themselves.
    This also helps people to develop a servants heart individually and may be more likely to help spontaneously throughout the week.

    I think it is important for church small groups to get involved in serving the community. It is easier to organize 12 people into a project rather than a large group on a weekly or monthly basis.
    Different groups are capable of different things. A bunch of mothers with toddlers following them can't really do construction safely so that group would serve the community in a different way.
    This would involve the Pastors motivating leaders of small groups and leaders of small groups motivating the members of their group. Also pastors joining in!
    So either way, whether a large group serves or a small group, the hardest part will be getting people to show up and roll up their sleeves without guilt or shame tactics being used.

    The people who serve generously will need to do it for the right motives or they will get discouraged and burn out. it takes a lot of time to get a movement like this going but it does build speed with time.

    I have seen church small groups in Northern Colorado serving the community a lot lately. A men's group hangs Christmas lights for single mothers. A couples bible study group selected one single parent family to help with repairs of their home.
    There are so many more that I have seen. Maybe there are people who don't know what is being done or maybe not enough is being done.
    I suppose that for the number of people who attend church; the number of those people who serve is probably pretty low.
    I have seen local church groups do all sorts of things and still not be able to pry certain people out of their seats.
    I hope and pray those people will become the minority.
    I also pray that people who say they don't see Christians serving will begin to see those who already are serving, and that any of those people who are just coming up with excuses not to accept Christ or join a church family will allow God to soften their hearts.
    Thanks for your post. I am glad to see this subject being talked about! Sorry for the wordiness 🙂

  • Craig says:

    Wow! So simple, so new testiment church, yet so far from what the avg church today is doing. Thank yóu for bringing a simple way to consider & DO church! Thank you for the conviction that is filling my spirit on what we’re missing out on.

  • I agree with you Ron that Jesse is a guy with a great heart. He cares and that's pretty evident in everything he does.

    On this post… I agree too. The church indeed doing dynamic and amazing things but there are also times when we fall into the rinse and repeat mode where we start doing church rather than being church. Posts like these are great reminders to help shake things up a bit and just serve up a perspective that we all can hopefully take note of, reflect on and see what areas we might be able to do better in.

  • Jesse Phillips says:

    Thanks for posting, Ron! This idea comes from a desire to address some of the criticisms outsiders have of Christians – while also trying to emphasize more acts of service & "loving our neighbor." I would love to hear any and all criticism of this idea. I also hope to spur my brothers & sisters on to love and good deeds. And to possibly questiion & rethink the models we've been using (i.e. Andy Stanley's Systems talk).

    • ronedmondson says:

      Love it!

    • Bubba Rainwater says:

      Jesse, This is almost exactly what we are trying to accomplish with our church plant in NW Atlanta (The Church in the Hills). The problem is people think we are too radical . . . they like their coffee shops, Happy Land for the Kids, Awesome World for their teens (a gathering of future drinking friends), and "Kickin" Bands and "Relevant" Speakers. The mega-churches are making it too easy to just "go to" church. Keep banging the drum of your model of church . . . I am with you 100%! Bubba

  • guest says:

    Pretty sure this what the Church already is. Granted it doesn't usually all happen in one day (Thank God!), and not all participate in all of it. Trouble is, Jesus (and by extension His Church) doesn't get half the credit He deserves. e.g Does Jesus or your local church get credit for all the members who mentor kids, help their neighbors, feed the hungry, etc? Maybe if we could get them all wearing the same t-shirt…

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks for joining the discussion

    • Jesse Phillips says:

      GREAT POINT! So maybe we don't need to try and draw more attention to that stuff? Maybe we do? Perhaps by trying to force it and make it happen on one day, I would actually be diminishing what Jesus is doing (by trying to control it too much?)

      • ronedmondson says:

        Thanks Jesse. It\’s a great post. We always need stretching!

      • Sherie says:

        Or maybe, as has been true in my life, it would change our hearts and teach us how to live lives that are poured out in worship through serving others. Serving one day and seeing it makes a difference might inspire more service and deeper relationships the other six days a week. Thanks for helping me to continue to rethink and grow Jesse.

  • Bryan

    Great idea! You have put a lot of time and thought into this, it is a biblical thought. One small problem: the Church today doesn’t like the idea of coming to Church for anything BUT sitting and filling the tithe quotient. Thw American Church has gotten far more lazy than most people would like to admit. They tend to come to Church for polotics or religion than for worship. I love the idea you have! I think it would do a great deal to actually spread the Message of Christ than anyone could possibly imagine! The people already IN the Churcu don’t really want anyone else to come; they like it just the way it is! That is the single most freightning part of it all, in my opinion. Should you find a way to actually institute this, please, tell me where! THAT is a Church I would love to be a part of!

  • Kevin Riner says:

    Love this idea!