KANSAS CITY – New churches start in homes and sometime seek a “church” building. Christ Fellowship intentionally stays as a network of home churches.
Christ Fellowship has five home congregations in North Kansas City, Liberty, Weston, Parkville, and Kearney. Each is led by a pastor/elder.
“I pastored in Orlando (years ago) and there I wrote out a plan almost exactly like what we’re doing now,” said Jim Elliff, one of the elders.
“All our elders are seen as equals. Any one of us can speak for the church,” Elliff said.
Sixteen years ago, he and former sheriff’s deputy Daryl Wingerd, whom Elliff was mentoring, became the first elders for 24 people in the initial two congregations of Christ Fellowship, meeting in each man’s home.
“House church leaders share the load,” Elliff said, adding the combined membership of the five is around 135.
Elliff knows the house church model, while biblical, is not required, nor is it the choice of others who have traditional structures for worship and activities. The elders have a solid relationship with pastors of those other churches.
“We know this isn’t the only way to worship, but we feel this is what God wants us to do. A couple of us (elders) travel and speak, and that includes mostly traditional churches. More people all over the world meet in homes than in (other) buildings. The International Mission Board shows people how to do this. Buildings may be a blessing but having a building does not necessarily make it a good church.”
Elliff likes this model for “more natural and effective pastoral care. It has the feel of a family reunion. You get to know each other really well. I’ve had hundreds of meals with the congregation members.”
While the worship routine may differ between the congregations, a typical weekly four-hour home service can be an hour of teaching, sharing, singing, and praying, with children gathered as well. A Bible story may be shared with the children, and all can interact. After a snack/bathroom break, extended teaching is done, perhaps around a table. Younger children may play or read nearby, or go to another designated room. A carry-in meal is shared, with the elements of the Lord’s supper reserved for believers.
Every six weeks, the five congregations gather in a rented facility for meetings and meals. The elders take turns addressing the larger group, and the nature of each mass gathering may differ, depending on which elders are leading.
“It’s a chance for the body to hear other elders. The last gathering included a missionary helper testifying about going to permanent service in the Middle East.”
For four weeks the men of the congregations gather for mid-week Bible study, and then the women meet for four weeks, with teenagers included. Elders gather for three hours each Wednesday before work.
“Elder meetings are not like business meetings. Our main goal is what the Head of the Church wants for the church and this draws us to the scriptures. We try very hard to be guided by the Lord. It is Christ’s church and the authority is Christ’s.”
Elliff said many members are evangelistic, designing their own approaches. For example, the Elliff family uses Friday nights to serve a simple meal and answer questions for unsaved friends.
The elders also are talking with nine unconnected churches who want to use this model.
“We aren’t connected with them; we are just trying to help them.”
“Our people are active, but they aren’t knighted with titles, other than the elders and soon our first deacons.”
“Our Sunday meeting is a believers meeting but we do want people to come if they are seekers. We’re not trying to fill our homes (for Sunday meetings) with unbelievers. We are doing that in our ministries.”
Christ Fellowship is now considering whether to add another home congregation or two. House church size is one of the multiplying factors.