Simple Church—an Adventist House Church
What is Simple Church
Adventist Simple Church is a house church movement with a carefully defined character, purpose and method. It has been compared to Adventist Frontier Missions-but it’s a mission targeted to people in Western, secular society, rather than to foreign lands.
Simple Church is lay-led; it meets solely in homes; and it’s designed to multiply into additional Simple Church units, rather than growing into a “regular” church or feeding into an established church.
This effort is sponsored by the North New Zealand Conference, and receives guidance and resources from Adventist Simple Church in the USA, which is led by Milton Adams.
If you would like more information and training check out www.simplechurchathome.com.
The House Church approach
- In developed countries, interest has risen rapidly in a House Church or Home Church approach to ministry and evangelism
- In the USA, approximately six million people attend a church of this kind (Barna research)
- In many quarters, interest in conventional church settings is decreasing, while interest in Home Churches is on the rise
- Challenging questions . . .
- When Jesus dreamed about the Christian church He was establishing, would our churches as they are right now have been a highlight of His dreams?
- If all our church buildings were destroyed or had to be given up, would our churches cruise on with even greater strength?
- If our paid ministry force had to be disbanded because of cost or other factors, would a number of our churches cease to function?
- What percentage of our time and resources go into church maintenance and operations—as opposed to outreach, service and evangelism?
- If we made it a requirement that as of right now, all who have been church members for two years or more must be involved in active discipleship and ministry in order to continue in church, what percentage would show up next weekend?
- House Church is a response to these kinds of spiritual challenges
- There are a number of ways to realise a House Church ministry; this report describes one of them that is distinctive in its target and approach, and that is gaining increasing interest in the Seventh-day Adventist context
A distinctive New Testament model
- A lay-led, missional congregation in a home setting—informal, personal, intimate, relationally based, interactive, vibrant—not unlike the practice of “cottage meetings” in early Adventist history
- An “un-church” or “simple church”—uncomplicated, basic, personal; a “backyard missionary movement”
- Collectively regarded as an active congregation (company) in its own right—distinctive from a Branch Sabbath School or a small group ministry
- Like “Frontier Missions”, a Conference-sponsored entity with accountabilities, guidance and support
About 10–35 typically attending, but may go higher in some settings.
- Meets solely in private homes
- Led by committed Seventh-day Adventist lay members, rather than clergy
- One-third to one-half of attendees are new or potential members
- No church buildings, mortgages, building maintenance, or administration burden—so most funds and the majority of time are focused on community service and witness
- Truly community-based: “We meet you where you are” rather than “You come to us, where we are”
- Leaders and participants feel called to reflect this particular New Testament model to reach people in secular society—see Matthew 18:18–20; Mark 14:3; John 14:23; Acts 1:12–14; 2:46, 47; 12:11, 12; Romans 16:3–5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1, 2
- “Simple Church is similar to Adventist Frontier Missions, but for western cultures who were Christian at one time and have now turned secular” (Milton Adams)
- To employ the power of small-group relationships to reach a target population not usually reached by established churches; spawning new Simple Church units as each group realises a typical attendance of around 20
- Adventist volunteers as front-line missionaries, reaching people for Christ in secular communities
- Take a decided step into a new and different manner of “church”, sacrificing the security of a large group for the intimacy and vulnerability of a fledgling small group
- A step out into a specific missionary endeavour; not a simple addition to regular church
- Luke 10 provides a stunning description of Christ!s methodology for making disciples, and serves as a model for Simple Church
- “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.!
- “There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonising, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counselled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.” Ministry of Healing, 143, 144.
- False motivation—a Simple Church group established as an expression by people disgruntled with regular Adventist church and organisation, or for the purpose of promoting an individual brand of theology or a particular “hobby horse” or point of view
- Misplaced target—a Simple Church group established to appeal to current Adventist members, or to Christians from other backgrounds
- Misplaced purpose—a Simple Church group established primarily as a feeder or recruitment tool for an existing Adventist congregation (Simple Church may sometimes be a feeder, but the primary purpose is to establish more and more Simple Church units as a pathway of evangelism and overall church growth)
- Poor attitude—a Simple Church group established as an act of free-spirited independence from the umbrella community of faith; or as a personal point of superiority or pride (New Testament simple churches were closely associated with the apostles, accountable to them, and respectful of their role)
- Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of bread, Prayer (Acts 2:42)
- The Gospel, the Word, the Holy Spirit, Prayer, and Community (Five Keys to Spiritual Health)
- “B-E-L-L”: Blessing, Eating, Listening, Learning (John White)
- By the local Conference (no direct funding necessary—Simple Church is self-funding)
What makes for a good physical environment for a Simple Church group?
- Reasonable parking options
- An adequate meeting room
- Pleasing atmosphere in general
- Attention to safety for children and adults
- Awareness and communication of any access limitations
- The continually invited presence of God’s Spirit
How do Simple Church groups avoid isolation from the Adventist community?
Same way as regular Adventist churches—joining Conference or regional events, enjoying Adventist media, supporting Adventist education, participating in events with other congregations
Recommended: Members of regular churches who feel God’s call to become Simple Church leaders sound out their current congregation to see if there’s a willingness to bless the new ministry, to pray for the “missionaries”; and to maintain a described level of contact, fellowship and spiritual support
With so many groups potentially bubbling up by individual initiative, how does accountability work?
- Initial “CORE-4” Simple Church leaders are a group of three to five committed Adventists who have gone through careful screening and training; and who are “commissioned” or “appointed” (Titus 1:5) for Simple Church ministry (in regular church circles this is recognised as “ordination” as local elders; in Simple Church, simpler terminology is appropriate, though the function is eldership)
- Simple Church leaders can be “de-commissioned” if circumstances indicate this should take place
- While there are no formal church boards or business meetings in Simple Church, Adventist members who choose to become part of Simple Church voluntarily make an annual written commitment to a “Shared Ministry Vision” that describes the parameters, purposes and expectations involved in a Simple Church group— including a commitment to pursue opportunities to mentor people in long-term Bible studies
- Like regular church congregations, accountability is built in to each group—with local leaders and a designated treasurer/membership person; and with clear commitments for communication, collective participation, financial stewardship, core beliefs, and shared values
- Like many innovative enterprises, Simple Church operates with “simultaneous loose-tight qualities”—a handful of necessary parameters and guidelines, but otherwise having freedom to seek and follow the Spirit in mission
How are baptisms handled in Simple Church?
- With great joy!—using the outdoors, a swimming pool, a regular church baptismal tank, or any other suitable water source (see John 3:23; Acts 8:36)
- The Adventist leader of a Simple Church group—a designated local elder by NNZC recognition—may perform baptisms in accordance with general SDA provision, and with understanding from the Conference representative for Simple Church
- Experience confirms that the Holy Spirit has a wonderful way of arranging the timing on baptisms, so that new believers have a suitable understanding of the journey on which they are embarking, and know that they are becoming part of a larger body of Seventh-day Adventist Christians
- Because of its small and intimate environment, Simple Church actually presents an even stronger context for continued teaching and discipleship, than is normally realised in regular church—the primary goal is not baptism or membership, but discipleship
- Discipleship instruction normally takes place one-on-one or in special groups outside the usual time of meeting for Simple Church (Simple Church website resources such as KidZone and Come Alive are valuable)
Can anyone join or lead an Adventist Simple Church?
- No!—but many could be quickly trained and approved to do so
- “CORE4” principle—each Simple Church unit is ideally led by three to five committed Seventh-day Adventist members; this provides identity, balance, accountability
- A baptised Adventist can join a Simple Church group only if in training, or ready to start training as a frontier leader
- The Simple Church network provides screening and approval for the leadership of a Simple Church unit
- Once baptised, a Simple Church member is encouraged to start thinking about and preparing to lead a new group when the time is right—or the person may choose to transfer to a regular church or a home-style church, as desired
Will Simple Church draw members away from regular churches?
- Not to any real extent, since Simple Church groups exist to attract primarily new believers
- Like Adventist Frontier Missions, the process for Simple Church does not involve general crossover from existing churches
- Rather than fearing the loss of a few key people, ask: “Would it please God and make us proud to commission and support these two or three people for a courageous missionary outreach to secular people in our own backyard?”
House to House
House to House has been developed to resource and support those in our church family who meet together in their homes.