The House Church “defacto pastor”- how to recognize if you got one and what to do about it.
If you think your house church is suffering from the “defacto pastor” syndrome, one can usually tell in about 15 minutes.
By “defacto pastor” I mean what Webster’s Dictionary means: “being such in effect though not formally recognized.” The American Heritage New Dictionary puts it this way: “Something generally accepted or agreed to without any formal decision in its favor.”
Well, in many house churches you usually find someone “generally accepted without any decision” to be the pastor, though he or she would deny it vehemently.
How do you recognize one.
The next time you gather as a house church and eat your meal just watch what happens next: In a typical house church the folks get together in an adjacent room and sit down and have “church”. After everyone has cleaned up their plates, etc. and have gathered in the living room, the people will settle down and look to someone to “start”.
That person they look to is – by design or by default – the defacto pastor. That person might not realize it but they are. They probably started the group or it might meet in their home, etc. but 9 times out of 10 they are functioning as a “defacto pastor”.
The problem is that by taking the place as the “pastor” in the group, the potential for mutual edification and mutual participation goes out the window! We all know that when a pastor is in the house, the rest of us get quite…
“[the] difficulty a pastor has in being a part of a searching group is the tendency he has to dominate and the tendency of the laymen to submit. Strange though it may seem, it is not an easy thing for a pastor to be a human being in a group that is discussing religious problems. All his background and training tend to set him up as the authority. When the laymen have said all they know about the problem, they turn to him for ‘the answer.'” (Findley Edge – The Greening of the Church 1970)
What to do about it.
1. Start over.
Don’t do anything for the next few months but eat together and share your testimonies. Have great pot-luck meals and tell each other how you came to the Lord and why you now find yourself in this house church. I read about one group of 9 people from different walks of life who did this and they thought it would be over in one meeting. Surprisingly enough, it took them six weeks to cover everybody!!
Tell your “defacto worship leader” to leave his/her guitar at home and just come together to eat! Get rid of any idea that someone is in charge and that there is any program. Do dishes together and even play cards. Anything but have a “spiritual meeting” where someone has to lead and others follow.
2. Make the house church even smaller.
If you are 20 make two groups of 10. By forcing yourselves to become smaller there is less competition for some one to “lead”. It’s better for everyone involved to share their stories and to hear from each other if you get the size down to under 10.
“[the] group must be small enough so that each person has a feeling of significance… Every person must be able to speak and be spoken to in each meeting. When the group becomes large, it is easy for the aggressive persons to dominate and for the shy ones to withdraw. Findley Edge
3. Emphasize meeting outside of the meeting.
Don’t put all your eggs in the “house church gathering basket”. Tell people to meet outside of the meeting. Tell them to go shopping together. Encourage them to celebrate their birthdays together. To baby sit each others kids. Float down a river together instead of having house church. Let the Spirit lead you into countless expressions of “body life” outside of the meeting.
After a few months of this, just maybe the Lord will bring you back together again as a whole house church. Don’t rush into it but let Him lead. Celebrate what you have learned and go forward with fresh insight and convictions.
Yours for the Kingdom,