Home > Uncategorized > The House Church “defacto pastor”- how to recognize if you got one and what to do about it.

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,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. neil
    August 25, 2008 at 8:31 PM

    Did you look at Eph. 4:11-15.. there are leaders in Jesus’ Church. Leaders are in each assembly… it is natural, the problem is not having leaders but what the leaders do.. are they serving the body and causing the body to be edified and lifted up to walk like Jesus.. do they esteem the folks they are a part of as more important than themselves and are they serving and not looking to be served. Are they helping us fulfill the vision of Jesus to seek the lost and destroy satan’s works?

    The problem with the House church movement is that we are avoiding scripture as much as the traditional assemblies. There are leaders in the body of Christ. Some important questions for all of us; are the people reaching out and making disciples in your group, are they witnessing and supporting the poor and traveling ministers? Do they all give, is there a goal in your assembly to plant other groups among unbelievers? Are you experiencing the supernatural Love of Christ that changes the unchangeable? Is the miraculous present? Are you prayer-walking another area? Are you seeking to save the Lost through the power of the Spirit or simply walking in a different place than the traditional church with the same effect as they are having on the communities they are in? Western house church that I have experienced for the most part is not going and not empowered. We need to have the power of HS and Jesus showing up in our midst to change communities and families and without leaders – we will not move. Leaders are to hold us accountable and motivate us to go… then serve us as we go and bless us because we are going…. I have never believed in leaderless church, it is not scriptural… what we need it servant leaders like Jesus and Paul… giving their lives to the body of Christ so we can walk like Christ and take the promised land—the souls of those without Hope—bringing them to Our Jesus…

    I hope I am not offending you but I think a good look at scriptural leadership and the need for it would be a great place for the house church people to get some healing about. Do not avoid scripture… neil

  2. August 26, 2008 at 7:06 AM


    I know what you mean about people always looking to the clergy to pray, or answer questions, or initiate things. But I’m not sure I agree with everything you say here.

    All of us are given gifts to serve the body, and I can’t help feeling that leadership/administration are gifts, as are teaching and caring. Surely people with these gifts need to exercise them?

    Perhaps the bigger problem is leaders not being servants, and therefore not deferring to the people they are leading. If everyone deferred to each other, and everyone used their gifts as recognised by the body, don’t you think it would “work”?

  3. August 28, 2008 at 4:37 PM

    I am not sure where I see the problem more: with a leadership that likes it by “defacto” or with a “layity” who sit on their hands. I think we need to realize we can take the people out of Egypt but still have a lot of Egypt in our hearts. Jeff

  4. September 14, 2008 at 4:02 AM

    Hey Jeff, Sorry I am late to comment here. I have a story that I think will make clear what I think you mean!
    When we divided our way too big expat house-church a few years ago the other group decided to ‘elect elders’. They felt that they were not being Biblical unless they had an elected eldership. They spent weeks going round and round about who would be the elders and when they finally got them they ended up with a ‘house-church’ that was nothing more than a traditional church meeting without the building. Our group was challenged to elect elders also- we looked at each other and said, ‘Ok, each of the three men are now elders. End of discussion.’ We went on to explore what being a house-church really means and we evolved into a small group of families that really loved one another. Now, you know me so you know I am a strong leader. I believe in leadership. I agree with Neil that leadership is biblical and God-annointed. But when it comes to house-church I am afraid we may have to wander a while yet in the wilderness until the traditional ‘pastors’ die out and the true biblical model of pastor can be raised up. I hope it doesn’t take forty years!

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