Traditional discipleship programs make disciples of Jesus through Bible studies. The house church makes disciples through modeling – by sharing lives.
Most pastors favor the former. Their main tools for making disciples are Bible studies and preaching because they believe that people will change when they learn facts and grow in understanding. Their optimism has its roots in the Enlightment during the 17th century.
The basic assumption of the Enlightment was that the primary problem with mankind was ignorance. Once ignorance was eliminated via enlightment, all human problems and social ills would disappear. That optimism received a crushing blow during World War II when Germany, one of the most educated societies in the world that produced many still-influential philosophers, committed the hideous crime of mass-murdering Jews.
Although history has proved that knowledge alone does not change people, pastors still cling to this belief and depend solely on Bible studies to bring transformation. To be fair, I admit that Bible studies can be effective tools in changing people’s lives, but only for the 2 to 3 years following their conversion. After that, it only adds information to their brains and doesn’t affect their lives. Many Christians don’t live lives worthy of their professions of faith, not because they lack knowledge but because they fail in their fight against old habits.
People’s habits don’t change overnight after they receive Christ. They’re still bound by their old habits of believing in untruths, having wrong emotional responses and making bad choices. If people want to live genuine Christian lives, they must replace these wrong habits with good ones.
People can’t change by a single act of commitment or dedication. Understanding Biblical truth or experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit provides the motivation for a changed life but the change doesn’t happen overnight. People need to practice – repeatedly – until new habits become a part of their nature for their lives to be changed. Obedience must be practiced. Forgiveness must be practiced. A godly life must be practiced.
The house church provides an environment where you can practice. As people are involved intimately in house churches, conflicts are bound to occur. People realize that the only way to resolve conflicts is for them to change themselves. Their pride, selfishness and stubbornness crumble, and they become changed people.
This is the primary reason that shepherds and their spouses change dramatically once they’re appointed as shepherds. Being a shepherd means voluntarily giving up your right to skip meetings you don’t want to go, the right to avoid meeting with people they don’t like, and the right to be served rather than serve. Shepherds put themselves in a position where they cannot help but change. So they change.
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