How to Start a Lay Church, Principle II: Establish that Sunday is not the Main Service

Getting together for Sunday worship is so fundamental to westerners that we’ve made that gathering synonymous with the word “church.” It’s hard for us to conceive of a way of being Christian that’s not centered around 11AM Sunday morning.

But the early church and today’s persecuted church would have an equally hard time conceiving a way of being Christian that is centered around 11AM Sunday morning!

For them, church is born in families and households. Worship is centered in families and households. The church meets all together when conditions permit–which in some countries like North Korea these days is literally, well, never.

But far from making them weak and uncommitted, this decision that Sunday morning is not the center makes them stronger Christians than we are. Each family or household has to learn how to be the whole church to its members. As a result, for them, the main service of worship is family (or household) worship.

The lay church follows the same model. There’s still a Sunday gathering. But the purpose is twofold:

  • First, to assign a scripture and a song and a teaching for each family or household to master in their daily worship that week, and
  • Second, to make sure each family or household mastered the material assigned the previous week, by practicing it together.

That’s it. That’s the heart of what happens in a lay church gathering on Sunday.

You might think, “Why do the Sunday gathering at all? It seems like the church could function without it.” And if you find yourself thinking that, you’re on the right track! The lay church has to be able to function fully even when it can’t get together on Sunday—because in countries where Christians are persecuted, that first Sunday gathering may not come until the day Jesus returns.

But when we can gather together on Sundays, we definitely need to, as the author of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 10:24-25. Because when we get together, we can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. But what we’re encouraging and holding each other accountable to is being a comprehensive, tiny church in our own sphere of influence—family, household, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and the strangers God sends our way.

Daily household worship is super simple:

  • Leadership moves from person to person each day (or night), kids included. (How, where, and when else would they learn?)
  • The group (or individual or couple) sings the song that the lay church is learning that week. Same song each night that week—that’s how you learn it.
  • Then the leader for the night shares from memory the Scripture that’s assigned for the week. Everyone else has their Bibles open and keeps the leader on track.
  • Then it’s on into prayer time, where each person prays out loud, with the leader closing by leading everyone in the Lord’s Prayer and inviting everyone to share the peace of Christ (hug time—our youngest son’s favorite part).

The simpler the service, the greater the focus can be on the real purpose: helping each Christian grow to fullness in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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2 Responses to How to Start a Lay Church, Principle II: Establish that Sunday is not the Main Service

  1. Pingback: What’s the Absolute Best Way to Reign? | Rev. Eric Foley

  2. Pingback: 12 Unconventional Church Planting Principles From North Korea | Missio Links

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