Don’t rent or buy a building for your lay church. For a number of reasons that will be especially apparent long about Principle 12, no lay church should be gobbling up lots of people anyway. If it does, it will have an exceedingly hard time training each Christian in each area of ministry and growing each believer to fullness in Christ. Specialization begins to break out, and, with it, institutionalized immaturity.
Lay churches are, by design, household-based, meaning that they are primarily about the transformation of existing relationship networks and the people within them—and only secondarily about the expansion of such networks. Lay church expansion happens through diffusion. That is, since my relationship network does not overlap completely (or, in some cases, even remotely) with that of my college-age children still living at home, as they grow to fullness in Christ, they use what they’ve learned to plant their own lay church to reach the people in their existing network. To borrow an image from Jesus in Matthew 13:33, the church is the yeast and the existing social network is the bread. The problem with our thinking today is that the church itself becomes the bread, and as it continues to grow it needs a bigger and bigger, uh, breadbox. Meanwhile, existing social networks remain un-transformed.
Because the focus is the transformation of existing social networks and the people in them, the choice of where to meet is obvious: we meet exactly where we’ve already been meeting. If we rented or bought a new place to meet, we’d be leavening thin air and leaving the loaf untouched; ergo, mission bungled.
And certainly the fringe benefits of meeting where the household or network already meets are apparent enough: The lay church can learn how to convene anywhere, anytime—an essential skill, as persecuted Christians can attest. We begin to see our homes and hangouts as holy places, and we start treating them accordingly. Expenses stay close to nonexistent, so Christians can devote their tithes to displaying God’s love to the world—more on this coming up when we get to principle 11, on tithing and giving.