So what happens when you start to have multiplication, because then you’ve got multiple churches? How do they relate to one another?
Typically this happens in networks. So you have multiple house churches and then together they will form a church in the town. Then maybe you’ll have, as the movement grows, multiple towns and those will meet at the county level … the leadership of those will meet. As that continues to grow, you’ll have representatives from the county level go up to the state level, and then up to the national or country level. It can, in some cases, even go to continent level.
At each level, you have representatives from the lower level at that level leadership and the applications are then corporate. What do the churches in our community need to do? What’s God calling us to do? Who do we need to share that with then at the county level, on the state level and the national level. There’s always a question what about the size at each of these levels. A good rule of thumb is you want the number of representatives at each level to be roughly equivalent to what you would want in an individual house church.
As a general rule of thumb, I like to have four to twelve people in those, up to 15. Once you start getting over 15 the level of participation, the level of accountability, and so on decreases rapidly. So it’s time to add a new level whenever you get up to about 15. Now they may not exactly correspond to these geographic regions. This is just an example to give you a feel for what it looks like.
This type of organization, we see it in Scripture, we see it in the Old Testament. Jethro advised Moses to divide leadership, so he had people who ruled over ten families, then over fifty families, then over a hundred families, and then over a thousand families. He had the seventy elders and then there was Moses and this was a pattern that we see in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, we see the house churches, but then we see Paul referring to the church at Jerusalem or the church at Ephesus and so on these city or regional churches, then up to regions like the Galatian churches. When there was a problem or there was a question, like what about meat sacrificed to idols and so on, ultimately it worked its way up to the Jerusalem church where the Apostles exercised leadership over the entire movement. The questions would work their way up the chain in a sense, and the decisions would work their way down the chain. This kind of approach we see did happen in Scripture. It’s not just something that we’re making up.
A lot of times there are questions about the role of officers in the churches, specifically elders and deacons or pastors, which is used interchangeably sometimes in the New Testament with elders. So the the situation is that you’ll have multiple house churches that form one city or regional Church.
So, for example, the seven deacons in the Jerusalem church serviced hundreds of house churches but there were only seven of them, there’s no expectation that every house church had a deacon in it. Similarly, you have the Ephesian elders serving hundreds of house churches in Ephesus. There’s no expectation that every house church in Ephesus had an elder in it. These people serve the entire network of churches — so the elders and deacons — they serve at more the city or regional level.
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Similarly, we typically see the expression of the leadership gifts, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers serving at that second level or higher. Their primary focus is in equipping ministry and they serve the network broadly. At the grassroots level, the house church, which is what we are focused on, the emphasis there is on what every disciple needs to be equipped in, what every disciple needs to be accountable for. There’s not as much emphasis on the differences or the special gifts that need to function together at this next higher level in order for the church to accomplish everything that it’s intended to. At the grassroots level, we’re focused on the commonalities, not on the differences, and not on the distinctives.
This is how the network’s function, and accountability takes place at each level in much the same fashion that it does in the local church, except that it’s corporate accountability.
It’s what we might refer to as a fractal. A fractal is something where the pattern at the micro level is the same as the pattern at the macro level.
We still have accountability expressed in three-third structure whenever we meet – looking back, looking up, looking forward, and so on, so that the patterns are familiar. As people move up in leadership, they’re not having to learn entire new patterns, everything is familiar and focused on the same principles.
More Multiplication Concepts
This concept is part of the “Multiplication Concepts” series by Curtis Sergeant. Consider working through the entire series and challenging someone you know to do it with you. See an entire list of the concepts in the article titled “Multiplication Concepts”.
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