Picking up the thread from a while back, I am going to discuss the facet of our house church strategy related the the low-income demographic with which we will be working (hopefully that didn’t sound as impersonal as I think it did). When explaining our choice of stategy to missions committees, this has become what I would call a primary selling point. Yet again, there is some empirical evidence rooted in history–that of both Churches of Christ and other Protestant denominations–that lends credence to the point I intend to make here.
I begin with the notion that it is hard for the majority of those converted in developing LA countries to finance a building large enough to accomodate their needs. This has been an importnat factor, among others, causing many missionaries to target “middle class” Latinos for evangelism, despite the fact that such social divisions mean little in LA. Even the allegedly middle class will find renting adequate facilities to be a significant challenge, and yet most assume owning a building to be an (the) goal of a mature church. Being that we are targeting lower class Peruvians, the point is all the sharper. It is simply not feasible in most contexts, and certainly not in ours, to operate this way without American subsidy.
Then I move to my second point, noting that, of course, many have planted churches with American subsidy. Adaciously setting aside the wisdom of recent reflection on the repercussinos of that strategy, let us assume that we will raise the American funding to make our spacious, well-located public space a reality. The more profound problem is that time and again–and here’s where the historical substantiation comes in–churches planted in that way fail to separate evangelism and church planting from building buildings or buying buildings. Even if these churches survive the snares of patronization and dependence, it makes reproducibility a matter of virtual impossibility among the poor–who count for a lot as far as percentages of converts in LA go. The American planter may leave a large, mature, high-functioning congregation (whatever that means), but she will not likely have left a sustainable model of reproduction. Some might argue that this is just a matter of teaching converts to separate these things out. That seems logically feasible, but in practice it is unlikely. Instruction will not override the patterns set by the evangelist. This is one of the primary reasons that church planting movements are associated with house and cell models rather than traditional plants with good evanglism training. When being church and planting churches is separated from money and buildings in the minds of new converts, it can instill an incredible freedom to expand.