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Decision-Making In House Churches
We have already discussed the fact that the five-fold ministry has no authority over the congregations and that they are serving the congregations to help them in their faith. Paul has confirmed this fact in 2 Corinthians 1:24. He confirmed that they had no authority over the congregations.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
Jesus has also made it very clear that they have no authority over the congregations. He emphasized the fact that the greatest among them should be the servant who serves the others.
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
We know that there usually are a few mature Christians in a house church. These mature people, who can be men or women or both, are Christians who have been part of house church congregations for some time and they have a lot of wisdom and experience. They are commonly known as the elders of the congregation. It is always nice to have such people in a congregation.
Do they make the decisions in a house church congregation? The answer is no. All decisions in house churches are made by the whole congregations as a united body. Whenever a member of the congregation realizes that a decision has to be made about something, such a person calls for a special meeting. Everybody attends the meeting so that a decision can be made.
The five-fold ministry serves the congregations and they should not interfere with the congregations when it comes to decision-making. As longs as there are mature members present in a congregation everything is OK. They will be able to make decisions as they should. When there is no mature Christians in a congregation at all, then there is a problem.
In the past, the five-fold ministry has attempted to solve this problem by “importing” elders from other house churches. This is usually not a good thing to do. The problem is that the house church congregation has not spent some time with these people. They are usually strangers and the house church members did not share their lives with them. They have not learned to respect them and to trust them. So, most of the time, this does not work.
A better alternative, but also a dangerous alternative, is for the five-fold ministry, the Team Leader, and the Team Member, to give them advice as the senior or mature members would have done. However, they should under no circumstances be part of the decision-making process.
They should leave the meeting when the congregation makes the decision. When they give advice during the process, the danger is that they might stay and help with the decision making and that should not be allowed. It would be a grave mistake for them to do so. It is against the principles that govern house churches and it usually would be the first step for such a five-fold minister to take over the congregation from Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
If the Team Leader and Team Member are disciplined and able to do this right, they can guide the congregation until they have identified two or three people in the congregation that can function as elders. So the lack of elders can cause the church planters to stay with them for a longer period than usual. This is OK but this period should not be longer than necessary. The longer the five-fold ministry stay in a congregation the worse the situation might become. God did not intend for the five-fold ministry to stay with a congregation for more than two to three months under normal circumstances. Paul usually left the congregations that he planted after about four weeks.
We have seen in the first session that the congregation judge what the five-fold ministry teach them or request them to do. They make decisions about whether they should heed to such recommendations and suggestions and how they should deal with it. The question is, how should they make such decisions? What are the principles that govern decision-making in house churches?
What type of decisions are made by the congregation? Well, as I said, they often discuss the doctrines that the five-fold ministry teaches them. They also discuss the way that certain members of the congregation deal with the word of God. As a congregation of Christ, they need to make sure that everybody that is a member of the congregation, walks in obedience and in the will of God and in the truth. House church members teach each other as well. They share a community life and they honor each other, pray for each other, help each other, exhort each other, build each other up, motivate each other, care for each other and reveal Christ Jesus to each other. So they are involved with each other quite a lot. There will be incidents and behavior and attitude problems and even problem-people in house churches. The congregation sometimes even needs to discipline a member or a group of members.
So in such meetings, house church members do need to discuss one or even more problems and situations that need to be addressed. They need to make decisions and solve problems as soon as possible to prevent frustration and escalation and undesired repercussions.
Yes, the mature Christians, the elders, will be of great value because of their experience but they cannot make the decisions on their own. It has to be made by the whole congregation. However, the whole congregation will have to display the right attitude when they make decisions. Although some of them might be young of age and even young in Christ, they will have to rise to the occasion. They will have to learn quite quickly how to make wise decisions in the congregation. Let’s read a few Scriptures that shed more light on this:
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.
It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul.
Notice the attitude in this congregation. Notice “the whole church” and “with one accord”.
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
This is very important in house churches. We should always endeavor to keep unity in peace and that is especially true when it comes to decision-making.
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
This is so important that Paul suggested here. Do not be negative, have one mind, live in peace and God will be with you. So it is important to handle the decision-making process right and effectively. It can prevent a lot of undesired incidents and occurrences in the church.
1 Corinthians 1:10
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
How can we all have one judgment and one mind as Paul suggested here? This is going to be a revelation for many people. We will discuss this in a minute.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this Scripture, we see it again; we need to be like-minded. If we are, we think the same and we see things the same and that causes us to speak out of one mouth. This is amazing. According to the word of God, this is a reality.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Mathew 18:19 emphasizes the fact that good things happen when people are in unity.
1 Chronicles 12:38
All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.
We should be of one heart.
That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, we should be of one mouth. Remember we speak what we think. If we speak with one mouth it means we think the same. That means that we have one heart. What is in the heart of man will cause him to think and to speak. We cannot say one thing but have something else in our hearts.
1 Chronicles 13”1-4
1 And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader.
2 And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the LORD our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us:
3 And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.
4 And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
How is it possible for a whole congregation to feel the same about something? It has everything to do with an attitude. It has everything to do with the will of a person. We decide to be like-minded or to feel the same about things. It is a decision.
2 Chronicles 30:4
And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.
My prayer is that every house church congregation will make 2 Chronicles 30:4 their motto. In this case, it pleased king David and the whole congregation. In our case, it should please King Jesus and the whole congregation.
And this is the whole secret. We did mention in the first session that Jesus Christ does nothing but the will of God. He only says and does what the Father says and does. Why is it like this? It is because Jesus Christ has the mind of the Father. He is one with the Father and in unity with the Father. Jesus Christ always agrees with the Father. He never disagrees. He learned the will and ways of the Father and then He made it his will and his ways. Not my will but your will Father, is a prayer that did come over the lips of Jesus Christ. He became as obedient as can be.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
We should also have this same obedience in our lives. We should also have the same mind as the Father and we can because the Bible says that we have the same mind as Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:9-16
9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
This is when 2 Chronicles 30:4 will become our motto. When we have the same mind as Christ. We do have the same mind as Christ but we have to know the will and word of God to experience this in its fullness. We have to renew our minds.
How did Jesus receive the mind of the Father? He observed the Father and He took note of what He saw and heard. He allowed the Father to teach him his will, his ways, and his word. So when Jesus Christ arrived on earth He was the Word of God. He knew God and his word and his ways so He became the Word and the will and the ways of God. We need to do the same.
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
Jesus Christ equipped the first congregation, the twelve disciples, with the word and the will and the ways of God. Later in life, they all became the word and the will and the ways of God, just as Jesus did. So they had the mind of Christ which is also the mind of the Father. The disciples knew the Father, his word, and his will and his ways because this is what they have seen in Jesus Christ. This is the foundation on which the church is built.
The ministry of the apostles is to lay the right foundation when they plant churches. The right foundation is the word and the will and the ways of God the Father. The Father taught Jesus, Jesus taught the disciples, the disciples taught the people that they led to Christ and so this process was supposed to have repeated itself right through history up to today and even until the end of time as we know it. However, to do that, we need to know the word and the will and the ways of God the Father. That is what this training session is all about.
This principle makes decision-making in house churches a lot easier. If we know the word and the will and way of God, we know what to decide in any incident or situation that the congregation might face. So if we do not reach consensus in house churches, it is because some of the members do not know the word and the will and the ways of God. That is why they have to be assisted and helped and taught. As soon as they have done this, they will be able to make the right decision every time.
The second problem is the fact that people allow the flesh to stand in the way. They allow the flesh, like pride, haughtiness, and stubbornness, and ambition to hinder their ability to make decisions. The only way for such people to overcome this problem is to sacrifice the flesh and to die in themselves. They have to lay down their own weaknesses and sacrifice their own ambitions and will and ways and preferences. If they refuse to do this they will become a huge hindrance in the congregation. They will make everything a lot more difficult and complicated and by the way, there are one or two such people in about every house church.
Such people will have to learn to put the well-being of the congregation before their own motivations and preferences. If they do they have learned to die in themselves and they will benefit greatly because of that and so will the congregation. This is nothing but the pursuit of holiness.
So how do house church members make decisions? They arrange for a meeting. They discuss the problem. They brainstorm different solutions. They test the solution with the word and the will and the ways of God and they make a decision. When everybody in the congregation all decides on the same solution, they implement that solution and all is done.
This is an indication that some of the following happened: Everybody agreed from the start or some did not agree but they realized that it would be best to maintain unity by taking this route. This means that some of them died in themselves by sacrificing their personal ambitions or preferences. They sacrificed the flesh to benefit the congregation and the work of the ministry. A decision cannot be made or accepted until everybody agrees. If just one person does not agree, a consensus was not reached and so the congregation cannot move forward. In such a case they have experienced a deadlock and they will have to start all over again on another day. There is just one way to overcome a deadlock and that is to reach a consensus.
It is very important to understand how decisions should be made correctly during such meetings. What are the most important factors that need to be considered when making and taking decisions? The answer to this question is the following: Three very important questions need to be asked whenever the congregation gathers to make decisions.
The first question: Is the solution Scriptural?
The second question: Is the solution in harmony with the organic structure of house churches?
The third question: Does the solution promote the revelation of Jesus Christ in our midst or does it promote organizational factors and goals?
As most of you probably realized, all three of these requirements have to be conformed to every time that a decision is made. There will have to be no compromise ever when it comes to these factors.
This means that some members of the congregation will be led by the Spirit of God not to compromise. Such members will rather die than compromise. They will protect the word and the will and the ways of God. They will not cave under pressure. Now such members must know the word and the will and the ways of God because if they don’t, they are actually stubborn and they will cause the congregation to break up if they don’t reach a consensus.
It is just as important for such people to reach consensus as it is for people not to compromise when the word of God, the will of God, and the ways of God are being jeopardized during a decision-making process.
So as you can see, decision-making is easy when people know the word of God, the will of God, and the ways of God. Decision-making is easy when people pursue holiness, renew their minds, and learn to be obedient and humble and learn to die in themselves by sacrificing the flesh. Decision-making is easy when all members of a congregation have the mind of Christ. We all have the mind of Christ but we may act contradictory to the mind of Christ because of the things that I mentioned here. The flesh leads to disunity, dissension, stubbornness, and even to church splits. Yes, people can be so stubborn that they will break up congregations. Such people are problem-people. They hinder the work of the ministry and they prevent the kingdom of God from advancing.
The process of decision-making in house churches is one of the tools that God uses to make us grow. He teaches us to be humble and to sacrifice and to die in ourselves through this process. The will of God is that we should work through our differences through this process until a consensus is reached. When we do, everybody has won and the kingdom of God has won. If we fail, the kingdom of darkness has won.
A house church breaking up is like a divorce. God does not want this to happen. He wants us to stick together and to work out our differences until a consensus is reached.
Making decisions through the method of consensus is wonderful and the best method. It is even better than democracy. That is why God has implemented this type of decision-making in the church. With democracy, the majority is happy and the minority not. The majority won and the minority lost. The majority might be wrong and the minority right, resulting in wrong decisions being made. This can cause a lot of problems in the church. This is exactly why the organized church has made so many wrong decisions throughout history.
Consensus promotes unity but it also empathizes that everybody is equal in the sight of God. This is wonderful. Let us read a few Scriptures about this subject:
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:23-25
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
Significantly, this Scripture emphasizes the fact that each member must have the same care for others. This makes us all equal in Christ. Ephesians 14 says the same thing. It says that every member gives support. Every member plays his or her part to support and benefit the whole body of Christ. We are all essential. We are all important in the eyes of God but also in the congregation and in the global church. We are all connected, no matter who you are or where you are and we all have an important task to carry out.
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
With decision-making, we all need to show and display the mind of Christ and the obedience of Christ and the attitude of Christ.
When we do, when we sacrifice our own preferences and ambitions and our flesh, we will be a successful and a spiritually mature congregation and we will advance the kingdom of God. Just take a look at what we will achieve in the kingdom of God and in the congregation when we make decisions the right way:
We will reach consensus, every time without compromising the word and the will and the ways of God.
The congregation will grow spiritually and the congregation will be stronger because of that.
The congregation will be a closer-knit unit because of that.
There will be a feeling of fulfillment among the members of the congregation because they did seek the mind of Christ together and they did find it together as a unit.
Everybody will be happy with the decision that was taken, even though some of them did not agree from the start. Some will be happier than others but at least nobody will be dissatisfied with the decision because they all did agree to it. This is not like a democracy where some never agreed to the decision that was made.
Because everybody did agree to the decision as a corporate unit, they all accept ownership and accountability which results in positive actions and good results.
The consensus process is not always easy. It does cost us but it is the right and the Biblical way of decision-making and it does teach us a lot about God and it does cause tremendous spiritual growth in the body of Christ.
It empathizes the fact that accountability is on all of us. Nobody can run away or hide from responsibility and accountability in the body of Christ. We all need to seek and find the mind of Christ in all situations. When we find the mind of Christ we will make the right decisions.
We all have to learn to wrestle with each other patiently and in love until we reach consensus. How do we wrestle in love? Softly but firmly and we do not hurt each other.
The consensus process builds the congregation.
It cultivates patience.
It cultivates mutual love and respect among the church members.
It limits the flesh and self-retribution.
It promotes the taking up of the cross of Christ daily.
It promotes the members of the congregation to die in themselves and to sacrifice their own will and agendas.
It promotes the pursuit of holiness.
The consensus process is worth all the trouble because it does allow God to work in our hearts.
The consensus process is a very important tool in the sense that it prevents wrong decisions. One of the reasons for this is the fact that decisions cannot be taken until a consensus is reached. The status quo is maintained until a consensus is reached. There is no way to get around this principle. It ensures unity and it ensures that the right decisions are made every time.
Consensus does require strong personalities.
It does require mutual love and respect.
It does require commitment more than the desire to persuade others or to derail others.
Consensus recognizes that love, unity, relationships, communication, and partaking to be more important than quick decisions.
Consensus cultivates an attitude of unity.
It promotes a sense of community and adhesion.
When a congregation struggles a lot to make a decision, they may involve the five-fold ministry but this must only be done in very serious cases, or when it causes disruption or when it appears that there is just no hope left that consensus will be reached. This is actually a sign of spiritual immaturity but the five-fold ministry will help when necessary. They won’t make the decision but they will help when it is really necessary.
How do house church congregations deal with disciplinary matters?
Just as in the corporate world, the purpose of disciplinary action in the church is to help people to find their way again and to be obedient to God and his will and his ways. We cannot allow people to live and do just as they want and in the process hurt the body of Christ. We have to protect what is holy. If we don’t do this then the whole congregation will suffer and the body of Christ will suffer. Irresponsible and undisciplined people can cause a lot of damage in the church. The congregation cannot allow this to happen. They must take action as soon as possible when they see people acting in a way that is not acceptable among Christians and in the church.
Fortunately for us, this subject was discussed in detail by Paul. He left no gray areas in this regard. Let’s look at what the Bible says about discipline in the church and in the congregation:
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
So in verse one already, we can see that Christians are not allowed to take each other to court. Why not? Because there is a Biblical way of solving such matters. We cannot allow the world to preside over God’s children. We cannot allow the support systems of the world to be utilized in the kingdom of God. Let’s read further, verse 2…
2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.
7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
So even when Christians contravene the laws of the country that they live in, against each other, they need to deal with these matters according to the principles that God implemented in the church. Matthew 18:15-17 gives us a very good idea of how we need to deal with those issues:
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Verse 17 suggests that people should listen to and accept the advice and the verdict taken by the congregation. If they don’t, they will be regarded as an unsaved person and they will be cast out of the congregation.
These steps and these actions are taken through the consensus process. Once the congregation reached consensus on the actions that need to be taken, they call such a person in to attend the meeting and they notify him or her of the outcome. This is when the person should react to the outcome. If he is willing to repent and to adhere to the requirements that the congregation has laid down, such a person will be allowed to carry on as a member of the congregation. No privileges will be withheld from such a person. If the person refuses to accept the outcome and to adhere to the requirements, the person will be cast out of the congregation, with the assurance that if he repents, and if he decides to accept the requirements, he will be accepted as a member of the congregation again.
God does not want any division in the congregation. We have discussed 1 Corinthians 1:10 already in this session but we have to take another look at this in regards to this aspect of decision-making in the church.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
The right way of making decisions in the congregation is a great tool to prevent division in the church. If we don’t take action as a congregation, then people will feel vulnerable and they will be unhappy and that is when division will become a problem in a congregation. We should not refrain from doing what we are supposed to do. We always have to take action and as soon as possible after unacceptable behavior came to our attention.
This tool should also be used to get rid of people. This is what Paul suggested in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
Yes, I do understand that this is harsh but it is necessary. We cannot allow people to be one with us but at the same time doing bad things and acting unacceptably. Such people will ruin the reputation of the congregation and they will destroy any credibility that a congregation has. If we do not act, the congregation will self-destruct when such behavior is allowed among the members.
We have to do what Paul suggested in 1 Corinthians 5:5-7
5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.
The congregation needs to take the same actions when people are teaching and promoting wrong or false doctrines in the congregation or in the community. The congregation arranges for a meeting to take a decision (this person or persons should not be part of this meeting for obvious reasons), the congregation calls such a person or persons in and the congregation informs them of the following: You are allowed to believe what you feel is right, however, in this case, the congregation does not agree with the particular doctrines. The congregation feels that it is not Biblical and so the congregation expects from you not to teach and not to promote such doctrines in the community at all.
If the person or the group of people agree and adhere to this request, they will be allowed to stay as members of the congregation but if they don’t agree or if they contravene this request, such people should be expelled from the congregation.
So in this session, we discussed the procedure that the members of a congregation should take when members are acting in a way that they are not supposed to. We also discussed the principles that govern decision-making in house churches. The consensus-process of decision-making is the God-given method of decision-making, but, that does not mean that it is an easy process. It is sometimes difficult to make decisions but we will have to follow this method if we want to make the right decisions and if we want to allow God to use this process to ensure spiritual growth and development.
Click on this link for more information. Lighthouse Discipleship Bible School.
Assignment: House Church Training 2