COVID-19: Decentralization Leads to Home Churches Rapid Growth During This Season


Jeremiah Morris, Lead Pastor of Seven Mile Road Houston, shares how their house church model has shifted and has been rapidly growing in this season. Decentralization has been deepening their connections and allowed them to tap into the gifts and passions of their people like never before.

"This has the potential to be the great catalyst for God's kingdom coming in our world and nation and in our city, particularly as it is in heaven. . .We don't have all of the strategies worked out. We don't know the timeline, but this is a gift. I don't mean the suffering and the sadness. . .but I mean, from a leadership perspective, leading God's church in a season like this, this is a gift."

Resources Mentioned:

Seven Mile Road Houston

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:

Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds and today I'm joined by Jeremiah Morris with Seven Mile Road Houston. They're a family of house churches here in Houston. So it's great to get his insight and thoughts as we look at what does a coronavirus 19 looks like as our churches move forward. Jeremiah, thank you for joining us.


Jeremiah Morris:

Yeah, thanks for having me. I've been looking forward to it Tommy.


Tommy Rosson:

Absolutely. Now tell me a little bit, you've been around for three, three and a half years. Tell me a little bit how Corona...first of all, for those that aren't used to house churches, tell me a little bit about your structure so you can catch them up to speed, but also talk to us a little bit about how this coronavirus, COVID-19 has affected, Seven Mile.


Jeremiah Morris:

Yeah, absolutely. So we planted three and a half years ago and really the planting started about a year before that with 30 folks in my living room that we began to train in the ways of Jesus. And then we planted our first five house churches before we ever had a Sunday gathering. We call them, they're kind of like missional communities on steroids. We really are saying this is the front line of pastoral care. This is where the church happens. If our folks were to choose between a Sunday gathering and ongoing commitment to a house church, we're saying you need to be in a house church. This is the church. So that really is who we are. That's our DNA. And so we planted with five house churches before we ever had a Sunday gathering and said if we multiply out of the harvest, we'll plant a Sunday gathering because now we need to gather and have communion and baptism and celebrate what God is doing across this network and this family and the way that we read about in the New Testament.


So that's a little bit of how we took shape. COVID's effected us in plenty of ways. I think in many ways heat and pressure reveal, the good and the bad. And so I think we were really grateful for the way that the pressure of this season has kind of called out the health of our system and strengthen it as well as some of the challenges and the difficulties that we're growing through. Um, I think the biggest effect has been all of our eggs because we want to be a viral decentralized movement. All of our eggs have been in the leadership development basket. And so we had leadership trained for the 26 house churches that were currently functioning, but we had another 80 leaders that had been through our leadership incubator that had yet to step into leadership. But we had a really deep bench people ready to run who were just waiting for something to be directed to.


And so our 26 house churches kind of overnight, we said, okay, communities of anywhere from 15 to 30 people are not going to be able to foster this sort of community and mission and connection on a virtual platform and the way that they have in each other's living rooms. And so we took those house churches and we multiplied them into huddles, five, six, seven people. And so overnight 26 house churches became 124 huddles and has become the structure that's really our system right now. Our people are growing really deep roots, deep connections with one another being immediately empowered towards the mission and it's happening in an entirely decentralized way through the priesthood of all believers, which has been a great, great gift to watch. That's been one of the real immediate impacts on our community that we're rejoicing in, that that's God's grace to us, that we were prepared in that way.


Tommy Rosson:

It's fascinating how much the leadership development, discipleship aspect of what you've done and how that really came to fruition during this season. And so talk to me a little bit about what that looked like beforehand and now obviously I know that going to 124 huddles, you've still got leadership development that's growing. Talk to me a little bit about your leadership development process and how that helped you during that season.


Jeremiah Morris:

Yeah, that's great. I mean, leading up to it, we've put a lot of emphasis on it in the sense that we're, we are all about identifying and raising up leaders. So our house church shepherds, which are the front lines of pastoral care, are always pinging us the shepherds of this community that are laboring to serve this mission. Saying, Hey, here's somebody that ought to be on the radar that really understands our mission and his own mission with us and is theologically astute and prepared to lead.


So we bring them in. We shore up theology character and work through some things in an incubator where we really get to know them and they get to know us. And so we've been doing that for the last several years. And as a result of this growing kind of a group of leaders and this season, honestly, one of the things that now we're trying to work through is we put such high emphasis on the ongoing care of our leaders once a month training with once a month personal contact, elders that are overseeing each of those house churches. We were in a strategy session this morning recognizing the great benefit of multiplication but also the threat of it that we now, it is truly viral. It's out there and things are happening. We're adding groups weekly and so we are right now brainstorming the best way to continue to provide the sort of ongoing care and the guardrails, the quality control for each one of those huddles in when the time comes that we can start meeting in groups of, you know, if it goes back to 10 or 20 or 50 is that as the wave comes back on, seeing some of those huddles gather back together and be able to provide the same sort of leadership training we've been doing, we really think what God's doing there is preparing the way for increased multiplication in the future.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. I can only imagine that through this season if it's, you know if it's two months if it's three months, four months, whatever that is. That so many of these huddles are going to probably become house churches within themselves or they not only have you seen multiple cases from huddles going backward, you're probably looking at the multiplication of house churches.


Jeremiah Morris:

Precisely. Yeah. We were, what was on our whiteboard beforehand was we needed to get from 26 to 40 by the fall. And there was some challenge in the that we were thinking kind of like old mental models and the Lord and his grace broke those open and we're really going, were easy it at 50 in the fall, which is more of where we needed to be to continue to serve the discipleship of this growing body. But, in some ways, it took God's hand and in this kind of unsettling sort of way to actually open our eyes to new opportunities and new ways of thinking about the mission that we're on.


Jeremiah Morris:

It's just so fascinating to think about the impact of not just what you did beforehand, but also forcing leadership, that has had to happen during the season. And I know that when we look at previous disasters, whether it's, you know, floods or whatever happens in Houston, we get them often. You just see this bubble of lead... Not only do you have an amazing opportunity to love your community, you see this bubble of leadership grow up. It's fascinating for you. This bubble of leadership is not just going to grow up and have a DNA stamp on the church. They're going to grow up and they're going to have a multiplication of house churches. So, that's such a fascinating aspect of this. One of the things that you also do is you, by de-centralizing your church and that's a big focus for you. Talk about A) what that means and then B) what does that look like when it looks, when you're talking about meeting the needs of your community, especially in this season?


Jeremiah Morris:

Yeah. Decentralization means a lot for us cause it kind