We are intentional about connecting with non-believers and doing one-on-one discipleship.
By Tim and Angie Wenger
When we were in our early twenties, we were members of a church that was transitioning into a cell church. We found great fulfillment and success in developing the youth ministry totally around cell groups. Yet I (Tim) realized that many leaders with a pastoral gifting were called to lead a larger number of people than those found in a cell group. Hebrews 13:17 became very meaningful to me as I pondered how to develop a church structure that would release as many elders (pastor-shepherds) as possible who had the authority, gifting, calling, and character to “watch over peoples’ souls” and give an account for those souls before the Chief Shepherd. As such, I was drawn to house church networks.
However, we did not start a micro church network at the time. Almost twenty years later, after being directors of a discipleship training school known as The Mandate, we sensed a call to church planting. We linked with others in the community who had the same passion. In 2010, The Mandate board members sensed God leading them to venture out in faith. We decided to sell their homes and relocate to a new town where we could work together in church planting. Several other individuals and families were led by the Holy Spirit to move from various towns in Oregon to be part of this church planting initiative.
Are We Hearing God Correctly?
I personally struggled with doubt and fear (Tim writing). I had to ask myself, “Are we hearing God correctly?” What if folks sell their homes and move, and it doesn’t work out? Angie, along with other leaders in my life, were a constant source of support and encouragement and regularly affirmed that we were to move forward, despite the risk. We planted The Hive Communities in Corvallis, Oregon, and joined DOVE International for our oversight. Corvallis is a college town with a population of more than 50,000. It has a large foreign student population, many from countries that are closed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because micro church structure is unique and nontraditional, at times it can draw folks who have a negative attitude toward authority. We did not want to have an “anti-” attitude built into our foundation. We have intentionally asked God to deal with any such attitude in our own lives first. We also sought for functioning oversight in order to embed the principle of accountability into the community.
There are several uniquely positive features of the micro church model where smaller churches network together. The structure of such a group is lightweight and easier to lead and reproduce than some other church models. Leadership development takes place naturally with the planting of new churches. An elder leading the church can also still work full-time, eliminating the need for paid staff. Because of the size, churches can meet either in large homes or rented facilities. The small group size also means that everyone can participate in giving a Psalm, prophecy, or teaching (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Reducing Activities that Do Not Contribute to Evangelism and Discipleship
We desire that missions and outreach take a central place in The Hive Communities. A large part of our focus is to send folks to unreached places in the world that have never heard of Jesus. We want to be intentional about connecting with non-believers and doing one-on-one discipleship. We seek to reduce activities that do not contribute to evangelism and discipleship and promote gatherings of twos and threes for accountability, discipleship, and mentoring. We encourage worship that is participatory, celebratory, and focused on Jesus, and find it helpful to teach through books of the Bible in each church.
The Hive Communities now includes three micro churches of about thirty to seventy people, each led by their own lead elder or team of elders. Church elders are responsible for developing a leadership team within their congregation and working with their team to nurture a unique micro-vision that fits within the overall vision. Once a month the three churches come together for a larger gathering.
Communal living is also an important aspect for many of us. Over the years, we have welcomed people to live in our home and observe our lives. We find this to be one of the most effective strategies for evangelism and discipleship. “God set the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6).
Learn more about micro churches in the book Micro Church Networks. Check it out here.
Hear more about micro churches in episode 4 of the Larry Kreider Leadership Podcast, “Larry Kreider & Merle Shenk on Micro Churches and House Church Movements.”
About Tim and Angie Wenger
Tim and Angie both come from a vibrant Christian heritage and decided to follow Jesus at a young age. After graduating from Western Mennonite High School in Salem, Oregon, they both attended Elim Bible Institute in New York. Upon completion they moved back to Oregon, were married, and have been involved in worship, youth, mission, and eldership ministries ever since. They also directed The Mandate Discipleship School for 15 years until its closure in 2017. Tim makes his living as a building contractor and real estate developer. He is also the senior team leader for The Hive Communities. Tim loves to serve, equip, and protect church leaders while creating opportunities for them to become healthy, fully developed, and released in their unique giftings/callings. Angie spends her time serving and loving her 13 children, their spouses and grandchildren, as well as caretaking for her aging father. She opens up her home and life to neighbors, loves to make connections with internationals, and is passionate about introducing people to Jesus.