The World Needs Fellowship Outposts!
What is a "fellowship outpost"?
A fellowship outpost, or kingdom outpost if you prefer (but then again "kingdom outpost" is a term that has been used before to mean other things), is like a "stake in the ground" that identifies a place (e.g. a house) and a person (host, e.g. resident) who welcomes disciples and seekers of Jesus alike into his or her home or facility for one-on-one fellowship and also for group fellowship meetings.
For example, someone might be willing to open up their home to others for fellowship every week. As relationships grow and God's involvement with various people unfolds, the person might want to take it to another level: be an outpost. An outpost is more than just a once-a-week Bible study. It is a permanent or semi-permanent place where anyone can go at pretty much any time if they are looking for God or God's people or desire to grow in the Lord, without being spoonfed a prepackaged presentation, or where the host can simply be the hands and feet of Jesus in their own home. This is what seldom few churches do or used to do centuries ago, when they were more obedient and properly equipped.
Realistically, in peaceful times and cultures, hosting an outpost is hardly chaotic or contentious or stressful, in fact in the end it might not be much different than just hosting a once-a-week house fellowship, depending on how relationships and God's moves unfold. But in times or cultures of greater chaos or disquiet, when people in the world are desperate to be able to find true representatives of the kingdom of Jesus, outposts will be among the most important places on Earth. Where the steeple used to represent the nearest place of refuge decades or centuries ago, an outpost can serve the purpose even better.
Here are some key considerations and ground rules:
- The first key purpose of an outpost is to answer the call of anyone asking, "I need fellowship with God and with God's people, where are they?" This is not to be confused with traditional "churches". Church buildings and institutional church organizations represent the Christian religion. Outposts represent the kingdom of Jesus. Outposts are where local ambassadors of the kingdom of Jesus can be found. These are not mutually exclusive, but churches that represent the kingdom of Jesus (rather than their private charitable businesses) and that facilitate meaningful interactions with God's people all week long are becoming scarce.
- The second key purpose of an outpost is to offer warm, engaging, discipleship-building, Jesus-focused fellowship among journeying believers, ensuring no one falls away from the faith due to neglect. The purpose of an outpost is support the journeyman. We are the body of Christ. Outposts allow us to find and support each other. That said, the reason for the emphasis on "journeying" in "journeying believers" is because people who engage with outposts will come and go. This is not for long-term/permanent relationships, it's for people who need care in God's family and discipleship and guidance, while passing through. Ad hoc relationships happen, and God knows this, and He blesses them. For permanent relationships, house church fellowship is recommended instead.
- An outpost can be any place, whether a church or a home or a retail location or an industrial warehouse. Houses are most likely, since someone always maintains a home and there's usually always someone at a home. Christians who love the Lord should be comfortable making themselves vulnerable to other true believers, so this should be something that occurs naturally.
- An outpost should be publicly self-identified. Outposts do not necessarily have to make themselves known to the public world outside of the kingdom, but in general if they are only known by friends and family they are not outposts.
- An outpost should host at least one fellowship meeting during the week. It does not need to be Sunday, it can be any day of the week. The fellowship meeting should consist of: singing, prayer, Bible reading, discussion, and food, and if anyone is sick or oppressed by demons then there should be healing and/or deliverance. These are required. Listening to a sermon (monologue) or playing videos may have value but are extraneous.
- Participants of meetings should rotate between outposts. Relationships cannot be built if individuals meet only once or only every few months. But no one should be expected to attend the same outpost's meetings every week exclusively for several years or even several months. When that happens it suggests that discipleship is not occurring. Other outposts should be forming on a regular basis, and believers should be meeting in other places throughout the week, or at least from week to week.
- Every outpost must have a means of water baptism. It can be a water trough, a bathtub, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, or anything similar. Those helping must be able and willing to also be in the water as with a jacuzzi if they are not otherwise able to fully physically support the person being baptized as with a bathtub or water trough. The host or else at least one participant must be able and willing to perform the baptism, which should include proper advance teaching of dying to sin and to the flesh and rising in Christ.
- Outposts must not be denominational, but should be kingdom-focused. All outposts should have two things in common: the established kingdom of the living Jesus, son of God, and the Bible as the inerrant basis of His instruction. These are kingdom outposts, after all, Jesus is not exclusive to any denomination, He has saved and lives within anyone who believes in him and who is baptized in him.
- Generally, an outpost is accessible 24/7. In USA, most church buildings are only open on Sunday mornings and on one or a few evenings during the week, this is unacceptable. People should be able to access kingdom ambassadors any time of any day. The only time this rule should be ignored is when the host is engaging in an outreach, engaging in a fellowship meeting, or is otherwise out gathering supplies. The outpost is generally always accessible. Even if the door is temporarily locked, whether by regularly checked e-mail or by phone, the outpost always has someone accessible to represent it, and unless the visit is without merit any visitor should be able to access the outpost premises within a day.
- All outposts must have these in immediately ready supply for one family (5+ people) on any one day: Bible, food, water, and warmth (clothing or blankets). This does not mean that there should be a warehouse of food stocks. It just means that if one family knocks on the door asking for a Bible, or food, or water, or warmth, each requested need should be met immediately, and one family's worth of provisions must be replenished within a day. The food can be simple, like bread. The water can be filtered/clean tap. The Bibles can be cheap paperback. But anyone who has any of these needs should have their needs met on that day.
- Any person should be allowed to rest for 8 hours. An outpost should be able to accommodate one person to rest for 8 hours. Silence is not guaranteed. Comfort is not guaranteed. But basic rest is a human right. The rest might be allowed on a floor, or on a sofa, or if the host is so accommodating on a bed.
- No individual person or family should remain on a consecutive day for support without the consent of the host. In other words, the ability for a person to spend the night and stay 24 hours is entirely up to the host. Outposts are not living accommodations, if the host wants to support people as such then that is the function of the host's own hospitality, not the outpost. Some hosts are very accommodating and even open up their homes to the homeless for them to live. This is absolutely not a requirement of an outpost. The only requirement is that one family's worth of supplies be readily available on any day.
- If there is too much demand for the host, this means that Christians are not being discipled correctly. If a host is overwhelmed, other Christians should become outpost hosts. No one should be promoted to the title of "pastor", for example, such that everyone treats the host with exclusive merit, but rather the host should serve in pastoring along with other volunteers and encourage others to be taught how to host and to lead by serving.
Fellowship outposts are not for everybody. If you are a single person with a home and strongly desire to minister to your community, this might be a good fit for you along with other ministries God has called you to engage in. If you are married, however, and especially if you have children, you might be more concerned about the safety and sanity of your home, so declaring your home an outpost might seem to cause too much vulnerability for you and your family. Judge carefully what the Lord is speaking to you before making any significant decisions.