Around two years ago The Cell Church started a weekly Bible study in my home for parolees who, for one reason or another, did not yet have permission to attend church in the community. The study has grown since then, and now includes a fellowship meal and musical worship. Not only does the service provide an opportunity for parolees to worship and fellowship, but The Cell Church also helps attendees to find and connect with a church home by acting as advocates with local church leaders. For some time now, we have been prayerfully considering using this study as the seed of a full house church plant, and by God's grace that vision has now become a reality.
Several months ago The Cell Church officially joined the Ethne Church Network, a global network of churches of all kinds and sizes, many of them among refugees. Ethne also has a particular heart for ex-offenders, which is why it is a great fit for The Cell Church. The network is conservative and evangelical, and partners with several Baptist associations, including the Southern Baptist Convention. The Network Mentor, Dr. Allan Karr, was one of my professors in seminary, and pastors an Ethne house church in Larkspur, Colorado.
In December Mark and Q were both ordained by Ethné as ministers of the gospel on behalf of The Cell Church. As Dr. Karr explained during the service, formal ordination is an extra-biblical (but not unbiblical) practice. However, we do have a New Testament example of church leaders setting people aside for the work to which the Holy Spirit has called them (Acts 13:1-3). That is what the elders of Ethné did at our ordination. We are excited to see how the Lord will use our partnership with Ethné! Our prayer is that our house church will continue to be a welcoming place for parolees to worship and serve, and that we will serve as a bridge between the prison churches and local churches in the community.