By Katrina Jarnutowski, Contributing Writer
In Houston, Guy Caskey is planting churches that are not designed to grow in membership – these churches are meant to multiply in number.
These are house churches – groups of about 15 to 20 people who meet in private homes and apartments to worship, fellowship, and lean into God’s word. When growing groups finally pack a home, rather than finding a bigger space, the church plants another church, and a new generation is born.
“We have a big enough vision to think small,” Caskey said of his network of about 75 plants in the Houston area.
Some churches of 15 to 20 members have baptized 20 to 30 new believers. Caskey, who serves as a Texas Baptists multi-house church catalyst, said that today, planting churches is not only a calling but a passion.
“I had a man tell me one time a lot of people [plant churches] out of aspiration …but it’s almost as if you have no choice,” Caskey recalled.
One house church pastor Caskey works with is Bobby “Tre9” Herring. In 2012, Herring launched Out Tha Box Church and the church quickly multiplied. Today, between 200 and 250 people meet in groups of 10 to 20 at Out Tha Box locations including six in Houston, three in Bay City, one in Dallas, and even one in Jamaica.
Because these groups are small, Herring said they can minister deep into unreached communities. Further, attendees are equipped to personally invest in each other’s lives and directly meet immediate, practical needs.
“I need help. I need help,” James Figueroa said after about two decades of drugs, alcohol, and crime that landed him in state and federal prison on more than five occasions. Figueroa said his story began when he was two months old after being taken from his mother and father and placed under the care of Child Protective Services.
The subsequent years of hurt and hate gave Figueroa an insatiable craving for love, belonging, and acceptance that led him to the crutches of drugs, alcohol, robbery, assault, and dangerous relationships.
In prison, it was a gang that showed Figueroa the love and acceptance he craved, prompting him to more dangerous ways of lashing out as he labored for the attention of its members.
During his time in prison, Figueroa gave his life to Christ after feeling the love of God through a Kairos ministry program. However, being released from prison and rehabilitation meant he was disconnected from his former Christian community. Figueroa said he was unprepared for the lack of acceptance he would experience as a previously-incarcerated Christian trying to explore old relationships and church scenes.
In 2017, Figueroa met Bobby Herring, an organic church planter, but after a few months could not commit to the ministry and church. I told him, “I love the [old] lifestyle. I can’t let it go,” Figueroa said.
After another incarceration and a narrow brush with a 25-to-life sentence, Figueroa called Herring for help.
“When I came back, it was…like a prodigal son moment,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa was ready to make a change.
“I told him…if you’ll just go all in, get plugged in, God can deliver you from all the problems you’re having,” Herring said.
Through Herring’s ministry, Figueroa was placed in outpatient rehab, sheltered by their transition house, mentored and offered classes.
Today, Herring is a youth recovery coach at Unlimited Visions Aftercare, advocating for youth in the court system and mentoring a group of children. While undergoing treatments to remove tattoos from his face, neck and hands, Figueroa is working toward his Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor certification with the intention of developing a recovery program through Herring’s ministry.
Herring’s church is important for guys like me, Figueroa said. “There’s not many that do it, so it’s real special what he’s doing out here.” “It’s a beautiful thing to be simple church,” Herring said.
Gifts to the Mary Hill Davis Offering fund the start of new Multi-housing and house congregations around Texas. For more information, contact Mario Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 214.828.5389.