A cry that has been reaching my ears over the past few months, from a number of different directions, is a cry of alone-ness from many individuals and couples who would now call themselves ‘recruits of the Replacement Army’.  An encouraging number of people are saying to me that they accept the general line of teaching in my recent book, but they long to be part of a group of believers who think and act along roughly the same lines.  At the moment they are ‘soldiers-in-waiting’, on their own, or in pairs; but they want to reach the stage where they feel themselves to be part of a local ‘unit’ – however informal – of the Replacement Army of Jesus Christ.  They fully accept that a ‘called-out group’ (the biblical word ‘ecclesia’) should be part of their lifestyle, but they don’t know where to find one, or how one could come into existence.  In this article, I want to give some words of hope to the many isolated followers of Jesus who seem to be scattered everywhere.

I should say that almost everything that appears in the paragraphs ahead, could be deduced from Chapters 33 to 35 of my recent book.  A few of the sentences in what follows have actually been lifted word-for-word from these chapters, or from the very first answer on the Frequently Asked Questions page of this website.  However, the purpose of this particular article (as its title suggests) is to gather together, in one place, those comments that might help individuals or couples who, though considering themselves to be “Replacement Army Recruits”, are at present operating on their own, and want to see an end to their isolation.  (I wish, now, that I had written this article in time for inclusion as a chapter in the book!)


I get the impression that a surprising number of out-of-traditional-church Christians are, in fact, still looking for what I would describe as a church-meeting-style ‘called-out group’.  What they envisage is a fairly regular gathering of believers that resembles the church meetings they used to go to – a gathering that has a mixture of singing, prayer, scripture-reading and teaching.  They probably want something more informal than before; and, certainly, they want something that is free from whatever features they found unsatisfactory in the past.  However, what they have in mind is definitely a ‘church-meeting-style’ group. Now, if that is what you are looking for, this article won’t be much use to you.  For my own part, I am in favour of a quite different type of church-group.  If asked my opinion, I discourage ‘Replacement Army Recruits’ from being drawn into ‘church-meeting-style’ groups.

The difficulty with the church-meeting style of group is that, whether they are large-scale and formal, or small-scale and informal, they always settle into a pattern.  There are two problems about a pattern.  The first is that any particular pattern appeals to some people, but puts other people off.  So often I have heard Christians speak along these lines: “I couldn’t go to your group meeting because it is too ‘happy-clappy’… or too serious… or too loud and extrovert… or too intellectual… or too introspective”…and so on.  The pattern that appeals to some is off-putting to many others.  The other problem is that many of those who initially like the pattern of the meeting eventually tire of it themselves, and get itchy feet to join some other group that conducts its meetings in a different way.

To my mind, there is an excellent alternative to the church-meeting-style group in the form of what I have come to call the family-style group. The characteristics of such a group (which I have already outlined fairly fully in various parts of Chapters 33 to 35 of my book) will emerge again as this article unfolds – but be assured, right from the start, that this type of ‘church-group’ not only provides the mutual support and fellowship that everyone needs, but also provides the opportunities for worship, for teaching, and for corporate prayer that so many people seem to think can only come from a “meeting”.


What this article aims at doing is to talk about some steps that are progressively worth taking, if you want to end your isolation as a Replacement Army Recruit.  I am not at all claiming that they are the only steps that you might find yourself taking.  I cannot predict how the Holy Spirit will lead you personally – and it is vitally important to walk step-by-step with Him in every aspect of your discipleship. What I am claiming, however, is that, whenever I hear (or read) accounts of how isolated out-of-institutional-church believers came to be part of a well-functioning family-style group, there were a number of happenings that nearly always feature in the story – four steps that always seem to be involved.


All ‘biological’ families start with just two parties who agree to link together in a family sense.  To begin with, at least, all you need for a ‘spiritual’ family is one other like-minded person with whom to inter-relate.  Incidentally, I don’t think that a married couple, on its own, quite meets this bill.  The Bible considers a married couple as being ‘one’ in various senses.  I am pretty sure that a married couple needs to pray for another individual, or another couple, to make up this ‘two-parties’ union.  By the same token, it’s fine for a single person if he or she links up with a couple.

You need to pray believingly for this other person or pair!  I think you can take your stand on the promise of Psalm 68, verse 6: “God sets the lonely in families”.  You can take your stand on the literal meaning of the words reported in Matthew 16:18: ”I (Jesus) will build my ‘called-out group’ (my church, my ecclesia)”.  When you pray that you will meet this other ‘recruit’, and that a ‘church family’ might begin to form, it should be on the faith-basis that the Lord is in the business of setting up such groups.

As with the setting up of ordinary families, it’s not good to rush into things.  Don’t make dramatic gestures. Just be friends who share an understanding of what the Lord is calling you to.  Then, one day, it will dawn on the two of you (or the three of you; or the four of you) that you have the makings of a ‘church family’ group.


If just two or three members of a natural or ‘biological’ family were to find themselves living in the same district, they would normally relate to one another in quite an informal way.  They would maintain links with one another through some, or all, of the following “channels of socialising”. They might pop into one another’s homes, either by previous arrangement, or unexpectedly (though willing to accept if it turned out to be inconvenient). They might agree to meet somewhere (perhaps over refreshments).  They might fix up an outing together.  They will almost certainly chat on the phone, or exchange text-messages or e-mails.  There will be times when they will have meals together, in each other’s homes, or elsewhere. In a normal, reasonably-well-functioning family, all this will be on a ‘reciprocal’ basis.  Each one of those involved will, instinctively, take the initiative in contacting the other (or others).

If two (or three, or four) ‘recruits of the Replacement Army’ find each other living in the same district, that is exactly how they should maintain links with one another – simply through those normal channels of socialising.  Note very specially that the New Testament emphasises, over and over again, that contact between Christians should be a lifestyle of ‘one-anothering’.  Each one involved must take responsibility for keeping in touch.  No one should be waiting for someone else to organise links with others on their behalf.  There are very few people who are not capable of phoning.  There are very few people who are not capable of asking someone else round for a cup of coffee, or suggesting a get-together somewhere locally.  There are very few people who are not capable of knocking, once in a while, on someone else’s door, or encouraging others to knock sometimes at their door.

There is, of course, a very important added dimension to socialising-among-believers.   We are called upon to strengthen one another in our Christian discipleship.  In Chapter 33 of my book, I listed (with biblical references) many of the ways the Bible says we can strengthen our fellow followers-of-Jesus: encourage one another; comfort one another; teach one another; spur one another on to love and good deeds; admonish one another; report to one another what God has been doing; pray for one another; pray with one another, for other people and other circumstances; rejoice together; have pity on one another in times of need…and so on.  Christian socialising is more than family friendship.  It is family fellowship.

With such a brand of relating, we don’t need church-style meetings to fulfil those basic necessities of the Christian life: Worship, Corporate Prayer, Personal Encouragement, Stimulus to ‘Good Works’, and the Receiving of Teaching.  My heart has so often been moved to worship as one or another recounts how the Lord has worked in a situation.  Many times I have valued a ‘pool’ of people (no matter how small) who have prayed, separately and together, for real situations.  I am constantly encouraged and stimulated in Christian service; and I keep learning from the insights and biblical observations of close brothers and sisters.

I admit that newcomers to the faith need some systematic grounding that casual fellowship can’t provide – but that is not an insurmountable challenge. I shall write about that on this website on a later occasion.  I admit, too, that we all need a depth of teaching that our ‘brothers and sisters’ are often not able to give – but there again, there is excellent teaching in books, and in places on the internet, that we can recommend to each other. To sum up: After 15 years of almost no “church meetings”, Mavis and I still find ourselves deeply involved in Worship, Corporate Prayer, and the Receiving of Teaching; and we go on being encouraged, and ‘spurred on to good deeds’.

Determine, then, to engage in family-style socialising, with that necessary ‘spiritual’ input, even with one fellow-recruit, or pair of recruits.  The Holy Spirit will take you on from there.


Over the last dozen years or so, my own natural family has experienced considerable growth and expansion.  One by one, each of our three children has married.  In each instance, not only was another person added to our family, but so, in a sense, were their close relatives.  We formed a valued link with the parents and the siblings of our son-in-law, and of our daughters-in-law. Over this period also, of course, babies began to be born – children for our children, grand-children for Mavis and me.  Thus we have seen our family develop, with the addition of both mature adults and ‘new-borns’.

We can reasonably expect the same thing to happen with the Christian family-style group.  We should be open to the addition of both other mature believers, and of people who become Christians within our scene.  It’s what happens in a family – and the New Testament describes the ‘called-out group’ as a family.

Dealing with ‘new-born’ Christians will almost certainly be more demanding than dealing with mature ones, but in some ways it will be more straightforward and clear-cut.  You will know immediately who the people are, for whom you are to be responsible.  Generally speaking, if you were the last link in the chain that led to someone’s commitment to Christ, it is your task to care for, and nurture, this ‘baby’ believer – with the help of the other person or persons already in your local family.  (Again, that’s exactly what happens in normal families.  It’s no easy task – either in the biological or the Christian family – and, as I said above, I’ll write further about the subject at a later date.)

I expect that the formation of family-style groups, among the many mature Christians who are leaving the traditional and institutional churches, will be a more complicated process.  Who will want to be linked-up with your group, and who will, for a variety of reasons, settle in other groups?  Once again, the growth of the biological family is an analogy for us.  When young people reach marriageable age, there are, in fact, quite a number of potential marriage partners out there.  It takes time for it to become clear, to everyone concerned, who is going to marry your son or daughter, and thus to become part of your family.  A wise family will welcome all possible future family members, knowing that, in the long run, it will be obvious which relationships were temporary, and which were meant to become permanent.  The fluidity of family life makes this possible.  (In fact, there’s often no reason why you can’t remain friends with those who, at one time, looked as though they might have become family members, even if it didn’t work out that way.)

In the family-style Christian group, the same sort of dynamics are likely to be in evidence.  Early declarations of commitment to one another are, to my mind, a bit dodgy.  There may be some folks who are already committed to one another at the heart of our group, but we are also a ‘circle of friends’.  Time will reveal who are linked by particular family ties – and we needn’t break friendship with those who don’t, in the end, bind themselves closely to us.

Let me stress once again that it is God who will actually form these family groups. I already quoted Psalm 68, verse 6: “God sets the lonely in families”; and Matthew 16:18: ”I (Jesus) will build my ‘called-out group’ (my church, my ecclesia)”.  Let me remind you also of Acts 2:47: “The Lord added to the ‘called-out group’ (‘the church’, ‘the ecclesia’)”.

Nevertheless, there is something you can do, to co-operate in the Lord’s workings.  If you come across other lonely ‘recruits’ – or, indeed, other lonely believers of any type – you can socialise with them, and you can introduce them to those who are already in your group (however few).  Time will tell you, and them, who is to become a fellow family-member, and who is simply to remain a friend.  Everyone will eventually sense in the Spirit what the on-going relationship is to be.

I’m pretty sure that’s what must have happened in Acts Chapter 2:41-47.  We are told there that these first Christians were in and out of each other’s houses. However, there were three thousand of them!  Everyone couldn’t have related intimately to everyone else!  There is no talk of them being organised into groups.  I am sure that those who lived closest to each other often formed ‘natural’ groups, but I suspect that the Spirit also had a role in telling each believer who his or her ‘immediate family’ should be, from among this giant ‘extended family’. So – relate with whichever isolated believers come across your path, and see what eventually transpires.


‘Whole-Family Gatherings’ are an integral part of family life, in every part of the World.  Families seem to need them, every so often, in addition to the twos-and-threes-and-fours socialising that is also so important to mutual support.  If the New Testament says we are to be like a family, then we ought to be having ‘Whole-Family Gatherings’ too.  The Early Church certainly did.  (There’s quite a lot of information on what these 1st Century get-togethers were like, and how they helped to encourage a ‘support network’ among local believers, in chapter 34 of “The Remarkable Replacement Army”.)

It follows that Replacement Army Recruits need ‘Whole-Family Gatherings’ as much as any other Christians.  The gatherings can take various forms.  Often a meal will be central.  (As a group grows in size, however, it becomes increasingly unsatisfactory for one person to do all the catering. There needs to be several contributors, or ‘bring-your-own’, or ‘take-away’.  Sometimes the ‘meal’ can be a picnic.)  It’s perfectly possible, of course, to have a ‘Whole-Family Gathering’ without having a meal.  You can have very light refreshments – or even just a simple get-together with a specific purpose e.g. praying together about a situation that has arisen.  You can also have outings of one kind or another. Use imagination!

There is no mention, in the New Testament, of who initiated these ‘Whole-Family Gatherings’ in the various towns where they took place – no mention of a ‘pastor’ organising such a happening, or of elders decreeing that it was to take place.  If we value the biblical ‘model’ of a Family, we are likely to conclude that, as in ordinary biological families, sometimes one family member would suggest a get-together, sometimes another.  Venues would almost certainly be different each time.  This all helps to emphasize that there is no ‘boss-man’ among us, and that ‘church’ is not a particular building.  As always, pattern your lifestyle on normal family life – which would certainly include get-togethers of the whole family.


PRAY ON THE PROMISES.  The Lord has promised that He will build his “Called-Out Group”, so you can confidently expect to be linked with other ‘recruits’ – even if, like a biological family, you only start with one other.

SOCIALISE: SIMPLY BUT ‘SPIRITUALLY’. Relate to the other person (or persons) just as family members relate.  However, remember that you have the very definite purpose of strengthening your brothers and sisters.

INTRODUCE AND INVITE.  If you come across other isolated believers (especially Replacement-Army-minded ones) introduce them to any others you know, and invite them to any ‘whole-family gatherings’ that take place.

ENCOURAGE THE ‘EXTENDED-FAMILY’.  Remember that the ‘Whole Family’ concept is important.  We should eventually reach the stage where all ‘recruits’ in any local area should, at least, know one another.  Then we can be ready for the Underground Church.

P.S.  I have a very corny way of remembering these four key concepts!  I simply think of two of the most common abbreviations in everyday use: P.S., and i.e….

Pray on the Promises

Socialise: Simply but Spiritually

Introduce and Invite

Encourage the  Extended-Family

If that’s altogether too gimmicky for you, forget it – but it helps me keep these basic concepts in my head!  Perhaps it will help some of you.  However you do it, keep moving on in Christian-Family Life.