There is a growing movement of an estimated 20 million1 people in America that are trying different forms of church in our day. This movement is lacking direction in many ways and some are trying to re-invent the way church should operate, function and behave. This article is the first in a series of articles looking at the current house church movement and giving practical suggestions for individuals looking to join to plant new fellowships. The early Church in the book of Acts followed the basic principle of meeting in homes as Christianity expanded across the known world2. This allowed for rapid growth and less hindrance to seeing more fellowships begin as Paul and other Apostles traveled from city to city establishing these networks of home churches. Our model cannot be anything except the word of God, sadly there are many ideas and models out there that have their reliance on experience, ideas and thoughts of men rather than God.
Also the catch phrases for Home churches are many: Orangic church, simple church, home church, house church, church multiplication, home church networks, ekklesia and many more terms. These terms are not wrong in themselves but in many of these models there is an emphasis away from the word of God towards the ideas of men. Some of the leaders who are teaching these methods to people as models of home churches, have been hurt by prior instutional church experiences and therefore carry bitterness, rebellion and a departing from sound biblical reliance in their methods. When seeking a new expression of Christianity to better represent the Church, we at times have to do away with many traditions of men no matter how old or engrained in evangelicism. Yet, in this pursuit for a more authentic meeting of the Church we must never forsake our roadmap and guide: God's holy Word3.
We can take heed to the admonition given by the Psalmist: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain4. If we attempt to start something as a house church without the calling of the Lord the entire endavour can be in vain. And if the house church model is not soley built upon the word of God then we can end up building our own church and not the Church of God where Jesus Christ is head. To have a desire to escape religious meetings and to have a less formal relaxed meeting where people are free to just be themselves is not the Church! We are deceived if we think we can re-define the Church to be a place where there is no leadership, no holy presence of God, no conviction of the Spirit, no crying out to God in prayer. Simply put, we must look to the early Church as our example and not modern North American culture were our comfort, happiness and financial prosperity are the goals.
One of the more helpful things for us to do, is to look outside ourselves to countries where there are true organic models of New Testament Christianity being formed by the Holy Spirit. We think of the underground house Church movement in China, the underground Church in North Korea, the persecuted church in Vietnam and many others who are forced to soley rely on the Holy Spirit to guide their meetings. Such people are not looking to find a model of Church that fits them or feels right for them, rather God is leading them to be His Church. We live in a society in the West where we have many choices, we choose from dozens of selections daily whether it's the type of foods, clothing, music we listen to, homes we live in and cars we drive. Yet when it comes to choosing the right Church we must not have the same mentality, we cannot choose what we want but rather what God wants. We have to come to the Scriptures and ask God what does His Church look like, that settles it. Not our will but God's will be done5 must be our cry when we are looking to establish a more Biblical meeting of the Church.
We should cater the mindset of the Apostle Paul where he declared to the Church in Corinth that we are only servants6 doing God's will. A servant has a life of rest because he is just concerned about one thing and that is to please His master7 and recieve simple directions from Him. Thus we must hear the Holy Spirit of God directing us when setting out to start a house fellowship and we must remember the Spirit of God will never lead contray to the revealed word of God8. So we should really be careful not to follow any method of man9 but rather endavour to be led of God's Spirit back to the word of God.
The genesis of a house Church in Scripture is seen in the statement of our Lord: For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them10. Such a gathering of just a few believers where the presence of the Lord Jesus present11 is the Church. This simplicity of the body of Christ allows for us as the Lord's people to meet many times during the week if possible, or even daily as the early Church did. This should give us confidence that as we meet with other whole-hearted disciples of Jesus Christ, we can expect the presence of our Lord to be with us and therefore grant us direction for our meeting as we would encourage each other daily. Now, Church does become more complex than just simply a gathering like this where there are leadership established11 by the Holy Spirit and traditions12 to be practiced that are clearly revealed in the word of God. Such things are not our choice whether we would like to practice baptism13, the Lord's supper14, etc. But rather we must submit our minds and will's to God and allow Him to lead us to be the Church He desires.
Such humility is needed that is expressed in many underground and persecuted Churches across the world where they have dealt the death blow to pride and independence. Rather they have become soley depend on Jesus Christ as the head of the Church to lead them and guide their meeting as Churches. There is a great need for such a movement today in the body of Christ in North America to begin assembling God's Church as He intended. Yet in this gathering may we humble ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit by the Scriptures to lead us to the meeting of Church according to His will! And God will do this dear saints as you submit your mind under the authority of His Word.
1 This is an estimate from George Barna.
2 Acts 20:20
3 Psalm 119:105
4 Psalm 127
5 Luke 22:42
6 1 Corinthians 3:5
7 Colossians 3:22
8 John 16:13
9 Galatians 1:1
10 Matthew 18:20
11 1 Corinthians 5:4
11 Titus 1:5, Matthew 10:1
12 Acts 2:42
13 Acts 2:38
14 1 Corithians 11:28