House ChurchBelieving Christians
who gather Sunday by Sunday to meet with Jesus
for confession, praise, thanksgiving, prayer and Bible study
and do so in private homes
Believers who aim to know Christ and to make him known.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer", Acts 2:42.
Western societies are slowly slipping away from the Biblical ideals that once made the West strong. The great ideals of freedom, honesty, integrity, love.... ideals that we championed in war and peace, are now being replaced by the bland socialist ethic of a dead political philosophy. As we increase the security on our homes and watch the lack of integrity in public life, we are increasingly aware of "the godlessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth."
People who believe in a God who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, wonder how best they can stand in these troubled times. Many believe the best way is to sit light with organization, power, wealth.... For this reason many Christians are returning to the New Testament ideal of House Church.
Immediately after Jesus' death and resurrection, his followers began meeting together in private homes for Christian fellowship. "They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." They did this "in their homes". There is no suggestion in the Bible that it is wrong to meet in a special building called a "church". Just because the early Christians met in private homes doesn't mean we must do the same. It is just that there are good reasons, in these troubled times, to be free from the burden of church property and powerful organizations.
The institutional church is increasingly stressed. The main problem is declining attendance and the inability of the institutional church to adjust to the situation - eg., a resistance to the appointment of part-time priests. Churches are closed and sold, congregations amalgamated, and inevitably believers are left stranded. Church building are also being sold off to cover the cost of litigation by those who were harmed by the pedophiles who infiltrated the church in the second half of the twentieth century. So, increasingly communities are left without a place of worship. So, there is a renewed interest in the House Church movement. Unlike sectarian organizations, the movement does not claim superiority in form or doctrine over other churches. It just sees "sitting light" as a better way to move forward in an increasingly secular world.
I was associated for some years with a House Church and found it an enriching experience. The following observations are drawn from that experience.
What are the advantages of House Church?
The House Church movement effectively serves to build the Kingdom of God.
iii] Body life.
Are there any dangers?
There are three main dangers associated with House Church:
The substance of a House Church community
Many Christians today are finding it increasingly difficult to remain in the institutional church. They find it easier to adopt a free-style form of church life similar to the early church. "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God", Acts 2:46, 47.
House church provides great freedom for expression. The following elements are those which are central in shaping a Christian House Church.
I] God's free grace
With legalism, pietism, so prevalent in the Christian church today, it is important for a small Christian community to affirm the faith of the reformation - the free grace of God. Christians too easily believe that their standing in the sight of God is determined by the faithfulness or otherwise of their Christian life. Our standing before God is assured, and our Christian life is progressed, not by an effort of our will, not by our goodness, but by God's gift of the perfection of Christ, accessed and applied through the instrument of faith.
II] Christian community
Church is the people, not the building, the minister, organization, institution....; it is the gathering of God's people with Jesus, a meeting imaged in heaven, Eph.2:6. The business of the church is to gather and hear Christ. The results of that meeting is unity/love with God and each other (fellowship), a love that touches the lost, Jn.17:20-23, and a knowledge that serves to prepare us for eternity, Eph.4:11-13.
III] Devotional worship
The present reliance on "change for growth" is driven by the need to reverse declining church attendance. As nominal church association declines, so attendance decreases. This has prompted a drive toward relevance. It is felt that the style of the service must be changed to fit in with the surrounding dominant culture. This will supposedly attract outsiders back to church. Yet, adopting a "pop" cultural service form to attract outsiders is a gross invasion of the true business of church. The business of church is to meet with Jesus, and our response to that meeting is to worship him, adore him - hear him, pray to, confess, praise and thank him. The business of church is to access "the still small voice of God".
IV] Mutual ministry
Sadly, there is an increasing tendency toward clericalism in the church today. Ordained ministers do not have a God-given right to impose changes on the life of a Christian fellowship. For a small Christian fellowship to survive it is essential to "love one another", build each other up, equip each other for service through the exercise of individual spiritual gifts, Rom.12:1-8, Eph.4:1-16. We need to aim at a "one people" church where "body life" grows as the members "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ", Eph.5:21.
V] Gospel power
The present trend to rely on marketing and human management (group dynamics) to promote gospel response is quite dangerous. Even more so is the development of pseudo church services as a means of evangelizing the middle-class. Evangelism is a matter of communication, and is the responsibility of every disciple of Christ. Jesus gathers his people and nurtures them through the faithful preaching and teaching of his Word, and not by methodology. The Kingdom of God is built "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty." Christ builds his church on the confession of a true faith, "and the gates of Hades will not overcome it".
The above elements should serve as the focus of a House Church fellowship. As for the practicalities, they are just common sense, but the following may assist.
A draft aims and objectives
This short statement of aims and objectives was adopted by a small group of believers who were led by a pastor friend of mine, a kind of "What we are about", or "Our bag." It may be of assistance in shaping your own Christian fellowship.
iv] Fellowship style
We are a free congregational church in that the life of our fellowship is in the hands of the gathered people.
vii] Christian association
Index of studies - Resource file.
Christian community - A study in Christian communalism
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons