House Church

Believing 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.

i] Economic.
      God's plan for his people is very simple. He asks us to take hold of his Word, his truth in the gospel, communicate that truth to the lost and teach it to his people. The business of God's people is to gather and hear Jesus, and having heard him, to proclaim him to the ends of the earth. Where there is no property to upkeep, ministers to pay, organization to bow to.... it is possible to maximize our resources to build Christ's Kingdom.

ii] Gifted.
      A small compact free association of believers allows the individual members to use their spiritual gifts for the building up of the fellowship and reaching out to the lost. As there is no official minister, all members are encouraged to minister.

iii] Body life.
      One of the great advantages of a small fellowship of believers, freed from the formality and structure of institutional church, is the increased capacity to fulfill Christ's command to "love one another."

iv] Freedom.
      "For freedom Christ has set us free". The loose structure of House Church, freed from the constraints of denominational rules and authority, allows the individual members to shape their fellowship and guide its direction.

Are there any dangers?

There are three main dangers associated with House Church:

i] Introversion.
      There is always the possibility for a small group of Christians to become sectarian in their belief. A warm acceptance of other Church traditions, the wide availability of sound Christian literature and the increasing theological education of everyday Christians, greatly removes this threat. By this means we remove the sectarian danger.

ii] Isolation.
      The low profile of House Church can limit outreach. Easy access to the media, the increasing rejection of the institutional church by the wider Australian community, and the reduced threat of a home environment, greatly limits this problem.

iii] Vulnerable.
      There is always the danger of a small group being preyed on. Although the movement is not always welcomed by the institutional church, history has shown that in times of persecution, home fellowships have survived, while the established church has died. In communist China, it was the House Church movement that kept the faith and survived. In truth, today in Australia, it is the institutional church that is most open to attack.

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
      "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and not from yourselves, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no once can boast", Ephesians 2:8-9.

      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
      "When two or three are gathered together, there am I in your midst", Matthew 18:20.

      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
      "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises", Hebrews 2:12.

      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
      "In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:5.

      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 gospel.... is the power of God for salvation", Romans 1:16

      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.

i] History
      Our House Church was formed in XXXX by a group of believers who had long considered the notion of community. Most of the members of the House Church came out of an Anglican tradition and so this is reflected in our worship forms.

ii] Aim
      We aim to know Jesus Christ and to make him known.

iii] Belief
      We believe there is a God who has created us to experience his friendship. Yet although we have all ignored his love, he has not ignored us. He has reached out to us in Jesus, who even though taken by wicked men and crucified, rose from the dead on the third day. Because Jesus lives, through the Spirit of the living God, we can live also, both now and for eternity. All this is ours for the asking. We believe Christians are called to worship the Lord Jesus in community, to gather to hear Jesus, thank, confess, praise him, and to pray to him. In that meeting he unites us to God and each other in love and builds us up through His Word, that we might learn to care for his people and reach out to the lost in our broken world.

iv] Fellowship style
      We use the Australian Anglican Prayer Book as a guide to worship and the right understanding of the Bible. We emphasize the following elements in our church fellowship:

  • God's free grace - freedom in Christ;
  • Christian community - one in Christ;
  • Devotional worship - adoration of Christ;
  • Mutual ministry - servants of Christ;
  • Gospel power - proclaiming Christ.
v] Organisation
      We are a free congregational church in that the life of our fellowship is in the hands of the gathered people.

vi] Ministry
      a) Worship. We have a music ministry in worship which aims to both source and produce original devotional music to enrich liturgical worship. We seek to blend liturgy, music and color to enrich the sense of Christ's presence, and are happy to share our limited insights with fellow believers.
      b) Teaching. We hold firmly to the teachings of the Bible and seek to make its truth known through published tracts.
      c) Evangelism. We attempt regular evangelistic outreach in local newspapers etc., support contacts with basic studies in the Christian faith, while encouraging new believers to join a church for nurture and growth. We support the work of Christian missions like the Bible Society.

vii] Christian association
      We affirm, in the warmest of terms, our love for the members of all Christian denominations. We do not seek to draw believers from their existing church fellowship, rather we encourage them to stay and serve.

Index of studies - Resource file.
Christian community - A study in Christian communalism
[Pumpkin Cottage]
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons