What is a House Church?
Churches, particularly in the United States, have experienced tremendous change in the last few years. We’ve seen a move from traditionalism toward a more casual approach in both worship and dress. The church has also entered heavily into the electronic entertainment arena, where in some cases attending church feels more like your are attending a major Hollywood production.
Concerning leadership, the enemy has waged an all-out war on clergy and lay-leaders alike, and we have all watched as many have fallen victim to the vicious attacks which have caused them to compromise their calling. We have also seen the church fail to be restorers in most cases, deciding instead to kick it’s wounded along with the enemy.
As a result, many people have run from the church bitter, hurt, and offended. Some of these people have decided to give up on church. There are also those who are searching for something more in their worship and service to God. Most of the churches they have attended have been dry, dull, and lifeless, so they assume that all churches are the same.
Then there are those who bounce from church to church looking for the perfect congregation that will meet all of their needs. These folks typically do not like to be held accountable in any way, and they usually have a problem with authority. (I’m not talking about the person who has been faithful in a congregation and then feels led by the Lord to go to another church.)
It seems more and more difficult to find people who want to attend church with any regularity. A growing number of people want to come when they feel like it, and their commitment to serving the Lord is in most cases, lacking. There has also been a wave of people who say their spiritual needs are being met virtually through the Internet in the form of chat rooms and other online sources. A lot of these folks have been hurt by the church and they prefer to not have to deal with people face-to-face, as in a traditional church setting.
Many people in the body of Christ have forgotten that we have been placed (hopefully) by God into a particular church to serve others, not simply to have our needs met (Hebrews 10:24, Philippians 2:3-5). Jesus went out and touched people even if they smelled bad, had Leprosy, or were offensive. God does want to bless us, but our job is to do what He tells us to do, and that usually involves serving and trying our best to help others spiritually, emotionally, and physically. We have indeed entered into the Laodicean Age, which is spoken of in Revelation 3. It is becoming more and more apparent that the Lord’s return is near, and that the church is in a crucial time in history.
Alternatives to Traditional Church
In light of the frustrations with traditional church, many are looking for alternatives for worship. Some are choosing to start house churches. House churches have been around since the beginning of Christianity. The early house churches were committed to being instructed by the Apostles, and along with meeting in their homes, they also met in the temple daily. They were not an entity by themselves, but they were under the covering of the local church. In addition, they voluntarily submitted themselves to the Apostles teaching, headship, and covering (for a better understanding of the New Testament church read Acts 2:41-47).
There are primarily three types of house churches in the United States:
- A cell or fellowship group. This type is basically a group of people who meet together in a members’ home primarily for prayer, study, and fellowship. They then meet together corporately with the other cell groups for a worship service which is conducted by the pastor, who is the leader of the corporate church. They also have a group leader who is in charge of conducting the home meetings. This type of house church very closely resembles the New Testament model (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus).
- A new traditional church plant. Often because of lack of funds, the pastor will arrange to meet in members’ homes for a season until the church becomes stronger. This type of house church is usually temporary, and the goal is to move into a more visible, permanent facility as the church grows. This type of church usually has the New Testament model for leadership in place (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus).
- The third type is relatively new to the United States, but has been around in other countries for some time. It is generally a group of people who meet together for prayer, worship, and fellowship. The biggest shift from the New Testament church model is that there are usually no leaders so to speak, or any set order to the service. If someone feels led to sing, they sing. If someone feels led to read a verse, they read. Most people I have talked to that have house churches of this type say that there is order even though there is no set structure or leader.
I believe the trend in the United States to move toward the house church can be positive in that as the body of Christ we should be prepared to worship anywhere and at anytime without the traditional church settings we are accustomed to. It is possible in this nation that we may face a time when we will not have the religious freedoms that we enjoy now and may have to worship in less conspicuous places. However, I do not agree with the departure from the New Testament model of leadership, if that is the case. I recommend that anyone who has a house church study church history, particularly the New Testament church, and prayerfully compare their church to the model, being willing to make any changes that are necessary.
It is of the utmost importance that anyone who is thinking about starting a house church make sure they are doing it for the right reasons. The only reason should be that the Lord told them to! If the Lord has not called a person to undertake such a task (or any other ministry for that matter), then it will be a great disaster and people will get hurt. One should never be started because a person is bitter or angry at the church or church leaders, or out of rebellion simply because they want to do it their way and don’t want anyone telling them what to do.
Church Leaders are Important
Even in a house church, someone should be the leader or shepherd, who is responsible for the flock. If there is no shepherd, then you have a bunch of sheep who are out alone waiting for the wolf to come and devour them (read 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus for God’s guidelines for a leader). God very clearly structured the church as outlined in His word. He did it for our protection and spiritual growth. It works! I admit there have been abuses, but don’t give up on the church. Jesus died for it, and it is the vehicle He uses to reach the world. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you would be better off by yourself, and not part of a local body. That is exactly what the enemy wants you to think. There is strength in numbers.
Remember, regardless of denominational differences it is us against the devil, not us against us. We are a team! People are not perfect, and they will hurt you at times. They did the same to Jesus. Pray that the Lord leads you to the church He wants for you. One where you can serve Him and grow. Don’t be surprised if it isn’t perfect. Get your eyes off what everyone else is doing and onto what He wants you to do with the gifts and talents that He has given you. When you really begin to serve others it is amazing how much easier it is to tolerate their imperfections.