House Churches

George Barna, researcher and survey taker in the U.S., says that house churches are the upcoming approach to church in North America.  Today I talked to a friend who is in the midst of starting a house church with around 10 of our friends.

I’ve struggled, as an institutional pastor, to understand this movement.  I don’t dispute that this is happening.  In large part it comes from the push to recognize “the priesthood of all believers.”  Add to that a strong education component in churches that has brought the usual person to a solid understanding of scripture.  Finally, put yourself in a society that is increasingly separating religious folk from secular.

Disgruntled people leave churches.  They start their own.  I wonder what accountability that provides.

Others leave, and will leave, because there are problems with transportation, or child care, or other provisons particular to their situations. They gather with nearby believers.  They may maintain a loose relationship with leadership in a local church.

Others see the need to reach unchurched people.  The “institutional church” is not attractive.  They are amenable to a local church but are “unrelated”.

There is no easy definition of a house church.  I know because I have friends in all of these situations.  For the sake of the universal church, how do we show unity in the midst of diversity?  This is the big quesiton that will arise in this coming decade.  If you have some suggestions, please comment.

2 thoughts on “House Churches

  1. House churches are a concern and I think they should be. Not that they are wrong – but there are some historic situations that became a cult because of a gradually turning off of being centered on Christ. Accountability is needed.

    I have no problem with people meeting in small groups — but I prefer these small groups or cells to be under the umbrella of a church association.

    It takes a strong leader to head up a troop in the Lords army. I believe that a strong leader is a person who is willing to be accountable to others — and even if the group is led by the Lord they will place a high value on accountablity. The beginnings of the churches in the bible show how easy it is to let down our guard, to be misled, and to mislead others.

    Having said that, I know that sometimes there is a need for a new branch — a new wing of God’s army to meet a new need. Many of the strong church branches of today started with a few gathering together. However I wonder how many of those churches have struggled with some of the same situations when the earliest group was disgruntled as they started it.

    Someone told me this and I found it very helpful — if it is God there will be a strong grieving and tugging and the move away will be bathed in tears and prayer — once wholeness is in place, and you can leave with love in your heart then you will not take with you the pain of the problems that are often a piece of being disgruntled. Seeking the blessing of the fellowship one leaves is not easy on either side. But when the Lord is in it — we get to see the kingdom built.


  2. Somehow it all seems a lot simpler and more complicated at the same time. I think it’s more complicated because as humans in relationship with each other things are bound to get messy. Having said that, numerous warnings and rules are bound to assault a person trying to set up a new church of some sort. I think it’s simpler because when God is involved anything is possible. I also think lots of well meaning people tend to discourage those who want to start something new. When all is said and done, it’s really God’s opinion and direction that counts, not what everyone else thinks.

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