As many of you are aware, I am a strong advocate of The Church, the ‘ekklesia. ’ Though many have heard that word, surprisingly few are aware that it is NOT a religious term. Actually, it is a Greek word that means “the called out ones. " It referred to a forum of Roman men - a council - that the Roman Empire would send into any region that its armies had conquered so that they could teach their captives to become Roman citizens. Get that? Rather than crush their defeated foes, wipe them out, they allowed them to remain as farmers, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, etc. so that they could collect their taxes and assimilate them into Rome's culture. Again, Rome's goal was to make them Roman Citizens. The early Christians related to the Roman concept of ekklesia and saw the similarity of their mission. So, they adopted the term for themselves.
The concept was short-lived, unfortunately, as the Empire struck back! Constantine declared Christianity the state religion and, at that moment, the ekklesia lost its impact. Through the generations, any time any group has attempted to return to New Testament Christianity and revive the ekklesia, they were ostracized, persecuted and murdered by the thousands - even by others who called themselves ‘Christians. '
Philemon 2 . . . and to the church that meets in your house; Colossians 4 . . . and the church in her house; Romans 16 . . . also the church that meets at their house. . . although we read these verses and others, sometimes wondering what that style of Church-life was like, we forget that, throughout the planet to this day, Christians STILL gather in homes. Likewise we forget that, even today, many of these brothers and sisters still face persecution and even death.
What do we mean by ‘House Church?'
Some call them simple churches. Others use the term ‘organic churches’. The Bible refers to them simply as “the Church. " By definition, they are rapidly multiplying, simple communities of believers, meeting in homes, offices, campuses. . . wherever God is moving. This is the pattern common to many parts of the globe, and is now becoming more and more common in the U. S. as well.
Where are two or more are gathered in His name, there is Church.
Where “DNA" is present among people, there is church.
"D" stands for Divine Truth (loving God/Jesus)
“N" stands for Nurturing Relationships (loving one another deeply)
“A" stands for Apostolic Mission (being on Jesus’ mission to the world)
Buildings, programs, titles and professional clergy are NOT essential elements of a church. Never have been. That happened when the ekklesia attempted to get organized and even began blending itself with pagan religions. Let's bear in mind that Constantine took the title Pontificus Maximus (highest priest, forgetting that Jesus Himself is High priest) and was head of ALL things spiritual, Christian and pagan. He did what anybody would do, choosing the path of least resistance and merging the two extremes the best he could. Do you see what happened to the early Church? She became absorbed in the ways of the world.
By ‘simple church', we mean a way of doing and being church that is so simple that any believer would respond by saying, “I could do that!"
By ‘house church', we mean the kind of church that is described in the New Testament. Not constrained by structure but by the needs of the extended family of God, and driven by a desire to extend the Kingdom of God.
This style of Church can more easily listen to God and mobilize, led by His Spirit and obeying His commands. One day a gathering can be a healing center. Another time, a teaching center. Another time a worship center. Another time, a fellowship hall. Another time, a prayer meeting. We can mix and match and we can spontaneously load up the cars and head out to minister to others as well (my first gathering was a dinner where a woman called threatening to kill herself. We left our meal and sped over there. She's doing fine these days. )
We're describing a family who shares the same Father; not a heavenly being inthe clouds but One who dwells within and works through us. We have a greater opportunity to become spiritual parents raising spiritual sons and daughters to establish their own families in their own realm of influence.
Church as unusual
This kind of church may or may not meet in a house. It can meet anywhere we are because we ARE the Church. Statistics reveal that people are leaving traditional church to find God. Traditional churches are shrinking while house churches are growing. Personally, I have met with groups in coffee shops, hair salons, bank conference rooms, bed and breakfasts, a spare room over a noisy bar, hotels and nursing homes.
Church Planting Movements (apostling) occur when simple churches multiply rapidly. And they DO multiply rapidly. Why? because unlike traditional churches, individuals gathering in homes are free to explain the concept at their friends’ homes or offices, attracting an entirely NEW group of people instantly within that sphere of influence. If the individual has an opportunity but is a novice, no problem! More experienced people are always available to assist. It's NOT rocket science, as you can tell. The spiritual climate is RIPE for this outreach today. People are SO receptive to this concept of Church and becoming moreso all the time.
Does this style of Church lower the quality of disciples?
Absolutely not! While no structure or format can guarantee quality, we believe that the small, participatory, family-like environment of a simple church is ideally suited to the goal of helping people become passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. The proof is in the pudding and there are multitudes of testimonies to back that claim.
As you see, this is not really a new concept but a very old “new" idea. Two more examples from Scripture include:
"Greet Priscilla & Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful for them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. " Romans 16:3-4
"But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles. ’ Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. " Acts 18:6-7
Acts 16 shows us examples of others.
Does this ‘movement’ hurt the local Church?
If by that we mean do House Churches strengthen the Body of Christ in our nation, the answer is a resounding YES! This IS the local Church! Those affiliated are being taught that the traditional Church is NOT the enemy. They are our relatives in Christ. Fact is, of those 22 Million who say they attend home groups, only 3 Million do so exclusively. The balance claim to be Members of traditional denominations (whether they actually participate or are content to have their name on the role is another matter). When statistics reveal that “church as we know it" is shrinking in America and house church affiliates are increasing by around 4% annually, personally, I see it as a move of God. My recommendation? If the cloud is moving, move with it; don't resist.
If you'd like to learn more, let's dialogue today! If you're within 200-300 miles of Dallas/Fort Worth, plan on joining us for the North Central Texas House Church Conference Jan 27 in Carrollton, Texas. Stay in touch for details!
Need help with your group? Chances are, we just might be available to help you plant your own simple Church. Just ask! At the very least, please communicate by email and phone. We're thrilled to assist.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
His mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. Since ‘99, he has broadcast over 600 inspirational articles and a dozen booklets on subjects sure to interest the thinking Christian and accelerate the process of spiritual development.
He is the founder of t. e. a. m. ministries. An Author, Pastoral Counselor and Teacher, his eMail broadcasts, known as “Your Town for Jesus" are read around the globe. Subscribe at email@example.com
A licensed/ordained minister, a Certified Workplace Chaplain, and a Professional Member of NIBIC, he has ministered in Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, College and Cowboy churches. He is the Workplace Chaplain for a Texas firm, overseeing the Spiritual Development of over 500 employees at ten facilities throughout the state. He is a strong advocate for the House Church Movement, readily available to assist Christians feeling that same inclination. A Speaker on the Christian Speaker Network, he may be available to speak to your church or Christian group.