Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why House Church?

P.S. Please note that the author says, "There is nothing wrong with meeting in a barn, a field, a cave, in a church building, or in a synagogue. The Lord is looking on the heart. But if we are encouraging a system that is stifling the life of the church by heavy-handed leadership and a deadening clergy-laity caste system, we will not have the fruit we are seeking."

What is a House Church?
The characteristics listed below are those of the church for the first 250 years of church history. When the church moved away from simplicity, it also moved away from much of its power and flexibility in evangelizing and discipling the nations. These are also the characteristics of house churches springing up all over the world today.

 No frills. No ceremony. No rituals. No symbolism. It is simply a time for the people of God to come together with Jesus in the midst. They talk. They sing. They pray. They eat a meal together. They take the holy communion together and study the Bible. They share what God is doing in their lives. They intercede for people and for all kinds of needs all over the world. They minister one to another through the gifts God has given each one. They love one another and seek to encourage and build each other up in their faith.

 It’s an easy place to have church. There are no mysterious emblems to explain. It is not a religious setting. No one feels uncomfortable about doing something unreligious. People feel at home, and just relax. Church starts the minute the first two or three people arrive because church is people and not program. Where born-again believers gather, there is a church. They are the “church gathered.” When they all leave, they are the “church scattered.” They come together to be strengthened. They go out to touch the world as salt, light, and leaven in the power of the Holy Spirit. They go everywhere preaching the gospel through words and deeds to those who do not know Jesus. They are fulfilling the Great Commission, which I’ll paraphrase this way: “As you are going, here, there, and everywhere, preach the gospel at all times, wherever you happen to be…NOW!”

 It is easier to get an unsaved person to visit a meeting in someone’s house than it is to get him to go to a sanctuary. The plan is to put a little church in walking distance of every person in every neighborhood. This is one of the reasons the church of the first century “turned the world upside down.”

It is good to knock on doors and lead people to Jesus. It is good to lead them to the Lord on the streets, in the parks, in huge stadiums, over the phone, or in casual conversation. But when we lead him to the Lord right in the place where he will be discipled, a church in a house, we have a distinct advantage. He has already been introduced to the church. He can be baptized right on the spot and led gently into a deeper walk with Jesus by the people who led him to receive Christ. The task of getting him into a church is already done.

The only name that is worthy of lifting up is the name of Jesus. We don’t need to think up a good name for our church. It is not our church. It is Jesus’ church. It is “the church that meets at someone’s house.” Everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to his church. Everything that Jesus is doing in our city is ours. We all have some responsibility toward it even if it is just to pray. We are one body. We are born into unity and we are to maintain that unity by receiving all the saints without regard to where they live or what group they attend. We all belong to each other.

We do not have to meet at the same house every week. It is not the building that holds us together. It is relationships that bond us together. We are flexible. We can meet anywhere. In this way we are exposing ourselves to more people in more places.

 Big is not always better. Big, however, is what we want. But we can get bigger faster by multiplying than we can by adding. A house church builds the big citywide church by dividing and multiplying. We will have large gatherings from time to time, but our basic church is still small. When more than twenty or thirty people attend consistently, it is time to “have a baby.”

We read of the church on four different levels in the New Testament. “The church” in the world (Colossians 1:24), “The church” in the country (Acts 9:31), “The church” in the city (2 Corinthians 1:1), and “The church” in the house (Colossians 4:15). The church in the house is a microcosm of the church in the city, in the country, and in the world. It is just as much the church as the church in the city, or in the country, or in the world. It contains all the essential elements and ingredients of church. The word microcosm simply means “little world” or “a universe in miniature.” The church in the house is church in the fullest sense of the word. That is how the apostle Paul saw his work in the first century. On his first missionary journey he left a little group of disciples in four different cities: Antioch, Iconium, Derby, and Lystra. He referred to each little group as the church in that city.

I did not say “New Testament Pattern” for I am not sure God left us a “pattern” to be followed as to how to conduct church. The true New Testament pattern is to pray, hear from God, and obey what he tells us. If he tells you to build a gigantic cathedral GO FOR IT! You will be blessed and so will the entire Body of Christ. The dynamic power of the early church was just that. They were not trying to follow a “pattern” that they read about somewhere. They were following the leading of the Holy Spirit on a day to day basis. Success followed. It is still safe to do the same in our day. Many churches have tried to find the formula for growth that Pastor Cho of Seoul, Korea found and built the largest church in the world. He gave it in six simple words: “I just pray and I obey.” There is nothing wrong with meeting in a barn, a field, a cave, in a church building, or in a synagogue. The Lord is looking on the heart. But if we are encouraging a system that is stifling the life of the church by heavy-handed leadership and a deadening clergy-laity caste system, we will not have the fruit we are seeking.

We will not find a simpler method of planting new churches. And we are using church planting as a means of evangelism, discipleship, and missions. It has been proven in the Church Growth Movement that the best method of evangelism is planting lots of churches. The best way to make disciples is also to start lots of new churches. When people gather in small, informal groups, discipleship takes place almost without a conscious effort.

This happened in Antioch as well as in Samaria. Also in the tenth chapter of Acts, we see that Cornelius was instrumental in starting a house church without even knowing what he was doing. This is happening in China and in many other places in our day. This does not rule out the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. We are talking about starting churches, not the ongoing success of these churches. We will need the ministry of anointed leaders appointed by the Lord if these churches are to succeed. These are some of the characteristics of house churches: Every house church will have its own personality. No two meetings will be alike. It is the Spirit of Jesus who guides us in all our gatherings. He brings all the excitement of his presence into each meeting by using anyone he chooses to minister.

Fitts, Robert; Carrier, Marc (2011-09-10). Kingdom Expansion Series (p. 79). Kindle Edition.

Fitts, Robert; Carrier, Marc (2011-09-10). Kingdom Expansion Series (pp. 78-79). Kindle Edition.

Fitts, Robert; Carrier, Marc (2011-09-10). Kingdom Expansion Series (pp. 77-78). Kindle Edition.

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