Part 4: House Church

Have I got the trend for you!

You know what everybody’s used to doing? So easy, comfy, predicable? No muss, no fuss? Well you can forget about that, because the latest fad is tough as nails! It’s messy and frustrating! It’ll invade your privacy and give you a lot of extra work to do! It’ll make sure you never have more than you need and take away any chance you have of coasting through life! It’s fussy kids and dirty dishes and late nights sitting on folding chairs! Let me tell you, this is a fad that’s here to stay!

Ready to sign up? Sure you are. By the title you already knew I was talking about House Church, or as we at The Core call it, Home Church.

People such as George Barna (in his book, Revolution) are calling House Church a trend. Naturally, this is a loaded word, since the 20th century church has been through dozens of trends, none of which seemed to result in much serious change. The word “trendy” even presumes a short life upon that which it describes.

The Anatomy of a Trend

So what is a trend, really? I didn’t study this because I think you can all agree with me here: A trend is a shift towards a new, more desirable product, style or method. Many times it is only more desirable because it is new and fresh, and not because the product, style or method carries any extra empirical value.

But I believe you would be hard-pressed to find a short-lived trend occurring toward that which is inconvenient, invasive and messy.

Nevertheless, Home Church is finding itself on the bleeding edge of Christianity. So is it a new paradigm, or just a flash in the pan?

Paradigm Shift

As King Solomon is famous for saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Those who are serious about Home Church know that as well as anyone. They take a hard look at all the shadows of “newness” taking place in the Church and realize that we can’t win that game. The Church will never have the money or the manpower to compete with MTV, Hollywood and Madison Avenue. And consequently it seems that every attempt to be edgy just ends up in a desperate attempt to be no more than two steps behind popular culture. But even if it were possible, would it be good?

The Apostle Paul says, “Don’t conform yourself to the styles and fashions of the world. Rather, let God transform you and renew your mind.” That doesn’t mean that we should ignore what the world is doing. But it should cause us to ask ourselves who is our model (see my post on the First-Century Church.) We have to shift our eyes from watching the world’s every move, to focusing on the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of His Word.

The Church Comes Home

Some people will read the book of Acts and conclude that God has set up a veritable constitution for Church form and function. Personally, I don’t think that position would hold up in court. But we can’t ignore the heavy emphasis on relationships. If the Church exists for no other reason, it exists to bring people closer to God and closer to each other. So we absolutely must ask ourselves if our church experience is accomplishing that. When you go to a large building and sit in a pew and watch a religious show, are you drawing closer to God and other people? Maybe you are. I know I have from time to time. But it always seemed like it happened more by accident than by design.

I will concede that there are probably many ways to accomplish the building of the kind of relationships championed by the book of Acts, and really, the whole Bible. But when it comes to vulnerability, intimacy, accountability and community, there is nothing like inviting others into your home to eat together, worship together, talk together, and learn together. It builds a binding strength that doesn’t lend itself to the flightiness and ambivalence of the typical local body. It allows everyone to play a crucial role in the corporate work of God. And it forces us to, slowly but surely, lay down our defenses and learn how to love others (even the unlovable) with the love of Christ.

Now I need to hear from you. What are the challenges you’ve anticipated, experienced and/or overcome in regards to Home Churching? What are other forms and methods besides HC that can build such powerful bonds as those seen in the First Century Church? Is there a case to be made for pew-and-pulpit ministry?

If I throw in the sales tax and extended warranty is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to buy this trend right now?

0 thoughts on “Part 4: House Church

  1. My experiences with home churches are both positive and negative and none of them lasting. Is there a case to be made for pew and pulpit churches? dang I sure hope so. My feelings about this are that we need to do what God wants us to do, we need to minister to our culture in a way that is effective and loving. We need to remain fluid and always willing to move with what God is doing.

  2. My experiences with home churches are both positive and negative and none of them lasting. Is there a case to be made for pew and pulpit churches? dang I sure hope so. My feelings about this are that we need to do what God wants us to do, we need to minister to our culture in a way that is effective and loving. We need to remain fluid and always willing to move with what God is doing.

  3. Not that i disagree with you, but i’m curious to hear why you have so much hope in pulpit-pew churches. In other words, what are the essential elements of such churches that accomplish the command of Christ to make disciples in the most effective manner? Are there any drawbacks? Do the pros outweigh the cons?What, in your experience, are the drawbacks of home church? Are they true drawbacks to kingdom building and disciple-making, or are they preferential? I’ll be glad to share my list of drawbacks, but i’m really interested in the opinions and experiences of others.Thanks for staying tuned. Anyone else out there listening?

  4. Not that i disagree with you, but i’m curious to hear why you have so much hope in pulpit-pew churches. In other words, what are the essential elements of such churches that accomplish the command of Christ to make disciples in the most effective manner? Are there any drawbacks? Do the pros outweigh the cons?What, in your experience, are the drawbacks of home church? Are they true drawbacks to kingdom building and disciple-making, or are they preferential? I’ll be glad to share my list of drawbacks, but i’m really interested in the opinions and experiences of others.Thanks for staying tuned. Anyone else out there listening?

  5. Dudes,Thought i’d let you know that i responded to Fisher’s comment on the Incarnate blog, which directly pertains to this conversation. If nothing else, it will put my future comments in the proper perspective.Fisher, thanks for visiting me. I was getting pretty lonely. I know, i know. I need to write more blog posts. Some rainy day…

  6. Dudes,Thought i’d let you know that i responded to Fisher’s comment on the Incarnate blog, which directly pertains to this conversation. If nothing else, it will put my future comments in the proper perspective.Fisher, thanks for visiting me. I was getting pretty lonely. I know, i know. I need to write more blog posts. Some rainy day…

  7. “what are the essential elements of such churches that accomplish the command of Christ to make disciples in the most effective manner?”—– Experiencing corporate worship in many forms, in and of itself is an equipping process. I think no matter the form and function, when we gather together to glorify God and learn about Him, we can be equipped.I’m not really sure what you’re asking exactly I don’t think.“Are there any drawbacks? Do the pros outweigh the cons?”drawbacks of a pew and pulpit church? there are drawbacks to any form and function. do the pros outweigh the cons? yes.—-“What, in your experience, are the drawbacks of home church?”—— One of the major drawbacks to a home church IME, is the false idea that there is no central leader, or attempting to have no one leader. Every home church I’ve been a part of has lacked spiritual authority (and I’m not talking about human control…they actually usually have ample amounts of that inspite of their assertion that they don’t)home churches can also become very closed and elitist easier than pew and pulpit churches I’ve been a part of.——–“Are they true drawbacks to kingdom building and disciple-making, or are they preferential?”——–There are both. I’m actually finding this entire topic of discussion difficult to really absorb and participate in because I disagree with the premise that every early church was a home church. I also disagree with the idea that there is one “idea” way to “do church” so the entire discussion is kind of moot in my world.

  8. “what are the essential elements of such churches that accomplish the command of Christ to make disciples in the most effective manner?”—– Experiencing corporate worship in many forms, in and of itself is an equipping process. I think no matter the form and function, when we gather together to glorify God and learn about Him, we can be equipped.I’m not really sure what you’re asking exactly I don’t think.“Are there any drawbacks? Do the pros outweigh the cons?”drawbacks of a pew and pulpit church? there are drawbacks to any form and function. do the pros outweigh the cons? yes.—-“What, in your experience, are the drawbacks of home church?”—— One of the major drawbacks to a home church IME, is the false idea that there is no central leader, or attempting to have no one leader. Every home church I’ve been a part of has lacked spiritual authority (and I’m not talking about human control…they actually usually have ample amounts of that inspite of their assertion that they don’t)home churches can also become very closed and elitist easier than pew and pulpit churches I’ve been a part of.——–“Are they true drawbacks to kingdom building and disciple-making, or are they preferential?”——–There are both. I’m actually finding this entire topic of discussion difficult to really absorb and participate in because I disagree with the premise that every early church was a home church. I also disagree with the idea that there is one “idea” way to “do church” so the entire discussion is kind of moot in my world.

  9. Hey there! Great to hear your thoughts on the subject.So i hear you saying that the primary advantage of congregational church over home church is the worship experience. Correct me if i misunderstood. I completely agree that when we authentically and passionately worship God (i.e. worship Him in spirit and truth), that He burns our hearts with fire for Him, for each other, and for the lost. As Matt Redman wrote in one of his more recent songs, “Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame… Send us out,” true Godward corporate worship definitely empowers and motivates us to “go” as Christ commanded.I want to thank you for expressing your opinions “IME”, because that’s important for all of us to realize… these are OUR experiences, and others likely have had different experiences. In light of that perspective, i have had both similar and different experiences in home church and corporate church. The vast, vast majority of my experience with worship in a congregational setting has been dry and less than “awesome”, to say the least. But there have also been times when “worship” in our homes has been, for me, no more than just singing songs, because of significant distractions. Despite the desire to look past (or even embrace) the distractions, there are some things that i’m just not able to embrace or ignore.But again, there have been amazing times of worship in the living rooms of our homes that have drawn us into God’s presence and have fueled our fire to love others. And likewise, i have experienced the awe and sheer power of worshipping with tens of thousands of other believers all zealously pursuing the heart and face of God in a way that has changed my life forever. I have submitted myself under the leadership of the likes of Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Shane & Shane, Robbie Seay, Nathan & Christy Nockels (Watermark), and others, who have literally led me into God’s humbling, awesome, terrifying, yet wonderful presence. I am a worship leader myself, and i find that home church limits your expressive ability in many ways. But it doesn’t limit it to the point that i have been unable to worship in the midst of it.But let’s talk about some of the limits of congregational worship. The first one is that it’s much easier to fake. Another one is that the current flood of professionally trained “music ministers” pouring out of Christian colleges and seminaries. They all believe they have been called by God to lead worship, but many of them (Gosh, Ryan, i’m not talking about you. Chill out. :)–might i say, most of them– are pathetic at actually leading worship. They may be good at directing a choir or organizing a band, but they suck at leading believers to God’s throne. To make things worse, they’d laugh at anyone like Matt Redman (or myself), who doesn’t have professional music training, who would try to impart wisdom or advice, either spiritually or musically. But there is a desperate need for serious spiritual (and musical) awakening among America’s “worship leaders”. Unfortunately, they aren’t listening very closely to those who are paving the road for the future of corporate worship (such as the folks i mentioned above). Most importantly, they aren’t listening to God’s word. Most worship leader training is music-heavy and theology-light. Apparently, they overlook God’s favorite worshipper of all time, David, in his examples to us throughout the Psalms and the Prophets. They have made worship a “dignified”, streamlined performance, and left little to no room for the Holy Spirit to have His way.There is hope for the congregational church, i believe. But it’s going to require a tremendous amount of humility and cleansing from within churches, universities and seminaries. Those “worship experts” who run our institutions of ecclesiastical training need to retire and let fresh, new leaders emerge to equip a new generation of lead worshippers. But the interesting phenomenon is that this new generation of lead worshippers i

  10. Hey there! Great to hear your thoughts on the subject.So i hear you saying that the primary advantage of congregational church over home church is the worship experience. Correct me if i misunderstood. I completely agree that when we authentically and passionately worship God (i.e. worship Him in spirit and truth), that He burns our hearts with fire for Him, for each other, and for the lost. As Matt Redman wrote in one of his more recent songs, “Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame… Send us out,” true Godward corporate worship definitely empowers and motivates us to “go” as Christ commanded.I want to thank you for expressing your opinions “IME”, because that’s important for all of us to realize… these are OUR experiences, and others likely have had different experiences. In light of that perspective, i have had both similar and different experiences in home church and corporate church. The vast, vast majority of my experience with worship in a congregational setting has been dry and less than “awesome”, to say the least. But there have also been times when “worship” in our homes has been, for me, no more than just singing songs, because of significant distractions. Despite the desire to look past (or even embrace) the distractions, there are some things that i’m just not able to embrace or ignore.But again, there have been amazing times of worship in the living rooms of our homes that have drawn us into God’s presence and have fueled our fire to love others. And likewise, i have experienced the awe and sheer power of worshipping with tens of thousands of other believers all zealously pursuing the heart and face of God in a way that has changed my life forever. I have submitted myself under the leadership of the likes of Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Shane & Shane, Robbie Seay, Nathan & Christy Nockels (Watermark), and others, who have literally led me into God’s humbling, awesome, terrifying, yet wonderful presence. I am a worship leader myself, and i find that home church limits your expressive ability in many ways. But it doesn’t limit it to the point that i have been unable to worship in the midst of it.But let’s talk about some of the limits of congregational worship. The first one is that it’s much easier to fake. Another one is that the current flood of professionally trained “music ministers” pouring out of Christian colleges and seminaries. They all believe they have been called by God to lead worship, but many of them (Gosh, Ryan, i’m not talking about you. Chill out. :)–might i say, most of them– are pathetic at actually leading worship. They may be good at directing a choir or organizing a band, but they suck at leading believers to God’s throne. To make things worse, they’d laugh at anyone like Matt Redman (or myself), who doesn’t have professional music training, who would try to impart wisdom or advice, either spiritually or musically. But there is a desperate need for serious spiritual (and musical) awakening among America’s “worship leaders”. Unfortunately, they aren’t listening very closely to those who are paving the road for the future of corporate worship (such as the folks i mentioned above). Most importantly, they aren’t listening to God’s word. Most worship leader training is music-heavy and theology-light. Apparently, they overlook God’s favorite worshipper of all time, David, in his examples to us throughout the Psalms and the Prophets. They have made worship a “dignified”, streamlined performance, and left little to no room for the Holy Spirit to have His way.There is hope for the congregational church, i believe. But it’s going to require a tremendous amount of humility and cleansing from within churches, universities and seminaries. Those “worship experts” who run our institutions of ecclesiastical training need to retire and let fresh, new leaders emerge to equip a new generation of lead worshippers. But the interesting phenomenon is that this new generation of lead worshippers i

  11. I guess I don’t understand the point of the conversation…I must be missing something. If you’re saying there are pros and cons of both and both need to examine the good and bad and root out the bad then I would say a hearty Amen! If you’re saying something else I guess I’m not hearing it and if it’s the former then there’s really not much room for conversation on the issue besides both of us happily preaching to eachother 😉I would strongly caution that MOST congregational churches are NOT mega churches and many are not strongly controlled by a denomination…in fact, I would say that possibly MOST are not strongly denominationally controlled so many of the problems you cited are actually not present in many, if not most, congregational churches….certainly not in most of the ones I have had experience with.I would also caution taking any movement of the Spirit and creating an institution out of it. Even the house church model can become a legalistic institution and the risk to that is that if/when the Spirit moves a different way or culture demands a shift, we’re too caught up in our “right way”

  12. I guess I don’t understand the point of the conversation…I must be missing something. If you’re saying there are pros and cons of both and both need to examine the good and bad and root out the bad then I would say a hearty Amen! If you’re saying something else I guess I’m not hearing it and if it’s the former then there’s really not much room for conversation on the issue besides both of us happily preaching to eachother 😉I would strongly caution that MOST congregational churches are NOT mega churches and many are not strongly controlled by a denomination…in fact, I would say that possibly MOST are not strongly denominationally controlled so many of the problems you cited are actually not present in many, if not most, congregational churches….certainly not in most of the ones I have had experience with.I would also caution taking any movement of the Spirit and creating an institution out of it. Even the house church model can become a legalistic institution and the risk to that is that if/when the Spirit moves a different way or culture demands a shift, we’re too caught up in our “right way”

  13. I believe this is a relevant discussion. Although there is no single “correct” format for church, it is clear that certain formats are destructive to our purposes and others are conducive. Some ecclesial activities should be ruled out for everybody (i.e. selling indulgences) and some things should be normative for everybody (i.e. prayer.)95% of this issue is just a matter of listening to God and obeying Him, and also finding out what is effective in worship and disciple-making.But God speaks to us through each other, and I believe that He may have something for us to present to the world for consideration. I have no intention of “normalizing” or “institutionalizing” home church, we are simply building a Home Church Network, and speaking to everyone about how well (or poorly) it’s working for us. Keep in mind that the Network is just an affiliation of autonomous groups that share a common vision. I don’t believe this amounts to an Institution.With that said, I will make my case for Home Church. When it comes to worshipping God, I don’t believe HC has any advantage. There have been many failings and a few successes on both sides of this coin; Matt expressed that quite well. And I believe evangelism (that is, the process of actually gaining converts) is not necessarily more successful within the HC Format that in the Institutional Church (IC).I believe the main difference lies in Discipleship and Fellowship, and especially the latter. The HC Format assumes at the outset that we are to commit not just to God, or to Church, but to specific people. Intimacy and accountability are part of the premise, and they are inescapable. And when there is conscientious organization, and strong, humble servant-leadership, as Fisher emphasized the dire need for, then HC is the setting where I believe Christians can most effectively mature.And Fellowship follows naturally. When we begin to tie our spiritual destiny to a small family of believers, it becomes obvious that we must stand together, fight for one another, and make sacrifices to bless those who need it most. Once again, in the context of HC, Fellowship is inescapable. And while we’re at it, we must be very carefule not to become cliquish or exclusive, as Fisher warned.IC, however, begins with a performance premise that must subsequently be overcome in order to acheive real discipleship and fellowship. It begins with two strikes against it, and it is apparent that most churches don’t have the strength to make the comeback. They sink so easily into comfort, anonymity, spectatorship and program-dependent ministry.I will happily recognize that there are several institutional-style churches that have avoided this fate. But personally I have to ask myself why, if I want to climb a mountain, I would choose to start out in a ditch.

  14. I believe this is a relevant discussion. Although there is no single “correct” format for church, it is clear that certain formats are destructive to our purposes and others are conducive. Some ecclesial activities should be ruled out for everybody (i.e. selling indulgences) and some things should be normative for everybody (i.e. prayer.)95% of this issue is just a matter of listening to God and obeying Him, and also finding out what is effective in worship and disciple-making.But God speaks to us through each other, and I believe that He may have something for us to present to the world for consideration. I have no intention of “normalizing” or “institutionalizing” home church, we are simply building a Home Church Network, and speaking to everyone about how well (or poorly) it’s working for us. Keep in mind that the Network is just an affiliation of autonomous groups that share a common vision. I don’t believe this amounts to an Institution.With that said, I will make my case for Home Church. When it comes to worshipping God, I don’t believe HC has any advantage. There have been many failings and a few successes on both sides of this coin; Matt expressed that quite well. And I believe evangelism (that is, the process of actually gaining converts) is not necessarily more successful within the HC Format that in the Institutional Church (IC).I believe the main difference lies in Discipleship and Fellowship, and especially the latter. The HC Format assumes at the outset that we are to commit not just to God, or to Church, but to specific people. Intimacy and accountability are part of the premise, and they are inescapable. And when there is conscientious organization, and strong, humble servant-leadership, as Fisher emphasized the dire need for, then HC is the setting where I believe Christians can most effectively mature.And Fellowship follows naturally. When we begin to tie our spiritual destiny to a small family of believers, it becomes obvious that we must stand together, fight for one another, and make sacrifices to bless those who need it most. Once again, in the context of HC, Fellowship is inescapable. And while we’re at it, we must be very carefule not to become cliquish or exclusive, as Fisher warned.IC, however, begins with a performance premise that must subsequently be overcome in order to acheive real discipleship and fellowship. It begins with two strikes against it, and it is apparent that most churches don’t have the strength to make the comeback. They sink so easily into comfort, anonymity, spectatorship and program-dependent ministry.I will happily recognize that there are several institutional-style churches that have avoided this fate. But personally I have to ask myself why, if I want to climb a mountain, I would choose to start out in a ditch.

  15. I disagree with your generalization of IC. I have seen discipleship in action in congregational churches over and over both as a member and leader. I have seen home churches coddle their attendees and become very stagnant. The risks of missing the point when it comes to community are equal in both spheres and I disagree that you’d be starting out in a ditch to adopt a congregational model.

  16. I disagree with your generalization of IC. I have seen discipleship in action in congregational churches over and over both as a member and leader. I have seen home churches coddle their attendees and become very stagnant. The risks of missing the point when it comes to community are equal in both spheres and I disagree that you’d be starting out in a ditch to adopt a congregational model.

  17. Fisher, it is clear that your experiences with the IC have been much better than mine. I am fortunate enough to have never been “burned” like so many have. But it has come clear to me how little the typical IC format has done to bring me and others into the fullness of God’s plan for His Church.This is exactly why I echo Fisher’s IME (“In My Experience” for the uninitiated) in everything I say. I have no doubt that there are plenty out there who have seen the IC really work, and the HC fall to pieces. It should not surprise us to see this, because successful ministry is about surrendered leaders and surrendered followers, not about a particular model.But Fisher, let me ask you a question: Is there a “performace premise” in your church? When I ask this, I do not accuse any of your members or leaders of having a performance mindset. I am asking whether the basic format looks more like a family, or more like a theater production. Do members realize that their very presence there requires their participation, and that the expression of each member’s gift makes an impact on shape of the body?I just can’t escape the feeling that if you design an experience more fit for consumption than participation, that is exactly the kind of Christians you’re in danger of producing: consumers. And a large chunk of attendees will realize that nothing would change if they left.

  18. Fisher, it is clear that your experiences with the IC have been much better than mine. I am fortunate enough to have never been “burned” like so many have. But it has come clear to me how little the typical IC format has done to bring me and others into the fullness of God’s plan for His Church.This is exactly why I echo Fisher’s IME (“In My Experience” for the uninitiated) in everything I say. I have no doubt that there are plenty out there who have seen the IC really work, and the HC fall to pieces. It should not surprise us to see this, because successful ministry is about surrendered leaders and surrendered followers, not about a particular model.But Fisher, let me ask you a question: Is there a “performace premise” in your church? When I ask this, I do not accuse any of your members or leaders of having a performance mindset. I am asking whether the basic format looks more like a family, or more like a theater production. Do members realize that their very presence there requires their participation, and that the expression of each member’s gift makes an impact on shape of the body?I just can’t escape the feeling that if you design an experience more fit for consumption than participation, that is exactly the kind of Christians you’re in danger of producing: consumers. And a large chunk of attendees will realize that nothing would change if they left.

  19. no, our church feels more like a family. And I’ve experienced house churches that are not family at all. Again, I’ve experienced both performance and family in both formats. This is why I keep saying it’s not about the model. House Church is not going to solve the church’s problems in and of itself just like IC is not the source of the church’s problems in and of itself. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve been burned in congregational churches. We’ve seen and been a part of the good the bad and the very very ugly in both house church, cell group congregational church, small congregational church, mega church CC…etc. I feel I have enough exposure to all types of praxis to confidently say it’s not about the form and function, it’s about the vision, the focus and the heart of the church. That is where the solutions lie.House Church has exploded in places like India, it’s what’s working there, that’s AWESOME. Barna reports that because of people’s reticense to enter an institutional church and because of the “post charismatic” movement, alternative formats like marketplace faith and house church are exploding…these “trends” (a term I use statistically) are worthy of our attention, and if you are called to that praxis then may God bless your journey 100 fold. But I have no doubt a new “trend” will emerge in the near future. In fact, if you want to talk about trends, you’d be wise to look at why so many are converting to Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholocism.Anyway…point being…developing a community of believers who are growing and producing fruit is the challenge and can be difficult no matter what form and function you’re talking about. And there is a risk, IMO, of focusing too much within the emerging church on house church because it’s not THE THING …Jesus is THE THING and how you get your body to “smell like kingdom” is going to vary depending on your call and your culture.

  20. no, our church feels more like a family. And I’ve experienced house churches that are not family at all. Again, I’ve experienced both performance and family in both formats. This is why I keep saying it’s not about the model. House Church is not going to solve the church’s problems in and of itself just like IC is not the source of the church’s problems in and of itself. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve been burned in congregational churches. We’ve seen and been a part of the good the bad and the very very ugly in both house church, cell group congregational church, small congregational church, mega church CC…etc. I feel I have enough exposure to all types of praxis to confidently say it’s not about the form and function, it’s about the vision, the focus and the heart of the church. That is where the solutions lie.House Church has exploded in places like India, it’s what’s working there, that’s AWESOME. Barna reports that because of people’s reticense to enter an institutional church and because of the “post charismatic” movement, alternative formats like marketplace faith and house church are exploding…these “trends” (a term I use statistically) are worthy of our attention, and if you are called to that praxis then may God bless your journey 100 fold. But I have no doubt a new “trend” will emerge in the near future. In fact, if you want to talk about trends, you’d be wise to look at why so many are converting to Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholocism.Anyway…point being…developing a community of believers who are growing and producing fruit is the challenge and can be difficult no matter what form and function you’re talking about. And there is a risk, IMO, of focusing too much within the emerging church on house church because it’s not THE THING …Jesus is THE THING and how you get your body to “smell like kingdom” is going to vary depending on your call and your culture.

  21. You know, Fisher, you’re right… it is about Jesus.And you may notice by the way I began my blog post that I am not particularly excited about the House Church format. In fact, it frightens me.But I have seen it work in this country, and it is relevant to many Americans, not just Indians or Chinese.I’m frankly a little shocked that Beloved or I have not said this yet, but… the main reason we have chosen the HC format is because of the people we are reaching out to in downtown Springfield. This is a heavily over-churched town. There are so many church buildings, and so few real Jesus impersonators, that the nonbelievers of Springfield are convinced of the worthlessness of the Institutional Church. Just getting them in the door is a struggle.People have to see that we’re real, and that we accept them when they’re real (or even when they’re not.) This requires showing them a different side of Christianity than they’ve been seeing, and I believe it also requires inviting them into our lives, and going out to be a part of theirs. Now I know that HC is not the only way to accomplish that, but it makes a big impact on a non-believer to be invited to your home, and to see the intimacy that results from House Meetings.So Fisher, surely you can’t say that format doesn’t matter at all. Wouldn’t it fall somewhere between Love and Carpet Color? How did you ultimately decide to do church they way you do church?

  22. You know, Fisher, you’re right… it is about Jesus.And you may notice by the way I began my blog post that I am not particularly excited about the House Church format. In fact, it frightens me.But I have seen it work in this country, and it is relevant to many Americans, not just Indians or Chinese.I’m frankly a little shocked that Beloved or I have not said this yet, but… the main reason we have chosen the HC format is because of the people we are reaching out to in downtown Springfield. This is a heavily over-churched town. There are so many church buildings, and so few real Jesus impersonators, that the nonbelievers of Springfield are convinced of the worthlessness of the Institutional Church. Just getting them in the door is a struggle.People have to see that we’re real, and that we accept them when they’re real (or even when they’re not.) This requires showing them a different side of Christianity than they’ve been seeing, and I believe it also requires inviting them into our lives, and going out to be a part of theirs. Now I know that HC is not the only way to accomplish that, but it makes a big impact on a non-believer to be invited to your home, and to see the intimacy that results from House Meetings.So Fisher, surely you can’t say that format doesn’t matter at all. Wouldn’t it fall somewhere between Love and Carpet Color? How did you ultimately decide to do church they way you do church?

  23. format matters in the context of culture. I think I said that about 5 times in this conversation alone 😉so yes of course, it matters a lot. my point was that I don’t believe there is an ultimate right and wrong way to do church generally speaking. we go where God leads us so I can’t say I really CHOSE a church type and esp. not Third Day. However, we are choosing the form and function of Revolution (the college/young adult service) based on the culture. House churches wouldn’t work for the demographic here..but neither does a mega church. One of the great things about meeting in a hotel on campus is that we’re getting people who wouldn’t otherwise go “to church”.As I said before, I have nothing against house church, or any other format for that matter. I guess I subscribe to the generous orthodoxy mentality. I think the key is to show people that God is relevant to their lives…in the prairies of Eastern Colorado that would probably be to meet in a barn and if God called us to that locale that’s what we’d do. And if we could reach even more people driving a truck around pulling a wagon and loading people onto it, we’d do that too.See what I’m getting at? I think sometimes I bristle at house church conversations because it almost always seems to go back to “the way the church in Acts did it.” or some such thing. As if House Church is the ultimate thing to aspire to. And I just don’t agree with that. Nor do I agree that house church can get the job done any better than anything else by it’s very nature.

  24. format matters in the context of culture. I think I said that about 5 times in this conversation alone 😉so yes of course, it matters a lot. my point was that I don’t believe there is an ultimate right and wrong way to do church generally speaking. we go where God leads us so I can’t say I really CHOSE a church type and esp. not Third Day. However, we are choosing the form and function of Revolution (the college/young adult service) based on the culture. House churches wouldn’t work for the demographic here..but neither does a mega church. One of the great things about meeting in a hotel on campus is that we’re getting people who wouldn’t otherwise go “to church”.As I said before, I have nothing against house church, or any other format for that matter. I guess I subscribe to the generous orthodoxy mentality. I think the key is to show people that God is relevant to their lives…in the prairies of Eastern Colorado that would probably be to meet in a barn and if God called us to that locale that’s what we’d do. And if we could reach even more people driving a truck around pulling a wagon and loading people onto it, we’d do that too.See what I’m getting at? I think sometimes I bristle at house church conversations because it almost always seems to go back to “the way the church in Acts did it.” or some such thing. As if House Church is the ultimate thing to aspire to. And I just don’t agree with that. Nor do I agree that house church can get the job done any better than anything else by it’s very nature.

  25. Fisher,Have you ever read “Mustard Seed vs. McWorld”? If not, i highly recommend it. It’s not about house church or institutional church… it completely bypasses those issues. But it does not skirt ecclesiology and being missional. It is a must read for any church leader who actually wants to engage her/his culture. Richard Foster says, “Leaders who neglect to read this book neglect it to their peril and to the peril of the church.” And it has been just that influential on my perspective as well. It’s a deeply challenging and frightening book, but what Tom Sine says in it is excrutiatingly relevant and important for us to hear.As far as the conversation goes, it sounds like the two of you have things pretty well under control. I believe my last comment was about 10 comments worth, so i’ll just keep it short and sweet this time. :)

  26. Fisher,Have you ever read “Mustard Seed vs. McWorld”? If not, i highly recommend it. It’s not about house church or institutional church… it completely bypasses those issues. But it does not skirt ecclesiology and being missional. It is a must read for any church leader who actually wants to engage her/his culture. Richard Foster says, “Leaders who neglect to read this book neglect it to their peril and to the peril of the church.” And it has been just that influential on my perspective as well. It’s a deeply challenging and frightening book, but what Tom Sine says in it is excrutiatingly relevant and important for us to hear.As far as the conversation goes, it sounds like the two of you have things pretty well under control. I believe my last comment was about 10 comments worth, so i’ll just keep it short and sweet this time. :)

  27. In my experience home churches are hot beds to irrelevant and inaccurate theology. It only takes one or two strong leaders to start teaching false doctrine before it affects the whole house. Racism, end-times prophetic explanations, translation elitism, and mental abuse fester in many home churches.These things do exist in many mainstream churches, but usually the most extreme elements of these are filtered out by the slow changing bureaucracy of pulpit churches. This is just my feeling. I’m sure that there are many great home churches out there.

  28. In my experience home churches are hot beds to irrelevant and inaccurate theology. It only takes one or two strong leaders to start teaching false doctrine before it affects the whole house. Racism, end-times prophetic explanations, translation elitism, and mental abuse fester in many home churches.These things do exist in many mainstream churches, but usually the most extreme elements of these are filtered out by the slow changing bureaucracy of pulpit churches. This is just my feeling. I’m sure that there are many great home churches out there.

  29. I commented to Coreman a while back that “the idea of a rapidly expanding movement of home churches in America scares me to death” for the reasons you cited. The home church model is most definitely very dangerous in this light. It provides opportunity for those heretics who have been thrown out of their churches, or who have grown weary of trying to convert the masses to their way of believing, to do their own thing with however many fools that are willing to be seduced.Even with good-hearted individuals (remember, we all have dark places, though) there is the strong likelihood for either (1) shallowness of theology (i.e. they only focus on “the important matters”), or (2) narrowness of theology (i.e. one person’s ideology reigns). In other words, there is a lack of significant accountability within the group.But if this is more true with home churches than it is with congregational churches, then why do very large, widespread, prominent cults and staunchly unorthodox Christian sects continue to exist? I wouldn’t hesistate to say that there are much larger numbers of congregational, cultish or unorthodox Christians in America than there are cultish or unorthodox home churched individuals. Who knows, maybe this phenomenon will shift over the next 10 or 20 years.But again, anonymous, you were right. It depends on the people. With good people, who have good accountability structures in place, who are seeking the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and leaders who are humble enough not to wield power and dominion over members, you can have a fruitful and God-honoring home church.But there’s no way to control that, is there, without a denominational, governing body? The question is, is that a good thing or a bad thing, or both? And if both, is it more good or more bad? And if neither, then does it really matter?

  30. I commented to Coreman a while back that “the idea of a rapidly expanding movement of home churches in America scares me to death” for the reasons you cited. The home church model is most definitely very dangerous in this light. It provides opportunity for those heretics who have been thrown out of their churches, or who have grown weary of trying to convert the masses to their way of believing, to do their own thing with however many fools that are willing to be seduced.Even with good-hearted individuals (remember, we all have dark places, though) there is the strong likelihood for either (1) shallowness of theology (i.e. they only focus on “the important matters”), or (2) narrowness of theology (i.e. one person’s ideology reigns). In other words, there is a lack of significant accountability within the group.But if this is more true with home churches than it is with congregational churches, then why do very large, widespread, prominent cults and staunchly unorthodox Christian sects continue to exist? I wouldn’t hesistate to say that there are much larger numbers of congregational, cultish or unorthodox Christians in America than there are cultish or unorthodox home churched individuals. Who knows, maybe this phenomenon will shift over the next 10 or 20 years.But again, anonymous, you were right. It depends on the people. With good people, who have good accountability structures in place, who are seeking the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and leaders who are humble enough not to wield power and dominion over members, you can have a fruitful and God-honoring home church.But there’s no way to control that, is there, without a denominational, governing body? The question is, is that a good thing or a bad thing, or both? And if both, is it more good or more bad? And if neither, then does it really matter?

  31. Anonymous, I share your conviction for correct teaching in the Church. It absolutely breaks my heart to see people getting involved in an exciting community of believers, only to get suckered into bad theology or hero worship.I cannot defend the House Church Movement as a whole when it comes to this, except to agree with Beloved that there are also many medium and large churches being fed bad doctrine. There is usually more (but sometimes less) denominational accountability in a conventional church, but when it does creep in, it can do far more damage when there are 1000 people listening than when there are only ten.The only thing I can tell you for certain is what our plans (in no particular order) are to maintain accountability and scriptural integrity as we build this House Church Movement:First, we have a board of advisors who are there for no other reason than to keep us on track, in our teaching and in our personal lives. Second, we receive support from several Biblically healthy and grounded churches who care deeply about our ability to maintain orthodoxy. Third, we emphasize the supremacy of Christ and of Scipture, and do not place ourselves, as leaders, above the reproof of any member holding a Bible. And Fourth, as the Network develops, we will see to it that new House Church leaders will be held accountable to us (as “Apostles” of sorts) and to their members the same way we have tried to do with our own group.I believe that a plan like that will make our chances of running afoul of good theology as remote as in any conventional church, and hopefully moreso.

  32. Anonymous, I share your conviction for correct teaching in the Church. It absolutely breaks my heart to see people getting involved in an exciting community of believers, only to get suckered into bad theology or hero worship.I cannot defend the House Church Movement as a whole when it comes to this, except to agree with Beloved that there are also many medium and large churches being fed bad doctrine. There is usually more (but sometimes less) denominational accountability in a conventional church, but when it does creep in, it can do far more damage when there are 1000 people listening than when there are only ten.The only thing I can tell you for certain is what our plans (in no particular order) are to maintain accountability and scriptural integrity as we build this House Church Movement:First, we have a board of advisors who are there for no other reason than to keep us on track, in our teaching and in our personal lives. Second, we receive support from several Biblically healthy and grounded churches who care deeply about our ability to maintain orthodoxy. Third, we emphasize the supremacy of Christ and of Scipture, and do not place ourselves, as leaders, above the reproof of any member holding a Bible. And Fourth, as the Network develops, we will see to it that new House Church leaders will be held accountable to us (as “Apostles” of sorts) and to their members the same way we have tried to do with our own group.I believe that a plan like that will make our chances of running afoul of good theology as remote as in any conventional church, and hopefully moreso.

  33. It’s like I keep saying, problems are problems of the “heart” of the church just like individual problems are problems of the heart of the person.Issues can arise no matter the size, form or function of a church. A church can be good, bad or very ugly no matter what.And while I understand what you mean when you say that problems in a house church affect fewer people but you might want to keep yourself from using that defense too much 😉I’ve seen abuses everywhere, I’ve seen successes everywhere…I just don’t think there is one right way to do church.

  34. It’s like I keep saying, problems are problems of the “heart” of the church just like individual problems are problems of the heart of the person.Issues can arise no matter the size, form or function of a church. A church can be good, bad or very ugly no matter what.And while I understand what you mean when you say that problems in a house church affect fewer people but you might want to keep yourself from using that defense too much 😉I’ve seen abuses everywhere, I’ve seen successes everywhere…I just don’t think there is one right way to do church.

  35. Actually, Fisher, I didn’t mean it as a “defense” at all. Just an observation. I recognize that house churches are in danger of getting off track. So are institutional churches, but for different reasons. Fewer ICs will go bad, but when they do, more people will be affected. Therefore, I think you’ll probably end up having an equal number of people getting led astray by either camp. Which just goes to prove your point: that it’s about the heart, not about the form.If you have a group of people forming a house church because they want to be edgy, or sexy, or rebellious, or powermongers or control-freaks, or because there’s this really charismatic leader, and that’s what HE’s doing, then you’re doomed. But that’s not an organizational problem, that’s a heart problem. All churches are prone to heart failure.What we have to keep in mind, though, is that a church can fail just as easily if we neglect to take our culture into account. We are obliged to be students of our surroundings, just as Paul was. (I recognize that you are doing this, too, Fisher.) If we don’t have a practice of combining obedience of God’s direction, and wisdom of our culture, we’ll fail no matter good our theology is.Please note that I have added a post to direct people to a recent article about House Churches in TIME Magazine. But I am by no means trying to cut off this discussion.

  36. Actually, Fisher, I didn’t mean it as a “defense” at all. Just an observation. I recognize that house churches are in danger of getting off track. So are institutional churches, but for different reasons. Fewer ICs will go bad, but when they do, more people will be affected. Therefore, I think you’ll probably end up having an equal number of people getting led astray by either camp. Which just goes to prove your point: that it’s about the heart, not about the form.If you have a group of people forming a house church because they want to be edgy, or sexy, or rebellious, or powermongers or control-freaks, or because there’s this really charismatic leader, and that’s what HE’s doing, then you’re doomed. But that’s not an organizational problem, that’s a heart problem. All churches are prone to heart failure.What we have to keep in mind, though, is that a church can fail just as easily if we neglect to take our culture into account. We are obliged to be students of our surroundings, just as Paul was. (I recognize that you are doing this, too, Fisher.) If we don’t have a practice of combining obedience of God’s direction, and wisdom of our culture, we’ll fail no matter good our theology is.Please note that I have added a post to direct people to a recent article about House Churches in TIME Magazine. But I am by no means trying to cut off this discussion.

  37. the little “;)” was showing you that I was being a smart ass and teasing you about that comment.I think sometimes it’s hard not to get a little defensive about what God has called us to. When he leads us one way it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and zeal of that particular direction. Sometimes we inadvertently send the message that our way is THE way even if that’s not really what’s in our hearts. So I think caution is in order when we communicate our vision. I’m not suggesting you’re not doing that, just offering some general wisdom from my experience of planting churches and starting ministries well, and others not so well.

  38. the little “;)” was showing you that I was being a smart ass and teasing you about that comment.I think sometimes it’s hard not to get a little defensive about what God has called us to. When he leads us one way it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and zeal of that particular direction. Sometimes we inadvertently send the message that our way is THE way even if that’s not really what’s in our hearts. So I think caution is in order when we communicate our vision. I’m not suggesting you’re not doing that, just offering some general wisdom from my experience of planting churches and starting ministries well, and others not so well.

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