House Church

Are House Churches Relevant?

In America that is….

No one who has done any significant research on church movements in the nations can deny the fact that the church is exploding. Much of the growth is happening within house churches. Check out some of these statistics:

(Statistical Sources: Rad Zdero (2004), The Global House Church Movement; Rad Zdero (2007), Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader; Dawn Friday Fax; Wolfgang Simson (2007), The Starfish Manifesto; Wolfgang Simson, EaSi Newsletter, July 2007; Wikipedia)

  • Bangladesh: 500,000 new believers in HC’s
  • Cambodia: 1,000 new HC’s in 10 years (1990 to 2000) [1]
  • Canada: as many as 2,000 HC’s in Canada in the last few years
  • China: 80–100 million believers in HC’s
  • Cuba: 6,000–10,000 HC’s since 1992
  • Egypt: 4,000 HC’s
  • Ethiopia: growth from 5,000 to 50,000 believers in HC’s during the 1980s
  • India: approx. 100,000 HC’s started in 5 years (from 2001–2006)
  • Latin America: 1 million HC-type groups known as ‘Basic Ecclesial Communities’
  • Sri Lanka: Kithu Sevena church movement started 131 new HC’s in 7 months (in 2004)
  • Vietnam: one church planting team start 550 new HC’s in 2 years (1997 to 1999) [2]
  • U.S.A.: 1,600 HC’s on internet alone (as of 2003) with possibly as many as 30,000 HC’s (according to the American pollster George Barna); as of 2009, about 30,700,650 adults

But the question is are house churches culturally relevant in America’s consumer culture?

The nature of a house church simply goes against the grain in America. American Christians like things large, bigger and better. If it’s not large and in charge, American Christians interpret this as non-influential. But how do we measure influence? By the crowds or by the changed lives? House churches by nature tend to be small groups of 10-12 people with nothing impressive to show for. There are no stages in house churches, no canned lighting to attract the non-believer to come. (Although there might be some good food, American’s are known to love their food.) There isn’t charismatic preaching, there is normally not any multimedia video presentations. At face value, most American Christians would probably consider house church a complete bore. Probably because they are looking for all the wrong things.

Even still there is a desperate cry within every human being for human connection. There is a deep longing for something more than they are getting from entertainment churches. They long for a true, intimate walk with the Lord Jesus that is full of power and to walk that relationship out with others in close proximity. Traditional churches are not the enemy though. There is a place for the large, corporate gathering. These times can be opportunities to hear from gifted ministries and celebrate the Lord in song, dance, music, etc…but this alone often leads to isolated Christians, disconnectedness and ultimately a poor relationship with God without the community of God that takes place within church life. I would even hesitate to call these meetings “church.” A more comfortable term would be “meeting”.

My prediction is that over the next 50 years or so we will see more and more house churches, simple churches and organic churches springing up all over the country. At the end of the ministry time, after everyone has shouted, screamed and given their clap offering the lights to the building eventually get turned off and everyone goes home. They go home to the reality of family life, work and living in their own community where the Kingdom of God can REALLY permeate throughout the neighborhood. Where neighbors can be reached, the sick can be prayed for and disciples can me made.

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5 Comments

    Felicity Dale

    June 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Great post! I agree with all you have written.

    I've also heard Wolfgang Simson say that if you are willing to count networks of house churches in the numbers, 19 of the top 20 biggest churches in the world are networks of house churches. God is up to something.

    Something else we are seeing is mega- and micro- churches cooperating together. What could happen in our cities if nobody minds who gets the credit?

      aburningfire

      June 3, 2011 at 12:21 am

      thanks for the comment Felicity. It's an honor to have you visit our site. I've enjoyed your blog posts on house church in the past.

    Nick Gossani

    June 3, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Hi Rusty,

    Came across this post on a search actually. I agree that HC are truly providing fellowship where other big name traditional churches are not. In my city, FLINT, MI. we don't have very many churches and so house church becomes an easy way to give God glory. I do have some hesitations, however.

    I grew up in a Black Baptist church in Michigan. (you can share this on your blog if you like) The house churches today seem like they focus inward and fold in on themselves. Outreach is forced. Sharing seems forced. For example, my current house church in Michigan tells everyone must bring a scripture and everyone must share. But, not everyone feels a sense of trust. So people feel forced. We have had over 10 people leave due to the high pressure. Our leadership team just says "They are not true Christians and they are attached to the OLD WAY"

    Am I missing something? I can say one thing at my old church, you could be a spectator but you weren't forced to feel intimidated and you could serve when you were ready. But this talk of everyone gives, everyone talks, everyone eats, everyone sings is a little tough for many of our brothers and sisters. We keep having people come but they hate it so they leave.

      aburningfire

      June 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Wow Nick! First of thanks for visiting our site and taking the time to comment. We've been part of planting a house church for the past two years and have run into similar situations with people "checking things out". Our policy is that a person's level of participation is totally up to them. They should never be forced or made to feel that they are less of a Christian because they don't share a scripture during the meeting. When you understand the Body of Christ you understand that different people have been given different gifts. Not everyone is a vocal gift to the Body. Some people have been given a gift of evangelism and would much rather be out at a bar someplace reaching the lost than sitting in your living room singing kumbaya. (just and example) You brought up the topic of trust too. It takes time to get to know people. My question is how much time do you spend together doing things outside of HC? Sharing life outside of the context of a church gathering will help to build relationships and hopefully get people to bond and feel a sense of joining. Ultimately its God who joins people, but if your leaders are scaring people away thats not a good thing. Please let us know how we can serve you. We'd love to help and pray in any way we can.

    Rad Zdero

    June 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Hi there,

    Yes I agree that we will inevitably see more and more simple, organic, house churches begin throughout the nations of the West in order to deal with hostility, harvest, and exodus from institutional church systems.

    By the way, I've just released my latest book, LETTERS TO THE HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT, which is a 10 year collection of 40 of my real life letters to real house churches dealing with real issues. Its at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Amazon.co.uk

    Feel free to check out the STARFISH FILES house church magazine I edit, which you can download for free at http://www.scribd.com/rzdero

    All the best,

    Rad Zdero

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