There have been many good things that I’ve learned and gathered during our time spent within the house church movement. For those of you that don’t know, my wife and I have spent about 5 years both attending and starting house churches. Within those groups of people the Lord has taken me through a character development that I might not have acquired should I have stayed within our traditional church model. Close knit relationships that house church provides positively provides accelerated personal growth. I learned about fostering loving relationships, building unity, serving your brother and sister and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in ways you wouldn’t appreciate or think otherwise. However, with all the good that I’ve seen, there are many things I find concerning about those within the house church movement and just house churches in general:
1. An elitism spirit.
I myself have been guilty of this as it has rubbed off on me in the past. This spirit can plague any church, traditional or not, however it seems that the people I’ve come into contact with through house church seem to think that because they are small they are holding on to pure doctrine and haven’t compromised. They equate largeness and bigger churches with watered down theology or worldliness. Instead of recognizing the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ universal, many people within house church movements seem to write off any church that doesn’t look like house church. This creates an “us vs. them” mentality and is not wholesome, nor helpful to convince those outside of house churches that they are indeed more Biblical than modern day traditional churches. While I would agree that house churches are a Biblical model of church life, they surely are not the solution to the problems and issues that you find in most every church. There are people in megachurches that are on fire for God and love Jesus passionately, just as there are dead believers and couch surfers within living rooms across America.
2. Super comfortable
House churches tend to be comfy. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a part of a “come as you are” group, sit on some comfy couches in someones living room while sipping coffee and discussing the Bible. (Sounds like a small group to me anyway) Although there is room for this activity in the church, its called fellowship, sharing life and koinonia. If this is ALL the church is about, then we’ve lost sight of all of the OTHER aspects of church such as mission, worship, discipleship, prayer and meeting the needs of the poor. I have no interest in a comfortable Christian lifestyle and I doubt the early church met in homes to be comfy. Instead they were FORCED to meet behind closed doors due to some of the harshest persecution experienced in history.
3. Lack of mission and evangelism
Anything that is healthy should grow. If we are truly fulfilling the command of Jesus to make and multiply disciples, this means that our house churches should be growing…not staying small. The “fellowship” nature of house church seems to favor the us 4 no more mentality. Those in small groups get so familiar and comfortable with the bond they have created, its difficult or hard for others to join and many within the group don’t WANT others to join. They either don’t want to put up with the messy lives of unbelievers or steer away from having to make the necessary relational sacrifices it requires to see people come to know Jesus.
4. Lack of clear leadership or organizational structure
This, to me, is probably the most concerning of house churches. The church is both organic and organized. Organizations rise and fall on leadership, poor or the lack thereof. During the time we spent meeting people who wanted to meet in homes, we found a pervasive distrust due to wounds of the past, and the squelching of anyone who would presume to lead. Paul said the “aspiration” to become and elder is a good “desire”. (1 Tim. 3:1) The Bible also clearly teaches the responsibilities and qualifications of leaders and the way the church should respond to them. (Eph. 4:11-13, 1 Thess. 5:12, Heb. 13:17). Leadership doesn’t automatically equate lording over someone or trampling people in exchange for vision. Instead, vision is a life giving source because people without vision end up dying. (Prov. 29:18) Loving, servant leadership provides this.
This list isn’t exhaustive, however it’s a beginning start for house churches to identify and see where they are lacking and make the necessary upgrades to their ministries. Unlike most other church organizations, we respect and appreciate house churches for who they are, spiritual families centered around Jesus. Meeting in a house doesn’t make them any less of a church, yet our desire is to see churches alive, growing and healthy, no mater what model they express.