the weblog of Alan Knox

Is house church the answer?

Posted by on Nov 5, 2012 in blog links | 24 comments

Is house church the answer?

Well, Keith at “subversive1” has answered this question (the title of the post) in his post “House Church is Not the Answer.” So, I guess that makes for a short blog post here.

But, of course, I can’t leave it like that, can I? That would be too easy.

Obviously, in the New Testament, we read about believers meeting in houses in several cities, both in the book of Acts and in some of Paul’s letters. I’ve read several books (and I’ve written several blog posts) that discuss some of the benefits of gathering in homes. I’ve often gathered in homes with various brothers and sisters in Christ, and I’ve found it to be extremely helpful.

But, like Keith said, gathering in homes is not the answer. Here is part of his post:

But gathering in a home won’t cut it. Meeting in a circle and singing songs won’t accomplish anything. Having a great meeting about Jesus is not the same thing as having an actual meeting with Jesus.

House church is not the answer. Jesus is. And learning to gather beneath the shadow of His wings, and learning to hear His voice together, and actually encountering the Risen One in the fellowship of other submitted and surrendered believers is what every follower of Christ is made for.

Please read the rest of Keith’s post, and if you’re interested in my thoughts on this issue, you may want to read my post “Why I’m not a house church proponent.”

I have a few related questions for my readers: 1) Have you ever gathered with other believers in a home? 2) What benefits did you experience while gathering in a home? 3) What struggles / detriments / hindrances did you experience while gathering in a home?


24 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-5-2012

    I find it curious that one would make a distinction between a church that meets in a purpose built facility (or even a school hall) and a church that meets in someone’s house. Perhaps rediculous is a better than word than curious…

    So what is the qualifying factor that validates one over the other? Is it the presence of a paid professional holy man? Is it the number of seats? Is it the number of people who attend? Or is it that you can’t have a church without a power/money hungry attitude?

    The evangelical church needs to stop all activity, apologise for positioning a generation of planet earth against the name of Jesus and learn that it’s their turn to shut up and listen for a while.

    FYI, I do enjoy your blog, and I read it often. But the premise of this post is utterly stupid.

  2. 11-5-2012

    Hilson,

    Are you sure you understood the “premise of this post”? Because, like I said above, I am not a house church proponent, even though I am not against the church meeting in homes. And, from what Keith wrote, he doesn’t think that meeting in houses is the answer either.

    -Alan

  3. 11-5-2012

    Alan,

    To answer your closing questions:

    1. Yes.
    2. Too many to list, but let me say all the benefits I have received simply were absent within institutional Christianity.
    3. No detriments at all, nor hindrances, nor anything negative. Jesus was there, we were there, He took control, we rested in Him, and all of us participated as family. Prayer, laughter, worship, prophecy, prayer, laughter, food, singing, gifts/ministry, prayer, fellowship, obedience, transparency. That says it all.

  4. 11-5-2012

    When you ask if anyone has gathered with other believers in a home, do you mean gather in a certain context, or just be around other believers in a house?

  5. 11-5-2012

    Hi Allan, I completely agree: house churches alone are not the answer. Yes, the New Testament speaks about believers meeting in homes, but that’s by no means the focal point of the New Testament. The focal point is Christ as the Head and the church as His Body. The goal is that His Body would express Him and represent Him, and this can be carried out by meeting in a home, meeting in a rented facility, or meeting in a facility that’s owned. The meeting place itself is irrelevant. What matters is that a group of believers are gathered together to take Christ as their Head and to worship Him and serve Him in the way that He pleases and chooses. There are other nuances to this, but I won’t get into them now. In sum, house churches are not the answer because a church meeting is much more intrinsic than the type of building we’re able to meet in.

  6. 11-5-2012

    Donald,

    That’s interesting. I’ve found both benefits and hindrances/detriments to almost any location where I’ve gathered with other believers. Of course, there are different levels of benefits/detriments… but all should be considered.

    Dan,

    I thought about including a context in my questions, but decided against it. The only context that I would add would be gathering as described in the New Testament, i.e., in a manner that helps one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ.

    Joe,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree that it’s possible to meet in other locations, i.e., not just homes. Have you ever met with other believers in a home? If so, did you notice any benefits and/or detriments?

    -Alan

  7. 11-5-2012

    Alan,

    I would say that unless 1 Corinthians 14:26 is the focus of any meeting or gathering of believers, to include a house church or institutional church, then it is a moot gathering. I think on this you and I can agree.

    However, I have found and experienced that even when I am with my brothers in Christ, say watching football or some other sort of, shall we say, ‘non-Jesus-related’ activity, Jesus starts talking and showing us more of Who He is. So basically a football party eventually turns into a worship gathering or a time of prayer and supplication. The Scriptures are opened, encouragement flows, and The Spirit leads. Amazing. It simply happens when I am with my brothers/sisters, and it’s just how it is.

  8. 11-5-2012

    I told you I would answer if/when you clarified. I guess clarifying that you won’t be clarifying will have to be enough.

    1. Yes, I have met with other Christians in homes in many different ways. Never for “House Church” (actually a couple times, but that was pretty lame). Usually for other things, like to hang out, eat, watch football, talk, be friends, you know, what normal people do. I think there have been lots of times that these situations have proven helpful in my, as well as others’, growth in Christ.

    2. I don’t know what you mean by benefits, I guess I’d have to know what we were comparing it to. It was beneficial that I could let my kids run around and get into trouble without having to worry about them breaking other people’s stuff or ruining other people’s evening. It is also nice to be able to sit on my own furniture, and not have to get dressed to go out or shower or use gas. Those are all benefits of being at home, at my home of course, but that all goes out the window at other people’s houses.

    3. Again, I guess I would only be able to answer this if I were comparing it to something else. Meeting at a restaurant wouldn’t leave you with a big mess to clean up after dinner, meeting at a playground might keep the kids out of your hair.

    I think ultimately the point is that it doesn’t matter where you hang out with other people, as long as you are friends, like, the kind that are honest with each other, and willing to help each other out.

  9. 11-5-2012

    It’s interesting that you ask for benefits and/or detriments. In my opinion, it depends for what did the people met for. I have had “services” under a tree up a mountain, in beautiful temples, at homes, parks, restaurants and just about any place. We have gathered to praise God, to encourage one another, and we have allowed the Spirit to lead us. For the most part I have gained from the experience a more passionate love for my lord and savior, Jesus! Others in those meetings have expressed the same. I must point out that we have made it clear that we were not gathering for fellowship per se. Fellowship happened after the “service” was finished as an outflow of the Spirit lead “service”. Yes we have gathered specifically for fellowship, as in watching a movie, a birthday or other type of social engagement and it has turned into a “service” because we have allowed the Spirit of God to lead us. For me that is not a detriment. Like some of the other brothers have pointed out the meeting place is irrelevant. What really matters is that we gathered to exalt our God, to allow Him to counsel us and we have allowed His Spirit led us to Him. In particular I was at a youth meeting in a house and some of the young people brought others who in turn invited others. We ended with about 50 people in an apartment. Yet we all felt there was plenty of room. As some of the invitees received Jesus as lord and savior, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, some of us thought the neighbors were to complaint because of the noise. Yet no one complained, especially when it was past 11:00PM and the meeting was going on strong. I truly believed that was a miracle.

  10. 11-6-2012

    I agree that the location…or changing the location…is not the answer. While I have never met with a group in a home where the gathering was the primary expression of the church, I have observed what a church called ‘cell groups’ and found they suffered from the same problems as other church meetings…they involved people…imperfect people. They tended to slip into a dominant-leader-and-followers pattern. Still, there was more room for participation in general. Depending on the group there were distractions for child care or food arrangement…any good meeting is an eatin’ meetin':)
    Perhaps the annoying part about a house meeting is the fact that the inevitable problems with people and logistics can’t be swept under the rug or handed off to an assistant to deal with in another room. Also, heretical as it may sound, much input from the group can be banal and of no particular benefit to the group…spiritual wisdom that has to be the Holy Spirit may pop up from unexpected directions, but it is no way guaranteed. As one post said recently, learning to eat with a spoon is a messy process.

  11. 11-6-2012

    Donald,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t say that 1 Corinthians 14:26 should be the focus of our meetings. Instead, when our focus is right, then our meetings will resemble Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26. I like what you said about “Jesus starts talking and showing us…” during “non-Jesus-related activities.” That can be a struggle for me – i.e., being distracted by certain activities or plans. But, I’ve also seen Jesus break through – even break through my distractions.

    Dan,

    Thanks for the responses to my questions. I specifically left my questions vague, and I loved the way you worked through them.

    Angel,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate much of what you said. I don’t make the same distinction about fellowship. Like John wrote, when we fellowship with one another we are truly fellowshiping with God and with Jesus.

    Tom,

    Thanks for your input. I’ve seen some of the same things that you mention. You said one short phrase that’s key for me: “Depending on the group…” People are different, and we need to recognize that.

    -Alan

  12. 11-6-2012

    My husband and I are members of a large church, but we had a small group in our home for several years. We used the Navigator study, Growing in God’s Family or something like that. We had a motley crew of participants, but they really did grow. They were sharing the gospel all over town, even to Hindus. Well, you would have to know how shy they were when we started to appreciate that, but the small group probably helped save a person’s life. That was ten years ago and every group member is still growing in the Lord.

  13. 11-7-2012

    Jean,

    That’s great! Thanks so much for sharing that example.

    -Alan

  14. 11-10-2012

    If the people sit in a home in rows looking at the back of each other’s head, sing three song and listen to someone speak for 30 to 60 minutes, then house church is only better in that 75 percent of the money they give doesn’t go to pay the heating bill and upkeep of the building and salary of the holy man. If “house church” means people sharing life together, exploring and then applying God’s Word and helping one another interact with the larger community, then, yes, house church is better, even if it doesn’t meet in a house. :)

  15. 11-10-2012

    Dan,

    You said, “Then, yes, house church is better, even if it doesn’t meet in a house.” Yes… it’s the part before that statement that’s important. :)

    -Alan

  16. 11-11-2012

    Personally, Jesus alone is my Vision, Passion and Hope when it comes to the spiritual landscape. It is so insidiously easy to shift our allegiance to the things that we create in order to “help” God. I bring nothing to the table when it comes to my relationship with God. The way that we meet and the way that we live are two different things. I think that Christ is more concerned about the latter.

    I have chosen the house church pathway simply to find the essence of my faith apart from all the trappings and we don’t replicate a way of meeting in a traditional setting, in a home. It is a totally different approach. As a 34-yr. pastor, I constantly try to stay to the edge, refuse to be deferred to and work to make the playing field level, coaching each one to engage with their giftings when we come together.

    Jesus alone is the Answer.

  17. 11-11-2012

    Karl,

    Thanks for your comment. Do you think its possible for someone to have Jesus lone as their vision, passion, and hope and for that person to be of a more traditional church in a dedicated building?

    -Alan

  18. 11-11-2012

    “Keith said, gathering in homes is not the answer.”
    This is a straw man statement. No one has ever claimed that meeting in a home is the answer. Many claim it is part of the answer, a strategic part:
    1. Better stewardship as Dan said above. ” where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If you pay a measly $300 per week to rent a place that is $15,600 a year. That could support 10+ Indian full time missionaries a year. We know hearts are easily stuck inside a lot of church locations because so much money goes there..
    2. Hospitality is highly strategic in Gods book. It’s required of overseers which every man is to aspire to. Meeting in homes is huge for this. I have seen men explode into spiritual leadership when they see others set this example in their home.
    3. Spiritual leadership is example setting in all areas of life, not just the ceremony time. This full spectrum example setting is seen by all far more in the home setting.
    4. Our identity is that we ARE a family. Meeting in a families home amplifies this reality far more than a school cafeteria or strip mall setup.
    5. We meet house to house, one month in each home. Now this is part of believers sharing and sacrificing for each other-chipped Sheetrock, stained carpets, dirty towels, plugged toilets, urine on the floor, broken glasses and all.

    Thats just a start. Who wants to miss these spiritual opportunities for growth?
    The only detriment to meeting in homes are saints who are addicted to crowd gatherings or are too self centered to open their home in partnership – koinonia- with others.

  19. 11-12-2012

    Tim,

    I think you’ll find that Keith is not really making an argument, thus, it’s not really a straw man. He’s pointing out that we do not need to focus on location. Instead, there are many more important aspects of our life together in Christ that we should focus on.

    -Alan

  20. 11-12-2012

    I re-read his post. Why would he even make the statement, or make it the title of a whole article “house church is not the answer” when no one is saying merely meeting in a home is the answer? It’s a flame throwing statement regarding people who meet in homes as if they are saying this is the answer. This is a straw man. It’s a bogus accusation or suggestion. It’s like some who say “War is not the answer”. Keith might say this since he is a pacifist of one version or another. No one has ever said war is the answer, but sometimes it is part of the answer. There may be some home gatherings where some organic guru will pronounce a home gathering failure. It is very difficult to pull off all the changes necessary to walk in obedience. Denouncing those who have stalled in process and suggesting they believe something when they don’t is not helpful.

    Anybody who has the spiritual gumption to see the tragedy of institutionalized faith knows that meeting in homes is only part of the solution. It is an important part, but only part. I don’t think it is edifying to make statements that no one is even suggesting is true. It only serves to deprecate and confuse when part of the solution, an important part, is meeting in a home.

  21. 11-12-2012

    Tim,

    I’m guessing that Keith wanted to respond to those who say that the church must meet in homes. I could be wrong though. I know that’s the reason that I wrote my post “Why I’m not a house church proponent.”

    -Alan

  22. 11-14-2012

    Maybe we should distinguish between saying we are a proponent of ‘house church’ as a church model (or distinguishing factor) and saying that we think meeting in a house supports our church model – which could be something else, such as being people-focused or family oriented etc. This shifts the focus away from ‘we are the people who meet in houses’ to ‘we are the people who are seeking a more natural, communal expression of the Body’ – church in a house or not. Also, it might be good to consider the idea that ‘the way the Spirit inspires us to do church’ may be strategically era-specific instead of lying on a timeless axis of right or wrong… Perhaps there is a time to do house church, and a time not to do house church?

  23. 11-14-2012

    @Karl Ingersoll,

    Your comments made my spirit leap and my heart burn. Thank you for saying them out loud, sir.

  24. 11-17-2012

    John,

    I’m fine with meeting in houses or anywhere else, as long as the church is working together to build everyone up toward maturity in Jesus Christ.

    -Alan