If you’re just curious, or seriously considering leaving your brick-and-mortar church for a house church (or simple church, organic church, micro-church, etc.), we want to assist you as you prayerfully seek God’s will. Aside from their many advantages, below are five reasons why you should not join—or not start, for that matter—a house church.
1. It’s so much easier.
Get ready to roll up your sleeves! It is indeed less labor-intensive on many fronts to be a part of a simply organized house church. There’s no grounds-keeping committee or set up/strike down team, as two examples. Yet there’s a surprising amount of work that takes place. It’s enjoyable work, for sure, but every “regular” is expected to pull his or her own weight in a variety of tasks, be it preparing a meal to serve, helping to prep/clean up the house of this week’s host, or studying just as hard as you would for a sermon or Bible study for this week’s interactive lesson. You also find yourself getting pulled into helping others outside the meeting more often as you’re sharing life together. No one gets paid, so everyone must pull together for the home-based church to succeed. Simpler, yes, but not “easier.”
2. It’s less “judgmental.”
For certain, there are churches and ministers who confuse discipleship for micro-management. But if it’s condemnation you feel from Christians genuinely caring about each other’s spiritual progress, a fully functioning house church is no hiding place. House churches tend to get very personal when it comes to sharing one another’s struggles with sin, personal doubts and fears—it’s inevitable that you’ll feel criticized every great so often. On the other hand, they’re equally passionate when it comes to sharing praises and the various “God moments” had during the week. The small numbers make it difficult to keep these day-to-day details private—as much as house-church members also value independence and non-conventional viewpoints.
3. It’s closer to New Testament Christianity.
Many of us, myself included, have adopted the house church model in order to better reflect the inter-connectedness and dynamism found in the early church. On the other hand, there is “the church invisible” we must consider—the Holy Spirit isn’t bound by church polity or the kind of building in which you gather. It’s just that we want to give the Holy Spirit more “elbow room” to do his thing from person to person and gifting to gifting, with a minimum amount of rules and routines in between.
4. It’s less expensive.
If you’re not “a cheerful giver,” beware: While no one is going to make a PowerPoint presentation for a building fund, and you won’t be reminded to whip open your wallet at the sound of check-tearing before the offertory prayer, giving is critical to the mission of a house church. Because almost all of the proceeds go directly toward missions work and local charity, giving becomes all the more exciting! You also have a chance to share a giving opportunity on an equal platform as everyone else.
5. You just “click” better with the people at a house church you tried.
(This one applies to any church or small group, actually.) There’s nothing wrong with picking a Christian fellowship with your ability and excitement to serve effectively with them as primary considerations. A house church full of those who share your interests or who at least get your jokes can seem all the more appealing. It’s like a house party every Sunday! Alas, as with all churches, it’s a collection of friends, family, and neighbors that will change over time. With no permanent location and minimal branding, there are fewer non-personal reasons for members to stay; thus, shifts in membership tend to take place more rapidly in house churches. And when a house church congregation grows larger than the homes they meet in, its members will spin-off into new meetings with entirely different combinations of folks, and maybe even a house church network in your community. The more you baptize and make disciples, the more things will change, and the more diverse the fellowship becomes. So don’t join expecting the old gang to stick around: if it’s worth joining, the faces will change.
In any situation where a change in church setting seems imminent, the most important thing is to find a church which honors Jesus Christ as “all in all” (Colossians 3:11). As we focus on Jesus as our source of unity, personal differences become less and less a barrier to fellowship. As we grow in the Spirit, whether in a formal or informal church environment, our desire to flee diminishes and love increases.
Image attribution: Justin Skinner / Thinkstock
I have found it difficult in churches even of moderate size to really feel a part of the group. It always felt as though everybody already had their friends, and in my mind anyway, didn’t necessarily welcome an interloper. The only Christian in my family, I would go to church alone, and I would leave alone soon after service, and it just left me feeling lonely and isolated. I found a house church a few years ago, which was so much easier because it was small so everyone knew everyone. Without a building schedule, the prayer could be a life altering experience. It was not unusual for a speaker to be pacing in the hallway outside the living room, praying in quiet but audible prayer, before speaking. But it began to grow, and grow, and eventually they moved into an actual building. It was not the same after that.
The other problem with a house church is, as Andy stated, that everybody knows everything. They know all the things you posted on facebook, for example. This is sometimes awkward, but also good if the people are willing to enter into an honest conversation with you about it.
I am now back at a mid-size church, but the church has small home groups as well — the best of both worlds. Being an isolated Christian is a lonely road. I think we really need to feel known, and we need to feel cared about. For those of us who are socially awkward, the home church, or at least home group, is a life saver. As Andy mentioned, in the home church it is important to find a group with stable, mature Christians, in order to be certain that we don’t end up founding a whole new religion,
I don’t know you and I’m not sure if this reply will find its way to you all these years later, but after reading this article and then your comment, I just felt moved by the Spirit to pray for you. I’m not sure if you are still the only one in your family who knows God, but my soul was stirred as I prayed and I wanted you to know that tonight a stranger (but a brother in Christ) prayed for you, that your back would be strong with whatever burdens or struggles you may be facing, and that God will be your shining light of refuge!
That was lovely, Mark. I had the same thought as I read Sharon’s post. I am praying for her too.
My husband and I really are interested in the house church movement, and have been for some time. We’re just waiting for clear direction from God; we don’t want to back out on commitments to our present situation, and God has never once failed to open the doors to something when He’s ready for us to walk through. I can see that, while there are scary notions of vulnerability that are easy to brush aside in an institutional church environment, there are also a lot of pluses to having a core group of people whose ministry can focus completely upon ministry without sacrificing any to infrastructure or overhead costs that come with a fixed building.
As a visitor to Andy’s home church, I can say it was both spiritually refreshing and humbling. Granted, Andy and I have a long standing friendship for about 22-ish years. But given that our paths diverged many years ago, leading to some different theological views, it wasn’t weird in the least bit to gather together with his family and the house church. Coming from some one who is in “vocational ministry” (notice the quotation marks!), this model I have actually participated in before and found it to be the lifeblood of the church. Its powerful to live together in community like this (a very Bonhoeffer inspired ideal). Its been so long since I have been in that environment but it is what I needed. The paradox of modern Christianity in this regard is that Christians say we want community but when it happens we bemoan and demean it! In this house church I witnessed the openness of the atmosphere, the centrality of Scripture, and the foundation of prayer and it was great. The Spirit can move in such small numbers as much as I know He can in larger gatherings. So if you want to check it out, go for it and visit with Andy. I highly recommend attending!
So many churches in my area BUT they are all 501c3 and/or incorporated. Trying to find one that isn’t or a home church has proved impossible.
All churches or not-for-profits are automatically 501C3 entities. And even they are not required to file tax returns though some do. I personally prefer accounting for things even without filing tax returns Form 990.
I am from a home church background. It was never perfect but I miss the whole idea of it. My husband and I live in northern Illinois a few hours away from Chicago in a smallish town named Kewanee. We have a young passionate pastor who really takes his authority seriously and wants us to be a beacon in the community. We are a smaller church but have had some huge well received outreaches in the community. I just have a hard time feeling truly at home in an institutionalized church because something tells me there is something more and deeper. I’ve felt the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit as an 8 year old child in our basement as an older lady named Jackie played the piano set on fire by the Holy Spirit herself. We ended up moving from there and later a an adult my husband and I became part of a home church again. This one was plagued with gossip and backbiting and constant criticism of the religious system. We felt the spirit there at first, but after a few years left. I just want to see the real true Church operate as it did in the book of Acts with Christ as the true head and everyone operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I know those first churches had their problems too. I’m just sad and disillusioned right now.
IVE HAD MORE SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN CHRIST AND HELP FROM GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LAST 6 MONTHS OF OUR WED AND SAT HOME CHURCH THAN WITH 24 YRS OF OFF AND ON STUDY WITH THE JW’s. I’M GREATFULL TO GOD FOR FINDING MY CHURCH GROUP PASTOR THAT GOD LEAD US TO ONE ANOTHER. I WAS A TRAIN WRECK ( BEDRIDDEN FROM 2007-2014 ON OPIATES FROM MY DR. AND STILL IN A WHEELCHAIR GETTING STRONGER AND OFF OPIATES). WE ARE TINY AND HE IS RETIRED ON A SMALL FIXED INCOME PENSION. SO HE HAS AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF TIME TO GIVE TO US ALL. HE WAS EVEEN GIVEN AN OLD VAN IN MNT SHAPE BY A BROTHER THAT HE CALLS HIS DONKY. IM IN LINDSAY ONTARIO CANADA.
Good to hear from everyone, I am washed up from churches with leadership agendas and control-issues. I have experienced wonderful times in the Lord-worship, fellowship and ministry in the Holy Spirit over 40 years but dont know if I can stomach another ‘church’ with bossy leaders.I love Jesus and His Righteousness, hopefully He will show me and my lovely wife a way to love and serve Him. I think it might be a simple home church. Praise the Lord He is Love and He is Faithful. It has been the greatest privilege of my life knowing Him and He will keep me faithful. I will know Him and His people forever. But as for now..
I love to join you soon in the lord
Hello. My children’s father takes my daughter’s to someones house where church is being held. My concern is, they take them out, they take them to the enchanted forest, out to eat, they buy them gifts. What kind of church does that? It sounds weird to me like their grooming the for something.. sounds like what a cult does.
Hi Tammy, the way to ease your mind is easy. GO and take a look for yourself. then you will know for sure that all is safe. If not, then you will know to make changes. As a Pastor myself, I started in my living room (what great days those were). 23 years later we still make dinner for all who come on first Sunday; just to inspire fellowship. there is no cost. Our youth pastor is a woman of integrity and nurtures the children and they are really blessed. go take a look, even as a visitor. Do this and your heart will rest. GOD bless you!…;-)
Very catchy title of your article. after I read the article (which was very good). THEN I understood… GOD bless you…:-)