It is now obvious (at least to some of us) that “housechurching” is not just a bailout reaction for believers currently discontent or dissatisfied with today’s church. House Churches (organic churches, simple churches, marketplace churches, etc.) are not just covert gatherings for malcontents, people who have never had very good social skills and can’t get along with the traditional symbols of authority.
Worldwide, housechurching will prove to be one of the most effective and efficient modalities for responding to and obeying the Great Commission in the 21st Century (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 1).
House churches are simply a smaller congregation of no more than 20 people. Anything over that number is “pregnant” and ready to “give birth” to another house church. They are fully functioning churches with a commitment to reaching others not by growing a larger church but by helping create more and more house churches.
House Churches are not just renegade bands of Christians meeting together in some covert fashion in suburban cul-de-sacs. House Churches are completely able to provide everything that the New Testament instructs the Church to provide. They are a place where believers come to know Christ, live out the Word of God in virtual reality, while all the time getting loved on and cared for and thus getting stronger to be able to show others the “good news” of Jesus Christ.
Research has found that there are two types of people being attracted to house churches today. The older participants, largely drawn from the Boomer population, are devout Christians who are seeking a deeper and more intense experience with God and other believers. The other substantial segment is young adults who are interested in faith and spirituality but have little interest in the traditional forms of church. Their quest is largely one of escaping outdated structures and institutions. The stuff that does not work, to find a model that does work.
Better Biblical History
“Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts.?They broke bread in their homes, and ate together with glad and?sincere hearts…”(Acts 2:46 NIV)
“You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you, but have taught you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20 NIV)
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila…also the church that meets at?their house.”(Romans 16:3-5 NIV)
“Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha?and the church in her house.”(Colossians 4:15 NIV)
In smaller groups like those found in House Churches there is more effectual life learning, more practical application of the Scriptures in people’s lives, and more instilling of a basic passion for evangelism, through shared stories and interaction than is possible in the larger church context.
Ministry is effectively accomplished in House Churches because of the deeper intimacy and community shared by believers. As the local House Church grows in depth through Christians living their lives together, then it gets ready to multiply and enter into expansion growth through the planting of other House Churches.
Better Leadership Empowerment
House Churches are especially well fitted to do some things that is sometimes more difficult for larger churches. They are a better place for hands on leadership training as they model very simple ways of helping to facilitate a group. This is usually done best by observation and participation.
Even though teaching and prophetic ministry happen in House Churches, the main principle of facilitation is for the leader to help encourage an atmosphere of interaction and participation. This can be done by almost anyone. And with the potential of releasing a portion of the group as it grows, or even encouraging new leaders to form new groups, any existing group is an incredible resource for empowering leaders for future groups.
After almost forty years of ministry, and leadership involvement in ten churches, I can honestly say that there are more people today, fully involved, fully committed, and fully empowered to lead and are leading that at any other time in my life and influence.
These House Churches are also able to effectively multiply other churches. While using existing facilities, our homes, apartments, parks, beaches, recreation centers, offices, conference rooms etc., we can plant new House Churches quickly. Believers who are seeking to “add” to the Kingdom of God and build their larger ministries when God actually wants us to allow Him to multiply the Church through us have wasted too much time. And way too much Kingdom finance is being wasted to purchase and lease and maintain facilities that live under poor stewardship because of their high prices and limited use.
As an equipper and a church planter, I am convinced we must both speed up the time it takes to release leaders and exponentially plant churches though the modality of House Churches, organic ministries and relevant businesses. It is crucial. We will never even begin to catch up with the harvest at today’s pace of seminary or Bible college grads, or the bogged down venues of leadership training in most church systems.
We must accept the reality of an entirely different process of greenhouse training and harvesting of leaders to be released both quickly and effectively to create church planting movements rather than feed the fixation we have with a building, an address, and the maintenance mentality that feeds the church machine of today.
Forget your preferred style or idea of what it means to “go to church.” We are in a crisis mode response to the need for laborers “now” being released in God’s vineyard. If even a portion of the prophesied harvest comes, there would not enough room in all of the existing church buildings in the nation to hold the “catch.” We can no longer think in real estate terms. We cannot even think that more property, or one more single-cell weekend meeting place will suffice. The harvest is “ripe.”
Megachurches can’t do it, humongous churches can’t do it, and even the newest, slickest denominations can’t do it. This time we must create and create quickly; smaller, autonomous, flexible “working nets,” or working “networks,” of tangible, spontaneous gatherings of believers to help disciple those coming to faith. We can do this best through the life process of having meals together, sharing life’s ups and downs, and walking as covenant partners in this Christian walk. Or doing the kingdom with friends.
We must “buy up the time,” (Ephesians 5:16) and cannot rely on the current methods of church planting. They do not work now, so how can we think they can work then? Ask yourself the hard questions, especially if you are a leader. “How many people are trained and released and empowered and leading because of the way you lead?” These are desperate times; we must shift the “way” we do church, as we at the current pace are not ready to move into God’s next shift.
Gary Goodell is a former evangelist, pastor, college dean and instructor involved in ministry stuff for almost 50 years. He and his wife Jane live in San Diego, California USA and he is a father of two and grandfather of seven. As an author and consultant he is an itinerant mentor working with the international church planting movement known as Third Day Churches, that he and some friends founded in 2001. Third Day Churches now involves leadership and ministries in over 20 nations.
His two books, “Permission Granted To Do Church Differently in the 21st Century,” and “Where Would Jesus Lead?” are both available online.