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‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

My ridiculous and uneducated thoughts on the house church movement.

The other day a tweeter that I follow posted on her blog that she and her husband were going to start a church. You can follow her on twitter here and read her blog here.

She asked for us to share our thoughts/feelings regarding this, so I did. What follows are my thoughts/response to her. They are going to start a house church movement. I have known several myself who have done this and even participated in one for a short time.

I have mixed feelings about the house church model.  Your family makes the third family inside the last year that I have encountered that is making the house church movement their model.  The other two families believe that ‘church’ as we know is outdated and ineffective. My concerns are, for them and others, that the people I know who have wanted to move to this movement are wanting to do in order to escape the politics, hypocrisy and other baggage that comes from doing life together with other Christians. On the other hand, there is something to be said for doing church the way it was done in the first century and for many years before Constantine screwed it up. For me, I would never want to be a part of a house church because I would do it with the wrong motives. My friends who firmly believe in this movement have many more opportunities for ministry and make better use of the times they do have for ministry. Being able to connect with people in a non-threatening way for them to get to know Jesus is essential. That is the major upside to house church… you can’t get anymore non-threatening than sharing dinner at someone’s house. The church I currently attend with have a discussion group called Theology on Tap where we meet at a pub to allow non-believers to come in an have a forum to ask the tough questions and we try to wade through it all… and have a few beers in the process. I applaud you for your convictions and your willingness to follow God where he calls you.

(the next paragraph didn’t make the response to her post, these are mine on the cuff just now) House churches seem to be popular as a way to begin a new full-fledged church. I would argue that any given church’s lifegroup program is essential to getting people involved and plugged into the ministry of church. Given that argument, it makes sense for churches to start from a life group or house church movement. What I strongly like about the house church movement is that allows Christians to be more focused on ministry and not politics that seem to consume so much of our churches.

As far as your questions go, I do want to weigh in on them…
1. What is Church? In response to your tweet of this question I think I said something like the bride of Christ whom he loves unequivocally and would do anything for, including die for us. We are a safe place for broken and beat up people to come and find peace and repair in Jesus. We are broken people who need Jesus as much as the lost we are trying to save.
2. What is the purpose of the Church? the purpose of the church is to encourage those in the faith and get those that aren’t in the faith in there. In short constantly working out our salvation while leading others to salvation. Ministry is the purpose of the church. James tells us pure and undefiled religion is to care for the orphans and widows.  Care for those that can’t care for themselves.
3. What is a disciple? Someone who is disciplining in the art or way of a particular brand of teaching. When we talk about a disciple of Christ it is someone who makes every effort to be more like Christ. It is someone who follows Christ in every aspect of their life (or tries to anyway). Someone who is discipling themselves in the art/way of Jesus Christ.
That was all the thinking I could muster for one day… my brain is tired and now needs sleep…

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5 Comments

  1. Eli, thank you for this post and your thoughtful comment on Nicole’s blog. I am her husband and wanted to take the time to respond to your thoughts (which I don’t think are “ridiculous,” by any means) with a comment from a brother in Christ. I’m sure Nicole may respond on her own blog, too, but we’ve been away on vacation the past few days so we’re just getting back into the swing of things.

    You said:
    “The other two families believe that ‘church’ as we know [it] is outdated and ineffective.”

    In response:
    While I can’t speak for the other two families you know who have adopted this model, I can speak for ourselves in saying that we wouldn’t encourage anyone to start a church or adopt a model purely because they think another is “outdated” or “ineffective.” I believe the American church has done far too much of that over the past 10 to 20 years, resulting in a slew of cut and paste models. Instead, I would pray and hope that anyone feeling called to start a church would do so under the conviction and, even more importantly, the direction of the Holy Spirit. I believe each respective local church’s model should be dictated by many factors, including, but not limited to, the Word’s instruction, the Spirit’s direction, its geography, and its resident culture. As you may presume from my response up to here, the reason we are starting a church using this house church model is very much because the Lord has impressed that vision and conviction on us, not because we simply believe the “traditional” model is no longer working. In fact, due to my belief on this matter, as detailed above, I very much believe that many, if not most, local churches out there have been started under the same types of conviction and direction of the Spirit, praise God.

    You said:
    “My concerns are, for them and others, that the people I know who have wanted to move to this movement are wanting to do in order to escape the politics, hypocrisy and other baggage that comes from doing life together with other Christians.”

    In response:
    These are such valid and sincere concerns, Eli! While I am not necessarily surprised by someone starting a house church to “escape the politics [and] hypocrisy,” I must say that I am incredibly surprised by anyone starting a house church to avoid the “baggage that comes from doing life together with other Christians.” I don’t believe that this model entirely avoids hypocrisy, as that comes with the imperfect people involved, not the model. Politics might be a little bit more avoidable with this model, but again, I don’t think this reason alone should be the catalyst for starting a house church. However, to your third point, I would argue that, by being involved in a house church, you are that much more likely to encounter the “baggage” of “doing life together.” If anything, a more traditional Sunday assembly church model results in people being more disconnected and uninvolved with others–unless they are involved in other types of small groups. The more intimate the involvement, the messier. When you feel like a true family, it only can result in more conflict, not less. But, as with a healthy family, it can result in that much more blessing and connectedness, too. Edification can abound that much more, and more importantly, everyone plays a part in the body of Christ, as it was designed by God.

    All this to say…
    I don’t think that the house church model is right for every church, nor every person. Also, I don’t think your “mixed feelings” are wrong or uncommon. Like anything, us faulty humans can go and screw stuff up, including something as seemingly “simple” as a house church. We often let our unfortunate interactions of the past (with church, Christians, etc.) result in faulty motivations that are disguised as good intentions, thereby causing us to do things that may not be what the Lord necessarily has in mind.

    As it says in Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” And really, that’s all Nicole and I want to pursue…thank you for your prayers as we do so. We’ll be sure to share the journey, and who knows, maybe your mixed feelings might get worked out as we go along. At the very least, we appreciate this type of conversation, as we know it is meant to encourage and challenge, not divide or discourage. Thank you for that, and blessings to you and your own ministry, Eli.

    • It is very to meet you and thank you taking time to share. I hope that you and Nicole were in no way offended by my thoughts. I don’t ‘know’ y’all but what I know of y’all is that you chase God and would only move in this direction after you felt his calling

      When I was invloved in a house church it was because we were (my family & 4 others) pissed off at a local church. WRONG MOTIVATION. I was also a over the Church too. This prompted me to wanna throw out the baby with the bath water. You can not. I perceive that y’all, like me, love the Church and Christians dearly. One of my friends who has been in ministry (but is not now because of getting burned by a church) are readt to throw out the whole organized church model altogether. I disagree. Church, however you do it, is church and it is the body and bride of Christ. Church has many expressions. Churches done in relative small community as you are going to have tons of potential for ministry that many other churches do not.

      I was reacting to my other experiences with house church and not yours. I really do pray for you in this new challenging endeavor. I feel like its times like this right now in your lives when Satan is going to be most active, you’ve heard God’s call and have answered it. I would visit your church anytime I was close by.

      BTW, congrats on the baby! We have 3 also. Not sure we wanted 3 boys, but I can’t imagine life without my men.

      • Not offended *at all*, Eli. I’ll reiterate my last statement, as I truly and sincerely mean it:

        “…we appreciate this type of conversation, as we know it is meant to encourage and challenge, not divide or discourage. Thank you for that, and blessings to you and your own ministry, Eli.”

        Thanks again. And do let us know when you’re in the Phoenix area. Much love!

  2. “My concerns are, for them and others, that the people I know who have wanted to move to this movement are wanting to do in order to escape the politics, hypocrisy and other baggage that comes from doing life together with other Christians.”

    My observation is that politics, hypocrisy and other baggage doesn’t come from doing life together with other Christians (it actually gets in the way of that). It largely comes from the need to stoke the institutional fires of a big entity, something the house church is a reaction against.

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