The Oldest Wineskin of all
For several decades, the Chinese church has thrived in an “underground” fashion. Pressure from the communist government has given birth to a church in the shadows, with no buildings, little organizational structure or seminary institutions. Yet China has experienced the most explosive period of church expansion in history! Is there a connection between the house church movement and rapid church growth?
Robert Fitts thinks so. He wrote a short book called “The Church in the House: a Return to Simplicity” –download for free here: http://www.keepingfaithsimple.com/book/TheChurchintheHouse.pdf Fitts himself qualifies his praise of the house church model by stating that he would never tear down what God is building (referring to “traditional” churches with buildings). However, he points out that the top two church growth movements (1st-2nd century and modern China) took place in people’s homes. I don’t know if that claim includes the Great Awakenings or not. But even if church growth in the great awakenings rivaled the 2 previously mentioned movements, the trends favoring house churches over any other model are compelling. There are several good reasons to consider transitioning, or at least planting new churches in homes:
1. Autonomous house churches have very little infrastructure to pay for. They may or may not have a paid pastor, so potentially the two greatest burdens of most church budgets would be removed, releasing lots of funds for whatever the Holy Spirit asks for!
2. In Fitts’ words, house churches are “born pregnant”, meaning that they are intentionally reproducible on a mass scale.
3. House churches create a space where the priesthood of all believers is easily exercised. House church pastors need not be professional clergy or seminary trained.
4. Many people who would never visit a “regular” church would come to your home for a meal and a discussion on the Bible.
5. Smaller, newer churches are statistically more effective at reaching people for Jesus.
Basically, house churches have very few barriers for growth. There are challenges, however. Any institution with people in it is bound to have sinners in it! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Jesus didn’t dictate a church structure to us. His stamp of approval is no brighter or bolder for the house church movements than any other church trend where the people of Christ move together under the Lordship of Jesus.
One of those problems that immediately occurs to most people I have talked to about this is the question of childcare. The author of this blog:
has experience that might be helpful in addressing those problems. His insight isn’t applicable for house church members only.
In any case, if we consider the fact that ALL churches face logistical, interpersonal, moral and every other problem associated with any organization, this should remove any excuse for anyone (ordained or layman) interested in making disciples from considering how the house church model might be implemented in their own town. Or their own living room.