A Ministry Today magazine article asked an interesting question for those of us who are interested in the home church movement. “Have you ever wondered where the members who left your church went?” Most of us assume these people who quit attending church have either dropped out or found another church that is more to their liking. But, the answer to the question “where are the members who left your church,” might surprise you according to the article.
“A lot of them are looking for or starting home ministries because they long for a simpler way to serve God. Most of us want to go back to what the early Christians had in the book of Acts: ‘Breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart’ ” (Acts 2:46, NKJV).
For the hundreds of thousands of North Americans who participate in a home church the decision to worship with a small group of people in a home setting just makes sense. This is especially true of the growing number of Christians who long to return to first-century Christianity in its simplest form.
The article goes on to state, “House churches put into practice the model reported in Acts. There are no sanctuaries to buy or maintain, no clergy to hire or support, no denominations to form, no membership rolls to join, no church budget to vote on, no building funds and no TV ministry. A house church is just the community of God meeting under the guidance of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. As home church adherents see it, this is the blueprint that Jesus designed and His apostles carried out.”
There is something liberating about meeting with like-minded individuals and worshipping God in a form and method that speaks directly to your heart. While millions of Christians find this experience in the traditional church model many others don’t and that is why home churches are flourishing.
There are criticisms of the movement, some of them warranted and some not. Probably the biggest attack on those people who attend home churches is that they are selfish. They make worship all about themselves and their own wants. While that may be true for some people who attend, it is also true of some people who attend more traditional based churches.
The truth of the matter is that most people who find comfort in the home church atmosphere are there because they want a deeper connection with God than they found elsewhere. It is not selfishness that drives them, but instead selflessness. They seek an authentic worship that not only connects them to the “early church movement in the book of Acts”, but also allows them to reproduce that model in our modern world.
This leads to a second criticism that says the believers who worship in home churches are deluding themselves if they think they can reproduce the New Testament church in a Twenty-first Century setting. The critics are probably right, but that doesn’t nullify the premise. Whether or not the house church adherents duplicate the Book of Acts model is not the point. What they are seeking are the principles behind the teachings about church that can be applicable to a ministry. Of course ministry in first Century Palestine is going to be different than meeting in a twentieth floor apartment in Toronto or New York, but the premise is the same to be a beacon of light for Christ in the neighborhood.
A third criticism is that there is no accountability. My answer to that is who says? Why can the group not be accountable to each other? Further more the basis of the home church is that the adherents are seeking accountability to God and not a denomination with their own rules and demands. Who has more accountability, a home church that answers to God and each other, or a mega-church organization that makes all the decisions for you? While there can be, and I am sure there are, abuses in some house churches the vast majority have a healthy understanding of what constitutes a Christ centered church.
Another criticism that lifts its ugly head from time to time is the belief that home church people feel superior to Christians who prefer attending a more traditional church. Once again, while that may be the attitude of some people, it is simply not true of the vast majority. People who seek out the home church experience do it for a number of reasons. They like the idea of returning to a New Testament model of worship, or they like the small intimate setting, or they like the idea that their time, money and efforts are accomplishing things they can see. Basically, the people who attend a home church feel that it is a better fit for them than other forms of worship that they have tried. It should always be remembered that there are places for both the traditional church and the home church model in reaching the lost for Christ.
The final criticism I will write about in this post is the charge that a small group of people can not have the same impact on missions, outreach and ministry that a large multi-faceted church is able to carry out. This criticism is true, but only to an extent, because there are many aspects of evangelism that works quite well through home churches.
A home church can be anywhere a handful of people decide and they can have an immediate and powerful impact on their neighbors and friends. While it is true that the impact of fifteen or twenty people meeting together doesn’t have the same clout as five hundred people they still can accomplish great things. Though most home churches contribute to missions they also find a great deal of their money and effort going into the local community. Home churches thrive on friendship evangelism and having a safe place to take their friends to worship that is familiar and close at hand.
In a way it is sad that I feel the need to write a blog post on the criticisms of the home church. Why can’t we just let people worship how they wish, with whom they wish and where they wish as long as it brings honor to God? The home church is an old and well-proven method of ministry throughout much of the world, but in North America we seem frightened of it for some reason.
I pray that this post answers some of the questions and criticisms that some of you have had about the subject. And for some of you who no longer attend church the home church may be a wonderful and rewarding experience that is worth checking out.
So, what are your thoughts on the subject? Please leave your comments in the comment section at the end of this post. Our readers would love to know your views on house churches.
* Please remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted for their faith. For many of these people, meeting in their homes in secret is the only place they can meet. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/