My impression of house church

First, I think it’s best to define two terms and why they are/should be different.  An Institutional church is a church that owns a “church building,” meets regularly, and has a fairly reproducible service, meaning that it is organized and consistent.  A house church, especially the modern house church, is a group of people that meet in a less formal setting with no definitive structure.  I don’t think either system is better than another, but I don’t think there is a common-ground between them, in as far as how they are done.  It’s either institutional or it’s house-style – you can’t have an institutional church that runs like a house church (because then it’s a house church that owns a separate building), and can’t have a house church that runs like it’s institutionalized (because then it becomes a miniature version of an institutional church).

I’m going to qualify this post with my experience with two house churches.  The first I attended, I only went once.  It wasn’t a bad experience, my schedule just didn’t allow for me to attend frequently enough for me to officially go there “full-time.”  The second one I went to, I went from November to April (4 months), and found that it had the title of house church, but functioned like a miniature institutionalized church.

Now, most people that join a house church do so because they do not find themselves agreeing with the system of the institutionalized church, or they use the house church as a supplement to the institutionalized church.  The thing is, though, is that house churches are started as an alternative to the institute, but instead of acting as an alternative, at least in my experience, they seem to just be glorified bible studies and a lot of personal prayer/singing.  This isn’t bad, but it doesn’t solve the problems that people claim the institute does.  The desire of the house church is to replicate the church described in the New Testament.  The problem with that is we are trying to import the culture of 40-60AD into our culture and way of life.  Why is this a problem?  Well, in all technicality, it isn’t, but you also have to be aware that this means we are limiting ourselves to that culture and way of life, let me explain:

Church in the New Testament looked very different from the regular church service/meeting.  There weren’t rows of pews, no pulpit, no raised platform for the pastor, and no preaching from the pastor.  There weren’t definitive “church times,” and often no discernible and static place to have a service.  At most, the only real defined meeting place was sometimes the local Jewish temple/synagogue.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, that this couldn’t be right, because how could any Christian know the bible or hear a sermon.  Well, let me ask you this:  in the New Testament, specifically the book of Acts and beyond (epistles/letters), do you ever read that Christians met in churches?  Do you ever read about a sermon preached to Christians (no, not to gentiles – there are numerous examples of that)?  Do you ever see any reference to a pulpit?  Do you ever hear about the pastor being central to a Church or even better, does Paul ever address a letter to a pastor?  If you find any of these to be “yes,” please do give me the reference and I’ll admit I was wrong.  I’m not trying to be arrogant, but I am trying to prove a point.  The point is, we currently have nothing like the New Testament church.  Sure, there are churches that say they are “New Testament” but what they really mean is “Modern, with a few changes to make us more relevant to or culture.”  Again, this isn’t bad, but it seems to be a self-defeating purpose.  So, does house church currently accomplish a New Testament church?  Not really, it’s just as predictable as an institutionalized church, just a different location and a different formula.

Here is my solution, and you can agree or disagree, but God doesn’t want us living on old revelation.  Just like God didn’t want the Christians living just like the Israelites, God doesn’t want us to be stuck in the past.  So, what does God want us to do now; it’s not like we have an open canon that we can feed on for the latest trend God is showing for our church.  Well, Christians, let me reveal something to you that God revealed to me – it’s not about church.  I know this from experience that when I attended a institutionalized church (and even the house church), when I missed a service, I felt bad.  This should be the alarm that this is not spiritual, but religious!  When anyone’s spiritual growth and maintenance depends on something other than your relationship with God, you’re in trouble!  Instead of church, worry about community – doesn’t Hebrews challenge us to not forsake the gathering of the saints?  It doesn’t mean attend a church service, it means commune with each other, support each other, know each other, pray for each other.  There is nothing wrong with attending a church service, but there is also nothing wrong with not attending one.  I find myself accomplishing spiritual growth by working on my personal relationship with God, and helping others, but the roots have to be in your relationship with God!  It’s not about your knowledge of the bible and it’s not about the good work you do regularly, because that shifts the focus outside of God and into your own ability.

If you take anything out of this post, make it your objective to know God a little more each day.  You will NEVER EVER get to the point of knowing God fully, so it’s humbling and constructive t o do this.  Before you go to a church service of any kind, get your relationship with God right.


4 thoughts on “My impression of house church

  1. God’s word is foremost – you have no relationship with God if you don’t have God’s word. Don’t ever tell someone knowing their Bible isn’t important, because believers are born of the Word.

    1 John 2:5: But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.

    1. Hi, I think you missed the point of the article. This is what I mean when I said it’s not about your knowledge of the bible: head knowledge will get you absolutely nowhere in your relationship with Jesus. Even Satan knows scripture and can quote it. I am not diminishing the power of God’s written word, though, and here is why: when you know God, you know His Word. Let me give you an example: when a friend hears about something you have say, they can hear you saying it, but if it’s a lie, they will be surprised because they know you. Likewise, God wants us to be in such an intimate place with Him that we will know His Words, whether or not we have a bible. John 1 says that the Word is with God, is God, and became incarnate in Jesus, so when I know Jesus/God, I know His Word. It’s not about mindless memorization, and knowledge, it’s still all about relationship.
      So, summing it up, when your relationship with God is good, you know His word. You can’t know God and not know His Word, but you can memorize His Word and have no relationship with Him.

  2. Hello Alex,

    I know as a kid I never really understood why people had to go to church. I like many kids, dreaded going to church. I grew up in a family with a pentecostal upbringing. So it was required and I never understood why people where yelling, crying, speaking in the spirit at church. When I got older I stopped going to church all together and spent close to a decade never going to a church. My relationship with God suffered and I was lost for a long time. I say that loosely because I wasn’t lost in the eyes of God. He was there with me but I choose to never listen to him. It wasn’t until my most darkest hour that I finally cried out to him and he gave me purpose. He gave me a wife that showed me that churches can actually be a community. I now attend a church that everyone knows each others name and we are all friends. We have cook outs in each others house and we help each other in every way when we are in need. In a way we have managed to create a small community with each other.

    So I understand what you are saying in this article and I did take some things from it.

    I don’t think you were trying to say that we should avoid the bible but that we should focus on God first. Which is biblical in my opinion. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks, Richardo,
      I appreciate a bit of your church-life testimony. The church I grew up in was actually very community oriented – it was in a small village, everyone knew each other and communed with each other regularly. When I went to college a few years ago, I moved to the city, and saw a huge lack of community (which was very bizarre to me, because that’s all I’ve known in a church), so my next option was house church, which seemed to have the same problems as the institutional churches around the city, so I grew a little frustrated, and haven’t been to a church now for a few months, although I commune somewhat regularly with various Christians I know around town, and we talk about God, life, scripture, pray for each other, and it’s been the best spiritual growing time I’ve had in a while.
      Every time I visit my folks, of course, I go back to church with them and say hello to everyone, because that’s a wonderful experience to reconnect personally with them.
      Ya, I’d never recommend ignoring the bible to anyone – I commented on “Just a guy”s post to respond to that in detail.
      Thanks again, Richardo,

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