Let’s be frank. House church (organic church, simple church) is countercultural for us folks in the United States (most of the west, really). I’m okay with that, though, because if there was ever a time the Church needed to be countercultural, it is now.
Since I’m being frank, let me also say that if you should attend a house church, you’re not likely to find the music to be excellent (although if you come to the House Church Movement, you’ll find my daughter leading us with excellence), the preaching and/or teaching may not be as polished as one is accustomed to, and the youth/children’s program will be unspectacular.
These reasons (and probably a few more) are why there isn’t more house church focused church planting movements in the west. We like our high-energy music, our polished preaching and those youth/children’s ministries that are going to do for children what parents are so unwilling (or unable) to do for themselves. House church for too many people will lack the glitz and glamour that will reach a consumer culture.
That fact notwithstanding, I believe the house church model of church planting is perfectly poised to reach new fields that are ripe for harvest. The house church planting model is designed to be “close to the ground,” as in, rooted in relationships with neighbors and co-workers, high on interpersonal relationships, ingrained in the rhythm of the community, not restricted by money or funding and is simple in its administration.
Additionally, Covid-19 has changed the landscape of traditional church. By all accounts, most traditional churches are averaging 30 – 50% of pre-Covid attendance. Those churches that see a higher percentage are outliers. Based on what I’ve read, and conversations I’ve had with pastors, those percentages are not likely to change drastically for the foreseeable future. That’s because half the people believe the church shouldn’t be meeting yet, and the other half of the people believe the church should have never stopped.
The opportunity that exists for the house church in this environment is that the church can be where the people are. The new context is simply more conducive to the house church. The house church can meet in closed communities. The house church can meet in large apartment complexes. The house church can meet in dense urban areas where the cost of living (and the cost of property) is expensive. The house church can meet in college dorms. The house church can meet in places where the government has restricted public worship gatherings (it sure feels strange to write that sentence as I sit in the United States!). The house church can meet wherever there is a home and a facilitator.
For all these reasons, the house church model can revive an evangelistic zeal in the Kingdom of God for the west. Consider for a moment the rapid growth of the early church. Between Pentecost and 70 AD the church experienced the most phenomenal growth in its history, spreading from a mere handful of believers in Judea throughout the Mediterranean world. Most scholars agree that this growth was accomplished using private homes as the primary meeting place.
Consider, also, the following mathematical potential for a ministry such as The House Church Movement. Beginning with a single home congregation with an average membership of twelve people, allow for that one group to reproduce itself in the form of a second group after two years. Then, allow for each of those groups to reproduce during the next two years—and so on. Allowing for growth and loss within each group, yet maintaining the group average of only twelve members (a conservative estimate of group size), after 6 years, The House Church Movement would have 96 members. After 12 years, The Movement would have 768 members. After 15 years, it would consist of 2,304 members. After 18 years, 6,912 members. After 20 years, the overall membership of The House Church Movement would be 13,824!
Please understand, I hold no illusion that The House Church Movement will ever boast a membership of nearly 14,000 people. I simply offer these projections as a way of showing that this philosophy of ministry and evangelism has potential equal to, if not greater than more traditional models.
Please don’t think I’m trying to sell everyone on the house church model or The House Church Movement. I’ll admit that it’s even hard for me to move away from the traditional church model of ministry, but I feel called to this model and to this Movement because I believe that house churches take place where harvest happens–in the neighborhoods, in the work places and in the homes of both those who believe and those who do not.
Until next time, keep looking up…
4 thoughts on “It’s Harvest Time (or, Starting with “Why?”, Part 4)…”
Ive always been dissatisfied with the modern church model. Get them in the door, get them saved and baptised, pat them on the head, give them a gift Bible, wish them luck…rinse, and repeat. There’s no real sense of discipleship. No real mentoring going on when the church is focused on number growth…”ranching” rather than shepherding (concerned with the health of a small flock). I’ve wondered about a home church movement. Is this an established thing you are a part of already or is this simply your thoughts for a proposal?
Thanks for reading my blog, Mr. Arbaugh! I understand your dissatisfaction with the modern church model. I served that model (quite effectively, if I do say so myself) for almost 30 years. After 30 years, there was something missing IN ME. I agree the traditional church model has lost its sense of developing strong disciples, but I don’t see what we’re doing as a rejection of that model, so to speak. I see it more as a “pivot” (since that seems to be the operative word in the midst of COVID-19) in the life of the church designed to meet the new cultural context.
I am ordained in the Evangelical Methodist Church (emchurch.org), and submit to their authority and accountability, so there is still the connection with the traditional church structures. There are several groups (both denominational and independent) that reflect the “house/organic/simple” church model. My idea is nothing new by any stretch. It is simply my personal vision for a new network of house churches that will function as one church in many locations, but all under the umbrella of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Do a web search for “house church” and you’ll find many iterations of the model. I’m not sure where you live, but I would encourage you to search for a house church gathering in your community and give it a shot, and if you’re in north Louisiana, I invite you to our movement. Blessings to you, my friend.
Lynn, this concept of ‘House Church’ sounds right to me. Is the Wesleyan Covenant going in this direction? I will pray for you all. Charles and I are at the age where we do not go out much at night so we wouldn’t attend. We haven’t been back to worship in our Congregation “FUMC” West Monroe, and cannot seem to make ourselves go although we worship with Temple Baptist in Ruston and Pensacola Christian on Sunday Mornings. I fear for the Methodist Church. Thank you for ;your Blogs and post. Love in Christ,
Thanks for reading, Hope. As far as I know, the WCA has no plans for a house church model. I’m ordained in the Evangelical Methodist Church now, and we are “playing in the sandbox,” so to speak with the house church model. I know the folks at FUMC, West Monroe miss you. Worshipping online is necessary, but it sure doesn’t take the place of in-person worship. Blessings to you and Charles, and I pray y’all can return to worship soon.