Friday, 1 February 2008

Is A House Church the Answer?

"the church that meets at their house
Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19

I love the “church,” at least in so far as we’re talking about the people who make up the church, I do. I love my Christian brothers and sisters, or at the very least, I’m striving to love them. I am human and as such sometimes it’s harder to love some people as much as others. However, where I fall short in the “love” area, I’m asking God to help me with it so that I might learn to love with the love of Jesus. Where I don’t love the church is when by “church” we are referring to the institutional system that it’s become. This institutional system I don't have much use for; but the people in the system I love.

In previous articles I’ve made reference to the fact that I still get together very regularly with other believers in homes, restaurants, or wherever else the Lord would lead at the time. In these smaller groups we walk in love and relationships. As there are no leaders in these groups, the gifts of the Spirit are much more evident as each believer ministers as the Lord leads and as He has gifted them. Certainly this style of meeting together does seem a little more consistent with what we see in the New Testament, and especially in the Book of Acts. Having said that, “Is A House Church the Answer?”

There are many people today who have given up on the larger institutional church systems in favour of meeting together in private homes. They believe that the “house church” is they way to go. But is it really? The answer is both yes and no.

The answer is “Yes” ... 
... in that meeting together in homes is more conducive to building relationships than a larger institutional church building would be. In a private home people are more at ease to pray together, share meals (the “real” Lord’s Supper), and to study the Bible together. Denominational factions are less of an issue in the house church than they are in the larger institutional systems. The whole house-church model allows for full participation by all. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” The point is, “everyone has” something to contribute and all “must” be done for the “strengthening” of the church. In a large institutional system, this is virtually impossible. In a small house church setting, it is very possible. Our worship of God is relational with His people. Whatever we do with and for others, we do with and for Him. 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” The word “Love” is an action word. The proof of our “loving” is not in the cheap words, but in the doing. In a house church setting, this is very achievable. In a larger institutional system it is less achievable and any “love” is more likely to be in cheap words only as opposed to action. The answer is “yes,”the house church is the answer if we truly want to give of ourselves to others in practical and meaningful ways.

The answer is “No” ...
... if that meeting together in homes is simply a substitute for the larger institutional church system. If all we’re interested in doing is having a smaller version of the larger institution, then we’ve missed the boat completely. If all we’re doing is duplicating the institutional church on a smaller scale, then no, the house church is not the answer. If all we are interested in is sitting in a neat row, or circle, with someone standing over us as teacher/pastor and taking control, then no, the house church is not the answer. If all we are interested in doing is becoming passive spectators in someone else’s home, like we were in the larger institutional system, then the house church is not the answer. If all we are going to do is, like the larger institutional church, faction ourselves around denominational and doctrinal views (part of the sinful nature; Galatians 5:20), then no, the house church is not the answer.

The "One Another's" ...
My friends, it is most important that we remember the “one another” passages of Scripture. When we meet together, do our meeting places lend themselves to praying for each other (James 5:14)? Do our meeting places lend themselves to honouring each other and being devoted to each other (Romans 12:10)? Do our meeting places lend themselves to being submitted to each other (Ephesians 5:21)? Do our meeting places lend themselves to us being able to genuinely share each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)? These are the key questions.

How well are we doing with the “one another” Scriptures? Sitting week after week in an institutional church pew just doesn’t cut it. Staring at the “back of the head in front of you” is no way to get to know anyone, much less minister to them. Sitting back as a spectator expecting one person (pastor) to minister to the needs of 200, 400, or 1000 people is totally illogical and contrary to the example of the New Testament where everyone participates in ministering to the body according to the gifts that God has given to them.

Just a couple things I've been thinking about. Peace.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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