HCC is non-denominational and an effort is made to accommodate
Christians of many backgrounds. The house church movement is an attempt to get
away from the institutional church, seeking instead to return to the small gatherings
of peoples that constituted all of the churches of the New Testament era.
The emphasis at this site is not to criticize the institutional church, but rather to lift up its
alternative. Many house churches start among people who first meet in an institutional setting, and
regular attendance at a good institutional church is encouraged as a source of Christian teaching.
But can one really worship at an institutional church? The fellowship pictured in
Mt. 18:20 (the source of the house church doctrine of church) is "two or three gathered
together." Even "church growth" expert Lyle Schaller says that the "glue"
that is necessary to unite worshippers cannot be achieved as a church grows beyond a limit of about
40 people. Other experts point out
that an assembly larger than a mere dozen people creates an environment in which some of the people
often back away from full participation. And there is the concern so well articulated by
that the institutional church tends toward viewing its members as an "audience" and the
worship experience as a "show." It is better, he said, to view God as the
audience and all the people equally accountable for the "performance" of worshipping in
Spirit and in Truth.
Why the House Church?
Here are just a few of the reasons:
- Historical. The house church is the biblical church. All of the churches
in the New Testament era were small assemblies that met in homes. While setting up institutional
forms of "church" may or may not provide a way to honor God, the movement toward the
institution and the human authority that tends to accompany hierarchical institutional structure
are not theologically neutral.
- Growth. The most explosive growth of Christianity in our own time has
taken place in the likes of the People's Republic of China where its only expression has been
the illegal, underground house church (more recently the PRC has installed a government-licensed
"Three Self" church in an effort to control a movement that decades of political
repression has failed to contain). Historian Del Birkey's studies have led him to conclude
that the house church is our best hope for the renewal in our times.
- Resisting the Culture. Our culture desperately wants to change our
doctrines so that it might
Christianity to conform to its notion of "civil religion" and "political correctness."
The house church has always been
for this reason, just as Jesus said that his disciples should be in the Sermon on the Mount. That
sermon outlines how the powerless disciple can be salt and light in a dark world (Mt. 5:13-14), how
to withstand evildoers (Mt. 5:39) by showing God's love to the world through suffering at the hands
of persecution from bullies (Mt. 5:39), foreclosing landlords (Mt. 5:40), and occupying Roman
authorities (Mt. 5:41). It speaks of giving and lending to the most hopeless credit risks (Mt. 5:42).
It speaks of a praying community ("Our Father, who art in heaven ..." Mt. 6:9) that fasts
(Mt. 6:16), gives of itself (Mt. 6: 21), and depends completely on God (Mt. 25ff). It speaks
of the non-judgment of individuals (Mt. 7:1), just as it speaks of the need to judge those
who would be authorities in spiritual matters (Mt. 7:15ff).
- Mission. There are several
opportunities in our communities that are especially suited for the house church. An invitation offered
to a work-place acquaintance to a home is much less threatening than one to a church, just as one example.
Another is the unique value of the house church as a ministry to "the damaged" and
the possibility of learning the joy of giving by elevating that practice to a personal level.
Of course there are objections to the independent house church that the reader will need to
- Authority. House church advocates reject any human authority other than the
very real and present rule of Christ, who was inaugurated the king of his church at the first
Pentecost (Acts 2). The house church assembles to know the will of its king through the Holy
Spirit and to be obedient to that will. Many in the professional clergy, however, understand their role as
a "priestly" one in which they are to be intermediaries between the Lord and His
flock, being thus trusted through the
process with a certain degree of authority.
While they seek the benefits of the vibrant Christianity that manifests itself in small groups,
and work hard to make small groups a part of the ministry of their churches, many harbor a
concern that the groups might become a threat to their own relevance and livelihood.
- Heresy. Others argue that house churches, due to their lack of seminary
trained clergy, might follow the examples of Jonestown and Waco. In this they have a point,
as the New Testament is full of epistles that attempt to correct a legion of heresies in
various churches--and all of the New Testament churches were, in fact, house churches.
It is hoped that these pages can help house churches avoid this pitfall, taking over the
seminary's role to the extent possible in a mere web site.
It is the hope of House Church Central that this site can help nurture the growth of the movement
and also mitigate the concerns of house church nay-sayers.