I have been reading, contemplating, and praying about what is known as “House Church” since around the time I went to China in 2013. As I learned, I attempted to implement some of what I was learning in the established church I pastored at the time. Though I was able to do so some, it was very minimal. There were a lot of great folks there (many of them eager to grow in Christ and reach out with the Gospel), but change comes hard in most established churches. House church really didn’t fit who the church was at the time, so I really didn’t keep trying to make a square peg fit in a round whole.
Fast forward a little less than a decade and lots of life changes later…
For several months now (beginning in 2021), my family and I have been taking part in church at home. The time that me, my wife, and the kids have spent with these saints and Christian friends has been one of the most rewarding church experiences of our lives. We gather together for a meal, genuine friendships, prayer, testimony, encouragement, leaning on one another in tough times, and teaching of God’s Word. The joy that I have experienced in this different way of “being the church” has been mirrored by my wife, teenage children, and friends. I really do start looking forward to the next time we gather together as soon as we wrap up every other week.
Over the last few months, I have had several conversations with others who are either already doing house church or interested in doing so. It seems to me that what God has been doing for so long in guys like Neil Cole, Ralph Moore, and Francis Chan and in much of the world outside the US is beginning to get some traction in the broader Church.
A number of things have brought folks to this place. Many have been longing for a greater sense of Christian community, but instead have found more programming and time wasters in the local church. Some of have sought out sound Biblical teaching in the local church only to find people in the pulpit who value political correctness, numbers, and nickels above a straighforward teaching of God’s Word. Still others have found that the local church in our culture looks more like the world than the Bride of Christ, and they are fed up with trying to appease culture and the Lord simultaneously (which is impossible, by the way). I know there are other reasons some Christians have started to consider a different way of doing church (if not house church specifically), too numerous to list here.
I also know that many church goers have stopped being just that in the last 2 years since COVID craziness first swept the US and world. Some stopped and haven’t returned because their local churches closed their doors, choosing cowardice and abandoning the flock at the time when they most needed to gather. Some stopped and haven’t returned because they themselves were simply church goers and not Christians, and going to the local church-house is no longer convenient, appealing, or scratches their itch to be entertained or be in charge or whatever reason they were there in the first place. Frankly, I am glad this group has split from the local church in large numbers. As the old saying goes, ”Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” I wish they had left sooner. I also hope they repent of their sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who alone can give them hope and save them from their sins (just like He does for the rest of those who are apart from Him… Like I once was!). And still, some have stopped gathering with the local church because it was a good time to exit an organization that really was not doing what it was created to do in the firstplace. And the last group I’ll mention (because I think there are always more I don’t think of) is the group of blessed saints who really are afraid of COVID. They have not returned to the local church because they have guzzled the kool-aid of fear the world is selling. And I would say that many of these folks used to attend churches that have been making and selling as much COVID-fear-kool-aid as those apart from Christ. This fear-kool-aid has different flavors in the church, to be sure. One pastor stands up front and preaches about vaccines as the hope of the world. Another preaches about a secret rapture being ushered in by the vaccine. Opposite ends of the spectrum – Same kind of fear-mongering. Frankly, I think some bought into it and are scared. Others are just sick of it, so they stay home.
I know that one of the two of you who are reading this could be in one of the boats mentioned above. Frankly, we all have probably been in all of them over the last 2 years at some point. Whatever the case may be, I want to encourage you to not give up. The writer of Hebrews encourages the readers (then and now) to not give up on gathering together as the church. And he says, “even more so as we see The Day approaching.” Now, I don’t know when Jesus is coming again. I sure hope it is soon. But one thing I do know – It is approaching, and it is closer than it was 2000 years ago when He ascended to the right hand of the Father. If there was ever a time that Christians needed to encourage one another in this world, it seems to me that now would be at least near the top of the list of times.
If your local church is preaching the Scripture, avoiding the fear-mongering, and providing an opportunity for you to connect with, be encouraged by, and encourage other believers, then stick with them if you want. If you are interested in this house church thing, then reach out to me and let’s talk. I don’t believe you have to go to church to be a Christian. I actually don’t think any of us “go to church.” We are the Church as a plurality of Christians. BUT, if you are not gathering together with other believers, you are missing out. Not on programming. God help us – local church programming is usually so lame that none of us are missing out by not going to that. Not on meetings and organizational bureaucracy, as we all know those are the things most of us hope to miss out on in established churches (If you don’t hope to miss out on those in the local church, most of us hope to miss out on you). If you are not gathering together, you are missing out on a chance to be encouraged by fellow believers, the Word of God, His Sacraments of Communion and Baptism, to see the great works of God as He changes others’ lives (and your own), and empowerment to go back out into the world to reach those who don’t know Jesus. Ultimately, isn’t He who this is all about anyway?
You remember, the Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who lowered Himself to live a perfect life because you and I cannot; to die a death for sin so that you and I would not have to do so; to raise from the grave and defeat sin and death, so that you and I might have eternal life. Do you remember that Jesus? Do you know Him? I hope so. If not reach out to me, and let’s chat. If you do know Him, and you are interested in serving him in a local house church, reach out to me about that, and let’s talk!