Are house churches abandoning the local church?
I wonder when the day will come when Christians begin to see that churches do not have to have a name, a building, or a tax exempt status to be a “real church”? There is the persistent belief among Christians that home churches are not “real churches”. So entrenched is this belief in the Western world that even among Christians who attend home churches many feel that a home church is not a “real church”.
How did this ever happen?
The early church met in homes and nobody seems to have a problem with that- but if a group of Christians who gather in a home dare to call themselves a “church” eyebrows are raised with skepticism. Why is it that Christians in the United States can accept the home church movement in China, and believe these are “real churches” (and actually be excited about what God is doing through these home groups) but somehow think that similar groups in America aren’t just as valid? The logic baffles me!
More often than not the idea sooner or later is expressed that “home churchers” (the ones who make home church their “main church”) probably are doing it for less than stellar reasons: they’ve been hurt; are rebelling against authority; can’t get along with others… etc. Why won’t they come “under the covering” of a local church? Why won’t they “submit to authority”?
Implicit in all these thoughts is the idea that while a home church might be good as an “add on” to a local church, it could never in and of itself, be a local church.
George Barna and others have explored how this thought process has resulted in the church believing “facts” about itself that you can’t actually find in the bible. So we have a situation today where most of the Western Church adamantly rejects what the bible says about church, choosing instead to believe what they have always known and are comfortable with church as being. Such is the power of tradition.
“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:13)
“Traditional church” has come to be known as what a “real church” is- this, they say, is the local church. Therefore, when someone comes along and starts a “house church” the charge is leveled that these people have “abandoned the local church”. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t “abandon the local church” so this sounds very serious. But did anyone ever stop to ask if a house church could actually be a local church? You know, just like what we see in the bible? Just like what we see in China?
I came across a post today while reading George Barna’s blog. A pastor seemed to be expressing the sentiment that house churches aren’t “real churches”. He never came right out and said that home churches are not the same as a “real church”, but note the very common and widespread notions expressed in the phrases he used:
- “abandoning the corporate church entirely for the house church movement…”
- “abandoning the local church is not the answer”
The idea seems to be that a house church isn’t a “real church”, nor can it be “local church”. In fact, people who leave their “traditional churches” and become part of a “house church” are said to be “abandoning the local church”.
But is this true? Not by my bible.
I would like to ask my readers the same questions I asked this Pastor:
1. How is being part of a house church abandoning the “corporate church”? Isn’t joining together with other Christians actually a demonstration of the corporate church? I fail to see how meeting in a house is any less corporate than meeting in a building. Is it the building that makes a church a “real church”?
2. Again you say that, “abandoning the local church is not the answer”. How does meeting in a house constitute abandoning the local church? The brothers and sisters that gather in homes are local aren’t they? And they’re coming together as the church, correct? They’re not sitting by themselves alone at home neglecting fellowship, are they?
Let the Word of God dictate
I can find nothing in the bible that tells me a church needs a building, name, denomination, tax exempt status etc. to make it a “real church”. As I read my bible I do find the early church met in homes and they were considered “real churches”. You’re going to have to get your ideas of what a “real church” is from somewhere- can I suggest that we get them from the Word of God?