The following are a number of questions that are typically asked about a house church. Hopefully it will answer most general questions you have about house churches in general. If you have more specific questions about house churches in general or what happens in our gathering please do get in contact.
What exactly is a house church?
What the label says! A house church is simply a group of Christian believers and ‘seekers’ who meet in a home, not a church building or a rented hall. They are worshippers who worship and serve God in a setting that is less formal and structured than in a traditional church.
Does the lack of a special building make a house church inferior to a traditional church?
Not in the eyes of God! The early Christian Church met in private homes (or Jewish places of worship) for nearly 300 years. Purpose-built ‘churches’ were unknown until Christianity became a legally recognized religion in 313 AD. A house church may look different from other churches, but when properly constituted it is as much part of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ as any other church.
In what ways is house church different from traditional church?
Firstly, it has no special buildings or professional staff, so it is not concerned with salaries, budgets, upkeep, improvements, office expenses, denominational levies and so on. It is able to focus on relationships, evangelism, lifestyle, pastoral care and organic growth.
Secondly, a house church meets as a family (the family of God) not as a congregation. Everybody soon knows everybody else; there is no way you can be forgotten or overlooked. Similarly, there is no place for cliques, favouritism and private agenda. Families often bring packed lunches to the meetings when and where they take place. For instance, some folk meet in their lunch break in their workplace, school or university and invite their unsaved friends to join them. Others meet in the evening or after work. Still others gather whilst out in the countryside or during recreation – in reality the number of meeting possibilities is only limited by the imagination and the ability to be flexible, creative and continually seeking God for His direction.
What about structure?
A house church will have one or two male leaders, one of whom may be the house owner. In a local network of house churches members serve the body without the need for positions and titles but ideally there will be a local apostolic element in order to operate as based on the New Testament model.
What takes place during a gathering?
Everything that happens in a traditional church! When practical there is music, worship, prayers, reading and teaching of the Bible, Q&A and Holy Communion. Ideally there will be a ministry programme operating in such a way as to be flexible enough to address changing requirements in ‘real time’. The main difference from a traditional church is the lack of formality. People do not sit in rows and while there is leadership and order, the meetings are not led from the front. Everyone takes part in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14.26. The exercise of spiritual gifts is easier in an intimate atmosphere. Discussion and questions about Scripture abound. Whenever small children are part of a group we seek to accommodate their needs in the best possible way.
Does a house church have a vision for growth and outreach?
Absolutely! The aim is not to grow until every gathering is at bursting point. (In practical terms 10 to 15 is the maximum for a modern sitting room.) The aim is organic growth, to spread out into the community and replicate new house churches wherever leaders can be found who are willing and qualified. House churches are about reaching out to make disciples (not just converts) and not being content with the status quo.
Are house churches part of any wider organisation?
House churches are steadily increasing in number throughout the UK and many other parts of the world. Already many have begun to create local networks for mutual support and encouragement.
What do house churches do about finance?
The financial needs of a house church are minimal, unlike those of a traditional church, and it hardly needs a treasurer! However, members are taught to recognize God’s lordship in all areas and to set aside the tithe, or a regular and proportionate part of their income, in order to support Christian ministry in its widest sense. This may be done privately or together. Discussion and agreement within any group will facilitate suitable ministries or individuals to pray for and support, and special offertories can be taken up for special needs. House churches are able to bless their communities significantly at short notice in this respect.
Do house churches need a Statement of Faith?
Yes, for several reasons.
- Inevitably there is a spectrum of beliefs between members who join together from different backgrounds. They need clarity about what will be taught and what are regarded as primary and secondary truths. This is particularly important for enquirers and new believers.
- House churches are often founded partly on distinctive beliefs that are no longer taught in liberal churches. Those beliefs should be embodied in a Statement of Faith. Without one a house church may waiver and dilute or change what it teaches.
- In practical terms it is not possible to form a network of like-minded house churches without significant doctrinal agreement.
- Regretfully some ministers and pastors regard house churches with suspicion. It is therefore important that there is doctrinal purity as well as accountability and oversight. If a house church does not satisfy these legitimate expectations, other leaders may not regard it as a ‘proper church.’ Its members may not be invited to minister in other churches nor be acceptable to para-church organizations where an elder’s or pastor’s reference is required.
For these reasons house church leaders do well to set out their core beliefs which they teach and practice in a Statement of Faith which can be shown to interested parties.