So You Want to Start a House Church

Do you want to read over my shoulder again? I had this email exchange this week with a brother the other day in New Mexico. I never know how to respond to stuff like this. I am blessed that people are willing to look outside the box and see what God is asking of them, but always a bit concerned when it looks like they’re just going to grab another box. While Paul talked often about the church in various’s homes, he never used the term house church. I took a chance on this one and wrote back what was in my heart:

God told me to prepare 6 months ago to start a house church and has been teaching me through prayer and his word all he wants me to know. Then a couple of weeks ago a brother pointed me to house2house, which finally confirmed to me that God is planting the same seeds universally. Then I listened to your series on ‘the relational church” and “The power of the Cross” and received further confirmation. Anyway, I am starting to network in to greenhouse, house2house etc., and our house church starts Dec. 1. If you are ever passing through plan to visit and share some of his love.

If God has led you to ‘start a house church’, by all means do so. I think it is fabulous when people get together in homes to share his life together. But could I at least have a shot at stretching your thinking a bit? While I love the folks at greenhouse and house2house and appreciate their passion, I think it is also possible that they are just building another box in which people will try to contain God’s working. And like all boxes, they won’t work. Our God is too big and his ways too mysterious for us to contain in any specific methodology. These resources can serve a valuable function in letting folks know they are not alone in their passion to discover more relational and relevant expressions of church life and give them tools God might want to use to help us live in him. But if we let them sidetrack us by putting all our marbles into a new box called ‘house church’, we’ll end up back where we started.

I’m convinced that building the church is Jesus’ job. Ours is to proclaim the gospel and help others near us find a relationship with God that is real every day. I much prefer people to think in terms of learning how to live in God and share his life together rather than starting a house church. The latter is already laced with so many expectations that it might actually do more to thwart God’s working than it will release it. Jesus wants us to free people to be his. By learning to listen to God together he will build a life among you that will reflect his glory and you will experience whatever expression of church life Jesus wants for you.

That may look like a house church, it may also look like a hundred other things. I have seen too many expressions of Jesus’ church around the world to know that any one box is unworthy of him and copying other people’s models won’t produce it. It also puts our focus on the wrong thing. By trying to ‘start something’ we often miss what it means to let Jesus lead us into intentional community with others that is life-changing. Only by following him and sharing our common lot as failed human beings on the way to being transformed by Jesus, will we ever discover life in the body of Christ as Jesus designed it for us. I certainly don’t want to dampen your excitement about opening up your home, but if I can save you a few years of being side-tracked into a specific form that may not be what God wants for you, perhaps it was valuable.

I agree, I have already been struggling with the box of ‘House Church’ especially the title. God told me that (we are the) church sometime ago and most mornings on the way into work I pray for his presence at church today, and he honors that request. It doesn’t matter if we are with believers or nonbelievers, the outpouring of his love ushers in his presence. My hearts desire is to bring more people into his presence and disciple them into his kingdom.
The title is baffling my wife and I presently, Do you have any suggestions?

Every group I’ve ever worked with confesses to struggle to find the right title or name for their group. Most just decide on something out of exasperation. That’s as true of names as it is of terms like ‘house church.‚ I was in a few of those myself.

Looking back, I wonder if the struggle itself shouldn’t tell us something. If God wanted us to make an it and name it, wouldn’t he give us clarity about what we should call it. I find great freedom now merely talking in terms of function, not names. Names are way we distinguish ourselves from others in the body and I‚m not sure it‚s a Godly thing we do. It‚s more utilitarian, which often leads us to convince ourselves that God is in it when he isn’t…. Just thoughts, at this point, Bro! I don’t have definitive answers myself.

So the people I’m with now are talking about learning how to live out intentional community together. It makes a lousy name, which is intentional on our part. We want to be focused on the relationship to God and our relationships to each other not on creating some kind of institution, even a household one. So instead of ‘starting a house church’, we’re ‘opening our home for people who want to share the journey of knowing Jesus together’. That keeps the focus in the right place and won’t separate you from others God might want you to touch who aren’t ready to join something else.

What an awesome God we love. As you were writing your response last night my wife and I were deciding that we did not need a name for our “house church” because that would potentially limit His work before we even started and since our call to ministry is so unpredictable why limit his ministry without even realizing it. So we decided to just invite people from all walks, whom we feel God has put in our path, to a weekly potluck and to expect God to take it from there. Actually sounds like a real challenge of obedience for me. I must admit that experience has shown me that he is a much better at orchestrating than I am, but I continue to attempt to maintain control. Thank you so much for the prayerful communication and wisdom. It is nice to be confirmed in what some are calling rebellion and what I know in my heart is obedience.

Fabulous… I think you’ve hit it on the head, Brother and pray all God’s best as you explore what it is to simply walk together with other believers as God calls you to!

Share this Post!

Related post

12 Comments
  1. george November 4, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for this Wayne.

    I had a brother calll me last night who wants to get together to talk about "house church" It seems as though that is the place people run to when they first leave brick & mortar church. Pray for us that Father will give us His words and that this brother can be spared the pain of living in the box again.

    Peace

  2. george November 4, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for this Wayne.

    I had a brother calll me last night who wants to get together to talk about "house church" It seems as though that is the place people run to when they first leave brick & mortar church. Pray for us that Father will give us His words and that this brother can be spared the pain of living in the box again.

    Peace

  3. Jason H. November 5, 2004 at 10:09 am

    Been there, done that. No thanks!

  4. Jason H. November 5, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    Been there, done that. No thanks!

  5. Malaga March 27, 2005 at 7:58 am

    Greetings from Malaga (Spain). Antonio 🙂

  6. Malaga March 27, 2005 at 10:58 am

    Greetings from Malaga (Spain). Antonio 🙂

  7. Mae July 28, 2005 at 6:01 pm

    Dear Wayne,

    We are very new to this call and are grateful to have read the exchange between you and the brother. The freedom is somewhat disarming, having been in the brick and mortar church for all of my 50 years. However, my efforts to return to that setting have met internal constraint. Anyway, through much prayer and waiting before the Lord, my husband asked that we have bible studies on Friday nights and Sundays and the release was obvious! However, given that I have been a "box" person most of my life, I began immediately to research house church ministries. I praise God for what I have learned in this short time from your writing, and am learning to just follow Him as far as He takes me, and rest in the freedom of His love. Sincerely, Mae

  8. Mae July 28, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    Dear Wayne,

    We are very new to this call and are grateful to have read the exchange between you and the brother. The freedom is somewhat disarming, having been in the brick and mortar church for all of my 50 years. However, my efforts to return to that setting have met internal constraint. Anyway, through much prayer and waiting before the Lord, my husband asked that we have bible studies on Friday nights and Sundays and the release was obvious! However, given that I have been a "box" person most of my life, I began immediately to research house church ministries. I praise God for what I have learned in this short time from your writing, and am learning to just follow Him as far as He takes me, and rest in the freedom of His love. Sincerely, Mae

  9. Brenda Valdez March 10, 2009 at 8:35 am

    My husband found this link last night and it expresses exactly what we have been journeying on for many years. Although, through circumstances, we are just now being released from institutional church. We have been living as a community of believers with some others for some time. We finally felt that God was calling us to go beyond what the walls of the building would allow and just meet Him where ever and whenever. House church, organic church, home group, even the word group would cause my spirit to twinge because I did not want to put another label on what God was calling us to be. I just want to be His all the time in any setting without any constrictions we try to place on Him. We have been cautioned by “leaders” in the institution that we are straying and need to be mindful of our children and their futures. I believe thats exactly what we are doing! We want to tear down the walls of the institution for them so they can go further in Christ than we can imagine. When a lie is deeply ingrained in our culture and believed for many generations than the truth seems insanity and the messenger insane. The life of Jesus on earth is enough testimony to that. So if I am to be more like Him, than sign me up and count me among the “insane”.

  10. Brenda Valdez March 10, 2009 at 11:35 am

    My husband found this link last night and it expresses exactly what we have been journeying on for many years. Although, through circumstances, we are just now being released from institutional church. We have been living as a community of believers with some others for some time. We finally felt that God was calling us to go beyond what the walls of the building would allow and just meet Him where ever and whenever. House church, organic church, home group, even the word group would cause my spirit to twinge because I did not want to put another label on what God was calling us to be. I just want to be His all the time in any setting without any constrictions we try to place on Him. We have been cautioned by “leaders” in the institution that we are straying and need to be mindful of our children and their futures. I believe thats exactly what we are doing! We want to tear down the walls of the institution for them so they can go further in Christ than we can imagine. When a lie is deeply ingrained in our culture and believed for many generations than the truth seems insanity and the messenger insane. The life of Jesus on earth is enough testimony to that. So if I am to be more like Him, than sign me up and count me among the “insane”.

  11. Chris S of the Church at Crestview April 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I have been called away from the Institutional Church (and “brick-and-mortar” is also a very apt title). I have also struggled with the process and concept of naming groups (and I understand what you say about not even wanting to call them “groups”). Although this is hardly a conclusion at all, I have concluded that we might as well just call it all “church.” After all, any two gathered together for Christ’s purposes necessarily maintain Christ’s presence.

    As I was reading your transcription above and your thoughts and concerns about house churches, something occured to me: Maybe “having a house church” isn’t about regularly scheduled group meetings (although I do not see them as inherently adverse). Maybe the “house church” concept (as it is described in Acts 2) simply means that Christians act like Christians throughout the day and often hang out and eat at each other’s houses in the process!

    I particularly like your wife’s idea of regularly scheduled potlucks. The Greek word for “fellowship” necessarily included/required food. I believe that the concept of the potluck meal is very Christian: anybody who has the resources can/should/does bring something, and there is always so much (as a law of nature) that there is lots of extra left over when the providers are full… which allows guests/visitors to eat without having to pay.

  12. Chris S of the Church at Crestview April 17, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    I have been called away from the Institutional Church (and “brick-and-mortar” is also a very apt title). I have also struggled with the process and concept of naming groups (and I understand what you say about not even wanting to call them “groups”). Although this is hardly a conclusion at all, I have concluded that we might as well just call it all “church.” After all, any two gathered together for Christ’s purposes necessarily maintain Christ’s presence.

    As I was reading your transcription above and your thoughts and concerns about house churches, something occured to me: Maybe “having a house church” isn’t about regularly scheduled group meetings (although I do not see them as inherently adverse). Maybe the “house church” concept (as it is described in Acts 2) simply means that Christians act like Christians throughout the day and often hang out and eat at each other’s houses in the process!

    I particularly like your wife’s idea of regularly scheduled potlucks. The Greek word for “fellowship” necessarily included/required food. I believe that the concept of the potluck meal is very Christian: anybody who has the resources can/should/does bring something, and there is always so much (as a law of nature) that there is lots of extra left over when the providers are full… which allows guests/visitors to eat without having to pay.

Comments are closed.