Over the past 4-5 years, Matt and I have slowly gravitated away from the mega-church setting and more towards the "family-like" community that is offered with smaller churches, and even more specifically, house churches. The change really started brewing when we read the life-changing book "Irresistible Revolution" and subsequently sold everything and hit the road. I highly recommend that you read this book...it's not just for Christians, but for those on any type of spiritual journey. It explores how different life (and the world) would be if we took "religion" out of the equation, stopped arguing amongst ourselves, and simply lived out what Jesus truly taught in the Bible. The book does have some flaws, but it's still powerful stuff.
During our travels, we were able to visit a lot of different types of churches...and while we enjoy the energy of worshiping with a large group, we also enjoyed the more intimate gatherings. The conversations and relationships seemed more meaningful and we took applicable truths with us throughout the week in a much different way than when we just sat through a non-interactive sermon.
Now that we have settled in Longmont, we are so happy to be involved with Emmaus Road Community, a network of house churches located in the Boulder county region of Colorado. We meet weekly in our small groups and then once a month we have an "All Gathering" where all of the house churches come together for a larger worship and fellowship time. It's the best of both worlds. :)
When I had mentioned our house church in a previous post, there were many of you who expressed interest in hearing more about it! I have asked Kris Cheek, one of the leaders with Emmaus Road (and a good friend of ours) to answer some of the most common questions about house churches. Feel free to post more questions in the comment section and we will do our best to answer them!
What is a "house church"? A house church is not just another set of meetings. It is a small group of friends…a spiritual family sharing biblical community. House churches are an expression of the larger church family happening in homes or other common place settings.
A house church is for those of us who still need to grow, who need a place to ask questions and who need others to both celebrate our victories and help us when we mess things up. It is not a group of perfect people, but a safe place to be real. It is a place to eat, play and rest, to learn together what it means to follow Christ. A place to study the Bible together, find spiritual mentoring, to be a spiritual mentor, to figure out together what it means to love our God wholeheartedly and our neighbors unselfishly.
A house church is a group of people learning what it means to carry each others burdens and confess sins to one another. We strive to share our resources and possessions to meet practical needs within the local church family, our neighborhoods, and around the world. A house church gathering may also include a baseball game or school play. It could be painting someone’s house or watching a movie together. The essence of what makes a gathering of people a “house church” is about their vision and commitment to “doing life” together.
What does a typical gathering look like? We usually start with a small social hour, including a potluck style meal. The group then gathers together in a living room for singing, sharing, praying and Bible discussion. We will also share in a simple communion time periodically. House churches consist of adults and families, single and married, young and old. Children, teenagers and college students are all part of the house church life. If we have a lot of young families and children in a house church, we typically have a lesson geared towards children during the adult Bible discussion time.
Do you miss having a "big church"? With big music, big programs, etc? Yes and no. Big church can mean "corporate worship gatherings", these celebrations usually consist of quality music, worship and preaching. There is a place for large meetings, because they encourage people to remember that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Large celebrations inspire faith and point the way forward for the whole community of house churches. Big church can also serve to centralize people and resources to make a broad impact and meet a variety of needs in their community and world. However, big church can also foster consumerism and anonymity, where people attend for an hour on Sunday morning or maybe participate in a program or two throughout the week, but likely will miss out on becoming a part of a small spiritual family where they are known, accepted, and spurred on to love God and people more deeply.
What is the most common reason people seek out a house church as opposed to a traditional church? Many people are looking for a faith community that is participatory, involved, produces accountability and reproduces leaders that may in turn start other house churches. We also believe that today’s generation of young people and families are seeking a community where the focus is on relationships, authenticity, the freedom to be creative, and inter-generational connections. Why house church? For community, for love, for help, for growth. But remember, a house church is not a utopia – in fact, it can be a bit messy at times. Because life is messy! :)
Is there a place for the "mega-church" in present day Christianity? Definitely! No one model of church will minister to the world by itself. We need all kinds of churches to engage all kinds of people. In the earliest parts of the Book of Acts, we read of thousands of followers of Jesus gathered together for worship daily. Mega-churches today attract thousands people with their state of the art technology, music, preaching and large buffet of programs. To compliment these large-scale amenities, some mega-churches supplement with smaller independent groups called "community groups" or "life groups".
What do you do with the kids? We can't forget that we're following a guy, namely Jesus, that highly values children! He told his own disciples to “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Kids are always welcome and encouraged to be involved with the house churches. The family integrated environment is beneficial to the kids, as well as the adults. For that reason, we have children remain with us for much of the time during our house church gatherings. We do provide our children with some structured “kids church” time with trusted adults during a portion of the house church, particularly the adult Bible discussion time. We encourage children to begin sharing responsibility and are treated with utmost respect and value. Is attending a house church biblical? The Church is not a building or a meeting, it’s simply people, For the first three centuries of the church, known as Early Christianity, Christians typically met in homes, if only because intermittent persecution (before the Edict of Milan in 313) did not allow the erection of public church buildings. Local church expressions come in all different shapes, sizes and styles. Throughout the many references to the local church in the New Testament, it is clear that the local church physically gathered at certain times and places. These were regular connecting points to worship, study the God’s Word, share meals, pray, play and encourage one another (Acts 2:42-27).
Here are some examples of churches gathered in homes throughout the New Testament books:
"The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. "Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." I Cor 16:19
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house." Romans 16:3-5
"Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house." Colossians 4:15
"To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home." Philemon 1:1-2
What are some books I could read on the topic of house church?
Guest Blogger: Kris Cheek
In June of 2006, Kris and his wife Natalie, along with five other families launched Emmaus Road Community, an inter-related network of house churches. Kris also spends time helping other individuals and families start new Christian faith communities around the country. Before moving to the Boulder area in 2006, Kris directed a youth sports organization called SportReach in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kris and Natalie have been married for 11 fantastic years and enjoy traveling, date nights, and hanging with their three kiddos Taylor, Jocelyn, and Kristyn.