Benefits of a House Church
Our church has been meeting as a house church for the last 10 years. Our house church currently consists of 5 families. I must say it has been the best church experience of my life. Of course, churches meeting in homes is nothing new. After all, meeting in homes was the primary meeting place in the New Testament (see additional references at the end of this post). Below are the benefits I’ve experienced in the house church model.
Flexibility in Changing the Statement of Faith, Constitution, Bi-Laws, Policies and Procedures
I know its a strange thing to mention first, but our church has recently started the process of updating our church documents, including, The Statement of Faith, Constitution, Bi-Laws, Policies and Procedures, and Articles of Incorporation. Many of these documents were created years ago to obtain 501c3 tax exempt status, but they need some refreshing. We are already finding statements we want to add to our Statement of Faith, and I am sure we will modify some policies and procedures as the process goes forward. The men from all the families are having input. It’s just a great thing to see, and a great way to learn about our beliefs and the organization of the church. I’m 50 years old, and I’ve never had this opportunity until now. It’s a strange thing to mention as I said, but it is something we should not take for granted. Most regular church members in traditional large churches just don’t get this kind of opportunity and exposure to the inner workings of a church.
Direct access to the Pastor
Do you know during my big church days I only had dinner with the Pastor three or four times in 20 years. Yet in the house church we have dinner and fellowship every Sunday with our Pastor. Not only I, but all the families and all of our children have direct access to fellowship with him. I praise God for this wonderful opportunity to really know our Pastor, his family, and their godly example. And when you need some counseling, it is such a blessing not to be pushed off to the counseling department, but instead to receive devoted-godly counsel from our wise Pastor and his wife. Our Pastor is a great example because he has a full time day job, is very family focused, yet he still prepares the Word weekly for us. If he can do it, then what is our excuse not to get into God’s Word, focus on our families, and serve our Savior.
On the flip side, a smaller group is better for the Pastor as well. The Pastor is to tend to his flock. It is difficult to know the spiritual condition of your members even within a small group. In the big church, it is hard for the pastor to learn and remember everyone’s name, and it is near impossible to know the spiritual condition of a large flock.
Sharing in the Hospitality
Our house church rotates the meeting location about every 4 months throughout the year to different members’ homes. It is a pleasure to serve the church in this way. It takes some preparation, but to have your home filled with children, brothers and sisters, hymns, prayers, the Word of God, and godly teaching is a blessing. At the larger churches, I only remember a few opportunities in 20 years to have groups of believers to our home. People are just so busy, and we were busy. The times we did have small groups at our home was a blessing, but the opportunities seemed very infrequent in my experience.
Oh, the house church relationships are beyond compare. I can tell many stories. Please read my blog post link at the bottom of this paragraph for a list of highlights over the years. There were some good relationships at the big church, but never as close as the house church. I’ve been so blessed to really know and continue to get to know these brothers and sisters. When you are only meeting with a few families over an extended amount of time, you have a good opportunity to really get to know them during the sharing time, the meeting discussions, the after church meals, and all the other church activities. I’ve been blessed to sometimes be the object of their love, prayers, and even their fasting over the years. We have been to weddings and funerals together. We have done outreach together. We’ve encouraged each other through hard times like divorce, marriage problems, financial issues, and dealing with wayward children. We’ve celebrated together at graduations and in new houses. And when one has to leave for some reason, it really hurts and you really miss them.
Knowing the Children
I’m happy to say that I know all the names of all the children in our church. I know one young man wants to be a fireman. I know the school subjects one daughter is taking in her homeschool and co-op program. I know where the teens are working. One dear girl just looks at me with fascination when I sing and play the guitar on Sunday mornings. And the little ones love my tic-tac candies. Sometimes it’s hard to know how much they are getting out of the meetings, but they are listening. They hear the prayer requests for marriages and sicknesses. They pick up on their favorite hymns, and sometimes they even request them. One dear daughter even blew her musical instrument and blessed us with the tune Amazing Grace. And when the church meeting is over, the rooms fill with sounds of children as they are playing and talking to their friends as we share lunch together. I remember in my big church days the kids were separated from the congregation. It was very difficult to learn their names and know their interests. My son recently went to a traditional big church youth group, and he said, “Dad, I didn’t know these songs the band was playing, there was dancing up and down, and a lot of kids were on their cell phones during the message – it seemed so different.” Well, I’m sure good is going on there, and there are godly brothers doing the Lord’s work. But, it seems to me that with my job I already struggle to get enough time with my children, so do I want to be separated from them at church also?
The Small Group is the Primary Event
I know big churches have their small groups, and I thank God for them. However, having experience them, I know they are not as good as the house church. First, some meet together only monthly due to all the other church activities. Second, in the summer, some groups will even shut down because of all the vacations going on. Third, there are so many groups, people hop from one to the other from time to time and it’s hard to develop relationships that way. Forth, many of the small groups are held during the week and they compete with other family activities like Scouting, sports, or school activities. Fifth, many of the groups are divided by demographics: age, youth, elder, career, divorce care, etc…. These types of specialized groups can be helpful, but they can also divide up the family throughout the week – mom to the womens group, dad to the mens group, kids to the youth group. Last, the main problem is the small group in a big church is not the main event. Obviously, the big church service is the main event. So when families get busy, the small groups gets sacrificed. That is the beauty of the house church. The house church is on Sunday, and all the families come together at the same time, in same place, and they are not divided up at the door. It is the main event.
Giving to Stuff that Really Matters
Our church is very open in giving. We are free to give to the Pastor to honor his efforts and to give to outside missions or other organizations. The money goes exactly where we want it. There is no large staff, no facility water bills, no electric bills, no building mortgage or maintenance, no busses, etc…….
When you are only meeting with a few families, you can’t help but know when someone is missing in attendance for a few weeks. When someone typically shares something from the Word week after week during sharing time, and then suddenly stops, you notice. And if someone is publicly living a rebellious sinful lifestyle, they will be lovingly confronted. Of course, we are not out looking for faults with a magnifying glass, after all, we all have sins, but it’s not that easy to hide as it is in larger churches.
I remember being in Engineering School during college. I felt free to ask questions and participate in the Engineering courses when surrounded by 12 students, but I didn’t say a word in the Economics class when surrounded by 100 students. Participation is just better in smaller groups – no doubt about it!
Below are ways participation is increased in a house church.
A) Events – This year we are not only updating our church documents as mentioned earlier, but we are also celebrating the 500th year of the Reformation. All the families will be involved in the celebration event and planning: speeches, costumes, music, activity tables. It will be a good time with full participation.
B) Music – Yours truly writing this blog post plays guitar every Sunday. Do you know before attending this house church I’ve never played a musical instrument. The small size of our church stretched me out of my comfort zone to pursue music. Sometimes, sisters will sing a duet or a solo. To my knowledge they just sing to Lord without any practice, and it is beautiful. We’ve had one daughter play her musical instrument as I’ve mentioned earlier. Sometimes children request the songs we sing. Sometimes we sing Christian children’s songs. In a way, the big church has taken away the simplicity of music from the congregation because the music is run by professional musicians and trained singers. No, the house church can’t compare to the big church in talent and musical quality, but it’s nice to hear the kids request, This is My Commandment, or Trust and Obey.
C) Prayer – Every Sunday is a prayer group because everyone has the opportunity to publicly pray before our teaching time – no prayer by one or two specified deacons here. If something is on your heart, pray.
D) Free to share – Did God show you an amazing truth this week, and you just want to tell the whole world? Did you witness to someone about Jesus’ love and want to share your experience? Do you want to encourage the group with a passage from a Christian book you’ve been reading? Every Sunday before our Pastor’s interactive teaching time, everyone has an opportunity to share what God is doing in their lives. Everyone. You know, in a big church, people are afraid to share in a big group, and it is not practical to have a hundred people share. In many ways, the big church has created spectators instead of participants.
E) Interaction with the teaching – Back in the big church, I always wanted to say, hey I have a question about that, or I have an insight into that as well. But of course, when your are surrounded by lots of people, you tend to keep quite. And if you don’t, I’m sure the ushers will come have a whisper with you. I love that the house church model naturally encourages interaction during the teaching time. The group is just the right size that people feel more safe to speak up. Everyone knows that education is better when you are able to interact.
F) More free to serve – Oh the bureaucracy of some larger churches! We can all think of stories when a brother wanted to do something, but it was shut down because it needed to be reviewed at the Elders meeting or such and such committee which will be held in the 2nd quarter of the year. One time my brother wanted to do some service through his large church to help tornado victims, but unfortunately his idea was squashed and it deeply affected his ideas about the church. Yet in a house church, there is still oversight, but things are much easier to get going and get done. Now don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to just speak your idea and let someone else do the work – because there is nobody else to do the work. But if you feel lead of the Lord to pursue it, and you are willing to lead it and work at it, then most likely it’s a go.
Well, I don’t know how the Lord will lead us into the future. Will we grow into another house church, will we grow into a rented space, a building, or stay as we are? I don’t know. However, if we grow into a size where the things above are becoming difficult to do, then I think we are too big.
God Bless you, and thank you for reading.
It is clear in the New Testament that believers met together primarily in individual’s homes. See below…
- Acts 2:46 (NET) 46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,
- Acts 12:12 (NET)
When Peter realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered together and were praying.
- Romans 16
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
4 who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5 Also greet the church in their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
- Romans 16:23 (NET)
Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus the city treasurer and our brother Quartus greet you.
- 1 Corinthians 16:19 (NET) 19 The churches in the province of Asia send greetings to you. Aquila and Prisca greet you warmly in the Lord, with the church that meets in their house.
- Philemon 1:2 (NET) 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your house.
- Colossians 4:15 (NET) 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters who are in Laodicea and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.