I am not against “House churches.” I love house churches, and I love house church people.
But I do get nervous when house church proponents (HCP) start to condemn all other forms of church. It sounds ominously familiar…
To see what I mean, listen in as I discuss house with with a house church proponent:
HCP: The Book of Acts describes house churches. So house churches are the only biblical way of doing church.
Me: But this is 2013. Things have changed. Don’t you think Jesus might want His church to have changed too?
HCP: No! God wrote down in the Bible the way God wanted church done. Any other way is unbiblical and is doing whatever is right in your own eyes.
Me: But even you don’t do church exactly like they did it in Acts. You’ve made some modifications for our time and culture. So doesn’t this mean that you are unbiblical?
HCP: No. The changes we made are still consistent with what the Spirit was doing in Acts. We have maintained the pattern found in the Bible.
Me: Who gets to decide which changes are allowable and which ones are not?
HCP: We studied the Scripture, prayed, sought the leading of the Spirit, and made these adjustments.
Me: Yes, but other believers have done the same thing, and made a few adjustments that you did not make, and now you are condemning them for their changes. Why do you want to say that your way is the one right way, and theirs is wrong?
HCP: They adopted their ways from pagan practices, like buildings, priests, choirs, sermons, and salaries.
Me: So anything that pagans do is wrong for churches to do also?
HCP: Yes, that’s right.
Me: Well, you know there are lots of pagan religions around the world and throughout time that look remarkably similar to a house church. They meet in homes, teach each other the ideas of their faith, share some food, and do what they can to encourage each other to follow their religion. Often they pray to their gods and sing some songs too.
HCP: What religions are those?
Me: Almost all religious groups, to tell you the truth. They only move into temples and other buildings once they reach a certain size. But some groups try to remain in homes, such as Bahai, Santeria, Voodoo, and many forms of Buddhism and Hinduism.
HCP: Well, just because these groups are similar to House Churches doesn’t mean that House Churches are following their practices.
Me: I agree. And the same argument applies to churches with buildings, pastors, choirs, sermons, and salaries.
HCP: I don’t know about that.
Me: Even if history shows (which is does) that the church borrowed these things from pagan cults, history also shows that the early church borrowed their practices from Jewish and Greco-Roman patterns. The early believers didn’t just invent this house church pattern out of thin air. The followed some of the cultural patterns that were around them at the time.
Furthermore, just because something used to be “pagan” does not make it wrong. You and I used to be pagan, but God has washed us, redeemed us, and raised us up in Christ to live in a new way. If God can do this for people, why can’t He do it for customs and cultural patterns also?
The conversation continues like this for quite some time. As we debate, I keep thinking I’ve heard all these arguments before.
Then it dawns on me.
The arguments are not identical, but the whole “This is the right way to do church and everybody else is wrong” idea is taken right out of the mega church model handbook: “This is the right way to do things, and if you want to reach our culture for Christ, you must follow this pattern. Otherwise, God can’t use you.”
As it turns out, house churches and mega churches have something in common after all…
I am not trying to criticize house churches (or mega churches). Instead, I am hoping that all of us who seek to follow Jesus, can simply follow Him in the way that helps us live out the Gospel in our lives to the fullest extent possible, and extend grace to those who follow Jesus differently. People who attend a mega church can bless people who attend a house church, and vise versa. And people who don’t attend any church at all, but simply try to follow Jesus relationally, can bless both groups as well and be blessed in return.
And if you want some more arguments for and against the house church, here is funny chart I found: Enjoy!