the weblog of Alan Knox

Those zany house churches

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in blog links, edification, gathering | 14 comments

Ok, so the title of this post is extremely “tongue-in-cheek.” I have nothing against churches gathering in homes. In fact, I think it would be beneficial for many Christians to gathering in homes. If I were backed into a corner, I would tell you that I prefer to gather with my brothers and sisters regularly in homes.

My good friend Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” wrote a post recently called “Why I Am A House Church Proponent.” His post is a very kind and very well-written to a post I wrote a little over a year ago called “Why I’m not a house church proponent.”

Eric gives the following reasons for being a “house church” proponent:

  1. House church follows the most common biblical pattern.
  2. House church is inexpensive.
  3. House church offers a relational atmosphere.
  4. House church keeps numbers low.
  5. House church can be rotational in nature.
  6. House church promotes the priesthood of all believers.

(If you haven’t yet, please take the time to read Eric’s post. It’s not very long, and he explains each of his points above very well.)

And, in fact, I agree with his points. Gathering in homes with other believers (as opposed to gathering in dedicated buildings or even in rented spaces) can promote the things that Eric lists. And, those are good things.

The problem is, meeting in homes does not guarantee those things… especially the most important aspects of gathering relationally (#3) and seeing everyone live out the priesthood of all believers (#6).

In fact, in a comment on Eric’s post, someone named Seth left this comment to me:

Alan, you said “meeting in homes does not guarantee that we are meeting for the right reasons.” I agree with you. But how do we overcome that mentality of meeting for the wrong reason? What is the cure then? I’ve been in numerous house churches where it is basically an institutional church stuffed into a home. Same issue. Been wondering how to break out of that rut. You have any ideas?

Yes, unfortunately, I also know of many house churches which are “basically an institutional church stuffed into a home.” In fact, in our area, the most hierarchical, authoritarian leader who I know is part of a house church.

So, I greatly agree with Eric (and others) that meeting in homes can be beneficial for the church. I agree that for a group of Christians desiring to meet to edify one another, gathering in a house can promote that kind of mutual discipleship.

However, for a group of believers who do not understand their roles and responsibilities in building up each other in faith, unity, and service in Jesus Christ, then moving their meeting to a home will not help, and might actually hurt.

So, for me, I’d much rather see a church gathering in a dedicated building but learning to meet for mutual edification, than a group meeting in a home without mutual edification.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-4-2013

    Alan and Eric, I believe I agree completely with both of you!

  2. 2-4-2013

    Wrote this comment to Eric’s post after reading, but seems it wasn’t working on his site with my dial up system…so will post it here.

    Love the concise post Eric. From my experience it takes a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit to realign ones thinking to be able to embrace home gatherings, organic church et al, with awe, in liberty and openness. It is quite a bit like being reborn, considering how programmed we are, even under the best of circumstances. Two important things I would emphasize:

    1. Not having gatherings in the same home all the time. We rotate between 3 different homes. This helps to avoid ownership of the church…the church in my house can easily evolve into… I am the pastor…as well as relieving the burden of hospitality.

    2. The avoidance of noted hierarchy. This assures dependence on the Holy Spirit and can help to avoid over analyzing the content of the meeting. So much of the work done, the edification of one another, is a matter of trusting the Spirit, patience, and each member accepting the responsibility for what they take away from a meeting. Looking back after at least a year of meeting will invariably show evidence of what God has done in hearts and minds. Performance not needed. Lively stones, His ways are higher than our ways, where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst, the mystery of…these concepts come to mind and cannot be contrived nor pre-planned.

  3. 2-4-2013

    For me, it’s the dawning realization that Whoever wrote the New Testament is actually the leading subject matter expert on church.

  4. 2-4-2013

    I am glad that you realize good can happen in house churches. I am 63, been a pastor of 4 building style churches all of which doubled or tripled in size budget, spiritual growth. But I don’t look at church growth as the bulls eye any more. I only see if disciples are made who actually make other disciples. Then the concern is not additions but multiplication through discipleship. I don’t really care to distinguish between house church or building type churches. The rapid decline of Christianity and the demise of the American church should awaken all of us to the reality that the one thing Jesus commanded us to do is make disciples who can make disciples.

    There is no command to build buildings, have programs, or plant new churches. If disciples are being made they will congregate. Disciples will go out and start new churches, and many programs that are good will help with the making of disciples. But after 33 years of successful church growth. I found the obstacles in established churches to be overwhelming and God pulled me into disciple making and multiplication growth. I had to be pulled because I was unaware of it and would have been critical if had I know about house churches. I enjoy greater success in focusing on small group discipleship than any of the big, organized, demanding, staff-oriented dominance than my “successful building style churches.” (And less stress and more freedom) I feel like I am following in the footsteps of Jesus and Paul than ever before. While the organize church in America continues to decline statistically in every major area. The house church and small discipleship groups can reach into the pagan pool more effectively and more intentionally with such greater freedom. As for maintaining doctrine etc. How many building churches are doing that? Too often they take the the word of God to turn it into a we and them situation. I am happy with any size or kind of church that is making disciples who can make disciples. By the way America has some of the best preachers in all the world. If discipleship depended solely on the pulpit why aren’t American churches making disciples rather than remaining nursery schools filled with baby Christians? Every model of church should become an army for God. The church is not a cruise ship filled with relaxed passengers but is supposed to be a battle ship with all hands on deck. Rather than spend our time saying which model is the model why don’t we ask the real question? Is a mega church, community church or a house church doing what Jesus commanded us to do first, last, and forever – making disciples of our people who can be released to do the same with others. Only then will we see the effective change needed in our American culture. Around the world they are focused on the Great Commission having more success than even in the first centuries after Christ. While Europe and North America decline. I vote for discipleship as the main thing and utilize every kind and size of church working together to accomplish God’s will in God’s way. My 2 cents. Mike Wilder

  5. 2-4-2013


    Good! I agree with both of us too. 🙂


    Thanks for the feedback. I’m sure that Eric appreciates it also. Do you think your two points are possible in a location (or locations) that are not homes?


    And whoever inspired the writing of the New Testament is still the one who leads the church – even when we’re gathered together.


    You’ve unpacked alot in your comment. Yes, I certainly agree that it can be good for churches to gather in homes. In fact, we gathered in two different homes yesterday.


  6. 2-4-2013


    Thanks for the link!

    I suppose we could put it this way about meeting in homes: potential but not automatic. We agree that gathering in homes offers great potential for mutual edification, but there is nothing at all automatic about it. It’s sort of like a football stadium. It’s a great place for a football game, but that doesn’t mean that a game will automatically occur.

  7. 2-4-2013

    I suspect not really Alan. I live in a rural area where many have been born, lived their whole lives and will die and be buried in the same church. I have attended several of these churches and find many sincere and mature Christians there. They have created community and meet each others needs as well as enriching the community at large through their good works in food pantries, soup kitchen and other outreaches to the needy. The least dependent on a pastor that I have experienced is the Methodist as they move their pastors around very often, so the community must evolve and function with this constant change in leadership. These folks will mumble and complain to a degree as they age and the burdens become cumbersome, but they are committed for life and share too much history and too many core values to want anything different. Their dwindling numbers threaten the ability to maintain the large buildings and grounds that they own and the young have different values and are much more mobile, so the decline is inevitable. But they make the community cohesive and able to meet challenges together. They cannot be dismissed or discounted, but I doubt very much there will be much in the way of change in their perception of how church is done. Many of these stalwart churches were not able to absorb the move of God in the early 70’s. We saw para-churches develop to accommodate the need of so many young people who were moved on by the Spirit of God. But the conditioning was still evident…elders were appointed, boards were elected, buildings were rented or bought, in some cases resident programs were initiated to house newly saved addicts and young adults, a wild bunch in some cases, that needed leadership, standards and routine. I am not sure organic church would have been the right vehicle for the Jesus Movement. So most of our conditioning about what church is, was remixed and incorporated into the goal of discipling all these young folks. The errors were very painful to many, but there were survivors. Some of them began to challenge the status quo, the traditions, and yes, the leadership. Some moved far away from “church” in their lives. Ironically enough the Jesus Movement started in homes. I am a survivor. God can do His work anywhere understandably, but nothing in me is attracted to gatherings where there is the slightest inclination to cling to traditional church practices or where folks are given opportunity to function in titled leadership roles or where members demand or even desire to be recognized in their “calling”. Meeting in houses keeps the numbers down and things simple, making it easy to nip things in the bud that work against the liberty and responsibilities of the priesthood of all the members and the headship of Christ.

  8. 2-4-2013

    I think it’s the ‘church that meets in your house’, not ‘house church’. The phrase ‘house church’ kind of misses the whole point.

    We have a cell church background. I was mystified by cells – most of the time we just shrunk the church service and put it in a small group in the home. It was aweful really. All of the drawbacks and none of the benefits of the big group.

    Anyway – I started to plot when the group really experienced the Lord – and later much to my amazement – the group experienced God the most when the leader was gone and the group actually met around the group instead of the leader’s agenda. A dominate personality will destroy the functioning of the church – unless they are mature enough to back off and encourage the others to step forward. This takes a great deal of patience.

  9. 2-4-2013


    I agree, and I hope that people don’t think that you and I are arguing about this. I did appreciate your post very much.


    I’m part of a group that started as a very traditional church with structure and everything. We’re now much, much more organic and relational, and we continue to meet in a rented space (as well as homes).


    I like this description of a real leader among the church: “unless they are mature enough to back off and encourage the others to step forward.” I often say that a real leader will know when to sit down and shut up… and will do so often.


  10. 2-4-2013

    Mike! Amen and Amen! You will know them by their love and by their fruit. It really isn’t about size, locations, style, government, etc. It’s about Godly men and women, led by the Spirit of God who hear His voice, respond obediently to that voice and the outcome will glorify God. We were charged with making disciples, all else pales.

    Only disciples can make disciples. It happens as we live with and among one another and practice those one anothers to all around us.

  11. 2-5-2013

    Great post! Very encouraging! I would second the idea that both traditional churches and house or organic churches can and will BOTH be used by God. I would take a slightly different stand as it relates to planting churches, though. Regardless of what style of “church” you plant, I find in scripture the planting of Churches. Paul certainly did such, and went back to many of those churches and checked up on them. I would suggest we are indeed to go and plant churches but I don’t think it matters what they look like as long as they made up of Christ followers! I realize that many of us are very weary of the “institutionalized” church but that doesn’t mean that a disciple of Christ cannot go start a bible study somewhere that meets in a building and has some form of leadership in place. As it was mentioned in a post, this is somewhat how the Jesus Movement began. I would say though that men like Chuck Smith and the Calvary movement did indeed plant churches and even used buildings. The great news is that God can use it all! House Church? Great! Church building? Sure! Do you meet in a school? Awesome! God is in all and through all! As long as we are about his business, Christ will build HIS church!

  12. 2-5-2013


    This is a great picture of discipleship: “Only disciples can make disciples. It happens as we live with and among one another and practice those one anothers to all around us.” Thanks!

    Rob Puttkamer,

    You said, “I would second the idea that both traditional churches and house or organic churches can and will BOTH be used by God.” I agree… because God will work in and through his children. While different ways and locations of meeting together can be more effective or less effective, we can trust God to always work to bring our brothers and sisters toward maturity in Jesus Christ.


  13. 2-5-2013

    I agree with you all that God in His wisdom can and does meet the need under any and all circumstances. I see that in particular, He is reaching those “weary” and wounded through the organic church “movement”. The fact that it is the form that works best under persecution and oppression might be interesting when looking to the future or for missionary goals. I still hold that meeting in homes lends itself to fending off more of the typical errors that we find in our human nature when negotiating relationships over time that are as intimate in nature and as challenging as being children of God together. Being a family is a little easier in a family setting.

  14. 2-5-2013


    I love family settings also… and like you said, we are family.