There’s a new way of doing church appearing in Canada. The growing house-church movement is tapping into the desire of Christians everywhere to meet the needs of their communities in a way traditional churches cannot, many times offering community and simplicity not available in traditional churches.
Some meet in homes, others in art galleries, coffee shops, warehouses, restaurants, parks, and other unconventional places. Church becomes a way of life in healthy house churches where discipleship and growth occur naturally, as everyone develops their gifts and learns by doing under the mentoring of spiritual fathers and mothers.
They are called house churches because each one functions as a little church. They often network because they work together to foster accountability and encouragement. Although the terminology house church may sound like a contemporary concept, they are not really new; in fact, house churches are as old as the book of Acts.
The New Testament church was defined as the people. Believers did not go to church or join the church; they were the church. All members functioned as priests because everyone served as ministers. Each person got on-the-job-training and learned how to make disciples. These followers of Christ practiced their faith in spiritual families, met in homes and radically changed their world. They grew in number as they obeyed God’s Word and shared resources and spiritual blessings. They multiplied into more and more groups of believers meeting in homes, all networking together. These were the original house churches!
Recently, new house church networks have sprung up throughout North America, from Ontario to British Columbia and dozens of places in between; from Denver, Colorado to Austin, Texas; from Richmond, Virginia to Portland, Oregon.
Although there are already thousands upon thousands of healthy, vibrant churches throughout North America and the world, new wineskins are continually needed to accommodate the believers who do not fit into the current church structures. House churches, many believe, will help to restore the simplicity of the New Testament church to the contemporary church.
A house church is a complete little church. Each church is led by a spiritual father or mother who functions as the elder along with a small eldership team for the little church. He or she does not simply lead a meeting in a house, but rather provides an environment for people to grow spiritually in the context of everyday life. There is no need for a church building in which to meet because each house church is a fully functioning church in itself, meeting in a home.
This is not to say that a house church consists of only one group meeting in a house. A house church should encourage smaller “cells” within the group to meet for prayer, encouragement and accountability during or outside of the actual house church meeting. One “cell” of people could regularly meet for breakfast before work and another “cell” could meet together to disciple a few new Christians in the house church.
House churches are simple to start, provide a natural setting for ministry, and are easily replicated. Could these new churches meeting in homes, places of business, coffee shops, anywhere people meet; be the new look of the modern church?
Like the New Testament church, house churches focus on relationships, reaching the lost and raising up spiritual fathers and mothers who serve and care for their family. They emerge as wonderfully fluid and flexible churches. House churches are a relevant way to engage our communities with the claims of Jesus.