When I would talk with people about the feasibility of house churches the response I would get is that they rarely get off the ground well. It can be hard to raise support for these movements. The resources are often kept very close to the traditional paradigm of the brick and mortar. There are a number of reasons house churches struggle. One of those is permanence. People like to invest their time and resources into something that has a sense of permanence. A building provides that. Typically, it is much more difficult for an established church with property to not be here next year than a house church. Dissolving the first is a lot more difficult and less likely than the second.
God is opening doors for new approaches to church that I thought either may never open or might take a decade or more to see open. God opened them in 8 months via COVID.
COVID sent most of us home for church. People adjusted to the idea that church at home was still church. Those of us who have preached through that time starting back in March had to figure out how to let people know that staying home was the right thing to do and God was/is still pleased by that…that they were not forsaking the assembly by doing church at home.
People’s mindset toward what church actually is has shifted significantly and that is going to help us have the freedom of leaving old paradigms and traditions in order to move forward.
Second is content. People who meet at home don’t always have a seminary trained teacher present to deliver the lessons. The less people you have the less likely you are to have a skilled teacher. Two things on that – first, maybe we will finally realize we had too high a bar for who gets to do that and had professionalized ministry far too much. Second, COVID sent all the preachers online where the quality and quantity of resources has expanded exponentially over the last 8 months. Now you can get the very best preachers and teachers in your living room for free with no overhead cost of hiring them. These movements need strong biblical roots so they don’t drift off into meaninglessness…which is what will happen if people aren’t intentional.
There are a few other things that will have to fall into place to make house churches more sustainable than they have often been in the past and I believe God is helping us turn that corner. We are working on developing some of those things in order to see movements that can change the landscape of Western Christianity for generations.
These are things like leader training – house churches often flounder because people don’t know how to lead well. We are going to develop leader training that is free online for people who want to learn how to start and maintain a house church.
Then there is the need for a network. When you leave institutional church you feel like you lose your people, your tribe…your extended network and that is a very important thing to have. You don’t want to be on an island. We need to establish networks where people who are going through these church transitions can connect, talk, share resources, be encouraged, and know they are not alone. We are going to develop networks for these conversations.
Last, are simple and reproducible approaches. We often make things far too complex to be reproduced. The good news here is that these have already been developed and are ready to be implemented by people who want to jump in.
There is still a lot of work to do but I believe God is opening doors to simpler approaches that just didn’t work well in most cases even 12 months ago…and this is all very exciting to me. I hope it is to you as well.
Sometimes seeds have to fall to the ground and die so new life can spring forth!