Kingdom Living

Casting Vision for the Future of the Kingdom

Kingdom Living

COVID Has Removed Major Barriers to the House Church Movement

December 8th, 2020 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

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.

Enter COVID.

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!

Tags:

8 Comments so far ↓

  • Rudy J Schellekens

    “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.”

    Amazing how well the early church did without a “seminary trained teacher.” And amazing how well the early church did without “professionalized ministry.” Even more amazing how well they did without access to the “quality and quantity” of resources.

    Without all those ‘modern things’ they grew like crazy, held on to their faith in times of life threatening persecution, and still managed to continue their growth! Some lessons here, maybe??

  • mhorton9

    I also agree completely with Rudy. Stone Campbell rightly called out the “Seminary trained preachers” but then within one or two generations regressed about 90%. Apparently no church buildings or asset bases until Constantine, but Stone Campbell never even noticed that when “restoring the ancient order.” Frank Viola has published a lot on these matters. “Pagan Christianity”details how much of a typical CoC “worship service” actually originates from the pagan practices Constantine incorporated into the institutional state church as well as documenting other later human institutional additions.

    Viola was an active proponent of the house church movement which exploded in the southeast US during the 1980’s and 90’s. That movement mimicked in part the earlier house churches in China as promoted by Watchman Nee and in the UK and other countries by T. Austin Sparks.

    Viola has studied the decline of the house churches after 2000. A great number of adherents under age 50 left the movement and disappeared into the anonymity of mega-churches. There is a lot of interdependence, accountability, responsibility and heartbreak within an organic (house) congregation.

    We who search for a more spiritual and powerful manifestation of Christ’s present reign on earth (through the hearts of men rather than grand displays of wealth) would do well to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before. We should as good stewards of the seed of the Kingdom exploit the new opportunities Matt has wonderfully outlined here .

    • Bart Geiger

      Frank is a friend and I have read all his work. He’s never been an advocate of “the house church movement” but of what he calls “the organic expression of the church.” He still holds to that, but he’s observed that since 2012, interest in it has dwindled in the west, however he believes it will awaken again in the future. His focus in recent years has been on “the gospel of the kingdom” his recent book on it “Insurgence” here is where he talks about all of this — https://frankviola.org/2010/10/12/house-church-vs-organic-church/

      • Matt Dabbs

        Thanks for pointing that out. I am familiar with Frank and his work in this area. A resurgence is on the way.

        • mhorton9

          Frank’s book “From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Eternal Purpose of God” is the best book on JHWH’s obsession with the Kingdom that I have read. It is invigorating to understand that God’s ultimate purpose for mankind came to fruition in the first century- most are sitting in pews waiting for something physical that already occurred spiritually… Thus I find myself participating in “Kingdom Living” discussions!

        • Rudy J Schellekens

          I have read Viola’s book on Pagan Christianity as part of some research I was asked to do on “The Biblical Model of Preachers.” Came away from that project with the firm belief that we were never intended to develop a professional clergy, but assume personal responsibility for getting the message of the risen Christ, and for the times where the Body is together, to be edified and encouraged.
          I remember hearing people speak out against the “Clergy.” “We” did not have such a thing, since there was no biblical base. And yet, within 2 generations, “We” now have a firmly established Clergy system, with Managing Ministers, Administrative Ministers, Senior Ministers, worship Ministers, Ministers of involvement, Youth Ministers, Pulpit Ministers… All with of course the appropriate academic titles.
          I am NOT against education, so don’t think I do not respect the academic achievements. But the best person I ever worked with was a man with no more than high school. But he knew his Bible, knew how to learn, and knew how to teach. His passion for the Word was inspiring, his involvement with the people was deep, and personal and genuine.

        • mhorton9

          Amen! A lot of my best friends are preachers- good bible students who do a lot of good. But interestingly there is no office of “preacher” or “minister” in the Bible. Neither are “evangelists,” who were special assistants to the apostles endowed with multiple miraculous gifts for that express purpose. All Christ followers are ministers… Preaching is something Christians gifted that way just do.

          Certainly we can support (untitled) individuals to minister in the Word full time- but how much more effective would it be if the whole congregation labored in the Word a few hours a week?

Leave a Reply to mhorton9