A while back on sbcImpact! blogging friend, Geoff Baggett, asked his readers (mostly Southern Baptist) House Churches: Will They Really Work In North America?
The following phrases were lifted from the 67 comments generated from that post. To be fair to those commenting, I would encourage you to read their complete thoughts in context. Most are fairly common objections about house churches heard quite often...
...accountability and proper doctrine would be my two red flagsRather than spend time refuting each of the above concerns, I would rather share what DOES take place in a house church gathering (at least in our Guayaquil, Ecuador context.)
...the rise of house churches is more of mark of unhealthiness
...house churches are dominated by people who do not want to submit themselves to the leadership of the church
...the lack of biblically trained leadership would often create an environment rich in heresy
...early churches meeting in homes, is that descriptive or prescriptive?
...I tend to think of this as more a reaction against the mega church and mega-wannabe
...I think that house churches work better in some cultures than in other cultures
...To me, the key biblical point is not where the church meets. The key point is whether the pastor meets the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
...House churches work well in places where there is persecution and a need for secret meeting places.
...I don't think it would work in my context...
After reading, you can judge for yourself if any of the above are relevant concerns.
2) We sang a cappella 2 hymns, 1 psalm, and 1 praise chorus, all chosen at random by those present from tattered song books and a few xeroxed copies. No instruments--nobody there could play--no praise band, no over-head projected screens, no PowerPoint presentations, no choir, no microphones, pulpit, or any of the other "essentials" that many consider necessary in order to have "church." The singing was off-key, but it was a loud, heartfelt joyful sound!
3) Several people shared testimonies of how God is working in their lives and what God had been teaching them this past week from His Word. There was an open time of prayer with several people praying for one another as they were led of the Spirit.
4) The church planter led in a participatory inductive Bible study of Matthew 10. The focus was on persecution and how we are to confront it as Christians. There were no theologians quoted, books referenced, Greek word studies--just pure Bible, verse by verse. The illustrations were all from their own personal life experiences. Lots of participation, questions, and dialogue. The visual aid was a piece of newspaper print with the main points handwritten and taped to the wall.
5) We next observed the Lord's Supper as commanded by Jesus...1 Cor.11:23ff was read, followed by several moments of silent confession of sins. 3-4 people shared testimonies of what Christ meant to them and how grateful we all were for what Jesus had done for us. While partaking of the elements we sang a love song to Jesus. [NOTE: Here one might have reason to raise an eye brow--they used Ritz crackers and grape Kool Aid instead of unleavened bread and wine--but nevertheless, what was done, was done in remembrance of Jesus.]
6) An invited guest was introduced and it was quickly ascertained she was not a believer. At that point 2-3 shared with her their stories of how Christ had turned their lives around. A couple of others shared relevant scripture verses with her. The lady asked us to pray for her sick husband. Several people gathered around her, and did just that. The woman appeared very moved by the prayer and concern.
7) The offering was then collected with nearly everyone putting something in the small basket. I was one of the last to give. It appeared like there was less than $5 in total. All the proceeds of the offering were to go for #8 below.
8) Several minutes were spent going over details for next Sunday's evangelistic blitz of the whole neighborhood. This little church is dead set on winning their whole community to Christ. The offering collected tonight would be added to the previous weeks offerings and help buy needed tracts, Bibles, and EvangeCubes for the outreach event. If any money was left over, they planned on using it to buy cool drinks for all those who would be out sharing in the hot sun.
9) As they continued to talk about the planned door-to-door evangelistic blitz, refreshments were brought out. Each of us was served on a saucer a half slice of white bread, an empanada (fried meat pie), a spoonful of tuna fish (straight out of the can), one tiny cookie, and a small glass of soda pop. There were only eight glasses for 20+ people so most had to share a glass (we guests got our own glass and didn't have to share.) We sat around visiting, laughing, and sharing for about a half hour. I noticed that while we ate, several continued to gather around the visitor and were making her feel at home in the group as they chatted with her.
10) As the clean-up proceeded, the other IMB missionary, who was also visiting, was asked to share about her work with the Chinese. She taught us a song in Chinese, and we prayed for the Chinese in our city. Many questions were asked of her to better understand these odd "Samaritans" that live among us. Everyone was moved that there are so many Chinese in Guayaquil who do not know the Lord, and are actually Buddhists rather than Catholics.
11) A little after 9pm the meeting came to a natural close. Everyone hugged, kissed one another on the cheek and we all went home happy that we had been together in the "house of the Lord."
THREE QUESTIONS: What part of the above is not New Testament? What would be objectionable, even by Baptist standards? Do not these kind of gatherings closer resemble what we find in the pages of Acts and the Epistles than today's churches?
Again, go through the above list of house church concerns/objections and see if any are really relevant to what actually took place in what is, a typical house church gathering in Guayaquil.
Your thoughts and observations are welcome!
Better yet, contact us by email (in our profile) and help us reach an unreached/under-reached county of our province. Maybe by coming down and helping plant a church will dispel any remaining doubts about house churches being New Testament churches.