I’d say in the last 20 years or so, there’s been a surge in people attempting church gatherings in their homes as opposed to meeting at a campus-like building. For many this has come as an alternative to attending church services at church buildings. For others, it’s within the context of a small group program managed by institutions that meet in a building.
In a similar way that the global pandemic pushed forward the already-moving trend of remote work in the vocational world, it seems that it also pushed forward people attempting to “do church” in their homes. While many simply participated by viewing virtual church services, others felt compelled to meet in smaller numbers in their homes.
Now you could be thinking…”that’s sounds cool, isn’t that the way the first Christians did it anyway?” Yes, the first Christians did meet in their homes. But I’m going to point out here why it’s concerning that people attempt this in our culture and day and age.
What most house churches are
Most house churches are simply smaller versions of the type of church that takes place in the campus-like buildings. The only changes are the location, how many people fit in the room and the atmosphere.
The reason this is concerning is the type of church that takes place in campus-like buildings tends to crumble relationships when attempted in the personal space environments of people’s homes.
These attempts are typically short-lived and carve out a path of hurt, pain and bitterness.
Why you shouldn’t try this at home
Neutral “third-space” public spaces are conducive to the type of church that operates like a business organization. Churches that have hierarchy, paid staff, hold church services, manage religious programming, etc. can survive in that space.
These churches certainly don’t avoid conflict and the hurt, pain and bitterness that can accompany it. But they can survive because they’re typically larger and the conflict doesn’t hit home as hard. Everything can be kept at an arm’s length by many of the people that attend. This doesn’t happen when people get into each other’s personal spaces.
If there are problems, it’s typically easy to stop going and/or find another place to attend. When relationships crumble, there’s enough people to keep a church going even if there’s a split or something like that. When relationships crumble in a house church environment, it cuts much, much deeper.
Once church moves from public space to people’s homes (their personal space), the type of church that takes place in the typical church building becomes even more hazardous to everyone’s health. The reason is the business model church isn’t built on the foundation of godly relationships.
Now this doesn’t mean people don’t have or develop godly relationships within those churches. That certainly happens. I still have some great godly relationships with people I’ve met at those types of churches.
It just means the relationships themselves are not the foundation of the church’s existence. The foundation is a personality, an agenda, specific traditional beliefs, styles of worship and/or a combination of things like that.
I’m not attempting to be critical here. It is what it is.
When you shouldn’t try this at home
When church moves into homes, the type of church must change along with the change in environment. People’s personal spaces are not the place to attempt institutional Christianity. The foundation must be godly relationships or it won’t survive and the consequences won’t be subtle.
This requires a complete paradigm shift that gets back to the vision of church life laid out by Christ and the biblical authors. It’s church that is ordered by the Life of Christ.
A group of people must first undergo this paradigm shift. They have to undergo the long process of truly becoming equipped at what it will take to be built together as God’s house. This doesn’t happen by simply moving the location of the meetings.
If the deconstruction and reconstruction of what the Body of Christ is doesn’t first take place, then as the popular disclaimer says when someone demonstrates something that can be dangerous…please don’t try this at home!