House Church - How does that work (and not work)

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House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby Bare_Truth » Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:24 pm

A Personal Message from someone on this board (who shall remain nameless unless they choose to broaden their contribution to the discussion) happened to tell me that they have been attending an "organic/simple/house/new testament ecclesia (church)" for some time now.

So taking that list of adjectives there are:
-- Organic
-- Simple
-- House
-- New Testament
I would be curious to know what those all mean in this context and how those all interact.
I would also be curious to know if the term "naturist" might be added to the list.
At least one person on this board has told me in a PM that they attend a naturist house church and I have encouraged them to post on that but for whatever reasons they have not yet, (perhaps there are several who have experience with naturist house churches who can comment). I really do not know what the above list means as I have not experienced a house church.
i.e.
-- I know what an organic garden is but what is an organic church? In what sense is a church "organic?

-- Of course such a church would be simple compared to most other church organizations, but then what characterizes a "simple church"

-- By "house" church I infer that it meets in someone's house or maybe floats from house to house, that simplifies the infrastructure provided that there is not a zoning board to fight with about a land use permit. However, some members may not have enough house to host it and that can lead to problems. For instance if only one member has enough house or other building then human nature can elevate that person's importance and sway, so prayer needs to be offered that they are up to the task.

-- "New Testament" I assume that is a doctrinal position/view point! I have encountered a few who seemed to to take that to an extreme of being virtually "Old Testament illiterate" So I am curious what it means in this case. Essentially the ways it that term has been used as an adjective are so variable that I do not know what it means in a specific case.

As to the personal dynamics in such a group, I am not sure that there is a definition of how that should go. Personal dynamics within an imprecisely defined group is not my forte (actually in my case it is probably and anti-forte..... meaning that not only do I not do it well, but I am likely to screw it up royally sooner or later). One of my experiences is that I have found that my academic experience sometimes garners extra attention, My PhD is in Mechanical Engineering but my academic approach seems to impress other that I have a lot of theological knowledge and gains me respect that sort of slops over into other areas in an undue manner (If not an un-do manner :shock: ).

Any group is likely to pick up from time to time, people who:
-- are not the sharpest kinfe in the drawer
-- people with strange ideas/interpretations
-- people who cannot take criticism of an idea without taking it as a personal attack
-- etc. Etc. ETC.
-- People who have substantial capabilities and disproportionately larger opinions of those capabilities.
-- some people have leadership skills and if encouraged will use them while others have (or think they have) leadership skills and insist on using them.

If we look at the account of Corinthians, there is a church that went off in a bunch of wrong directions misapplying Christian concepts or incorporating concepts that were not Christian.

Now I suppose I could go off and get a book about house churches, but there are probably enough different books that I could ask 10 questions and get 25 different answers some of which are diametric opposites.

So I would like to get you guys and gals to respond with what you know about the subject, and if anyone has experience to share about naturist home churches, do, please, jump in.

Oh, and I should not neglect legalities, some church leaders have gotten into trouble for such as offering to counsel someone about marriage problems and then gotten sued because they did not have any training in marriage counseling.

Hopefully I have posed the question broadly enough so as to elicit a broad discussion.

P.S. a large part of my interest in this is based on the notion that such churches may be the future (by necessity) for Christianity for many people.
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby jochanaan » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:34 pm

I've been to house churches. Years ago I went with a friend to the house church he was going to, but I thought many of the folks there still had "church" in their minds; it was a more organized, almost liturgical event than I expected. I heard later that there were personality problems in the group.

But for the last two years I've been part of the home naturist Bible study group here in Denver. (I say "the" group since I know of no others.) It's been wonderful! I've never seen such freedom and mutual love in a Christian group. We talk about everything, we sing and pray and share our stories and ideas, all without a designated leader or order of service. It's a great example of simple, organic (as opposed to manufactured), home worship.

("New Testament" here means "organized like churches in the 1st Century" and does not preclude deep study in the Law and Prophets.)
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby bn2bnude » Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:11 am

The buzz words you mention remind me of a particular type of church advocated by Frank Viola in his "Reimagining Church" book.

There are all sorts of "house churches" but many people consider a house church just a church that meets in a house with a pastor and some singing.

While I've heard of both Simple and "New Testament" churches, I don't know what people consider them to be.

Viola talks about Organic in the sense that there is no official leader other than Jesus through the Holy Spirit. There is no planned agenda other than what the Holy Spirit leads.

I would recommend you read his book, although it is really part 2 of several parts.
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby Bare_Truth » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:39 am

It would seem to me that the propagation of such independent small groups would be prone to generate numerous groups that would tend toward heterodoxy and heresy by "going off the track", often under the influence of a particularly persuasive member. I can well imagine that this is how gnosticism and other heresies got a foothold in apostolic times.

If we look at the non-mainstream cults of today, did they not often start small under the leadership of a particularly effective persuasive leader, who successfully pruned the group through disfellowshipment of those who might effectively disagree with him/her.

One would not expect to see someone like Charles Taze Russell join a Methodist congregation and lead them off to be Jehovah's Witnesses! Rather; one would expect to see it start as a small group with a particularly effective and persuasive speaker/leader preying upon the more vulnerable among us.

Does not Matthew 18:1-7[1] address the concept of those who mislead those of simple faith, and doesn't Acts 20:28-30 [2]speak of the same risk. and are not overseers appointed to reduce the risk and even they may be the problem themselves? It seems that there are some grave risks attached and small flocks are particularly vulnerable. It seems that there are some disproportionately large risks attached.

Quoted for Convenience:
[1]Mat 18:
1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 ¶Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

[2]Acts 20:
28 ¶Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby Petros » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:23 am

There are house churches waiting to become boc churches [and in somer cases hoing for the megachurch breakthrough], and house churches like that run here by a very great person many years that just wants to be a small personakl association, and those variously nazmed things that are satellites of a Big Box or megachurch intended to give each mermber some face time instead of the stadium experience Sunday morning in one of the three services televised to the four campuisses.

Never been part of one.
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby jasenj1 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:49 am

Bare_Truth wrote:It would seem to me that the propagation of such independent small groups would be prone to generate numerous groups that would tend toward heterodoxy and heresy by "going off the track", often under the influence of a particularly persuasive member. I can well imagine that this is how gnosticism and other heresies got a foothold in apostolic times.



That's my primary concern with house churches in a place like the USA. The USA has plenty of doctrinally sound (reasonably) denominations and churches. Churches led by pastors who have studied at seminaries, know a bit of Hebrew & Greek, and generally have a solid education.

A house church with no official leader sounds like a bunch of ignorant people getting together to reinforce their own misinterpretations.

Would you rather go to a doctor who studied at medical school? Or get together with a group of friends and all talk about your ailments & what you read on the Internet that might cure them?

That is not to belittle the value of a small, intimate group to study with. Sunday School, community group, home study, whatever the popular term is this month (my church has gone through three different names for "Sunday School" since I've been there) is very important. But, IMHO, it should be done under the supervision of trained leadership who are also under authority.

An extreme hierarchy also has its problems (see Roman Catholic Church). The New Testament churches were under the supervision of the Apostles, and Paul wrote numerous letters to the local churches calling out the error of their ways.

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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby Petros » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:47 pm

Oh, mon.

As a fully studied up degreed up guy, lemme tell you - eddication aznd certificates tells you NOTHING.

I know some degreed guys who are in touch with the Spirit whose preaching I would hear for rapt hours. I know some "ignorant unqualified uncertified Joe Blows" who are just as great.

AND I know "qualified" folks who are plain dumb iggerant and really out of touch. And some unqualified ditto.

How does it go?

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

AND

How knoweth this man letters, having
never learned?
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

I could go on, but why?
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby natman » Wed Jan 22, 2014 4:20 pm

I think that as I read through Paul's epistles, I get the impression that there were indeed groups that met in houses. However, there also appear to be a generally larger gathering (forum) of local believers. For instance, I do not get the impression that Timothy nor Titus led small gatherings at single individual's homes but oversaw larger gatherings of believers.

I do believe that there is great benefit in having closely knit small sub-groups of a larger assembly, where personal needs can be expressed and met without having to approach the entire assembly. However, care must be taken not to allow those sub-groups to splinter off into their own theology lest heresy can quickly grow.

My wife was a member of a house-church which did essentially that. The lead family CLAIMED to be "Calvinistic", but what they really were was condemning (as in "You're going to Hell!!!") of anyone and everyone who did not think EXACTLY like they did at the time. Unfortunately, because she thought they were teaching the right things at the time, she allowed them to discipline her oldest son (probably more harshly than necessary and ungracefully), for which he has not gotten over to this day. :(
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby jasenj1 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:53 pm

Petros wrote:As a fully studied up degreed up guy, lemme tell you - eddication aznd certificates tells you NOTHING.

Agreed. But I would hope having a piece of paper saying you went through formal training makes incompetence less likely than some random person leading a group.

And if the church is affiliated with a denomination, I would hope there'd be a way for the congregation to complain up the food chain that the pastor they have is a lemon.

It's people. It's messy. It's amazing God gets anything done through us. :?


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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby pipermac » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:46 pm

jasenj1 wrote:
Petros wrote:As a fully studied up degreed up guy, lemme tell you - eddication aznd certificates tells you NOTHING.

Agreed. But I would hope having a piece of paper saying you went through formal training makes incompetence less likely than some random person leading a group.

And if the church is affiliated with a denomination, I would hope there'd be a way for the congregation to complain up the food chain that the pastor they have is a lemon.

It's people. It's messy. It's amazing God gets anything done through us. :?


- Jasen.


Some of those "degreed-up" folks are idiots...educated to a higher-level of stupidity. All one has to do is look at Stephen F. Hawking, the great physicist...who is an atheist.

I appreciate the role of formal training for the ministry. It does help...A LOT. One denomination that I am aware of eschews formal education for their pastors. "Sermons" I have heard in a couple of their churches were, AT-BEST, sharing the pastor's ignorance.

The denomination that the church I attend belongs to (PCA) has a formal procedure for determining the qualifications of prospective pastors. Each candidate must pass a licensing and ordination exam, given by a committee of experienced pastors. Some candidates don't pass the first time, even after graduating from seminary. The same procedure is also necessary for pastors coming from another denomination.

I would personally shy away from an "independent" home church. If it isn't under the oversight of another church body, as in perhaps a mission church/daughter church, the already-mentioned potential for doctrinal error would be a grave concern for me. The reason I mention mission church/daughter church is because I know of a couple of established churches that started as home-churches...mission churches. The church my mom goes to started that way, and will soon celebrate their 20th anniversary. The church that was their "parent-church" also started as a "home-church", and has been around for over 25 years. That church has spawned several other mission churches within a few miles of them.

Now...how do we convince a church to be the "parent-church" for a naturist fellowship? That one will take a mighty act of God, but it is well within His capabilities.

I am naked and unashamed in Christ!

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1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 1:14
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby bn2bnude » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:47 pm

Bare_Truth wrote:It would seem to me that the propagation of such independent small groups would be prone to generate numerous groups that would tend toward heterodoxy and heresy by "going off the track", often under the influence of a particularly persuasive member. I can well imagine that this is how gnosticism and other heresies got a foothold in apostolic times.


While I appreciate your concern about heresy, I would argue that
  1. The concern may be overstated when dealing with some of (not all of course) those that are involved in house churches.
  2. You seem to be making an assumption that what someone in particular believes is doctrinally correct.
One of the things I've been thinking through lately is how long it takes to "popularize" a particular belief.


Wesley was one of the forerunners in the concept of revivals and alter calls. Throughout the 1800s revivals and alter calls became more normal. Now there are a multitude of churches who believe you are "doing church right" if there is no alter call. It took about 300 years.

Darby developed the modern doctrine of dispensationalism. It later gained popularity after Scofield's reference Bible was printed. Today, we have people calling others false teachers if you don't believe it. Less than 200 years.

The so-called Prosperity Gospel has been around for a while but seems to have been gaining ground over the last 50 or so years.

So, this brings my question... Who is it to say that your doctrine or my doctrine is the correct one. If we had agreement, we would have only one denomination. Even the Roman Catholic Church has it's own divisions.

I know I am rambling but...

So we have a church group as large as the Southern Baptist Convention. They get together, talk about issues and vote on what is right and what is wrong. That get's propagated through their schools to pastors, etc.

On the other hand, we have an organic church of maybe 20 people who are lead, not by a leader but by the Holy Spirit. If they do follow a "wrong doctrine" 20 people and likely some others, are affected.

In the Bible, the largest letter that was fighting false doctrine was 1 Corinthians. Remember, however, the start of the book, Paul points out the divisions in the church when he writes: "One of you is saying 'I am of Paul'..." (1 Cor 3). He also points out that the real cause of the problems is those who are living in the flesh not in the Spirit.

Look again at the makeup of the organic churches... Spirit led with Christ at the head.
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If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor 13:1)
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby bn2bnude » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:49 pm

More thoughts come flooding in....

Take a look at the doctrines in your church...

How many of them came, not strictly from the Bible or from the Spirit but from those who came before them. Any tradition in the church charter is a candidate for that.

I grew up in a church that offered communion quarterly. Is this heresy? If not, what about churches who offer communion weekly or even more frequently?

How many of your beliefs can be directly traced from the reformation? Which branch of the reformation? Many of those beliefs can be traced to Augustine who was one of the foremost scholars of his time. There are quite a few people, however, who claim that Augustine was heavily influenced by Greek thought and culture. A couple of beliefs that have their roots in Augustine are predestination and penal substitutionary atonement.

Why do we think the Roman Catholic Church which roots much of the reformation is really more right than the orthodox churches of the same era or even the Coptic churches?

Again, my point is, without realizing it we let our culture and traditions shape our beliefs. Orthodoxy doesn't necessarily mean what is right but what is generally accepted.
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If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor 13:1)
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby bn2bnude » Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:25 am

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1 NLT)



If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor 13:1)
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby Petros » Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:02 am

[jasenj1]

/...I would hope having a piece of paper saying you went through formal training makes incompetence less likely than some random person leading a group./

You can hope.


I will resist the temptation to tell you stories.
[And if the church is affiliated with a denomination, I would hope there'd be a way for the congregation to complain up the food chain that the pastor they have is a lemon.]

On the other hand, if NOT part of a denomination, they can dump him without running into the "defend our incompetents" syndrome. ONE story: A department I was in, one leading light was on loan to another U. Before he came back, he talked the other institution into hiring Prof X. Reason? X was incomptent AND a jerk. Foisting him on the other place meant our hero had a more pleasant home to return to which. Who will tell me this never happens in a denomination [and if you do, I have a story of an incomptent jerk pastor dumped on an unsuspoecting church I was in.]?

[It's people. It's messy. It's amazing God gets anything done through us. :? ]

And THAT you can say again, nem con .
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Re: House Church - How does that work (and not work)

Postby natman » Thu Jan 23, 2014 8:11 am

bn2bnude wrote:So we have a church group as large as the Southern Baptist Convention. They get together, talk about issues and vote on what is right and what is wrong. That get's propagated through their schools to pastors, etc.

On the other hand, we have an organic church of maybe 20 people who are lead, not by a leader but by the Holy Spirit. If they do follow a "wrong doctrine" 20 people and likely some others, are affected.


Joel, I think I see your point about the overall influence of extra-Biblical (traditional) or heretical teachings in a large body church vs a small home-church. However, apart from the Roman Catholic Church with it's Papal Encyclicals and edicts, most other larger denominations are very slow to change because they are steered by a larger body of elders. At the same time, we have seen many sizable "church" bodies grow out of a tiny home church with questionable practices (think Jim Jones or the Moonies).

bn2bnude wrote:Look again at the makeup of the organic churches... Spirit led with Christ at the head.


I would say that probably every splinter denomination began by someone who THOUGHT they were being led by "The Spirit" away from their original mainstream body, if they even had one. Many times, when people cannot justify their beliefs Scripturally, they claim that the Holy Spirit led them to believe it, similar to someone saying "God told me to get a divorce.". I have no problem with "Spirit Led", as long as it is the RIGHT "Spirit" which is leading.
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