(This is a rewrite and update of an earlier lost post.)
The house church concept has matured over the years and now goes by a couple of different names including: house church, simple church, organic church. Of late, Iâ€™ve heard the term simple church used the most.
Iâ€™ve been intellectually interested in the simple church model for some time. My first introduction to the concept was from friends of ours who got involved in a â€œhouse churchâ€ back in the late 80s or early 90s. I then heard about the house churches of China and India where they are a primary way Christians seem to gather. Here is the America, simple church has been â€œunder the radarâ€ which has made it hard to get any real understanding of the concept, but thatâ€™s beginning to change.
House2House.com, a ministry to encourage the model, describes â€œsimple churchâ€ this way:
By â€™simple churchâ€™, we mean a way of doing and being church that is so simple that any believer would respond by saying, â€œI could do that!â€
By â€™simple churchâ€™, we mean the kind of church that is described in the New Testament. Not constrained by structure but by the needs of the extended family, and a desire to extend the Kingdom of God.
By â€™simple churchâ€™, we mean a church that listens to God, follows His leading and obeys His commands.
By â€™simple churchâ€™, we mean spiritual parents raising spiritual sons and daughters to establish their own families.
House Church is a term sometimes used in the way we use the term Simple Church. It can be confusing in that: A Simple Church may or may not meet in a house (it can meet anywhere).
I ran across this video produced by House2House at exagorazo. It gives an overview of the simple church concept. I found it thought provoking.
It is not surprising to find that, according to The Barna Group, the biggest obstacle to the growth of the house church model is not theological, but cultural.
“Americans are emotionally open to belonging to a house church, and surprisingly few have any real objections to others joining such a community of faith,” said George Barna. “But the main deterrent to house church growth is that most people are spiritually complacent; they are not looking to upgrade their spiritual experience. Compared to conventional church attenders, house church adherents are much more likely to say that they have experienced faith-driven transformation, to prioritize their relationship with God, and to desire a more fulfilling community of faith.â€
Here are some interesting stats that give me a better feel for the simple church concept. Iâ€™m quoting directly here from a press release issued by The Barna Group regarding their research into this model.
â€Most house churches (80%) meet every week, while 11% meet on a monthly basis. The most common meeting days are Wednesday (27%) and Sunday (25%), while one out of every five (20%) varies the days of the week on which they meet.
â€The typical house church gathering lasts for about two hours. Only 7% meet for less than an hour, on average, while only 9% usually stay together for more than three hours at a time.
â€While most conventional churches follow the same format week after week, four of every ten house churches (38%) say that the format they follow varies from meeting to meeting. The proportion of home gatherings that typically engage in spiritual practices include:
- 93% have spoken prayer during their meetings.
- 90% read from the Bible.
- 89% spend time serving people outside of their group.
- 87% devote time to sharing personal needs or experiences.
- 85% spend time eating and talking before or after the meeting.
- 83% discuss the teaching provided.
- 76% have a formal teaching time.
- 70% incorporate music or singing.
- 58% have a prophecy or special word delivered.
- 52% take an offering from participants that is given to ministries.
- 51% share communion.
- 41% watch a video presentation as part of the learning experience.
â€The average size of a house church is 20 people; in the home churches that include children, there is an average of about seven children under the age of 18 involved. The rapid growth in house church activity is evident in the fact that half of the people (54%) currently engaged in an independent home fellowship have been participating for less than three months. In total, three out of every four house church participants (75%) have been active in their current gathering for a year or less. One out of every five adults has been in their house church for three years or more.
â€The research found that there are two types of people being attracted to house churches. The older participants, largely drawn from the Boomer population, are devout Christians who are seeking a deeper and more intense experience with God and other believers. The other substantial segment is young adults who are interested in faith and spirituality but have little interest in the traditional forms of church. Their quest is largely one of escaping outdated structures and institutions.â€
I donâ€™t believe simple church will become the dominate form of gathering here in America, but it certainly is gaining adherents and influence. From those I know who are involved in one and from the Barna research, they appear to be more missionally minded also.
Update: Andrew Jones (tallskinnykiwi) has done a George Barna on House Church post. Andrew is always a good read.