“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.”—–Romans 16:3-5a
“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”—–1 Corinthians 16:19
“Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.”—–Colossians 4:15
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house.”—–Philemon 1:1-2
What we believe about the Church is critical to our faith as Christians. So much so that as I was finishing up Bible college, I felt it necessary to write one of my final thesis papers on the topic of the nature and role of Church. I realized that how you define salvation and the life of the individual believer carries over to how you define the body of believers and how the Church functions as a whole.
What I found as I read, and as I continue to read through the whole Bible, is how much our view of church has been greatly influenced by traditions, trends, and the culture in which we live. Much of how we do church has been modeled after how to seemingly get the best results. More people, bigger buildings, and more cash. The justification for an all-of-the-above approach comes from wanting to reach as many people as possible. However in many meetings with pastors over the years I’ve heard little to no talk about discipleship and people maturing in Christ, but rather methods, models, and programs around how to help with people’s “felt needs” and other social issues. The Gospel ends up being replaced in order to cater to the myriads of individual problems of the day.
The conclusion that I have come to from Scripture is that we are either going to follow what the Bible tells us or not. For myself, I have found the best solution, that is mentioned in many places in the New Testament, is the house church. By meeting in people’s homes and basically anywhere else, the Church ends up being freed by location and can focus on the simplicity of multiplying disciples. Many in the traditional church seek to do this through small groups, but the question I always get back to is what is different from a solid biblical small group and what is commonly considered “church”?? Is it that without a “larger” gathering, a worship band, or that “we can do much more together than separate” what defines church?? Or have we just been taught that “church” looks a certain way and the others are just “Bible Studies”??
I’m not at all saying that the only way for Church is a house church. I’m also not saying that meeting in a church building is wrong. What I am saying is that instead of defining church based upon what has been commonly known as “church” or what we want church to be rather than how the Church is defined by God’s Word, can lead to great apostasy and false belief for many.
It is easy to get caught up in all the stuff that makes up churches. On the surface it looks great, attracts masses of people, and seems like it is “spiritual”. But I believe if we take a deep look at churches today against the backdrop of Scripture, we will be challenged to rethink how we define the Church and should cause us to seek eliminate as many hindrances and obstacles to people fully embracing the Truth.
Much of what is done in churches today in and of itself isn’t bad. And some can even be beneficial. However, so much ends up becoming stumbling blocks to people coming fully devoted followers of Jesus. Some examples can be the misguided focus being placed music, technology, numerical growth, programs, and an endless amount of other things.
What I have found built into the nature of house church is the simplicity of all things. Instead of people joining us because we have great music, or the best programs, or a charismatic preacher that tells great stories, people see the Church as the body of believers rather than simply a place they go. My aim is to try to eliminate as many of the distractions as possible that can take our focus off of Jesus and “going and making disciples”. In turn, it frees me to preach God’s Word for what it says without the need of things like sermon series’ and adding other things to Scripture, have music in which we can sing praises to the Lord without the things associated with modern “worship services”, spend time in prayer as we pray and minister to each person there, and encourage and challenge one another as Jesus’ return nears.
Church ends up seeking to be faithful to God rather than focused outward success. Church still happens despite financial giving either being up or down. The size of church gets regulated as the focus has to be on multiplication rather on growing larger and larger. Church is much more interactive as we each do our part to pray for and practically care for those part of the church.
While a lot of the mentality today is to get people involved in the church, many end up falling through the cracks or end up just volunteering for various programs that are considered “ministry”. Real ministry to people growing in faith and obedience to Christ gets lost in justifying what we do rather than who we all should become. Church ends up looking more like a business and institution rather than people making up the Body of Christ. Coming to church, being lost in the crowd, singing some songs, hearing an “inspiring” message, then going home is not the Church. The Church is very different and more than what is seen today. And I’ll venture to say that unless we are willing to adjust our lives and our churches to become what is mentioned in Scripture, the only thing left will be trying to justify ourselves, our methods and models, and really our beliefs.
We must not let the world define the Church. God has already told us. We must be willing to read, study, and apply His Word. It is not good enough to say that “no church is perfect”. We must all strive for complete holiness and obedience to the Lord. This may mean we will need to dramatically change what we believe and how we do church. We must not compromise just to have an audience. We must faithfully preach the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus name and leave the results to God.
As Antelope Heights House we don’t have it all figured out. We just commit to learning, growing, and seeking to apply God’s Word as individuals as well as a church. There are churches that are not house churches that are seeking the same faith and obedience to the Lord and the Bible. I’ve just found why I believe in house church is that it seems to be a lot easier to fulfill being the Church rather than being caught up and distracted by many other things than Jesus and Him alone.