Introduction to House Church Central

God has blessed you with a special kind of Christian fellowship that many have not even tasted. Mt. 18:20 promises that the Lord Jesus himself sits among you as you gather together in his name. You have the power to "bind and loose" --a first-century expression meaning that you are entitled to make decisions that are truly honored in heaven. In fact, you even have the very "keys to heaven," according to Mt. 16:19 where the same phrase also appears.

It is astonishing how many belong to a house church without even knowing it! Let me explain. Open your Bible to Romans 16 and look through vv. 3-16. Can you identify all the house churches? In v. 5 we have the "church" that meets at Priscilla and Aquila's house. There is a group that meets in a "household" in v. 10. In vv. 14 and 15 we find "...and the brothers with them" and "...the saints with them"--other clear references to groups that meet in homes. Many scholars see additional clusters of the gathered people in the other verses in this chapter. From Romans 16 one can say that the word "church" should be defined as any gathering of people that meet on a regular basis in Jesus' name--whether in a house or in some other setting. But why, you might ask, does the word "church" only appear in the first group? Simply because Paul chose the Greek word ekklesia in that verse, and translators are in the habit of translating that word as "church." The word actually means "assembly or group," and is used in the Greek Old Testament to describe any kind of group, even a group of "evildoers" (Ps. 26:5). We have the middle-ages to thank for the English word "church" that means an assembly dedicated to Christian worship, and when we use that word we can't help but bring in all the baggage that we and our culture have attached to it. The point is simply this: many so-called "Bible Studies," "cells," and "small groups" are actually house churches in the true, New Testament sense. They are just like those to whom the letter to the Romans was addressed--and, in fact, just like all the other churches during the first century. None had steeples. None used Robert's Rules of Order. They were just assembles of the "gathered people" (Mt. 18:20).

Anyone who has had a good experience in a house church can attest to the intimacy there and the closeness one feels to God. They are also well known for their ability to bring new people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of their popularity and effectiveness it is no surprise that institutional churches are falling over each other these days to find a way to add "cells" and "small groups" to their ministries.

How do you understand the arrival of Paul's letter in Rome, probably carried by Phoebe (Rom. 16:1)? Your answer will reveal your understanding of the word "church." Did Phoebe rent out a big room at the Holiday Inn and call all the churches together? Did she stand at a pulpit and "preach" the letter to all believers in Rome? Perhaps. The Bible does not say. But I imagine a much more intimate sharing of the letter, perhaps along these lines: Phoebe went to the first house church, she worshipped with the believers present, and then waited until she was invited to share the message from Paul. The reading of the letter was probably followed by a time of discussion, Phoebe making sure that Paul's message was understood. They would have parted with a benediction and holy kisses, and the next day would find Phoebe at the next "church."

The institutional church is an invention of later times. Those that see themselves as places of biblical teaching, celebration, and mission deserve the support of God's people. That so many have started cells and small groups is to be commended. We need to support these churches with our attendance and with our purse. But not all institutional churches have such pure motives.

Many who participate in the small groups of institutional churches sense a frustration--a quenching of the Spirit. They find their groups frequently broken up and new groups established from the scattered remains. Here are some of the reasons that are offered:

  • The big churches do not want their members to form "cliques," and
  • they don't want their small groups or cells to "stagnate."

Are these the real reasons? Or is there a motive of insecurity? A need to still be in control? In any case, you will not find such motives here at House Church Central.

House Church Central is a place where you are encouraged to be a clique--at least in the good sense of the word. As this site will attempt to present elsewhere, the passages found in 1 Cor. 12-14, Rom. 12-15, and Eph. 4 (the so-called "spiritual gift" passages) really speak to you, the house church. They speak of the love that thrives among your members and the respect that you have for the way the Holy Spirit has gifted each of your brothers and sisters. You are a part of the same kind of groups that Paul himself founded and nurtured through his letters. Modeled after the first century synagogue, the idea of the corporate fellowship was absolutely essential. You are, in fact, preparing yourselves to be members of God's family (Eph. 3:15), where you will sit at the table with the Lord himself.
It is true that a house church can stagnate when its focus becomes inward, rather than outward. This is as true in a sanctuary church as it is in a house church. Healthy house churches naturally attract new people, but growth of the house church is not becoming bigger in numbers--rather it is the creation of new house churches! God gifts each house church with the skills necessary for this "multiplication" process to take place, members gradually becoming trained sufficiently well to take on the teaching function of a new church unit.

It is strongly hoped that you will find this site helpful as you worship together and anticipate the second coming of the Lord. You are encouraged to use the House Church Discussion List (HCDL) to send messages to the house church community, as well as to interact with others through e-mail. You also may want to consider registering your house church in the HCC Worldwide Registry so that seekers and those visiting your community might come and "impart a spiritual gift to you" (Rom. 1:11)