House Churches are Not Missionally Engaged

Tuesday Missional Discussion

You are angry. You don’t like my title and you disagree with it intensely. Or … You are happy and you knew it all along. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

I love house churches. I love them theoretically. I love them historically. I love them for their missional potential. I love them for their proven effectiveness in places like China and in experimental communities in Ireland, England, Austrailia and France.

I love them for their simple structures and family atmospheres. At the time when this blog was first written, I was working to plant a cluster of house churches in the Chicagoland. [Note: The housing market fell out and we were unable to move to the community we had planned.]

But …. most house churches in America that I have observed are little cliques that …

  1. Love being together, 
  2. are filled with people who have learning styles that are highly verbal, 
  3. love experiential learning, 
  4. have been burned by an established church at some point in the past, 
  5. are not engaged missionally, 
  6. are overly engaged in critiquing the established church that gave them life (humanly speaking), 
  7. have anti-authoritarian tendencies, and
  8. are simply processing fish that other fisherman caught.
House church planters, you know this is true. How are you overcoming this tendency? Let’s help one another. I’m for you. Let’s do what we do better. Let’s help one another realize the full potential of the house church movement for the glory of the King and the joy of the least, the last and the lost.

4 thoughts on “House Churches are Not Missionally Engaged

  1. Marty, good blog, as usual.
    Though I don’t have extensive experience with house churches, I have seen what you are talking about. To me the deeper problem is that CHRISTIANS are not missionally engaged. Whether in HCs or traditional, most Christians are self-focused and only want their needs to be met.

    The challenge is getting them beyond that. Can HCs do it better than traditional churches? I don’t know. But let’s raise the bar of what it means to be a Christ-follower in the world today.


  2. Marty,
    Your list of eight observations are correct! I’ve been around house churches over several years..going back to the late 1980’s. (Yes, I’m getting old.) All of the characteristics you stated are pitfalls to the life of the HC (home church) My experience, and this may differ from others, depending upon the time and geographical region one is in, has been that most, as you summed up above, die from various types of introversion. Actually, it appears all 8 of your statements above could fit the ‘introversion’ label.

    The answer to your question? Brother, you’ve probably forgotten more about it than I’ll ever know, but I’ve written about some of this several years ago, and believe the answer is in the proper understanding of the need for defined vision and proper leadership. Seems obvious, but here is a succinct offer to what I’ve observed. Two sections which are linked together.

    1) Defined Vision – Like any church, there must be a defined ‘purpose’ of the HC. If not, all you mentioned will become it’s purpose by default. It will wander off and die…usually after everyone gets to ‘vent’ their frustrations with the ‘institutional church or a pastor, etc’, or they eventually ‘lock horns’ with someone in the group and because of the tendency to run from problems, they simply quit or try another group.

    2) Proper Leadership – IMHO, it must have leadership which is spiritually qualified (working knowledge of sound theology, apt to teach, and with people skills…these demand that we plant with those involved in leadership training), and keeps the vision up front to engage their community, and to reach the unchurched and the lost. I know this is obvious, but most I’ve seen have died because of lack of definable leadership. The lack of defined Leadership makes biblical accountability impossible and reduces the gathering to a ‘yuck it up’ group therapy without absolute truth. Proper leadership will give the HC the needed content, covering, accountability and vision to engage their area fully. If this is missing, the HC will spiral downward into a food buffet and endless carnal chatter, instead of prayer, study, and life producing body ministry with personal followup.

    Brother, so much to say, but I’ve probably already run over your desired length for comments. I can promise you one thing…your desire to plant HCs around the Chicagoland area is wonderful, similar to some things I’m attempting, and will be high on my prayer list. Would love to hear more about the dynamics and vision you are headed toward.

    Thanks for your posts,
    Terry Ivy


  3. Russ Butcher sent this comment in via twitter: [You can follow him @russbutcher ]

    “Depends on Leadership, vision, & focus like any other church. Many exist for those there rather than those not there!”


  4. Well, everything else being equal, if a house church has a ‘me focus’ (what can I get out of it) rather than an ‘us focus’ (what can I give to it) then your comments are true. If a sense of community develops, rather than being individualistic, I think a house church will organically grow (be missional).


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