by David M. Hebden
The reasons that people “home church” are as diverse as the people who make up the gatherings. This is not an exhaustive explanation and will no doubt evolve as time goes on. These thoughts originated from responses to this question on HCDL.
Some of us simply came to the conclusion that home church is the pattern as revealed in the scripture for the church to meet and were metaphorically dragged from the traditional “church” kicking and screaming by our conscience and understanding of the scripture.
We found that we could no longer support being part of an organizational structure that was not supported in the scriptures. For instance there is no biblical support for the one pastor/minister denominations that we see all around us where believers gather once or twice a week generally on a Sunday, face forward as in a cinema, and watch what amounts to a performance which they might be privileged to have a small part in. This just does not exist in the New Testament, where believers gathered in homes in smallish groups and shared their life and faith with one another face to face.
Not all of those who are lumped in with the “home church” label gather in a home. Some groups are a bit large for the average living room and so gather in a hall or some such. They don’t call the building a church, however. Generally though we have in few if any paid “ministers” and no one person takes a central position in our meetings. All are free, and encouraged to take part in the proceedings. This leads to another reason some of us are in home churches.
Many of us over the years found that the established churches simply could not offer us real relationships and connectedness with other believers. (How can you fellowship with the back of someone’s head whilst listening to someone up front conduct the service?) At best we found the relationships we were able to have (developed after the “service”) to be superficial. We thirsted for more, but it was not to be found within the controlled structure of the “service.” (Just who was being “served” by whom anyway?)
If we had something to share we were told to be quiet, and if we were actually permitted to share and it did not fit with the agenda of the minister or leaders we were in some cases simply ignored and in others all but destroyed by the attacks we endured in the name of “truth and unity” or whatever. All this because we simply wanted the opportunity to share with our brothers and sisters something of what the Lord was showing us or doing in our lives. We sadly, painfully left and have now found the delight of meeting face to face in homes or halls and sharing something of our lives and more especially His Life together.
Imagine our delight when we found that this was not only real but scriptural too. (We had been taught that the Sunday morning service was “church” and, that if we neglected this “gathering together” we were in dire spiritual trouble.) We found that gathering together a pile of building materials in one place does not make a building, rather they need to be fitted together and joined one to another. Even neat structured piles cannot be lived in, at best they offer temporary protection.
This leads us to another reason some of us gather in this way in homes. There is ample reason to do so basing our rationale on the scripture alone, for many this is sufficient reason alone and so it should be.
For myself and many others this is not the reason that we stay. It is not that we are not convinced that it is scriptural, of this we are in no doubt. It is the fellowship and life that keeps us. Nowhere else have we found the safety and simple freedom to share our lives in our Lord with others.
It is not always peaches and cream. Nothing ever is where sinful human beings are concerned. Indeed the organized traditional churches actually do a good job of protecting their adherents from one another simply because of the structure and the lack of opportunity for them to interrelate. This is not so in the home churches. We are eyeball to eyeball with one another. It can be very scary for the average person to find out that there is nowhere to hide. Yet we find out that while there is nowhere to hide, there is no need to do so because we are loved. Instead of defending ourselves from one another we learn to welcome each other into our hearts and in doing so become something more than a pile of building materials.
We do not lose our individuality but rather our love binds us together as we recognize it and accept one another as His gift to each other. We are given the divine privilege of loving and caring for one another. The barriers of pain and hurt take time to come down, but as they do, we find healing and strength in Him as He gives us to each other and in the midst of it all, Himself.
Here are a few Bible references to help along the way:
- All of us minister, not just a particular person, and all are “priests”: 1Cor. 14:26-33, 1Pe. 2.4-10, Rev. 1:6.
- God has given multiple gifts and ministries: 1Cor. 12:7-31, Eph. 4:7-13.
- We meet in homes, or wherever it’s convenient: Col. 4:15, Rom. 16:3-5 and 1Co. 16:19 (same church), Philemon 2, Acts 2:46 (a convenient place that they could all get together until they were kicked out), Acts 4:31 (the place was just that, a place; the church was the people).