Tuesday, February 22, 2011

House Church - Reproducibility

When it comes to the house church, reproducibility is a fairly easy thing.  When the house gets too small, it quickly becomes apparent that multiple gathering locations are needed. At that point, a new church is planted.

Let me be clear about a few things. I'm referring here to one group of Christians deciding to gather in two different locations. I'm not referring to the two groups putting up any sort of dividing walls between them. In fact, it could be that different people from the different groups gather together each week. Also, they could all occasionally gather together in a different, larger location such as a park, the beach, or some type of rented facility for the day.

One beauty of the house church is that there is no temptation to fall into the "bigger is better" trap that ensnares some traditional churches.  I'm always impressed when I hear of churches that purposely plant other churches instead of striving to get bigger and bigger.  In the house church, the size of the house has an immediate impact on how many can get together.  In this sense, size (of house) matters. For example, we've found that our home can fit - snugly - about thirty people. If all five families come to a Sunday gathering, then we're at our max.

For all of us, as we live out our Christian faith, we should be sharing the gospel. As this occurs, some people will by the grace of God come to Christ. When this happens, these new believers need to immediately begin getting together with other Christians. Sometimes this happens less formally; sometimes it occurs in the larger gathering. As with all Christians, they need discipleship, encouragement, fellowship, etc. As God adds numbers to His church, it will grow. Therefore, the house church should be seeking to multiply.

This is not automatic.  If the house church takes a hunker down, "us-against-the-world" approach, then there likely will be no multiplication.  It may be that a few families will remain together for years and years with no growth. This is problematic if they are making no attempt to reach out with the gospel. God gives the growth, but He normally chooses to do so in combination with our obedience in witnessing.

One other variable that makes multiplication easier within the house church model is the lack of need for and/or expectation of clergy. Because the house church rejects the concept of a separate clergy class, there is no need to wait for someone to reach some sort of special status of education in order to serve as an elder within the church. Multiplication does not have to wait for man-made criteria to be reached. Instead, people can choose to begin gathering in multiple groups and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The house church, then, is perfect for the multiplication of local bodies of believers (again keeping in mind that no artificial dividers exist between the bodies).  This only occurs, however, if we are faithful to carry out our commission to make disciples.


Aussie John said...


So right.

A good practice is for each group to have a regular combined gathering, (monthly, six weekly)for obvious reasons, with a message/exhortation/teaching from a recognized elder of one of the groups.

Eric said...


That's a good idea. I love the flexibility that small groups have in getting together. There are so many different ways and places that they can meet. Even when a few house churches gather, there still may be fewer that 100 people. This lends itself to all sorts of great ideas about how to make it happen. Regardless, it's clearly important that it does happen.

Richard Swartz said...

I'm thinking what the typical home in the early church was like. How many people could gather into one of them, comfortably?

From what I can gather, we have 120 people in the upper room, and it insinuates that on the day of Pentecost, it was these same 120 (scripture doesn't seem to explicitly number them). Was the upper room someone's home?

I do not question home groups, or "cell" groups as they're called today. But I do question if this is supposed to be an exclusive practice. In scripture Jesus taught in synagogues regularly, even with the whole city gathered at the door.

Should this be an either/or scenario, or just "whatever is practical" situation?

God bless, Richard

Eric said...


You bring up a good question.

While I don't think churches are required to gather in homes, I do think it is the best option. For one thing, this was the normal practice of the early church. Additionally, homes are intimate settings that are great for conversation.

I wrote a post on this subject last month. If you like, you can read it here: