We strive to live out Ephesians 4:4-6, where Paul writes, "There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Along these same lines, the house church attempts to avoid any division related to what are commonly referred to as "secondary doctrines." Although doctrines of this type are important, they are not seen as worth dividing over. They may include baptism, the Lord's Supper, spiritual gifts, church polity, etc. Through the years many Christian denominations have formed because of division over secondary doctrines. The house church rejects this idea.
Some house fellowships have statements of faith while others do not. This decision is obviously up to that particular body. Regardless, no man-made statement is used to determine "who is in and who is out" based on secondary doctrines. The dividing line is the gospel. If false teachers of false gospels arise within the body or from the outside, then the church must address this according to scriptural principles. Determined false teachers cannot be allowed to infect the body.
Within the house church there is no special "church membership." The biblical understanding of the church is that the instant a person repents of his sins and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that person also becomes a part of Christ's church. The idea of modern church membership, where some Christians are considered part of a local church while others are not, is foreign to scripture.
All followers of Christ are welcomed within the house church at any time. No man-created divisions exist. The reason for the unity is that we are all together with Jesus as our Head. He determines what unites us; we do not. Jesus deeply desires the unity of His church. Therefore, we strive to live out what we see in His prayer from John chapter 17:20-23, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
We are united in reality, not just "in spirit" as some Christians say. Therefore, we consider ourselves one with all other bodies of believers. We are willing to work in gospel proclamation and mercy ministries with any other Christians.
As you read this post, one obvious thing may come to mind. That thing is this: many, if not most, within the house church have departed from traditional churches in order to be part of house fellowships. This departure seems like an act of disunity. The question then rises, "How can the house church claim to strive for unity when local house fellowships are often formed through what appears to be acts of disunity?"
That's a very good question. It's one that I know many of us have struggled with to one degree or another.
I know of some Christians who would like to depart from their local traditional churches, but they do not believe God has given them permission to leave. Instead, they have remained and intend to slowly work for change. I commend them for this decision. May God bless their sacrificial efforts.
For others (including myself), we could no longer remain in church situations that were so disconnected from what we see in the bible. The institution (big buildings, salaried staff, multiple programs, scripted gatherings, etc.) had become so different from what we read about in the bible that we felt we had no other choice but to leave. This was the only way to be faithful to what we saw described in the bible. I can only speak for myself, but I viewed leaving as an act of obedience rather than an act of disunity.
For those of us in the house church, if we are going to live up to claims of unity, then we need to be willing to serve with those from traditional churches. We need to keep and build relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ who attend institutional bodies. We must see them as one with us even if we do not gather together in the same way on a regular basis.
As for our family, we want to remain united with our friends from Chevis Oaks Baptist Church (where I served as pastor for 2.5 years). That's why this past Sunday afternoon we went to Chevis Oaks for a retirement party for a senior citizen. It was wonderful to be welcomed back with many open arms. Our brothers and sisters there showed us great love even though we had left under somewhat difficult circumstances (our conviction that I could no longer be a salaried pastor). We went to the party out of respect for the family, but also to show that we are still one with the church as a whole.