Wednesday, March 2, 2011

House Church - Challenges (Part 1)

Thus far in this extended series on house church life I've focused primarily on positive aspects. The reality, however, is that house churches have challenges as well. The main reason for this is that, like all churches, house fellowships are composed of people. Since we all still struggle with sin, we will inevitably face challenges.

As I've thought through various challenges, I managed to boil it down to ten.  I'll address five in this post and five more in the next.  Some of these challenges are things that I've experienced while others I've simply read about.

1. Pride. I believe this is the greatest danger to any church including house churches. When we act prideful, we are basically saying that we know best, we act best, and we are best. Yikes.

This can be a particular challenge within the house church as it relates to how the church should function. First, we can become prideful in our attitudes toward those in institutional/traditional churches. Since most within the house church have made a decision to leave institutional churches for biblical reasons, it is dangerously easy to slide into the sin of thinking we are somehow better. Second, even within the house church itself we can get prideful in how we think things "should be." This may be how we think the gathering should go, when we should get together, what leadership should look like, etc., etc., etc.

We must always be on the lookout for pride in our lives. We are no better than anyone else. We must remember this.

2. Differing beliefs within the body.  House churches do not typically have statements of faith.  In part because of this the beliefs about secondary doctrines and practices may vary widely.  This can be theological beliefs such as what the Lord's Supper means, views of what the church should be and do, or something like how parents should interact with their children.

If we make the mistake of thinking that we all must agree on all these issues, then we are going to have some serious problems. As it relates to pride, we also often think that what we believe is necessarily right and good. Instead, what we need to do is realize that there will be many things that we will not agree upon. This is fine. We can and should be united even with differing beliefs.

For example, I know that within our house church family we have wide-ranging beliefs on the issue of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility as they relate to salvation.  These differences have not caused a problem and I pray they never do.

3. False Teaching. I'm thankful that this is one that I've never experienced. Let me say that when I use the term "false teaching," I'm referring to those who teach against core doctrines of the faith.

I've been warned by others who have been in house church life for some time that false teaching is a real danger.  The reason is that false teachers will come to gatherings, in an open format, and simply begin spouting falsities.  This is why some house fellowships have statements of faith.

As Paul warned in Acts 20, this is a real danger we must stand against.

4. Authenticity. This is both a positive and a challenge of house church life. It is very real.

This can be wonderful, but it can also be difficult and/or messy.  In a home setting, you get to see things about people that are great and that, well, aren't.  They get to see the same about you as well.  There is simply no place to hide.

Of course, the real problem here is that we often don't want to get too deep into others' problems. We tend to be too self-focused to really engage in others' difficulties. So in the end, this is a heart issue. If we are going to be part of house church life, we had better look at ourselves first, determine to care for others, and be ready to share in their problems. Putting pride away, we should also share our own problems with others.

5. Pragmatics.  Some challenges are unavoidable.  For example, houses are limited in size.  Sometimes when everyone comes to a gathering it gets very tight.  Eventually a lack of space will cause the church to meet in different locations, but for the time being it just makes for close quarters.

There can be other pragmatic challenges as well such as parking space, amount of food (trying to have not too much but not too little), enough chairs, etc.  A lot of these issues have to do with the gathering place.

The great thing is that all of these challenges are solvable and offer opportunities for the church to grow spiritually as we discuss them.

I'll discuss five more challenges for the house church in my next post.

We must deal with these in a Christ-honoring manner.  Challenges can be beneficial but they can also do great harm.  The key is how we address them.


Alan Knox said...


I've been thinking through this post today. I agree with you that these are challenges for house/simple/organic churches.

But, I wonder... aren't these challenges for all churches? I think they may manifest themselves in different ways, but I think all groups of Christians face these same issues.


Eric said...


I suppose all churches face these to one degree or another. However, traditional churches often have man-made structures in place that may keep these from happening. For example, statements of faith sort of tell people what they are supposed to believe. The "worship service" format sometimes keeps false teachers from speaking up. The size keeps real authenticity from occurring. The building offers much space.

I'm not saying these are good things, but they may keep certain challenges from happening at least as quickly.

Of course, these man-made remedies usually lead to even bigger problems.

Alan Knox said...


I would probably say that the man-made structure tend to hide things like differences of belief and false teaching. But, I don't think the structures keep them from happening.


Jeffrey said...

One thing I've leaned about differing beliefs on secondary issues, is that they are an opportunity to re-examine one's own beliefs. It's an opportunity to either reaffirm or correct one small aspect of one's belief system. Either way, you win.

It's like the gene pool. The reason you shouldn't marry your cousin is because your genetic defects are too similar. The offspring do not benefit from the strengths of one, filling in the weaknesses of the other. Vive la difference.

Eric said...


I love the process of conversation about important issues, as you are talking about. I agree that we can sharpen one another. It's refreshing to be in a church body where we can have these discussions, maybe disagree, and still remain united. We grow in sanctification even through the process.