So What Do We Do in House Church? {Leaving the church – Part 5}

 

So, I’ve been talking a bit about our journey in leaving the IC (institutional church) but I haven’t said much yet about what we’re doing instead.  And I understand that’s an imbalanced message – like a gospel about what you’re saved from instead of what you’re saved to.  But have no fear, I have no intention leaving this series in the negative.

 

Right now we “officially” meet on Friday nights and Sundays (sometimes a couple of people come over on Wednesday evenings, too – mostly because we’re so used to doing that from being in the IC so long).  But it’s not uncommon for some of us to see each other more often than that.  One girl in particular has become sort of the 7th member of our family and she’s here most days – we shop together, we clean together, we hoop together – we “do life” together.

church at home

On Friday nights people start arriving at around 5:00 and often times don’t leave until 10:00 or later.  We all pitch in to bring food, we hang out,  we play board games, we play video games, we play music, and we share passages from the Bible that we’ve recently read or we think need to be heard at our gathering.  Often times someone comes with a stressful situation that they’ve been dealing with and we all sit around scripture and find comfort and guidance for them in The Book. Truthfully we’ve been meeting on Friday nights for probably more than 2 years now, we just didn’t have the freedom to call it “church” yet.

 

 

Sometimes we’re blessed with the company of a certain musician who writes new songs about as often as she breathes.

 

 

Sundays are similar to Fridays, except longer.  People start showing up around 10:00 or 11:00 and “church” lasts all day.  People come and go as they are able.  Some people stay until dark (or well after).  Some people go home and take a nap and then come back again.  Some people come after they’ve left their Institutional Church.  We spend the whole day together just trying to be a family in Christ and build each other up, learn from each other.

 

 

Basically, we’re trying to learn to live more in community, to love more sincerely, to sacrifice our time and gifts for each other, to learn, to study, to grow.  We don’t desire to be rogue “feet” broken off from the body of Christ, like many worry we are.  We’re not dismembered.  We are still the body of Christ.

 

 

We don’t pretend to be perfect.  We don’t pretend to be experts at this following God outside of man-made institutions.  This is a journey and we haven’t arrived yet.  But at least we feel like we’re on the right path now.  And we are willing to listen to those who have gone before us.

 

My dad is an excellent story teller.

We babysit for each other, help each other out financially when one of us is in need, visit each other in the hospital, drive each other back and forth to work when a car is broken, pray for each other, laugh with each other, take day-trips with each other.

 

I don’t know what else to say about it, really.  It feels so much easier to “be the body” when there aren’t more members than you can even know by their first name.  It feels so much easier to have intimate friendship and fellowship with a small number of people that you can truly get to know.  It feels so much more natural to function when leadership can arise naturally and not arbitrarily.  It feels so free to not be constrained by time-tables, or “merely rules taught by men” (like so often happens in the IC).  It feels good to not have to fake anything, to smile and nod, to superficially greet.  It feels good to have open participation so questions can always be asked or answered in the moment when scripture gets confusing.

 

It feels like Jesus, and his Spirit, just might be in our midst.

 

 

 -Jessica

Comments

  1. Sent you an email with questions about the New Testament and it’s teachings concerning elders and deacons. Trying to understand this a little better. Thinking that many, many institutional churches started out as house churches and grew? Then, they ordained deacons and elders to help with the larger congregations? I understand that you are staying away from existing denominations. Makes me think, however, that this is how denominations began.

    • Like I stated in the post, I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ll answer your questions to the best of my ability. And hopefully my husband will be able to help answer some of the questions, too.

      It would seem to me that Deacons (better translated, “servants”) weren’t appointed until the gathering was quite large and a problem arose within the body for service. At this point, we are small enough that that isn’t an issue. Like I said, we already serve each other as needed.

      Elders (or pastors) I think are natural leaders (of God’s gifting) that will be present in every body of believers. They are wise and knowledgeable and help to make sure that the gathering doesn’t veer off course into a crazy, unbiblical direction. I believe my husband has that gifting, for example, and he meets the “qualifications”.

      As far as how most institutions or denominations start out – that’s definitely not our intention. We never want to “graduate” to buying a building, etc. We’re not “branching off” for theological differences or what-have-you. Every denomination of the Institutional Church has a common denominator that we don’t desire – and it hints strongly at man-made religion and a rather unnatural expression of the body of Christ.

      • "Cricket" Renner says:

        But, respectfully, Jessica, aren’t you doing exactly what you say you’re not?

        By saying you’re avoiding things that “hint strongly at man-made religion,” aren’t you defining your group’s man-made rules: you don’t want to graduate to buy a building, you won’t grow so large to need deacons, and your belief that elders are natural leaders.

        How is that different from a group wanting to meet in a building, appointed deacons (an ordained office in the church) and training and selecting elders by the current elders?

        Isn’t that like some churches saying, “We don’t do doctrine.” … isn’t that a doctrine?

        As an aside, and for full disclosure, I’m an elder, and the church I serve in is around 60 members. Supposedly, the average church size in America is about 75, so don’t think “mega-church” in all my comments—I have as many concerns about mega-churches as I do about home churches. (As another aside, a prominent professor at a solid seminary said historical evidence indicates the letters to the Corinthian church were written to a local congregation of about 75 believers.)

        In home churches, where is the accountability if elders are not trained and appointed? (Even Paul went years of training prior to starting his apostolic ministry.) How are disputes settled? Is there a bigger body (like a denomination) one can appeal to?

        There are many institutional churches, especially in America today, that are not living up to what Christ instituted. (For Christ’s institution of His church, His body, His bride, see Matt 16:18, Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” and 1 Tim 4:4, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”)

        Bottom line and to be blunt(sorry I’m so long-winded): What concerns me about the “home church” or “leaving the institutional church” movement are the lack of accountability, the embracing of the very-American (but not Christian) traits of independence / pragmatism / consumerism, and the fact that it can easily (and often does) morph into a sense of self-righteousness (i.e., we don’t GO to church, we ARE the church type of thoughts).

        I write this not to condemn, bully or dismiss, but out of a sincere desire to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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.” Amen.

        • I find that it’s the institution lacking in accountability and over-run with too much independence and consumerism. Ironic! Lol. In too large of a “body” everyone can fake it, hid their sins, check off their Christian check-list (sunday school, check…) and fall between the cracks so as to never be truly discipled. In a small group of mature believers it’s much easier to have true, intimate fellowship, support, training, and accountability. Like Jesus and the twelve.

          • "Cricket" Renner says:

            My dear sister in Christ,

            When you say “it’s the institution lacking in accountability …,” surely you cannot mean EVERY church? If not, then why not continue to seek a true church in the form of a local congregation that is meeting its responsibilities?

            My concerns with those who leave the church and with the home church movement lie in those two answers. Many who seek to leave the “institutional church” condemn the entire church, forgetting that it is something that Christ established. Many who do not condemn the entire church are nevertheless unwilling to submit to elders who may not see everything their way. It reveals the ugliness of American pragmatism – “if this church doesn’t do what I want, then I’m leaving.” If marriage is a shadow of Christ’s love for His church, does this reflect a right attitude (if my husband doesn’t do what I want, then I’m leaving)?

            It’s also interesting to note that in the 2000 years of the Christian church’s existence, it’s only been in the last 50 years or so that the “I’m still a Christian but I’m leaving the church” movement has begun … and this movement is pretty much only in America. What do you think the believers in North Korea, Syria or Iran would give to be able to meet in a biblical “institutional” church with fellow believers, sitting under theologically-rich teaching?

            Another problem with home churches is they can easily become homogeneous. Bodies don’t function too well if they’re all big toes or left ears. No, the body is meant to be a disparate group of sinners who cling to God’s grace together.

            And, I completely agree with your thoughts about large vs. small groups. My little OPC church has 4 elders for our 60 people. A local ‘mega church’ has about 8 elders for 3000+ people. How can they say they are shepherding a flock that large? Not very well, if they’re honest.

            Finally, take a moment and read this excellent article: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1&var3=main . Is your frustration with the “church” or with the Christless Christianity being preached in so many of American churches today?

          • Christ did not establish the institution. He established the truth church. We are the true church.

        • I think what we have here… again: A consistent theme these last 9 months of Cricket commenting on my own blog – is a failure to really LISTEN.

          If he were really listening – he would find he has less words, less concerns and an ability to allow the HOLY SPIRIT to lead in others lives. If we are saying that there is more authority and accountability in a local established church – over say a home church… aren’t we forgetting the Holy Spirit. That pesky little fellow who happens to be given as a gift. A gift that will lead the believers into all truth. ALL TRUTH. Wow. What a great responsibility.

          Many churches when first established have started in just this way… LISTEN first. In mom and pop diners, in living rooms, in basements, in backyards and back alleys. CAN’T WE for one moment extend grace to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Because the church in America, not all, but many… has become more about an American Agenda (A rush limbaugh agenda, a republican agenda, a Glenn Beck agenda, etc) instead of GOD, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ Agenda.

          If a family can not leave – for whatever reason and we give this leaving 100% to God who has plans for the Bowmans, for the McGuires, for the Smiths and the Lewises that NONE of us can claim to know… if we can’t step back and praise God that she and I and many like us still love the Bride of Christ, still love church in many forms, but are NOT willing to stand in the lies that God’s people are perpetuating in the name of Jesus Christ – then we are all screwed. Because we think more highly of the church – then we do Jesus. That makes the church pretty close to an idol, which would then make us as participants of that church – gods. Look at all the cute little church gods running around.

          I’m sorry this is long Jessica. I stopped a similiar conversation on my blog – because I am leading men and women in reading God’s word, NOT an overanalyzation of the church. Cricket, if you are an Elder you should be a man of prayer. and I am afraid that you have continued to make me FEEL (whether that is your intention or not) that the choices I make to follow my Husband, be led by a pastor (yes a real life man of God) and to Stand the same as you before God, the holy spirit literally alive IN me – you have made me feel less like than as a woman of God. That isn’t because I feel convicted of some sin I have NOT committed before God. (which pisses me off that you continue to tote that line of concern that I am feeling convicted that is why I react so strongly) I react strongly to your words – because you sound like every “man of church” who claims concern – while he wages war on the hearts of (wo)men by breaking their spirits and judging their hearts (only God can judge what is sin in my heart – when you step in that space, across the internet – you sin against me and against God) Shame on you. You sound like every man who can speak the Christianese and quote scripture and claim authority as an elder – but can not extend one ounce of the love of Jesus Christ to families who are choosing to follow Jesus – accountable to Jesus.

          Since when do we need 12.4 additional mediators to hold us accountable before God?

          I think you forget who is LORD of our hearts… who has all the answers… who can lead us to be a true church and truly convict us if we are not living as he intended. I trust the bowmans to Jesus… I trust my family to Jesus… I trust all churches mega and small to Jesus…
          He is so much better at weeding out what is false… so much better at seeing it for what it is BECAUSE there can be nothing false about him. NONE of us can say that.

          Love you guys and am praying that God continues to show you the mighty work of His Holy Spirit – He has brought you to where you are for a reason and don’t let some online elder bully man make you feel that your choice is not accountable and with the authority we have been given as Children of God.
          Jessica recently posted..Bible in 90 Days | Day 19 {linkup and Q&A}My Profile

        • Mark Loeffler says:

          Rethinking the role of elders and pastors: http://frankviola.org/straight.pdf

  2. Jessica, thank you for posting that response. I could not put into words what Elisabeth did, so thanks to her too. :)

  3. (I am smiling when I write this) I think God is with you in this move therefore it can’t help but grow ,and very quickly with God’s blessing you will not have room for all the hungry believers that want to fellowship and study God’s word with you. Be prepared for the workings of the Lord and be amazed.

    • I think I will be writing about this in the future, but it’s been interesting how it’s already grown. Although I know that it’s all still new and everything is exciting when it’s being birthed.

  4. This looks great! I wanna come over, but the plane ticket would be way out of my budget
    LaToya {Christian Momma} recently posted..Letter GMy Profile

  5. Yeah, a couple of us here are totally jealous. Of your house church AND your weather…lol.

  6. This has been a very interesting series of posts. I really enjoyed this glimpse inside your church, it made my heart leap with joy. I am so happy for you, your family, and your church. God bless!

  7. I keep meaning to share this link with you and any NC readers who may be interested. Dear friends & mentors of ours belong to a house church in NC. They have several now as members have moved to other places. (This is where we would most likely have gone if we stayed in NC.) And maybe they can be an encouragement to you as you walk this new “church” path a little further south!
    http://sojournersnc.org/
    Jenn recently posted..Fighting to RememberMy Profile

  8. "Cricket" Renner says:

    I read with great sadness your articles about leaving the institutional church, or what the Bible calls the church.

    I pray for the Holy Spirit to remove the scales which see the church as the problem. This is a great heresy in America today, and surely Satan rejoices when a Christian leaves the church and creates their own group.

    The church is Christ’s bride, His body, what He died for. How can one read Ephesian 5:22-32 and despise the church?

    Are there problems in today’s churches? Yes. Are some (many) churches today wrong in their theology, church government, etc? Absolutely!

    The Bible was written to the church, and indeed many of the letters were written to individual congregations (for instance 1 Cor 1:2, “To the church of God which is at Corinth …”), validating the idea of the institutional church as something God ordained.

    So, if the church you are in is ungodly (not faithfully preaching the Word of God, not properly observing the Lord’s Supper and baptism, not exercising church discipline), then you must leave. If, however, there are disagreements (not in the categories I just mentioned) in the church you are in, then what is the proper response? It’s to follow Matt 18:15-20 that Jesus gave us … which includes submitting to the authority of the church.

    Did Christ appoint apostles? Yes. Did they appoint elders and deacons? Yes. So, how can leaving the organization of the “institutional church,” made up of elders and deacons, be correct in any way, shape or form? Christ appointed that authority: read Titus 1 & 2.

    Only in extremely rare circumstances can it be right to leave a church and not seek going to another church. Satan loves “lone ranger” Christians, as they are easy targets, not under submission to any appointed-authority, and can come up with any false doctrine / theology on their own.

    I plead with you, if you love Christ, you must love the body (the institutional church), and you must show this love by being with the Lord’s people in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day. After all, Jesus did.

    • I appreciate your concern. But we are not “lone ranger Christians”. And we haven’t left the (true, biblical) “gathering” or “called out ones”. We are still the church. <3

    • How is it creating your own “group”? Aren’t we all on the same team… whether inside a church building or in our living rooms? Aren’t families who follow Jesus allowed to make different decisions about where they go to church – or is in only ok if it is inside an established, labeled, masses “approved” gathering? Can’t the Holy Spirit be… even here? Guiding them? Showing them? Teaching them?
      Who will be drawn into this home? Those who have been injured or have lost hope… those who desperately need a space to be free to be themselves and love Jesus – but this isn’t good enough?

      Did you read what she wrote, Cricket? or just jump full into judging? Did you read unbiased? probably not because we all read with a bias…
      Jessica recently posted..Bible in 90 Days | Day 16My Profile

  9. Elisabeth says:

    Interesting points. I do think you will grow if you aren’t exclusive. Of course, the church has many problems that are a result of the sin nature in all of us, whether it meets in a building or a home. You are part of the bride of Christ, as am I. I feel that neither the church building nor the home is exempt from false doctrine, bitterness, disputes. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is able to work in our hearts and bind us together. We must hold up every teaching to Scripture and be Bereans. Godspeed!

  10. I absolutely LOVE THIS!!!! If only all churches were like this… I can’t even imagine what the body of Christ would be like!!!

  11. "Cricket" Renner says:

    Sorry, I couldn’t figure out on your blog how to make this response to your 18 Jan, 8:32 pm post, so I’m posting it here at the bottom.

    You say you are the true church—maybe. My “institutional church” is, as well. But declaring it so does not make it so.

    The great minds of the Reformation agreed these are the marks of a true church:
    1. Faithful preaching of the Word of God
    2. Proper observation of the Christ-instituted sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper
    3. Proper church discipline
    Can/do home churches qualify? Yes. But so do many (but definitely not all) “institutional” churches.

    I’ll not co-opt your blog any longer, but I speculate we disagree if non-trained pastors can or should try to do #1. In America today where there are many excellent seminaries, why would someone who seeks to be a pastor / teaching elder not go to seminary? (After all, Paul, who was trained for years as a Jewish teach still waited several years to mature as a Christian prior to starting his ministry. He also took time to train men prior to appointing them as elders.) Would you go to a doctor who had not been to medical school? Why, then, have a teaching elder who has not been trained?

    We would also probably disagree if non-ordained elders qualify to do # 2 and 3. Self-appointed elders are non-biblical, and in addition, can easily lead the flock astray (read Acts 20:30). I pray for your small group, and for the unity of Christ’s church in the bond of peace and truth.

  12. "Cricket" Renner says:

    Praise the Lord! I pray your husband faithfully fulfills his calling there in your small group, and the believers are encouraged to love the church!

    In His service in the chilly state of Alaska,
    “Cricket”

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