Why House Churches Are Flourishing, Part 2

George Barna's research indicates that house churches have seen an 800% increase in recent years from about 1% of the population to 9% of the population involved in a house church. It begs the question, "Why?"

Last week we said that it is not because so many are sick of conventional churches--most house church leaders do their house church on a weeknight and attend a conventional church on weekends. They are not wanting to get away from conventional churches, they just want something more.

We said it was not the location of the house church. If you have a boring Sunday School class and you move it a home, you still have a boring group. You have to change more than geography.

We said it likely had to do with the idea that House Churches tap into the God-given desire we have for dominion. Xenos Church http://www.xenos.org/ and  Mars Hill (Rob Bell, pastor) http://www.marshill.org/ Are two churches that have worked out a pretty good symbiotic relationship between the house church and the conventional church. Both of these churches have a big church / small church concept. The small group is seen as a house church--a microcosm of the church.

(If you missed last week's article, see www.joshhunt.com/mail194.htm )

This week, I would like to talk about two more reasons house churches are flourishing.

It is not about the geography; it does have something to do with time

I have been reconnecting with some old college buddies recently. There are five of us in five different times zones that have been emailing back and forth, catching up on the last 25 years. Three of the five are pretty hard core home group/ house church guys. Two of us are more traditional.

I kept pounding away in these emails about the idea that you have to change more than geography. My friend Bill had this reply, "It is not about the geography; it is about the time. The good stuff nearly always happens in the second hour." The light came on for me.

For a lot of house churches, they have the luxury of lots of time together. They often share a meal, then have a two hour session of singing, fellowship, teaching and prayer. You just can't do this in a Sunday School setting. The additional time changes the whole nature of the experience. (Although, I argued back to my friend Bill that time alone is not the factor either. I have been in more than a few classes where I was glad the time was over!)

Still, the point is well taken. There are lots of things you can't do in small snippets of time. Community is developed in a leisurely, unhurried context.

One answer to this in a Sunday School context is the perspective that Sunday morning is only part of Sunday School. Much of what happens in group life happens outside of Sunday School. I recommend that groups have an "all skate" party once a month and then other smaller parties once or twice a month. In healthy groups, members go to lunch with one another and play golf together and eat together and share meals together and did I mention that they eat together?

My most positive years in group life were the years after we started our Saturday night service and Sunday School. After the service and Sunday School, we would nearly always go out together to someone's house or to a restaurant, or both. It afforded lots of time together. It was a rich era of group life for all of us.

(I wrote this article in response to that conversation with my friends: http://www.joshhunt.com/mail191.htm )

Still, time is on the side of the house church or home group. I acknowledge that. Conventional churches that have success with home groups tend to replace Sunday night with home groups or Wednesday night with home groups. This way, they give their people back some time to spend on their home group.

But, there is another reason why house churches are flourishing.

Attitude

House churches are making some real progress in the United States, but they are not the center of gravity of what God is doing with house churches. The center of gravity is overseas, in places like China.

I just picked up a couple of books on house churches in China:

The first books reads like an extension of the book of Acts. It is amazing.

The title to the second book was a little hard for me to grasp. It refers to a movement among the Chinese Christians to raise up 100,000 missionaries to reach the area between China and Jerusalem--what we call the 10/40 window. The vast majority of the unreached people groups on planet earth are in that window. China wants to reach them. They plan to do it through an explosive movement of doubling house churches.

If you want to look at why house churches are doing well, don't look to the United States, look to China. They are deeply committed to doubling house church groups. There is, perhaps no better example of the power of doubling groups than the house church movement in China.

There is a tendency to read about what they are doing and want to copy the method: maybe we need to do house churches. What we need to do is copy the attitude.

Check out this slice of life for the training course of Chinese House Church leaders. Try this at your next Sunday School training event! (Back to Jerusalem, page 82. I have shortened this some.)

Just as Jesus trained his disciples, so each Back to Jerusalem Missionary receives training in a number of areas:
  • How to reach across cultural and other barriers.
  • How to reach specific groups (Muslims, Buddhists, etc.)
  • How to suffer and die for our Lord. We examine what the Bible says about suffering, and look at how the Lord's people have laid down their lives for the advance of the gospel through history.
  • How to witness for our Lord
  • How to escape. We teach missionaries special skills such as how to free themselves from hand cuffs in 30 seconds.

(I think I will start including that last one in my training seminars!)

There is an attitude the geography and time won't fix. We taught the Chinese about Jesus. We need to learn from the how to live for Him.