House church

From Academic Kids

House church is an informal term for a group of Christians gathering regularly or spontaneously in a home instead of a building dedicated to the purpose. Another term with the same meaning is "home church".

Some groups meet like this because they lack a conventional church building; but these are not normally regarded as house churches. Others meet in homes because they prefer to meet informally, or because they believe meeting in a home is the true pattern set in the first century and intended by Christ. Some, perhaps, meet in homes for several of these reasons.

Structure and organisation

House churches should not be confused with "cell churches". A house church is not normally part of a larger, overseeing organization, although the group may associate informally with other Christians and house churches in networks reflecting equality rather than hierarchy. Those who meet in house churches regard themselves as belonging to the worldwide Church, but are self-governing and independent, generally without formal relationships with established "'institutional" churches'.

Some house churches have a conventional leadership structure, others have none. A commonly held belief in the modern day house church "movement" is that the Protestant Reformation did not go far enough to demonstrate a New Testament belief in the "priesthood of all believers" and that Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the Church which is the body of Christ. This movement has been gaining momentum worldwide in both industrialized countries such as Australia, Germany, the UK and the USA, and in third world countries.

The absence of hierarchical leadership structures in many house churches, while often viewed by the Protestant church at large as a sign of anarchy or rebelliousness to authority, is actually viewed by many in the house church movement to be the most viable way to come under true spiritual authority of love, relationships, and the visible dominion of Jesus Christ as Head of his own bride (i.e. the church). Some within the house church "movement" therefore consider the term house church to be a misnomer, because the main issue within people who practice their faith in this manner is not the house but more the type of meeting that takes place; other titles which are sometimes used to describe this movement more functionally are "simple church", "relational church", "primitive church", "bodylife", "organic church" and similar terms.

The house church movement also owes much of its networking and exchange of information to the use of the internet; HC is generally used as an abbreviation for 'House Church' and IC is used to designate "Institutional Church" which is the generalized term for more traditional church structures, including a church building and/or sermon-centered church services led by a pastor or minister.

As a rule, house church gatherings are free, informal, and sometimes include a shared meal. Participants hope that everyone present will feel free to contribute to the gathering as and when they sense the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. Leadership structures range from no official leaders, to a plurality of appointed elders; however, there is a deliberate attempt within most house churches to minimize the leadership of any one person, and so having one pastor or leading elder is generally frowned upon, in favor of a more plural responsibility of leadership diffused over several people or the members as a whole.

Origins and history

The origins of this movement are varied. Some consider it a new variety of the Plymouth Brethren movement, others recognise a relationship to the Quakers or see it as resulting from the writings of Gene Edwards ( http://www.seedsowers.com ). There is also an argument that the house church movement is a re-emergence of the move of the Holy Spirit during the Jesus Movement of the 70's in the USA ( http://www.one-way.org ) or the worldwide Charismatic Renewal of the late 60's and 70's. Most see it as simply New Testament church Restorationism ( http://www.ntrf.org ), urging Christians to return from hierarchy and rank to practices described in the Bible ( http://www.century-one.co.uk ). The house church movement may in some ways be considered a cousin of the Emerging Church movement.

Probably there is no single factor, but all the threads noted above have contributed to the growth of house churches.

External links

Discussion Forums

Further information

See also Chinese house church. Be aware, however, that Chinese house churches typically have a leadership structure (including a pastor) that resembles "underground traditionally structured churches" in contrast to what is generally considered to be a "housechurch" in countries with religious freedom and tolerance.

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