When I talk about house church it is rare that I get an excited response but this past Saturday a friend introduced me to another couple as running a house church and the couple was actually excited and interested in the concept.
But I wanted to be clear then, as I do now that I am not talking a traditional church that is too small to rent or buy a building so it meets in a home with the hope of “growing up” someday to being a real traditional church. I am talking about what something more like a cell based church, for those not familiar with that, a cell based church may have one central campus where they keep their offices but the focus of ministry is done in smaller cells. Additionally while there may be a weekly meeting for all cells to meet up, if you had to miss once meeting each week you would be told to miss the large group meeting and attend your smaller group meeting because that is where they understand the most important facets of ministry to occur.
The fellow ship I am a part of is normally 6-10 of us who meet together, share our lives, share a meal and all contribute to the process. Frank Viola who has been planting house churches for a number of years talks in his article “Participatory House Church meetings” about some vocabulary changes that need to take place with people who are more familiar with traditional church environments:
First, ‘services’ belong to institutions. They are ritualistic, performance-based ceremonies. The early Christians never had ‘services’ in which an active few performed for a passive audience. Instead, they had ‘meetings’ that were spontaneous, interactive, participatory and Spirit-led. ‘Meeting is the word that is employed throughout the New Testament when the early Christians came together to display Christ. Second, we are no longer ‘going to church’. The church or ekklesia is the Body of Christ which assembles together. It is not a place to go. It is not an edifice. We are going to a meeting but we are part of the church.
Although it may just seem like semantics I believe controlling the vocabulary really changes the way you think about something, most believers would say that they are the body of Christ and that they are the church but it isn’t they way they normally define themselves.
This particular article is about the house church concept of all members of the body being involved in some way, which I freely admit scared me more than a little, but that is part pride, and part control freak. I also admit that is seems more backed by scripture than not. 1 Cor 14:26-28 says this:
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
I checked the Bible Knowledge Commentary to verify that this was not merely a descriptive passage, it confirms that is was the custom that anyone was able to participate in an orderly fashion in the first century church. How we moved into a more performance based model with a passive congregation is up for debate although it seems to have happened around the time of the Edict of Milan which changed Christianity from an organic fringe religion to the official religion of the Roman Empire, putting the government in charge of the Church, including ordination and licensing of the priesthood
The organic church movement is about changing the way things have been done for the past 1700 years and getting back on what is believed to be a more biblical track.
 Also called “Assembling” or “coming together” (Acts 4:31; 1 Cor 14:23,26; Heb 10:25)
 Simson, Wolfgang. Houses That Change the World.