I wish to write of my experiences with St. Isidore’s different missions. One of these is the House Church. Following is some research and review on that subject.
Wikipedia “House church”
A house church describes a group of Christians who meet in a private home which may be part of a larger Christian body or independent from any larger group. Sometimes the reason for a house church has to do with its small membership while other times it has to do with Christians being banned from meeting in any venue (as is the case in China). Some Christian groups believe that house churches are a better form of outreach and still others contend it was what Christ intended. The New Testament speaks often of house churches, which were the only option for 300 years until Christianity was legalized by Constantine.
The modern revival of the House Church in North America and the United Kingdom can be traced, in part, to the feeling by many unfulfilled church goers that traditional churches fail to meet their relational needs. Some supporters of the movement consider House Church a misnomer, preferring other monikers which better describe its function rather than its location, such as “simple church,” “relational church,” “primitive church,” “body life,” “organic church” or “biblical church.” For example, organic church expresses that the group takes on the pattern of a living organism. Though the origins are varied, one philosophy is: …if people would not come to church, the church must go to the people.
Sometimes, traditional churches must cut mission funding to support the cost of fixed church expenses for buildings and salaries. House churches can have more money for missions, less pressure to fill pews, and do not resemble the mega-church which can become a big monster which eats everything that is given and can be given and still constantly asks for more.
SteveBremner.Com: 5 Things the House Church Movement is Getting Wrong
Steve Bremner wrote 5 Thing the House Church Movement is Getting Right – which I am not evaluating. I feel that the Wikipedia coverage sufficiently addresses many of the points addressed by Bremner’s positive piece. I am curious about his counter point so I address it here without first reading the first article.
Generally, Bremner says that the House Church Movement is like other prior movements intended to address the faults of the institutional church but over compensates to correct the institutional errors such as pastor, pews, programs, buildings, indifference, hierarchy, etc. He lists the 5 faults in no particular order as:
- Meeting in houses does not necessarily solve the problem that being institutional allegedly creates. Bremner states that neither location or size is inherently spiritual. However, from my point of view, a home is in actuality personal, private, and welcoming much more immediately than a big building and possibly a long journey. I feel this point is moot, using the modern meaning of the word.
- Inward focused. Again, Bremner uses the term inherent, as in members feel that they are inherently different because they are meeting in a house. Also, some members feel that a house church can become just another social meeting place which abandons its initial objectives. These things probably are true in some cases but they are surely true in institutional churches. So I’ll use Bremner’s term to say that just because it’s a house church does not mean that it will inherently become a social club without any outreach.
- Not making disciples. Bremner here avoids using the term inherently by substituting ipso de facto, nice. He somehow states that member to not become disciples via osmosis, duh. Certainly, any church, large or small, must have content, intent, and extant meaning. This makes 3 for 3 on his non-point points.
- Not Evangelizing. Again, I think Bremner is missing the point. Most non-believers are turned off by overt evangelizing. However, most people of all stripes find evangelizing by example irresistible. Once one sees another walking the walk, living and acting in full compliance to the word, there is little to find fault.
- Arrogance of ‘doing church the Biblical way’. Bremner writes of an admittedly extreme case where the house church movement led to prohibition from associating with institutional churches and isolation of the individual house church congregation. He is describing cult mentality and the warning and need to avoid such a consequence goes without saying.
This counterpoint article did not add much to my understanding of the house church movement in terms of “don’t” other than pointing out some obvious, obscure, and moot points. Glad I evaluated it though!
Reviewing the two articles, Wikipedia’s “House Church” and Steve Bremner’s “5 Things the House Church Movement is Getting Wrong” might seem tedious, so I’m going to attempt this by taking my talking points from a third article from TheHumanist.Com, titled “This Sacrilegious House of Cards Scene Even Shocked Some Atheists” by Maggie Andriente. Specifically, the article is written about a Season 3 episode prefaced by such terms as “deliciously obscene”, “binge-watching a sport” and referencing a prior episode scene where Frank Underwood urinates on his father’s grave which she understatedly supposes would be offensive – at least to religious conservatives. So, let’s get going.
Season 3, episode 4, Frank converses with a Bishop about the fire-and-brimstone of God in the Old Testament but the Bishop’s response disappoints him. Unconvinced, Frank walks to the alter and, standing before a statue of Jesus, spits in Jesus face. This scene improbably led to the religious right to wonder why Hollywood wasn’t equally offending other religions. How does this relate to either of the two prior articles? Well, the call for equal offensiveness against other religions would seem to be a contrary position to take for a group whose necessity to meet in private houses during Christianity’s birth years was a result of persecution. Also, attracting others, whether it be to a house church or institution, can not be served by seeking retribution towards other religions because they are different or individuals because they spit in the face of a un-offended statute.
A conservative actor then leaps from his Hollywood spitting in Jesus face to the left pissing on Christianity as a whole. Wow. Let’s see if we can find leaps like this in Herr Bremner’s 5 Faults. Maybe Bremner’s point 3 applies here. Bremner states that members of a house church can’t become disciples through osmosis. That leap presupposes that disciples can’t be produced outside the house church. The whole reason for house church is that institutional religion is not working. Discipleship must be activated by use of a new serum – good old contact and content. Don’t leave conversion up to the congregant, make it a part of the congregation continuing discipleship.
The best point made in this article is: …respecting sacred space and accepting such space as sacred are two different things. The house church like institutional chapels or cemeteries deserve respect, silence, and reverence, no matter the religion or lack of it. Yes, house churches should not become social clubs or cultish extremes and the few that develop are not representative or likely to subsist. To base criticism or things that might happen or did happen in the media are not reasons to discount a movement that attempts to reverse the trend of people turning away belief in something greater than them and towards something less likely to satisfy their eternal needs.