Is a house church right for me?

I recently found this site. After reading several posts, I have found the discussions to be both thought-provoking and balanced. I appreciate the wisdom and respect in the conversations that I've read so far. Thank you!

I got here after Googling "house churches". I have a keen interest in learning more. A quick bit of info about me might help you understand why. I have attended Reformed churches for much of my 59 years on Earth, although I have also had significant (> one year) experience with Baptists, Assemblies of God, Covenant, Presbyterian, and Calvary Chapel. What I've come to discover is that many of these institutional churches hold up some form of barrier to the unity of the Body of Christ. I have no problem with a church defining what makes it distinctive, but when those distinctions are used to push other believers out of the fellowship then it makes it hard to even discuss what should be our shared goal of worshipping our Savior. My most recent experience was with the Presbyterian church. I was once a member, and when the Elders asserted their authority to make decisions on cultural issues then I tried to engage them in a discussion of how those issues related to spiritual concerns. My attempts to talk it out failed, primarily because those same Elders expressed their belief that their authority to run the church superseded Christ's. At that point I resigned my church membership. I tried to stay on as a non-member for both the sake of unity and to encourage the church body in their faith in Christ, but closed Communion did me in. I was asked by the Elders to worship elsewhere rather than violating their rules for Communion which require church membership to partake of the elements. Since I take God's appointment of leaders in the church seriously, I had no other choice but to leave even though I did not want to.

With that in mind, I am looking for a few things in worship. First and foremost is worship that is centered around the preeminence of Christ (Col 1:15). That doesn't necessarily mean that one needs to be a Calvinist to worship with me. On the contrary, 1 John 4:2 lays out a clear definition of who is a professing Christian, and it's pretty broad when it comes to theological interpretation. I just don't want Jesus to be an afterthought either. My second desire is that worship conforms to Christ's saying in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." As I think about this more deeply I begin to see just how much the trappings of the institutional church have, at least for me, interfered with hearing our Savior's calling. Church attendance for the last year has been stressful as I feel the need to parse every word of the preaching to determine whether or not it is God speaking. The Gospel is pure, gentle, and sweet.

So now that you know a very little bit about me, I'd like to hear what you think. Although we don't know each other, I welcome your honest input. If you think that I should join a house church then please say so and tell me why. If you question if I'm leaving the institutional church for the right reasons then please say that too. I'd like to think that I'm here with an open mind, insomuch as that is possible.

God bless you

- todd

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Comments (5)
    • Hey there dear brother, thank you for sharing! Good to hear from you. We are also searching for the answers and longing for more of Christ in our lives. And for his Kingdom to come to this world - on earth as it is in Heaven.

      Ultimately, there is but one true church. We are either a part of it or we need to become a part of it. All Christians should be welcome wherever other believers are found.

      Regarding our Presbyterian friends, we love them are are thankful for much in their lenghty heritage. Interestingly, they make much of the household baptisms but little of the early household meetings. And although every elder is to be "apt to teach" - they have a special officer known as a teaching elder. Other elders are confined to ruling - mere laymen, they say. Hmmm.

      So sorry that things turned sour but do not be discouraged. And leave the doors open, where possible. God knows and God cares. Stick with the Scriptures and you will not go wrong. There are no magic formulas regarding church structures or much else...

      We all want the best for ourselves, our families, our churches, and our careers. That's only natural. And there are always many along the way who desire to assist us and to show us a "better way" or a "deeper walk". Just be a little wary of those who try to monetize their good advice.

      House churching will not fix everything but can bring new challenges along the way, of course. For me, it has been a good path. May the Lord direct your steps! Keep us posted, friend.

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      • Hi David,

        Thanks for getting back with me. This paragraph of yours really stood out for me...

        "Ultimately, there is but one true church. We are either a part of it or we need to become a part of it. All Christians should be welcome wherever other believers are found."

        I think that this is the first time that I've ever heard someone say it and thought that they really meant it. So often it feels like we only want to interact with people who are "my kind of Christian". My prayer is for more unity in the church regardless of what we think about particular issues in Scripture.

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      • Todd,

        Thank you for sharing some of the details of your recent experience. From my experience and that of others I have known, it looks to me like God is challenging you to a greater vision of Him and His Church. It might be that He desires for you to either join a house church or start one.  At one time I thought that was the great solution to the churches problems. Actually I discovered a new set of problems in it. But that is okay, Jesus Himself said that in this world we will have trouble.

        The important thing is that we follow Him where He leads us.  From the humility I sense in your request, I believe you will find His leading for you and your family.

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        • Hi Dan,

          Thanks for your response and for sharing a bit of your experience as well. I wasn't sure when I wrote my comment if it came across with the right tone. The last 12 months has left me completely broken with respect to the church which has let me somewhat bitter. Yet I feel this experience has left me stronger in my relationship with Christ. In the past I have looked to church leadership for guidance and affirmation because I believe that the office of elder is Biblical. That has changed. If an elder is unable or unwilling to submit to Christ's authority then I have no obligation to follow their instruction. In other words, it's not enough to have been elected to church office by the majority of the congregation. They need to conform to Hebrews 13:7 ("those who spoke to you the word of God") before they can exercise the authority found in Hebrews 13:17.

          I will carefully consider your comments on joining a house church, including your caution about a "new set of problems". I agree that nothing in this world is perfect, but I am hoping to find a group of people whose primary interest is in worshiping our Savior and not the organization of His church.

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        • What I've come to discover is that many of these institutional churches hold up some form of barrier to the unity of the Body of Christ. I have no problem with a church defining what makes it distinctive, but when those distinctions are used to push other believers out of the fellowship then it makes it hard to even discuss what should be our shared goal of worshipping our Savior.

          Hey Todd. Your observation here is one which I have also experienced. And may God forgive me if I were ever a part of making needless barriers to fellowship and unity..

          Prior to his death on the cross, our Savior - faithful to the end - was more concerned about others than himself. In John 17 he prayed that his church would be one, just as he and his Father were one. 

          Was this a mere unity for the sake of unity? No, Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified each day by his word which is truth. Obviously we don't agree on all the fine points of his truth but all of us should desire more of it and more of him. Because the truth represents Him and how to truly love one another. And how to live each moment unto his glory.

          I'm thinking now of how John Bunyan was once placed in a jail cell with a Quaker. Yet as time went by, Bunyan became more respectful and even thankful for him. Even though he had written some severe criticisms of his movement.

          As for the house church movement, there is not as much unity as one would hope for... and there is little desire to co-operate with other groups of Christians. I'm speaking from what I have seen and read over the last 25 years or so. This can change though, as it should.

          Let us overcome evil with good. Rather than just attacking others. And pray to the Lord of the Harvest that he would send laborers into his vineyard. The harvest is great - the laborers few. 

          People need examples - not just more critics.

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          Is a house church right for me?
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