Christian Philosophy Lite: Worldwide home church movement
By Raymond Smith
Christianity started as a house church movement. For the first 300 years, Christians met in homes because church buildings were not allowed and because of the persecution taking place against this new upstart religion. The first house church mentioned in the Bible was in Acts 1:13. Other references are Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:5-7 and 6:10, Ephesians 2;19, 3:14-15, 5:1, and 6:23. Small groups that meet in homes under the auspices of a church are called cell churches. A few Victoria churches are sponsoring home groups.
The beauty of this method of worship is that a group of like-minded and like-committed Christians can share common beliefs, worship and labors. Such an organization demands a great deal of commitment. A person who took his faith casually would soon find himself out of place in the group and would probably leave. Members draw strength from one another and hold each other accountable.
It is likely that there will be some disagreements, so it is important that members work out their problems in a peaceful and loving way. Believing in the doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer, members discourage centralized leadership expecting that each member should rise to his or her potential, and thereby avoid any personality domination. Still, enough leadership must be exerted to motivate and to maintain doctrinal discipline. See 1 Corinthians 1:10 Diverse social and racial groups can more easily experience unity with such a commitment and sense of brotherhood.
The secret of a well-run meeting is that everyone is encouraged to take part. Just as in 1 Corinthians 14:26, "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation." More than this, there may be testimonies to share, encouragements given, concerns shared, confessions made, questions asked, as well as prayer and Bible studies. One thing for sure, the meeting is not to follow a rigid schedule. It would be wise to post on the wall a short set of beliefs, purposes of the group and what is to be expected of each member. Without that, a group could easily drift from its original intent. Sometimes worshippers share in a common meal. Some groups meet on Sunday morning, taking the place of church; others might meet on a weeknight and still maintain their church fellowship.
Worldwide, these groups are meeting in secret because the state religion is hostile to Christianity. Remember that Christians worldwide risk their lives and fortunes if they are discovered meeting together. The house church movement in China has been in existence for many years in spite of persecution. Today, it seems to be thriving because the government is easing the restrictions somewhat. In India, the high court recently ruled in favor of religions other than Hinduism. In March of this year, Iran sentenced members of five house churches to a year in jail. Do we hold our faith with such a commitment?
Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and president of Strong Families of Victoria