Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Are House Churches the Future of American Protestantism?

If you can get everything you spiritually need from a small group, why would you ever attend an established congregation? That's the question before many American Christians who have turned to the ancient practice of the house church, a gathering of about 10-15 Christians for fellowship and worship. One report indicates as many as 9% of American Protestants attend home churches. There are no paid clergy, no sermons, no organs, no sanctuaries; just a small gathering of the faithful to get all they need from church without all the hassle: prayer, Bible reading, community and the sacraments.

The time might be right for a serious house church movement, but we should remember these sorts of movements have come and gone through the centuries. Lutheran pietists in Norway and Sweden established house churches when they felt they could no longer participate in the state church. Certainly, those in house churches now would tell you the first congregations met in homes, essentially as small groups. Even megachurches, ironically enough, have taught millions of their own members how to have house churches as they have refined methods and published books outlining best practices for small groups. What is a small group but a house church? Serious community, Bible study and the sacraments are almost impossible to find at a megachurch, so the need to supplement with small groups became apparent.