— Faith — 3 min read
The Holy Spirit used my time reading Francis Chan's book "Letters to the Church" to open my eyes to house churches and set my on fire for building a Spirit led devoted community of believers in the West.
The house church model is what is set out in Acts and has continued to multiply in foreign countries where believers face persecution.
The believers in China have grown to number over 100 million over the past few decades thanks to their underground house church movement.
Churches in the West leave congregants as consumers and do not equip them to share the gospel themeselves, plant new churches, or partner with the Holy Spirit in building the kingdom.
If we want a Spirit filled church that displays a love for each other, unity, and willingness to suffer so attractive to non-believers, that is not going to result from 90 minute once a week large group gatherings. House churches provide the intimacy, accountability, and opportunity for people's gifts to be used, for them to love each other through trials and suffering, and to devote themselves to God's word and to the Spirit.
Read more about my learnings from the book in Notes on Letters to the Church.
Francis Chan after starting and growing Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California to thousands of congregants from 1994 until 2010, travelled with his family throughout Thailand, China, and Hong Kong. There he saw first hand a model of house church, especially the persecuted one in China, that much more closely reflected what we read in Acts.
Bringing this model back to the US as the Spirit led him, Chan started the We Are Church in San Francisco. Reading through the Practices section of their website provides a concise outline of how they are bring a radically different model of church to the West.
Devotion to Scripture: Everyone reads through the same scripture every week. Scripture is the primary teaching, not a pastor's weekly sermon. The home church pastor instead facilitates discussion during the meeting, encouraging everyone to bring forth what the Spirit was revealing to them through that week's living Word readings.
We Meet in Homes: Less capital requirements, easier to multiply and grow, more intimacy.
Everyone Discipled and Discipling: Everyone is a disciple or future disciple. Spiritual growth is collective responsibility, not just on the pastor.
Everyone Exercises Their Gifts: Not just a few key people preaching and leading worship, everyone is given gifts by the Holy Spirit in order to benefit the church.
"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." - 1 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)
The full passage expands to describe all the gifts of the spirit that can be endowed to people in the church to benefit the church.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." - 1 Corinthians 12:6-11 (NKJV)
Regular Multiplication of Churches: Split the group when numbers grow beyond 20-40 people. Preserve intimacy, accountability, and engagement that is only possible in smaller numbers.
Simple Gatherings: Rely on Jesus, not someone's amazing teaching or worship band