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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Real Church

I am not a historian of the specific facts, but I believe the early church was not comprised of a number of large buildings like what we have now. The early church was mostly comprised of many small house churches. It is possible that some houses were large but small church units were the norm.

When I first came to Christ, I was involved in a small group bible study we called Disciple Families. As a part of a large intercity church, the small home Disciple Families grew from an initial fifty participants to about six hundred in one year. The home groups became an active part of the younger church member’s lifestyle.

I often bring up the idea of home study groups (cell groups, life groups, disciple families, etc.) because I believe it has many advantages to building a church body that lasts and helps fulfill what Christ intended for the church. When I speak of enduring, I only have to look at what the underground churches have accomplished in China and during the former Soviet Russia repressive socialist rule. It was and still is the true body of Christ in those countries. Through the small house churches people are coming to Christ and the church is growing despite the persecution and harassment from the government. I remember reading about a Chinese woman who had started over 500 house churches in China. She was pursued by the government and would flee one city to start a church in another city, always running but always serving the body of Christ.

This brings me to the point of my message. The 2012 political conventions are over and it is clear that one party has become the anti-god party. The President, and the government as a whole, has been on a crusade to eliminate religious freedom as our constitution defines it. The number one threat though, to our religious liberty is the national debt. If our economy were to collapse, the constitution would be eliminated. There would be no money for a military to protect us. The progressives would try to assemble a socialist style government and we would all hope we could avoid total anarchy. With no defenses to speak of, who knows what China or Russia and ever Iran would attempt to do. In all of this, the persecution of the church and Christians would become acceptable on any level. Most likely, all the evil that sweeps across the land will be blamed on the Church, Christians and Jews.

The scenario I describe above is not that farfetched. If it were to happen, it would be wise to prepare Christians everywhere in church survival. Just as in China and Russia, the house church will be the single most important factor in maintaining the body of Christ. The house church can fulfill the ministry of Christ where most of American churches fail today. I will list some of the advantages.

1. The house church is an intimate group, more like a family, where each member can have regular fellowship and accountability. With the closeness of a small group, you are more likely to strive to live according the scripture. In a small group, you will have people who can help you to overcome areas in your life that you could hide in a large body of believers.

2. The small group is a perfect place to learn how to love one another. The closeness will test your love and the accountability to other will cause you to follow through to love as Christ Loved.

3. The small group will have awareness of each other needs and can pray for those needs. It is easier to confess you faults one to another if you know and trust the people you are with in a small group.

4. The small group is a perfect climate to grow and develop without the embarrassment of failing in a large church setting.

5. A small group is more likely to share their material things with one another because they can recognize the needs of others as they arise. If one person has an emergency or crisis, it is easier to react and help people you know and trust. The family like bond you develop moves you to meet each other’s needs when they arise.

6. Small groups will help you to establish trusting relationships even if you have difficulty doing so.

7. The small group leader is pastor to his group and can represent the group and individual needs to the larger body.

8. The small group is flexible and can adapt to changing circumstances where a large body cannot.


I believe the American church has failed to be what Jesus intended it to be is because we have left the small group model in the New Testament and gone the way of Mega church and ‘bigger is better’ model. All the functions of the body of Christ happen in small groups. Very few can happen in a large church where you can attend for many years and nobody knows anything about you. By returning to small group home churches, the body of Christ can function evangelistically and more personally than any other plan. That is why the house church in China is growing exponentially while the church in the United States is shrinking as a percentage of the population.

If American’s economy fails and the worst befalls us then the best preparation any pastor can do right now is to develop small group leaders who will become the pastors of tomorrow in their home church groups. If there were to be war, revolution or anarchy, it will be the small group house church that will be left standing as the big churches are burning and collapsing to the ground.


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