Oh no, not household church!?
My time in the United States made me realize that the term ‘household church’ has negative connotations for many people. I realized I had to clarify what we mean when we use the term.
There is a house church movement in the United States, some of which is what I call restorationist and some of it reactionary. Or at least that is how it is often perceived. I’m not in a position to evaluate how accurate those perceptions are. But I can clarify what I mean by the term.
For me household church is not restorationist
My reading of much house church writings suggests a movement that is often ‘restorationist’. What I mean by that is that it is concerned to replicate what took place in the first century church. So its literature is taken up with detailed exegetical discussions of the New Testament in order to establish exactly what was the common apostolic norm. The debate inevitably becomes somewhat introspective.
I believe there are apostolic principles and that apostolic practice reflected those principles. But I do not thin there was one apostolic . I think there was a significant degree of freedom. What matters is that we put into practice apostolic principles in a way that matches our context. Therefore I think a home is often a great context for church, but I do not believe it is the only context.
For me household church is not reactionary
Often house churches seem to be defined by their opposition to ‘traditional church’. This does not seem to me to be a healthy attitude. If people have been wounded by church, my approach would be to pastor their hearts rather than offer them an ecclesiological ‘solution’. Again, this approach does not create communities defined by mission.
In 1 Timothy 1 Paul urges Timothy to tackle people who were arguing among themselves, using the word of God to ‘convert’ believers to their causes rather than declaring the wonderful gospel of God’s grace. We need to be careful not to let our ’cause’ become more important to us than mission. Often movements focus on their distinctives. This, after all, is what marks them out. But over time the danger is that their distinctives come to matter more than the gospel.We often wanr each other in The Crowded House not to let household matter more than Jesus. We must not let ourselves be defined by our distinctives rather than the gospel.