Institutional churches, house churches, compatible?

I am convinced that many churches will be able to convert to the proper New-Testament based church structure we know as “house churches” or “New- Testament based churches”, without too many or too serious hiccups. Yes, I do think the institutional church and proper New-Testament based house churches are definitely compatible!

Although there are some differences, not that much need to change in order to convert the institution from a man made structure into the Biblical method of “coming together” or “community life” that God intended. In fact, many congregations all over the world successfully managed this conversion without any serious hiccups in the past.

When the pastor and the leadership of a congregation push their fears out of the way, this can be achieved. It only takes a small group of people, who decided that they are going to trust God, to take the first step and to lay the foundation for a successful conversion process. The right attitude and absolute trust in God, to see them through, usually pave the way to achieve just that.

Exactly what are the conditions that the leadership of such a congregation will have to conform to?

They will have to be able to give up the control to God.

Although the services on Sundays carry on as usual, people will have to be able to get together once a week in small groups the Biblical way. They will have to be able to learn how to minister onto each other according to 1 Corinthians 14:26. They will have to be able to develop the gifts of the Spirit. This implies that the congregation will have to enjoy the freedom to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The pastor and the leadership of the congregation cannot control these gatherings by means of all sorts of do’s and don’ts, doctrines, constitutions and other requirements. When you give up the control and leave it up to the Holy Spirit and to God, you will be amazed to see the spiritual progress, development and growth of the congregation. The Sunday services can be a good tool in order to prepare and to guide the congregation to develop correctly. It can be the foundation on which the small groups are built in terms of training and development. 

Of course this first step will not be easy for both the leadership and the members of the church but this CAN be achieved if everybody are willing to stick to it and stay committed to the task.

For the leadership there will be two challenges: To give up the control and to abstain from picking up the control again. They will also have to play a part in the developing and the teaching of the congregation. People need to be taught how to handle the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Please see my post titled “How to plant a house church?“. In this post you can see what role the leadership of a congregation can play in order to harvest the lost souls in the community whilst developing the members of the congregation. This is probably the best method to ensure both numerical growth and spiritual growth in the congregation. It is not so easy to start but it is the most successful way of church growth if you persist. 

On the other hand, The congregation will find that it is quite tough to allow the Holy Spirit to freely flow and to freely move in their midst if they are not used to it. Gone are the days when they depended on the pastor and the leadership during the gatherings of the congregation. It is quite a challenge to submit yourself to the flow and the leading of the Spirit of God. Only people who are submissive to God and who have a deep personal relationship with Christ Jesus can do this. Many people will just not be able to this at first because they will have to deepen their relationship with Christ first.

The absence of the leading of the church leadership will leave a vacuum. That is for sure. And it will be difficult for the congregation to cope with that. Some of them will just give up and they will probably end up only attending the normal services on Sundays. Some of these people may never embrace the Biblical method of getting together. This must however not prevent the rest of the congregation to carry out the conversion successfully.

The leadership will have to abstain from panicking

Yes, something might go wrong but this is when the leadership and the pastor of the congregation will have to stand strong and trust God to see them through. What may go wrong? Some members may leave the church. One of the small groups might decide to permanently break away from the main congregation. Some of the leadership may decide to boycott the conversion or some other hiccups may arise directly as a result of the conversion. All these things might not happen but then again it might. If it does happen it will be a grave mistake to panic and to abort the conversion. The pastor and the leadership must in such cases just forgive, forget and let go. Yes, allow those who want to leave to do so with a genuine attitude of understanding, kindness and unity, although you differ. After all, not everybody will accept the conversion, not everybody will be able to handle the conversion and not everybody will stay committed right through the whole process. We can expect problems but we can also expect God to carry us through those problems.

Many institutional churches in the past came very close to convert to a Biblical New-Testament church in the past by introducing the “cell groups” or “small groups”. Some of the leadership of these churches unfortunately, after some of the incidents occurred that I mentioned above, started to panic however and they subsequently destroyed the good work that they started.

We should trust God and persist. At the end of the day we will all benefit when the conversion was carried out successfully. The pastor and the church leadership will benefit because they submitted themselves to the will of God. They will be able to observe a congregation spiritually growing and developing in Christ Jesus like never before. Although they did not loose the benefits of gathering on Sundays like they always did, they gained the extra privileges the weekly house church gatherings provide. All aspects of church growth should be guaranteed if the conversion was carried out correctly.

Yes, traditionally those people in house churches have tended to embrace only the gatherings in houses and not the weekly gatherings of the main congregation. That is changing. The traditional way of gatherings still has a part to play and should not be aborted.

Please feel free to make use of the resources on my website. It will definitely equip you to develop proper New-Testament based churches. Yes, some of these resources still reflect the traditional view of house churches and I am not going to change that. There is a place for that too. There are still a lot of material within these resources that will benefit both groups of people. Make use of what you want and what you can and just ignore what you do not want to use. These resources will enrich your understanding of house churches and the dynamics of a proper New-Testament based church anyway.

Church planting strategies!

  1. Plant new churches the Biblical way: The five-fold ministry go out two-two and they plant New-Testament churches from scratch. They find a man of peace and they plant a new congregation in his house. Read more about this method here.
  2. Plant new churches through modern teaching and equipping: Gather people in a School-hall or similar venue. Hold two services on Sundays to teach people the proper way of planting house churches. After thorough teaching (about a year) on planting and maintaining proper Biblical house churches, start cell groups. After proper equipping and training for approximately one year, convert the cell groups (now one year old), into full-fledged house churches. Never stop your weekly services in the School-hall because you need to train and equip new members on a continuous basis.
  3. Convert old institutional churches into New-Testament house churches: Traditional full-time pastors to adopt the strategy discussed in point 2 above.

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