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Sexy House Churches

3 July, 2004 3:57 PM

Tall Skinny Kiwi has a great post - House Churches have no Sex Appeal.

I particularly like some of his 'gripes' with house churches and thought I'd add a few of my own comments under each of his headings. (The headings and quotes are his, the rest are my ramblings).

1. Name is Misleading - Andrew writes - 'The label needs to change from house church to something that better describes it.' I agree completely for many reasons but will outline two here.

Firstly many of the emerging missional churches and communities I know of do not meet in homes. They have very similar ethos, DNA and practices to each other (including many that meet in homes) but meet in cafes, galleries, parks, work places and pubs. They are not 'house churches' but they are 'the same' as many house churches in virtually every other respect.

Secondly even for churches that do meet in homes I wonder if such a label or name can actually limit the scope of the group. At Livingroom we meet for our main gathering in a different home each week, but we're also meeting weekly in local cafes in 'micro groups'. That is not to mention the other 97% of our weekly time - the time when, as individuals, we are involved in schools, universities, hospitals, sporting clubs, neighborhoods. My idea of church is that it doesn't cease to be church when we are not gathering together - but in fact is a 24/7 thing. Maybe I'm being pedantic, but I worry that we're setting the tone for a segmented understanding of faith and church if we label our churches by the places we meet in when we gather. That is why I more frequently call us a 'missional community' than a house church - it sets the tone in a completely different direction

2. Authentication is Delayed - Andrew writes that 'House churches are not yet recognised by the mainstream.' In some respects I see this as changing here in Australia. Whilst they are still no where near as prominent I'm hearing them talked about a lot more. This is partly because of the types of people I hang around with - but its also happening more and more in established churches and denominations. In my state, Victoria, I know of at least three denominations that are seriously talking about establishing new types of churches (many of which are meeting in homes - but other types also). They are not only talking about it but putting resources into training, planting and are resourcing such groups. By no means are we there yet - but I sense that many of our denominations leaders are recognizing the gloomy reality that unless we take some new directions that the future of the church is not bright.

3. Orientation is Backwards - Andrews makes the brilliant observation that 'The focus needs to change from "our house" to "their house" '. I couldn't agree more. The reputation of house churches in Australia is that they tend to be rather insular in the way they operate. One of the critiques that I constantly hear of them is their lack of missional focus. Of course there will be exceptions to this generalization - but the critiques come from both within and outside the movement. Of course it should also be said that this same critique can be equally be given to all forms of church including traditional and contemporary models.

I could (and do) write about this for hours. Jesus commanded his disciples to 'Go' into all the world - not to congregate in their holy huddles and expect the world to come to them. All churches, including some of the emerging forms need to consider how they might work on this.

4. Support is Minimal - Andrew writes - 'We might be 5 years away from seeing a complete ecosystem of organic ministries that work together to enable a healthy, reproducing, movement of house churches.'

Once again Andrew is spot on although I'm happy to report that what I'm seeing going on in this part of the world shows some positive movement towards an integrated networked group of emerging churches. I'm very intentional about bumping into other emerging church leaders and communities on a regular basis. I'm not sure how formal the structures and networks between us will ever be - however they are growing. I'm especially excited to see local gatherings of similarly minded communities who are exploring ways to work together and build relationships. This is an important task that needs to be high on our list of priorities.

Having said this one of the things I am enjoying most about this new way of doing church (new for me) is the lack of structure and freedom to form new support networks. I love that I am free to form tight relationships with people from numerous denominations, other community groups and even (dare I say it) groups from other faiths. One of the temptations that will no doubt emerge along with these new communities is become institutions - hopefully this day will be in the far distant future - if at all.

5. Integration is Absent - Andrew writes - 'House Church Utopia is still painted as being pure and contaminant-free. As if you leave one model of church and adopt another with no reference to what you came out of. '

I haven't yet given a lot of thought to this last 'gripe' of Andrew's. I might need to do so in order to really hear what he's saying. If it is that we need to allow individuals who join house churches freedom to interact with and bring along some of their baggage from established churches then I'm cool with that. It is impossible to start a church in a vacuum without considering where we have been. We spent quite a bit of time when we first started telling our stories and sharing our past experience of life, faith and church - on reflection I think this was a very useful exercise and something we've continued to do as new people join us. Whilst some of what we do is possibly a reaction against some of our negative experiences of church I would also say that most of what we do is a reflection of the positive experiences. Also I encourage everyone in the group to retain their past relationships with established churches and individuals in them - many of us do 'go back' from time to time - I feel this has been a positive thing not only for us but the churches where we have been previously involved.

So there we have it - a few scattered thoughts from me in response to some much better ones from Andrew. What do you think? Leave yours in comments below if you feel moved to do so...



Good on ya, mate. Great to see it fleshed out downunder.

I have always thought a backyard BBQ is a natural setting for church in Australia. And there are lots of pubs that are struggling to survive and are very open to having a group take over the garden bar.
It also feels more natural when an Aussie speaks to a church group from a seated position, or at least the same height/position as the rest of the people. Elevation creates awkwardness (soooo . . you're the expert, are ya, mate?). Ever noticed that?

Regarding the last one, integration in Australia/NZ has never been a big problem, since the church world is small and interconnected. The disconnect happens in larger countries like USA where entire Chrstian worlds can ignore each other.

Appreciate your excellent thoughts.

Andrew Jones » 3 July, 2004 4:45 PM

i am in iran .
please send to me sexy photos.

mohammad » 26 November, 2004 11:22 PM

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