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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"House Churches" as the New Congregation

In spite of -- or perhaps in reaction to -- the trend toward evangelical Christian "megachurches" over the past decade, a movement toward small, intimate "house churches" is emerging among Christians.

Unlike traditional churches, house churches (also called "simple churches") have no dedicated facility, no staff, no allegiance to any denomination, and in some cases, no ordained pastor. Instead, as their name implies, they are simply small groups of like-minded worshippers (fewer than 40, according to one definition) who meet in members' houses and tailor their worship to their particular needs. House church have precedence reaching back to the earliest days of Christianity, before church hierarchies had been established. Worldwide, house churches are often the only means through which the faithful can gather in countries where Christianity is suppressed.

Evangelical strategist, researcher and futurist George Barna believes that house churches are a phenomenon to be reckoned with. Providing a service to Christians who are alienated from or simply don't care for traditional churches and megachurches, house churches may, according to Barna, become the spiritual home for a majority of US Christians -- perhaps two-thirds of them by 2025.

The past few years have seen more home-based trends in realms such as education, weddings and even funerals. Growing cynicism concerning large institutions is partly to blame, while the Internet makes it easy for ad hoc groups to organize and attract new members.

Those interested in starting, maintaining or joining house churches can find plenty of helpful resources online. Support websites include House Church Central, Housechurch.org, Religioustolerance.org, and the House Church Blog. Also, read articles critical of the house church movement here and here.

RELATED: Andrew Jones blogs about the pros and cons of house churches, providing some useful links in the process.

Source: TIME