The House Church Movement


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The House Church Movement Copyright 2012 by David W. Cloud
ISBN 978-1-58318-137-9
Published by Way of Life Literature PO Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061 866-295-4143 (toll free) - [email protected]
www.wayoflife.org Canada:
Bethel Baptist Church 4212 Campbell St. N., London Ont. N6P 1A6 519-652-2619 (voice) - 519-652-0056 (fax)
[email protected] Printed in Canada by Bethel Baptist Print Ministry
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Table of Contents
Introduction .....................................................................................4 The Many Faces of the House Church Movement .........................5 Motivations for the House Church Movement .............................11 The Challenge of the House Church Movement ..........................13 The Agenda of the House Church Movement ..............................44 The Heretical Jungle of the House Church Movement .................53 Scriptures Misused by the House Church Movement .................102 The Legalism of the House Church Movement ..........................108 The Doctrine of Apostasy: A Glaring Omission in House Church
Writings....................................................................................115 Frank Viola and the Organic Church ...........................................196 The Integrated Church and Vision Forum ...................................233 Powerful Publications for These Times.......................................248
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Introduction
The house church movement is large and is growing rapidly. It is also called simple church, open church, integrated church, micro church, and organic church. According to Barna research, there are 11 million people involved in the house church movement in the United States, with 70 million having experimented with it.
A Church in a House vs. the House Church Movement There is nothing unscriptural about a church that meets in a house. Churches have met in homes since the first century, and if that were the essence of the house church movement we would have nothing negative to say about it. A scriptural church can meet in a house, a barn, a storefront, a cave, a forest, or its own building. Where a church meets is irrelevant. The important issue is whether or not the church is established along scriptural lines. As we will see, the house church movement is not merely about churches meeting in houses.
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The Many Faces of the House Church Movement
In one sense it is difficult to speak in generalities about the “house church movement” since it has many faces, but we have made an earnest effort to understand it “from the horse’s mouth.” For this report I read over 25 books, including the following, in addition to internet research:
• An Army of Ordinary People by Felicity Dale • House Church edited by Steve Atkerson • House to House by Larry Kreider • Organic Church by Neil Cole • The Church in the House by Robert Fitts • Starting a House Church by Larry Kreider and Floyd
McClung • Waking the Dead by John Eldredge • The House Church Book by Wolfgang Simson • Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola • Grace Walk by Steve McVey • 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday by Steve McVey • Reimagining Church by Frank Viola • Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna • The Rabbit and the Elephant by Tony and Felicity Dale • Planting Churches That Reproduce by Joel Comiskey
The “house church” presented in these books is not one thing. It is a multiplicity of things and represents a multiplicity of doctrine. It is a jungle of heresies and legalism under the guise of a new “liberty” and a new “wineskin.”
The following are four major categories of house churches, though there are many overlaps.
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Please understand that if what I am describing does not fit your particular “house church,” then I am not talking about you! I realize that there are biblical churches that meet in houses and that are not guilty of these errors.
1. The no-pastor house church
A large number of house churches are organized around the principle of being opposed to pastoral authority. The rejection of pastoral authority runs the gamut from Frank Viola’s denunciation of every type of pastor/elder to Steve Atkerson’s allowance for a teaching pastor but not a ruling pastor to Wolfgang Simson’s non-authoritative “elder” that is under the direction of apostles and prophets.
“Although all house churches are different, and they decide individually how they want to do things, in general there are no ‘pastors.’ At least there doesn't need to be. We believe that the Holy Spirit can use any believer to teach or encourage the group. In a house church, everyone is expected to participate and be looking for ways to use the gifts the Holy Spirit provides (see 1 Cor. 14:26). Certainly there is usually a facilitator of the group (although it doesn't need to be the same person that facilitates from meeting to meeting). We believe that even a new believer could start a church in their home without feeling like they need a trained professional to come and lead it, or needing money to support such a person. We find that the lack of a specified pastor encourages every person in the group to look for answers by searching the Scriptures and looking to the Holy Spirit, rather than depending on the pastor to interpret” (“Does a House Church Need a Leader or Pastor?” HousetoHouse.com).
In connection with the rejection of authoritative church leadership, many house churches promote “open participation” services and despise traditional preaching/ teaching. House2House says, “1 Corinthians 14:26 is the basis for what we do when we get together. The key is ‘each one has...’ Everybody should be able to take part. ... [Bible study is to be] interactive.”
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These types of house churches emphasize the necessity of keeping the church small. House2House says, “The experts claim that 15-20 adults is the maximum number that you should let a house church grow to” (House2House FAQ).
These types of house churches tend to be composed more of disgruntled members from various churches than converts won directly by the house church itself. They criticize the “traditional” churches, but they aren’t making a major contribution to the fulfillment of the Great Commission themselves.
2. The evangelistic house church
Another segment of house churches are devoted to evangelism. All of the house churches believe in evangelism to some extent, but some have a major passion to keep the church informal and simple in order to multiply it more widely and reach more people for Christ. Some of these types of house churches do believe in pastors.
For example, Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung, in Starting a House Church, and Joel Comiskey in Planting Churches that Reproduce, support the concept of biblical pastor/elders who provide real leadership (though in typical emerging “facing both ways” fashion they weaken and even contradict this position by associating with proponents of house churches that don’t have such leaders).
3. The latter rain apostolic revival house churches.
Many of the house churches are associated with the leaders of the Pentecostal-Charismatic latter rain apostolic revival movement. They expect the return of Christ to be preceded
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by a miracle-driven revival that will surpass even that of the first century. Churches will be unified; prophets and apostles will operate in sign wonders; there will be a great ingathering of souls; the kingdom of God will be established through many segments of society. This is called dominionist or kingdom now theology.
House church proponents who hold this theology include Larry Kreider, Chuck Pierce, Rick Joyner, Wolfgang Simson, and C. Peter Wagner.
Pierce describes their vision in his foreword to Larry Kreider’s 2008 book House to House:
“The time has come again for a great new move of God to sweep the earth. Several years ago, the Lord asked me to help realign His Body to create a new order in preparation for this move to begin. He had revealed to me that we were entering a new war season, and in the midst of the season, there had to be a new alignment, a new method of gathering and ‘doing church.’ ... The Kingdom of God is moving forward! To accomplish this requires all the ascension gifts to be aligned: apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, and pastors. A plan of dominion for ‘this age’ has been released” (Chuck Pierce, foreword to House to House, p. 14).
We say more about this in the chapter “The Heretical Jungle of the House Church Movement.”
4. The integrated family church
Another group of house churches is devoted to a strong emphasis on the family and an “integrated” philosophy, though not all integrated churches are house churches.
The Integrated Church Movement (ICM), also called the Family Integrated Church, is defined as follows:
“The family-integrated model jettisons all age-graded ministries. Those who adhere to this model view each family
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unit (single or married, with or without children) as one ‘block’ that comprises the local church. That is, they view the church as a family of families. They view the church’s purpose as equipping the parents, primarily the fathers, to evangelize and disciple their children” (Terry Delany, “Three Perspectives on Family Ministry,” March 18, 2009).
This is not an organization but a philosophy, and there are many varieties of and networks of Family Integrated churches.
Many fundamentalist home schoolers are involved in the integrated family church concept. We deal more with this in the chapter “The Integrated Church and Vision Forum.”
In conclusion to this section on the many faces of the house church movement, we would hasten to add that there is a tremendous amount of overlap and interconnection. It must be remembered that the vast majority of the leaders of the house church movement are not separatists. Most are ecumenical to some degree. They believe in affiliation, not separatism. They might disagree with one another, but generally they don’t reprove one another or separate from one another. Most of them are associated together in a variety of ways. House2House and SimpleChurch.com, for example, are forums or umbrellas for a wide variety of house church proponents. Within these forums men as diverse as Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet and Neil Cole and Steve Atkerson associate. The house church leaders quote one another and recommend one another’s books and blogs.
And they love to network. There are countless house church networks, regional, national, and international, such as Sojourners HC Network, Worldwide Awakening Ministries, Oasis Ministries, Narrow Gate, Solomon’s Porch, Cities on Hilltops, Breathing Space Ministries, Harvest-Net, Lancaster Micro-Church Network, Association of Home Churches, the
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Underground, Gates of Praise, All Nations, DOVE Christian Fellowship International, and Church Multiplication Associates (CMA). There are networks of networks. This facilitates the spread of doctrinal error. All of the heresies that we document in the book Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse are found in the house church movement. The book is available for free in ePUB, PDF, and Kindle formats at the Free eBooks section of the Way of Life web site -- www.wayoflife.org
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The House Church Movement