Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Response to the House-Church Movement: Update

For the many readers who have been following the Response to the House-Church Movement (HCM) series, I thought I would offer you an update. I originally intended on writing just four articles in this series (see the Introductory post), dealing with the requirement to meet in houses for worship (Part One), the argument for fully participatory worship in which no one leads but each contributes in a spontaneous manner (Part Two), the argument that the Lord's Supper may only be rightly observed if the the context of a "full meal" (Part Three, after which I was interviewed on the subject), and the matter of elder leadership and authority (Part Four).

After writing the initial article responding to the tendency of the HCM to either weaken or altogether dispense with elder authority, I thought it proper to address another, related issue, which is the incorrect understanding of the term ekklēsía among some in the movement (Part Five).

Now I would like to let you know where I plan to go from here. I intend to write at least three more articles in this series. Part Six will deal with the HCM handling of Hebrews 13:17, which they interpret in a particular way over against other New Testament evidence concerning elder authority. Part Seven will address whether or not elders should receive pay or make a living in pastoral ministry, which is flatly denied by many in the movement. Then, last, I plan to write a conclusion in which I will summarize what I think are some of the more disturbing or dangerous tendencies among HCM advocates. This final article will be written especially due to the suggestion of one of the blog's readers, Gabriel (See the Comments on Part One).

I also intend to write a brief review of the recently released and updated version of Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, by Frank Viola and George Barna. The first version of this book (written solely by Viola) has been highly influential among HCM advocates, and this revised version will no doubt be even more influential due to the addition of Barna to the project. It has already sold a great many copies and garnered far too many positive reviews from those sympathetic to the HCM. Those who check out the book will see that the series I have been writing has already addressed most of the central issues taken up by the book, so I refer you back to the series for now.

As I encountered the House-Church Movement here in central Illinois, I was surprised that I could not find any real response to it from a Scriptural perspective as I searched the internet. It seems to me that this movement - although around for many years now - has been flying under the radar for far too long. This led to the current series of articles, and I am happy to report that they have been helpful to a number who have been struggling with HCM influences in their own cities and churches. I pray that God will give me grace and wisdom as I attempt to further answer the movement's claims and arguments. And I pray that my effort will continue to be of help to the brethren. Perhaps if I can continue to bring attention to this growing movement someone more capable than myself will take up the issue in the future. (James White would be the perfect guy!)


  1. Amen brother Keith, I'm praying for your wisdom and guidance from God on this topic. There definitely is a need for an answer and response to the allegations and stipulations the HCM presents! I thank God for you! Interestingly enough, Dan Kimball reviewed the updated Pagan Christianity and I can honestly say I was impressed with the questions he posed to HCM advocates...

    Check out the comments...

  2. Thanks for the encouraging words. And thanks for the link. I will check out the review.

  3. Hey brother Keith,

    House church folk are like Baptists - lots of varieties. No one speaks for all, which is good.

    I reviewed the PC book, too. It contained a little too much misinformation for a favorable rating:

    Let's find common ground where we can and work from there, OK? Some Reformed folk (Presbies) are real keen on house-hold baptisms, why not low-cost house churches to further the gospel - NOW? How do you think they should be configured and how could they be multiplied?

    Zane Anderson
    House Church Network

  4. Hey Zane, I appreciate your demeanor. You know it's funny, at least from my perspective, is not that I have an adamant opposition toward House church, what I have issue with is the behavior exhibited toward those who are not in House Church's and are held up as being heretics for meeting in "steeple houses'" That's the part that bothers me, that and the whole premise that the order of things/worship and such are anti-biblical.

    Example, the fellowship I attend, doesn't pay the leadership, there is no denominational tie or monies owed for that tie and the building is owned by the people....But one would hold that up as anti-biblical because its in a steeple house, it's not about money, it's not about efficiency and cost, it's about true biblical teaching, training the saints to minister the Gospel and direction under the authority that Christ has ordained and instituted for His church.

  5. Here is what I just posted in the Comments at your blog:


    I thank you for this review. It is a reminder that not all in the House-Church Movement are the same in their views. It is also a good reminder that not everyone who puts himself forward as a leader in this movement should be taken as a spokesman for the whole.

    As you know, I have been writing a series of articles at my own blog that are critical of much in the House-Church Movement, but I agree with virtually everything you have written in response to Viola and Barna. In fact, I think you may well have relieved me of the need to write my own review!

    I know you have already commented at my blog with a link to this review, but I intend to write a brief post there anyway, letting my readers know of your review and providing a link to it.

    Thanks again!

    Your Brother in Christ,


    I will write the post about your review sometime today.