As the modern ‘home church’ movement continues to gain momentum and to threaten the peace and unity of congregations from every denomination, it behooves all who love Christ’s Church to speak the truth in love to ‘home church’ advocates.
Therefore, and in the interests of understanding and of outreach, I offer this pastoral advice:
If by ‘home churching’ a person simply means that his congregation meets in someone’s house rather than in some fancy building, then we must regard this as a perfectly acceptable practice and perhaps even preferable if it is a small church which is struggling financially.
However, if by ‘home churching’ that person means that he has abandoned the ‘institutional church’ and has begun to assume the prerogatives or exercise the functions of the special officers of the Church (i.e., Pastor, Elder, or Deacon), then he is in serious error.
While I do regard the entire ‘home church’ movement as essentially erroneous, I do at least appreciate the average ‘home church’ advocate’s desire for an ‘authentic New Testament experience’ of Christian fellowship and worship.
Whether it was due to the melodrama of high-church liturgy or the mediocrity of evangelical praise and worship, your average ‘home church’ advocate has become properly disillusioned and is probably only looking for that Church which he reads about in Acts 2:40-47.
Before you judge a ‘home church’ advocate, you need to examine yourself and your own local congregation to make sure that you are not guilty of the same shortcomings and sins that have led so many to leave the ‘institutional church’ in recent years (Matthew 7:1-5).
Does your local congregation at all resemble that church described in Acts 2:40-47? Do you at all resemble those early Christians who loved each other, shared their possessions, and enjoyed daily fellowship with gladness and simplicity of heart?
If not, then you can probably learn as much from the ‘home church’ advocate as he can learn from you.
In all your discussions, be careful not to answer the matter before you understand the ‘home church’ advocate’s reasons for leaving the ‘institutional church’ (Proverbs 18:13, John 7:24).
For it is only by careful listening that you will know whether you should (1) warn him about the dangers of his ecclesiastical rebellion, (2) comfort him as one who has lost heart, or (3) uphold him as one who is simply weak in the faith. Whichever you discover to be most needful, be patient with all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Most ‘home church’ advocates honestly love the Bible and earnestly desire to do what it says. All you need to do is help them realize what it actually does say.
Again, your average ‘home church’ advocate loves that picture of the infant church which is found in Acts 2 and this is both natural and good.
What you need to do is show them how this newborn church eventually grew up into that institutional-and-presbyterial looking thing that is pictured later in Acts 15 and in the Pastoral Epistles.
If you are unable to convince your ‘home churching’ friend to come back into Christ’s earthly and institutional Kingdom, then just be patient (for one of two things will inevitably happen):
1. The ‘home church’ will eventually evolve into a ‘real church’ which is biblically ordered and governed. In this case, you can praise God that the Church has been propagated in fulfillment of Christ’s promise.
2. The ‘home church’ will eventually devolve into a cultish group of arrogant and disgruntled people that you would not want in your congregation anyways. In this case, you can praise God that the Church has been protected in fulfillment of Christ’s promise.
By Pastor Christian McShaffrey