As promised, I will continue to publish it, chpater by chapter, on this blog and it is still available in its entirety here.
You can also visit this same website if you wish a print copy of the book.
Introduction (previously posted) can be found here.
Chapter One follows.
Chapter 1: The Case for Simple/House Church
Perhaps today, more than ever, it is vital that we grasp the significance of the simple/house church paradigm. Let’s look at why this is so important.
1. Simple / House Churches are Removing Hindrances
I love the way Eugene Peterson (translating Ephesians 1) expresses the essence of what the church really is: “The church is Christ’s body in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” Yet, as my wife and I travel throughout the world we see the church so often hindered by organizational forms and structures that are not necessary. By reducing or eliminating these human-made restraints, the church can be unleashed. My wife, Brooks, wrote these words after returning from Africa:
The Revolution is happening – it’s happening all over the world. We are in a Reformation. Acknowledge it or not. Be a part of it or not. Jesus longs for his church to come alive, to become a living, breathing, organism. He longs for us to be in a real, live, intimate relationship with Him, regardless of others – and then in real, live relationship with our families – earthly and spiritual. And, He’s begging us to come alive, be who we are as individuals, alive and free in Him, telling the world who and what He has done for us…
What I saw in Kenya, I see in America and I see in other parts of the Christianized world. The enemy accepts that Christianity is in the world… but if he can just contain us, keep us from contaminating others, there’s little to worry about. If he can contain us in buildings, then the world will not know the truth and few will be set free. But what I saw in Kenya, I also see in America and other parts of the world. The virus is leaking. The Reformation of the 21st Century, led by the Holy Spirit, is taking Christianity out of containers into the open spaces of the neighborhoods and nations of the world.
2. Simple / House Churches are Biblical
The New Testament does not seem to make a big deal about the forms and structures of church. The focus is much more on Christians going and living the lifestyle of Jesus. Yet, it is easily noted that most church gatherings were simple and natural, meeting mostly in homes:
Please give my greetings to the church that meets in their home (Romans 16:5).
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house (1 Corinthians 16:19).
Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house (Colossians 4:15).
By meeting in homes, the early church gathered families, households, and other normal social connections together. The Gospel spread quickly through these lines of family and friends and everyday relationships. This methodology was biblical as well as effective for the spread of God’s message.
3. Simple / House Churches Empower All Believers
House churches make room for the spiritual gifts of all believers to operate on a regular basis.
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).
By simplifying church and gathering simply and naturally in home-sized groups, everyone becomes a participant and every person’s gift is needed. This trains and equips the whole Body of Christ to become fully alive and fully functioning.
4. Simple / House Churches Foster Authentic Community Life
The desire for authentic relationships where we can open our lives, share our lives, and be vulnerable safely seems to be a universal hunger. Someone suggested that they had closer relationships at the neighborhood bar before becoming a Christian than they experienced in their neighborhood church after becoming a Christian.
The shared life that takes place in simple/house churches allows people to find a place of community that is real and honest, where practical living can be discussed and the real struggles of life addressed. As relationships develop it becomes possible to genuinely “encourage one another” and “bear one another’s burdens.”
John Eldredge says, “when Scripture talks about church, it means community. The little fellowships of the heart that are outposts of the kingdom. A shared life. They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together. They hang out together, in each other's homes.”
5. Simple / House Churches Free Up Finances
Isaac Cheduke, a church planter in Africa, shared with us his deep grief in closing down a church that had nearly 100 members because they could not afford the rent on the building where they met. As he found the freedom to meet in homes and to network house churches, he is no longer constrained by buildings and finances. He has now developed a network of dozens of house churches that are multiplying and has money available to meet needs of people rather than cover the cost of buildings.
This is not just a problem in under-developed countries. It is estimated that it takes over two hundred thousand dollars to launch a church in America. Imagine the money that can be freed up for missions and poverty by simplifying our church structures.
6. Simple / House Churches Can Be Easily Reproduced
Perhaps the most significant case for house churches is that they can be easily started and multiplied. God’s clear desire is for the earth to be filled with the “knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).” Rather than build buildings and organizations that require tremendous time, finances, and energy to reproduce, the kingdom of God multiplies organically: one seed produces fruit that produces more seed that produces more fruit. The power of multiplication is far more powerful than we realize. Take a look at any forest and realize how much is accomplished through natural reproductive processes without any human aid at all.
One of the most exciting developments around the world is rapid church planting movements. These take place where disciples are reproduced quickly and simple/house churches are reproduced rapidly. When this happens, entire cities and regions are being impacted with the Good News of Jesus Christ. There are several components that must be present for Church Planting Movements to take place, but one of them is a model of church that is easily reproduced—a simple/house church model.
7. Simple / House Churches Can Ignite Our Generation
Many people, today, are catching the vision of what the church is meant to be as she throws off the hindrances and becomes the Spirit-filled movement of Believers she is destined for.
We are catching the vision for living life, 24/7, with and for God without one moment or place being more holy than another. It is a vision of every believer contributing to one another through the spiritual gifts that reside in each one. It is a vision of every believer, using his/her gifts, to take God’s love and power into the world we live in. It is a vision of no longer thinking of the church as an event or place to go, but realizing that we, his people, really are the church everywhere and every place that we go.
Wolfgang Simson describes his vision of what the church, unhindered, is becoming:
[I dream of a] church, which does not need huge amounts of money, or rhetoric, control and manipulation, which can do without powerful and charismatic heroes, which is non-religious at heart, which can thrill people to the core, make them lose their tongues out of sheer joy and astonishment, and simply teach us The Way to live. A church which not only has a message, but is the message. Something which spreads like an unstoppable virus, infects whatever it touches, and ultimately covers the earth with the glory and knowledge of God.