As many of you are aware, I am a strong advocate of The christian mysticism, the ‘ekklesia.’ Though many have heard that word, surprisingly few are aware that it is NOT a religious term. Actually, it is a Greek word that means “the called out ones.” It referred to a forum of Roman men – a council – that the Roman Empire would send into any region that its armies had conquered so that they could teach their captives to become Roman citizens. Get that? Rather than crush their defeated foes, wipe them out, they allowed them to remain as farmers, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, etc. so that they could collect their taxes and assimilate them into Rome’s culture. Again, Rome’s goal was to make them Roman Citizens. The early Christians related to the Roman concept of ekklesia and saw the similarity of their mission. So, they adopted the term for themselves.
The concept was short-lived, unfortunately, as the Empire struck back! Constantine declared Christianity the state religion and, at that moment, the ekklesia lost its impact. Through the generations, any time any group has attempted to return to New Testament Christianity and revive the ekklesia, they were ostracized, persecuted and murdered by the thousands – even by others who called themselves ‘Christians.’
Philemon 2 …and to the church that meets in your house; Colossians 4 …and the church in her house; Romans 16 …also the church that meets at their house…although we read these verses and others, sometimes wondering what that style of Church-life was like, we forget that, throughout the planet to this day, Christians STILL gather in homes. Likewise we forget that, even today, many of these brothers and sisters still face persecution and even death.
Some call them simple churches. Others use the term ‘organic churches’. The Bible refers to them simply as “the Church.” By definition, they are rapidly multiplying, simple communities of believers, meeting in homes, offices, campuses…wherever God is moving. This is the pattern common to many parts of the globe, and is now becoming more and more common in the U.S. as well.
Buildings, programs, titles and professional clergy are NOT essential elements of a church. Never have been. That happened when the ekklesia attempted to get organized and even began blending itself with pagan religions. Let’s bear in mind that Constantine took the title Pontificus Maximus (highest priest, forgetting that Jesus Himself is High priest) and was head of ALL things spiritual, Christian and pagan. He did what anybody would do, choosing the path of least resistance and merging the two extremes the best he could. Do you see what happened to the early Church? She became absorbed in the ways of the world.
The House2House site continues: “By ‘simple church’, we mean a way of doing and being church that is so simple that any believer would respond by saying, “I could do that!”
“By ‘house church’, we mean the kind of church that is described in the New Testament. Not constrained by structure but by the needs of the extended family of God, and driven by a desire to extend the Kingdom of God.”
This style of Church can more easily listen to God and mobilize, led by His Spirit and obeying His commands. One day a gathering can be a healing center. Another time, a teaching center. Another time a worship center. Another time, a fellowship hall. Another time, a prayer meeting. We can mix and match and we can spontaneously load up the cars and head out to minister to others as well (my first gathering was a dinner where a woman called threatening to kill herself. We left our meal and sped over there. She’s doing fine these days.)
We’re describing a family who shares the same Father; not a heavenly being inthe clouds but One who dwells within and works through us. We have a greater opportunity to become spiritual parents raising spiritual sons and daughters to establish their own families in their own realm of influence.
Church as unusual
This kind of church may or may not meet in a house. It can meet anywhere we are because we ARE the Church. Statistics reveal that people are leaving traditional church to find God. Traditional churches are shrinking while house churches are growing. Personally, I have met with groups in coffee shops, hair salons, bank conference rooms, bed and breakfasts, a spare room over a noisy bar, hotels and nursing homes.