Creating fellowship  à Why start a house church? 


© Paul L. Hudson, Jr. 2003


-A summary of his book on House Church Planting






·         House churches, based on the model of the early church, can be planted in neighborhoods.

·         Funds for buildings are generally not needed, since private homes can serve as meeting places.

·         Regular believers are to be equipped to minister and serve in their house churches.

·         House churches can provide a nurturing, family atmosphere for discipleship.

·         House churches are free to multiply and grow as new leadership is raised up from within the house churches.


Why House Churches?

·         The early church met in house churches.

·         In Jerusalem, the saints met in the temple, but also met from house to house.  (Acts 2:46, 5:42.)  Among the Gentiles, meeting in homes continued to be the practice of the church.  (Rom. 16:5,23,  I Cor. 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2.) 


·         Using existing homes makes church growth much cheaper than building new buildings. `

·         New churches can be started quickly in the homes of believers.

·         Money can be freed up to support evangelists and to help the poor.

·         House meetings discourage the unscriptural idea that a church building is 'the house of God.'  ( Acts 7:47-49, I Cor. 3:16, Eph. 2:22, I Peter 2:5.)

·         House meetings promote a family atmosphere.

·         House churches are suitable for a primitive-style celebration of the Lord's Supper.

·         House churches may be persecution-resistant, though not persecution-proof (Acts 8:3.)


The Ministry of the Word in Meetings

·         The Bible does not teach that church meetings center on a one-man sermon.

·         The three-point sermon not in scripture, but rather from Aristotle and Greek culture.

·         Paul taught by means of discussion.  Once he held a discussion all night long.  (Acts 20:7.)

·         Early church meetings involved various members of the church singing, sharing teachings and revelations, etc.  (I Cor. 14:26.)

·         Hebrews 10:24-25, the verse that instructs us to not forsake assembling, tells us to rather exhort one another (not just passively be exhorted.)

·         The author of Hebrews expected, if his readers were mature and had the proper foundation of knowledge, they should become teachers.  Regular believers can teach in church.  (Heb. 5:12-14.)

·         I Peter 4:10-11 encourages Christians to minister their gifts one to another, including speaking gifts.

·         The synagogue in the first century allowed for regular men from the community to read and comment on the Torah, and also allowed a forum for discussion.  (Acts 17:2,17, 16:4 18:19, 19:8.)

·         Elders are to be apt to teach, but scripture does not teach that only elders can teach in church.  (I Timothy 3:2.)

*  Teaching ministry should produce more teachers.  (II Tim. 2:2.) 


The Lord's Supper:

·         The early saints broke bread in homes.  (Acts 2:46.)

·         Early Christian meetings often involved eating a meal in someone's house.  This was the practice of the early church, and even the pagans wrote about their love feasts.

·         The model for the Lord's Supper was a meal Christ ate with His disciples.

·         The early Christians celebrated the Lord's Supper as an actual meal.  (I Cor. 11:20-21, II Pet. 2:15, Jude 12.)

·         'Supper' in the Lord's Supper in Greek, refers to a full meal eaten toward the end of the day. 

·         We should eat the Lord's Supper recognizing the Lord's body, and our unity with one another, remembering the Lord in a holy manner.  (I Cor. 11:25-27, 33.  Galatians 2:11-12.)

·         We should refuse to eat the Lord's supper with unrepentant men called brothers who resist church discipline.  (Matt. 18:15-18, I Cor. 5, II Pet. 2:15, Jude 12.)  A house church community, where believers know one another well, is a place where this type of church discipline can be carried out so that the lump be not leavened.  (I Cor. 5:6-7.)



·         Paul, and other apostles, had a measure of rule that extended to the areas where they had brought the Gospel.  (II Cor. 10:13-16.)

·         Paul was a spiritual father to the Corinthians, whom he had begotten through the Gospel.  (I Cor. 4:14-15.)

·         Paul served as a counselor to churches he had planted, and tried to use persuasion to motivate them to do what was right.

·         Apostles appointed elders to tend the flock of God in churches they had planted.  (Acts 14:23. I Thes. 1:1,2:6, I Tim, 3:1, Tit. 1:5.)

·         The apostles appointed a plurality of elders.  Scripture does not give us an example of a church with only one elder.  (Acts 14:23, Tit. 1:5.)

·         The Bible does not teach that one pastor is above the other elders, except for the Chief Pastor, the Lord Jesus.  Elders were told to pastor the church.  (Acts 20:28, I Peter 5:2.)

·         Scripture also calls these elders bishops.  (Acts 20:28, Tit. 1:5,7.)Scripture refers to bishops plural within a single church.  (Philippians 1:1.)

·         Apostles and elders could be supported by the church.  Apostles who evangelized had a right to receive payment for their work.  (I Cor. 9:5-6,14.)  Elders are to receive payment in relation to their work.  (I Tim.5:17.)

·         Paul often waived his right to receive payment for his work so that no one could speak evil of his work.  (Acts 18:3, I Cor. 9:12.)  He worked with his own hands to support himself and others.  He encouraged church elders to follow his example.  (Acts 20:23-25.)

·         Elders are not to do their work because they receive payment (I Peter. 5:2.)

·         Some elders may keep their jobs.  Others may be supported by the church.  Others may live by a combination of their own work and church work.  We should allow each to follow the Lord's leading.

·         Working  a 'secular' job to support himself does not make a minister of the Gospel inferior to one who receives his support completely from the church.  The Bible does not forbid ministers of the Gospel from working outside the church.  (I Cor. 9:4-6.) , II Cor. 11:5.)


·         Paul and Barnabas preached and established churches, returning later to appoint elders.  The churches were left without elders during the initial stage. 

·         Many of the epistles Paul wrote to churches do not yet identify any of the brethren in those churches as elders.  Acts 13, which tells of Paul and Barnabas being sent out, does not mention elders in Antioch.

·         New churches can be planted, established, and function before members of the congregation matures enough to be qualified to function as bishops/overseers.

·         The elders Paul and Barnabas appointed on their missionary journey together were not Bible college graduates from the outside, but rather mature members from within the very church they were raised up to pastor. (Acts 14:23.)

·         Elders, teachers, and other leaders can be taught, trained, and raised up from within the church.  (Acts 14:23, Eph. 4:11-12, II Tim. 2:2.)  Experienced traveling ministers of the Gospel may wish to bring young men to travel with them.  (Mark 3:14, Acts 16:1-3, 13:5.  Galatians 2:1.)


Making Decisions

·         Paul and Barnabas initially left churches without appointing elders.  Churches were able to survive for that period without ordained elders.  (Acts 14:3.) 

·         Brethren in Christ are to be of one mind (Rom. 15:6, II Cor. 13:11, Phil. 1:27.Phil. 2:2, I Peter 3:8.)  Believers must be in one accord (Acts 1:14, 2:1, 2:46, 4:24, 5:12, 15:25, Phil. 2:2.)

·         Believers must practice mutual subjection.  (I Peter 5:5.)

·         Elders are to oversee and the flock of God among them and lead them.  They are to lead through example, not lording over the sheep.  (I Peter 5:1-4.)

·         Believers should yield to the persuasion of them who guide them.  (Heb. 13:17.)

·         The apostles included the congregation in the deciding who would handle the distribution of food.  (Acts 6:2-6.)

·         It pleased not only the apostles and elders, but also the whole church, to send Judas and Silas to Antioch.  (Acts 15:22.)

·         The Council of Jerusalem made a decision based on what they perceived seemed good to the Holy Spirit.  They made their decision based on what seemed good to the Spirit, not just their own opinion.  (Acts 15:23,28.)

·         Not only the apostles and elders, but also the brethren perceived that this seemed good to the Spirit. (Acts 15:23,28.) 


Rethinking Evangelism

·         Just repeating a prayer doesn't make one a Christian.  Often, only a small percentage of those who respond to altar calls during crusades are involved in church a year later.

·         We should present Christ as the solution for the condition of sinful man who has violated God's law, rather than someone who can merely enhance the life of the sinner, or offer him a 'fire insurance policy.'

·         We should rethink 'assembly line' or 'mass production' types of evangelism.  We must make sure those that hear must really understand.  Many local people take a while to consider the word before it takes root in their hearts.

·         We should reconsider that Christ taught to 'count the cost'  (Luke 14:28, 33.)  Believers should also be willing to confess Christ before men.  (Matthew 10:32-33.) 

·         We should reconsider the role baptism plays in receiving the Gospel.  (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12, 8:35-38, 10:44-48, 16:14-15, 16:30-33, 18:8, 1`9:4-5, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:3-4, I Cor. 10:2, Gal. 3:26-27, Col. 2:11-13, Pet. 3:21.)


Evangelism Strategy

·         Gifted church planters may move to a neighborhood and open their own home for church meetings.

·         Church planters may win others to Christ by inviting unbelieving families, one family at a time, over for dinner, forming relationships, and sharing the gospel.

·         Other Christians who want to open their homes to start a house church may regularly invite the church planter and an unbelieving family over for dinner on the same night.

·         New believers typically have close relationships with unbelievers for a period of time after conversion.  New believers may have enthusiasm to share the Gospel, but little experience and knowledge concerning how to evangelize.

·         Church planters can share the Gospel across these 'bridges of God'-relationships with unbelievers- by forming relationships with the families of new believers, perhaps inviting them over for dinner.   New converts from this work can be added to existing house churches, or may open their homes for house church meetings in other neighborhoods.

·         Fellow church members can help one another pray for unsaved loved ones.

·         Church planters should hope to win entire households to Christ, and not just individuals.

·         New believers are offered a new family life in their new house church.

·         The church planter teaches house churches about mutual edification so that they can have meetings while he is away helping other house churches.

·         Regular believers can plant new house churches as the number of believers grow.  (Acts 11:19-22,16.)


Circulation of Gifted Members

·         The apostles sent Barnabas to the new church at Antioch.  (Acts 11:22.)

·         Prophets from Jerusalem ministered to the young church in Antioch.  (Acts 11:27-18.)

·         Apollos, a man knowledgeable in the scriptures traveled to Achaia and strengthened the saints there. (Acts 18:24,18,29.)

·         Though Paul would leave behind churches he started, returning at a later date, he would also send his co-workers to help young churches.

·         Gifted saints can visit various house churches, teaching, or ministering in other gifts.

·         As the new house church Christians grow and develop in their gifts, they can help other house churches, both old churches, and new ones.  House churches or groups of house churches may wish to write letters commending traveling saints.  (Acts 18:27.)  The open nature of the house church meeting allows for visiting saints to share their gifts.  (I Cor. 14:26,)

·         Those with gifts talents not considered conventional ministry gifts may also circulate through other house churches, offering ministry.  E.g.  those gifted in prayer, sharing about handling finances, literacy education, etc.


Christian Education and Training

·         Every believer in a meeting must grow in knowledge and develop in his or her spiritual gifts.

·         Those with various ministry gifts should be trained up within the local church.

·         Hebrews 5:12 begins: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers…"  Hebrews appears to have been written to the regular believers, and not to the leaders in particular.  Believers should be nurtured until they mature to spiritual adulthood, and grow into ministry.  (Heb. 13:17.)

·         We should work toward the goal of the average Christian in a house church having the nearly same level of knowledge as the average Bible school graduate.

·         Christians should learn about the entire Bible in their church community.  We can look to the Jewish community in Christ's day and the early church as models for educating our children and adult brethren in the things of God.

·         Christians should have some level of education in the history of the church.

·         Elders and teachers should have a well-rounded education.  They should have a good understanding of the scriptures.  Elders should have some practical understanding of hermeneutics, the process of canonization of the scriptures, the history of the church, and knowledge related to issues they might face in their cultural context.  E.g. contextual evangelism, creation v. evolution, etc.

·         Believers should have some knowledge of how to use the scriptures in evangelism, and how to relate them to the cultural context around them.

·         Curriculums can be developed to help house churches study various topics, in addition to reading through the scriptures.  House churches may wish to have meetings during the week to learn about topics such as how scripture was canonized, church history, evangelism techniques, or even Greek or Hebrew, etc.


·         Believers can grow and grow in their own ministry callings through mentoring relationships with others who are more mature in those gifts.  We should allow room for mentoring, Paul-Timothy type relationships.

·         The older women have a lot to teach the younger women.  (Titus 2:3-5.) 

·         We must exhort one another so that we can learn to love, and so that we do not fall into sin.  (Heb. 3:13, 10:24-26.)



·         House churches can have relationships with other house churches through relationships with the same ministers of the Gospel.

·         House churches may wish to gather together with other churches for large celebration gatherings or conferences.

·         Large meetings may allow for house church Christians to network with other believers, and may allow a network of believers for young Christians to use in looking for spouses.

·         Elders from house churches can pray together with other elders from the church in the city.

·         House church Christians should be taught scriptural 'levels' of church:  the house church, the city church, and the heavenly church.  The scripture does not support denominationalism.

·         Though a denomination may need to be used in some areas for legal purposes, believers in house churches are taught not to have a denominational or exclusive mindset.

·         Church planters and laborers in house churches must respect the work of other laborers and not get into carnal competition.  We must keep the Lord's kingdom in mind, and not build our own kingdoms.

·         It may be beneficial for church planters who want to do this type of church planting to have the experience of living in a church community, which practices mutual edification.



·         House churches can be cheap to plant, but cost a lot in labor.

·         Church planters and other ministers from within house churches can save money if house church Christians are taught the Biblical principles of hospitality. (Rom. 12:13.) I Tim. 3:2,Tit. 1:8,  I Pet. 4:9,  Matt. 10:10-13, Luke 10:4-8.)  A network of hospitable Christians can make traveling through a region much cheaper. 

·         Churches should learn to share on the local level, (Acts4:32-25, Mark 10:30, I Tim 6:17-19.)  Churches should also share with other churches in other areas that are in need.  (II Cor. 8:13-14.)

·         Churches should be taught to provide for those who labor among them.  (I Cor. 9:4-15, Gal. 6:6, I Tim 5::17-19, Matt. 10:10-13, Luke 10:4-8.)

·         Church elders should do their work, not for money, but out of a desire to serve.  ((I Peter 5:2.)  This type of work ethic needs to be imparted to house church elders.

·         House church ministry might not provide a comfortable, guaranteed salary.  Elders may work to supplement their income, or live on faith on what the Lord generously provides for them.

·         Elders who work a secular job can show forth the Gospel in their workplaces.  They are also able to relate to the financial needs and struggles of other church members.


House Churches and Indonesian Denominations

·         Some denominations may wish to take a two-track approach to ministry.  One track would be the traditional clergy-led church.  The other would be the house church track.

·         The scripture does not even provide an example of an elder baptizing.  In addition to the apostles, we see Philip, who was an evangelist and possibly a deacon, baptizing (Acts 6:2-5, 21:8, 8:12,38.) as well.  But Ananias who baptized Saul of Tarsus, is described as 'a certain disciple' (Acts 9:10.)

·         Disciples can baptize other disciples.  Baptism should not be the sole right of clergy, especially in churches that have been left behind by church planters, before eldership has been raised up.

·         A denomination may wish to offer a baptism certificate based on the word of two or three reliable witnesses to the baptism.

·         The title clergy can actually encourage a top-down system of church government and an artificial clergy-laity distinction.

·         Non-Christians in a community may not welcome someone who uses the title clergy.  The title can put up a wall between a worker and those among whom he wishes to labor.

·         A denomination may wish to have 'elders' in their house churches, rather than clergy.

·         The title 'majelis' may tempt a new believer with pride.   (I Tim. 3:6.)

·         House church administration can be carried out by church planters and evangelists who visit the house churches, and by deacons, and elders that the Lord raises up in the house churches over time.