House church /organic church developments
When we see something happening across the body of Christ in an unconnected but spontaneous and widespread fashion we need to take note.
Fad or trend?
While it may not be a definitive rule, two of the differences between a fad and a trend relate to the timescale and the outcome.
A fad often springs from nowhere and disappears just as quickly without trace – a meteor which flashes across the sky and then vanishes completely. Spectacular and attention-grabbing these things might be, but they are of little real or lasting significance.
A trend however is quite different.
In contra-distinction, a trend often builds very slowly and is usually difficult to detect in its early days. It is not ‘flashy’ in the sense of a high-profile fad but it is profound, lasting and pervasive. Yet – initially at least – there is no headline grabbing story to raise awareness and to attract a following: it is subtle, almost invisible and silent. Most often those experiencing something in their own spirit(s) in the early days will not know that others are sensing the same things. And ‘sensing’ invariably precedes any ‘doing’ – often with a long period of time between these two dynamics. As a process, considerable time might elapse regarding a trend before there are any ‘facts on the ground’.
A Holy Dissatisfaction
Around fifteen years ago or so I first started to detect traces of ‘something going on’. Typically, I would bump into a Christian friend in the street whom I hadn’t seen for some time. “How’s things; and how’s the family?” we would say. However getting into other things I would sense that my friend was – well – unsettled, but couldn’t quite put it into words. He (or she) would invariably be a solid Christian believer; earnest about their faith: certainly not a church-hopper. But the friend was troubled with (what I came to describe as) a ‘God-given unsettledness’; a sort of ‘Holy dissatisfaction’. Figuratively speaking it was as if they were looking at the dynamic in the book of Acts and comparing this with their own Christian life and church routines; and sensing a ‘disconnect’. But they were troubled.
Something at a spiritual level (and they couldn’t quite put their finger on it) was eluding them. And to add to their unease, as they looked across the spectrum of denominations and organised Christianity the could not see elsewhere what they felt was missing in their own environment. To further their discomfiture, it appeared that other Christians were happily engaged with their various meetings and church-life activities. So my friend(s) thought: “It’s only me. There must be something wrong with me, as everyone else seems OK.”
More and more...
Now these encounters described above – initially, well over a decade ago – were very occasional; perhaps once a year. But since then, the frequency has increased. As time passed, these conversations (all appearing in ‘chance’ encounters) were popping up more and more often: monthly, sometimes weekly and even (nowadays) almost daily.
As more and more people discovered that they were not alone in their thinking they realised that they were thinking the same thoughts. They found – and while many still find it difficult to articulate precisely their feelings – that standard churchianity was not leading to the fulfilled spiritual experience which is a part of new life in Christ (John 1:16).
...leading to developments
Most recently, over the past two years or so, more and more of those disciples have been starting to meet in small groups: very often in a home or some similar-sized but homely venue. But while it would be easy to say that these were just house groups they are not that and they are much more than that. In fact – using the biblical criteria regarding the life of believers meeting together – they are in fact churches in the fully-orbed sense of that word.
The man-in-the-street tends to define ‘church’ as denominations, steeple-houses, clergy and Sunday morning routines. But these are facets which have grown up – some helpful – which are not the essential components of ‘church’. In fact of themselves they offer no guarantees regarding depth of true biblical fellowship, spiritual reality or the meaningful, mutually-supportive relationship which ooze out of the recorded experiences of the early believers.
So what is the Spirit doing in our midst?
In a recent ‘conversation’ regarding the growth of small groups/house churches Chris Hill of CL Ministries spoke of the dynamic which is being seen and experienced across the church spectrum.
Have a listen to Chris’s take on what is happening. It makes for interesting and challenging listening. Chris and his wife are personal friends of Jean Darnall who was given a vision of 'small fires' breaking out across the country.
Watch this space for some more comment and teaching from Chris. The vision given to Jean Darnall and to which Chris refers can be found by clicking here.
Some within the house church movement consider the term "house church" to be a misnomer, asserting that the main issue for Christians who practice their faith in this manner is not the house but the type of meeting that takes place.
Other titles which may be used to describe this movement are "simple church" "relational church," "primitive church," "body life," "organic church," or "biblical church." However all of the practices implied by these terms are shared with many other churches outside the movement.