The house church movement in the USA is weak and anemic compared to the same movement in other nations. Barna’s research on the size of the house church movement gives a huge range (anywhere from 4% to 33%) depending on the definition “house church.” I think the lower end numbers are much better guestimates.
In my travels to other nations I find that where the church is growing the fastest, house churches are the primary church expression.
Why do Americans seem to have an aversion with the house church?
Here are five reasons I offer:
One of my neighbors asked me why they hadn’t seen me in “brick church” (my name for any “non-house” church) and I told her that we were in a house church. Her response, “That’s too much like a cult for me. “ In a brick church there is institutional presence that makes church seem, well, more culturally acceptable. People know what to expect and what will be expected of them.
It’s safe to be in a place where the expectations are clear.
2. The Joiner Factor (“Safety, Part 2”)
Some years ago my wife asked another mom to join a home school coop in our area. “No way,” she replied, “I am not a joiner.” We had never heard that phrase before, but it made a lot of sense to hear it. Many people want to walk around on the edges of church before making a decision to “plunge in” and “join.” In a small house fellowship, you can’t passively participate until you decide to get serious. If you are in the room you are an active participant. That’s a little too close for many people.
You can stay on the periphery of a brick church, making it a safer place for new people.
Like it or not, our church tradition has a lot to do with what we want in church. Even those who never attend church as adults usually experienced church as kids or at the “big moments” in life (marrying and burying). This creates a cultural definition of church that does not include the house church
We like our tradition.
Most of the time, after describing our house church to church-goers, they respond with, “We have small groups for that.” This small group experience makes people think they already get the house church experience (this response is always very frustrating for me because being a part of house church is nothing like being a part of a small group in a brick church small group).
Most people are inoculated from house church by the small group experience.
Finally, the US church is focused on teaching as the primary activity in church. The format of the service, the buildings, the promotion of the ministry, are all aimed at teaching (or, in many cases, the "teachers"). This is a leftover from the Protestant Reformation. US church-goers seldom experience what it means to be a part of a church in which community is more important than teaching. This bias toward teaching has been so ingrained into our definition of church that we cannot easily let go of it.
House churches fail to meet the cultural expectation on teaching.
What do you think? What are the reasons for American aversion to the house church movement?
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