I recently met with a Christian leader working on a national level who is interested in exploring the idea of house church. In his experience, traditional, building based churches had generally done a poor job at making disciples. And, yet, embracing the house church model would represent a huge paradigm shift with many implications. He wanted to understand the Biblical basis for seeing church this way as well as the state of the house church movement. "Send me everything you've got" he said.
When we started on this house church journey in 1998, there were very few resources on the subject. Today, there is a wealth of helpful books, videos and articles. I didn't send this man everything I have but see below for some of what I think are the best resources available today.
In the "Comments" below, add the resources that you've found helpful. Also, I mention a couple of documents that I couldn't include in this post but would be glad to send you upon request.
1. Let's start with a general introduction to house churches in the world today.
"Tidal Wave" video: http://vimeo.com/4521963
"When You Come Together" video: http://vimeo.com/4678782
NBC Nightly News Report on House Churches: http://storiesfromtherevolution.blogspot.com/2010/10/nbc-news-reports-on-house-church.html
2. Jesus' strategy for fulfilling the Great Commission. As I mentioned, Roger Gehring's book House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity caused a huge shift in my thinking. Many people have developed strategies for fulfilling the Great Commission, but what if we adopted the strategy that Jesus used? Gehring explains what that was. (The book is a difficult read for most people as it was written as a 450 page doctoral dissertation. I've collected the most important quotes in the attachment below.)
(Glad to send this attachment upon request. Just write "send Gehring".)
3. Our traditional, building-centered forms of church are a significant departure from the Hebraic roots of the church. (No wonder they are highly ineffective at making disciples!) The early church was thoroughly Jewish. (Christianity did not become a separate "religion" until at least 70 AD and perhaps not until as late as 130 AD.) The Jews always understood that the home and not the synagogue was the center of spiritual life. Marvin Wilson, in Our Father Abraham, tells us that the Jews understood that each home was to be a miqdash me'at (a miniature temple). That's why every church in the NT met in a home and functioned as an extended spiritual family. Every epistle in the NT was written to people who were in house churches.
As Evangelicals we affirm that "the Bible is our authoritative guide for faith and practice" but we have departed from clear Biblical practice when it comes to how we do "church". Can we really expect God to empower a spiritual revolution if we reject biblical (ie, Hebraic) church values and practices?
(Glad to send the excerpt from Wilson’s book about the Jewish home upon request.)
To read: Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. This is the other side of the coin. If our current church practices didn't come from our Hebraic roots, where did they come from? (By practices, we're talking about things like church buildings, the sermon, the clergy, the Lord's Supper, etc.) Viola and Barna make a compelling case that many of our current church practices have no biblical basis at all. Warning! This is a shocking book. Key quote: "We are making an outrageous proposal: that the church in its contemporary form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does." (p. xx)
4. Two key rhythms. We in our ministry (the LK10 Community) teach people two key rhythms or practices at every level. The first practice is that of listening to God both as individuals and as a church. The second is connecting with each other on a heart level. We use a simple tool called SASHET to do this. These videos will explain. The result of this approach is that almost everyone is capable of starting and leading a church.
*Church flows from listening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BDBw1HZJWs
*CO2 (church of two). Two guys from my house church: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6HTr0Un_xc&feature=related
*Doing church with your family: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmTMYv9oq6A
*Using SASHET to connect on a heart level: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MWujA_D3K0
*Learning to hear God: 3 part video
*Campus Crusade leader on listening to God: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CA24nGNmvo
*The Spontaneous Church. This the first of a four part series. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o33ygW6kwJs
4. Stories from the Revolution. People who are doing it. There are many more stories on our blog. Here's a sampling...
*Praying the Lk 10:2b Prayer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9lnDS_JALQ
*Changing the culture in Kenya: http://www.youtube.com/user/LK10VIDEOS?feature=mhee#p/u/55/6jd7e5ZZYR4
*House churches in Brighton, CO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOYgTGPWSp4
5. Other resources.
*Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson. Key quote: "Much of Christianity has fled the family, often as a place of its own spiritual defeat, and then has organized artificial performances in sacred buildings far from the atmosphere of real life. As God is in the business of recapturing the homes, the church turns back to its roots - back to where it came from. It literally comes home, completing the circle of Church history at the end of world history."
*The Messianic Church Arising: Restoring the Church to Our Covenant Roots! by Robert Heidler. Key Quote: "The change from the informal house church to the formal basilica changed the whole concept of church. Before Constantine, a church was a family of believers. After Constantine, the church became a building.... The Jewish Sabbath celebration provided a pattern for the development of early Christian house churches."
*The Global House Church Movement by Rad Zdero. Key Quote: "The early church of the first three centuries was a 'living room' movement. This was the church that "upset the world" (Acts 17:6) in the first century and that forced the mighty Roman Empire to legalize Christianity after a three hundred year showdown. It is also the church that tens of millions of Christians are rediscovering today in places like China, India, Africa, Cambodia, Cuba, England and Western Europe, and, yes, even in North America."
*When the Church Was a Family by Joseph Hellerman. Key Quote: "For Paul, as for Jesus, the church was to function as a family... (The early Christians) had no temples, no sacrifices, no priesthoods, no liturgy - just an informal weekly meeting in a local home where they broke bread and sang a hymn "in honor of Christ as if to a god" (Pliny).