House Churches and Organic Churches (Part One)
If you’ve hung around with people who have been part of the house churches for long, you start to hear various terms for the same thing being thrown out: “House Church,” “Simple Church,” and “Organic Church” are the most common. These are often used inter-changeably as if they mean the same thing.
The problem is that when you really listen to what people in these conversations are saying, they don’t mean them as the same thing. Many who use the phrase “organic church” say that a church can be organic at any size. Obviously most people using the phrase house church are talking about a church of a certain size. So what do we mean by these terms and how do we reconcile the two?
Organic church is a phrase that means a church built around the life of Jesus Christ manifesting in a gathering of believers. Many people also read into the phrase organic the idea that it’s church unaltered by man-made forces, much like you would expect when you go out and purchase organic fruit. The debate about what is “man-made” depends on who you consult with, but the list can include the following: religious tradition, hierarchy, discipleship models, evangelism tactics and more. Simply put, true organic church is based on around the life of Christ emerging within a church the way God designed it.
House church is a phrase that usually brings with it the connotation of size. These are small churches that generally, but not exclusively, meet in homes. Believers who are part of house churches don’t argue that the life of Christ needs to be central to what they do. But these churches tend to have reasons for meeting in smaller groups: The early church met this way, it helps them practice the “one anothers” of Scripture, the stewardship of finances, etc.
So, are these two the same thing? I think the answer is they can and should be. But how does that work? What does that mean for the churches who aren’t? These are the questions we’re going to look at in the coming days.