Not So Simple Church

There is an interesting and important article on the front page of USA Today today.  The headline: Christians celebrate ‘simple’ Easter.  The article highlights the growing number of people walking away from the institutional church and opting instead for more organic or home church experiences.   A January 2011 survey by the Barna Research Group reports that 5% of Americans attend a “house church or simple church, which is not associated in any way with a local, congregational type of church.”  That number is an increase from a similar survey in 2006.  The article touts the benefits of an intimate experience with a small number of believers where the “spirit moves” and there is no need for a pastor or church hierarchy.  With Easter upon us, the article points out that more and more Americans are choosing to experience Easter worship in non-institutional ways.  Respondents to the Barna survey reported that it was “good enough” for Christians to…


  • Engage in faith activities at home: 89%
  • Be active in a house church: 75%
  • Tune in a religious program on television: 69%
  • Tune in a religious program on radio: 68%
  • Join in a special event like a religious concert or service activity: 68%
  • Participate in interactive faith websites: 45%
  • Participate in interactive faith events online: 42%


The USA Today article presents an alarming trend that we should be very concerned about.  I say this not as a Pastor of an institutional church but as a follower of Jesus Christ.  The whole discussion begs the question of what exactly is a church?  While the Bible says that where two or more are gathered that the spirit of God is in the midst of them, it does not say that two or more constitute a church.  And while it is true that the first churches met in homes (out of necessity I might point out) there is strong and obvious evidence of church authority and structure within those churches.  It was never a free-for-all.  But what is most alarming to me about the growth of the 21st century version of the American house church is that outside of a few Christians meeting for their own personal authentic experience, many of these “churches” are doing nothing else that churches do, namely missions.  They are not training disciples in any sort of strategic manner.  In fact, most of these house churches have NO strategy to do anything other than meet.  They sponsor no missions endeavors, send no missionaries, etc.  They do not baptize anyone and they offer little to nothing for the next generation other than childcare.  It is, for the most part, a purely selfish experience with little to no outreach.  I would argue that it is Jesus Christ’s intention for the Church to be the number one conduit for taking the Gospel to the world.  And I do not see this in the house-church movement in America.  I would even contend that in order to take our Great Commission seriously that we actually need the structure of cooperative church networks (denominations) because churches can do more for the sake of the Gospel working together than alone.  The network that my church has chosen to be a part of is the Southern Baptist Convention.  This network is 44,000+ churches strong.  It has the greatest missions agencies in the history of the world and the 3# disaster relief agency in the world (behind the Salvation Army and the Red Cross).  Our church is serious about engaging the world with Gospel so we have networked with the best.  Is it perfect?  No way. But, in my opinion, it is better than any other network out there and much better than going it alone.


Is there anything wrong, or unbiblical, about Christians meeting in homes for worship?  Is there anything wrong with interacting on the Internet with faith sites?  No.  But it’s not the Church either.  Which means it needs to be a supplement not a replacement.  One of the things the institutional church needs to be better at is utilizing the homes of its membership for hospitality.  Yes people do want an intimate experience with other believers.  And technology opens all kinds of new doors to connect with people.  But we don’t have to abandon Jesus’ call for the Church to do this. 


One response to “Not So Simple Church”

  1. Roger says :

    I agree with what you are saying, that the house church is not an end in itself and that it must be missional to be the church described in the New Testament. My hope and prayer is that this movement (which I am not a part of by the way) will invade neighborhoods and see lives transformed and churches rapidly multiplying. When I pray, I think of this type of church being effective at reaching some segments of the population and certain cities (for some reason Seattle comes to mind, for example….a postmodern part of the country that is put off more than other areas by “traditional” religion). Also, the Southern Baptist website endorses simple church…as well as a number of venues like apartment complex churches/outreach, etc. Awesome website ( I think). I also hope that the lack of overhead in these simple churches allows for resources to be released to greatly affect the kingdom of God advancing. Not sure I agree that two or three gathered are not a church biblically though. If they are not, is there a minimum number that suddenly change it into a church? It seems that it is what they are doing and not how many there are that make a gathering a church. There are likely more overall people in traditional churches that are not doing missions either (we simply say that they are if their “church” is doing something). We need to be responsible and doing missions all the way down to the personal level. Just some thoughts.

    In digression, I wanted to respond to your comments about the Southern Baptists. I agree that it is a phenomenal group and that if God sent revival to that one fellowship alone, the US would be transformed. That being said, I would argue that while the Southern Baptists might have the greatest missions agencies in the world as far as sheer numbers of those sent, the Assemblies of God probably takes the title for effectiveness: Roughly 335,000 churches worldwide and 63,000,000 adherents with goals for the next decade of 500,000 churches and 100,000,000 adherents (as per the recent World AG Conference). I know we are all on the same team, but I thought I would get that little “I’m proud of my team” shot in there like you did. Ha!! Anyway, God Bless!!!

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