There are various church planting models. The Bible doesn't prescribe to us any one of them in particular. For this reason, we have the freedom to plant our church according to the model that best corresponds to our objectives and culture, as long as it meets the biblical requirements of a healthy church. Among these models is one that, in my opinion, should receive more attention and consideration. In this article I will use the acronym "LASER" to demonstrate five reasons for which it is wise to take the house church model into account when we consider planting a church, as it helps us laser-focus our energies on our most important objectives.
Before dying, Jesus gave his church a new command: that they love one another as he has loved them (John 13:34, 15:12). With this mandate, Jesus intends that the identity of his Church would be recognized by their love for one another.
The environment of house churches is perfect for expressing and experiencing love. The size of the church ensures that each member knows the needs of the others. Also, since there is no formal institution, the only way in which the needs can be satisfied is through the individual members of the community. Each time that they gather is an opportunity to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, speak the truth in love to one another, carry one another's burdens and love one another in similar ways.
What's more, house churches require an intimacy between their members that guarantees that each member will eventually be hurt by another member of the church. Through this challenge comes the opportunity to love in the most powerful way possible --through forgiveness-- and do it publicly.
Various statistics show that the churches that tend to reach those who do not already attend a church are new churches and small churches. Since house churches are small and can multiply rapidly into new churches, they already possess -- by their very nature -- the characteristics of those churches that tend to have the most evangelistic success.
Moreover, Jesus teaches us that it is by our love for one another that the world will realize who Jesus is (John 13:34-35, 17:23). This makes love the most effective evangelistic strategy there is. Since we have already seen that house churches provide a suitable context for love, we can also conclude that they give us a powerful evangelistic tool.
When we speak of discipleship, we are speaking of the process of implementing Jesus' teachings and growing more and more into his image. According to Ephesians 4:12-13, Christians arrive at this level of spiritual maturity through their works of service in the context of the local church.
House churches are designed to involve every member. The size of the group and the format of the meeting provide both the opportunity and the necessity to do so. For example, instead of listening to the prayers of one person, each person prays in the gathering. Equally, there is space for everyone to study and discuss the Word, use their spiritual gifts, and dedicate themselves to mutual discipleship and evangelism.
Every pastor and church leader shares the same responsibility: equip the people of God for works of service, in order to build the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). In fact, this is the reason Jesus gives leaders as gifts to his Church (Ephesians 4:11).
Human beings learn and change better when they can both listen and practice. In house churches, the size of the group and format of the meeting assure that members learn as much through formal teaching as through personal practice. For example, in such churches one does not learn to pray simply by listening to the example of a specific leader, but by means of each member's example and the experience of praying out loud with them. Similarly, one learns to read and interpret the BIble by actually doing it along with the group, under biblically-qualified leadership, instead of simply listening to a professional preacher.
We know that the simpler an organism is, the more quickly it can reproduce. House churches are not an exception to this rule. In order to be successful, a house church only requires two things. First, a man of character with sufficient knowledge to correct false teaching. Second, someone -- whether a Christian or not -- who is willing to open her house or business to the group. This means that nearly every house church already possesses within itself the resources it needs to multiply, since they don't need money, buildings or expert ministers. As a result, they can multiply themselves both quickly and easily.
The house church model is not the healthy model. But it is a healthy model. Therefore, it should be considered as a viable way to plant churches. It shouldn't be seen as nothing more than a "small version" of the traditional church model, but as a completely different means of reaching the same objectives. If you want to plant a church that is marked by Love, is able to Attract non-Christians, provides an excellent context for Service, Equips its members and can Reproduce itself into other healthy churches, perhaps the house church model is the model for you.
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.