Worldwide Cell Churches
Planting House Churches
by Joel Comiskey
Taken from chapter 9 of Planting Churches that Reproduce (CCS Publishing, 2009).
We’ve lived in Moreno Valley long enough to see myriads of houses constructed. As I’ve passed by the new tracks of homes, I’ve often dreamed of the day when those homes would be used for a dual purpose: for normal living and to reach a lost world for Jesus Christ. Traditionally, people leave their home to go to church and then go back to their homes to live. I long for the day when the church is in the home, and the planting of new churches primarily involves the use of existing homes. The early church movement flowed along those lines.
Is it possible to simply meet in homes or other facilities that can accommodate a very small number of people? This is exactly what the house church strategy proposes. And there are plenty examples of house-based churches in the New Testament.
- Church in the house of Mary (Acts 12:12).
- Church in the house of Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3–5; see also 1 Corinthains 16:19).
- Church in the house of Nympha (Colossians 4:15).
- Church in the house of Archippus (Philemon v.2).
There are also examples of Jesus and early Christians going to people’s homes where they would heal people, evangelize seekers, baptize entire households, and disciple new believers (note 1). David Garrison says:
House churches are stand-alone churches that happen to be small enough to meet in homes. After filling their limited space, they grow through multiplication rather than increasing their membership. Each house church has its own leadership and derives its authority directly from Christ, rather than through a church hierarchy. It functions in every way as a church (note 2).
God has time and again used the house church as a model to draw the church back to a more New Testament and simple form of church life and mission (note 3).
Not only in persecuted countries
I have said repeatedly that the best application for house churches is in persecuted, resistant contexts, because persecution forced the early church to meet in homes—not because this was the preferred setting for the church. Yet, the authors of Home Cell Groups and House Churches make a valid point:
It is a mistaken notion to conclude that the only reason the apostolic community developed house churches was because it was a persecuted minority and, therefore, could not go public in its institutional expression. As a matter of fact, the early church was quite public in its witness, despite the fact that it was persecuted (note 4).
I still believe that the most rapid growth in the house church movement is in restricted access areas like China, Asia, and North Africa. I attended one mission gathering and heard a missionary representative for China talk about house churches springing up like wildfire. The representative spoke of one Chinese leader who had planted 30,000 churches—all house churches. This Chinese leader trains people and within three weeks they are expected to plant a church (note 5).
This type of church planting doesn’t take place in many contexts. There is no doubt, however, that house church ministry has become increasingly popular and accepted. Larry Kreider, co-author of Starting a House Church, writes:
Within the next ten to fifteen years, I believe these new house church networks will dot the landscape of North America just as they already do in other nations of the world. Places like China, Central Asia, Latin America, India, and Cambodia have experienced tremendous growth through house churches and disciple and empower each member to “be the church” (note 6).
Characteristics of house churches
My brother, Andy, has a unique personality. For starters, he has a dramatic humor that causes people to double over laughing. I don’t know where he got it. In fact, often people will say, “You’re kidding. Andy is your brother!” Yet Andy and I have far more in common than not. We have similar mannerisms, passions, and outlook on life. Why? DNA. Tom and Phyllis Comiskey gave birth to us and raised us under the same roof.
The house church movement has the same DNA. Yes, it’s diverse. Some authors emphasize principles that others do not. Yet, common features of house churches surpass their differences. One thing is certain: house church planting offers a very simple and reproducible expression of Christ’s church.
Ed Stetzer says, “My attraction to the house church springs from its simplicity and faith. I have been a part of large church starts. . . . Each involved more and more money. In my heart, I often feel that church planting should be simpler” (note 7).
The idea behind home churches is not to grow one church larger, but to keep the church intimate while reproducing other intimate fellowships in other locales.
Many New Testament church practices cannot function effectively in large, impersonal groups. Home churches form communities of believers who get to know each other in all aspects of life. They share their spiritual gifts to edify the body. Authentic Christianity has a greater chance of emerging in the lives of individuals and families because intimacy and accountability are built into the church.
The goal of each house church is to reproduce other new churches. Bob Fitts Sr. says:
Our goal is not just to start a church. Our goal is to start a church planting movement. We believe this can best be done by focusing on the simplest and most reproducible form of church planting. The house church meets that need (note 8).
One reason why house churches are reproducible is because they lack a hierarchical structure. The house church movement focuses on simple, reproducible strategies that release common Christians for uncommon work. They celebrate evangelism and reproduction that is natural and spontaneous. This reproduction is occurring at every level and in every unit of the church life. As people are released into ministry, new interdependent churches are formed (note 9).
Professor Nancy T. Ammerman, sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary, writes:
This development [house church] shows people looking for faith’s essence. They are no longer willing to finance huge buildings, a large staff, insurance policies, advertising campaigns, and the leaking church roof because it all seems simply irrelevant (note 10).
One misconception of the house church movement is that all house churches meet in homes. Larry Kreider, a proponent of “house churches,” started using the phrase micro church to highlight the fact that not all house churches meet in a house. Some will meet in coffee shops, galleries, and other places. Others prefer the term simple church, or organic church. Neil Cole, house church planter and author of Organic Church, plants organic churches in restaurants, bars, or other places besides homes (note 11).
No clergy or “professionals” are necessary
House churches do not require ordained, seminary-trained professionals to function effectively. House churches point to the fact that New Testament teaching does not recognize clergy and laity distinctions. Those who are seminary or Bible school-trained can be assets to house churches, sometimes serving as catalysts who plant the first few house churches in a given area or people group.12 But they don’t always have to be physically present for house churches to have legitimacy or theological understanding.
House churches do need godly, mature leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-12, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4). The training, however, happens primarily through an informal approach, with basic Bible knowledge and practical ministry as the main components.
Most house church leaders are volunteers. Financial resources are normally used to support itinerant workers, missions, or meeting the practical needs of members, such as the poor, widows, and orphans.
In most cases, the house church does collect an offering.13And in rare cases, a house church may decide to support one of the leaders. Bob Fitts Sr. writes:
A house church will be able to channel almost all of its finances into ministry. There may be some minor expenses, but since the meeting will be held in houses, all building expenses will be avoided. In this way, only ten tithing families could support a full-time pastor. Since one pastor could oversee more than one house church, he does not have to receive all his support from one congregation (note 14).
No special buildings
House churches meet in ordinary homes or other places that are free from rent or payments. Maintenance and overhead related to a church building are eliminated. Larry Kreider writes:
The Chinese house church movement has made a commitment to the Lord concerning how the church will exist even when they are freed from communism in the future. They have already made a decision that they will build no buildings. They want to keep their method of training and sending intact, and not focus on constructing buildings but on building people (note 15).
The house church movement—more than any other strategy—is building-proof. Money is not spent on buildings and maintanence.
Fully the church
House churches are fully functioning churches in themselves. They partake of the Lord’s supper, baptize, marry, bury, and exercise church discipline. Many house churches, however, do network with other house churches for mutual accountability, encouragement, and cooperation.
House churches are normally led by volunteers and meet for participatory meetings which involve prayer, worship, the word, and outreach. Food and fellowship are also important elements.
Simple order of meeting
There is no set order for house church meetings. One well-known house church leader suggests using five Ws (Welcome, Worship, Word, Works, and Witness) as one possibility (in appendix three I highlight four Ws as a common cell group order). Yet, most house churches have an open, participatory style with no one single order in mind.
Even when there is a more directive teaching given by the leader or one of the members, there is always plenty of time for group discussion and response to the message. The goal is to have all those present to practice their spiritual gifts. Most would agree that although certain elements may be pre-planned, there is freedom to follow the Holy Spirit, if He changes those plans.
It’s common in house churches to celebrate the Lord’s supper as a full meal. This often takes place at the start or end of the house church meeting, but may take place on an entirely different day. House churches point back to Acts 2:46 where the believers broke bread from house to house. Celebrating the Lord’s supper as a meal can be seen in 1 Corinthians 11: 20-26, where Paul talked about participating in an actual meal.
In the past, I described a house church as a community of twenty to forty people who met together on a weekly basis but were more or less independent of other house churches.
More recently, there’s been a new emphasis in the house church movement. A new version of the house church promotes smaller-sized house churches. Wolfgang Simson, for example, teaches that many house churches today have between eight to fifteen members, and typically multiply every six to nine months.
Rad Zdero wrote a book called The Global House Church Movement. He himself planted a house church network in Canada. He writes:
House churches should not grow too large before they decide to multiply. Otherwise, the loss of intimacy, openness, and interaction will eventually compromise the group’s attractiveness and plateau the numbers. Currently around the globe, explosive Christian conversion growth from church planting movement is characterized by the reproduction of multiplying house churches and cell groups of no more than 10-30 people (note 16).
Starting house churches
I met a house church planting missionary in Indonesia, who told me that planting house churches was extremely simple: “The main thing is to meet friends and neighbors. Then you need to gather them in your house to hear God’s word. As you make disciples of those attending, they will be prepared to start their own house churches.”
Planting a house church, or movement of house churches, is all about loving people into the kingdom. The beauty is the simplicity. It’s about reaching out to non-believers, gathering them in, and continuing the process with another house church. The neighbors hear the singing and worship and will ask about what’s happening. An organic church doesn’t depend on a building. It depends on people.
The house church planter seeks to find people who are divinely appointed by God to hear the message and receive the gospel. He or she gathers the persons of peace into the small group. The goal is to meet the person’s need and eventually develop him or her to be the next house church planter. Rad Zdero has adopted the motto, “Every church, start a church, every year” (note 17). He believes that a new house church can be planted every six to eighteen months, which seems to be the case for church planting movements in places like China and India. In my personal communications with Zdero, he cautions that this suggested timeline should not be applied mechanically; rather, the Holy Spirit must lead and open the doors for new leaders to emerge and for new house churches to start in His own time and manner (Luke 10:1-11; Acts 10:1-48, 13:1-4).
Only so many people can meet in one house. When the house church becomes too large to meet in the average-sized living room, another group is sent out to begin a house church in another place.
Whoever is called to lead the next group should be a reproducing believer who can evangelize lost people, disciple those who come to Jesus, and lead the core team in planting the next house church.
Dick Scoggins in his book, Planting House Churches in Networks, recommends that each house church planter writes out a clear vision of how and when to plant a new house church. From his experience in planting house churches, he warns against the dangers of koinonitus (inward fellowship that turns into navel gazing). Each house church planter needs to have a clear vision to reproduce.
Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung give five simple steps to staring house churches:18
- Meet people
- Make disciples
It’s that simple. It doesn’t require a Ph.D. or years of Bible school.
One key difference between a house church and a cell church is leadership. In many house churches, the house church pastor doesn’t have a higher authority but rather works cooperatively as a peer with other house church pastors. In contrast, those planting a cell in the cell church strategy are accountable to the leadership of the local church they are part of.
Networking the house churches
Many have criticized the “independence” of the house church movement—myself included. It’s been refreshing to hear many house church authors making the same criticism. Many house church proponents today promote the need for house churches to network with other house churches.
Some proponents suggest gathering house churches on a monthly or quarterly basis for celebrative worship and retreats. House church networking may also include going on mission trips with other, larger churches. The suggestion is also made by a growing number of advocates that equipping ministries of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is not only biblical, but also absolutely essential to help launch house church networks and movements that can impact entire cities with the gospel (Acts 2:42-47, 20:17-21; Ephesians 4:11-13) (note 19).
Networks can function in different ways. They may be highly informal, connected only by an occasional joint gathering or special times to share ideas with one another. Or, they may be formally networked together as “sister” churches that function with common goals and projects.
Some, like Wolfgang Simson, advocate a city-church idea. According to this idea, individual house churches (although full-fledged churches in themselves) also seek out broader fellowship with other house churches and/or traditional churches in the city. A particular house church might collaborate with the First Christian Church or Central Assembly of God to engage in cross-congregational ministry. Some in the house church movement believe that the city-wide church concept is one of the most important expressions of the local church. They base this on the fact that the New Testament writers refer to a single “church” (Greek = ekklēsia) of this or that city (Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.). Bill
Beckham has analyzed this view in detail (see this endnote for more detail) (note 20).
No matter how house churches network, a growing consensus insists that house churches must avoid an exclusive and ingrown mentality (note 21). Rad Zdero writes:
It is absolutely crucial that house churches form networks that pray, plan, and play together. So long as house churches choose isolation, independence, and inwardness, so long will they remain a mere novelty, a trend, a fad, without ever becoming a real movement that deeply impacts their city, region, or nation with the gospel of Christ. They must unite! (Note 22)
Cell churches and house church networks are cousins
House church networks and cell churches have much more in common than not. Both find their basis for ministry in the New Testament—not just in a general way but in a specific one. Both see clear references to cell-celebration and to house churches. Both long for simplicity—less programs and professionalism and more emphasis on developing disciples who make disciples.
I believe, in fact, that Jesus is calling His church back to a New Testament emphasis. House church networks and cell churches are leading the way. Larry Kreider, an advocate of both cell churches and house church networks, writes:
DOVE Christian Fellowship International, the worldwide network of cell-based churches that I and a team of spiritual leaders oversee, is broadening our territory to include house church networks. We realize that cell-based community churches, cell-based mega-churches and house church networks, although different, are close cousins. Our experience thus far has been mostly with cells in a mega-church and with cells in community churches (note 23).
I’ve talked with Larry Kreider on various occasions about the differences between cell churches and house church networks. During a recent conversation I asked him about the new micro churches that Dove is establishing. He gave an example of one of the Dove house church networks where he actually attends. Each of the house churches in the network meets weekly, but then the network of house churches come together approximately once a month to celebrate. Kreider thinks that the most healthy house churches meet together on a regular basis (normally once per month).
“But this is exactly what we’re doing at Wellspring, the church I planted,” I told him. The life groups meet weekly and come together to celebrate once a month. Granted, we are actively looking for a place to hold weekly celebrations. Yet, some cell churches will never choose to meet weekly in celebration. So what’s the key difference?
Larry mentioned that one difference was the way house churches keep the offering. In the house church network that he is coaching, the house churches give a percentage of the money to the network so that both individual house churches and the network determine how the money will be spent.
“I don’t see much difference here,” I told him. “I’ve observed cell churches that pool their money in a similar way. The cells and the cell networks decide how the money will be spent. Often the individual cells will use the money on outreach and other projects.”
Both Larry and I agreed that house church networks are more informal and give more liberty to each house church. Yet, it seems to be a matter of degree. Cell church networks can also be flexible. We also agreed that whether or not someone uses the terminology cell church or house church network, the important thing is that the Great Commission is being fulfilled.
I shared with Larry my concerns that house church leaders were not receiving enough coaching. Kreider admitted that coaching is essential. He felt that house church networks need help to assure that each house church leader is properly coached.
I asked him what he did with children in his house church. He told me that often the children in the micro church will meet with the adults in the beginning but will then go into another room for their own Bible time.
“This is exactly what we do in many of our life groups,” I told him.
My bias: cell church or connected house church
Simple house church planting and cell church planting share much in common. I do believe, however, that a cell church or house church network should highlight certain characteristics.
House church leaders need coaching
I believe that leaders need coaching. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the great coach, but He uses humans to get the job done.
Isolated house church leaders or cell leaders are not nearly as effective as those who have a coach.
Michael Jordan needed a coach. Why would Michael Jordan need a coach? Because the coach could help Jordan maximize his game, take a rest when needed, defend against over-zealous players, and point out the overlooked details of the game. Players look at the immediate task, but the coach is able to provide the bigger picture.
Small group leaders left to themselves (whether cell leader or house church leaders) become less effective. My journey in the cell church world has taught me that coaching is a critical component.
In the cell church scheme (or the connected house church paradigm), the coach plays a crucial role. In fact, each leader has a coach to assure fruitfulness and to help the leader achieve the God-given goals.
In the cell church scheme (or the connected house church paradigm) the coach plays an intimate role to assure fruitfulness. Another important reason for coaching is to achieve rapid multiplication. It’s more difficult to develop an independent leader than a networked one who has a coach. I think it would be difficult to raise up an independent pastor of a group of six to twelve people. It’s far more likely that the person will step up to the plate, if he or she knows that coaching will occur on a regular basis. Kreider says:
The house church and cell group provide an ideal opportunity for everyone to experience a spiritual family and eventually become spiritual parents themselves. The purpose for house church multiplication and cell multiplication is to give the opportunity for new parents to take responsibility to start a new spiritual family (house church and cell groups) (note 24).
Need for a shared equipping track
A small group leader (cell leader or house church leader) should not have to decide what training he or she should receive. Cell churches or house church networks should lay out a training path to maintain quality. In my book, Leadership Explosion, I share principles that cell churches use to train their leaders to multiply groups. A church can greatly increase their effectiveness by providing clear-cut training, rather than hoping that an independent leader will find his or her way. For example, Xenos Christian Fellowship has networked their house churches into an organized structure to assure the quality training (see appendix six).
Strength in groups coming together to celebrate
As mentioned earlier, a house church or cell network does not have to meet weekly; however, they should meet regularly for both teaching and encouragement. In restricted access countries, it’s not possible to hold a celebration service. In free countries, however, where this is possible, the church should take advantage of the opportunity to gather for a celebration service.
A spirit of independence is always dangerous and should be avoided like the plague. Bill Beckham says, “I believe the New Testament design of the church will express itself someway at the local level in both large-group and small-group life” (note 25). I think that the large group gatherings should be planned to make sure they actually happen. It seems idealistic to simply “hope” they will happen. Why not plan for the cells/house churches to come together on a regular basis? The celebration refreshes the leaders, provides impetus for outreach, and glorifies God as His people worship in unity.
Planting churches that reproduce requires simplicity, but they must not be left alone. Leaders need coaching, training, and the refreshment of meeting together to worship God and press on. And the goal is not to plant just one church but a movement of churches—a church planting movement. David Garrison writes:
It is important to understand the role of small house and cell churches in the life of a Church Planting Movement. It’s now easy to see why missionaries who want to start a Church Planting Movement without house or cell churches will find it so difficult (note 26).
God is using cell churches and house church networks to reproduce church planting movements all over the world.
- Check out the following references: Matthew 8:14-16; Luke 10:1-11; Acts 2:42-46, 10:1-48, 16:13-15, 16:29-34, 18:7-8, 20:5-12, 20:17-21, 28:30-31.
- David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), p. 271.
- Church history bears witness to the fact that whenever God has brought renewal, reform, and revival to the church and society, He has often sovereignly used house church and small group movements. A few examples are: the Priscillianists (4th century), the Monastics (4th century), the Waldenses (12th century), the Hussites (15th century), the Anabaptists (16th century), the Quakers (17th century), the Moravians (18th century), the Methodists (18th century), etc. [Taken from Rad Zdero, ed., Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2007), chs. 14, 18, and 19; Peter Bunton, Cell Groups and House Churches: What History Teaches Us (Ephrata, PA: House to House Publications, 2001)].
- C. Kirk Hadaway, Start A. Wright, Francis M. DuBose, Home Cell Groups and House Churches (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1987), p. 67.
- There are some more recent examples of house church growth in non-restricted areas of the world. In the USA, for example, Neil Cole and Church Multiplication Associates have planted hundreds of organic churches that meet in homes, coffee shops, and just about anywhere. This network now has organic churches in thirty-six U.S. states and in thirty-one countries around the world (Neil Cole, “Case Study (USA): The Story of Church Multiplication Associates—From California to Chiang Mai in Seven Years,” in Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader, Rad Zdero, ed., [Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2007], ch. 37). Similarly, in India, the world’s largest democratic nation, Dr. Victor Choudhrie has given key apostolic leadership to seeing one hundred thousand house churches arise between the years 2001 and 2006 (Victor Choudhrie, “Case Study (India): How 100,000 House Churches were Started in Five Years,” in Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader, Rad Zdero, ed., (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2007), ch. 29).
- Larry Kreider, House Church Networks (Ephrata, PA: House to House, 2001), p. 1.
- Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Post-modern Age (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003), p. 172.
- BobFitts, Sr. Saturation Church Planting (Riverside, CA: self-published, 1993), p. 30.
- For more information on the organic church log onto http://www.cmaresources.org, For additional reading see: Houses That Change the World by Wolfgang Simson, Cultivating a Life for God by Neil Cole, The Church Comes Home by Robert and Julie Banks, The Church Multiplication Guide by George Patterson, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? by Rolland Allen. Used by permission from Organic Church Planters’ Greenhouse Intensive Training Notes, by Neil Cole and Paul Kaak, Church Multiplication Associates, 2001.
- As quoted in Larry Kreider, House Church Networks (Ephrata, PA: House to House Publications, 2002) p. 12.
- Neil Cole, Organic Church (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005), p.xxvi.
- Rad Zdero, “The Financial Support of House Church Leaders”, in Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader, Rad Zdero, ed., (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2007), ch.53.
- Larry Kreider, House Church Networks (Ephrata, PA: House to House, 2001), p. 12.
- Bob Fitts Sr., Saturation Church Planting: Multiplying Congregations through House Churches, self published, 1993, p. 3.
- Larry Kreider, House Church Networks (Ephrata, PA: House to House, 2001), p. 41.
- Rad Zdero, The Global House Church Movement (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2004), p. 113.
- Rad Zdero, The Global House Church Movement , p. 105.
- Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung, Starting a House Church (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007), pp. 98-111.
- Rad Zdero, ed., Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2007), chs.8, 9, 10, 13, and 50.
- This quote entirely from Bill Beckham as he critiques the city-wide church concept of Wolfgang Simson (Bill Beckham, Where Are We Now (Houston, TX: Glocal Publications, 2005), pp. 166-169)
The New Testament church functioned in four primary ways:
1. The basic cell community unit that Jesus modeled with the twelve.
2. A cluster or congregation of basic cell units that Jesus modeled with the seventy and the one hundred twenty.
3. A local church referred to in the New Testament as “the whole church.”
4. The universal church composed of all of Christ’s local churches at all times of history.
In his house church hybrid model Wolfgang Simson believes in the universal expression of church as the large group expression. In this approach the church continues to be small independent groups of Christians meeting in houses in the classic “house church” expression of the church. The new twist is that the independent house church groups are encouraged to meet together from time to time in a “city church” expression as an “interdependent” expression of large group worship. This “city church” expression is supposed to take the place of the local large group expression of the church and to allow the local church to live as a simple “organic” house church.
This is a church that is strong in small group ministry and open to broad universal expressions of the church. But, it is weak in the area of a local church expression beyond a small group house church size. I think I understand why this approach has developed and why it has such strong appeal in certain groups within the church.
The hybrid house church has a philosophical and maybe a historical connection to parachurch ministries.
The hybrid house church in the west developed as a reaction to two types of traditional churches. The state church in Europe is a dying large group church with little spiritual life. New Testament Christians in Europe have understandably been suspicious of large group expressions of the church. Many of these New Testament Christians have longed for an alternative and have been attracted to parachurch ministries and to small groups that are different from the state church model.
Simson’s city church expression of the large group appeals to these two groups because it is totally different from the traditional local large group expression. This eliminates the need to deal with the large group expression of the church that has so miserably failed.
Therefore, it should not surprise us that Simson’s hybrid house church model has no large group wing at the local church level. And, in its city expression, the large group is so far removed in distance, authority and common purpose that it severely weakens the life of the church at the implementing local church level. It is interesting that the house church movement outside of Europe and the United States generally develops a local large group expression of some sort. Think about China.
The use of a “city celebration” as a substitute for the large group wing is dangerous for house churches developing in both Europe and the United States. The problem with the hybrid house church model is that the large group and small group expressions of the church are not encouraged to come together as one integrated local body that is larger than the number of Christians that can crowd into a house.
The option for being church in the hybrid house church teaching of Simson is for a church to operate as a single cell unit in a “house church” expression and from time to time to meet in a large group expression as a “city church.” This approach distorts the balanced nature of the New Testament church that flies with both a large group and small group wing.
This is the only way the church can experience and express the full nature of God as transcendent and immanent. The hybrid house church creates a bird with a strong small group wing. However, the large group wing of the hybrid house church only flaps when it gathers as a flock for “city celebration.”
A local cell church can and should gather together in area “city celebration” with other churches when possible. This is beginning to happen in different cities around the world. “City celebration” is a way for local churches to experience the “universal” nature of the church in a practical venue while on earth. But, cell churches gather for these kinds of universal, city expressions as functioning two-winged churches.
They don’t gather as one winged house groups looking for a large group expression so they can flap a large group wing. They do not substitute “city celebration” for local church large group expression.
In a cell church, “city celebration” is an addition to the local large group and it expresses the universal unity of the church in a powerful way. From a cell church perspective a “city celebration” is a group of two winged local churches that are flying in formation, going in the same direction, heading for the same destination and moving toward the same goal. They may get together for “city celebrations” from time to time. But all have fully functioning large and small group wings at the local church level. This city large group wing teaching must not be superimposed upon the other types of house churches such as in China.
And, these existing New Testament house church expressions must not be used to prove the validity of this flawed hybrid house church approach. What is happening in the house church movement in places such as China is not an example of the hybrid house church teaching on “city celebrations.”
New Testament house churches will always have some kind of local large group expression. If independent house churches find it difficult to cooperate at a local church level, why do we think they will be effective in cooperating at a “city” church level? House churches need to practice large group life at the local level before expecting large group life to work at the universal city level.
- Rad Zdero, The Global House Church Movement (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2004), pp. 108-109.
- Rad Zdero, The Global House Church Movement , p. 106.
- Larry Kreider, House Church Networks (Ephrata, PA: House to House Publications, 2002) p. 98.
- Larry Kreider, House Church Networks, p. 63.
- Bill Beckham, Redefining Revival (Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 2001), p. 170.
- David Garrison, Church Planting Movements p. 193.