What's a house church?

A house church is a group of believers, typically six to twenty in number, who meet weekly or more often in a home. Sometimes the terms organic church or simple church are used instead, typically by those who emphasize that believers can meet anywhere—in a park, in a business office or conference room, in a bar, in a coffee house, etc. Historical studies reveal that the early church met almost exclusively in the homes of its members.

One value that is shared by virtually all simple church, organic church, and house church participants is that church buildings should not be used for regular meetings. The rationale is more than just the obvious economic benefit of avoiding building costs. Most church buildings are physically structured in such a way that they promote a traditional style of meeting. Chairs are arranged in straight or curved rows, and the primary focus is on the platform and the person leading the meeting. Such a physical environment makes it difficult to achieve the mutuality and interaction that should characterize a church meeting. In addition, many people in our culture have a negative perception about church buildings. The relaxed environment of a living room will be much more inviting than a church sanctuary or even a small meeting room on a traditional church campus.

The above comments are not intended to be dogmatic or restrictive. It should be noted many house churches and house church networks have weekly or monthly celebration services in rented church buildings. These celebration services provide an opportunity for worship in a more formal style, and for instruction by those who are gifted to teach. However, the buildings are not owned or leased by the house churches, and rent is paid on an hourly or per-meeting basis. Our house churches currently have a monthly celebration service in one of our larger homes.

Some house churches or house church networks are registered with the IRS as tax-deductible charitable organizations with 501(c)(3) status. Others are not. Some house church networks pay a partial or even fulltime salary to the coordinating elder or leader. Other house churches or networks pay no salary to leadership but often underwrite the expenses of travel or so-called apostolic (church planting) projects by the leadership.

Our house church network pays small part-time salaries or stipends to certain people who peform regular administrative functions. We are recognized as a tax-deductible religious organization by the IRS, and provide giving statements to all our donors. Our house churches give a minimum of ten percent to missions, and a significant but varying amount to benevolence as needs arise. We share with most house churches the objective of minimizing our overhead expenses and maximizing funds for outreach and missions.

What about structure and leadership?

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