“What’s going on is a kind of deinstitutionalization of religious life,” says Gary Laderman, professor of American religious history at Emory University and author of Sacred Matters.
Have you ever attended religious services in someone’s home? Maybe there’s one for you right next door. A friend Robert Fitts Sr. often predict ‘that in these last days home churches is springing up all over t he world.” Paul Veiera has written this interesting book called “Jesus Has left the Building” and there’s another prolific writer penned a book called “The Church Has Left the Building.” What is happening around church circles? Don’t be shock, it is God moving away from temple building paradigms of worship to temple body, which is His Ekklesia, meeting in homes as family.
Search the web for “house churches,” “simple churches,” “organic churches,” “home churches,” and they are everywhere. Testimonies of leaders, pastors even of after 40 years of maintaining church members attendance and spirituality are leaving with unprecedented numbers. These are indeed alarming signs saying, “Hey, it’s time to rethink why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
In the U.S. the number of people attending church in the homes exceeds of that the number of Atheist! [Newsweek by Lisa Miller]
Unlike before that church people are leaving their church because they have backslidden, fair reason. But now people are leaving as it might be their reason to backslide. [New Zealand pastor Alan Jamieson, author of the book A Churchless Faith has its stunning surveys along with George Barna. See my article on BEING CHURCH.]
And here is my friend Wolfy’s statistics shows of what is going on around the world:
India has 1,000,000 house churches
Pakistan has 10,000
Bangladish has 80,000
Egypt has 6,000
Israel has 400
Middle East, exluding Israel and Egypt has 10,000
United States has 60,000
Spain has 400
Switzerland has 800
Germany has 3,000
Austria has 200
Albania has 100
Finland has 300
Philippines has 5,000
Indonesia has 70,000
Australia has 2,500
Myanmar has 5,500
“Soon the former caterpillar [the church as we know it]” as Wolfy added, “will break forth and show itself as a startling butterfly [the church as God wants it].”
How Does This Affect Our View of Church?
Nothing to be afraid of as they are just numbers eh? Yeah, millions of numbers as in the U.S. alone the number of Christians getting out of their church every year is one million! In my country as I do a lot of traveling, interviewing different people, there are hundreds of people are leaving church or say, are ready to leave it if they found a different way of doing church. It just shows how unsatisfactory conventional churches are these days, “relevant no more” they say. Marcus Borg rightly points out:
“There’s a lot of interest in early Christian diversity because people who have left church, and some who are still in it, are looking for another way of being a Christian.”
My friend Robert Murphy says about Homemade Churches that, “it maybe something new to you but it smells like home.”
So, here are some benefits of a Homemade Church:
1. Becoming Responsible Believers. First, people are leaving the church though because of its unsatisfactory experience with God ‘in the box’ but not for long they will realized and some are already in this stage, that they could not depend on their spirituality in the church leadership and programs but in their relationship with Christ and one another alone, not a lot [John 13:34]. Since church today have become ‘spiritual machines’ that is trying to maintain their members through their ‘programs’ it may not well end until Jesus Christ comes yet people were not made like robots to be controlled by pushing their ‘opening prayer’ buttons to start their ‘Christian Life Mode’ but are individuals created by God and so can hear ‘what the spirit is saying’ in their situations. Their capability of being spirit led is possible simply because the Holy Spirit lives within 24 hours a day, seven day a week.
Through their sort of rebellion against the church, as their religious brethren will call it, they have become revolutionaries of the Kingdom. They didn’t call ‘getting out of the church’ as backsliding but simply obeying Jesus command to ‘go and make disciples.’ We are not called to ‘go to church’ but ‘go to the world.’
2. Becoming Family Focus. Most house church guys I know who aren’t successful in their house-churching is because they didn’t count their families as one! However, more have come to realize how important family is as nineteenth-century scholar J. B. Lightfoot rightly points out:
‘Henceforth the worship of households plays an important part in the divine economy of the Church…The family religion is the true starting-point, the surest foundation, of the religion of cities and dioceses, of nations and empires.’
If one fails to recognize his own family as his oikos of faith he cannot simply manage the household of God [1 Tim. 3: 4-5]. As many would adhere that ‘church comes home’ where it truly belongs. Church true revival will not come in churches. It will come in the homes first where sin begins. As Roy Hession author of The Calvary Road points out, “
Revival is desperately needed in the church – in the country – in the world, but a revived church with unrevived homes would be sheer hypocrisy. It is the hardest place, the most costly, but the most necessary place to begin.
What do you think will happen 10 years from now if Christians would have their allegiance on Jesus and His Kingdom and to their loved ones? Surely the devil will be in sure fail his plans to destroy families. We know that our enemy is not up to destroy the churches, but our families. If he got that right then churches can continue playing their games.
3. Becoming Community Lovers. Much of church resources was wasted on facilities and programs which its only aim is to maintain the status quo where in at the other side of the world there are poor families, widows and orphans unattended. If we look at Jesus and the early church priorities falls into this three misfortunes of the church. In Homemade churches, Jesus followers are aware of the need of the community and so able to serve them using the resources of everyone in a daily basis [Acts 6:1]. Unlike structured ones, church happenings happens most in a ‘static religious mode’ – they have to come to the venue where it’s service happens, they have to wait for the day where ministry schedules would take place. And after church service they don’t even see the community at all. And imagine these people lived exactly in the center of the village but hardly get involed in the community activities. In simple words, we have lost the community.
We have created our ‘own world’ and we labeled them each as:
‘Christian Church’ who offers ‘worship services.’ No difference with the Catholic of offers ‘Sunday Liturgical Services’ and if a Business it offers a “Laundry Service.’
‘Christian Ministry’ who offers ‘especializing ministry’ such as ‘children’s ministry,’ ‘youth ministry,’ ‘women’s ministry,’ choir ministry’ and so on.
‘Christian Family’ who offer isolation in the community.
‘Christian Songs and Band’ who offers ‘religious’ songs that separate from ‘worldly’ songs. By the way, it’s OK to sing worldly songs during ‘Christian weddings.’
‘Christian School’ who offers biblically sound doctrine.
‘Christian Language’ who offers phrases like ‘hallelujah,’ Amen,’ and ‘Praise the Lord.’ We call them ‘Christianese’ if you don’t mind. That when these words blurt out of your mouth the people around knows that you’re a Christian. We speak our own ‘Christianese language.’
Hence, a complete isolation from the world has come fully! That is why my friend Gary Goodell quote his co-author Graham Cooke, of his book, “Permission Granted: To Do CHurch Differently int he 21st Century,
“I have a theory, and this is just a theory, that God is not trying to protect the church from the world but the world from the church.”
Homemade Churches, I believe is only a means to what Jesus intended His Body to become on earth. They have an end in itself. Many movements of God have become denomination and so become a religion. “Doing the same thing week after week’ is a cycle of religion. Example we religiously continue working day after day. Though nothing wrong with that but when it comes to living with Jesus as disciples, people of the Kingdom, it should be more on spirit-led, spontaneous and unpredictable. From the movie Ratatouille I quote:
“The only predictable about life is its unpredictability.”
Frank Viola says that in order to prevent a movement into a denomination or religion, the answer is, “I do not know,” he says. “But,” he continued, “two things that we can prepare and they are 50/50. Fifty percent we can learn past movement of how they become a religion and the other 50% is we have to find that out!” Well, one of my spiritual father Stuart Gramenz has already predicted as he reads this article [so I edited this part], that in 10 years from now or less we could say that ‘the church has left the homes’ if unless we address the deeper issues.
Here are my few suggestions to rectify Homemade churches:
Church is about relationships; nothing more, nothing less. Loving God and loving one another is Jesus commands for His disciples [John 13:34-35]. As my dear friend and spiritual father Mike Peters said, ‘helping one another to love Jesus more,’ this summarizes the Jesus commands in a practical way. He added that in rebuking the churches in Revelation chapter 2 and 3, Jesus points out their sins and not their church models. If there were any church models that appears there I certainly sure that he doesn’t like it. It is the ‘deeds of the Nicolaitans’ which He hated [Rev. 2:5]. You know what they did eh? Trying to destroy the priesthood of all believers that God intended.
Is naming a group OK? Well, honestly naming your group makes you a founder eh? And that alone puts you a gap between you and your brother. You then create some rules to control. As one founder would say to me, “It’s not me who decide it but the church, and the church have some rules.” And I asked him, “And who made the rules and signs them with a name? Who is the founder/president of the group?” Just an alibi to protect his name of who’s is controlling and who’s to blame in case there’s a fight!
Church in the N.T. has no name though men’s desire wants one, but it has a description. It is a body that has ‘many members’ of one another, not ‘many names.’ Having names is having a descriptions of that name. It divides Jesus body. It elevates oneself. And it gives more opportunity to become proud, and God opposes the proud and no wonder we have credible facts that there are men and women who are humbled by God. Once you’re on top you are untouchables, hard to question and so hard to correct and rebuke. It reminds me of Lucifer who wants to be on the top!
2. Focus on Making Disciples, not meetings. Homemade churches are in the verge of sitting comfortably in their meetings, they hardly get out there and do their job. They love each other and the binding taste of the food yet they have forgotten the world. Jesus commands us to ‘go, to the world’ not having religious meetings. I remember Max Lucado’s exciting fishing schedule one day with his brother. It rained the whole day and so they stayed long enough in the tents talking. And what fishing day it could be had turned out arguing about things. He then realized that ‘if fishers don’t fish, they fight!’. Imagine if church is an army, as we are, and we keep on talking and discussing about how to conquer the enemy without going into war, that’s just like having Sunday School for 20 years without ever graduating! As Napolion Bonaparte would say to his enemies after he wins, “While they think I act!”
3. Focus on being family, not having church. A ‘church’ ask a question, “When is our meeting?” A family gathers spontaneously. Until we stop meeting we wouldn’t be family. Until we become family, we would still having meetings. Though a family at times have to call up for a meeting but these are not weekly as we do normally to a church. In a church we do pray and sing together, sit and stand together. But in a family setting we do things together having daily life together. So much encouragements in the epistles that we cannot do them during our meetings but in our daily lives together. The question of having meetings week after week is when do we stop it? The problem is even if we are the one’s who started it, we can hardly stop it. Imagine having meetings until when? No one can even answer this question. Guilty of not attending and being late have created some condemnation.
4. Focus on fathering, not leadership. We need more of fathers and mothers in the Lord in our generation. We are full of leaders and leadership. A leader cannot father, though he may lead a hundreds or even thousands, but fathering is only for a few and this the beauty of it, that means anyone can do fathering. Of course, to qualify someone to become a father is to bear some spiritual children. If we are to become family then we will have ‘parents in the Lord.’ Jesus said that we can ‘hundreds’ of them. Fathering is simply raising a spiritual child to become a son. He will become a son when he is led by the spirit. “For as many as are led by the spirit are called sons of God” Romans 8:14.
5. Focus on spirit-led life, not programs. Homemade churches have a tendency still to hear though not one man’s voice during preaching times but many voices that surrounds them during meetings because everybody talks now, instead of hearing God from their own individual situation. My friend John White made an interesting comments,
“We make programs simply because we don’t know how to hear God.”
As I always says, “I cannot tell you what to do or else you will be led by me. You cannot be spirit led but Molongs led. You cannot tell me what to do or else I will be led by you. We cannot be spirit-led.” Sheep must start hearing their Shepherd’s voice. At this stage, a sheep doesn’t hear a strangers voice anymore, at times, or most of the times a pastor’s voice can be a strangers voice. It is the reason why people are leaving church and finds another church but not for long they will realize that what they needed is to hear what the spirit is saying to the churches.
Unless we are spirit led, governed and ruled by the Kingdom within us this movement die soon enough before this generation all died.
We Are A Fathering Generation
Not only we are a transitional generation but also we are a fathering generation. The church is full of spiritual orphans who need spiritual fathers and mothers. This is the ‘turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to their fathers’ in which the prophet Malachi has leave to his generation and which John the Baptist began his ministry. This is to ‘make ready a people prepared for the Lord’ Luke 1:16-17 . The relationships here are far beyond ‘pastoring’ or ‘couching’ and ‘mentoring’ or becoming members of the church and have endless meetings. The relationship is lifetime of raising and empowering sons and daughters of God.
Talking About Relationships
There are different basis on where our relationships with every body depends. Will name only a few and see where your relationships belongs.
1. Business or political based relationship. They’re having business meetings, they only see each other for that reason. They talk about it, and their relationships is based on money or power.
2. Church based relationship. It’s all about church. If someone sees you their question is, “Where do you go to church now?” Relationships is dependent on church. If you go the same church then you be a friend, if not then your relationships to them is cut off. New relationships are formed then in your new church.
3. Family based relationship. Most of our friends in church or business circles have never become family to us, only a few maybe. This takes years of experience and working together. They talk about family most of them, when you see each other the question is all about family, “How are you? How is your wife and the children?” Every details of your family he or she knows and cares.
Though we have had great friends but only those who we intentionally invited to become one with us are our family. It is hard to name my family as ‘Molong’s Christian Fellowship’ or ‘Molong’s Christian Association of Families.’ Absurd eh? Families are families and no need to name it. I do have a name, It’s Molong’s families!