What is a House Church?

About 6 years ago two families who had been members of one of the churches that I had served as a pastor asked me to meet with them because their teenagers no longer wanted to attend church.  The parents, however, wanted to raise their children in the Christian faith and did not want to do it alone.

When I met with the families I asked each one to share how they connected with Spirit/God/ the Holy, and each one of them had different answers.  Here are some that I remember.

  • “I connect with God when I walk in the woods.”
  • “For me it is when I am making music.”
  • “I feel connected when I cook a meal and share it with others.”
  • “I like helping other people and feel like I am a part of something bigger when I volunteer.”
  • “I connect to God when I watch a movie that expands my vision.”
  • “I like to study scripture and talk about it.”
  • “I feel connected when I do yoga and meditate.”
  • “Reading poetry helps me to pause and know that I am connected to beauty and that for me is spirit.”

After listening to each other, we decided to experiment with a way of being a community of faith that honored all of these ways of connecting to God. We knew we wanted to learn more about God through sharing our passion for, and way of being with, the Holy.  Each one of us committed to take turns leading the group once a month.  I played the role of resource and support person so each leader did not feel alone as they planned an experience that helped us awaken to Grace.

Here are some of the things we have experienced together.

  • Hiked in Forest Park in the Fall while contemplating life transitions through poetry readings and walking meditation.
  • Cooked a meal together and talked about life. “Garlic and onions can be strong and bitter, but when sautéed  become soft and sweet.  What are some times in your life where your bitter moments have softened and become sweet with time?”
  • Volunteered at the local food bank and at a shelter for homeless teenagers.
  • Listened to our heart’s desire through guided meditation and then made vision boards  for the new year.
  • Watched movies and talked about them.
  • Celebrated Christ’s birth through sharing good food, reading the Christmas story, lighting the Advent candles and singing carols.
  • Studied the Bible together

Some folks might say, that’s not church.  But I beg to differ.  Churches in the New Testament were often small gatherings that met in homes and remained rather simple until the emperor Constantine changed Christianity from a persecuted movement to being the religion of the Roman empire.

For me, church in the best sense embraces 3 movements:

  • Connecting to each other
  • Connecting to God
  • Connecting to the larger community

The gift of being in a small community is that each group can flesh out how those movements get expressed in ways that are meaningful and appropriate to them.

Our house church was such a gift to all the families involved, helping to shape and form us in the ways of Christ.  Now many of those teenagers are in college and it is time to share the gift of that experience with others.

This is my call and passion — to help form communities that can grow together in the ways of love and peace one house church at a time. Will you join me?

Published by

Beth Estock

Beth coaches weird churches all over the United States. She grew up in the Midwest, began her pastoral work in the Bible Belt, and then moved to the Pacific Northwest two decades ago. She is an ordained United Methodist pastor, a contemplative, cultural architect and futurist. She is co-author of the book, "Weird Church: Welcome to the 21st Century." She convenes a network of missional faith communities in the Wesleyan tradition in Portland, Oregon.

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