Wednesday, October 05, 2011


You may have heard that a home bible study in San Juan Capistrano is being ordered to stop meeting in a local home or face hundreds of dollars in fines.

Since we live just up the road from this bible study and live in the same county (Orange), it's likely that the outcome of this pending case before the court could impact our little house church family.

At first glance it appears that that this family (incidentally the publishers of Worship Leader Magazine) are being singled out and persecuted for their faith. That may be so, but after watching this local news clip I learned that it wasn't as simple as I originally thought.

For example, the gatherings regularly draw up to 50 people. Their home is laid out with chairs just like a church service. Plus, they claim not to be a church but simply a Bible Study where they can "enjoy one another's company" and read the Word of God together. But they meet on a Sunday morning. What Bible Study draws 50 people on a Sunday morning?

Are they a church? Does that make any difference? What if they had 100 people showing up every Sunday morning? What then?

In our case, we have about 28 people at most gathering in our home on Sunday mornings (or in one of the other homes where we gather regularly). Where the family in this case claims that they are not a church, we claim the opposite. We are a church, although we have no 501c3 status or bank account and no one leads our meetings (other than Jesus) and no one takes a salary.

The Bible Study in San Juan Capistrano does not take any offering, but our group does, although all of that money goes to help buy groceries for the poor in our community, or to help those in need within our house church family or otherwise.

If the city rules that this "Bible Study" is a church according to their definitions and forces them to pay a fine or apply for a conditional use permit (which would also cost them potentitally thousands of dollars for environmental impact studies and wheelchair accessibility ramps), then I wonder what it might mean for us. Would they knock on our door next? Would they demand that we either stop meeting or pay the fines, or incorporate our church?

The bigger question for me is what we do if this happens to us.

Needless to say I'll be watching this case closely.



Jeremy Myers said...

I'm interested too. Keep us posted!

Travis said...


I've had this brought up to me a couple of times, even though I'm nowhere near California. Here's a thought, and I certainly don't claim to be an expert on these things.

I do look at what's going on as a form of sophisticated persecution. However, when I read Acts, I see that God uses persecution for the purpose of scattering a church that refuses to be about His missionary agenda (Acts 8). The churches I see gathering in homes that get targeted in these types of stories are usually always larger than an extended family and that says to me that it's *possible* that this is the Lord. He's not allowing churches that meet in homes to grow up around leaders or ministries like they would in a church building, but continuing to scatter them to do His work.

After all, how big is too big to be organic?