Thursday, June 14, 2007


by Keith A. Giles

Many in the House Church movement are calling themselves “Revolutionaries” (mostly due to Barna’s book of the same name, I am guessing). However, this name disturbs me to be quite honest. I mean, I resonate with the sort of images such a word conjures up. I love the rebellious, subversive nature of the word. I love to challenge the status quo and to throw off man-made entanglements in order to get at the meat of the matter.

However, I feel that the term “Revolutionary” also carries the connotation of conflict. I do not want to be part of an uprising. I do not want to join a movement where violence and screaming and conflict rules the day. I’d rather be part of a “Reformation” where we can have an open dialog with those in the organized church about the things we are passionate about. I’d love to see the traditional church have a change of heart in many areas and embrace some of the community and family-based forms of fellowship we enjoy in the House Church, for example.

Still, there are various barriers to this sort of discourse among brothers and sisters in the Church. Here are some of my thoughts about that.

We, followers of Jesus, ARE the Church. Church doesn't make us Christian. A Church is a body of Believers, not a building, or an institution, or an organization with a non-profit status. According to the Scriptures, YOU are God’s building (1 Cor 3:9), and YOU are God’s Temple where the Spirit of God lives (1 Cor 3:16), and YOU are an important member of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27).

So, at the risk of repeating myself, if you are a follower of Jesus, you cannot “leave the Church” if you stop attending a service at a building on Sunday morning. You ARE the Church. The only way to “Leave the Church” would be to renounce your faith in Christ and to go you own way, abandoning your hope in The Way.

Many suggest that those of us in the House Church Movement have “left the Church”, which is of course, impossible. We have simply responded to God’s calling on our lives to “Be the Church” rather than to attend one.

I have been a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel for over 16 years. I currently pastor a house church called "The Mission" in Orange, California. My reasons for leaving the organized church (but not "The Church") were honestly based on a calling of the Holy Spirit to step out and lead a group of people who would give 100% of their offerings to the poor. The only way to accomplish this was to have a house church.

However, as I've continued forward on this journey outside traditional church, I'm noticing that there are plenty of things that are just "not right" about the way our institutional churches work. As I share this, I know I need to confess that there are scores of very good, Jesus-following, Disciple-making, Social Justice oriented churches out there who are doing incredible work and are surrendered to Christ and are doing awesome Kingdom-building in their community. I admit this. Not every traditional church is broken. However, there are a few fundamental problems inherent in this traditional system which I feel need to be addressed and brought out into the open.

I guess I want to have a Family Talk about our household of faith among my brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, let’s talk.

We exploit people. We elevate a select group of leaders (and giftings) above everyone else. We have a man-made system of organization that deviates from the family-based group that was inspired by Jesus and promoted and built by the Apostles in the New Testament. We have become a "Sermon and a Song" each week in order to entertain the masses and keep them coming back and dropping money into the plate. We have largely abandoned our calling to care for the orphan and the widow and to remember the poor and instead we have focused our resources inward and spent millions of dollars on carpet and pews and flat-screen monitors and sound systems and designer coffee, etc.

I believe we have to get back to the basics. I believe that if we want the sort of community that we read about in the book of Acts we will have to do what they did; share everything, meet weekly in our homes, allow everyone to speak and teach equally, encourage everyone in their gifting and honor them as our own flesh and blood, read and study the Word of God, make disciples, and share our money with those who are in financial need among us.

At least, that's a good place to start.

How do we have an honest conversation about the institutional church without slinging mud or unpacking our garbage from a bad experience?

I believe there are some very fundamental problems with the traditional church system, although I have friends who are lead pastors and family members and dear friends who are active and vital members of a traditional church. So, how do I critique these problems without it sounding like I'm calling them "false" or attacking the Bride?

There has to be a place where followers of Jesus can have an honest discourse about the very real problems within our organized church, and to do so with civility and clarity.

I think, to begin with, we have to get beyond the idea that we cannot criticize a man-made system for its flaws and excesses. The Church system is separate from The Church Body. We ARE the Church. I am not critical of the people of God, but I am critical of the system and structure of the organizational unit.

I believe it is time for a structural reform and a paradigm shift. I think the Holy Spirit has already begun to implement such a shift as He has called thousands of people to leave the organized church and start House Churches in their community. People are breaking bread with their actual neighbors. They are opening their living rooms up to people who would never go to an organized church service. The Gospel is being preached and lives are being changed. Best yet, we are learning again how to be disciples and how to make disciples, as Jesus commanded us.

For me, house church has been the greatest thing I've ever done with the word "Church" on it.
Watch the video clip below if you want a better picture of the Movement being lead by the Holy Spirit (not Barna or Cole or Simpson) here on my website.

I hope I can share these things without offending someone who is not in a house church. I hope I can be honest about what I see and hear without being accused of "attacking the Bride".

Martin Luther, in his day, saw a church that had strayed from the Biblical framework, adding man-made conventions to what God intended and it pained him to see it keeping the masses from The Gospel, and from Jesus. He spoke out. He criticized the Church for these practices and became very vocal and eventually even lead a reformation of Christians who felt they could no longer find God in the Church, so they left to find God.

I, for one, am glad that Martin Luther had such courage. I wonder if we need another one just like him today? Or maybe we just need a safe place, a neutral ground, to speak honestly and openly about our flaws and admit that some things in the traditional church really are broken.

I confess I struggle with this. I struggle with how to lovingly express these ideas and how to reconcile these thoughts in my own head.

Let the dialog begin…



Anonymous said...

Barna's "Revolution" and termonology have caused no little stir, mostly due to the implications he draws for the established church. Thanks for your thoughts. I like the term "revolutionary" and I do intend to participate in a massive conflict the likes of which will turn the world up-side-down. But I do not see this as a revolution against the organized church. I see it as a revolution against the "domain of darkness" that holds people in captivity, exploitation, and oppression to bring them into the Kingdom of the Son. I see this as an extension of Jesus' mission from day one. So I agree, in regards to the people of God and organized church, I am a reformer in dialogue. But in regards to the stuggle to live authenitically and incarnationally, I am a revolutionary. It really doesn't have that much to do with religious organization at all.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind, constructive and thought provoking comments on my article at The Ooze, Institutional Church: RIP?

Your thoughts resonate with me, as christians we are called to bear the image of our tri-une God, to be a people who claim not only the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit - but live out the reality of his character: grace, love, justice, mercy, generousity as he transforms us into his likeness...

As such I think christians have practiced gathering together, in small groups where we can know and be known and larger ones where we celebrate, share, and remember the One God in three, in who's name we gather.

I do not care whether you do this in a cathedral or in a home, we need both the institutional church and the house church and all the other varations in between. We are not the the one church, or even the best church but part of Christ's church. There are so many different people seeking out there and therefore I think we need a variety of churches to reach them.

We also need each other to see our own flaws and failings within our own particular church stream, to learn humbly from each other and to practice treating each other with the same love and grace as that which we have received and exprienced from the God who loves us...

Jodi said...

I am a casualty of the organized church, experiencing hurt and severe burnout I never expected. I had to leave my old church in order to survive. I was reduced to incapacitation for a couple of weeks, and a slow road of coming back to normal. It has taken me months to heal. Even though I know there is no perfect church, nor perfect leaders, I am still left in disillusionment with the institution of the organized church. I didn't give up, however. My family is in a new church. It's a good one, but it's not perfect, either. It's a more freed-up place where I have not felt pressured to jump on the growth band-wagon and sacrifice myself (and my family) for the organization's "cause." I respect the leaders of my new church because they are real and transparent. They don't try to cover things up, nor spend their energy managing their image. They take care of their leaders, and they don't allow overcommitment. Even though it is a large church, it has a family, comforting feel. It's up to me to get closer to others by joining a small group, but there are no guilt-trips for not doing so.
I love what you have written about. It rings true for me. I don't know if a House Church is for me, but I can relate to the reasons why people might be drawn to it. I think it is pretty awesome, and it does make me wonder if God is desiring to change up "the church" through House Churches. Thank you for writing about this. I will keep reading...