There’s a growing trend working its way through North America these days: Christians are increasingly meeting for worship in homes instead of in churches.
Known as “house church,” “simple church,” or “organic church,” this movement is based on informal worship communities that seek to return to the roots of the Christian church when Jesus and his apostles gathered in people’s homes.
The trend is already being felt in the Christian Reformed Church. Several new Christian Reformed Home Missions-funded ministries in Canada and the United States are evangelizing through home-based churches.
One such ministry, downtown friends, is a group of small worship gatherings in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Mary-Lee Bouma, who started the ministry, wants to bring the gospel to a fast-growing multiethnic part of the city made up of urban professionals.
“We want to do evangelism in a nontraditional way,” she says. “We want to bring nonbelievers and believers together in small groups that meet in downtown condos and coffee houses. Our hope is that people become Christians and then witness to their friends and coworkers, so the network will continue to grow.”
Formed last year, downtown friends includes a series of monthly activities, such as a dinner and discussion group and regular home worship gathering where the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.
Another gathering, On the House Church, was recently started by Jeff and Michelle Boersma in Muskegon, Mich. The Boersmas formed their ministry after recognizing that some people in the community could only be reached if the barrier of walking through the doors of a church building were removed. On the House Church centers on a cell group that meets in homes where people pray, learn from the Bible, and celebrate communion.
The Boersmas are taking a more formal approach to growing the community. Apprentice leaders are selected and trained to create new small groups. Right now, three couples are being coached in leadership skills and teaching from the Bible. Following training, they will be given opportunities to lead Bible study at the next cell group meeting.
Home Missions missionaries Brian and Betsy Turnbull have started a home-based ministry called The House CRC in Seattle, Wash.
“We believe the gospel of Jesus is incarnational and must be lived out in all areas of our lives,” remarks Brian Turnbull. He says they hope to use small groups to inspire local residents to bring Jesus with them to their jobs, volunteer work, and all other aspects of their daily lives.
Whether worshiping in living rooms or local coffeehouses, these groups share a common goal that’s very much in line with that of a traditional church. “We want to help people meet Jesus personally in the Scriptures,” says Bouma. “That is at the heart of our ministry.”