Sunday, November 18, 2007

Evangelism in House Churches

My friend AnnMarie posted this question in another thread:

Have you seen or heard of a house church that is effectively reaching the lost? I would love to hear about it!

I don't have any experience of my own to draw on in answering that question, although Julie Jacobs has told me that about 1 out of 10 people in her HC network has come to faith through the network. I'm going to e-mail the people I know who have HC experience and invite them to post here and share some of what they've seen about evangelism in the HCs.

  • How often do people come to faith through their involvement in the HC?

  • If you frequently have people who are not believers attending, how does that affect what you do and how you do it at your gatherings?

  • Is anyone leading groups where most of the people are not believers? If so, how is that going?



Feral Pastor said...

Paul Anderson is another of my Lutheran colleagues and he's coaching a group of young adults in something similar to a house church in his home. I'll be writing about him in an upcoming post in my 100 Cups of Coffee thread, but in a nutshell, he began about two years ago very informally with just a couple of people. It grew slowly in numbers and in frequency of gathering which was originally only monthly or so. Now it has grown to a weekly gathering of over 50 people where Paul does not direcly lead the grop but rather provides guidance and coaching to those who have arisen over time as leaders. When I last visited with him in June, he said that most of the people attending were believers before coming to the group and still have a connection to another community, but that this gathering is their primary faith community.

Paul was interesdted in the questions I posted here and replied to me by e-mail. Here's what he reported about the group he's working with.

Our ministry is growing and getting more exciting all the time. Now they are doing more of "the stuff," which I suspect in this next season will include more evangelism. They are now convinced that they have what it takes. We have silently told our people in the Lutheran church, "You don't have what it takes. You have not been to seminary and you are not ordained. So you can fold bulletins, but you can't preach or baptise." Wrong message.

I look forward to hearing more from Paul in the future!


AnneMarie said...

Tim, I have been thinking about this more and more now! I believe that it is extremely healthy to have a "church" (house church or a trad. church) that has and attracts both believers and non-believers. I just had the idea that "house churches" focus more on just believers that want to go deep.

Again, I strongly believe that there can be a healthy balance of both in the house church realm if people are willing and ready for it!

Feral Pastor said...

Hi AnnMarie -

From what I'm hearing, most HCs in the US are pretty much like your original impression: gatherings for people who are already believers and want to go deeper. It's interesting to me, as a Lutheran, that this is exactly what Luther was envisioning when he wrote about home-based gatherings as something for people "who are desirous of being Christians in earnest, and are ready to profess the Gospel with hand and mouth..." (You can find that in the Document Vault on my website.) But like you I find I'm especially interested in some kind of gathering that could also serve as a safe and nurturing place for those who are not (yet?) believers.

It does leave me wondering if it might be better to have two different gatherings: one that's open to anyone but oriented towards believers, and another that doesn't assume people have faith in Jesus. (I like to think of that as a "seeker cell," but that could just be because I think the phrase sounds cool.)

You've had a good bit of experience with a public gathering in a coffee shop, right? Where would you see that on a continuum between these two?

Feral Pastor said...

Here's a comment I received by e-mail from Jeff Gilbertson, who allowed me to share it here:

We have not seen too many people come to faith thru the HC. Most people in the usa right now in the HC are "disgruntled Christians" who feel that after 10-20 years of spectator Christianity there MUST be more than just sitting in a pew, etc. They are flocking to the house church en masse.

My personal feeling is that the HC gathering should be focused on believers coming together to use spiritual gifts to edify the body. If there are some pre-Christian there that is acceptable, but I don't see making altar calls in the HC as we do in the traditional. (See 1 Cor 11 - 14)

I asked Jeff to share a bit about his story and he wrote this:

We became convinced in Tajikistan 2000- 2004 that church-as-we-knew-it (what some call traditional church, others legacy church, others "big box" church, etc.) was not what they needed. It was there we stumbled upon the HC movement. In 2005 we stayed 10 months in Austin at the home of Tony Dale (house2house) to get a jump start in the HC lifestyle.

You can read more from Jeff at and his new blog: .

bill said...

we are not seeing much evangelism in the rural midwest the hunger is not so we are working on casting vision for the paradigm shift for church and how simple church can take it out of the building mode and into real life...and start to make new disciples. the few new pre-converts we were working with in our house church then started going to a traditional church.
I think that house church can bring in pre believers and edify them because it is done in a natural lifestyle manner.