This is part three in a four-thread topic.
Please Note: Although I'm "defending" the idea of house churches here, I don't think it should be an either/or proposition, or that conventional congregations should be abandoned wholesale in favor of nothing but HCs. I see value in both, and I'm eager to see hybrid and partnership forms develop as well. But since HC is appearing as the "new thing", it's natural for it to need more explanation, which is what I'm trying to provide.
Discipleship. The stewardship questions from the previous post press us to look into the utility of a HC form. Once we do, I believe we find the strongest reasons yet for supporting this expression of the Church. I think we’d agree that the most important thing in making and growing disciples is the movement and power of the Spirit of God, which can happen in any size gathering. But next to that, I would say that the most important thing for discipling is conversation with believers about Jesus. In the absence of that, it’s hard to see people readily coming to faith or growing in it. But here’s the critical turn: what is the best context for conversation? Clearly, it’s small groups – even down to the level of “two or three gathered in my name.” And so, to put it simply, I think the Church should invest most of it’s time and energy in the context that is most supportive of effective discipling. The House Church form is far better structured for this than a conventional church, where most of the time and energy and resources are used in support of a large group gathering that effectively precludes conversation.
I should hasten to add that I do think there is value in large group worship! (And buildings and clergy, for that matter.) But I think the discipling goals of the Kingdom are calling us to invert our priorities: small groups and HCs first, with large group as an addition, rather than large group as the norm, with a handful also in small groups or HCs.