This is part two 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.
Stewardship. The stewardship of time, energy and money is one of the most powerful arguments in favor of the HC form, in my opinion. Conventional congregations require lots of money to pay for buildings, salaries and programs. HCs require vastly less money. The time and energy involved in crafting and presenting a weekly conventional worship service is again, very substantial – ask any pastor or church musician! Worship in a HC; much, much less. And of course, there are meetings. From that one perspective alone, the HC model cries out for serious consideration.
That’s the “input” side of stewardship: consumption of resources. From the output side, we also need to ask about the return on all that investment. How effective are conventional congregations in the core tasks of the Kingdom: making disciples out of people who don’t know Jesus; growing mature disciples out of people who do know Him? In North America over the last 60 years at least, I believe the evidence is clear: conventional congregations have not been very effective in either. Now, I can’t really say yet how effective HCs are in North America. That jury is still out, though we could look at the evidence so far. But even so, the ineffectiveness of conventional congregations calls for us to at least investigate the HC form to see if it might serve the Kingdom better.
In addition to input & output, there’s the question of stewardship of assets. It is very common to find churches that struggle to make ends meet while maintaining a congregation that is a fraction of the size their building can serve, yet their net equity in the land alone is in the millions of dollars. That money belongs to the Lord. Is that the best use He has for it? It’s sobering to me how much that situation resembles the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) where one servant just hid the money buried in a hole in the ground rather than risk investing it.