We Are The Living Church

Issue #2218 December 13, 2009

The Danger of the “House Church” Movement:
Religious Tradition in Disguise
God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones
(A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 30

When Paul uses the phrase, “the church in your house” he is not referring to the building or architectural “house.” Instead he is referring to the “household” (i.e., the family itself). The Greek word that Paul uses for “house” is oikos (house, usually the household) instead of oikia (house, usually the building).

“The most common words to express the concept of family in the New Testament are oikos, ‘house,’ and its derivatives. Oikos may indicate the couple, their children, and any servants or relatives living in the house (I Timothy 3:5, 12).” – Lawrence O. Richards, Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words

Oikos … by implication, a family.” – James Strong, Strong’s Greek Lexicon, #3624, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

Oikos … by metonymy, of the members of a household or family.” – W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

There is a growing movement afloat called “the House Church Movement.” It has, in some circles and areas, become quite popular. It’s an acceptable, alternative “thing to do.” Home is where the “members” of this movement “do church.”

I would like to be clear that this is not what Paul is talking about when he utilized the phrase “the church in your house.” He was not talking about a house church movement. Paul was not a part of any man-made movement. The only movement he knew anything about was the natural movement of Christ through the members of His Body.

This should be a good enough “movement” for us: Christ living and moving through the members of His Body. This should be the only movement of which we would desire to be a part!

Why is it that members of Christ’s Body seem never to be satisfied with their identity in Christ? Why is it that we have this pressing desire to be recognized and identified with something else – anything else – beyond Christ?

House Church and Home Church?

Now, the fact is that there is no such term in Scripture as “house church” or “home church,” anymore than there is the term “local church.” Surely there will be those who will accuse us of “squabbling over semantics,” but words are important – they mean things. There is a vast difference between “the local church” and the church in a locality; and just the same, there is a vast difference between “the house church” or “the home church,” and “the church in your house.”

The church is not something we “do,” it is not somewhere we “go.” It is who we are! We are the church whether we are at work, at school, or on vacation. Yet we do not use the terms “work church,” “school church,” or “vacation church” to describe these. We are simply the church at work, the church at school, the church on vacation.

The church is everywhere that the saints are! It is everywhere its members (i.e., Body parts) are, and when the church gathers it is not “doing” church, it is not “going” to church. We were the church before we gather, we are the church when we gather, and we are the church when we disassemble! Anchor this truth in your soul: WE ARE THE CHURCH!

That’s why the Scriptures tell us that Paul “gathered the church together” (Acts 14:27). What was Paul gathering? Bricks and mortar? No! An organization? No! He was gathering the church. He was gathering saints. He was gathering Body parts, and they were the church, even when they were not meeting. So, neither is the meeting the church!

Do you begin to see the problem with “house church,” and “home church?” It brings us right back to the exact same problem that the traditional “church” has. It steals our identity. “House church” and “home church” are not God’s church! They are man’s pitiful attempts at imitation!

Now, we appreciate what some in the “House Church Movement” have done to awaken many to the problems with the traditional “church”; but, to some degree, the “House Church Movement” has replaced one architectural form (the chapel) with another (the house). The danger is that we carry the system of the chapel into the home. Have we simply swapped “having church” in a chapel with “having church” in a house? If so, the primary difference is architecture, and architecture is not even close to being the issue!

The issue is the life of Christ living in and through His church – when, where and how He pleases! Every day, in every place, and within every circumstance – Christ is manifesting Himself in His living church! This is “the house of God!” This is “the church of the living God!” This is “the pillar and ground of the truth!” This is “the mystery of godliness!”

“But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness …” (I Timothy 3:15-16).

“The church in your house” supports these truths. The “house church” and “home church” supplant them! (It’s religious tradition under guise of Bible truth.)

Are you the church, or do you “do church?” Do you “go to” a “house church?”

Don’t settle for anything less than who and what God has made you in Christ!

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

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