SPIRIT-FILLED / RELATIONAL / LIFE-CHANGING
"This is the simplest form of ministry I’ve ever done. The hardest part is cleaning my house before people come over! The only preparation I need to do is my own devotional time with the Lord. I don’t need to plan an order of service. I don’t need to prepare or practice a set of worship songs. And I don’t need to have a three-point sermon full of clever anecdotes or profound statements. I simply need to hang out with my friends and look for what Jesus is doing and saying among us."
House Churches Aren't New...
House churches are the context in which the New Testament was written. It’s how the church began—first meeting all together in one house (Acts 2:1–2) and then in many houses (Acts 2:46).
Church buildings as we might think of them didn’t become common until a few centuries later. That doesn’t make such buildings “wrong,” but it also doesn’t mean house churches are outdated or ineffective. In fact, many scriptures don’t even make practical sense when read in the context of a large church gathering.
For example, many pastors encourage their congregations to come together on Sunday using the words of Hebrews 10:24–25, which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” But how is a room full of eighty people supposed to do that in practical terms?
The writer of Hebrews didn’t invite everyone together to hear one person spur them on toward love and good deeds or to be encouraged by an individual preacher. Rather, the admonition is that everyone do that for each other. That means everyone is supposed to encourage everyone. And that’s not logistically possible in a large gathering.
We at Roots Church have nothing against larger, more conventional churches. In fact, we praise God for all the people they’re able to reach and the ministries they can accomplish. Our network of house churches holds large meetings as well.
But we are also clear that our big meetings are just a garnish on the main course of “church.” Biblical “church” is a gathering of people that is small enough to actually do the things the Bible says must be done.
Yet another example is First Corinthians 14:26, which says, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” I’ve never seen a big gathering of people where every single person was logistically able to express their gifts in a way that every other person benefitted. The closest I’ve seen is congregations breaking into smaller clusters at the end of a message to pray for each other, but consider what this is: small groups!
Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers make sense in a house church of five to twenty people; but the bigger a meeting grows, the less actionable they become.
Over and over, we see New Testament churches gathering in homes:
Acts 1:13 – The first church gathering was in a house
Acts 2:1–4 – The outpouring on Pentecost happened in a house
Acts 2:46 – The believers met not only in the temple courts but also in homes
Acts 5:42 – The apostles taught from house to house
Acts 8:3 – Saul went looking for Christians by searching houses
Acts 10:24–48 – The Spirit first poured out upon Gentiles at Cornelius’s house
Acts 12:12 – The believers gathered at Mark’s mother’s house to pray for Peter’s release from prison
Acts 16:40 – The church in Lydia’s house
Acts 20:20 – Paul taught both publicly and from house to house
Romans 16:3–5 – The church at Priscilla and Aquila’s house (also 1 Corinthians 16:9)
Colossians 4:15 – The church at Nympha’s house
Philemon 1:2 – The church in Philemon’s home
We don't believe early Christian house churches operated exactly the same as the ones in our network. For one thing, they didn’t have the same access to Bibles that we do today. And the varied cultures, technology, and environments surely create some differences as well. We do, however, believe that when the church gathers in small, interactive groups from house to house, we are far closer to the original design than when we only meet in large groups to passively watch a minority of people minister on stage.
In our opinion, house churches are the best environment for spiritual growth to flourish, and that's why we make them such a priority here at Roots Church.
House Churches Are Unique...
Perhaps you've attended a church that has "cell groups" or "life groups" or other such small gatherings of believers outside the main Sunday church gathering. Chances are, these small meetings are still different from what we're talking about when we use the term "house churches."
The main difference is that most churches consider their large, Sunday gathering to be the "main event." This is where baptisms, communion, baby dedications, and other such things take place. Here at Roots Church, though, we do all these things at the house church level.
House churches are not merely "small group Bible studies" of our main church. Rather, they are our main expression of "church." Consider some of the differences:
Bible studies are focused on niche topics and are not usually meant to be evangelistic. House churches are meant for the full equipping of every believer for the work of the ministry.
Bible studies are once-a-week meetings. House churches are about living life together.
Bible study conversations are typically led by a book, a curriculum, or a set of questions prepared ahead of time. House church conversations are led by what God has been speaking and doing in the lives of the people.
In traditional churches, everyone is expected in the big meetings and invited to the optional “small group” Bible Studies. But in a house church network, everyone is expected in the “small group” house churches and invited to the optional big meetings.
Churches that have Bible Studies use them for going deeper in Christ while the large gatherings tend to be evangelistic or seeker-sensitive. In our house church network, large gatherings are for encountering Jesus together and being spiritually equipped while our house churches are the entry-level meetings for new believers and seekers to connect relationally with solid believers.
In a house church, every believer is a minister. (See 1 Corinthians 14:26.) Room is made for everyone’s spiritual gifts to operate as the Spirit leads. The Scriptures are still taught, but never at the expense of Jesus expressing Himself through others.
House churches are a complete “church” experience. In house churches we have communion, worship, prayer, fellowship, spiritual gifts, evangelistic outreaches, baptism, and biblical instruction. We live life together beyond a weekly meeting. We are not just friends in our gatherings but throughout the week. We encourage people to think of their house church as “my church” while the occasional larger gatherings are optional gatherings where we can interact with people from our larger network.
The first thing we always recommend is that people connect to one of our established house churches so they can experience the culture first hand. The best way to learn a language is to spend time in a culture where that language is spoken fluently. And the best way to learn to swim is to get wet. So start by immersing yourself in the loving, Christ-centered community at one of our house churches.
After that, you have three primary options: (1) Lead someone to Jesus and start meeting with them regularly, inviting their family and friends to know Jesus as well. (2) Gather some Christians you know who do not presently have a church family but would like to help you start something. (3) Launch out from one of our established house churches with a "seed group" of two to four people who will participate in your new house church and help establish a healthy culture from the start.
Finally, follow the steps below to make your house church an official part of Roots Church. Anyone can start a house church, but only those officially connected to our network can be legally protected by our church insurance waiver, benefit from paid children's ministers, and more (see benefits below).
BENEFITS OF MAKING YOUR HOUSE CHURCH OFFICIAL
We believe in showing honor to those who serve faithfully in our network. One of the ways we do this is by blessing house church pastors and children's ministers with a monthly stipend.
Fifteen percent (15%) of monthly offerings given to the general fund of Roots Church are divided into equal portions and distributed to (1) pastors of official house churches and (2) certified children's ministers at official house churches. The number of portions is directly related to the number of official house church pastors and certified children's ministers throughout our network.
Since this is a percentage-based system, the amount of money in each portion varies from month to month. But, generally speaking, a single portion could be worth anywhere from around $75 to $125. House church pastors receive 2 portions for each house church they pastor, and children's ministers receive 1/4 portion for each individual meeting in which they serve.
This is one of the reasons we want to make your house church official: We really do want to bless you!
Another benefit to making your house church official is insurance. Our church insurance policy protects you and others in your house church, offering a certain amount of accident coverage and legal help in the event of sexual abuse allegations and so forth. Our policy costs you nothing, but we are legally only able to cover official house churches in our network. Unofficial house churches may be relationally connected to Roots Church, but they are not covered by our policy.
One more important benefit is that participants in official house churches can become Mission Partners of Roots Church and enjoy all the rights and privileges associated with Mission Partner status.
If you're considering making your house church an official part of our network, your first step is to become a Mission Partner of Roots Church. The following information will show you what comes next.
Becoming an Official House Church Pastor:
Official House Churches are led by those who have been affirmed as Elders by our Senior Leadership Team. To be clear, only God can appoint a church leader, but our team recognizes and publicly affirms God's hand on a person's life as He leads that person in shepherding His flock.
Before the Senior Leadership Team will officially lay hands on a House Church Leader and affirm him or her as an official Pastor in Roots Church, he or she must meet the following criteria:
Be or become a Mission Partner of Roots Church in good standing.
Either (1) serve in the capacity of House Church Leader or Co-Leader for six months, or (2) serve in the capacity of House Church Leader or Co-Leader for three months and hold any level of active ministerial credentials with
the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Have three people from one’s own House Church fill out a confidential Character Reference Form that will be sent to the Spiritual Life Director. (If married, one character reference shall be one’s spouse, otherwise no character references shall be from one’s own family.)
Regularly attend Sunday “Encounter Nights” and Second-Sunday “Leadership Forums” for at least three months.
Meet, along with one’s spouse (if applicable), with at least two members of the Senior Leadership Team for an interview and discussion about life, family, and ministry.
We expect a certain level of Christian maturity from our house church pastors, not in the sense that they need to perform to prove themselves, but in the sense that they ought to be trustworthy examples to God's flock in their care (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Below is a list of biblical qualifications for church leaders. Don't look at these as laws you must obey in your own strength. See them as a description of who you've become in Christ and an explanation of who we believe you are in Him.
Making Your House Church Official
In order for a House Church to transition into the Approval Stage, it must meet the following criteria:
The House Church shall sustain a regular, weekly attendance average of at least five people over the age of 15 years from different households in each regular meeting over the course of six consecutive weeks. (At least three of those five people shall have come consistently during that time, and the other two may be interchangeable guests or sporadic attendees.)
The House Church shall be led by someone who regularly attends the larger, Encounter Nights of Roots Church (and shall have done so regularly for at least two months). This leader shall meet the requirements of an Official House Church Elder described on this page.
The House Church shall subscribe to a culture that values every believer (not merely being a meeting centered around the gifts or talents of one or two people), is open to the gifts and operation of the Holy Spirit, and supports the cultural and doctrinal common ground described in the “Who We Are” document.
The House Church shall select a minimum of one approved missionary to help support on a monthly basis, and its participants shall together determine the amount of money they intend to pledge as a group (no less than $10 monthly as a group).
The House Church shall together agree to join and support the larger mission and vision of Roots Church through regular prayer, encouragement, communication, multiplication of House Churches, and joy-filled financial support as the Holy Spirit directs.
An approved House Church shall begin with at least three Mission Partners of Roots Church. This could alternatively mean that:
The new House Church shall have been started with at least three Mission Partners already present, or
Three people must apply for Mission-Partnership in conjunction with the application for House Church approval, or
Some combination of the above two (example: two people are already Mission-Partners, and one person applies for Mission-Partnership during the approval process).