Home Church Help

Many people are concerned with heresy, biblical error, and weirdness in house church. People tend to think that house church can be “cultish”.

First of all, the churches in the new testament met in homes. So it is not the meeting place itself that makes something a cult. So what is it really that makes some people concerned about the idea of “home church”?

Pastors and those in leadership positions in traditional meeting places often warn people about the dangers of home church. In some ways they have a point, and we are going to discuss that here in this article. However, it should certainly be mentioned that it only makes sense to question the “clergy’s” motives in warning us about home church.

Obviously, there are many good things going on in traditional church settings. People are hearing the gospel, worshiping the Lord, and being set free. However, the idea of “house church” can really be a threat to all clergy members and people on staff in traditional church settings. Pastors and staff members have often worked hard to earn their credentials and obtain their positions. Home church is way too simple. House churches don’t need the services offered of the paid professional minister. So of course, they are going to warn against it and think of it as “less than” what they’ve worked so hard to build and achieve.

Bad Teaching, Error and Heresies

Let’s look at the facts. If you think about it there is error and strangeness wherever you go. In fact, every denomination would say that every other denomination (besides their own) is teaching biblical error. This is why there are so many divisions. This is why churches have sepearated from each other, and formed “denominations”, in the first place. Then each denomination gives itself a name to uniquely identify itself and its own particular “right” beliefs. To do such a thing is an error in itself.

Without a doubt, everyone is in some type of error. No one has the perfect doctrine or the perfect biblical interpretation. No one has all truth in every single area. If we all knew exactly where we were wrong we would correct it. So as I like to say, we are “walking according to the light that we have”.

Does attending bible college or being a formally trained pastor somehow make you less susceptible to error? No it doesn’t. I’ve heard horrible errors preached and taught by PhDs and formally trained bible teachers. Most main stream evangelical movements have some sort of unhealthy focus in one thing or another.

Then you have the more extreme cases. Jim Jones, a pastor from the late 1970’s attended a Pentecostal Bible college in Springfield, Mo. He later denied the deity of Christ and the authority of the Bible. He eventually led 913 people to their death by having them drink poison. Stewart Traill, earned his masters of sacred theology from Union Theological Seminary and was ordained by the Canadian Presbyterian Church. He is widely accused as a cult leader. Wayne Bent, a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, is a self proclaimed messiah.
Although these are a few extreme examples, the list is endless and the point is obvious: Bible education does not insulate a man from bible error.

What is the Real Danger?

The real danger is when we don’t have a forum to check or correct each other on our teachings and interpretations which are possibly in error. If you are in a home church or organic church setting and you or anyone else teaches questionable things, there is a healthy platform and forum to check it and discuss it.

People who are part of home church are always discussing biblical truth with one another. They often question and discuss each other’s point of view and what each other has to say. This is very healthy. Often I hear comments such as, “Where are you coming from in saying that”. Or, “I disagree, I think the scriptures are actually saying this”.

Of course, there is a time and a place for this, even in home church. But the dynamic is healthy. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us studying, pondering, and seeking for truth continually. During this process we learn to correct others and correct our own teachings as well.

A level playing field keeps us safe. When you have an environment where everyone is viewed as an equeal – when certain personalities start to get too big, they get knocked down. When people are timid, they are encouraged to step up and rise to the occasion and share their opinions.

On the contrary, there is more potential for error when one personality is allowed to dominate. Try questioning or challenging a traditional pastor after his next sermon (or even during his next sermon) and see where it gets you. Not all “pastors” will respond poorly, but if you are ever percieved as “challenging their authority”, then you are put on the bad list. You become “marked”.

So, let’s compare the two in a nutshell. In a house church setting there is close accountability, a level playing field, and everyone is encouraged to not only participate; but to validate everything that is shared. In a traditional church setting, for the most part one man is the authority, one man primarily brings the message of truth, and one man has the final say.

Following one man is really and truly what is “cultish”. Especially when that man says that you are rebellious for challenging his authority. This is the hallmark of a cult. In a healthy home church (who look only to Jesus and scripture for leadership and final authority), where every participant is “equal” – there is much less potential for cultish activity, control, spiritual abuse, and error.

So… which dynamic has the most potential for error? Which one is the real cult?

Control is Always the Issue.
Most of the time when people think a particular group is “a cult”, they think it is a cult because it is different. To not be normal or typical, would put you in danger of being thought of as a cult. When a group is not mainstream or “official”, it is often thought of as cultish
.
But certainly to be different or not mainstream could not make a group a cult. The meetings and gatherings in the first century and in the book of Acts, were certainly much different than the typical church meeting today. But we would never think of a meeting out of the book of Acts as being cultish, we would actually consider it biblical! So, what really makes a group or a particular movement “a cult”?
The trademark of a cult is control. I don’t care what setting you are in – a small living room with 15 people, or a five million dollar building with 3,000 people. If there is not a healthy dynamic of being able to question and discuss everything, then it’s dangerous. It’s cult-like.

In any Christian setting we should be able to discuss and have a healthy dialogue of motives, theology, behaviours, all things that can be said or done – and without having to pay for it or hear responses like, “because you are challenging me, you are not under my authority”. Usually people who say this want control. When their control is being threatened – the best defense is always a good offense.

I’ve certainly visited house church meetings where one man was clearly in control. Not leading, but controlling. There is a huge difference. Good leadership actually fosters and encourages others to function and lead as well. Good leadership will have as its ultimate aim to decrease and then disappear. Control keeps people under. The ultimate goal of a person who wants to control – is to stay in control. Clearly, these particular home church gatherings I visited were not healthy. At one time I was even a part of a home church that disintegrated because of the control of one man. But this seems to be the norm in most traditional settings and no one questions it or calls it cultish.

The scriptures teach us to “mutually submit” (1 Peter 5:5). We are to submit to one another. If your “pastor” cannot submit (from the heart) to the other people in the group, or if he is reluctant to do so – he is dangerous (even if his intentions are good). It is a problem that is inherent in a flawed and unbiblical system.

“The Proper Working of Each Individual Part” – Eph. 4:16

We will all stand before God on the judgement day as individuals. Each believer is a priest. We all have a bible and we are all responsible as individuals to follow God. When a man stands up and speaks in front of you and to your family – you are responsible to measure it and weigh it out. Is it truth? Then “amen” the message and give your heart to it completely. Is it false? Then it must be checked. Is this man taking us where we need to go?

Every hearer is responsible to respond in some way. As the head of your household you must instruct and lead your family. You might say, “What that man said today was off.” Or, “I agreed with the message, it was good”.

Each person hearing another man speak also has a responsibility to the speaker, to some degree. If the speaker’s doctrine is not sound, he must be told about it at some point in time. It has to be talked through and worked out.

This refining process keeps us from heresy and keeps us all growing. This atmosphere of “many people” questioning and looking for truth together is good. It is much more dangerous to have only one man who has the final authority on what the truth is. There is much more potential for heresy and error when only one man is trusted to tell us what God is saying to us. The Word of God is the only authority. A 60 year old seasoned pastor who has a congregation of 3,000 people should be able to submit to the reading of the Word of God brought by an 18 year old baby Christian. If he can’t submit and genuinely receive reproof, then he is not a man of God. A man of God will genuinely want reproof. When we have a room full of Godly men and women, then we will grow together in a healthy way.

One Response to “Cults and House Church Weirdness”

  1. David Murry

    I enjoyed the simple, straight forward points to consider in this article.

    Those who are open to explore the deeper truths from seeking Him and Him alone.. together….you will never look back.

    One cannot really hide in home fellowship for long. It is a bit messy and bloody as the family works out their issues.. together… in love.

    I would not trade my family for anyting in the worls and would galdly lay down my life for any one of them. True church life is loving each other. This comes through intimate time spent together, learning and drawing to Christ, as well as learning we each are as a member with our unique gifts, callings, and ways God wants to operate through us to win the lost.

    Thank yo for sharing.

    David NY

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