Q: What is a house church?
A house church is not a place or a meeting, it’s a community of people who have received the love of God through Jesus Christ. They seek to love and serve God and one another. House churches are also sometimes called “simple church” or “organic church”.
The goal of this website is to promote house churches which accept the authority of Scripture and which seek to function in a way that is consistent with New Testament principles. They are committed to being a body under the headship of Christ where each person contributes based on their unique identity in Christ. The health of the whole body depends on all members actively engaging with one another (1 Cor 12:12-27). Consistent with this, meetings are characterized by ‘every member participation’ as led by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 14:26). Contributions may include worship, prayer, Bible reading or teaching. Each member is encouraged to ask God what he or she can bring to the meeting, and to be sensitive during the meeting to the Holy Spirit’s promptings about what and when they should contribute.
House church communities are also committed to living out the “one another” commands in scripture including the command that all believers move in mutual submission to one another (Eph 5:21). The essence of leadership within a New Testament style house church is to intentionally do the good things that all believers are expected to do, including ensuring healthy dynamics within the community.
New Testament style house churches are self-governing communities. Critical decisions within the life of the community are made by consensus of the complete community. Specific examples of this given in Scripture include church discipline and testing prophetic words that apply to the whole community.
For an in-depth look at the New Testament pattern of house church, we recommend the book “Rediscovering the New Testament Church” by Anthony Jacomb-Hood. Here is a free excerpt from this book giving a Biblical description of the New Testament church. See the RESOURCES page for additional books, articles and videos concerning house church.
Please be aware that not all house churches listed in this site are committed to this vision. Some house churches are small scale conventional churches with a recognized pastor and other house churches are somewhere on the spectrum between these poles.
Q: How are New Testament style house churches led?
The goal of New Testament style house churches is to allow the Holy Spirit to lead through all members. Key decisions in the life of the church were made by consensus of the complete church and the content of meetings is provided through every member participation.
The New Testament mentions local church leaders who were typically called elders or overseers. Almost everything which these individuals were expected to do (e.g., teach, pray, care for other believers, admonish, protect unity etc) is also commanded of all believers. The essence of this human leadership is not performing unique roles which may only be performed by leaders but being particularly focused on doing all of the good things all believers are commanded to do. Much of the work done by New Testament style leaders is associated with protecting the healthy dynamics of the community; and much of this work is done in an unobtrusive manner. The title “elder” emphasizes the maturity expected of local church leaders and the title “overseer” emphasizes their role in watching out for people and for the dynamics of the church.
One of the striking things about the New Testament is the relatively small number of references to local church leaders. This is a direct result of the model described above. Most of the epistles are written to complete house churches, not just to their leaders. The complete community was expected to jointly address issues surfaced by the letters. Most references to human leaders are to travelling leaders (e.g., Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus) who traveled extensively planting and supporting house churches. Visits of these travelling leaders were relatively rare events in the life of a house church.
Q: How does a house church differ from a cell church?
House churches are self-governing communities of believers under the headship of Christ. They seek to live out everything that the New Testament teaches about being a local church community. They are part of Christ’s worldwide church and may be in fellowship with other house churches within their community. They are not under the authority of any human external to their community. Groups of house churches may occasionally gather together for larger meetings. These larger meetings are secondary to the meetings of each house church.
In some cases, meetings of cell groups within a cell church may be similar to house church meetings. However, cell groups are typically part of a hierarchical structure under the authority of the overall leadership of the cell church. They also typically have weekly services for all cell members which are similar to conventional church services. Cell churches commonly have paid staff and buildings.
Q: Which house church is best for me?
Everyone using this house church directory should use their own discernment in all interactions with the listed communities. We encourage you to ask questions to find out if a house church follows a healthy, New Testament pattern. Visit a few times to help you understand the people as individuals and how they function together. Continue to ask God for discernment.
Since every house church has a different personality, it’s important to know yourself, as well as the group. Are you looking for a group that focuses on prayer and worship? Are you interested in spending more time on Bible discussion? Are you looking to connect with people who have similar passion for service or exercising gifts in similar ways? Some groups have a rich diversity across age, gender and stage of life. Other groups may be more focused on a similar stage of life; e.g., young families with little children.
Some house churches have found it helpful to have one or two representatives meet with individuals interested in joining the house church before extending an invitation to participate. This is often done at a public place such as a coffee shop. This meeting allows both the new person and the house church representatives to get to know one another and see if there is a good fit. This is a great time to talk about the culture of the house church and to understand each other’s hopes and expectations. The new person may then visit a few times, as both sides discern and confirm if this is where God is leading. A decision not to join after this introductory period, should not be interpreted as a rejection. It may just simply not be the right fit, and everyone can bless each other as they go their separate ways.
Q: What if there are no house churches in my area?
Pray and ask God if He wants to use you to start a house church. Many house churches are started when two or three Christian friends get together to pray, asking God to lead them. If God leads you to the next step, you can list a proposed house church. We encourage you to step out in faith and see who God brings together!
Q: What if I’m not ready to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but I’m curious?
That’s great! Most house churches would be delighted to have you join them, as long as you are willing to be respectful of their existing culture and beliefs, while you are still working out your own beliefs. They would welcome you at whatever place you are in your spiritual journey. A few house churches may be uncomfortable with the idea of people who are not in agreement with certain Christian beliefs being in their meeting. They may think you will disrupt or try to change them. That’s why the most important thing is to be completely honest about where you are at, and to keep the discussion open. It’s interesting that in the gospel of John (1:46) Philip told Nathanael about Jesus. “Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” If you’re curious about what it means to be part of Christ’s community (flawed though we are), we invite you to “come and see”.
For more about what it means to be in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, check out http://three-two-one.org/ or https://www.cru.org/us/en/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html
Q: In which countries may I list a house church?
At this time, we only allow listings in the United States. Other countries have different privacy rules. We are still researching those rules. We may expand the list of allowable countries in the future.
Q: What organization is behind this website?
There is no organization. We are two people who love the Lord and want to further the growth of healthy house church communities. We are committed to privately funding this website and to keep it completely free to users – no donations, no advertising, and no charges to list or find house churches.
Q: Outdated house church listings?
Please help us keep the directory updated! If anyone discovers a non-responsive house church listing, please use the Contact form to notify us. We will attempt to verify and will delete listings as needed.
If you have listed a house church, please be considerate of those searching for house churches. Please update your listing as changes occur and please delete your listing if your house church becomes inactive. Once a year, each house church organizer will receive an email asking them to verify that the house church is still active, and the listing is currently accurate. Non-response to this email after 30 days will cause us to assume the house church is inactive, and we will delete it from the directory. If this happens, you can relist at any time.
Q: Inappropriate house church listings?
This site offers a self-service house church directory. We are only able to perform a limited review of house churches prior to publication. If you find a listing that is not a good fit for this site (e.g., a conventional church), or is misrepresenting itself, you can use the Contact form to let us know. We may attempt to communicate with the organizer, to clarify and to give them an opportunity to edit the listing. However, we reserve the right to delete any listing, without warning.
Q: What if I’m having an issue with people – either those listing a house church, the house church members, or those inquiring about house churches?
Each user is responsible for his/her interactions with other users of this site. We are only able to perform a limited review of house churches prior to publication. We do not screen the individuals who list or search for a house church. We are not able to do this. Please use your common sense and wisdom as you interact on this site. Use caution and only share information at an appropriate level as you build trust. If an issue surfaces, please do your best to resolve it graciously. Using this free site is a privilege, not a right. We reserve the right to terminate any user profile without notice.
Q: What if I’m having a technical problem using the site?
We do not have ongoing technical support available for users. We have worked with a developer to make this site as user friendly as possible. We also have some online HELP documentation. See: Listing Help.
You can use the Contact form to notify us if there is a major problem. We will do our best to respond in a timely manner, but this may not always be possible.