Two Church Models: Pulpit-centered vs. House-based

Comparing 2 church models:
Pulpit / Facility-centered “Local” Church vs. House-based Church

Some Expected Common Features:

1. The Bible is the foundation for doctrine and practice.
2. Pastors / elders lead.
3. Baptism and the Lord’s supper are practiced Scripturally.
4. The Great Commission is taught and practiced.
5. Members are taught to live godly lives, separated from worldly practices.
6. Members are taught to love one another.

Note: If the elements above are not present, then a church is not even “in the ballpark.” It is so far apart from Biblical practice that it doesn’t deserve the label of “church.”

Significant Differences:

Pulpit / Facility-centered Church

Note: The observations listed below are typically observed in such churches. If they are not true of your church, then you are wonderfully blessed. In any case, I encourage you to examine your church in light of these issues.

1. Primary instruction is pulpit to pew and almost exclusively by a ‘senior pastor’ — an unscriptural position.
2. Group prayer is rare & many members’ needs are neglected.
3. Personal evangelism is typically less than 1% of the total church activity, and practiced by a tiny minority.
4. Most $$ given go to salaries, facilities, insurance, utilities, etc. Perhaps 1% or less to the physical needs of Christians.
5. Most members have little Bible knowledge, less knowledge of church history, and few Scriptural defenses against the Satanic philosophies surrounding us, such as evolution, postmodernism, Marxism, Islam, ecumenism, the emergent church movement, etc.
6. Facilities and salaried positions tend to multiply in one location, inhibiting the spread of the Gospel which is best done by establishing mission churches. See also the article “Local Church vs. Universal Church
7. Leadership and expertise are concentrated in very few men. Analogy: a battalion commander with perhaps a small staff, but no subordinate commanders. An army would be crazy to organize in this manner.
8. Members mostly don’t know each other. Therefore they cannot pray for, exhort, encourage one another — in opposition to Scriptural commands.
9. It’s easy to get lost or hide in the crowd. Accountability is almost non-existent and it’s easy to come and go or just quit.
10. Close friendships are very difficult to establish. Little time/energy is left in a busy week for them.
11. Schedules for church services are fixed and inflexible. If work intervenes, that’s just too bad. And there are no off-schedule options for fellowship or discipleship.

House-based Church

Note: The elements listed below are achievable within a “house church” model. It is the responsibility of every member, of course, to make it happen in practice. For a sample weekly structure, see my article Designing a House Church.

1. Instruction is directed by elders — mature men, operating by consensus — but shared by as many as is practical. Note that ‘elders’ are not clergy (a Roman Catholic concept), but rather mature men acting as ‘elder brothers’ to their adult peers in the fellowship.
2. Group prayer is a priority and everyone’s needs are addressed.
3. Personal evangelism is a priority for every member and discussed weekly.
4. Zero budget. Most $$ go directly, real-time, to special needs, evangelism (tracts, for example), and missions.
5. All members are accountable for Bible study and applications to life and the Great Commission. Members don’t “just listen.” They also discuss, report, teach, and practice under the guidance of the leaders.
6. As soon as one church overgrows its “living room” another “home base” is established. And so on. Elders multiply only as required, yet a number of house churches can maintain fellowship within a region. As they should! Biblically, each town or city should have ONE local church, typically a network of house fellowships, as for example, the 1st century church at Ephesus, church at Antioch, church at Smyrna, etc. Churches should not be established to compete with each other!
7. Leadership and teaching opportunities are distributed, which enables believers the opportunity to grow quickly. Analogy: several battalion commanders, plus leaders of companies, platoons, squads. The “Commanding General of the Army” is thereby the Lord Jesus Christ, and His “manual” for “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” is the Bible.
8. Members know each other well, and pray with knowledge, plus have much opportunity to love, encourage, exhort.
9. Can’t hide. Bonds strengthen, akin to family ties. Leaving is a bigger decision.
10. Close friendships are inevitable.
11. Schedules are flexible. With multiple house fellowships in an area, coordinated as one local area church, yet operating on different schedules, mobility is enabled if a member’s work schedule intervenes. Elders/teachers have flexibility, as in 1st Century Jerusalem (or Ephesus, or Antioch . . .)

– Dr. Dave

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