Some people have as difficult a time mouthing the words “house church” in the same breath as “emergent” or “emerging” church, as the expressions of church life continue to change from those modernist views that seemed all but entrenched a few decades ago! Over the last decade ago, many in the wider body of Christ knew that the influence of Modernism and the Post-Enlightenment was waning, and what had been on the rise since the turn of the First World War as a new paradigm of knowledge and understanding, began to really impact secular culture, science, media, technology, business, education and the entertainment industry, and has become known as Postmodernism. The Church was entrenched in a Modernist mindset and some Evangelicals began to see the Church not only losing its influence within the culture, but clearly it was as if the Church was speaking a foreign language, and did not appear to be communicating with understanding with the many voices within the culture (Western culture). Some voices within Evangelicalism realized that they needed to engage with the changing landscape. What arose was the awakening of a growing movement within it, known as the Emerging Church or Emergent Church, willing to risk, and discover all kinds of means of communicating the unchanging Gospel of the Kingdom to a culture who could or would not understand it within the Modernist framework of knowledge and understanding.
Within the streams of the growing river of the Emerging Church, you will find a variety of streams, some of which include alternative worship, using whatever means to communicate Christ and the Gospel to the current culture. There are those who are the deconstructionists who believe there is a need to deconstruct our previous paradigms of knowledge rooted in the Enlightenment, and reconstruct a new paradigm that is more tolerant of diversity of views, and more understand of other people’s journeys and discoveries of truth, that is rooted in biblical humility rather than arrogance and certitude. There are those who are very missional in reaching out to this culture in ways and means that will attempt to communicate the unchanging Christ and Gospel within the framework narrative theology. Then, there are those that explore previous streams of renewal throughout Church history, such as the Waldenses, Monastics, Mystics, Celtic Christianity, and others, discovering principles that led to renewal and transformation, seeking to explore ways and means of utilizing these same principles in a Postmodern context.
The “house church stream” is just one of these many streams, that encompasses on one hand a leaving of the ways and means of being church known as the “institutional church”, and a more radical paradigm of not borrowing from the past history of the church, but seeking to go to the “blueprint”, the New Testament itself to discover the principles of “being” the church, and not only “doing” the work of the ministry. In this sense, the house church movement sees the changing cultural landscape , and sees that the church system (institutional church) even when revamped and renewed by the varieties within the Emerging Church falls far short of being radical enough to bring about the very transformation it cries for within this Postmodern culture. It is only in recovering authentic relational community and mission, without the institutional trappings, that the church will make a lasting impact.
Many join the house church movement because of its simplicity and its authenticity and desire to live out Christ the manner that one sees in the texts of the New Testament. The stream continues to swell with more and more who are leaving organize religion in order to pursue Christ and authentic relational missional community.