Your Essential Guide to House Church in 2022
By Chaston Asbury
One of the first meaningful experiences I had with the Lord was in a home. It was simple, powerful, and impactful. There were 14 people, a pot of chili, and a carton of ice cream. However, we worshipped the Lord that night in a way that rivaled any traditional church service I have ever been to.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them…” Matthew 18:20 (NIV). I have experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit just as tangibly in a small home gathering as I have at sizeable Christian worship conferences. With this in mind, I want to address the “house church model” of planting churches in 2022.
A New Church Climate
The COVID-19 crisis has demanded that we get creative in our ability to gather as a church. With buildings closed and limitations on gathering sizes, the church has had to find new ways to collect. Many have turned to church online and are doing a great job of capturing the ability to stay connected to the larger body.
Others, however, have connected at a more intimate level, experiencing the power of the gospel with a small group of people in a home. For many, this is turning out to be a refreshing time. Gathering with a small group of people to worship the Lord, study the Word, and be discipled, is proving to be a breath of fresh air. Could it be that the house church will be one of the most significant fruits of this moment?
House Churches vs. Online Churches
There are two facets to planting and maintaining a church in the United States in 2022: making disciples and operating within the standards set by the IRS for nonprofit organizations. A solid legal foundation is essential for a church to be lasting and impactful within its community.
The IRS considers the 14/15 Point Test to determine whether or not a nonprofit organization meets church classification. To read the entire test, click here. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopica94.pdf. Online churches may meet some of the requirements to be considered a church, but the lack of an established place of worship will most likely sway the IRS to classify the organization as a ministry, 170(b)(1)(A)(vi), instead of a church, 170(b)(1)(A)(i)
Conversely, house churches meet the specific characteristics generally attributed to churches, including an established place of worship. This means that if you are thinking of incorporating a church organization using the house church model, your organization will most likely be able to apply for the 501(c)(3) status and become approved as a church!
For additional information on how the IRS views an online church vs. a traditional church, please review the following blog: https://www.startchurch.com/blog/view/name/how-the-irs-views-an-online-church-vs-traditional-church
The Value of the House Church
- The power of the local church is validated in the house church model. The influence that is let loose in a local community when we remove the constraints of a typical church gathering is fantastic. A house church’s validity is not based on its size but on being a spiritual family as part of the mission of Jesus.
- Those called by God to start house churches can lead, disciple, and reflect Christ in ways many of the larger churches cannot. The smaller, more agile house church can often connect family to family in a more defined region, like a neighborhood, apartment complex, or school campus. Many of these churches will find their brightest hours are doing these kinds of group gatherings.
- The house church brings the gospel to the places where they are sent in a radical hands-on way. Neighborhoods are being transformed by the simple presence of a community of Christians on the mission of Jesus. It is an example of the true transformation of a geographic location.
We often hear prayers and vision statements about “taking the world for Jesus,” which is noble and true and on the heart of Christ, but often it appears that Jesus does such diligent work through first taking neighborhoods. This is encouraging for many church planters because they may not be called to win the world but win their world to Christ. What if a big win comes through aiming small?
Little is needed to pursue the God-given dream to start a house church. Many large church plants today require hundreds of thousands of dollars to get started. They require a great deal of infrastructure, leadership, space, and finances. These churches can do great things in the cities to which they are called, and there is definitely a need for them. However, house churches do not require all of that to begin and can be effective in different ways.
Spreading the Gospel One House at a Time
There is much we can learn during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, we will be teaching lessons for years and decades to come. But one thing is clear right now: in these moments of radical social change, there are multiple ways that God can use the church to bring the gospel to the world around it.
He is using large churches, online church ministries, and house churches to spread hope to a world that is desperately longing for it. At StartCHURCH, we’ve had the joy of partnering with churches of all shapes and sizes. So if we can serve you in helping launch your church, no matter the size, please know that it would be our honor to do so! Our team of specialists is ready to assist you in planting your church or ministry. Give us a call to get started today by clicking the link below!