When people within traditional churches have a life-changing, life-altering, transformational encounter with the Living God, they come back to their local assembly and want to share what has happened to them. Because the local church often majors on education and not encounter (with God) the transformed person does not always find understanding nor acceptance.
So, statistics show that people most often encounter God and thus have a transformational experience outside of the influence of the local church. And, that when they go back to their local church the experience and even the person is not welcomed. In other words, the leaders of the local church want to continue to carry out its existing slate of events and programs without attempting to alter a stable and well-planned ministry simply because one or more members of the local church have discovered distinctive ways of connecting with and being shaped by God.
Most of these transformed people have the same attitude as Peter and John, who said to the leaders who rebuked them, “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20). Deeply moved by their experiences, they continue to seek growth opportunities wherever they can be found. This often puts them at odds with the leadership of the local traditional church. In a deep need to be with others who share their passions, revolutionaries often end up leaving the local church and fellowshipping with other like-minded disciples in smaller groups now often called “house churches.”
The result of this move of the Spirit and the rise of many who are looking for more is that literally millions of people are being radically affected by the presence and power of God that is being manifested through the house churches. Because of the relatively small size of the house church movement as compared to the traditional church – these people and the life-changing experience and encounter with God they have experienced – are not always noticed or counted. The impact of the house church movements, however, is massive although virtually invisible. But, in my opinion, the cumulative effect is nothing sort of the redefinition of the nature and face of ministry in nations around the world.
When we look at the lives that have been changed and transformed – most often outside of the local traditional church – we see some unique elements of these non-traditional ministries through which this transformation is realized.
1> The house churches are generally working with people who are predisposed to focusing on their faith in God. In other words, these people are hungry for more and are willing to change. They have made a decision to prioritize their faith. Once they have made that decision, it simply becomes a matter of which connections will most readily foster transformation. The house church becomes a valid vehicle for this desired transformation.
2> The house church movement emerges as a prime candidate for engendering such growth because it becomes an individual’s primary source of relationships. The conversations and experiences shared by people in the house church become a kind of closed circle that energizes itself to the point of multiplied returns on the investment. The level of accountability and the heightened focus on spiritual development generate very positive outcomes.
3> The intimacy experienced within the house church facilitates a sense of exhilaration over the transformation. This is because ‘transformation’ is a clear group goal (see point 4).
4> Since the house church exists to encourage positive spiritual growth and personal transformation, their planned activities center on such results. When those results are evident, word travels fast, and there is a general feeling of joy.
5> The house church encourages a very narrow and often single focus. This focus – be it service, music, prayer, or whatever – serves primarily as an entryway into the mind and heart of the individual. Often, once the person becomes immersed in the life and activity of the house church, he or she is presented with a variety of spiritual challenges and opportunities that get blended into transformational activities.
A result of this transformation is a realization that the traditional church is not – and need not be – the epicentre of a person’s spiritual journey and adventure. This is a mind-boggling realization for many since it conflicts with the teaching they have received, sometimes since their infancy. But many report that it has been a freeing insight. It has enabled them to mature in unique ways that may not have happened had they closed themselves off the the possibility of God meeting them in other places and ways.
God is still active in the lives of those people who are wholeheartedly devoted to and searching for Him – no matter what door they enter on their journey to Christlikeness.