Project Documents

Date of Award

1987

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Norman K. Miles

Second Advisor

C. Mervyn Maxwell

Third Advisor

Roger L. Dudley

Abstract

Problem. Protestant churches in North America face serious declines in church membership and support. Some Christians have become disillusioned with the status quo of present structures.

Method. With firsthand convictions coming from involvement in the church in Brazil, I have turned to the Bible to substantiate a theological understanding of the church. Historical, archaeological, and contemporary models are reviewed to question the validity and effectiveness of house churches.

Results. The NT period was apparently primarily a house-church society due to political and economical restraints. Many of the contemporary house-church models were mainly support, koinonia, and fellowship groups that did not have much longevity. The Adventist experiments cited did not accomplish their original objectives.

Conclusions. House churches divide themselves into three kinds. (1) There are basic independent groups which are fully organized as a church; church membership resides there and all the celebrations of the church are conducted there; they attempt to follow the NT model. These can be found in areas where there are high government restrictions, and the house church becomes the only means of survival. (2) There are groups which call themselves house churches, but they really are not, for they exist primarily for fellowship and continue to maintain a direct relationship to a larger church. (3) Finally, the last group are those which are satellites to a mother church. In this case the house church is used for nurture, fellowship, and outreach, but celebration usually occurs in the context of the larger body. These also do not qualify according to the Biblical model. There are inherent dangers and a certain vulnerability in house-church activities. House churches seem to attract the "off-shoot" mentality. However, they do have certain strengths, i.e., simplicity, openness, and relatively inexpensive operation costs. House churches can in some instances be used to reach certain socio-economic and cross-cultural groups and are a means to reintegrate people who have become dissatisfied with their own spirituality. They also are excellent places to involve the laity. House churches seem to work best for short periods as interim or transitional organizations.

Subject Area

House churches

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