If one were to evaluate the visible church in the West, one might conclude that there is but one model for ‘doing church.’ This model could be described as ‘have a dedicated building, hire a pastor, meet once a week for an hour or so, sing congregationally, hear a sermon, and offer a Christian education hour just before or after the service.’ Of course there is an almost infinite variety of ‘church’ within the model, the fact remains this could be a fair assessment of what most Americans recognize as church.
However, beneath the radar of mainstream America is another model of church that is beginning to demand recognition. The House Church looks, feels, and behaves differently than the typical visible church. This manifestation of the church meets in homes or other informal settings, generally doesn’t employ a paid pastor, tends to meet weekly for several hours, does sing congregationally, but regularly doesn’t have any sermons, and manages to combine Christian education within the weekly gathering. These House Churches are flexible, reproducible, and one of the most cost-effective models of church.
However, the House Church is viewed with suspicion, especially by those of the mainline church. Because House Churches are loosely structured, they often have few or no accountability structures to maintain their integrity theologically, behaviorally, or financially. This troubles mainline judicatories who are concerned not only with orthodoxy but with litigation.
The House Church Network Manual is an attempt to bridge the gap between what is and what could be. By designing and implementing a Network structure within a House Church Movement, ongoing training, support, and accountability can be assured without seriously impeding the potential for rapid multiplication of disciples and replication of the church. The structures suggested in this dissertation were devised by researching other House Churches, House Church Networks, and by heavily adopting and adapting programs and structures used in other models of the church, including the cell model and the traditional Western model of the church.
They say that the proof is in the pudding and the structures proposed in this work have already been put into place at The Rock Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to some success. To date, the reality is ahead of projections and The Rock House Church Network is in the process of starting and operating House Churches across the Seattle region, statewide, as well as in multiple western states. Only time will tell if the structures proposed will have the desired effect of accomplishing the mission and reaching the vision of the House Church Network