Dallas, T (PressExposure) December 01, 2006 -- For many Texans, when it comes to Christianity, there's no place like home. Fact is, of those 22 Million Americans who say they attend home groups, 3 Million are doing so exclusively. The balance claim to be Members of traditional denominations (whether they actually participate there or are content to have their name on the role is another matter). When statistics reveal that "church as we know it" is shrinking in America and house church attendees are increasing by around 4% annually, this relatively small group of Christians will have a difficult time flying below radar much longer.
What is House Church anyway?
A house church doesn't always necessarily meet in a house. Ironically, many people, disillusioned with Church-as-we-know-it religion, claim they are leaving traditional Christianity in order to find God.
According to Michael Tummilllo, a Workplace Chaplain and a house church aficionado for nearly 13 years, "The Greek word for Church is 'ekklesia.' Surprisingly few Christians are aware that this is NOT even a religious term. Actually, it is a Greek word that means "the called out ones" and referred to a forum of Roman men -a council - that the Roman Empire would send into any region that its armies had conquered so that they could teach their captives to become Roman citizens. Get that? Rather than crush their defeated foes, wipe them out, they allowed them to remain as farmers, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, etc. so that they could collect their taxes and assimilate them into Rome's culture...Rome's goal was to make them Roman Citizens. The early Christians related to the Roman concept of the ekklesia and saw the similarity of their mission. So, they adopted the term for themselves... The concept was short-lived, unfortunately, as the Empire struck back!" he quipped. "Constantine declared Christianity the state religion and, at that moment, the ekklesia lost its impact...any time any group has attempted to return to New Testament Christianity and revive the ekklesia, they were ostracized, persecuted and murdered by the thousands - even by others who called themselves 'Christians.'"
Throughout Scripture, in places such as Philemon 2, Colossians 4, Romans 16, Bible readers have sometimes wondered what that "home-style" flavor of Church-life was like. We forget that, throughout the planet to this day, Christians STILL gather in homes. Many are still facing persecution and even death.
What do we mean by 'House Church?'
House churches are rapidly multiplying, simple communities of believers, meeting in homes, offices, restaurants...faith families, one might say. This is the pattern common around the world and is now becoming more popular in the U.S. as well. After all, they claim, Jesus said, "where are two or more are gathered in My name..." POOF! There is Church.
Tummillo said, "Buildings, programs, titles and professional clergy are NOT essential elements of the Church. Never have been. That happened when the ekklesia attempted to get organized and even began blending itself with pagan religions. Let's bear in mind that Constantine took the title Pontificus Maximus...highest priest, forgetting that Jesus Himself is High priest...and became head of ALL things spiritual, Christian and pagan. He did what anybody would do, choosing the path of least resistance and merging the two extremes the best he could...the early Church became absorbed in the ways of the world."
He added, "A 'house church', refers to the kind of church that is described in the New Testament, not constrained by structure but by the needs of the extended family of God, and driven by a desire to extend the Kingdom of God. This style of Church can more easily listen to God and mobilize, led by His Spirit and obeying His commands. One day a gathering can be a healing center. Another time, a teaching center. Another time a worship center. Another time, a fellowship hall. Another time, a prayer meeting. We can mix and match and we can spontaneously load up the cars and head out to minister to others as well." Tummillo said that in one of his first house church gatherings, a woman phoned threatening to kill herself. "We left our meal and sped over there. She's doing fine these days."
What he's describing is a family who shares the same Father; not a heavenly being in the clouds but One who dwells within and works through His people. that's certainly Church as unusual
"This kind of church may or may not meet in a house. It can meet anywhere we are because we ARE the Church. Statistics reveal that people are leaving traditional church to find God. Traditional churches are shrinking while house churches are growing. Personally, I have met with groups in coffee shops, hair salons, bank conference rooms, bed and breakfasts, a spare room over a noisy bar, hotels and nursing homes."
Tummillo claims that, after attending the House2House Conference in Denver, Colrado over the Labor day weekend, all he has to do is mention the phrase "house church" and he has an immediate audience as well as an opportunity to drop by someone's home and explain the concept. "So far, I've met with a group in Lingleville, Carrollton and will be meeting with another house church in Fort Worth in December. A couple in Baird has expressed an interest as well as a woman in Hico, south of Stephenville."
On January 27th, Tummillo and other "House Churchers" will be gathering in Carrollton at the Double Tree Hotel for the North Central Texas Conference of House Churches. The conference is free but reservations will be reuired. Child care will be provided to age 12.
Tummillo invites interested parties to contact him by eMail at firstname.lastname@example.org and adds, "If you need help getting your house church started, chances are, we just might be available to help you on a personal level. Just ask."