How to Start a Home Church: 11 things to know
Table of Contents
What is house church? It’s a small body of believers or “church” that meets in homes, just like early Christians did for the first 300 years.
Have you thought about starting a house church? It’s hard but worth it, and for many it’s the closest thing to living a Bible-centered Christian life like the early believers. Establishing a church doesn’t require a tax exempt status, employee identification number, belief statement, or even a bank account like a formal religious organization.
This is not your typical article–it’s a call to action for a church in need for believers to form local churches to serve one another and to help people in need. This article serves as a brief guide on how to start a Biblical house church.
1. What It Takes to Begin: Church Starts at Home
What if I told you starting a home church was as easy as attending church on Sunday? Or what if, instead, I told you joining or starting a church in the home will bring enormous challenges, but also enormous blessings as you watch the church grow together in Christ?
That’s right… to start a home church (just like your decision to follow Jesus Christ) takes commitment and dedication. Everything you have: all of your heart, soul, mind, and sometimes all of your strength. But “everything” is what it takes to follow Christ and our Heavenly Father. Next to following Christ and raising a family, starting a home church is one of the most rewarding things you can do. House church starts at home—first in the heart, then in the home, then outward through relationships.
2. It Fulfills the Great Commission
One of the most important things we will ever do in our Christian walk–to take up our cross and follow Christ–also means denying ourselves and taking a front-seat in the Great Commission Jesus commanded every disciple:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
I suppose the next question is: do we consider ourselves a disciple of Christ? If not, shouldn’t we begin?
God calls us to join likeminded people, like: family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, and inviting people to be disciples, to become disciple ourselves, and make known what He’s taught and shown to us? We are called to reach the world with the Gospel and make disciples, first in our own area of influence (family), then our neighbors/workplace, and to the uttermost parts of the earth: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” –Acts 1:8.
3. Christianity Movements: New Testament church meeting in house churches
Let’s briefly show you house churches mentioned in the Bible.
Nearly every single mention of a Christian church meeting in the New Testament took place in home churches.
You know… a home. Someone’s house.
Read: Acts 12:12, 16:40; Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15; I Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 1:2, and more.
The Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s letters to the churches were exclusively written to New Testament house churches… local bodies of believers committed to fellowship, prayer and worship in each other’s lives and homes.
It formed a sense of community among believers, and helped new and existing churches strong and cohesive in the Lord.
4. House Church Planting: the Body of Christ is relationship based
Naturally. Organically. Faithfully.
Just as we grow in Christ through our relationship with Him, so the Body of Christ grows together in Him (Eph 4:16): one hope, one faith, and one God over all, through all, and in all (Eph 4:4-6).
A lot of believers today (and throughout history) mistakenly believe early Christian meetings occurred in home churches because of persecution.
However, one only has to look at the enormous growth of the organic church to see why church planting and early church growth was exploding: it was relationship-based.
Even as Christians were being persecuted, disowned by family and their community–some even martyred–the people of God grew in number and acted as one church family, as church planters continued moving forward with no formal church planting process, except faith in Christ.
New house church meetings started as fast and far as believers could preach the gospel. No church denomination. No Sunday school or trained preacher. Just believers meeting in the homes of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and new Christian acquaintances. All in one accord. All desiring to know the length and width and height and depth of the love of the Father God revealed in Christ Jesus (Eph 3:18).
Yet, no people in the early church had a New Testament Bible.
Fewer people, still, had Old Testament Bible scrolls or formal religious training.
And even fewer people saw or heard Jesus before that fateful day or that faithful day God kept His promise by revealing the living Word–Christ, our Redeemer, Who conquered death and the grave. “…but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” 2 Tim 1:10.
5. Home Church Fellowship
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” –Acts 2:42
As believing men, women, and children met in small groups to worship God in each other’s home, the start of something new was beginning.
And it wasn’t a simple bible study, either.
As a small house church, members developed new Christian relationships, and existing relationships deepened.
The needs of individual members were met by other members, as each had ability to give. No one was without basic necessities (Acts 4:32).
And the people grew together into the NT church we read about in the Bible.
6. How to Start a Church in Your Home
Start your own church from scratch. Church isn’t, nor should be focused on: church buildings, sponsoring churches, a host church, assign corporate officers, name your church, church bylaws, statement of faith, statement of belief, doctrinal statement, or even tax exemption.
Instead, you start where you are: in your home or in the homes of people who are on the same spiritual page as you. People with a fear and reverence for God and who want to know Him more through Christ and would like to have a regular meeting together to encourage and be encouraged in their faith. It is, after all, faith in Christ which bounds you together as one spiritual family. Paul says in the Body of Christ there is no Jew or Gentile (non-Jew), free person no slave… all are one in Christ. This means your socio-economic status, upbringing, education, race, nationality, sex, political party… they mean nothing. The only thing that matters is the overwhelming commitment and desire to live for the Lord not just as believers, but as His disciples. In Christ, there is no: Baptist church, Presbyterian church, Pentecostal, Messianic Jew, Charismatic, Episcopal, Eastern Orthodox, or Catholic–just one body of believers in Christ.
Christ is the Foundation, Destination, and Purpose. He created a church without walls.
For us, to live is Christ and to die is gain; for to be present is to serve His Body and to be absent is to be with the Lord.
But while we are here, we: meet, fellowship, worship, pray, and encourage one another for one purpose, with one heart, one soul, and focus.
We are not a public venue, nor are we an exclusive club. But to enjoin ourselves with Christ costs everything.
We are part of the Body of Christ on earth–what is supposed to be a single-minded, intentional body of faithful believers, whose sole purpose is to live and proclaim the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Not to be entertained, but to take part in the incredible role as the church… the Bride of Christ… His Body… on earth.
We are His hands, His feet, His voice, and more.
7. How to Do House Church
Want to know know how to start a church in your home? It’s simple. A home-based church should meet on a regular basis. Establish a meeting time that works best for your schedule and other attendees. (We find Sunday mornings or evenings work the best, since this is when most Christians attend services.)
What you do from week-to-week will vary, based upon individual giftings, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the immediate needs of the group. (We highly encourage including a time of worship and prayer, as God is worthy of praise and prayer is how we make known our needs and receive answers from God.) In all things, lead with love and be led by His Spirit.
8. Church Leaders
Church leaders or elders of a house church will be servants of all (Matt 23:11). They will naturally fit into the role and their ability to lead will be self-evident. Contrary to popular misconception, “pastor” is a function–not a title. (Apostle is also a function, which means “sent one,” and is basically someone who is sent to start churches. Defining the scope of a pastor or overseer further, the Bible commands that church leaders or “overseers” be stable in life, family, and reputation. This stability is often the cumulative result of good decisions, consistent character, natural and exercised abilities.
“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” –1 Timothy 3:1-7
However, to ensure that one particular person, personality, or gifting does not dominate house church meetings, it is good to rotate homes and/or leaders to ensure more equal participation, leadership, and accountability among nearly all members in the local house church body.
9. Can a house be used as a church? Can my home be used as a church?
As stated, it’s generally considered “best practice” to rotate house church leaders every week, and one of the best ways to do so is to rotate homes. This not only gives church leaders time to re-charge their mental, physical, and spiritual “battery,” but also alleviates the strain of one person or household always having to ensure the church’s meeting place is set up and ready to receive guests, provide food, drinks, snacks, and is extra clean before and after a church meeting. Not to mention any of the mental and spiritual preparation time involved to prepare a Bible teaching, songs/psalms (a form of worship), or whatever else the Lord has placed upon their heart. Equal participation (to the extent one can) simply makes house church manageable, with members of the Body of Christ sharing responsibility and burdens. Once established, church in the home becomes easier through personal experience and growth.
With that said, there may be local ordinances preventing or requiring notice or permits for certain sized groups. In most places, this will not be the case, so be considerate of local laws and regulations (to the extent you are able to follow them). Laws may vary, but I do not recommend converting your house to a church or applying for 501(c)3 IRS tax-free status, as this allows outside influence into what you say, do, teach, and in some ways–how you believe.
10. The Problem with House Churches
Like any other body of believers, every kind of human problem with house churches can occur. Just read Romans and I-II Corinthians. People–including Christians–sin and get in strife and contention. This must not be within the Body of Christ, but it does happen and members of the local church body should avoid all manner of sin, appearance of evil, and dissension by focusing on common sense, human decency, and focusing–above all else–on Christ and serving one another in a spirit of love, grace, and humility.
Other problems, especially in new house churches, is the tendency for people starting and conducting church meetings in the way traditional/contemporary auditorium-style churches gather: without purpose or focus. While God is a God of order, He does not order His Spirit in accordance with man’s prerogatives and ways of thinking. His ways are not our ways–He knows all, is in all, and understands what we don’t. As the Body of Christ, we need to join team Holy Spirit and lay aside our own ideas of church, fellowship, and let the Spirit of Truth lead our meetings in a new way… in an old way… the way the early church was led.
This means more worship, more prayer meetings, more fellowship, and in every meeting letting the members of our shared Body be led by the Spirit and established by Scripture, to exercise the gifts God works in them, both for our own edification and the edification of the Body of Christ as a whole.
It also means less formal structure, less reliance on individual church leaders, and more reliance upon the same Spirit of Truth, which was also in Christ, and is now in us.
11. Starting a House Church PDF
It’s not quite ready yet, but we’re creating a downloadable file called, “Starting a House Church PDF”.
There are not too many how-to guides out there and this one answers frequent questions.
This will be a quick, informative guide on how to start a home church which will include Bible verses, growth resources, and topics relevant to growing or starting a house church.
We will also include a link to a bible school for house church and various other topics.