Why a House Church?
“Whose turn is it this week?”
“I can host.”
“Okay, we will meet up at 6 p.m. See you then.”
Every Friday night, a group of ten adults and eight children and two soon-to-be borns gather. This group, our house church, is like a family. We cook and bring food to eat together, and we also bring stories to share. We bring stories about days we want to celebrate and days we wrestle with. We tell our stories without feeling judged or fear of being the source of gossip because we trust that what is shared in the house church stays in the house church. Whatever the story is, it becomes our testimony, seeking God as the author of our story.
After dinner, we gather in a circle to sing praises to God. We invite the children to this circle of worship. We don’t ask how to integrate children in order to conduct an intergenerational worship service, because intergenerational worship has been organically practiced for the last several years. Children contribute their stories and concerns to help reveal God to the adult world.
“I want you to pray for my little brother to stop pulling my hair.”
“I thank God for giving me family.”
“I want mommy and daddy to be happy.”
“I thank God everyone came to my house.”
Children in my house church range from one to six years of age. The littlest ones, who are not ready to talk, open up their ears and eyes to all that we do, and this prayer-ready environment helps them to acknowledge God even from their early years—as early as in the mother’s womb. Children are not pressured to participate, but they are eager to share their words with adults. Our house church, then, is organic community and also an educational tool for children to witness a “lived-out-faith” community.
After this opening time for praise, the children follow a shepherd (group leader) to another room for Bible stories and crafts, while adults remain in the dining room to hear the summary of last Sunday’s sermon. Then we name our weekly gratitudes, followed by weekly prayer requests. Here the miracle of healing takes place. The room becomes a therapeutic space as listeners hear without judgment. Our rule is that we don’t give advice or make comments but provide the listening presence of validating their feelings. Each house church supports one missionary and our group name is the South Africa House Church because we support a missionary family in South Africa. We read a letter from our missionary family and support them by collecting offerings once a month.
Each house church also prays that we will invite people who have never attended church before, and here is where evangelism happens. We call them VIPs. Our church celebrates adult baptism at least once a month. Another rule of our church is that we do not accept pre-Christians to the church. Only those who have never attended church before can join as members. In other words, the church multiplies through newly baptized members. My house church leader and his wife were non-believers and were skeptical about an immigrant church. In our house church, we have two couples who have never attended church before. We are praying for one other family but they have not yet made up their mind to come to Christ.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44–47 NIV).
Can you imagine a group of people who gather at a home every week to share a meal, a story, and a prayer? This is not the story of first generation Korean immigrants who are used to living in collectivistic culture, but this same home gathering happens in second generation Korean immigrants. The context is exactly the same as I described for my house church. The life of immigrants is not easy. Most of them cannot add an extra day of dedication to church life. Yet, in our house church, people are willing to gather because they feel warmth, loved, cared for in these home gatherings. The emphasis is less on program-focused community, but rather relationship-focused community.
At the APCE 2019 Annual Event, concerns were raised for shrinking churches, and a model of intergenerational worship was introduced as a solution. The Korean immigrant church has its own struggles and one of them is the gap between the first and second generation congregations. The house church model speaks to both intergenerational worship and the bridge from first to second generation cultures. Dr. Chai started the movement in Houston in 1993 to follow the model of the New Testament churches. The church is to “imitate the practices of the New Testament church as closely as possible, but always keep in mind the spirit of the New Testament church as captured by the Great Commission” (21). Another important part of the house church model that we follow is that it also acknowledges the traditions of the Presbyterian Church as Mok Min Church is under the affiliation of Korean Presbyterian Church Abroad. Our Sunday worship is the same as other Korean immigrant churches; we have children’s ministry, English and Korean ministry. “House church autonomy is important, but it should not come at the expense of church unity. We do not want to harm the unity of the Body of Christ, so we try to work with traditional churches rather than antagonize them” (21).
As a first time Annual Event attendee, the most memorable aspect was that it helped me to understand the movement that surrounds the church and its impact, and to become aware of where the church stands in the present moment. The content of an immigrant church may differ, but the context surrounding it is the same. I believe that every year will be different with fast and vast growth and changes of the culture, and its influence to the church. The struggle is real, and the APCE Annual Event introduced the reactivity and proactivity approaches in refining the shape of church, suggesting the contemporary modalities of church. I see that APCE is in the forefront of this movement. It creates the space where these noticeable issues rise to the surface and are openly shared with other church educators. It grounds us to know what we need to continue on, and what we need to unlearn and leave behind.
I see the model of house church as one of the ways to show our children the model of servanthood, how adults interact with one another in Christian family. This is more than what happens for children on Sunday during Bible study. They learn to live out the teachings of the Bible. The house church speaks the language of love to the next generation and helps them to refine this language so that God’s love can continuously be revealed in this world.
“Whose turn is it next week?”
 The average Sunday worship attendance is 237: Korean Ministry adults are 133, children are 46, English ministry adults are 33, youth is 25.
Mok Min Presbyterian Church – www.mokmin.ca
The Seed (English ministry of Mok Min Church) – www.theseedmc.ca
Chai, Young G. with Daniel Chai. A New Testament Church in the 21st Century: The House Church. GLPI: Houston, 2010.
New Life English Ministry in Houston – www.nlfhtx.org