Church planting

The easiest way to plant a house church

It’s probably not what you think!

Most Christians, especially those from a more traditional form of church background, assume the obvious way to start any kind of church is to invite a few Christians to their home for fellowship. As other believers join them and the group gets large enough, they will multiply out into two churches and so on.

This is not the best way for several reasons:

  1. The Christians will bring all their preconceived ideas about church with them. It will be more of a challenge to think in the fresh, out-of-the-box ways that simple/organic church requires. The temptation will be to do “Honey, I shrunk the church!”
  2. It is more difficult to be missional–existing believers tend to focus on the gathering. Many Christians don’t have non-believers within their sphere of influence.
  3. You are trying to create community where a natural one doesn’t exist. Yes, there is a “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” with all other believers, but as you add people to a group, it will take time for people to share their everyday lives together outside of meetings.
  4. Multiplication usually occurs very, very slowly.

It is far easier to make disciples of those who don’t yet know the Lord, and to work within their existing sphere of influence. As their family and friends find the Lord, multiplying churches are the natural result. The advantages:

  1. The problems and issues that come up are those of life, not theology or ecclesiology.
  2. Community already exists and their shared lives will continue outside of the meeting context.
  3. New disciples have a natural mission field all around them and evangelism follows spontaneously along relational lines.
  4. It’s easy to create a vision and expectation of multiplication.

What has been your experience?  Can you think of other reasons to primarily work with not-yet-believers?

14 replies on “The easiest way to plant a house church”

Every church that I have started has been with believers, and every time, there is a lot of focus on things that Christians care about (theology, lifestyle, etc.) rather than a predominant vision for the Kingdom, and for the lost. I am working now with a younger guy who is starting a church among the lost in an Eastern city, everything will be different this time.

We found ourselves starting a home church with Christians, some of whom had not “gone to church” in quite some time. We have been going strong and most of those who have been out of traditional church for a while are doing well. We have a few though who are struggling, particularly with the idea of leadership. As in, they want to know who the leader is (and they “get” that the Holy Spirit leads us, but they still want to know, you know, who is the man?).

So our current struggle bears up what you have written here, but particularly in folks grasping the idea that leadership is a group function versus a titled position and that the activity of leadership is really the process by which we serve one other using the gifts the Holy Spirit distributes to us as He wills. Most of the “younger” Christians are definitely catching on more quickly than some of the “older” Christians.

I’m interested that you say that leadership is the most difficult aspect for those who have been Christians for some time to grasp. I often list it as one of the things we have to die to when immersing in simple church–that we can’t leave it to others to run things and make the decisions, but I’ve never come across it so clearly before. It’s part of the “Death Valley” experience. Thank you for sharing.

I remember Matthew 18:3 “Verily I sau unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” – Starting a church with grown-ups or adults which have preconceived ideas, biases and prejudices can create problems because these people would not accept the gospel openly and trustingly as what a child does, so my belief is to start a church with young people or even grownups who are converted to the faith like a child and forgetting their former beliefs by the guidance of the Holy Spirit after repentance (metanoia – change of the mind) and being born again in the spirit. Cesar S. Umali God save the world, Inc.

Cesar, I totally agree with you. The several churches we’ve started with teenagers and young adults or with brand new Christians, have been much easier than the few we’ve started with existing believers.

Felicity, my wife and I began laying the groundwork for a Simple Church in our house in January. We are starting very slow, no one but us at the moment. This post, the one on the history of the UK House Movement, and your personal account of the “drought” you and Tony encountered when moving to the US has me thinking you (pl) may have something to share with my wife and me. Would you be willing to share some thoughts offline or does one of your books address how you finally broke through the barrier?

Hi Dennis,
Apologies it’s taken me a few days to get back with you–we’re just finishing a crazily busy few days. I’d love to share with you in whichever way you’d like. You could email me at and maybe we could set up a Skype call. Both Small is Big! or An Army of Ordinary People have the story in it. But basically it was sovereignly God.

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