This leads to the second advantage that house churches have over institutional churches: The house church model promotes godly stewardship of its members' resources, which is certainly an extremely important aspect of discipleship. No money is wasted on church buildings, owning, renting, repairing, expanding, remodeling, heating or cooling them. Consequently, what would have been wasted on buildings can be used to feed and clothe the poor, spread the gospel, and make disciples, just like it did in the book of Acts. Think of the good that could have been done for God's kingdom if the billions of dollars spent on church buildings had been used for spreading the gospel and serving the poor! It is almost unimaginable.
Moreover, house churches that consist of no more than twenty people could actually be overseen by "tent-making" (that is, "non-paid") elders/pastors/overseers, a real possibility when there are a number of mature believers in a house church. Such churches would require virtually no money at all to operate.
Of course, the Bible seems to indicate that elders/pastors/overseers should be paid in proportion to their labor, so those who devote their full time to ministry should make their full living from it (see 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Ten wage earners in a house church who tithe can support one pastor at their average standard of living. Five tithers in a house church can free up a pastor to devote half his workweek to his ministry.
Following the house church model, money that would be used on buildings is freed to support pastors, and so institutional pastors should not think that the proliferation of house churches threatens their job security. Rather, it could mean that many other men and women could realize the desire God has placed in their hearts to serve Him in vocational ministry. That in turn, would help accomplish the goal of making disciples. Moreover, a house church with twenty wage earners could potentially give one half of its income to mission outreach and the poor.
If an institutional church transitioned to a network of house churches, the people who might lose their paying jobs would be church administrative and program support staff and perhaps some staff members with specialty ministries (for example, child and youth ministers in larger churches) who would be unwilling to trade ministries that have little biblical basis for ministries that do. House churches don't need child and youth ministers because parents are given that responsibility in the Bible, and people in house churches generally strive to follow the Bible rather than the norms of cultural Christianity. Christian youth who don't have Christian parents can be incorporated into house churches and discipled just as they are incorporated into institutional churches. Does anyone wonder why there are no "youth pastors" or "children's pastors" mentioned in the New Testament? Such ministries didn't exist for the first 1900 years of Christianity. Why are they suddenly essential now, and primarily in wealthy western countries?
Finally, in poorer nations in particular, pastors often find it impossible to rent or own church buildings without being subsidized by Western Christians. The undesirable consequences of this dependency are manifold. The fact is, however, that for 300 years the problem didn't exist in Christianity. If you are pastor in a developing nation whose congregation can't afford your own church building, you don't need to flatter some visiting American in hopes of striking gold. God has already solved your problem. You really don't need a church building to successfully make disciples. Follow the biblical model.
 Although it may sound radical, the only real reason that church buildings are needed is because of the lack of leaders who would oversee smaller house churches, which is the result of poor discipleship of potential leaders within institutional churches. Could it be that pastors of large institutional churches are actually guilty of robbing God-called pastors within their congregations of their rightful ministries? Yes.
 This one-to-ten or -twenty ratio should not be considered pastoral overkill in light of Jesus' biblical model of discipling twelve men and Moses' delegated judges over ten people (see Ex. 18:25). Most institutional pastors oversee many more people than they can effectively disciple on their own.
 We might also question why there are no "senior pastors," "associate pastors" or "assistant pastors" mentioned in Scripture. Again, these titles that seem so essential in the modern church because of its structure were unnecessary in the early church because of its structure. House churches of twenty people don't need senior, associate and assistant pastors.
|Read the previous article in this series,
The Only Kind of Church in the Bible
This article is an excerpt from the book, The Disciple-Making Minister. The actual book itself may be ordered by visiting our online store. To view our copyright policy, click here. © 2013 by David Servant