How to Start a Home Church (Part 1)

Reposted courtesy of Randy White Ministries

In my last article, I wrote about the difficulty your church will have finding a pastor in the future, especially if it is a small to medium sized church. In previous articles, I’ve written about why I couldn’t join most churches. With these kinds of problems, now it is time to write about How to Start a Home Church.

A Bible Believer’s Biggest Problem

Without a doubt, the largest number of emails, letters, and phone calls I’ve received over the past few years has been on the topic of finding a local church. I’ve literally received hundreds of these contacts, from all parts of the country. It isn’t just small towns, its big cities also. It isn’t just from secular-minded states, it is the Bible belt as well.

A decade ago, I would have just told these people that they were expecting too much, that there was no perfect church, that they should just join, serve, and make the church better. But a lot has changed in 10 years, both in church society and in my own belief system. I used to be a pragmatist, an “already/not yet” kingdom builder, a “pick and choose your Bible translation to suit your needs” preacher. I never went all-out for secular church-growth methods, but I certainly did my fair share of “whatever it takes” kind of leadership. And it worked. It worked because there are certain principles of group dynamics that attract crowds and keep them.

But now I loath manipulation. I can’t stand soft music that sets the “evangelistic” mood. I groan over yet-another-invitation to the Pastor’s leadership conferences. I get disgusted when churches have book studies that they call Bible studies. And I am so sick and tired of hearing sermons that abuse the Word of God (if they even use the Word of God.) I don’t have a problem with churches teaching about marriage or money or even how to win friends and influence people…but I don’t want the sermon or the Sunday School Bible Study class to be used for those things.

So, in short, I’m now sympathetic when people tell me they can’t find a church.

You might need a home church if …

There are legitimate reasons to start a home church. In fact, while I don’t know the immediate circumstances, my great-grandfather started a church in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1944, a church that still exists today (I am one of 62 great-grandchildren of Frank W. Garber). I am almost certain that he, along with my grandparents and other family members, started the church for doctrinal reasons. They were from the Brethren Church, and doubtless wanted like-minded fellowship in their worship.

Like my great-grandfather, you might need a home church.

  • If doctrine matters to you, you might need a home church.
  • If fellowship with like-minded believers matters to you, you might need a home church.
  • If the study of the Word matters to you, you might need a home church.
  • If yet another “awesome” program of dazzle and glitter makes you roll your eyes, you might need a home church.
  • If you’re not interested in a multi-gazillion dollar building program, you might need a home church.
  • If you’ve grown weary of perfect music by hired musicians or plastic-smiled primadonnas, you might need a home church.
  • If you’ve been kicked out of your church (“Brother, we think you would be more comfortable somewhere else”) because you asked too many questions, you might need a home church.
  • If your pastor doesn’t know your name, and never will, you might need a home church.

Each of these issues is often problematic in today’s show-biz church environment (though almost every church denies that it is a problem, and many of the people in the pew don’t get it).

So, if you need a home church, what should you do?

(Tomorrow: Steps to Starting a Home Church)

Randy White bio

Randy White Ministries began in 2011 as an online and radio Bible teaching ministry. Today, the ministry is focused on producing verse-by-verse Bible teaching resources for individuals. White has 25 years of pastoral experience—including 12 years at First Baptist Church of Katy, Texas, where he ministered to a large congregation and preached numerous times each week.

252 reads
8806 reads

There are 22 Comments

Larry Nelson's picture

I was a member of a small church (record attendance of 70) from 1980 - 2000.  For frame of reference, that instance of 70 in attendance was in the mid-80's, on the church's 10th anniversary, and to this day that record has never come close to being challenged.  Although we rented space on Sundays, one could label the church a "Home Church," since for much of my time there we met in the pastor's living room on Wednesday nights.

Since 2000, I have been a member of a large church (record attendance of around 4,000).  For frame of reference, the church has seen significant growth in just the past three years, and those instances of around 4,000 in attendance are recent: both Easter and Christmas of 2016. 

Having spent 20 years in a small church, and soon 20 years in a large church, I can testify to the pros & cons of both.  Both have advantages, and both have disadvantages.  One is not by default better than the other.  My conviction is that the assertion that there is some (hypothetically) best size for a church is not only divisive and irresponsible, it is biblically indefensible.

TylerR's picture

Your perspective on large ("mega"?) churches is refreshing and I appreciate it. There is a stereotype against large megachurches (or pseudo-mega churches) for a reason. For example, I recently listened to a sermon from a local pseudo-mega church near my home. It was blasphemy. It epitomized moral, therapeutic deism. It was not Christianity. Your experiences give me hope that they're not all bad.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the article, I find myself agreeing with just about every point, but then remembering what our Catholic friends will note; the Reformation did indeed open things up to almost infinite varieties of churches.  I'd love to find myself somewhere in between; sound doctrine but not divisive.

Along other lines, it strikes me that a lot of what we debate regarding the advantages of various church sizes is more or less the psychology of groups in various sizes.  It would be really nice to....say...have churches where the ministry of the Word of God transcended this. 

And yes, sin nature messes things up, sure, all of that....just dreamin' I guess. 

Larry's picture

It seems to me to depend on what is meant by a "home church." If one means a properly organized church with a pastor(s), ordinances, discipline, etc. that meets in someone's home that is one thing. If, on the other hand, it means a group of believers who are meeting together without biblical organization, structure, and purpose, that is entirely something else. 

josh p's picture

Home churches by my experience lack leadership, ordinances, discipline etc. I am sure that is not always the case however and would not be surprised to see a trend towards home churches in the future. 

Larry Nelson's picture

Excerpt:

"If you’ve grown weary of perfect music by hired musicians or plastic-smiled primadonnas, you might need a home church."

---------------------------------------------------

Because skilled musicians are a BAD thing, right?:

"Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts."
(Psalm 33:1-3 ESV)

"The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music," (2 Chronicles 34:14b ESV) 

"The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288." (1 Chronicles 25:7 ESV)

Etc.

Or is the author's beef that the skilled musicians are "hired" or "plastic-smiled primadonnas," in which case his remarks come across as simply petty.  Speaking as someone who attends a large church that has "perfect music" at its services (both traditional and contemporary), such assertions don't ring true at all.

We have a couple of worship/music pastors who are obviously paid, but anyone else on the platform playing an instrument or singing during any of our services is a volunteer.  Having said that, we do have some musicians who are professional musicians in their day jobs (two violinists who play professionally: think "Minnesota Orchestra" for an example), but their service is without remuneration at church.

"Plastic-smiled primadonnas?"  Well, we probably have some sort of unwritten rule against scowling.....but then, I believe our singers & musicians are genuinely happy to be doing what they do before the Lord.

TylerR's picture

Larry:

Randy White is a Southern Baptist who has a passion for teaching expositionally, and values deep Bible teaching (e.g. he's the CEO of Dispensational Publishing House). His sarcastic remarks are probably best taken as referring to shallow, evangelical maga-churches with little to no bible teaching, shallow topical messages, and an entertainment culture.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Excerpt:

"If you’re not interested in a multi-gazillion dollar building program, you might need a home church."

-------------------------------------

You're a member of a church of 700 in attendance, and the church leadership proposes constructing a new 130,000 square foot building, that includes a 1,000 seat auditorium, at a cost of over $22,000,000. 

If you're opposed, is it time to leave that church?

(Note: this is a real church that some SI members know well, and many are at least familiar with.)

TylerR's picture

I've never been in that position, but my inclination would be to spin off into a new church plant rather than build. If the existing building is crumbling to bits and needs to be repaired/replaced, that is another story.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Larry Nelson's picture

 

I'm talking about Fourth Baptist (Plymouth, MN), circa the mid-1990's.

When they voted to move from north Minneapolis to Plymouth in the mid-1990's, Fourth's attendance was 700 (as stated in their debt-retirement celebration last Spring).

The building opened in 1998, at a total cost (land, architect's fee, construction, etc.) of $14,800,000 (equivalent to over $22,000,000 in 2017 dollars, adjusted for inflation):

http://www.mcgough.com/projects/educational/fourth-baptist-church-school-and-seminary/

The final payment was made on the property last Spring.

Bert Perry's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Excerpt:

"If you’re not interested in a multi-gazillion dollar building program, you might need a home church."

-------------------------------------

You're a member of a church of 700 in attendance, and the church leadership proposes constructing a new 130,000 square foot building, that includes a 1,000 seat auditorium, at a cost of over $22,000,000.

If you're opposed, is it time to leave that church?

Except for the price, sounds a lot like 4th around 2000, and it strikes me that in that situation, or others like it, you've got a lot of questions about how a church ought to operate in a given city.  I've got a lot of respect for Pastors Maclachlan and Morrell for realizing that unless you can count on having a man of Pastor Clearwaters' abilities, along with a city that resembles Minneapolis in the 1960s and 1970s, you're going to have a lot of trouble holding all the things together (camp, radio station, seminary, Pillsbury, day school, etc..) that Clearwaters did.

On the flip side, lots of buildings the same size are silent testimony to the fact that many pastors couldn't see past the end of their own noses....

Bert Perry's picture

For those not that familiar with 4th, the old building was huge, had a fair amount of lead/asbestos/etc., to remediate, and was definitely in the rougher part of town.  It was sold to the school district, and the school district ended up, I believe, spending a tremendous amount of money on lead and asbestos removal before realizing that population was down about 140,000 people (25% of total or more) since 1950. They ended up tearing it down a few years ago--financially they appear to have taken a bath on the whole deal.  

More or less, 4th moved to where their members already were.  Driving in from St. Louis Park wasn't a big deal in the 1960s, but the problems got pretty bad by the 1980s, and members in places like Maple Grove were decidedly less enthusiastic about driving to get mugged.

It's a good study on the advantages and risks of going big vs. splitting, in my view, just like Bethlehem or Larry's church.  Lot of good out of old 4th, but a lot of suburbs that might have had a good local Baptist church ended up having their Baptists drive to Minneapolis.  

Larry Nelson's picture

 

It just seems way too easy to shoot from the hip and indiscriminately condemn "multi-gazillion dollar building program(s)".

So I thought I would toss out an example of "a multi-gazillion dollar building program" which I believed nobody on SI would so quickly & unequivocally denounce.  (I certainly would never begrudge Fourth their current building: I've witnessed first-hand their good stewardship & use of it on numerous occasions.) 

Under the right circumstances, there are good, valid reasons for churches to build new (even "multi-gazillion dollar") buildings. 

I'm picturing the author of the OP article jeering at Solomon, "That new temple in Jerusalem is MUCH too big and expensive....."  

TylerR's picture

I think you're right - there are good and valid reasons for a church to expand and build, rather than plant a new one. Each church knows its own situation. However, I think Bro. White (the author) is really aiming at pseudo-mega churches looking to build an empire.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Larry Nelson's picture

 

A church's leadership proposes constructing a new auditorium with the following specifications:

"Capacity: 6,000 people, with 5,500 seated, 500 standing room; dimensions: 146' long, 81' wide, 68' high"

Critics express outrage.  "Conceit!" some cry.  (The young pastor has no objections.)

--------------------------------------------------

Time to leave this church? 

Larry Nelson's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

A church's leadership proposes constructing a new auditorium with the following specifications:

"Capacity: 6,000 people, with 5,500 seated, 500 standing room; dimensions: 146' long, 81' wide, 68' high"

Critics express outrage.  "Conceit!" some cry.  (The young pastor has no objections.)

--------------------------------------------------

Time to leave this church? 

 

Although it was undoubtedly "a multi-gazillion dollar building program" (adjusted for inflation) I would not want to think I had missed a single sermon by Charles Spurgeon due to any recalcitrance on my part.

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that, given that the Metropolitan Tabernacle is meeting with a few hundred members today, that Spurgeon and the building he preached in also illustrate the benefits and risks of large facilities.  Spurgeon's heirs couldn't fill that auditorium, just as Clearwaters' heirs could not have done so.  On the flip side, how would the cause of Christ have suffered if these men had been in a little prairie church seating 50 people?  

Or, would it have done so?  That said, Larry is entirely correct to note that this is far more complex than "small churches are good, and big churches are bad." 

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It strikes me that, given that the Metropolitan Tabernacle is meeting with a few hundred members today, that Spurgeon and the building he preached in also illustrate the benefits and risks of large facilities.  Spurgeon's heirs couldn't fill that auditorium, just as Clearwaters' heirs could not have done so.  On the flip side, how would the cause of Christ have suffered if these men had been in a little prairie church seating 50 people?  

Or, would it have done so?  That said, Larry is entirely correct to note that this is far more complex than "small churches are good, and big churches are bad." 

I was at Fourth Baptist from 1972 - 1981.  I vividly recall the first time I (as a 6th-grader) walked into their just-opened 2,000 seat auditorium in 1974, and thinking how big it was.  The church moved into it from their 800 seat, circa-1920 auditorium (which remained a part of the building complex, and which served the church in other capacities until the church moved to Plymouth, MN in 1998).  I doubt it occurred to anyone there at that time that "smaller is better" as far as churches were concerned.  That idea would have seemed like nonsense.

In 1969 when Elmer Towns issued a list of the 10 highest-attended Sunday schools in America, 8 were at IFB churches.  (Nobody in fundamentalism raised an eyebrow.)

I'm also old enough to remember when fundamentalism boasted that "A Fundamental Baptist church is the largest in XX of the 50 states!" (I forget the exact number, but it was over half.)

Going back just a few decades, big churches were considered a good thing by fundamentalists. 

That seems to no longer be true, now that fundamentalism can rarely boast of its own relative bigness. 

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It strikes me that, given that the Metropolitan Tabernacle is meeting with a few hundred members today, that Spurgeon and the building he preached in also illustrate the benefits and risks of large facilities.  Spurgeon's heirs couldn't fill that auditorium, just as Clearwaters' heirs could not have done so.  On the flip side, how would the cause of Christ have suffered if these men had been in a little prairie church seating 50 people?  

Actually, all that is left of the building Spurgeon built is the facade. The rest came down after the Nazi bombing during WW2. I've been at a Wednesday night service there. There was probably around 500 for a Wednesday night (rough estimate). I think Peter Masters has done a commendable job in maintaining/rebuilding what was there.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that Spurgeon died in 1892, and the Blitz started in 1940.  On the bright side, people presumably did come to Christ, and presumably were edified by Spurgeon's preaching, in that edifice.  On the down side, it stood mostly empty (or burned for a few years after 1898) from 1892-ish to then, mostly siphoning off tithes to pay utility bills.

It's a trade-off we ought to heed, no?

Larry's right that we didn't worry about bigness previously, and maybe we're overreacting now, but it strikes me that a great portion of fundamentalism's biggest embarrassments are from pastors who strive for bigness at the price of good theology--Hyles, Schaap, Gray, etc..  We might wonder whether this is a natural "Solomon effect", or whether it's random, no?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Perhaps, but more likely that big name preachers get wider publicity with their scandals.  I've observed many "small" pastors involved in similar scandals, but theirs were largely unknown outside their local community.  Perhaps we could say that the Solomon Effect affects smaller ministries as much as larger ones, and because there are more smaller ones, the tally is no doubt much larger.  I've learned that any ministry, no matter how small, can produce carelessness in pastors as they experience the heady position of leadership.  We must all be careful and prayerful.

G. N. Barkman

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It strikes me that, given that the Metropolitan Tabernacle is meeting with a few hundred members today, that Spurgeon and the building he preached in also illustrate the benefits and risks of large facilities.  Spurgeon's heirs couldn't fill that auditorium, just as Clearwaters' heirs could not have done so.  On the flip side, how would the cause of Christ have suffered if these men had been in a little prairie church seating 50 people?  

Or, would it have done so?  That said, Larry is entirely correct to note that this is far more complex than "small churches are good, and big churches are bad." 

 

Most, but not all, fundamentalist churches operate with the mindset that the entire church body must be able to meet all at one time in their auditorium.  In contrast, evangelical churches seem to have largely dropped that mindset, and are open to the idea of holding multiple services to increase their attendance capacity without needing a larger facility.

In the case of Fourth Baptist (mentioned above), when they began to regularly overflow their existing 800 seat auditorium on Sunday mornings, they chose (perhaps over-optimistically) to build a 2,000 seat auditorium.  After the new auditorium opened in 1974, attendance eventually peaked at around 1,300 I believe, but it began a gradual decline after Pastor Clearwater's retirement (alluded to in Bert's comments above).  Would the church have been better off if they had chosen to instead increase their seating capacity to 1,600 by conducting dual Sunday services in their 800 seat auditorium?  Maybe; maybe not.  At the church at that time, it probably was not even an option deemed worthy of consideration.

---------------------------------------------------

Today, churches approach the issue of seating capacity differently.  At my church, we have a normal maximum seating capacity of 980 per service time.  We have a regular schedule of four weekend services: one on Saturday evening, and three on Sunday mornings.  Our typical total attendance at the four service times is currently around 3,000.  At Easter and Christmas, we added a second Saturday service time last year, and we had total attendance at the five service times of around 4,000 (with plenty of guests & visitors joining our regular attendees).  Do the math: we can have at times at least four times our seating capacity attend services on peak weekends.  Even with five service times, due to unequal attendance patterns, we can be FULL at one or more of those service times.  And yet we're still growing.....

So we've decided to build.  We break ground on a building expansion next month that will increase our seating capacity to over 1,600.  (The author of the OP article would call it, "a multi-gazillion dollar building program," and he's right: it will cost several million dollars.)  Nevertheless, we'll still require multiple services to accommodate the number of people we have attending right now. 

What are other alternatives?  Well, we've planted seven other (independent) churches since 1971.  Each time, we had a group of members & attendees depart us.  Last Fall, we launched a second campus of our church, and about 250 from our main site switched to attending the second campus (which is also growing). 

My ultimate point is that in the past, a church would have felt an obligation to have a large enough auditorium to hold its entire congregation all at once.  Today, it's likely that most churches don't assume this (not to mention the proportionately greater cost it would require).  Growing churches should perhaps look to scheduling additional service times before even thinking of building, if nothing else.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.