Home Bible Community
Home Bible Community is a new denomination (invented by me) based on the home church model. The goal is to build a mature, interactive and scalable Christian community emphasizing:
This new denomination is based on radical changes to the traditional church model as well as important differences with the House Church model. Characteristics:
Please feel free to use this model in forming your own Christian home church-based denomination.
More info about the House Church Movement.
Organized into 3 levels:
Outreach to society (the community) is organized at all 3 levels.
Governance at all 3 levels is based on these principles:
All Home Groups within a local geographical region are organized into Local Communities which have regular (monthly) celebration meetings featuring such activities as a love feast with communion, worship, local group reports, special reports, sermons, missionary reports and fellowship. These are outdoors, in a rented facility or wherever.
The emphasis is on interactive, discussion based, inductive Bible study.
For clarity I consistently use certain terms by giving them restricted and specific meanings:
A high-level overview of the main points:
We are frustrated with the paradigm of the traditional church as well as some of the reactionary views of the house church movement. In response we've created a model that resolves these issues. In acknowledging these issues we don't wish to dwell on them but, rather, to highlight the historical motivation for starting Home Bible Community. And we don't wish to judge or create division with the institutional church or the house church movement. We merely believe that there is a large group of people who share our vision and who want to join us. Many of these can no longer be reached by the traditional church model.
Growth in 3 phases
We are a distinct denomination because we wish to organize according to certain principles. Our denominational distinctives are:
We are committed to (1) unity in the essentials of the Christian faith, and (2) diversity in the non-essentials. Therefore, different people will hold differing non-essential beliefs. It is important (1) that we educate ourselves in these various viewpoints, and (2) that we are tolerant of others who have a different viewpoint concerning the non-essentials.
Many denominations are distinguished by a set of non-essential beliefs and practices (such as the purpose and practice of Baptism). We, however, are distinguished by an emphasis on (1) discussion-based, meditative Bible study, (2) small Home Groups, and (3) diversity in the non-essentials.
These are beliefs that we consider as essential to faith and to salvation.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The basic creed of Reformed churches, as most familiarly known, is called the Apostles' Creed. It has received this title because of its great antiquity; it dates from very early times in the Church, a half century or so from the last writings of the New Testament.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
*The word "catholic" refers not to the Roman Catholic Church, but to the universal church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are opposed to the teachings and doctrines of the Word-Faith movement, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and liberal Christianity and consider them heretical.
We welcome and embrace Catholics as Christians as we would anyone else who professes saving faith in Jesus Christ.
We share the following values:
We do not consider the following beliefs to be essential to faith and salvation and we welcome different views. While we can (and should) discuss our differences we should not divide over them or give them undue emphasis.
A few examples of non-essentials (with my view):
We are opposed to certain beliefs, doctrines and practices and take a firm stand against them. But in doing so we are careful to love the people involved and to minister to them in order to assist them in overcoming their unhealthy, unwholesome and spiritually limiting hang-ups.
Two levels of community:
Discussion-based, meditative Bible study is founded on the principle of Inductive Bible study. Inductive Bible study is based on these factors:
Inductive Bible Study forms the foundation for Discussion-based, meditative Bible study. But there are several other important factors that we believe we should practice during our meetings:
There are ample opportunities for people to serve and lead. A few examples:
We emphasize training leaders so that more people can become leaders and the quality of leadership will be high.
We strongly emphasize training leaders. We use commercially-available training materials such as college textbooks and popular books. Anyone can be involved in leading training classes and we should all be involved in continuous learning and life-long learning. We also have periodic feedback sessions in which Home Group leaders and self-directed team members get together to share experiences and increase skills and knowledge. As leaders, we desire to be good at what we do and to improve over time, but we are not condemning of others who are still learning.
Home Groups are the foundation of Home Bible Community. There are many kinds of Home Groups.
Meeting Agenda - Meetings generally follow a set agenda but there is room for flexibility based on the Pastor's vision and the members' needs. The agenda:
Meeting Times — Many Home Groups meet weekly since we generally expect that most members want to participate on a weekly basis. Some Home Groups meet several times a week if that is what the members want while other Special Home Groups meet less often. Home Groups meet at a variety of different times of day and days of the week based on the Pastor and member schedules. Some meet Sunday morning for those who want more of a traditional Sunday morning church experience.
Meeting size — There is a large range of sizes for Home Groups. Most weekly meetings are typically small enough that all members of the group can interact and that everyone has ample opportunity to participate in the discussion. Typically these groups are less than 20 people. Other groups are much larger or much smaller. Groups that are about to split and launch another group are typically large — too large, and requiring a split. Some Home Groups operate much as if they were a small church in their own right and are rather large.
Child Care — Some groups provide child care and others don't. Of the groups providing child care, some offer only babysitting services while others offer instruction targeted for the children. There might even be several groups for different age groups of children within a single Home Group.
Group splits — A group will not split by launching another group until a new Pastor has been raised up and trained.
Examples of targeted Home Groups.
In addition to Home Groups there are also classes, courses and seminars. These are usually facilitated by Elders but sometimes by professionals under the guidance of Elders.
Examples of Classes that are offered:
The basic roles are:
An individual may function in more than one role.
The pastoral role involves:
Pastors will usually operate in one of the following categories:
Unpaid Volunteer Pastors — their ministry within Home Bible Community is performed for free. Out of pocket expenses may be reimbursed.
Women Pastors — We do not forbid women from being Pastors. We believe the exclusion of women from this role in the New Testament is cultural and doesn't apply today, but that but the principles given in 1 Timothy 2:12 and Titus 2:3 still apply. Therefore, a woman should exercise great discretion in the kinds of Home Groups she leads. For example, it is certainly appropriate for a her to lead a Home Group for women or children. But it is usually inappropriate for her to lead a Home Group of single or divorced men. But it the same regard, it would also be inappropriate for a man to lead a Home Group of single or divorced women unless his wife were involved.
A Pastor may lead more than one Home Group.
The role of Elder involves:
Elders may be men or women who qualify based on 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
Women Elders — We do not forbid women from being Elders. We believe the exclusion of women from this role in the New Testament is cultural and doesn't apply today, but that but the principles given in 1 Timothy 2:12 and Titus 2:3 still apply. Therefore, a woman should exercise great discretion concerning the issues of teaching men and of authority over men. However, much of the decision making in Home Bible Community is done in teams and is based on a democratic methods such as majority rule, consensus or unanimity. Women may participate as equals with men in such decision making.
The role of Deacon is one of service and is based on Acts 6:1-4.
Deacons may be men or women who qualify based on 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
Women Deacons — we believe that women may be Deacons based on Romans 16:1 and that the partial exclusion of women from this role in the New Testament is cultural and doesn't apply today.
The Home Bible Community denominational model is harmonious with the New Testament. This is not to say that it is the church model of the New Testament. It is common for Home Church movements to declare that they are the "true" New Testament church, but this is not the case. But neither is the modern traditional church based on the New Testament model.
There are three distinct phases to the New Testament church:
Phase 1: They had everything in common (Acts 2:44).
Phase 2: Oversight by a group of elders (Acts 14:23).
Phase 3: Bishops (1 Timothy 3:2).
Regarding Phase 1 — No one seriously considers that we ought to have everything in common as the first church did. This confirms that the early church model was cultural and not normative for all times. So it is not necessary then, to copy the New Testament church model today. And if we wanted to copy it, which model would we choose, Phase 1, Phase 2 or Phase 3?
With the Early Church Fathers, the role of Bishops became even more pronounced as the church struggled to fight heresy. The Didache, about 100 A.D., says that the church should "elect for yourselves bishops" — this demonstrates that Bishops were elected. Ignatius, about 110 A.D., in many of his letters affirms the importance of bishops. For example, in his Letter to the Smyrnaens he says that "where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather." Therefore, the Bishop was closely involved with the congregational meetings and there had to be at least one Bishop per congregation. This corresponds well to the role of the Pastor or Minister in the modern traditional church.
Acts 15 describes the first church synod, in which leaders of the church got together to decide a matter of doctrine and practice. In verses 2, 4 and 6, we see that it is the apostles and elders who did this. Some of these apostles and elders were also pastors of local churches. From this we see that the church governance hierarchy was not very deep. Pretty much any leader of the church who was considered an elder could participate in synods where church policy and procedure were decided.
There are different roles of leadership within the church. Ephesians 4:11 refers to pastors and teachers. And as we have just discussed, there are administrative policy and decision making roles. As far as who can participate in these differing roles, the qualifications are very simple — they must be elders who qualify based on 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. But God also gives different gifts to each of us and we should be operating in roles based on our giftedness.
Home Bible Community
The organization of Home Bible Community matches very well with these biblical guidelines. All leaders are elders who must qualify according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. The pastors are closely involved in a shepherding role (not to be confused with the Shepherding Movement) based on Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2. The pastors teach and look after the needs of their group members. Other leadership functions are performed by elders. We use the title "bishop" for the particular role of Denominational Administrator, but these "bishops" are really just elders. The term "bishop" refers only to the leadership role.
Meeting in the Home
In Philemon 1:2 Paul makes reference to a church meeting in the home. This implies that it was a small congregation. The early church did not concentrate on constructing building for their meetings — they met wherever it was convenient, even outdoors. They met in the temple courts (Acts 2:46) and in Solomon's Colonnade (Acts 5:12). Their meetings were not necessarily small as is clear from 1 Corinthians 11 in which Paul describes their divisions. But in the same passage we find that the church meetings involved a meal which never happens in the traditional church. Even though there are possibly hundreds of people, they still spend hours together and eat together. The Home Groups fit this very well.
In Acts 2:46 we see that the church had daily meetings. It is likely that most people didn't attended every meeting — people would attend when it fit in with their schedules. This matches well with the Home Bible Community practice of having meetings at a variety of different times throughout the week. When Paul came into town they had a special meeting which was very long and was probably in a special meeting place. This is described in Acts 20:8. This is really the essence of the Local Community meetings in which the congregation meets for special events and for large celebrations.