Are house churches biblical?
The gathering of a church in a house (house church) is specifically mentioned in these passages:
Romans 16:5 - "Greet also the church in their house."
1 Corinthians 16:19 - "The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.
Colossians 4:15 - "Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house."
Philemon 1:2 - "and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:"
These verses have indirect references to meeting in the home:
Acts 2:2, 2:46, 5;42, 20:20.
Many of the other answers shared on this website demonstrate how gathering together in the home makes sense biblically.
Are institutional churches biblical?
By 'institutional church', we mean a church with a building. The bible doesn't say, 'You shall not build a building for your church!'. However, there are several reasons why institutional churches would be considered unbiblical.
1. Not in the New Testament: There are not any instances in the new testament where church gatherings were in a church building. “Instances where we find the apostles going to the synagogues should not be confused with church meetings. These were evangelistic meetings designed to preach the gospel to unsaved Jews." (Frank Viola, Reimagining Church)
2. God Dwelt in the Temple: In the Old Testament, we see that Israel was ruled by a Theocracy and/or a monarchy with priests. In such cases, God dwelt in a building (temple or tabernacle). When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two, and God now dwells in each believer. "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) We do not need a building to have God with us.
3. Many Misleading Practices Come with a Building: Although one might say that a building in and of itself is not wrong, cultural expectations and practices come along with a building most of the time. Budgets, staff, hierarchy, performances, upkeep, unnecessary structure, audience mentality, and much more are not ideal for the body of Christ to operate as designed.
4. Financially Unwise: Consider the amount of money that is spent just on church buildings every year. What if that money was used to fund international missions? Any program or event that is considered necessary can be achieved in a home, which is already being paid for. For example, if you were feeding 100 homeless people every week with a church of 200 people, you could do the same from 10 different homes. Two hundred people in house churches would probably be about 10 house churches, which are quite capable of achieving much!
5. Audience Based: Almost every church with a building is built with chairs or pews all facing toward the front. The presumes whatever is happening in front is most important. This prevents the building of relationships in community and fosters the mentality of performance by a select few.
6. Hierarchy: Most churches that have a building have a hierarchical structure rather than focusing on the priesthood of all believers. If all believers have God dwelling in them, why do you never hear from some of them? Can people only share something God laid on their heart if it cleared through the proper channels first? Denominational structures demonstrates hierarchy. Staff positions demonstrate hierarchy. Jesus said the greatest among you is the servant of all.
7. Hard for Everyone to Share: In a church of 100 people, you might hear from 10 people in a worship gathering. Most of the time, you are staring at the back on someone's head rather than sharing with others.
8. Focus on Getting Bigger Crowds: Most institutional churches (a church with a building) have an underlying goal of getting as many people as possible into the building and increasing membership. "We want to measure the church's sending capacity more than its seating capacity." (Neil Cole)
9. Focus on Programs: Although programs have the right goal in helping people in need, they usually get off track and become non-relational and focused on statistics. The people in the church ought to be in their own communities helping people wherever possible. Relationships should be formed and ongoing interaction should ensue. Programs so often have little to no relationship building.
10. Bulletins and Predictability: Many worship services are run like business meetings. Everything is planned before hand and not even the hand of God will change the order of service. Openness to the leading of the Spirit is very minimal.
11. Easy to Hide in the Crowd: Since worship services are so audience based, it is very easy to come in late, sit in the back, and leave at the end before ever having a conversation with anyone.
12. Stage Performance: What is done on stage has been rehearsed and polished to the point that most people think they could never do the that. It promotes the posture of letting the professionals do it because they are much better. I will just give my money and let them do what they are good at.
13. Non-Profit: Why does a church need to have a non-profit status? So people will get a tax write-off when they give. If people don't give, the church will have to close its doors. When the church can only survive if people give a certain amount of money, it is very unhealthy. In fact, that structure would never work in the poorest parts of the world. Additionally, churches have to abide by certain things that the government requires in order to keep the non-profit status. This causes some churches to make decisions that contradict their beliefs.
Does it really matter if neither one is specifically commanded?
Our goal is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We ought to be able to use reason and God's Word to discover what is the best way to make disciples. Throughout this website, we hope to show that a properly run house church is the best model by far to make disciples.