What is the difference between a house church and a small group bible study?
A small group bible study is not a local visible church; it is a group of believers who are attached to a larger church. So, the main difference is the authority that exists with a church. While we are very thankful for groups of believers meeting in small groups, we do not believe the idea is derived from scripture, but is more of a human strategy. It lacks key elements of a biblical church and is not meeting the intention of God to maximize the gifting of His children. We believe that each gathering of believers should be with biblically qualified elders who are seeking to shepherd them toward a more Christlike existence. While we can never speak for every small group, the general idea is that they exist for a more intimate environment, but only as a subset of the larger gathering that is held on Sunday. We don't see this idea in scripture and therefore we don't support that model. We believe every small gathering of Christians can and should have biblically qualified leaders. Even if a church only allowed small groups to exist with the support of an elder or deacon, it still undermines the principle of the church meeting as a whole with all their leaders. It also often maximizes the gifting of a few talented "preachers" in the Sunday gathering at the expense of the many who have things to share as part of the body of Christ.
Can't a small group be just as good as a house church?
Although a small group has many great aspects, it still lacks some central components to the faith. It is still connected at the hip to the larger church. This small group will be connected to all the things that an institutional church does that are not biblical. (Are institutional churches biblical?) Even if there are biblically qualified elders that run the small group, and biblically qualified deacons that serve (most small groups don't have these), they still can't make many decisions without getting approval from 'the church'. The purpose is still to eventually get everyone to the main gathering for the larger church, as though something is missing without it. Small groups often lack intentionality in reproducing new groups. Anything that a small group can do with the larger church that is worth doing, can be done through a network of house churches.
What is the difference between a house church, small group, life group, and bible study?
The differences vary greatly! We will try to give a simple definition of each:
House Church: A church body that meets primarily in a home rather than a separate building.
Small Group: A part of the church body that meets in a small group in addition to meeting in a separate building with the rest of the church.
Life Group: A part of the church body that shares life more intimately throughout the week who also meet in a separate building with the rest of the church.
Bible Study Defined: A gathering of believers who meet to study the bible but also meet at other times with the rest of the church body.