Debate Over The House Church

I just came back from an 8-week trip to Korea.

In Korea, most of the churches that have successfully converted to house churches are Presbyterian.

Many belong to the Korean Presbyterian Church denomination, one of the most conservative in Korea. They have been successful in converting to house churches because their denominational motto is “According To The Bible”, and house churches are the Biblical model of church. Unfortunately, the Pusan Synod made a recent resolution declaring that the house church goes against Presbyterian tradition. So at least two pastors there had to give up their house churches.

But this resolution prompted a lively debate among the churches in the denomination. Their National Convention asked four seminary professors to evaluate the house church from Biblical, historical, ministerial, and denominational perspectives. Their opinions will be presented in a special meeting in November. Four pastors of house churches will also present their opinions. The denomination will then decide on an official position on the house church sometime next year.

Active debates are taking place in the other major conservative Presbyterian denomination, the United Presbyterian Church. Many pastors from that denomination have converted their traditional churches to house churches. Many became house church enthusiasts because they had been urged to minister in the “right way”, but had never been taught what the “right way” was. Many say that they finally found the right way in the house church.

This debate is occurring because some seminary professors and denominational leaders oppose the house church. But pastors of house churches are actively pursuing dialogue with them to allay their misunderstanding and alleviate their fears. The official position of the denomination on the house church will also be decided in 2008.

Many Presbyterian leaders oppose the house church because they believe that it is a Baptist system. They also believe that the house church cannot be called a “church” according to Presbyterian tradition.

But the house church is a prototypical New Testament church. It is not a finished product. It’s like a stem cell that can develop into a heart, kidney, or muscle cell. Healthy house churches can develop into healthy churches regardless of denominational affiliation, and strengthen their denominations instead of weakening them.

The fact that house churches are debated on a denominational level indicates that the house church has become a force that cannot be ignored. This kind of debate is necessary for the house church to become the paradigm for 21st century churches. If the denominational positions on the house church are given in 2008 as expected, the house church may start expanding rapidly in 2009. However, it is possible that the official positions may turn out to be negative. So I ask for your continuous prayer.

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