You may have been asked about the differences between House Churches and Cell Churches. They’re very similar. Both share the common Biblical goals of reaching non-believers and making them disciples of Jesus. The biggest difference is that the main goal for cell churches is saving souls, whereas the main goal for house churches is to restore the New Testament church.
Cell churches recommend that cell groups disband if they don’t multiply. We don’t do that with house churches. We believe that house churches are true “churches”, and you don’t shut down local churches simply because they don’t get converts.
Although we don’t disband house churches by rule, they do sometimes break up when their Shepherds resign or move and they haven’t gotten a new member for the last three years. We believe that stagnation would continue if we let the house church members elect a new Shepherd among themselves. It’s better for them to disband and let their members join other house churches. We also don’t allow two families from a disbanded house church to join the same new house church because they may negatively affect it with habits they acquired in their former stagnating house church.
Several house churches have disbanded under this policy. Most members of the disbanded house churches joined other house churches and are happy. But a few left our church instead. They left without telling me their reasons, so I don’t know exactly why they left, but I can guess. They must have felt that house churches are too demanding and wanted to go to a traditional church where church life is easier.
It makes me sad when church members leave, but I never try to keep them. Most of them are mature Christians and can serve well in other churches. I don’t feel like I should deny them the opportunity to serve at churches where they feel more comfortable.
Another reason that I don’t try to hold on to them is that our church is a special church with a special mission – restoring the New Testament church. If we were soldiers, we would be a special military unit where training is difficult and dedication and sacrifice are required. When people don’t want this, there’s nothing we can do to keep them.
Sometimes I wonder if our church will shrink in the future instead of grow because we don’t allow people who are already believers to join our church and gladly let people leave if they are already believers. But if that’s the price to pay to accomplish our special mission from God, I’m willing to pay it.
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