Recent surveys show that the number of Christians in Korea is decreasing. The only thing preventing a more drastic fall in numbers isn’t new converts but the fact that people are living longer. You hardly see young people in most traditional Korean churches. Most were born into Christian families and come to church out of habit or because of various church programs they can benefit from. If this trend continues, Korean churches in a few decades will look like churches in Europe today, where big, empty church buildings are occupied by a few elderly people or converted into restaurants and shops.
One of the aims for the House Church is to rejuvenate Korean churches by restoring them to the New Testament church. The church must return to the basics and look to the Bible when facing a crisis, just as athletes revisit fundamentals such as shooting, batting, and dribbling – even weightlifting and running – when they hit a slump.
There are two ways for the House Church to become the paradigm for 21st century churches. The first way is if the majority of churches convert to house churches, so that “the church” refers to the House Church. Second, it can happen even if House Churches remain few in number if they exert a positive influence on traditional churches.
The latter is already occurring. The House Church website’s directory lists only 150 bona fide house churches. But there are many churches whose pastors, after attending our house church seminars, essentially converted their traditional churches to house churches but used different names for their churches and officers. Others have incorporated our Life Bible study series into their traditional churches. Some pastors realized through our seminars the importance of community and started adopting some House Church practices, having shepherds and lay leaders who share their lives with their small group members instead of primarily studying the Bible. The House Church is already influencing traditional churches in positive ways.
I don’t know what the future of the house church movement will be. God can do anything. But personally, I’m skeptical that the House Church will ever become the dominant church form. For this to happen, pastors need to lay down much of their authority and give up many of the privileges they enjoy in traditional churches. It takes courage and sacrifice, and I’m not sure how many pastors are willing to do that.
However, no matter how God leads us, we must be prepared. We must be ready when the house church movement reaches a tipping point and the number of house churches increases drastically. We must be ready to train lay leaders by preparing churches that have already converted to house churches to host house church seminars.
Above all, we must make constant efforts so that our churches do not deviate from the New Testament church. We must always try to hear God’s voice and be sensitive to His leading alone.
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