in Research

The decline of the traditional church in the West has met with the reemergence of alternative ways of being the people of God. One of these is the phenomenal global growth of house churches—small groups of committed Christians meeting mostly in private residences and spawning new cells. House churches are part of a larger modern movement, a revival of interest in homerelated Christian groups. Researchers have identified five distinguishable types of Christian house groups on the contemporary scene: the traditional home Bible study, home fellowship groups, home cell groups, basesatellite units, and house churches.1 Without a doubt, house churches are the most controversial and have created the most interest and enthusiasm. While the house church movement is still small in most Western nations, it is likely to become a major player in the church of the future.

In North America, until recently, the concept of “house churches” was relegated to the back burner in the church world. Homebased churches were seen as a twothirds world phenomenon, as one of the major ways the Lord of harvest was expanding his Church in other parts of the globe, particularly in restricted access nations.2 They were viewed as legitimate vehicles of protest in communist and Muslim lands in reaction to political repression and the persecution of totalitarian regimes.3 In the United States and Canada, housechurches were more often identified with the counterculture rejection of the institutional church, as exemplified by the Jesus People movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Home church proponents were painted as “disgruntled” Christians who pulled out of established churches, their groups seen as quickly becoming ingrown. Since the 1990s, the ascendant mode of conservative American faith has been the megachurch. But now religious researchers are observing a new trend: a growing number of North American Christians are abandoning traditional congregations for a burgeoning movement becoming known in evangelical circles as “simple church.”

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