Jonathan Martin of Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC sparked this topic in one of his blogs on church movements. I can't take all the credit for it.
I am all for different "expressions" of the church; example: home churches, traditional churches, Gen-X and even Messianic churches.
However, the problem that I do have is when an expression of a local church is being birthed out of hurt, bitterness and simply to prove a point against another expression. It's a huge problem when all their teachings is to prove someone else wrong. (might be the formation of a cult)
One of the prime examples in our modern context is the house church movement in America. I think the theory and practice of house churches in the right context can be a powerful expression. In China, where they are not allowed to meet corporately, the house church expression is a movement of evangelism and discipleship. It's very effective. The key to this movement is that it is birthed out of a passion and desire to see people saved and to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. They are not mad at a local church or hurt by a church. They were not voted out of a church or out to prove a point in which expression is better. They are not isolating themselves from mainstream Christianity. Their expression is the ONLY expression they can operate in due to government restrictions.
Any expression of the local church has to be birthed out of a God-ordained passion and calling. It cannot be birthed primarily out of being hurt by another local church expression. Neil Cole has done a terrific job of birthing house churches in California. He even states that was the strategy for THAT region and it may not be God's strategy for every region or everywhere. The expression depends on God's calling and the gift-mix of the leader.
We live in a generation who have been wounded by the church. Because of this (and I have been guilty) we seek to birth an expression that shields us from that hurt.
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Let passion, calling and not pain (hurt) be your driving force.
-Don't build something based on what you are against. I saw a Messianic guy post on Facebook this statement, "Many professed believers..." Wow. You just stated that you have the copyright on the perfect way to Jesus. Build something based on God's call. This will allow you to celebrate other expressions of the church and join in unity.
2. Don't birth an expression to prove a point on the best way to "do church."
-How many times have we seen this? The youth pastor at the traditional mainstream church gets discontented with the way things are done, he gathers his youth workers (while still taking a salary from the church he is at) and starts the beginnings of a new church. I can say this because I have been guilty. The whole premise is that we won't do it like "them." The mission can't be negative in nature instead of positive. If you can't celebrate the place you were birthed from, then you probably birthed it out of negativity. The other test is this: Are you in good standing and relationship with that church?
3. The expression should have some semblance of effectiveness.
-If you birthed an expression out of pain and hurt, and there is no effectiveness; you may be just "acting out" due to pain. As Gamiliel said about Paul, "If God is in it, it will succeed." The problem with some of the house churches in America is that they are 3 people who got mad at a church and meet in a home to go "deeper." There is no desire to see lives changed or desire for evangelism. Their is little effectiveness and pain is everyone's common denominator. Therefore, the result is an isolated, angry, small group.
The writer of Hebrews warns us, "The root of bitterness will defile the whole body." (Kevin's paraphrase)
Discontent coupled with God's calling should be a motivating factor to birth local expressions. Hurt, bitterness and wounds should never be.