During times of uncertainty, people turn to the church for support, guidance, and hope. Now, in these unprecedented and unsettling times, many are seeking solace in house churches. FindAHouseChurch.com seeks to connect people who are seeking a more intimate church experience and want to continue to grow the Church as they did in the book of Acts...house to house. Every Christian home has the potential to gather small groups and be the hands and feet of Jesus in their neighborhoods.
John Stewart Hill, CEO of Central Storehouse, the creator of the site, shares, "Now, more than ever, people are looking for a more personal, more connected church experience. The House Church movement is growing in part because it is impossible to attend a house church and be anonymous. With all the unrest in the world, people are looking for safe places where they can worship God, find encouragement and accountability, discover their purpose in the body of Christ, and be challenged in their faith. House churches can be the answer."
FindAHouseChurch.com believes that the church needs to be relational, and so the site is designed to help align people with a likeminded community. Users simply create a profile, and begin their search for a nearby house church, filtering results by parameters such as by distance, childcare requirements, day of the week, and denomination. After identifying potential communities, users fill out an online form to begin communicating with the house church. Many house churches have limits on the number of attendees, so this allows the church itself to regulate the number of people they are communicating with and get to know the person before sharing their address.
Q: John, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.
Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm a businessman out in the Dallas Fort Worth area and for the last 10 years I have been building a directory of home service contractors called The Good Contractors List. What makes my company different is that we guarantee to the homeowner that if the contractor doesn't do what they say they will do, then we will pay up to $10,000 to fix it. This is not an insurance program but would come out of our revenue. So, it became important to do our best to build a process that would keep everyone accountable. Interesting enough, I was never a contractor, business owner, or even ever managed people when the Lord called me to do this. I didn't have any money to invest in the business and I never took out a loan. This was all built by following the leading of the Holy Spirit and it survived by letting Him be the CEO.
The other thing that has been different about our company is that we have used a quarter of our ad spend to share the Gospel on radio. For years we have run, what we call, the Word of the Month on Christian AND secular radio stations. I even had a man come to me and say that he was on the verge of suicide, but when he heard that one-minute ad he instead chose to give his life to Jesus.
Over the last couple of years, the Lord has been inspiring me to "connect the Body of Christ outside the walls of the brick and mortar establishments". This first website He had me build is called Find A House Church dot com. Much like The Good Contractors List, I came from a perspective of never having a house church, so I had no preconceived biases and could only build it as I listened to the Holy Spirit. It became apparent as I dove deep into His Word that we were missing a key element in the way we "did" church. I read several books on house church and gained even deeper perspective. However, one thing I could see that seemed amiss was that it became another divisive stance. Our model is better than your model, so your model should just go away. I began to ask the Lord at the end of last year, what would make people want to leave their comfort zone and build a house church. Then less than six months later, every church in the world was forced to shut their doors.
Q: How has COVID-19 changed how we had been doing church?
Obviously, we have had to come up with an alternate plan. Unfortunately, there was not a contingency plan in place when we were all shocked into realizing that we could be shut down. The majority brought their services to the web, which continued the dependance on one man to supply the weekly message. The members of the congregation went from watching them from a pew to watching them from their couch whenever they felt like watching. We got even more comfortable. I heard ministries boasting of the number of views as a sign that they were growing the church even bigger. I would hear, "We usually only have 300 show up in church, but we had nearly 3000 views on that one service." If the Church is where two or more are gathered in His name watching someone preach, then why should my family ever leave the house?
Q: Many of our readers may be watching their church services online, so why do they need a house church?
The Bible is extremely clear when it describes the early Church. It was organic and grew from house to house through deep relationships. Isolating ourselves watching someone preach does not build relationships. Whether in the pew or on the couch. House church offers a way to not only build relationships but have the intimacy necessary to find out what gifts God has given you and to be discipled through a sincere relationship. You can't slip in unnoticed and you will be encouraged to share.
Q: What is FindAHouseChurch.com about?
Find A House Church is simply a tool in the hands of Christians to create gatherings in their home and be found by seekers. This is not just for independent house churches, but it is designed specifically for brick and mortar churches to have a contingency plan. Every Christian organization can have their own special "mini site" where they can send their members to establish house church networks within their own organizations.
Q: Can individuals find out the doctrines, styles of teaching, and the people of the different house churches before joining?
The website is set up where the person creating the house church must choose a denomination and describe what to expect. Many of the house churches will be affiliated with a specific brick and mortar church. When a person conducts a search to find a house church, they can filter down to what they are looking for. For example, a user can search for a Baptist house church, that meets on Thursday, and offers childcare.
Q: Is it safe to host or attend one of these house churches?
The website does not present addresses and the host or attendee can investigate each other by a profile page and social media links. The seeker must send a request to join that will include their phone number to be contacted. The house church facilitator will then reach out to the seeker and get to know them. This can be a phone call or maybe they want to meet for coffee before giving their address. Once the house church leader feels comfortable, they send an invite to the person to join and the person can then accept or decline the invitation. Further, every house church and user profile has a button where they can be reported if there is any misconduct. It is as safe as the user chooses to take it.
Q: How can churches be part of it?
The brick and mortar establishments or church organizations can go to our tab marked "Free Landing Page" and they will be able to create their own special URL to send their members. They can then begin to train and equip house church leaders to host gatherings in their homes. If they begin to share the Find A House Church website in their towns, then seekers will begin to find their house churches on the website. It will also encourage other churches and individuals to use the website. The only thing that can stop it is if they don't want others to know about it and try to keep to themselves. It is that mindset that keeps us divided and confined.
Q: How can our readers be part of a house church via FindAHouseChurch.com?
They start by going to the site and creating a free profile. If they feel led to open their home up to gather and talk about Jesus, then they can create a house church. Then it is a matter of getting the website out to the public. What I am finding is that there are 10 times as many people looking for a house church than the number of house churches available. It could be as simple as a yard sign that says "Find Us on FindAHouseChurch.com". Evangelizing will be a key factor in the growth of the church and of the website.
Q: What do you get out of it and what do you expect?
I have taken what I call a No Ulterior Motives stance. There is a non-profit that it is connected to the website called CentralStorehouse.org, but every dime will be used for outreach if people choose to give. I am personally funding this through my company at this time, but eventually would like to see it support its own growth. My ultimate vision as far as giving goes, is to see people give to the Central Storehouse and use all of it to help those in need in our own country and around the world. Not gaining financially removes all temptation to grow it for any other reason than to empower people to advance the Kingdom for Jesus.
My prayer is that churches will begin to see their people as ministers and begin to equip them to do the work of ministry like we read in Ephesians 4. Imagine how large your influence could be if you had a church full of ministers being supported and trained by you. I would like to see every Christian realize that they have a new Kingdom Identity that empowers them to be more than someone warming a pew and supporting someone else's ministry. They were meant for more than watching someone preach from their couch. We are a Body and we all have a part to play in the growth of the "Big" C Church. If pastors and other leaders use this tool, they could change the culture of their cities, not just their building culture and build a contingency plan that would exceed their corporate plan.