House Churches in Europe 2009 –
is there reason for hope beyond hope?
The 28 countries of Western Europe comprise of 393 million people in 947 different people groups (www.joshuaproject.com). The cradle and homebase of much of traditional Christianity has now clearly become a post-churched continent and a mission field itself. If the research of Peter Brierly (UK), Ruth Robinson (GEM, Germany), Scott Friedrich (European Spiritual Estimate), emrgnet.eu and others are correct, a mere one percent of the European population would be considered “evangelical believers”, a total of a mere four million, making Europe by far the most unevangelical continent on earth.
However, not all is lost. A new kind of Christianity is emerging that places itself decidedly outside of traditional sanctuary- and programme based church: the house church movement, bringing back the church to where it all started in the first place: in regular homes. If someone truly wants to be a traditional European, then he should not forget that the first European church was, after all, a house church started in the home of Lydia in Philippi.
In a first global House Church Summit in New Delhi, India in November 2009, participants representing 40 nations took time to brainstorm and survey their respective countries and continents towards the state of house churches. There are those that could be called regular house churches: groups of Christians that meet in homes. We see both single groups and organized networks, some of which have websites and are resourced by leadership/ministry teams.
But that is not all there is to it, far from it. There are at least seven more groups:
- Off-the-grid house churches with “Out of Church Christians” that intentionally do not want to be known, listed or be on anybody’s radar. We find out about them by accident or through opinion polling or sampling, the kind of research George Barna does in the USA.
- Business groups, either house churches within a company or those connecting folks in the business world. This number is huge but hard to track as many business folks believe it’s nobody’s business whether they hang out with witches, freemasons or create or join their by-invitations-only organic churches for support.
- More and more traditional churches are changing their home groups or even transitioning their whole lot into house churches; some, in order to avoid misunderstanding and tension, intentionally mis-name their emerging or fully functioning house churches as “home groups” or even “cells.”
- Inside the Roman Catholic culture there is a surprisingly large amount of “small, little churches” that are intentionally set up to cut out the middle layer of clergy and directly connect the people with Jesus u0026amp; the Bible. Behind this are some born again bishops and cardinals.
- It is not only the Anglican Church that develops “small missional communities”, but many more denominations do that. Amongst them big ones like the Assemblies of God in certain areas of the world.
- Insider movements. A staggering amount of under-the-radar-house churches are emerging within religious megablocks, the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, the New Agers and even within certain cults. But they choose to stay within their religious culture for effectiveness and to build bridges of God. One example would be a former Hindu priest, fully painted up and in his safran dress, who now very effectively plants house churches amongst Brahmins in India.
- Media-birthed house churches, initiated by TV, radio or online community facilitators.
Below is a list of the current number of house churches in Western European nations that are either known or are intelligent estimates. Please note that these numbers represent mostly the “regular, researchable house churches” and include only a small fraction of the other “irregular”, seven streams of house churches listed above.
|Country||Population 2009||% Evangelical||= Total of Population||
Number of House Churches 2009
|Isle of Man||78,550||2||1,571||0|
If there are about 10,000 (regular) house churches in Europe today and a typical house church gathers around 15 people on average, about 150,000 Europeans would then be part of the European house church situation today. If we would take a cautious guess as to how many actual house or simple churches would exist in Europe, factoring in the seven other streams of house churches listed above, the number could actually be seven to ten times that high, totalling around one to 1.5 million Europeans, bringing the sum total of all European believers to not four but five million.
Conclusion: The new house church movement in Europe has, since its emergence in the 1990s, not proven to be a quick fad, but has demonstrated the ability to stay. House churches are even beginning to make their own missions contribution in Europe and beyond. At this point, up to one fifth or 20% of all European believers are already following Christ within a house church set up. Given the organic nature of simple churches and observations in the US and other Western cultures, it is not at all unlikely that the number of house churches in Europe will, within the next ten years, grow to 100,000 regular house churches and up to one million “irregular” house churches. Should this happen, then by AD 2019 more than 10 million Europeans will be members of house churches, which would be double the number of believers who currently visit traditional evangelical churches on the continent. Together, they will then represent 15 million believers, raising the number of European believers from one to four percent of the population. In order to disciple half the population of Europe (200 million people), we would have to aim at at least 13 million house churches. Should the non-European developments of house churches at this point be any indication, it would take a mere 15 years from now on to reach this.
More on this on www.starfishportal.net