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OVERVIEW OF HOUSE CHURCHES

The Bridge HTX exists as a network of House Churches spread throughout the city of Houston. Simply put, a House Church is a community of followers of Jesus commited to one another and the mission of the Gospel. We are pursuing to love God, love people, share Jesus, and do it together.

People always ask about our worship gatherings. Foundationally, we would first invite each other to pursue the life of worship that goes beyond any one gathering as shown in Romans 12:1-2 knowing that the most impactful way to experience and express both the love and mission of Jesus is through smaller transformational communities and relationships.

With that being said, our House Churches do gather together regularly to worship and fellowship in homes throughout our community. Our pursuit is to embody the characteristics spoken in Acts 2:42 where we see a commitment to the Word of God, prayer, deep relationships, and the gratefulness of communion. When we are togehter, we pursue to be personal over programmed,  participatory over passive, and in relationships instead of sitting in rows.

As we gather, you will see that we value our fellowship with God and one another through His Word, that we love lifting up praises to God, that we value each other and strive to take responsibility of each other's spiritual well-being, and that we consider it a gift of grace to be called together. Each house church gathering will look different because it is the unique gifting of those in that house church coming together that will shape how they pursue and live out those opportunities.

It must be acknowledged that our deepest purposes go beyond our weekly gathering: it is vital that our life together and pursuing Gospel mission is present in our everyday life. We shepherd and encourage every person in our community to commit to three pursuits:

1. Pursue fellowship with Jesus daily in His Word and in personal prayer.
2. Pursue deep relationships with one another.
3. Pursue to live with Gospel intentionality to your neighbors.

Each house has a shepherding leader(s) that is stewarding the disciplemaking ministry of that house church and The Bridge has a group of overseeing elders and a staff (find out more about them HERE) that shepherd, resource, and support each House Church. 

While we normally gather in homes or other spaces as our house churches, on the second Sunday of the month, all of our house churches gather together for our collective Worship Gathering. These gatherings are a time for us all to come together for worship, to share stories of Gospel transformation, and celebrate what the Lord has been doing across all of our communities. 

More Details about our collective gatherings HERE

Daily Reading Plan HERE. 

 

Find a House Church! 

Click HERE to Sign Up for a House Church.

Heights 

Montrose

Southside (Third Ward, Museum District, Med Center, Rice)

Westside (Spring Branch, Spring Valley & Galleria Area)

 If you have any further questions about connecting with a House Church, please email karen@thebridgehtx.org 

HOUSE CHURCH FAQ's

What are key passages from Scripture that have shaped your understandings and convictions that has led The Bridge HTX to existing as a network of house churches?


It is worth saying that we do not believe that gathering as house churches is the form of the gathered church mandated in Scripture. As we articulate the passages that have led us in this direction, the following must be noted.

     • We fully affirm that other churches can seek the leading of the Holy Spirit through the Word and find themselves compelled to different forms of gathering, equipping, and mobilizing. The form is not the point. The mission of Jesus is the point. Each church and each Christ-follower must answer the question, “What is the most strategic way we/I can live to pursue the mission of Jesus?”
     • We have benefited from a frame of reference presented by Francis Chan and the We Are Church network. We are seeking to live out the answer to this question: “If all you have is the Bible and the Holy Spirit to shape what you know the Church is meant to be, what would it look like?”

Colossians 1:16-20; Ephesians 2:18-22Jesus is the head and cornerstone of every church. To say every church, we mean the Church-universal: made up of all Christ-followers worldwide, the collective of The Bridge HTX, and every House Church. Jesus, as the Head of the Church, gives life to the Church and determines its purpose. Jesus, as the Cornerstone, sets the Church’s foundation, makes the whole Church healthy and strong as everyone lives unto Christ, and defines the Church’s reason and way of existing. Our elders and those serving as shepherding leaders of each house church only serve as under-shepherds of Jesus.

Matthew 22:36-40; Genesis 1:28; Matthew 28:18-20; John 1:14; Ephesians 3:10The Church exists for no different purpose than everything else in creation: to glorify God. Most fundamentally, the Church is meant to glorify God by loving Him and loving people. God’s glory is meant to be manifested through the same means: first at the beginning of Creation in God’s mandate for His people to be fruitful and multiply His image across the entire earth, then in  Jesus’s restatement in the Great Commission for the people of God to be fruitful and multiply disciples of Him to the ends of the earth. It is through the Church living out the incarnate realities of Jesus that the world will experience the manifold wisdom of God and come to be saved, and God be glorified. We have been led to pursue the multiplication of the image of God through House Churches as Gospel outposts throughout our communities, believing this expression is the most effective and natural way for us to see this mandate realized.

Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14By the ministry of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God and God’s design for the Body of Christ (the people as the Church), the Church will be fully equipped to accomplish the purpose God created it for. Every person’s gifts are effective and necessary for the building up of one another for the sake of the Gospel and the work of Kingdom ministry. The church is to be led by more ministers (the entire priesthood of believers) instead of just a few Ministers (professionalpastoral staff). Life, worship, and ministry of the church is always meant to be expressed as a people instead of through programs, and should be participatory instead of passive. Existing as these autonomous, hyper-local communities (allunder one shared eldership) necessitates and nurtures, to a greater degree, every person using their gifts and contributing to the building up of one another. This is possible as each Christ-follower lives out what they have been endowed with and appointed to do by the Holy Spirit, all for the sake of the Gospel being ministered to one another and to the world that so desperately needs Jesus.

John 13:34-35; John 17:17-23One of the most compelling witnesses for the world to taste and see the wonders of the Gospel of Jesus is meant to be the way of life that the Church lives together. There is an opportunity that, as all Christ-followers are growing in living out their identity in Christ - rooted in His Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit, such a quality of love would be shared between them that it would reveal to the world that 1) we belong to Jesus, 2) that we live in fellowship with Him, and 3) that we have been and are being transformed by His astounding, gracious, and unconditional love for us. Similarly, there is meant to be a unity birthed out of our commonality in Christ that makes it undeniable that Jesus is indeed sent by our Creator God and Heavenly Father as the promised Messiah, and that we (the Church) have been sent by Jesus. Both the church’s love for one another and unity with one another is of such quality that it stands out far and above any other expression of community this world has to offer. When our bond is the love and identity of Jesus, our deep love and coexistence can bear any weight of difference that would typically cause division (ethnicity, class/social strata, economic status, etc…)

What is a House Church?

 
SNAPSHOT: Simply put, a House Church is a community of followers of Jesus commited to one another and the mission of the Gospel. We are pursuing to love God, love people, share Jesus, and do it together.

DIGGING DEEPER: The word “House” can be distracting. We are a people that tend to need to label things in order to make distinctions. Using House Church is only meant to help draw out a distinctive from a ministry that revolves around a large Sunday gathering verses a small transformational community called together to live out and pursue the reality of everyday, disciplemaking ministry. Although we see all throughout scripture that churches met in homes, it is not meeting in a home that leads to our communities to fully embodying the convictions that God has led us to pursue. It is actually more helpful to describe what a house church is on a spectrum of characteristics instead of strictly pragmatically. JD Payne (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CInobm3zyHA) and Dietrich Schindler (https://exponential.org/resource-ebooks/shift/) have been helpful in these articulations.

     • Less organizational, more organic - churches are meant to be birthed out of the Gospel and the Gospel is meant to be expressed through the daily lives of the Christ-follower. Because each Christ-follower is called and equipped by the Holy Spirit, the church should more necessarily be an expression of what God shapes through those called together instead of the application of a model or program.
     • From involvement to discipleship - Church is not something that we attend or a ministry we support. It is a result of each Christ-follower living out their identity in Christ and mandate to pursue Gospel mission and disciplemaking and doing it as a people vitally called together. The question is not, “is this community meeting my needs but rather, how does God intend to use me to build up one another and help us engage every day mission for Jesus?”
     • Less intellectual to more personal - we are not saying that we don’t want to engage the mind… that is vital. What we are saying is that we are seeking to go beyond merely cognitive environments where we passively pass on Truth. The point of all of our learning is that it would result in each person growing in the intimacy with Jesus and lives being transformed more and more into Christ’s image. It is proven that transformational learning comes through a personal exchange with others and opportunities to live out what is being learned. It is also known that The most motivated learners are the ones who have a personal stake in what they are pursuing. Living in this kind of community more naturally leads to that which is being learned being lived out and what is being lived out driving what we are learning.
    • More participatory, less passive settings - Scripture is clear (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14) that for the church to be fully equipped for Kingdom ministry and more fully giving testimony to the image of Jesus, everyone is necessary. Everyone Christ-follower is gifted by the Holy Spirit and is needed in the using of those gifts in loving, teaching, encouraging, and equipping one another. That is why it is necessary to create spaces for mutual submission and exchange and House Churches facilitate that much more naturally. Relationships flow more naturally out of sitting in living rooms looking at each other than sitting in rooms looking at the back of heads as we all look at one person.
     • Everyday mission instead of Sunday Driven - Because every Christ-follower is a disciplemaker and every disciplemaker is a missionary with a mission field to claim, we should expect and pursue that our time and energy should be focused on Gospel ministry through the entire body of Christ 7 days a week instead of Gospel teaching being served to the body of Christ 1 day a week. It has been our experience that having a weekly large sunday gathering demands time and resources that end up taking away from that which results in everyday mission. We need our ministry to be driven more by ministers (priesthood of believers) and less by Ministers (professional pastoral staff).

Why do you say that House Churches are more effective at raising up disciplemakers?

SNAPSHOT: We believe house churches create more space to intimately share life, express gifting, disciple one another, and engage neighbors.

DIGGING DEEPER: The last words of Jesus were a command to all who follow Him in Matthew 28:18-20. It was to “go and make disciples.” This command was not just for a select few. It was for all who call on Christ. To be saved by Jesus is to be a disciplemaker. We hold on to the axiom, “Every Christ-follower is a disciplemaker and every disciplemaker is a missionary with a mission field to claim.” Programs and curriculum, alone, don’t make disciples of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus make disciples of Jesus. The heart of disciplemaking is to say to others as Paul did, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Paul was only articulating an invitation that perpetuated what Jesus did with His disciples as He invited them to, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19).

Jesus focused on the few that the many would follow. Jesus spent every day with 12 men for three years. They shared life and they ministered together. They laughed and cried together. They feasted and fasted together. And all along the way, Jesus pulled them aside to bring instruction out of what they were already doing. This is what Paul was describing in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when he said, “Because I love you so much, I didn't just share the information of the Gospel of Jesus with you but I also shared my whole life with you.” (our paraphrase)

This is what it is to make disciples of Jesus. It is to live the abiding life in Christ and following His way of life in your home, church, and world and then inviting others to join in with you and pulling instruction out of life. Prayerfully, our House Church communities exist for the mission of Jesus to the world and are committed to love one another unto Christ. This is the fertile garden bed of discipling one another.

Because of the intimate and interconnected nature of a house church community, there is more opportunity and greater necessity for everyone to be discipled and discipling others. It is easier to recognize each other’s gifting and more apparent who is being discipled and who is discipling. Frankly stated, there is less room to hide and we think that is wonderful even though it calls us to more.

One last reality is that House Churches are meant to exist for the sake of engaging their local community with the Gospel. Disciplemaking starts with proclaiming the Gospel where it has not yet been proclaimed. House churches are more naturally positioned to take the Gospel of Jesus to people who have not heard it yet where Sunday driven ministries are more dependent on those in need coming to them to hear the Gospel.

When is a House Church ready to be multiplied out?

SNAPSHOT: When a member of a house church is affirmed by their house church & our elders as a mature & competent leader of disciplemaking Gospel ministry, and when that person feels called to lead a Gospel movement in a new geographic area, their house church can send that person and any others who feel called to the same mission & place.

DIGGING DEEPER: The simple answer is that a house church is ready to be multiplied out as soon as there is a leader that can be affirmed by their community and elders as a mature and competent leader of Gospel driven ministry and that leader feels compelled/called to plant the Gospel in a new geography or area of affinity.

We would say a leader is ready if they can evidence a strong grasp of the Gospel, an ability to faithfully shepherd others in the Word, and has evidenced being a disciplemaker (has spiritual offspring). Again, these characteristics must be able to be affirmed by others in their community. It is worth noting here that a leader of a house church does not need to be an elder. More on elder leadership below.

Because a house church exists as a community committed to disciplemaking in itself, there needs to be a leader that feels pressed/called out by God to take on shepherding this community unto that purpose. This purpose of Gospel driven disciplemaking is both “internal” and “external” meaning that this leader both shepherds this house church community to love, care for, and equip one another (be disciples) as well as leads them to engage the community around them with the Gospel of Jesus unto salvation (make disciples).

Some House Churches will stay part of The Bridge HTX collective and some will be joyfully sent out as a totally new expression with its own eldership, vision, values, etc… There are a myriad of factors that would influence this but essentially, it will be by the leading of the Holy Spirit and through determining what is necessary to live out the way of life and convictions shaped by God for the sake of the Gospel in their area of focus.

What's the difference between a House Church and a small group?

SNAPSHOT: We view house churches as disciplemaking communities with their own distinct callings & culture, led by a leader who feels called by God to shepherd that community. We view small groups as one ministry of a larger, central church entity.

DIGGING DEEPER: There are two primary answers to this question but before we get there, we must acknowledge that it is necessarily difficult to distinguish the difference. We say this because of the reason that small groups came to exist in the first place. Small groups exist because leaders in the church recognized that the Sunday gathering, although an important part of the gathered church, is not sufficient to shepherd, equip, and care for the body of Christ unto Gospel driven, multiplication of Disciples of Jesus. Small groups came about because it is both explicitly and intuitively known that transformational discipleship, deep intimacy & care, as well as local missional movement flows best through these smaller expressions of Gospel communities. Therefore, many characteristics of healthy small groups would be the exact same that we would desire every church to embody. So it is natural for it to be difficult to conceptualize the distinctive of a small group and a house church… and we celebrate that because we are so grateful for healthy small group ministries (most of us are products of them).

For us, we would say there are two defining distinctives.
1. The House Church exists as a disciplemaking community in it of itself for a defined area of geography (neighborhood) or an area of affinity interest (workplace, refugee/immigrant communities, hobbies, etc…). Small groups exist as a ministry of the central church organization/leadership where they typically share a common form, content, and culture. Inversely, The Bridge HTX exists to support and resource the disciplemaking ministry of every house church. There is broad enough mission, vision, and values for every House Church to fit under (more here). The mission, vision, and values are also specific enough to define a way of life and Gospel ministry that binds us together as The Bridge HTX. However, every house church can and must define and take on its unique way of life, culture, and disciplemaking ministry that is shaped by the people that make up that house church community as well as by the uniqueness of the community they are engaging with the Gospel.
2. The other distinctive is that there is a local shepherding leader that is expressing personal shepherding influence over that community. That leader may or may not be an elder. If there is not an elder, they serve under the overseeing leadership of The Bridge HTX’s plurality of elders. This local shepherding leader is not merely managing or executing the ministry given to them. They are acting as one placed and called out by God to lead from alongside the rest of the House Church community. Our prayer and hope is that our House Churches are birthed out of the Gospel. Meaning that a disciplemaking leader is living with Gospel intentionality in their neighborhood/area of interest and as they see people come to Christ, they join in together in Gospel community learning and growing together. When that happens, God naturally births a church and it will already necessarily have a shepherding leader in it because the genesis of it’s existence started with the Gospel impulse God put in the heart of that person to engage that community.

What's the difference between and elder, a House Church leader that is not an elder, and The Bridge HTX staff?

SNAPSHOT: Elders are shepherding overseers of the entire network of member house churches and leaders. House church leaders are shepherding overseers of individual house churches. Staff are those who resource & support all the house churches and their leaders.

DIGGING DEEPER: Elders are a plurality of men who have been called out by the Holy Spirit and affirmed by the congregation (church community) that they model the life of a disciplemaker and meet the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These men serve as under-shepherds as they follow Jesus to “shepherd the flock” through sound Biblical teaching and benevolent ownership (1 Timothy 3:1; Acts 20:28) for the spiritual well-being of all those in their church community. Elders are meant to lead others as Spiritual Fathers with love, patience, diligence, wisdom, and competency. Elders lead as equals but as ones that will give an account for how they have shepherded those God has given them to steward (Hebrews 13:17). The church follows elders as equals but as ones they should give deference to because of their maturity and placement by God to lovingly and selflessly lead (1 Peter 5:5).

House Church leaders are men and women who have felt compelled by the Holy Spirit and have stepped in to give Gospel driven disciplemaking leadership to the community of a House Church. A House Church leader lives a life that models what it is to follow Jesus and exhibits an ability to articulate the Gospel of Jesus, faithfully give Biblical exhortation to others, and has a history of making disciples of Jesus (has spiritual offspring).

Most likely, every elder will be leading a House Church community but every House Church community may not have an elder in their midst. In this case, one of the elders of The Bridge HTX will serve as an overseeing elder for that House Church until an elder is raised up.

The staff of The Bridge HTX exists for one reason; that is to support and resource the life and ministry of each House Church. The staff will change over the years as the needs change. We are committed to do whatever it takes to best position and posture ourselves for raising up disciplemaking communities and unleashing the Gospel.

How do you approach ministering to kids?

SNAPSHOT: We are forming a collective of leaders from all our house churches that will mutually encourage & equip each other to lead the everyday discipleship of children in their respective house churches in a highly tailored way.

DIGGING DEEPER: When most people ask this question, they are thinking of the weekly gathering. With that, each house church takes care of its own childcare needs. For example, one location may have a rotation of parents taking care of the kids, while another may have the older kids take care of the younger kids, or still another may have the kids stay with the rest of the group.

It is also worth saying that children are a vital part of a healthy gathered life. Jesus tells all of us to look to the faith of a child as way to instruct us in our own faith (Matthew 18:3). Therefore, we need to have them in our midst. Also, the picture of family is used all throughout the New Testament to help us understand how the church is meant to live together. Without kids present, the family is incomplete. Most importantly, as our children come to faith in Christ, they are equally endowed by the Holy Spirit with giftings meant to build up the Body of Christ for Kingdom work so we want to make space for them to share those gifts as they grow in faith and maturity.

Beyond that, just like everything else, we desire the discipling of our kids to be an everyday endeavor instead of just thinking about one day a week. Our conviction is that the parental figures in a child’s life are their primary means of being discipled while, at the same time, every adult in the community is called out to be a part of discipling each other’s families.

What resources and other leaders/churches have been helpful to you in your development as House Churches?


We Are Church Network
No Place Left
Ralph Moore
Exponential
• Books:
     ° Letters to the Church by Francis Chan
     ° Reimagining Church by Frank Viola
     ° Missional House Churches by JD Payne
     ° The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
     ° Kingdom First by Jeff Christopherson
     ° Ephesiology by Dr. Michael Cooper
     ° Everyday Church by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis
     ° eBook - 12 Shifts by Dietrich Schindler
     ° eBook - Mega Multi Micro by Ralph Moore
• Books of the Bible (all of them but….)
     ° Ephesians
     ° 1 Peter
• Our Sermon Series "What is the Church" from Summer 2020

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