For nearly two millennia, Christianity has followed a congregational model of church growth, sparked in large part by Emperor Constantine, who in 313 AD, established the Church as a legal entity in Rome with property ownership rights. A proliferation of large and beautiful church buildings and cathedrals ensued. These would house congregations and parishes all the way through the modern church age, even withstanding the call to ecclesiastical change by the Reformers. To this day the congregational model is what makes up modern-day religious society. It has become the hub of religious life for most of the Christian world. The congregational model is the Church’s main distribution source of biblical teaching, corporate worship and ministry. Even the word ministry itself, has become synonymous with congregational serving.
Our seminaries teach students all around the globe, how to perfect the congregational method of church growth. Once they graduate, those seminary students become pastors and leaders of new or existing congregations, teaching a theology that seeks to perpetuate the congregational model of church. Seminaries, Denominations and Christian NGOs alike have a vested interest in perpetuating this system.
Certainly, God has used this model to grow His Church in a big way, but I believe we are in an age where it is monumentally important for us to consider a new model as we move into changing times. In recent years, conditions have become more and more subversive to Christianity in the free world. Even governments of countries that have traditionally been known to protect our religious freedoms are increasingly creating laws to restrict the institutional freedoms of the Church.
We ought to observe, learn from, and pray for the persecuted church overseas who already know what it’s like to have little or no freedom to worship. Many of those Christians have adopted a house-church model of small-groups, as it’s difficult for the church to survive in some parts of the world under a congregational model. This may be where the rest of us are headed as we see biblical prophecy fulfilled in our region of the world as well. We may be the generation that sees the Church move away from a congregational model to a different model of gathering, where spiritual ties will be stronger than religious ones. Let’s keep an eye on where these movements are taking place and pray for the next generation of pastors, apostles, and leaders that God raises up to pioneer them.