Whatever one concludes about Simpson's book, one thing is sure: it will be influential.
For the growing number of Christians looking for a simpler more relational expression of church life, as well as those concerned about effective church planting in secular western cities, this book is a must read, even though its detailed analysis and conclusions may fall short in certain areas.
Simpson's basic thesis is not complex: he argues that the new testament church met predominantly in houses for fellowship, prayer, teaching and the exercise of gifts of the Spirit. These "house churches" in a particular city or region together formed the church in that locality (whether or not they met together with any regularity), were lead by local elders who served as spiritual fathers and were overseen and connected with apostles and prophets who travelled between the churches to teach, care for, and expand the churches' mission into the world. This pattern, Simpson argues, is normative for today and is in fact being rediscovered around the world.
Negatively, Simpson overstates three main areas. Firstly, he seems to have virtually nothing positive to say about what he describes as congregational style churches, and in fact creates the impression that absolutely nothing of worth has ever come from any of them. A striking conclusion!
Secondly, he states that house churches in the new testament were 12-15 in size and that therefore present day ones should be the same size. In fact, there is frustratingly little hard evidence to indicate the size of such churches in the C1. Perhaps we are not intended to know.
Thirdly, he overstates the absence of worship and teaching in the house churches, arguing instead for prayer, shared meals and the exercising of spiritual gifts. Christians seeking a balance of word and spirit may find this emphasis difficult to square with the Acts picture of the new testament church being "devoted to the apostles' teaching."
Despite these negatives, coupled with a more general tendency to make sweeping but unproven generalizations throughout the book, Simpson's book does contain numerous provocative and thoughtful challenges about the nature of the church of God.
Firstly, in an era dominated by denominations and streams, he articulates a vision of the church in a city as a present spiritual reality to be recognised rather than a future prospect to be sought (or avoided!)
Secondly, he creates a hunger for a more intimate expression of church life based around the presence of Christ and expressed in committed relationships and meaningful fellowship which is redemptive and prophetic. Unlike some who disengage from the church's mission in pursuit of deeper fellowship, Simpson holds this vision alongside an expansive view of the church's mission, as apostles prophets and evangelists are released to pioneer, plant and proclaim in the city and the regions beyond.
Thirdly, he gives a challenging analysis of Cell Church, which he sees as a God-given vehicle for Christians to look again at the centrality of small groups, but not the genuine article that God is ultimately restoring.
For those who reject Simpson's basic thesis, there is still enough rich material on small group dynamics to inspire and apply to any house group in any type of church. For those more sympathetic to its core message, this book may leave you reeling but it will not leave you unchanged.
Wolfgang Simson's book "Houses that Change the World" is considered a classic by many and probably is the best known book globally on the topic. This may be, in part, because Simson travels frequently and extensively around the world speaking and casting a vision for the house church movement. It has several strengths. First, it gives a whirlwind tour of how the church went from being a grassroots "house church" movement to a bureaucratic institutional "cathedral church." Second, the author has a way of putting words together that catches your off guard and makes you take new notice of things you thought you already understood well. Third, it provides solid philosophical and practical tips on how to start multiplying movements of house churches no matter where you live. Fourth, the 15 theses offered near the start of the book challenge the very framework that many consider to be bedrock truth and challenge us all to get back to the original blueprint of what the church was meant to be - simple, strategic, and scriptural! My main concern with this book, however, is that its biblical analysis was not thorough enough for my liking. Although scriptures are given to argue for a New Testament-style house churches, the scriptures are not assessed closely enough to give anything like a "theology of house churches" or to provide a practical nuts and bolts understanding of what the first-century church was actually like. Footnotes are completely lacking. And it could have been much shorter and made the same, if not greater, impact. Overall, however, this is a very worthy addition to the library of anyone wanting to be a part of what God has done in the past, what he is doing today, and what he is surely doing in the days ahead! Well done Mr. Simson!
RAD ZDERO, author of LETTERS TO THE HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT and THE GLOBAL HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT
So much has been written and said about this book - all of which I agree with - it really is life changing and allows us all to see our own Christian faith through a different lens. It is challenging and that is precisely what being a follower of Jesus is...challenging. I enjoyed it so much. It inspired me hugely and allowed me to see that we do not live very intimately, as brothers and sisters in Christ any longer. But that is precisely what is required if we wish for real change to take place. A great book.
A very incisive thought provoking book on the malady of and remedy for the church in the 21st century. Very challenging to our programmed mind sets, the authors arguments and reasoning are very compelling and Biblically grounded. This is not a book that's easy to read and then not act upon, for the reader it could very well start a Christian lifestyle revolution.