This is in reply to a question on http://rev-agafangelos.livejournal.com/
. Rather than squat his journal, I'll put it on my own.
Basically there are two patterns:
1) The pure house church
2) The house church as an adjunct to a main church.
1) The pure house church is just that: a Christian group meeting in a private house or property, and part of a larger fellowship. As this is mainly a Protestant phenomenon, the pattern will be typically: bible reading, preaching (lots of it), singing (lots of it), personal testimony, prayer. There will I guess, be some arrangement for the eucharist, I don’t know how regularly or who is allowed to celebrate.
In China, where the authorities do not like Christianity being too apparent, there is an informal limit of 25 people for an unauthorized religious gathering. As houses are small, people often meet in offices (empty on Sundays). Being Protestant you need no other furniture than a bible, eventually a computer and beamer, and a decent cup and plate for the eucharist. I gather the main problem is less the police than complaints from the neighbours about noisy singing or car parking spaces being taken up.
When you hit the size limit, you split. Apparently this 'cell model' goes back to John Wesley and the Methodists, and came into China via the South Koreans (the main missionaries there).
2) The house church as adjunct is something that you will find in large parts of the Pentecostal/charismatic world. When I was involved in a Protestant charismatic church in Brussels in 1992 and 1993 (that's another story) the overall group of about a hundred was split up into 4 or 5 groups, according to where in town you lived and your linguistic preference (French or Dutch). Each group was normally led by a 'deacon' and would meet one weekday evening a week for bible study, sharing of faith experience, prayer and singing.