Monday, May 07, 2007
HOUSE CHURCH 101
What is House Church?
Most people who have never attended a House Church make certain assumptions about what it's all about, and many of them are incorrect. Until I started a House Church I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but now that I've had about a year of experience under my belt I thought I'd take some time to spell out a few specifics of what makes the House Church distinctive.
To begin, let's talk about what a House Church is NOT.
It's not taking what happens in your traditional church on Sunday morning and duplicating it on a smaller scale in your living room. Some friends of mine have house churches that ARE bit like that, but as a general rule this is not what House Church is meant to be.
This means you won't see a single leader giving a lecture for 45 minutes while everyone nods their heads and looks at their watch.
It's also not a home group. Again, I know a few house churches that are like this, but by definition this is also not what House Church is supposed to be. This means that you won't experience ice breakers that take an hour for everyone to explain who their favorite Looney Toon character is and why.
So, what IS House Church?
Essentially, the House Church is modelled after the Biblical model we find in the New Testament. Specifically we see a format described by Paul the Apostle where everyone comes together and shares a common meal, partakes in communion, gathers an offering for the poor, and takes the time to hear from each person in the group who has something that edifies the rest as they each follow Jesus.
"What shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." 1 Corinthians 14:26
So, in our Mission gatherings we start with a common meal. On Thursdays everyone brings something to share for dinner, and on Sunday mornings everyone brings something for breakfast and we begin by joining hands in the kitchen together and inviting the Holy Spirit to be our guest of honor for the time we have to share.
After the meal we eventually make our way into the den and everyone pulls up a cushion on a sofa, or sits on the floor, and we enjoy a time of singing worship songs together. There are several of us who are just barely decent enough to play chords on the guitar and between us all we modestly work our way through a few songs.
After the singing we usually share communion together and move into our "Share Time". This is where we allow each person, whether an elementary-age child or a single Mom, or even a former pastor, to share something that God has done or taught them about during the week.
Essentially, if you are feeling like you'd like to start leading a house church, don't picture yourself preparing a Bible lesson each week. Instead, get ready to facilitate as others speak and teach and share. Sometimes the powerful things we are taught come from the lips of one of our nine year olds.
In fact, in my case, I've learned that the more I shut up the better things go! I've even started to limit myself to no more than two "soap-box moments" for each meeting. This means I have to choose my issues carefully and it allows me to wait, listen, and sometimes even allow others to answer questions and explain scripture verses that I've had pat-answers in my head for the last twelve years.
The amazing thing I've seen is that, when we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to come and lead our group, HE DOES! (Especially when we actually let Him lead us and do our best to get out of His way).
As we've been taught by the Holy Spirit this way over the last year, I've been in awe of the fruit displayed in people's lives. In fact, in less than a year I was starting to see true repentance, maturity, and gifting blossom in our members. The best thing is that I know it has nothing to do with me!
The House Church is not a leader-based group. It is a peer-based group with a leader who prayerfully shepherds the people one at a time and mostly outside the meeting itself.
What fascinates me most about the House Church is how the designer, Jesus, inspired a family-based model where everyone was loved and honored equally. He inspired His disciples to create a system of Church that was totally unlike the Jewish Temple system or the Pagan Worship of the day. This humble, Spirit-lead group of mostly poor and simple people guarded our creeds and doctrines for three hundred years, turned the world upside down, and demonstrated the transformational power of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
To me, the design is genius, and the fruit of it is cleary evident in the Scripture and throughout the History of the early Church.
The Church that Jesus inspired and that the Apostles promoted was one where bigger wasn't better. Everyone person counted. Everyone's gifting was equally honored, not just those who had the outward gifts.
I'll admit, I am biased. But the fruit I've seen in my own life, and in the lives of the people who have been coming to our group each week, is enough to convince me that I never want to go back to church done any other way.
What I've learned is that Church is not a place you go, it's who you are. Our goal at the Mission is to "be the Church" not attend one.
I've also learned that Church is simply "God" plus "The People of God" and nothing more. The Church is not a building, it is about PEOPLE who love God and who love others.
Does this mean that traditional churches are "wrong"? Does this mean that only those in the house church really "get it"? No, it doesn't. There are just as many screwed up people in one as in the other.
However, whenever a church exploits people for its own gain, it is wrong. Whenever a church empowers people for the Glory of God, it is good. Whenever a church over-emphasizes one set of gifts over the others and devalues people, it is wrong. Whenever a church allows everyone a chance to be loved and heard and valued, it is right.
I can only speak for myself here when I say that, for me, the House Church is where I've actually experienced this level playing field. This is where I've seen disciples being made. This is where I am personally being challenged every week to get outside of my comfort zone and really live out my faith.
If you're experiencing this sort of vibrant spiritual life and you're part of a traditional church...Praise God! I know that God is at work in all forms and expressions of His Body and His Bride. The House Church has no corner on His power or presence.
For me, House Church is the best thing I've ever done with the word "Church" on it!
*To contact me about house church, or anything else, please do so at "elysiansky" (at) "Hotmail" (dot) "com" ...but remove the quotes and the parenthesis, etc....you get the idea.