We are called to preach the Gospel not lose it in some institution. We are called to proclaim the Word, to read the Bible in our services not hide it and thus hide our Lord!
We Christians, as the Church, are called to serve and to help one another in our "personal business" of life. This extends especially to strangers in our home, because our home is now also a church and we may not know the people who come (be smart, be discerning, and have boundaries to keep your family safe) to glorify God and because we do not know what help we may need ourselves. This is not being intrusive or nosey, or allowing abuse from people, but we are to be helpful when needed, in community and co-operation. This is what a home church fellowship helps us do. Many people, especially we pastors, often forget those who contribute to the ministry or who can be involved in it. We focus on the nosey wheel or what we plainly see in front of us and not see all the rest and their potential. This is not necessarily out of callous disregard, but out of our hurriedness of the moment, our focusing on our needs and ourselves over the needs of others. Paul, in his Epistles, cuts across cultural barriers and arrogance, and commends publicly, acknowledging many. We should be careful to always be people who honor and acknowledge others (Rom. 16:1-5).
Thus, when we came together in someone's living room for church, we can be better trained and unutilized for service. We can realize we are important and needed. Take a look at the word servant in Romans and other places in the New Testament: it means a servant who waits on tables versus a slave, who is usually called a bondservant. This is where we get our word for Deacon. As a home church, we all become deacons, like a Special Forces unit of an army, better trained and enabled to move and to serve (Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 12:7; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:8-3:13; 4:6).
A Home Church Reflects our Responsibility to Christ
We have a responsibility to Christ! In 1 Peter 2: 13-17, we are given a template on how we are to respond to government, but it also can apply to how we are to be loyal and serve in the church. We are called to do what we do for the Lord's sake; this is about authority. God establishes and is the authority. For this reason, Christ is extolled; His name and reputation remain good and shown in good light because we are His windows to the world! When we are submitting to others, we are submitting and serving as Christ did for us-and He is Lord! When we disobey Him or other authorities to get our way, we are disobeying God who opened the homes of those people in their leadership positions. We are to show respect. We Christians are to obey as long as our obedience does not contradict our obedience to the Lord and His precepts. We are never to violate the law of God, and this mindset will help set the tone for communion and fellowship in a small home church (Prov. 16:10; 21:1; Matt. 22:21; Acts 4:19; 5:29; Rom. 13:1-7; Col. 3:23-24).
Our responsibility and service help us worship our Lord with Praise, and in context, this also means being respectful and servant-orientated to others with thankfulness. Our response to God and to others sets the atmosphere and ambiance that resonates in the home church and that attracts others to us. This is more important in a home fellowship because it is also someone's home, someone's hospitality, and we can't hide from one another like in a regular church. We can't say one thing and do another to hide our true identity as a Christian, or to act outside of God's call and virtue. It also disproves the erroneous idea that because we have grace, we have a license to sin and to usurp our will over others. In this historical context, Christians are cautioned not to use the excuse of liberty to violently rebel against Rome (1 Cor. 7:20-24; Gal. 5:13; 2 Pet. 2:19-20).
To help ourselves, we need to see how we are to be as the Will of God, and with all due respect to God's sovereignty. He is in control and He places us where we need to be for His glory. We are called not to abandon our responsibilities and duties, because Christ, as our ultimate Master, is the one we obey, respect, and worship (Rom. 1:1; 6:22; 9:3; 1 Cor. 15:3-8; James 1:1). A bondservant was the lowest form of a slave in Greek times, totally at the master's disposal, and even expendable. He, along with others like him, rowed the boats of war with a whip at his back. For us, "bondservant" means total, surrendered devotion to the Lord; our will has been sacrificed to God's will and thus we are totally at the disposal of our Lord. We are not slaves in the social sense, but we are submissive and humble and rush to serve-not hide and be apathetic or conversely "lord it" over others (Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 12:7; Gal. 1:15; 2:20; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:8-3:13; 4:6)!
In Peter's Epistle, the background was that Christianity was getting a bad reputation from rumors and false allegations, and was being expounded by the bad actions of some Christians. This affected the church that met in people's homes. When servanthood was forgotten, pride stepped in and took over. The church was at a crossroads between dysfunction and the true worship of our Lord. When we are good Christians, and when we are behaving with good character, we prove Christ. When we act foolishly, we prove our accusers right. This is an important call and is instrumental in countering false accusations and persecution; it also shows a better picture of the Gospel to unbelievers!
A Home Church Reflects our Responsibility of Servanthood to Christ
We are called to recognize and respect those in authority (Ex. 22:28; 1 Kings 21:10; Prov. 24:21). We are also called to recognize and respect the significance and value of the personhood of all people-regardless of race, color, or creed (Prov. 1:7; 8:13; 16:6; Rom. 2:11; James 2:1.)! As human beings, we are all the same, and we bear the image of God (Gen. 1:27; 6:9; 1 Pet. 1:17)! This helps when we are giving reverence to God as Lord, not as an afterthought or when it is convenient. We are to come before God in this way, along with humbleness (1 Pet. 5:6). We become an instrument of endearment and respect that is supercharged with more meaning and power because of our intense reverence and awe of God and His holiness (Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; 3:5; 8:13; 9:10; 16:6; 31:30; Psalm 2:11; 34:11; 111:10; Isa. 12:6; Eccl. 12: 13; Mal. 1:14; Matt. 10: 27-33; Rom. 2:11; James 2:1). It does not mean we are afraid of Him; rather, we are fearful of His wrath (Romans 3).
Why? It is about respecting Christ and His order and the structure He gives us for the greater good of all people. Otherwise, things would be worse and anarchy would result. Then, as soon as a home church was set up, it would close down. This understanding of servanthood helps quench personality clashes, motivates unity, receives vision, and readies us for mobilization.
When we model goodness, it is convicting and inviting. Misdirected people-even leaders may get the message that their prideful ways are not so good. We all need examples of character and virtue, especially when we either do not have it or have never experienced it. This is essential in a family home and when that home hosts a church. God is the One who appoints leaders. Leaders will be held accountable for their ways, whether good or evil; we are to remain faithful to God and show our love for Him by being respectful to others around us. They will see His love in us, for love does drive out fear (1 John 4:18). Foolishness and the misdirection of authorities will be more thwarted by good examples than by terrorist hostilities (Rom. 13:1-7). By being the good example, and by ethics, we Christians can prove our Lord and make our homes an inviting and triumphant church. By remaining good examples, we show support for one another even in persecution!
No One in the Lord is Unimportant!
This is especially true in a home church, because each of its people is needed and wanted. One of the great aspects of a smaller church or a home fellowship is to help us realize the importance of interpersonal relationships, of cooperation-working together for a unified vision and purpose-and the value of encouragement! Our human tendencies are to focus on the big names, those in the limelight, and not realize the scores of people who do the tough work. Just watch movie credits and the hundreds of people it takes to make one, yet only the stars get the credit. So we think, hey, what can I do, who use me and we just hide in the church that we are supposed to serve at. In a home church, it is a lot harder to hide and a lot easier to step up and serve. We can better unitize our gifts and unity because we are all needed to serve. We can't hide in the narthex and expect people to not see us, or worry we are not important enough to be used. It has been said that the service we give to others is the rent we give to live on this earth!
The total life transformation that Christ gives us will not only change us from the inside out, but will allow us to be an impact on others for the Kingdom. The question we have to ask ourselves is what will our church do and be so we can be that help and encouragement-you?
The House Church Will Allow the Church to Persevere, No Matter What
Consider this: in countries where Christianity and a church are illegal for various reasons, those that are there are in underground house churches and they thrive! The question to you is, does your church thrive? If not why not?
God will persevere for His Church and in Hebrews 10, calls us to persevere too-no matter what. While we are here on earth, we can go before the Father in worship and prayer, boldly entering a reflection of Heaven before we go to the real Heaven. Each of us, as Christians, has the great privilege that the high priest in the Old Testament had only once a year. We have access to Him all the time; what is greater than that? And, it's all because of the blood of Christ shed on our behalf! This is what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to do in prayer and praise, learning and sharing as a local or a home church. Christ has opened up a world for us to enter where we could never have gone before, all because of what He did for us. We can go into the presence of the Most Holy God, trust Him, and have confidence in Him so we can lead our lives with pure hearts, forsaking evil desires because of His promise that has been given and kept. God is trustworthy, so we can be faith-worthy.
When we plant a home church, or continue with one, we have to realize that it is all about Christ! We have Christ's empowerment and His assurance for living. We can hold onto Christ tightly, and not waver when times are bad or we can't see where we are or where we are going. As we are encouraged to persevere, we can encourage others to trust in Christ, have hope for living, and demonstrate endurance in life and/or in any opportunities or setbacks we face. We can love and have outbursts of love and worship instead of stress. So when you gather as a church in a home, meet in fellowship with love and respect for one another, because one day, Christ will return and He wants us to be ready by exercising faith and confidence in Him now (Heb. 10:19-25).
In the Bible we are often called brothers, a reminder that we are all a part of the body of Christ, in community with one another and in unity with Christ and His work. Therefore, we are never alone, away from God, or away from one another (unless you isolate yourself, as these early church folks were seeking to do). This allows us to build upon one another and be encouraged to keep on. It gives us the confidence, so we have the ability to be bold and go before God because He has saved us, renewed us, and empowered us. We do not earn or deserve this outpouring; it is a gift of love and grace. (Heb. 2:1-4; 4:15).
The House Church is Still the Holy Place of God
When we do church, we are not merely entering someone's living room or basement; rather, we enter the Most Holy Place, meaning we have access to God's Heavenly Temple where before, in the earthy copy, only the high priest had access, and then only once a year. We can never trivialize or condescend that a home fellowship is not a real church, because it is; when believes gather, it is a church, period. This is a monumental opportunity and shows us the depth and magnitude of how much we have been saved. We come together under the covering of the Blood of Jesus. We partake in His sacrificial death and resurrection-He who appeased the wrath of God for us. Because He did this, we can receive salvation, as well as the joy and honor of receiving forgiveness for our sins. God was more merciful with us than we could ever have been with anyone else, or could ever deserve. No matter what we go through from persecution or loss, we could never even catch a glimpse of what Christ gave to us through grace. If we do not get this, we do not get church, and we will just fool ourselves much like a dog that chases its tail (Matt. 5: 3-12; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 1:5-6)!
We come together as a home fellowship to be tighter with God and one another, because we are in the presence of God, just as the priests in the Old Testament were when they went into the Temple and passed behind the veil that hid God's presence from the people, because no one with sin could approach Him. The ark of His covenant was kept behind the veil. Jesus tore the veil so we could all approach God in an understandable and able manner. Jesus is the veil that was torn for us; His sacrifice tore open the way for us to enter into God's presence, and to know and worship Him (Ex. 25:10-22; Lev 26:11-13; Num. 12:7; Duet 10:1-2; 2 Kings 25:8-10; Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Heb. 3:6; 6: 13-20; 9:3, 23; 10:19-20; Rev. 3: 10-13; 4:6-8).
Christ is over all, as in "Lord of the house." In Jewish tradition, the eldest son took over the family estate and/or business; he was the sole or primary heir. Now, Christ is Heir of all things. God's house was not the Tabernacle or Temple; it was God's people and Christ, the Shepherd of us all-those who are His faithful, the faithful remnant of Israel, and then those who accepted Christ (Heb. 3:1-6; Heb 10:19-25).
Our chief obligation as a home church, is to help people worship, to help them draw near, meaning we partake in an invitation to enter the presence of God. The church leader is to help lead fellow Christians in worship. Our example is our personal relationship with Christ. This means we have clear, uninhibited access to God because of Christ (Gen. 4:2-15; Psalm 15; 73:28; Jer. 30:18-22; Matt. 27:51; Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:13-22; Heb. 4:16; 7:19-25; 12:28; 3:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:4-10).Doing a Home Church can be Tough, Yet Very Rewarding
The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are to one another and to what Christ has called us to do and be. Once we make real peace with God, we will be able to make and maintain peace with others. In context, this means believers need to practice unity and peace among one another as a display of how God brings peace to all of us. If we fight and are in disunity, "how can God be of peace" will be the objection from those who do not know Him (whom we are called to reach) or are new to the faith. Paul experienced strife and then reconciliation-a model for us all (Rom. 12:4; Eph. 3:6; 4:24-26; Col. 3:15).
There is no better, faster track to a great spiritual life than to simply work on our faith. To do this we need one another; we can't hide in a mega church, not plugged into a small group or Bible study, and expect to be fed and grow. We cannot just sit on a pew for an hour or so a week and expect to be transformed. We need more; we need to feed upon His Word, we need to fuel our faith by our devotions, and we need one another to encourage, equip, and keep us accountable. I believe a home church is one of the best platforms for this. A bigger church sometimes can't feed individuals unless they plug the people into smaller groups and/or mentorships. A big church can be more effective as a collection of home fellowship groups that come together for convention on Sundays, or it can be just one small church. It was Christ who bore our sins and redeemed us and He is the reason we do church. Why would we hide from this or seek favor from an alternative that does nothing? The answer is that faith is a free gift, but we must practice it and do so mutually in due diligence to build and mature it. Thus, we can learn to put off our fears and to put on our Lord.
Some thoughts on leading a home fellowship to consider:
- How can your home fellowship be challenged to do more to continue and complete the ministry Christ has given you?
- How can your church be an instrument of love and servanthood, one that exhibits appreciation and faith and desires to do what it takes to put them in action?
- What do you think God wants you to do to help others move their faith forward? What do you need to do to go beyond the mindsets that hold you back? Remember: faith is not blind or reckless.
For a deeper and more radical transformation, look back on your church life, your relationships, and connections, comparing how you once were with how you are living in Him now. Has there been progress? If not, what must you personally do before you challenge others to go and do? A church needs to progress, not merely in numbers, but in the far more important realm-the spiritual formation and mobilization of its people! If you are not doing this, you are not doing church!
© 2009, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/