Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meeting with a House Church

On Sunday we did something we have never done before: our family gathered together with a house church. It was a wonderful experience.

This past week was vacation for me. We stayed around Savannah to relax and get some things done. As we approached Sunday, we didn't really know what to do about church. We wanted to get together with a church family somewhere, but we weren't sure where to go. The more we thought about it, the more we liked the idea of coming together with some friends of ours who are part of a house church.

We arrived at their home at around 11:00. We were the first to arrive, so we just hung out with our friends for a few minutes before others came. We knew some of the others and got to know the ones new to us. Everyone welcomed us and made us feel, appropriately, right at home. We all stood or sat talking for fifteen to twenty minutes. This was a nice way to get familiar with those we didn't know.

At some point, we gradually made our way to the living room. This family has been blessed by God with a big house. That made it comfortable for twenty or so of us to be there together. Ages ranged from infant to about 50. Most of us sat with bibles open. Before we studied the scriptures, we had time to tell what God is doing in our lives. We also prayed. We spent much of the time studying and discussing Daniel chapter 9. That is the difficult chapter that tells of Daniel's prayer of repentance and his hearing from Gabriel about the 70 weeks. It was a blast to discuss such a tough chapter in this setting. I was thrilled to be able to listen much more than I spoke. Everyone was free to enter into the conversation, including kids. We spoke about themes of repentance, humility, sin, prophecy, end times, etc. We saw that this all points to Jesus Christ.

On top of all this, it was great to be able to spend Sunday with my family. Normally, I'm too busy on Sundays to see them very much.

After our more formal time of bible study, we did what churches do - we ate. The theme for the day was Mexican. The different families all brought various forms of Mexican dishes. I'm not sure what all I ate, but I know it included tortillas, meat, and cheese. We topped it off with brownies. Priceless.

Actually, the priceless part was the fellowship. As we ate, we stood around talking for several hours. I spoke with some of the men, while Alice spoke with the ladies. This was not planned, but just seemed to happen this way. Our kids ventures off somewhere in the house to play.

As I stood around with the other men, we spoke a lot about the church in general. We talked about how this house church could function more effectively. I was pleased to see that they are open to change and are wanting to be more biblical all the time. I'm certainly no expert, but I chimed in with my two cents. We ended up leaving at about 3:00.

Two main things stood out to me from this house church. First, the relationships seem very real. There was very little at all that seemed fake to me. Because of the setting (home) and the numbers (20 or so), these people really know one another and feel comfortable sharing real issues with one another. There was a great deal of edification going on which, after all, is the point of the church gathering in the first place.

The other main thing that stood out was that Jesus is the focus. He is clearly the leader of His church, the focal point of the gathering, and the chief shepherd. No one human person is "the man." No one dominates the action. Even in the informal discussions, the desire is to live more fully for the glory of Christ.

In this house church, everyone learns together, eats together, grows together, and is mutually encouraged in Christ together. It felt very real, or to steal an overused word, authentic.

No church is perfect. After all, we are all sinful people. No doubt there.

Despite that fact, I liked a lot of what I saw in this house church. They are trying to follow the biblical model. Everyone participates and everyone is built up.

Christ is the head. No one gets is His way.

I'm thankful to God for this experience. I'm thankful for new friends.

6 comments:

Norma Hill - aka penandpapermama said...

Is this the kind of "village" then, that you would feel comfortable having them help raise your child in some ways?

Thanks for sharing this.

Alan Knox said...

There are HUGE advantages to allowing and encouraging people to share and teach and pray and question, etc. The people actually get to know each other while meeting together... plus it encourages them to WANT to get together outside of the weekly meeting.

This week, a brother was talking about some of the struggles he's faced lately. He ended up breaking down in tears, and we all surrounded him and prayed for him and encouraged him. He said, "I've been meeting with you all for about 8 months, and I know you better than the people in the last church that I met with for many years."

-Alan

Eric said...

Norma,

Actually, yes it is.

Eric said...

Alan,

What you describe is a beautiful picture of what the church should be. If we can't be real among our church family, then something is very wrong.

Pastor Josh said...

As one who once spent several years meeting in a "house-church" setting, I agree there are several blessings associated with it. However, let me offer a word of caution. Who is the 1 Tim. 3:1-11 bishop in this setting, who watches for their souls (Heb. 13:17), feeds them the bread of life (1 Pet. 5:2), and examines himself regularly as one who will be held to the greater judgment for what he teaches (Jam. 3:1)? In my experience this critical part of a biblical church was neglected in the home-church setting. Had this been biblically addressed and corrected, I believe we would have been extremely close to being a biblical church.

Eric said...

Josh,

Like any type of church, a house church should have elders. They have the above responsibilities.

I agree that some house churches shy away from having elders. I suppose they do this because of what they have experienced from traditional church pastors. Despite this, they should have elders.

I will say that it is much easier for a house church to move toward having elders than it is for a traditional church to move toward getting rid of its big building and salaried pastoral staff.