This is part 8 in a series on the theology behind house churches. To see the other posts in this series you can find a link to them at the bottom of this entry. I am currently about half way through my series on house churches and thought that it may be a good time to answer this question. It is something that constantly gets asked whenever I share about church and unfortunately, there is no simple answer because the nature of our gatherings is not founded on a specific model to be followed. And what we are doing in Benoni, South Africa probably looks a lot different than what others are doing elsewhere in the world, even though we are being led by the same Spirit. Even our own gatherings never really look the same two weeks in a row. Sometimes we sing and sometimes we don’t, sometimes we pray a lot and other times only one or two people might pray during our time together. There is no list of boxes to tick, just a Person to gather to, for and in.
Nevertheless, last week I decided to make some mental notes during our time together and share it over here. Consider this, not the movie reel but rather a snapshot of what things can look like. So last Sunday, everyone arrived at 3PM as they do every week; on this particular day there were 12 adults as well as what at times sounded like a bus full of children present. We all chatted freely for nearly an hour. There was a lot of celebration over the fact that someone had gotten a new job that we had all being praying about. In one corner someone was speaking about creation and evolution (we have people on both sides of that fence in our family). Someone handed me a book that they thought I would enjoy (and so far they are right). Some visitors in the past have taken exception to the amount of time that we just sit around chatting, calling us a social club. It is something that I make no apologies for as relationships are high up on our list of priorities, Jesus said that people would recognize His disciples by the love that they have for one another. When I call someone ‘brother’, it is because he is close to me, part of my family, it’s not because I don’t know his name.
Anyway, as a group we then gathered the kids and with them, sang a few children’s songs, we let them choose some of their favorite songs and we taught them a few new ones as well. Some songs were in English and some in Afrikaans because we have English and Afrikaans speaking kids with us. One of the ladies then shared the story of Jesus raising Talitha back to life. The kids all loved it; we are blessed to have both good singers and people who are good with children among us. After this, someone suggested that we spend some time in prayer which lasted a few minutes and ended with a song which someone spontaneously started singing. Around about this time my wife and one of the other ladies entertained the younger kids in the corner of the room by making clay animals with them while the older people continued on.
We opened the floor up to anyone who had anything to share with us, one of the brothers spoke about the meaning and significance of leaven in 1 Corinthians 5, one of the ladies, because of a personal situation she found herself in, asked a question about how the church should deal with the issue of homosexuality in light of what the chapter says about sexual immorality. Somewhere along the line the kids had gone outside to play and 2 of the men went and stood outside to keep an eye on them.
From there someone else shared 2 short thoughts with us, one on faith and one on the trinity.
We then prayed again before sharing a meal together which concluded with the breaking of bread and another prayer of thanks.
By this time it was already 7 o’clock and some people had to leave, while a few others remained behind to help clean up. At around 8 only one person remained who had stayed behind because we have been going through a series of audio teachings together which are relevant to him at this point in his life.
Every single person contributed in some way during our time together; we have no worship team but we still sang songs of praise. There was no sermon but we still had teaching and exhorting from the bible. There were no ushers but everyone knew they were welcome. We have no Sunday school but our kids are still learning and being fed and by their 'church family'. This is what Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “When you come together, each one of you has a Psalm, a teaching, a tongue, revelation and interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” It may sound grand (and it is) but it is also risky and sometimes falls flat on us. When people have nothing to bring our meetings don’t flow and rather than having a flawless program cover over our cracks, we are left exposed (as sometimes happens). This is normally a good indication that we need to pause, reflect and pray together. And did I mention that we have 8 children between 1 and 6 years old in our little group? On a cold day like last week when we meet inside the house things can get rather noisy and chaotic from time to time.
This is still a process for us and things are far from perfect, with people coming and going, the dynamics are constantly changing as well. But there is definitely something authentic about it, something organic, something of Christ. It may not be for everyone but I wouldn't change it for the worlds tightest orchestra or most eloquent preaching because there is just, in my opinion, so much more beauty in being small, close and free.
Other posts in this series
Gathering to Christ
Two kinds of church
the Lords supper
A church without tithing
Temples made by men and the temple built by God
On authority, submission, coverings and accountability
Clergy, laity and the priesthood of all believers