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Starting a House Church

STARTING A HOUSE CHURCH

GREG GORDON

Shakespir Edition

Copyright © 2017 by Greg Gordon

All rights reserved.

No portion of this booklet may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

ISBN 978-0-9958926-3-7

For information about other materials, visit our website: www.sermonindex.net

12 13 14 15 / 5 4 3

Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.”

Colossians 4:15

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Historic Roots

2. Principles

3. How to Start?

4. Common Practices

Notes

Introduction

Life is full of surprises. I remember when someone who met me for the first time was surprised that someone so young was the founder of the sermon ministry I have been involved in for many years. Our perceptions are not always accurate, and our conclusions can be wrong when we are just looking on the outward. It will, therefore, come as a big surprise for some to know that the Church began in a house.

Not only did it begin in homes but it stayed mostly in homes for the first 300 years of Church history. When we look at New Testament references, we find that all references to the Church are almost exclusively relating to believers meeting in homes (Acts 16:40, Romans 16:3-5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Philemon 1:2).

The early believers were under constant harassment and persecution that seemed to have little relief. Homes were even where Jesus did much of his ministry. What will also come as a surprise for many is that the house churches were not as some suspect they would be.

When I began researching house churches in the first few centuries of the Church, I was looking for non-religious meetings that were informal and very simple. Yet, when I found pictures, they seemed very religious, formal and austere—even in the homes! One picture of a house church even had painted pictures of Bible scenes on the walls and a built-in baptismal pool! This was not the type of house church I expected to find.

It is amazing how we can be wrong in our conclusions. I was looking to present a “house church only” model to believers as the potential best Biblical model to follow. After more research, I found that homes were built or used so that one entire side was used exclusively as a gathering room for believers. Instead of the modern Western house church model, I found more building-orientated thinking. It does, therefore, make sense that, as Christianity grew and expanded greatly in the fourth century, they adopted larger, permanent church buildings.

A few years ago, we released a free ebook on house churches that had nearly 100,000 downloads. This helped start many home meetings, even in different countries. We rejoice in this and believe that God’s Church is growing and expanding all over the world. The book had an emphasis on coming persecution to Western countries. This is something we still believe is happening as we are beginning to see a post-Christian culture form.

In this booklet, I am paraphrasing and condensing some of the principles from the larger volume, as well as adding in some extra notes and helps.

May you find these short meditations helpful in learning more on the basics of the Church that Jesus birthed and how we can be involved in helping to start a gathering of believers in our local area.

CHAPTER ONE

Historic Roots

The Church is not a new thing in the earth. We are actually a part of a body of believers that is over 2000 years old! Imagine it. For over 50 generations, the Church has been passed on to each subsequent group of believers and leaders. The Holy Scriptures have also been copied and passed on, and we still have them today. So when starting something new, like a house Church, it is a comfort to realize we are entering into something with great historical weight.

One of the accusations towards people starting house churches is that they are doing something new and innovative, with new doctrines. This can be true if someone is starting a church on their own ideas and basis, and if it does not historically line up with other believers throughout Church history and the Scriptures.

In other cases, some believers have not been able to submit to any Christian authority in their lives, always thinking they are right and others are wrong. In some cases also, believers starting house churches have been greatly hurt by other Christians or Christian leaders and, therefore, are seeking to protect themselves.

Christianity has, for 2000 years, gone through many periods of disagreements and divisions, but each successive generation seems aimed at repeating past mistakes, disagreeing with each other, and, in the end, separating to “do their own thing.” The current amount of division in the body of Christ speaks of this problem of not being able to agree on the common elements of the faith.

First Century Apostasy?

The main driving force of some people to start house churches is the strong belief that the entire Church, by and large, apostatized shortly after or during the life of the Apostle John. This means that the truth was lost, and the Church began to depart from God’s intention and direction. Therefore, there is a distrust of all of Church history and now some current house church movements are looked at as the restoring of the original Book of Acts Church.

What this also means is that there was always just a very small minority of those who somehow held to the truth, and the majority was always wrong. Does this type of thinking seem familiar?

I took a phone call once from a man who stated that he could not find others who believed his gospel. My first assumption was that, after he left the pastorate, he was simply having a hard time finding other fellow believers who would hold to similar convictions. After two hours on the phone with this man, I realized he was preaching another gospel (Galatians 1:8). His argument was that, after the death of the apostles, the truth died and only now, in the twenty-first century, it had been revived and he was the messenger. If someone attended a church of any kind, he stated, they were believing a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11) and lost! When he asked me what my gospel was, I shared with him the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. His reaction was curse words!

One term for this type of thinking is Restorationism, which means the truth was lost with the apostles and now in our modern day is being restored. Such thinking is the seed-bed of many denominations and especially cults. Also this thinking is usually very exclusive, meaning that we have the truth that is restored and others do not. Even other restoration type groups fight amongst each other over who really is the group that the Lord is with. If Jesus came back, we could see the picture of all the leaders of these groups asking the Lord to verify their own church as the true and only church.

How do we know if our actions and words today are following in the same spirit of some of the opposers of the Gospel in the beginning of the Church? One test we can take is to ask ourselves: Do we consider God’s Church sacred? (1 Corinthians 3:17). Or do we speak and treat other believers with little care, speaking our mind strongly and seeking to prove what we feel is right at any cost?

I have heard some people in our modern day speak without blushing that the entire Church has been wrong throughout history, and they now understand the true way. Most of the people I have heard espouse these new ideas do not fellowship in any church and also have moral laxity in their lives. In free thinking societies with complete religious freedom, we should have a great fear of God that we do not speak and teach in ways that are departing from “the faith once given to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Being a Part of the Historic Church

Some believe that Church history began with Martin Luther in AD 1500, and to consider anything before that time is not worthwhile. Such thinking also has created a narrowed vision of the Church Jesus has established.

Perhaps we can consider another way of thinking. We can consider that the Lord has always had His Church (Matthew 16:18). It has not been perfect, has failed and, at times, has needed to be reformed and restored. There has always been a continuation in the work of God, and we are not called to start something new but rather continue something that is old. This does allow for new denominations but these groups should be helping to reform and build upon the 2000-year-old Church we are all a part of.

Individualistic evangelicalism has been leading to what today is over 42,000 denominations worldwide. God has called some of these groups to stand for a truth, yet not apart from the larger testimony of the Church throughout the ages. The Corinthians were of this individual carnal thinking, everyone doing what was right in their own eyes (1 Corinthians 3:4, Judges 21:25). It is a humbling reality that the Church did not begin with us and might not even end with us. We are just a part of God’s plan through the ages. Instead of trying to deconstruct what the Church is today, we should be seeking join with God’s testimony and possibly help reform it. What is exciting is that we can actually be a part of the Church Jesus is building in our day (Matthew 16:18). Being involved in a house church meeting can be very much the will of God and his leading.

Some things that keep us in line and with the historic Church is agreeance with statements of faith that ancient believers held to.

Along with common practices such as communion and water baptism, we can ensure we are a part of the Lord’s work by not being apart from other believers, or being so exclusive that we do not agree with any other believers in Church history.

Starting a house church can be a very simple thing to do but we must carry with it the solemn sense of carrying on what Jesus and the early apostles did.

Where is Jesus?

Some have asked: “Where is Jesus in the midst of so many denominations in Christianity today?” This is a good question, as the original intention of the Lord was surely not for so many churches to exist and compete against each other. One answer we can give: He is walking in the midst of all these groups and different churches. He is acknowledging those who are his, part of his one Church (Ephesians 4:5), those who are “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In the book of Revelation, we see the picture of Jesus in the midst of the early churches: “And among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.” (Revelation 1:13). What a wonderful picture to meditate on.

What will set our hearts in the same mind of the Lord is to also seek to be unified with all brothers and sisters in the Lord no matter what name of church or doctrinal emphasis or preference. Of course, that does not mean we unify with what is heretical or wrong. But it does mean we are filled with grace towards others and we realize that we only see “in part” (1 Corinthians 13:12) until the day we are before the Lord in heaven.

As you seek to follow the living Christ in exploring starting a house church, start with this prayer:

Lord, I am prone to see so earth-bound, the outward and what I have grown up in. Please give me a vision to see your Church as You see it. Allow me to be a part of Your work in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

CHAPTER TWO

Principles

Jesus Christ is coming back for a unified Church, a holy Church, an uncompromising Church, a Church that is full of love for each other and for the lost world.

As we look to start a house church, we can learn many general principles according to God’s Word which can help our gatherings be more focused on the Lord and his commands. May these principles be encouraging reminders to you.

The Headship of Jesus Christ

William MacDonald said, “Christ should be the gathering center of his people. We should be drawn by his presence, not by a man.” How many times have we seen the emphasis of a church gathering around a man, special teacher, charismatic presenter, wonderful worship songs, but not the Son of God himself. When starting a house church, we should center everything around the very Lord of the Church himself. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), the very reason for our meeting.

When we come together for fellowship, we are prone to bring many preconceived notions of how a meeting should operate. We tend to rate our experience based on how good the worship made us feel, or how affected we were by a particular sermon—all too easily forgetting that it isn’t about us at all. It is about him. If we come to meet with the living God and to experience him rather than looking to men, we would be much more edified, and that would result in our glorifying him even more. Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote: “For every time you look to men, look ten times to Christ.”

Our desire should be that the Lord Jesus Christ have the preeminence, not a pastor or famous speaker. In Church history, Christian gatherings centered around the Holy Communion which spoke of the Lord’s death and very person. When the elements were placed in the home gathering, it spoke of the reason for the gathering of believers. Also, gathering towards a cross on the wall, as churches have for centuries, shows each person the reason for meeting, to meet towards the Lord Jesus himself.

It is his Gospel, his Church, his Glory, his Scriptures, and his Kingdom that we proclaim. He spoke the world into being. He rules God’s creation. It is his Spirit that he gives us. For he is the only Son of God. “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” Amen.

God Birthed

We can take heed to the admonition given by the psalmist: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” If we attempt to start a fellowship without the calling of the Lord, the entire endeavor can be in vain. If the church model is not built solely upon the Word of God, then we can end up building our own church and not the Lord’s.

To have a desire to escape a religious atmosphere in order to have a less formal meeting where people are free to “just be themselves”—without reverence for God or submission to authority—is not the Church. We are deceived if we think we can redefine the body of Christ to be a place where there is no leadership, no holy presence of God, no conviction of the Spirit, no reliance to God in prayer. We live in a world where comfort, happiness and financial prosperity are the goals, but we know that, “friendship with the world is hatred towards God” (James 4:4). We must look not to the culture around us for our example, but to our Lord and to the example of the early followers of Christ.

As God directs in the formation of the body of Christ, and as we follow the whole counsel of the Word of God and seek to be in-line with the history and practices of the Church throughout the centuries, God will add to the Church daily. Holy reliance on his Word and obedience to the direction of God will build your fellowship into the Church God desires.

Order In Worship

Many house churches in the West use 1 Corinthians 14 as the main text to show how a meeting of God’s people should run. What is interesting is to take a more clear view of this Corinthian church. When we carefully read the entire epistle, we realize that they were acting carnal (chapter 3), not submitting to local leaders (chapter 4), allowing incest (chapter 5), abusing the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11), some were not practicing head coverings (chapter 11), and at every meeting all wanted to say something (chapter 14)! Rather than being the best example of a church, it seems they were in need of constant correction by the Apostle Paul.

In modern evangelical churches, the participation of the congregation is almost nothing, and this is an anomaly in Church history. Most churches since the times of the apostles practiced stating creeds in unison, reading Scripture, and worshipping God together in other ways. This lack of participation has created a vacuum that house churches in the West have sought to fill with every member participation. First Corinthians 14:26 has been the verse highlighted for this practice, but when we look at the context, we see it is actually a correction for believers who all wanted to selfishly share their own thoughts and doctrines every meeting.

Paul shares the Lord’s heart to these believers and the practice of all the churches that: “God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

A way to remedy this is to submit to God-given giftings and leadership, putting the focus on the Lord Jesus, and find historic ways for the body of believers to confess faith together.

Our gathering as a church is not about our personal liberties but a solemn time to come and worship God himself.

The Good News Message

All Christian service is based on the finished work of Christ. The early apostles taught that godly living was out of appreciation of the mercy of God.

They had the Good News message of the resurrection of Christ and the hope of trusting in Him for eternal life. This message of God’s love is open to all humanity and is not to be a message of condemnation. We can only rely on the precious blood of Jesus Christ on the cross to be saved. We are saved, not by our own power, but our salvation is the gracious gift of God to us.

The finished work of Christ is something that was preached by the apostles through everything they did. When they partook of the Lord’s Supper, it celebrated the resurrection and sacrifice of Christ. When they baptized individuals, it spoke of the work of Christ in redeeming us from death to life. All Church practices were centered on the Good News of our redemption through the cross of Christ Jesus. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

The true work of Christ allows us to love all others because God in Christ loves all. “Who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:6).

Though there is a narrow road that we walk with the Lord (in sanctification and growing into His likeness), yet we must never forget that it is the Good News that saves us and keeps us in daily communion with our Lord. All of the Lord’s people need to continually remember our precious Lord who bought us at such a great price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The preaching of the Good News must be under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1 it tells us: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Our Lord gave the great commission to preach his Good News to the ends of the world, for a lost humanity.

Serving in Humility

When we look into the Book of Acts, we find many examples of leaders who served the body of Christ. A leader always exists for the people, not the people for the leader.

The twelve apostles were servants to widows, giving them bread daily for a season, until they realized they needed to fully devote themselves to studying the Scriptures and giving themselves to prayer. They delegated the function of physically serving the widows but expanded their service to the congregation to give them spiritual food. Though a shepherd in the body of Christ is called to watch over the flock, be in the Word and prayer, and teach the body, he must do all in the spirit of servanthood to help others.

The brothers God will use greatest in local areas are those who do not feel qualified to lead but exemplify servanthood. These believers are those who fully rely on Jesus Christ and not their own abilities. God does not entrust himself to those who are ambitious for position, power or prominence in the work of the Gospel.

Servant leaders in the body of Christ simply want to see the entire body come to fullness in Christ. They are called of the Lord to protect the flock as the Lord grows each member by his Spirit. “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Believers will recognize the gift and calling of leadership on a brother, and as an early Church document (the Didache) states: “Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.”1

True shepherds realize they are accountable to the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ, and will be judged more harshly for what they have taught and done (James 3:1). Therefore, they serve in the fear of the Lord, in meekness, grace and love, knowing their motives and works will be judged one day (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Lastly, always seek to have patience in a house church gathering and allow the Lord to raise up qualified leaders who will serve the body well.

Satanic Counterfeit

We have to remember that Satan is the father of lies. He is a murderer from the beginning and dwells in falsehood (John 8:44). He never wants the glory to go to Jesus Christ but rather twists the truth and deceives those in the Lord’s work to take glory to themselves. House churches and small gatherings have been used as ‘seed-beds’ for the formation of many cults and spurious teachings to flourish; therefore, we need to be on guard because of these things.

Satan is also the master counterfeiter who has been deceiving God’s people since the beginning. He spoke to Eve and deceived her by twisting the truth of God saying, “Has God indeed said?” Such twisting of the truth is his normal activity. Since the earliest days of the apostles, even with our Lord himself, there were deceivers and false brethren present: those who secretly come into God’s flock for personal gain and to infiltrate the liberty of the believers, betrayers, deceivers, false brethren, false prophets, and those desiring preeminence among the saints (3 John 1:9).

One key to understand the working of God versus Satan in a meeting of believers is the emphasis put on the Son of God. Those that worship, honor, and glorify the Holy Spirit more than Jesus Christ are not led by the Holy Spirit to do that. The Holy Spirit will always honor Jesus Christ; thus the true working of the Spirit can be distinguished in measure. The Scripture states: “He shall not speak of himself” (John 16:13).

In the end times, there will be an influx of those in the Church teaching doctrines of demons to deceive even the elect of God. There will be many false teachers who claim to be of the truth but are not. The most dangerous weapon against the Church is not persecution, but deception. One key feature of these deceptions is that there is something new offered, when rather we should be seeking to believe the truth that is old and that which the Church has held to from the beginning.

Godliness in Submission

We must submit our minds to the authority of Scripture as we submit to God in our spirits; He owns us now. We must submit to those whom he has equipped with callings and giftings in the Church to lead the body of Christ. God always has and always will place shepherds in the body of Christ to help oversee and protect the flock of God under the chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Peter 5:1-3).

When we follow the way of un-submissiveness and elevate our own selves, we fall into the place of being ruled by the spirit of Lucifer or Satan, who was the first to rebel against God. Thus, he will influence us to rebel against God and all of His delegated authorities that have been set up.

1 Corinthians 16 says “to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.” Peter the Apostle said, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:4-5).

Learning submission will help us grow in godliness and also unity in house churches.

Loving One Another

The law of love says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Our Lord not only commanded the early disciples to love one another but said that it would be a fruit that would show the world that God has assembled a Church on the earth (John 17:21). Every believer should consider reading through 1 Corinthians chapter 13 on a regular basis to keep the right priority in Christian discipleship.

The phrase “one another” occurs over 25 times in the New Testament. Here are some of the phrases: Wash one another’s feet, love one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, stop passing judgment on one another, accept one another, instruct one another, greet one another, agree with one another, serve one another, bear with one another, be compassionate to one another, submit to one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, do not slander one another, act in humility towards one another, fellowship with one another. These statements are not a rule sheet to keep but rather truths that the Holy Spirit of God desires to work into our lives for us to become more like Jesus Christ. To walk in this New Covenant way of love requires a resting and dependence on the grace of our Lord.

John Wesley said, “Beware of schism, of making a rent in the Church of Christ. That inward disunion, the members ceasing to have a reciprocal love ‘one for another,’ is the very root of all contention, and every outward separation.”

The two greatest commandments in the Bible given us by our Lord are based on love. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37).

We need to look at every brother and sister in Christ as being in Christ which gives us a foundation and basis for fellowship. If someone is not in Christ, then there will be no fellowship of the Spirit and no common love for the things of God. Christ is the unity of the Church and, as each member of the body looks to the Head to whom they are connected, they also find their unity with others in the body of Christ to whom they are also connected.

Birthed in Prayer

Prayer is not just one of the functions of a house church, it needs to be the foundation and atmosphere of everything.

The Church was birthed in prayer. It was sustained in prayer. When they were persecuted they called a prayer meeting. Prayer was the beginning of the Great Commission. The disciples prayed for a successor after Judas died. Peter prayed for the lame man at the temple gate. Stephen interceded for his persecutors when he was being martyred. Prayer was the main activity of the Church. Ananias was praying when God directed him to anoint one of the early key leaders of the Church. Peter the Apostle was praying when God directed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul prayed for direction many times in his missionary journeys. The Apostle Peter prayed for the resurrection of Tabitha from the dead. Prayer was the engine of the early Church that helped it grow and reach the world with the Good News.

There are thousands of references to prayer in the Bible. One of the greatest privileges of the child of God is to speak to his Father in heaven by prayer. Prayer is the litmus test for the health of the Church and the child of God. Prayer demonstrates our reliance upon God, and the lack of prayer shows our independence from God.

When a leader of a Church planting movement was asked why God was so evidently at work in his country he replied, “A key feature was sacrificial prayer before evangelism had even been attempted. One training college did little but pray for six months before going out to evangelize and plant churches. Daily pre-dawn prayer meetings, all day prayer and fasting, and nights of prayer are some examples of sacrificial prayer.”2 The life of the Church is found in lively, prevailing, private and corporate prayer.

CHAPTER THREE

How to Start?

Starting can be one of the hardest things to do. Many people have stopped at the point of a conception of an idea or goal. They just sit there and imagine all that could go wrong or what could have gone right, but never take a practical step towards seeing it come to pass.

Although the work of starting a church is a very holy calling and must be led of the Holy Spirit, it also is a very practical, simple thing. We should not be so spiritual that we do not see anything ever happen. Taking initial steps of prayer, waiting on God, and fellowshipping with other believers informally can be great steps forward into this exciting journey of seeing a house church form.

Beginning in Prayer

Larry Kreider said, “If you feel that you are called to start a house church, gather a few likeminded people together and begin to pray.”

The beginning of a house church should not be a reaction to something wrong in another church experience but, rather, a holy leading from God through prayer.

Consider spending several weeks informally meeting to pray. God can, through these times, bring great unity and a sense of purpose in the calling of starting a house church.

Spend time waiting on God, even in silence—worshipping Him and hearing clear direction of the steps forward. During prayer times, read out sections of Scripture—perhaps a Psalm.

Speed Bumps

We should not think starting a house church should be easier than anything else in life. When driving a car, at times we go too fast over a speed bump and, of course, everyone in the vehicle feels the jarring experience. These shaking experiences in house churches come many times as individuals navigate life together and in the worship of God. When we read 2 Corinthians, we see the humanness of the Apostle Paul and his love for the people of God. We also see that there are trials and problems and, as we embrace others in the body of Christ, those pressures will not be excluded.

Some guidelines will be needed for very basic things such as where to meet, how to notify people, setting down rules for visitors in the home, etc. Also, in the leading of meetings there will be awkward moments, as it is a new thing being explored. We should not take these moments too seriously.

David Servant said, “The application of grace and patience is wise as a new house church is birthed. The initial format may be more a home Bible study, with one person leading worship, another sharing a prepared teaching, and then closing with an opportunity for corporate prayer, fellowship and a meal. However, as the Biblical format for house churches is studied by the group, the servant leader should encourage the members to strive for God’s best. House church meetings can circulate from one member’s house to another each week, or one person can open his home each week. The meeting time and place does not have to be Sunday morning initially.”3

Where 2-3 Gather

The genesis of a church in Scripture is seen in this simple statement of our Lord, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). A fellowship of believers where the Lord Jesus is present is the Church, even if there are only two or three believers there.

There is something special when you meet a brother or sister for the first time and, after spending some time talking, there is that fellowship of kindred minds in the Spirit of the Lord. Yet the meeting of the Church that Jesus Christ recognizes is more than just meeting to talk or even discuss the things of the Lord. It is a time given to invoke the holy name of God in reverence and to verbally proclaim his goodness, promises and character. It is a time where we come together to exalt the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and worship him in words of heartfelt gratitude in his holy presence.

Heavenly Worship

The Church is not just a fellowship or gathering of believers but a heavenly worship experience. We are assembling towards the living Christ. Early believers held to the concept that when the Church gathered it was entering the worship of all the believers of the ages. When the believers assembled, they were assembling with the holy angels and entering into the very throne room to the ceaseless worship of God (see Revelation 5, Isaiah 6).

Some ingredients to a meeting of believers, according to the Scriptures, appear to be as follows: Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7); singing (1 Corinthians 14:15; Colossians 3:16); prayer (1 Corinthians 14:15); Scripture readings (1 Timothy 4:13); Bible teaching (1 Timothy 4:13); head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:1-16); and collection (every first day of the week, presumably when they were assembled—1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

What matters most in starting a house church is that the focus of the meeting be towards the Lord and the worship of him. All the things done in a meeting are to be symbols, guideposts, pointing the way to the thrice Holy One we worship (Isaiah 6:3).

Evangelism

Seeking to reach the lost is one of the core foundations of a house church. God never intended believers to go from church to church, choosing what style of gathering was best for them. Rather, churches are mission stations reaching out to lost men and women in the name of Christ.

Our Lord’s words in Matthew 28:18-20 should be the mission statement of every house church:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Seek and find unique ways to share the Good News of Jesus with your neighbors and those close to you. Many house churches have started with a simple invitation to a lost family for a meal. If you do not have a strong gift of hospitality, then try and find another believer who does and team up with them in outreach.

Unity in Truth

Most gatherings of believers seek to formulate a statement of faith or belief that unifies the gathering. Though it can be a good exercise for believers to go through the Scriptures and write a unique statement of faith, we can rather look to Church history and see many unifying documents that believers agreed with together. Christianity has been founded on statements of truth that were confessed verbally. Here, we see a statement that Peter the Apostle gives to Jesus: “You are the Christ” or Messiah. Such a phrase was similar to the statement, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). These fixed statements of Christian faith were repeated over and over in New Testament writings, along with the meetings of the Church. Romans 10:9 states another well-known early Church creedal statement, “Jesus is Lord.”

The Apostles’ Creed was also certified in the second century as originating from the apostles themselves, and the Nicene Creed was a modification of the initial creed, clarifying the incarnation of the Son of God. Repeating verbally in each meeting such a creed together, in unison out loud, can build up believers in the faith and cater towards unity. The creed is as follows:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Worship and Unforgiveness

It is not optional that we worship God as believers in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us not to forsake the gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). We need each other in this brief pilgrim journey through this world. Being a part of the body of Christ proves our confession of faith, our willingness to die to self and serve others.

If past experiences of churches have been hurtful to you, you must forgive all those that represented Christ. When we cannot forgive others, we are minimizing the cross of Jesus Christ and don’t realize the great sins that we have done that were put upon Christ. Unforgiveness itself is a sin (Matthew 6:14-15). Bringing past hurts and pains into a new house church will only cause others to be possibly embittered to the Lord’s work. Start with a clean slate, leave the past behind you, forgive and forget, and the Lord will bless you.

Lastly, we want to move on to some common practices that you can follow in your house church gathering. These practices are apostolic and were practiced by the earliest believers. Following in this way, and not in new contemporary ideas, will ensure we worship God correctly and lead others in this right way.

CHAPTER FOUR

Common Practices

As alluded to throughout this book, the apostles had traditions (2 Thessalonians 2:15, Acts 2:42) in which early believers found unity. These traditions put the focus continually on Jesus Christ and the work of the cross. We are calling these traditions here “common practices.” As the Apostle Paul said: “We have no other practice—nor do the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16). As you seek to start a house church, the desire should be to follow what the first-century Church practiced and followed in.

In a day and age when there are so many new ideas on how to start churches, and many clever techniques and methods, we must be very careful to follow only what the Lord directs us in His Word, along with confirmed Church history. (In other words, the practices that the second-century Church continued in as a consensus, showing us that what the apostles taught from Jesus Christ was meant for all generations.)

These practices are stepping stones for you to take in starting your house church on sure footing. Some house churches begin with no idea of what to do and end up being glorified Bible studies and evangelistic outreaches only.

Our goal should not be pragmatic but to seek to worship the Holy One (Isaiah 6:1-4) and respond in that worship to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.

Let us look at the first common practice:

Holy Communion

The Lord’s Supper is clearly a New Testament practice that the early disciples kept, as its significance is tied into the end of the age. The Scripture declares that, as we remember the Lord, we are proclaiming his death until he comes back (1 Corinthians 11:26). Churches throughout history have, in different ways, always had this memorial before the Lord as a very central part of their worship.

In 1 Corinthians 11, we see the clear directive of this practice:

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

The book of Acts clearly shows us that the believers in the Lord met every Lord’s Day—Sunday—to celebrate communion (Acts 20:7), which also was called the ‘breaking of bread’ (Acts 2:42). Francis Chan says, “We take the Lord’s Supper in a reverent and Biblical manner and keep the cross as central. This common act connects us with believers of the past, and it proclaims the death of Jesus to those observing.”4

When the communion elements are placed in a central place in the home gathering each individual is reminded why they are assembled. They have come to worship the Lord and have gathered towards Him.

The Lord’s Supper reminds us to visualize and remember the great sacrifice of our Lord. An old apostolic prayer states: “To us you have graciously given spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your servant.” Thus, we should be thankful and humbled in the breaking of the bread.

There has at times been questioning whether the communion elements were just symbols or something more. The conclusion that Scriptures give us is that the Lord’s Supper is a mystery. This means we do not fully understand what happens but, by faith, we obey the Lord in this ordinance. There are clear warnings against dealing with the elements unworthily, once prayed over for the purpose of remembering the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

The apostles and early Church took it literal when our Lord said, “This is my flesh and blood.” Clement of Alexandria (AD 191) said, “‘Eat my flesh,’ Jesus says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children.” St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was discipled by the Apostle John himself, said, “I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ.”

Our Lord himself said:

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:54).

Let us in simplicity, reverence, and worship remember the Lord.

Scripture Readings

The public reading of Scriptures in New Testament churches was a clear and definite part of the worship service. Paul the Apostle reminded Timothy to encourage the public reading of Scripture (see 1 Timothy 4:13).

This practice was actually not only a New Testament tradition but goes all the way back to Moses and the reciting of the Torah. The standardized reading of Scriptures was established before Christ, and this was the practice of all Jewish people in synagogues. The early Church adopted this practice and continued with Scripture readings in meetings.

The use of lectionary and liturgical readings can be traced back to the fourth century, where the Scriptures were read almost in their entirety every three years through this scheduled reading.

House church gatherings should not lose this Biblical tradition but continue with reading large portions of the Scriptures in a meeting. The Epistles themselves were read out loud in early church gatherings, “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16).

To practice this, assign various portions of Scripture to different believers to be read each Lord’s day. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Many traditions of the Church conclude the reading of each Scripture passage with the phrase, “This is the Word of the Lord.” This practice will ensure that lively faith is built up in believers. A common lectionary also allows believers from various house churches to read the same Scriptures as other gatherings, which builds unity with the larger body of Christ.

Aside from reading Scriptures, another great unifying practice is to encourage an annual read-through-the-Bible plan for all believers to follow.

Other Practices

Another universal Church practice that has been neglected in our day in Western countries is the practice of the women’s head covering. To the early believers, the practice of head coverings was as valid and important as holy communion and water baptism. In relating to head coverings, Paul the Apostle said this custom was followed by all “the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16). The Holy Spirit also gives an appeal from the creation of man to show this is not just a local custom in question but a universal command and truth (see 1 Corinthians 11:7-12). The early leaders of the Church were all in agreement. As an example, Irenaeus (in AD 120-202) said, “A woman ought to have a veil upon her head, because of the angels.” Charles Spurgeon, a well-known Baptist pastor, echoes the same belief over 1500 years later by saying, “The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is because of the angels.”

Scriptures also speak of the practice of ordaining church leaders as per the instructions of our Lord and the apostles. We see that Christ is the Head of his body, the Church (Colossians 1:18). Under Christ, the Head, there are episkopos and presbuteros (bishops and elders) who give servant leadership to the Church (Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 3:2). The Greek word “episkopos” means an overseer of God’s work, and the term “presbuteros” means an elder or mature individual in the Church. Leaders in the Church are appointed by other godly leaders in the body of Christ (Titus 1:5). Also, deacons (literal “servants” in Greek) are those who are ordained to help serve in the body in practical things (1 Timothy 3:1–13).

Along with other traditions and practices in the early Church and in Scriptures, we see the “holy kiss” or the “kiss of peace.” This was a practice of early Christians to greet each other in the peace of Christ as brothers and sisters in the Lord (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14). We can keep this wonderful tradition in the Church by making a time before holy communion to have believers greet each other saying, “Peace be with you” or “God’s peace.” This should be done to ensure there is no unforgiveness between others before partaking of the elements. This practice is still done today in many protestant and older churches dating back to the apostles.

Closing Prayer

As you have read through this book, you might have received confirmation of a truth you already knew, learnt something new, or been challenged to re-think a practice of “church.” Our important driving force needs to be the will of God found in Scriptures for the Church. It is a holy and humbling thing to be involved in the work of God in anyway. But that does not mean that we have to be greatly qualified as we start. The Lord chose even fishermen to be apostles. As long as we walk this path close to Jesus and follow in the testimony of sure believers throughout history, we will end well and find ourselves bearing “much fruit” (John 15:8).

Whether the church starts in a home, stays in a home, or is in a church building, we can all be a part of the work of God on earth as a testimony to the nations.

Let us close with a prayer asking God to make these things clear to us as we consider whether or not to begin the journey of starting a house church.

Lord, I desire to be involved in your work. Please allow me to accomplish your will, being a part of the Church, Jesus is building. I give you my ambitions and desires and ask that you will help me to start right and finish well. I rest in the fact that Jesus is building the Church and I just long to be a part of this. May you sanctify, help and strengthen your Church worldwide and grant a new local expression to start through myself and others. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

If this booklet has been a blessing to you, I would really like to hear from you. You can send an email to [email protected]

Notes

1 Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: Chapter XV.—Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof, accessed Friday, Jan. 20, 2017,

http://st-takla.org/books/en/ecf/007/0070423.html.

2 Carol Moerman, Prayer and Church Planting Movements, accessed Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, [+ http://murraymoerman.com/3downloads/donton/don/12-Prayer%20and%20Church%20Planting%20Movements.pdf+].

3 David Servant, The Disciple Making Minister, Page 55, 2005.

4 We Are Church: Church Structure, accessed Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, http://wearechurch.com/structure.


Starting a House Church

“I will build My Church...” The Lord has always had His Church (Matthew 16:18), it has not been perfect, has failed and at times, has needed to be reformed and restored. There has always been a continuation in the work of God and we are not called to start something new but rather continue something that is old. In Starting a House Church, Greg Gordon gives us many practical ways forward to help start a house Church accordingly to the leading of the Holy Spirit and being in-line with the testimony of Scriptures. Find out today the way you can be involved in the building of the Church.

  • ISBN: 9780995892637
  • Author: Greg Gordon
  • Published: 2017-02-04 19:35:11
  • Words: 8668
Starting a House Church Starting a House Church