Organic Church: Gathering with God's people with Christ as the Guest of honor. Letting the Holy Spirit lead. Loving God with our whole heart and loving His people with the same love.
The Home Church Explosion
Home churches are exploding across the nation and throughout the world. Several years ago I did a browser search for the subject "home churches." At that time I was amazed that there were 1.3 million hits. Now a similar search reveals over 186 million hits. Home churches are growing at an amazing rate. There is a reason for this amazing phenomenon. Christians are tiring of the program-oriented form of church life where most people are spectators while elite ministries perform.
Many are desiring church life that allows participation from all who are present. This demands small groups in an informal setting like a home. Indeed, it demands a return to the simple form of church life that prevailed in the first two centuries of the church age. We read of the experience of the first believers in Jerusalem:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles (Acts 2:42).
This verse reveals the four essentials to church life: the apostles' teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. Let's take a look at each of these essentials in the light of this home church explosion.
The apostles' teaching was and is the word of God as taught through the Holy Spirit. That word is now recorded in scripture and we can still be fully devoted to its truth. In many places today the word of God has become secondary to the musical entertainment and short "talks" delivered by pastors trying not to offend anyone. What God said and is still saying has taken a back seat to the "persuasive words of human wisdom" that Paul discouraged (1 Cor. 2:4). God's word as revealed through the apostles must be paramount in our gatherings. Our individual and corporate lives must be submitted to the truth revealed in the word of God. In the gathering it can be presented by teachers among us or through the give and take of participatory fellowship.
Fellowship is participatory sharing in which each person has the opportunity to participate as the Spirit directs. Paul describes this kind of church activity in several places such as Colossians 3:16, 17:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
A similar passage is found in Ephesians 5:18-21:
Be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to he Lord, giving thanks always in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Notice in these passages the words "one another." Through songs and sharing, Christ is honored and believers minister to one another. Paul's admonition to the Corinthians carries the same emphasis:
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
Everything done in the gathering of the saints is to be done for edification or building up of one another. Nothing is to be done out of selfish motives or personal ambition. Whether we are singing, teaching, sharing, or exercising a gift of the Spirit, everything is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus and for the purpose of building up and spiritually strengthening one another. This is fellowship as God's word presents it.
The breaking of bread is the Lord's Supper taken in the course of a meal. The Acts account makes this clear: "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people." Many other passages make it clear that the disciples partook of the communion meal each time they gathered (Cor. 5:8; 10:16, 17; 11:20f;) and that it was done in the context of a regular meal (Acts 2: 46; 1 Cor. 11:27-33).
Prayers, the fourth activity of the gathered church, speaks for itself. I always wondered why the word is plural in this verse. Whey doesn't the word say simply, prayer. When I started meeting with smaller groups in a home I saw why the word is plural. When we are meeting together someone may mention a need for prayer. We stop what we are doing and pray for that need. When someone else mentions a need we pray for them. So we have many prayers spoken concerning specific needs presented not just a general prayer. Many things begin to make more sense when we see the church gathered in small, interactive groups rather than one large passive group where widespread participation is impossible.
People have asked me where worship fits into this summary of activities. People asking this question generally define worship as the time of singing and music that we see in most church services. It comes as a surprise to many that the early church did not understand worship as a time of prayerful singing. Worship was the entirety of all they did when they gathered in the name of Jesus and all they did in their daily lives to honor Him. Worship is relinquishing control of our lives to Christ and bowing our hearts to Him. It is submitting to the will of God through the behavior of our lives.
The songs sung by the early church were sung to one another: "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). Of course they were singing to the Lord as well because our life in Christ is always loving God and loving one another. Notice that the songs were generated by the fellowship: "...each of you has a psalm, has a teaching... Let all things be done for edification" (1 Cor. 14:26). One believer might start singing a song and the others join in or maybe someone can sing well enough to sing it solo. The point is that the songs come from the process of fellowship and their purpose is to edify or build up the others.
As we seek these things we must not be legalistic or religious. The Holy Spirit is capable of leading the meeting and flowing through the listening hearts of those present. On the other hand I am deeply concerned with the mindless, passive, attitude that many so called worship services are generating. In some "worship services" it seems that the believers are merely going through motions rather than responding to the Spirit. This is caused by the passive atmosphere created by trained musicians doing the performing while the participants follow along.
God wants to move through His people. Jesus declared, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:38). He also said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63). The restoration that God seeks will flow by the Holy Spirit from our hearts. Activities originating in our flesh will not profit us spiritually. Let us seek to allow the Holy Spirit in our midst to establish the flow of our meetings and let us cooperate with Him by letting the rivers of the Spirit flow from our hearts.
Home Church Information
House Church Central
Supernatural House Church
The Church Without Walls International of Tulsa
Present Testimony Ministry
The Official Website of Christian Author & Speaker, Frank Viola.
Third Day Churches
Do church differently in the 21st Century.
Your home for house & simple church information.
House Church Basics
Books of Interest
Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola & George Barna.
Revolution, by George Barna.
The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway.
Living Water, by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway.
Ekklesia, Steve Atkerson, ed.
Permission Granted to do Church Differently in the 21st Century, by Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell.
The Normal Christian Life, by Watchman Nee.
Face to Face, A Dialogue with Jesus, by Lloyd Gardner.