“gathering from house to house”
You can download in PDF format here: Experiences of House Church
After coming out of a “traditional charismatic church” we started on a new way; gathering from house to house. Earlier we had experienced “house groups” in a limited way while still belonging to our local church, but now we wanted to live a total paradigm change of Christian community using family homes. I contacted many people in the USA, Canada and New Zealand, who started this way earlier, to know their experiences. During one year living the community life in a natural way we have learned many things and reached some level of understanding. We are aware that we do not yet have a full understanding. We are in a continuous purifying process, and desire the Lord’s presence amoung us. We are now seeking a way of multiplication and are making efforts to build a new system of relationships in our region, in Hungary, and even with people in foreign countries as well. We have already formed some of these relationships.
To summarize, we can say the following. We don’t have a predetermined timetable for meetings, nor do we make a program or order of service. Events occur in an organic way and, therefore, each meeting is total unique and different. Our fellowship times consist of worship, prophecy and teaching. Here are some characteristics of our current practices.
1. Teaching – Adhering to a hour-long teaching or sermon as we did earlier in the traditional church would not be practical here because now we are an “interactive community” not an “audience.” Gathering from house to house we still have the three men who served as teachers in the earlier local church, but they now teach in an interactive way. We assign “home work” prior to meeting (writings, books, CDs or DVDs) to individuals or the whole community. We sometimes look at a teaching together and then discuss. More often people bring prophetic words they’ve received to the meeting to be read and discussed. People ask questions, and we try to answer them according to the Scriptures. It is very important that everyone learns to use Scripture to answer their practical questions of life. We practice this together so every one develops this skill. We have not had visiting teachers as we did earlier, but we are open and have invited people to come and share in such a fellowship. People have indicated they would come, but these are not from traditional churches. If any visitor comes, it will be with the concept of interaction with the people, not merely to inform them.
2. Worship – We don’t have a worship team, and it is not our goal to have one. There are three who play guitar and lead worship. We make an effort to live the Word which says, “everyone has a psalm, revelation, word . . . “ and encourage the people to be ready; to come bringing “everyone something.” According to these Scriptual principles, worship is not prepared by one person, and worship is created as we go with more people introducing songs that we all sing. If someone gets a song by the Holy Spirit at any time during the meeting, we join in singing that also.
3. Prayer, Revelaton, Prophecy – Mixed in during worship are prayers to the Lord to receive from Him. The people regularly get revelations, prophecies, thoughts and pictures. These are shared after each prayer. On every occasion two or three receive visions. (See for example the translated Vision of the Broad and Narrow Ways.)
4. Service to Each Other – It is very important to encourage, comfort and share joy. This part usually takes one to one and a half hours, and after that we help solve problems, praying to get revelation and advice to give. Everyone participates in this, an activity that the people totally missed earlier. Because of this sharing, we commonly need four or five hours for each meeting.
5. Spiritual Leading – We don’t have a separate leader group. The “elders” are among us (1 Peter 5:1) praying and discussing with all the others, who together make decisions. The elders have continuously received revelations and prophecies about the direction of moving ahead and what the next steps should be.
6. Support of Each Other/Sharing – This is an area that has changed dramatically from the earlier situation of tradtional church. According to the Word we are God’s family, and we have declared that we will live our lives as a true family. Now that we meet from house to house we know the home situation of each member; that is, the living conditions and needs. I personally have installed electricity, others have bought essential food for those in need, or purchased fire wood for the winter. Our cars are similary used like in a family to help each other. We have made a common decision not to own a building to use for meetings, only to rent space as it is needed. In the summer we can use the gardens of our houses where more people are able to gather. Therefore the congregation doesn’t have pay for building rent, honorariums to visiting ministers, or big, high-cost programs. Therefore all of our money is available to spend on meeting needs. Needs can be met by sharing cars, as well as paying for petrol or maintenance costs.
7. Tithes – We decided not to collect tithes (a tenth) but everyone will use available funds to serve and support others according to needs. In this way not everyone pays a tithe, but the richer members often contribut more than tenth, and the poor who have need are supported by the richer. We support the poor to help them out of bad situations and get them on the road to self-sufficiency. We had money saved that we used to stay in a guest house for two nights to build unity among the community. On another occasion we went on a day excursion together. [every left-over money are used to have with that.]
8. Meals in Common/The Lord’s Supper – These two things are very close. We share food in common at the end of every meeting. Sometimes it’s only pizza or sandwiches, or cold dishes, bread and drippings with onion, but at other times we have a real dinner party with the whole community eating together.
Fitting the tradional Lord’s Supper (small piece of bread and little cup of wine) into our sharing of regular food proved problematic, therefore, we quickly abandoned this practice and began to follow the practice of the first churches. We researched Scripture and the practices of other house churches. Presently we do the following:
– We looked at the Lord’s Supper as a possible way of meeting the needs of others, using the context of a shared dinner. Paul spoke of this aspect of the Lord’s Supper to the Corinthian church. Looked at this way, needy people are able to have enough to eat on a regular basis.
– Not every supper is the Lord’s Supper. At a normal meal we only give thanks at the beginning of the meal. If we decide to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, then the host (usually a man) pours wine or grape juice into everyone’s glass. Before eating someone gives thanks, remembering the crucifixion of Jesus – His broken body and shed blood. Then we break the bread. At the end of the supper we take our glasses and someone (usually another person led by the Holy Spirit) prays and remembers the communion and unity we have with Jesus and with each other by Jesus’ blood. After this we drink the wine.
– With the breaking of bread and drinking of wine during the meal, we remember the crucifixion of Jesus and reaffirm our unity. This is the difference between a normal supper and the Lord’s Supper according to our present practice. It looks like many people today are seeking the original meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
9. Meetings – The number of believers has doubled in the past year. Today we have about 20 people who gather in six family homes on a rotating basis. We meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays at three different places from 4 to 9 p.m. The Wednesday gatherings consist of three smaller groups, but there is overlapping with group attendance. There is not sufficient room in any one home for the whole group to get together on Saturdays, only in the summer where there is more room outside in people’s gardens. Sometimes only three or four will come together, such as a men’s meeting. The four men elders meet regularly to pray, share visions and discuss them. The elders prepare suggestions for the house churches, and the whole fellowship later acts on these suggestions. (In our earlier church there was a separte elder board which made unilateral decisions.)
10. New Believers – We baptized more born-again people last year. One young lady baptized another young lady, and one older lady an older lady. On another occasion after a tour together, the whole community baptized a young man totally spontaneously. We have been baptizing in a bath tub, but we are open to ther possibilities as well. Two people joined us from other traditional charismatic churches. We expect others in our fellowship to become totally committed to Christ and receive baptism in obedience to Scripture. Our target is not to enlarge the size of our congregation, but to see a deep level of real Christianity (quality, not quantity). We wait upon the Lord to enlarge the church with people born anew, and we are witnessing in our lives that He works this way. So our community has doubled in one year. Other reports from house churches document that this kind of duplication is normal.
We first try to reach unsaved family members in the homes where we regularly gather. We use the natural environment and activities – such as teaching guitar playing, helping with wedding preparations, praying for people who ask – to build relationships and manifest the church as the Body of Christ. In this way single believers become part of the family life of the church, who is Christ.
11. Spiritual Warfare – This way is not without its problems. During the past year we have experienced spiritual attacks feelings of heaviness from time to time. For two or three months after coming out from traditional charasmatic church, we had very strong spiritual attacks. Everyone in our city and region was against us for leaving the organized church. They thought our different way of being a church threatened their traditions. Even when we tried to explain, they didn’t understand and they didn’t want to have any contact with us.
The first six months when we were forced to be alone proved to be very useful. We had time to seek the Lord’s will, and to lay the groundwork for community living and working in a totally new system. We sought out other small groups walking in similar ways. We had to forget many of our earlier practices in organized church and seek after new ways. Even our earlier ways of thinking were a hindrance, and we had to put them aside. This was not easy for most believers. After two or three months, we were able to stabilized the community and lay foundations.
Also during this period we were visited by other Christians who caused disorder and disturbances. Some of these people where unknown to us. However, one highly visible and commited believer, who had not been afiliated with any church for some years, tried to destry our new community from the start. I had to send him away.
From the beginning we saw it was practical to divide the community into two different groups. One of the two groups was comprised of older believers. They were the “seed” in that they received visions and they laid the foundation for the new way. They gave stability to the community. The other group was made up of young believers who needed to order their lives and overcome their problems. After one year both groups now live together in a good community life without disturbances.
At this time we are trying to find a way of multiplication in order to live our beliefs in more small groups, geographically separate but connected within a network. This will be our way to enlarge. And we have experienced many more spiritual attacks because of it. Satan tries to cause disturbances among believers that we can’t understand, therefore, our only defense is to fight it in a spiritual way. And the Lord is giving us victory. We have organized a three day’s meeting in the mountains in order to reinforce our relationships with each other so we can go forward in this “natural” way.
Praise the Lord!
Jászberény, HU, 08-03-2012
I suggest to read the following booklets about Simple/House Church here: