A year ago we made a big shift as a church away from the traditional church meeting, based around a Sunday worship/preaching event, into home church. We now meet around a meal rather than a program and we love it. I thought I’d add to this site the letter from our website (slightly revamped) that explained our reasons for do so.
THE REASONS WHY WE AT LONG LAST WENT HOME CHURCH
1. IT HAD BEEN PART OF OUR VISION FOR A LONG TIME
From the start home groups, cell groups, house church, whatever we called it, had been a feature of our church. We started in a house and had always felt that it was in homes that we’d experienced our most valuable times of connecting to each other. It was in our homes that we relaxed and opened up, and often where we’d learned the most, both about God and each other.But we’d also been a church that had valued the Sunday corporate gathering. It was the value that we placed on that that eventually led us, via a number of rented facilities, to build The Fellowship Centre. At the time we felt that Sunday morning church was an important expression of what it meant to be a church. Building the Fellowship Centre was in fact a bold and exciting move. I had no doubt at all that God was in it. It was a very prophetic action requiring faith and a unity of vision that was rare among the churches on the Coast.
However, as we were about to move into our building, I was troubled by a concern that the building and all that happened in it would become for us ‘church’. And so in ’96, quite prematurely and with a lot of enthusiasm but not much wisdom, I embarked on a bold experiment to make sure that that did not happen. We put our home groups on Sunday morning and met for our Celebration on Saturday night. I loved it – no dressing up, no musicians practice at 8am, no late night sermon preparation, relaxed Sunday morning breakfast – just the way it is now!
But it seems that only fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and I hadn’t noticed the look on the angels’ faces. I’m sure that they knew in their wisdom some things that I was about to learn. Namely that you can’t rush people into change and that the prophet, although he can see what the church is meant to look like in the future, has to live in the now and be much more patient and pragmatic in bringing about God’s purposes. The experiment lasted three months and then we were back to church ‘as normal’.
I learned a lesson from King David in this. You will remember that David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem and how his first attempt finished in failure. This was not, however, because his vision and enthusiasm was misguided. Not at all. This act was driven by a hunger to see God’s glory and was profoundly prophetic and strategically important. What was at fault was simply his understanding of God’s ways. It took him awhile to get that right but the day eventually came for him to carry out God’s purpose which is what he did.
Last July I felt that we were standing at such a time. The years since ’96 had been valuable years. They had matured us, refined us, clarified the vision within us and prepared us to make the move into home church. It was a natural move for us
2. IT’S HARD TO BUILD HOME CHURCH UNLESS YOU ARE IN A HOME.
Another thing I realised last July was that if our vision is to build a network of home churches on the coast then we can only effectively do that by making the home the centre of our activities rather than our building.
I had long felt that while we meet on Sundays in a special building we will continue to see that as ‘church’. We therefore needed to move out in order to get our thinking in line with New Testament thinking. In the New Testament we only really find one main setting out of which the church operated and that was the home. It was in the home, gathered around bread and wine, that the church experienced the fellowship of Christ and the life of the Spirit. It was simple church, unadorned by the clutter of activity that goes into modern Sunday church services. And it was powerful church, an underground movement that was able to be easily reproduced. It turned out radical disciples and changed the world.
For sure there were other settings in which they met. There was Solomon’s Porch, a large outdoor gathering where they initially met daily, and in Ephesus we find Paul teaching daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. But note that these had little resemblance to the public meetings of today. They were almost exclusively for the purpose of teaching, preaching and evangelism. It is highly unlikely that they included musicians, worship or the breaking of bread or any of the other things that are part of ‘normal’ Sunday worship services today. Not that we are at all tied into copying such early church meetings. My point is that in the NT these public meetings had a definite focus of teaching and training. They were not where the main life of the church was at.
We do have a building, a nice one and fully paid for. But the building cannot dictate our vision and will be an important asset to us in the years ahead. For now we are blessed that it has become a greatly appreciated meeting place for a number of other church fellowships in town leaving us free to explore an alternative way of meeting.
3. GOD IS CHANGING THE EXISTING EXPRESSION OF THE CHURCH
Mike Bickle, in his book Growing in the Prophetic, relates a revelation that came to him in 1982, in a hotel room in Cairo, where the Lord said to him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one generation”. When I ask myself what is the main ‘expression’ of Christianity in the earth today it is, apart from our denominational systems, the way we meet. To most onlookers the church is ‘a group of religious people who gather each Sunday morning in a special building, sing special songs and listen to a sermon by a specially ordained pastor or priest’. Whether it is the Catholic mass or Hillsong (or all that is in between), that about sums up Christianity for most onlookers.
Well, God is changing that expression of the church. I suspect that in the future, although there will remain an important place for teaching and preaching, the main meetings of God’s people will be far more informal and will be for interaction, fellowship, prayer and hands on, practical outreach. Like Mary and Martha there will be a sorting out of what is really ‘necessary’ in order to be the community of Christ on earth. This will involve the slaying of not a few sacred cows along the way (see Stuart Gromenz’ Micro Church site for a few that have to go).
But the move back to simplicity and the stripping away of the excess baggage will in the end produce a church that is very different to what we see today. A church that has thrown off the trappings of this world, discarded its techniques and values, and is sold out for Jesus and Him alone. Mat Redman summed it up in ‘The Heart of Worship’. It’s all about You, Jesus. Let’s go back to when it was more simple.