The exaltation of Jesus Christ and the mutual edification of the Body of Christ should be the purpose and focus of very House church gathering.
When we come together, we are essentially practicing how to experience Jesus in our midst. This experience, however, does not take place over night.
It takes time for a House church to discover how to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul spent many years writing letters to the church instructing them in the things of God.
The church in Corinth in particular was one in which Paul gave instructions in how to experience and share Christ in a decent and orderly way so that everyone could be mutually edified, encouraged, and strengthened in the faith.
The early churches gathered regularly to worship and share the life of Christ with one another. For a little over 300 years, believers primarily gathered in homes all across the city to pray, sing, worship, and share the life of Christ together.
Luke records four pillars of early church community:
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” (Lk. 2:46).
The word steadfastly suggests an ongoing and deliberate effort of devotion on the part of the early church to observe certain basic disciplines of the newly established Christian faith community. These disciplines became the lifestyle of the early church, and the four pillars of community upon which early church life was centered.
The House church of today shares these same four pillars of community.
So, what happens when modern believers come together? Well, pretty much the same things that early believers experienced, except some things are practiced to a greater or lesser degree.
Unlike the institutional church, House churches celebrate Christ through the open meeting. I would like to offer some open meeting guidelines to help believers maintain order, direction, and focus when they come together each week to discover and practice the presence of Jesus in their midst.
1) Be prayerful (throughout the week)
2) Be prepared (to share)
3) Be sensitive (to the Holy Spirit)
4) Be courteous (and respectful of others)
1) Be prayerful Throughout the Week:
The house church is and should be a house of prayer. This is the most important business of the church. In between House church gatherings:
Believers should pray through out the week for the mind of Christ in anticipation of the next gathering of the House church family.
Prayer should be made for each member of the House church, any visitors who have frequented the House church, as well as any other needs as the Holy Spirit leads. Every House church meeting should include time for both corporate and private prayer. Each member should be encouraged to participate in the open prayer meeting.
There is no right or wrong way to pray. Prayer may be offered individually with each taking a turn as they feel led, offered corporately with everyone each taking a turn, or everyone praying aloud at the same time.
It is not as important how we pray, but, that we pray. Praying together is one way in which the Holy Spirit brings power and unity to the Body of Christ and frustrates Satan’s plans to hinder the House church from progress. Consider what Luke records in the book of Acts.
“And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12).
The most important thing lacking in the church today is prayer. This is especially alarming since it should be apparent that God’s work may only be accomplished through the Spirit and by prayer. If there is one sin the church is guilty of it is prayerlessness.
Every House church should be a house of prayer and should set aside specific time for the saints to gather for special prayer. It is recommended that the house church gather weekly for the sole purpose of intercessory prayer.
When was the last time your House church gathered just for the sole purpose of praying?
A frequently asked question is:
What about prayer offered in other tongues; is there not supposed to be an interpreter present whenever speaking in tongues occur so everyone may understand?
Not necessarily: There are two different operations of tongues in the church. Each has a different function and purpose. One is a prayer language and the other is prophecy in tongues. It is prophesying in tongues (when God speaks to man) that requires an interpreter.
However, prayer offered in tongues (when man speaks to God) does not need an interpretation, since the speaker is praying to God and not speaking to man. Does God need an interpreter? The difference being, prayer in tongues edifies the one doing the praying, while prophesying in tongues edifies the whole church. For this reason prophecy in tongues must be interpreted.
Yet there are rules of order that still apply. Prayer in tongues (outside of a corporate setting where all are praying aloud together) should not interrupt the flow of the Spirit and should not be out of order; as when someone else is speaking, teaching, etc, to the group at large for example.
The House church should be a safe place for everyone involved. When offering prayer or prayer requests, care should be taken not to disclose details of a private and personal nature that may affect the privacy of anyone you may be praying about.
Unless the Holy Spirit directs otherwise, be discreet and speak in general terms. Remember, God knows the details and they do not necessarily need to be spoken aloud.
Sensitive prayer requests should never be discussed or shared publicly with anyone without the permission of the persons affected. The confidentiality of the House church should never be compromised.
Sometimes, it is OK to ask if someone feels led to pray for a particular spoken need or situation. Often the Holy Spirit will impress upon someone present to minister to that person (or need) in prayer. Liberty should be granted in the meeting so that the Lord may use others to minister as He leads them.
2) Be Prepared to Share:
Each member of the House church should be prepared before hand to share with the House church family what the Lord has revealed to you throughout the week in your daily devotions, during prayer, and the reading and studying of God’s Word.
Come prepared to share a psalm, a scripture reading, a revelation you have personally received from the Word, a personal testimony, a song you have written, etc, that may contribute to the theme of the House church meeting.
Remember that everything that is said or done during the open meeting is subject to be evaluated by others (“those who sit by”) as to whether it is of the Lord and is in harmony with the word of God or not. Ask yourself:
Does what I have just heard or what I want to Request personal prophecy share fall within the guidelines of exhortation, edification, and comfort?
“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.? (1 Cor. 14:3)
3) Be Sensitive to the Holy Spirit:
When the Holy Spirit is directing the open meeting, the content and context of the meeting will flow naturally. Therefore, during the meeting it is very important to have the mind of the Spirit and seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Rom. 8:27; Eph. 4:3). To do this everyone must be sensitive to what is occurring during the meeting.
Because of the casual atmosphere, a House church can easily deteriorate into just another social gathering focused on worldly and carnal things.
Stay Christ centered and you will add to creating a climate where Christ can manifest His person and ministry. Remember it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus in our midst, and so should we.
Another question often asked is:
What about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The gifts of the Spirit were in operation in the early church. They are still in operation in the House church and may be classified as follows:
A) To know something, or gifts of revelation (the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the discerning of spirits)
B) To do something, or gifts of demonstration (faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles)
C) To speak something, or gifts of inspiration (divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy)
The nine gifts of the Spirit are meant to edify (or build up) the Body of Christ. Wherever Jesus is exalted and His Word received, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in operation (even if they are not easily identified, acknowledged, or appreciated).
As a believer, you should expect God to use you and others in the meeting as He operates by and through the Holy Spirit. Always be sensitive to what the Spirit may be doing.