In Acts chapter 2 we are told that the first followers of Jesus met together constantly to enjoy all aspects of life together. They gathered in houses for meals, prayer, praise, confession, study, and more. All these activities contributed to an experience of ‘mutual encouragement’, which literally means that they gave each other courage for the challenges of life.
We believe that House Churches are a core component of our identity at the Sheep, enabling the building of frienships and a level of mutual participation that is more difficult to acheive in larger gatherings (though we will continue to try in those also!) What the early church experienced we believe is available to us today.
However, in order to experience this benefit we must resist the powerful influences in our culture of privacy and individualism. As followers of Jesus we don’t lose our identity by joining our lives with others; rather, we find out who we really are. We have the opportunity to encourage one another beyond our current levels of comfort (or apathy!), daring to believe that the God who began a good work will bring it to completion. We are his workmanship (Eph 2:10), and we are this together as much as individuals.
House Church Basics
House church gatherings give us a time and place to cultivate friendships in the midst of our everyday reality. The goal is simple: life together. In community we learn to follow the way of Jesus in the world, a way that offers freedom from the socially acceptable slavery of busyness, progress, and self-improvement. As an act of cultural subversion, we gather with only one agenda: ‘faith expressing itself through love’ (Galatians 5:6).
We believe that living the Jesus life is nothing short of a revolution in our day…
The Basic Components of House Church Gatherings
Eat – They ate together with sincere hearts (Acts 2:46) Food is a gift from God’s good creation, given to strengthen us for living well and to experience the joy of friendship. When we eat together we remember that our spiritual life includes our bodies as well as our minds and hearts. Meals give us time to know each other in one of life’s most ordinary settings, free from distractions and deadlines. We learn to celebrate the ordinary and cultivate an awareness of the extraordinary people in our midst.
Share – They shared everything they had (Acts 4:32) The first Christians used their gatherings as an opportunity to meet the needs of the community: Body, Mind, and Spirit. If necessary, they would sell their property or possessions to meet physical and financial needs. When everyone was housed and fed, they would share ‘Spirit gifts’. Paul taught them that when they met together, ‘everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation’. In other words, God provided for their Spirit needs collectively – there is no room for a ‘one man show’ here. Rather they were to ‘speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’, encouraging each other for the challenges and trials of life. Balancing the body/spirit needs of the community keeps the church from being a service club or a think-tank.
Read – The Word of God is living and active (Heb 4:12) The Bible is a window into God’s story – His character, actions, and designs for the cosmos. Yet almost every page confronts us with a tension: people built to live a God-shaped life, but choose a self- shaped existence: people just like us. God desires the transformation of everything: our character, relationships, work and play. This happens as our stories become united with His story. Imagination is central to a living encounter with the Bible. We read to imagine a different kind of life, one in which faith is central to how we live. The goal: the Word of God (Jesus) dwelling richly in us, and through us to the world he Made.
Pray – They devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42) Prayer is the heartbeat of every child of God. Whenever Christians come together they pray for each other, pray for authorities, pray for peace, come before God in petition and thanksgiving, pray for their enemies, bless those who curse them, practice exorcisms and pray for healing. In prayer we wage war against the ‘gospel of human potential’. We declare that the Kingdom of God comes by the submission of our best intentions, as well as the confession of our worst: in a word, humility. Prayer is the practice of the humble.
Love – The fruit of the Sprit is Love (Gal 5:22) When Paul contrasts the life of the Spirit to the life of the ‘flesh’ in Galatians 5, his key point is that relationships are the context for both kinds of life: the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc…) is not a matter of private personal growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a description of what Spirit-led relationships look like. The expression ‘one another’ and similar terms are descriptions of the fruit-of-the-Spirit kind of life. They detail love in action. There are some 18 categories in the New Testament: Love, accept, welcome, comfort, instruct, carry burdens, confess sins to, pray for, submit to, be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving, serve, practice hospitality. Each imparts an aspect of God’s love. We believe that the smaller gatherings of the house church are ideal for practicing the Spirit gifts in a safe place.