I imagine there have been many articles that have been written to expound on this issue, but I want to add my thoughts to all the rest.
We have recently moved to Montana to be closer – 6 minutes – to the grandchildren. That this location is stunningly beautiful didn’t deter our coming here in the least.
The home church we left in Colorado Springs is a healthy, vibrant fellowship of believers that enjoys getting together. I miss them terribly.
We have been visiting a church in a building here that is alive and growing. The pastor here loves the LORD and strongly encourages the flock to be aware of the indwelling presence of Jesus. He seems to have a pretty good balance between grace and obedience, which is hard to come by in today’s church. I love that he emphasizes this critical truth.
The worship here is good. The band is focused on bringing people into the presence of God to enjoy Him and to actively worship him. This is a great thing. Worship is intended to be a time where we connect with our God, our Savior. It clears the channel between us and Him, brushing aside the cares of this life to concentrate on loving Him and renewing our awareness of His love. When the channel is freely open, we are refreshed and refilled with His love and we are more mindful of His abiding presence. Excellent performance in a band is incidental. Showmanship in a worship band can be detrimental.
This church also has a good grip on outreach. They recently started a satellite church in a town not nearby. It is too far for most people to travel to the home church. My brother in the Lord, Dave Duell, taught us that the 3 elements that the church should pursue are Worship, the Word, and the World. I would add that the aspect of fellowship is a vital component.
So with a great church like this available, and I’m sure there are many more like it, why do I prefer a home church? I’m so glad you want to know.
If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say involvement. In a healthy house church, every member is welcome to participate at his or her comfort level. Our house church is a wonderful group, ranging in age from baby/toddler to wise folks in their 70’s. We got to really know all these people. Humor was a welcome part of our fellowship and it didn’t detract from the serious pursuit of God. Jesus has personally told me jokes. He embodies Joy and that has to include laughter.
The gatherings start with fellowship, coffee, and goodies. I prefer this, as it allows us adequate time to really greet every one, hug every one, and see how their family is doing, how their job/school is going, and generally stay connected on a real level. It allows the worship and the Word to address issues as needed. This is really knowing people! Because we start with a half hour or so of fellowship, everyone is relaxed, no one is hurried. If someone is late, it’s not terrible.
We eventually drift into the living room and keep talking for a bit.
Honestly, our house church loved to worship. A few times, that’s all we did. Worship, the entire time. I loved our worship so much. It grew over time to being Spirit-led. At first, it was just Errol playing the guitar and choosing songs. As we, as a group, got to know each other and people got familiar with our songbook, everyone would request songs. Sometimes they were foot stompers and sometimes they were majestic. We began to notice a theme for each gathering. Soon Errol was joined by another guitar, then a drum, and more guitars. Some of the guitar players were just learning, but that is another beautiful part of a home church. Those learning can be included and begin to grow into worship leaders every week. I have seen several novices become leaders this way. So natural. Just before we moved, in a group of 16, we had 4 guitars, 1 Djembe drum, and several tambourines. It seemed that talent came from everywhere. People recommended songs and we would learn them and add them to the book. Everyone had input. Sometimes we would sing certain songs every week because the particular song was important to the person who requested it.
Our youngest member, age 2 at the time, had a small drum he would play at times. When he was just crawling and learning to walk, his toys were in the middle of the circle and he would play there. We found him not a distraction but a reason to rejoice in God. He is a blessing.
And I loved sitting in a circle. It was awkward at first, but I have grown to love its benefits! I can connect eye to eye with people as they worship or speak. It helped us bond. I can hear the harmony. Did I mention the harmony? Our small group had a few awesome singers. I learned a lot from them. Somehow the harmony lifted me out of that living room into the heavenly realms.
Our worship was more spontaneous. We got a lot of requests. We were free to talk over the concepts in a song before we went on to the next song. This enriched our understanding. Many times it led to a great discussion about some point and the group would bring out verses and questions and ideas until we felt we were understanding more what God’s thoughts are. Then we would worship more. Many times there was no “message” per se, just the discussions, but we were enlightened just the same. There were times when we had a message. Someone would have something on his or her heart and would bring it to the group. Then we would talk about it and find that it dove tailed with the worship theme. Everyone had something to share at different times. Some shared often and some only occasionally. It was a beautiful meshing of worship and the Word. By the end, we felt full and blessed. We could see the Holy Spirit leading our gathering.
And, of course, we prayed for each other. We would put someone in the hot seat and pray for their needs: healing, salvation of family, difficult circumstances at work, anything. And the prayers would continue through the week since we were all friends.
I will add a caveat: house church can be messy because we are being real with each other. Not everyone is mature. I have said some stupid things and had to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. This also is part of the beauty of home churches. We can be real and still be loved, accepted, and forgiven. We can get away from the facade we sometimes feel pressured to assume and just be ourselves. We can give grace to people who are growing and on the road, even though they have not arrived. This facilitates personal growth and corporate body growth. We just need to be good forgivers!
Was our house church perfect? Noooooo! But we were growing in the Lord and enjoying our fellowship. I am looking forward to seeing what God will do next!