fundamental nature of life in the 1st Century church can be summed up
in the following scripture verses: (Acts 2:42-47)
continued steadfastlyin the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in
the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and
many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were
together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods,
and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one
accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate
their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor
with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being
house church ‘movement’ is a noble attempt to get away from the pitfalls of the
institutional church, as it seeks to return to the small gatherings of people
that constituted all of the churches of the New Testament era. The
emphasis at this site is not to criticize the institutional church, but rather
to lift up its biblical counterpart.
downside that can happen seems to occur when we focus on multiplication instead
of fellowship with Jesus, and each other. Do not misunderstand, reproduction is
necessary as we pursue obedience to the commission of Jesus, however we should
remember that the increase of His government (or kingdom) is both ordered and
established (see Isaiah 9:7). We should also remember that life
Scriptures that point toward
where the church met in the various cities throughout Asia Minor
include the following:
and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my
life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the
Gentiles. Likewise greetthe church that is in their house.
The churches of
Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the
church that is in their house.
(1 Corinthians 16:19)
To Philemon our
beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our
fellow soldier, and to the church in your house
brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in
As for Saul, he
made havoc of the church, enteringevery house, and dragging off
men and women, committing them to prison.
Since this last verse seems
to indicate that meeting in private homes was ineffective for the avoidance of
persecution, we need to return to the verses in Acts chapter two if we want to
identify whythe 1st century believers gathered
together in one another’s homes.
20:18-21 says — And
when they had come to him, he (Paul) said to them: “You know, from the first day
that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord
with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the
plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed
it to you, and taught you publiclyand from house to house,
testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward
our Lord Jesus Christ.
apostolic pattern of teaching publicly and house to house accomplished a number
of things. First, it allowed for the impartation of the Word of God into
people’s lives. It also accommodated the exercising of ‘spiritual gifts’ among
the believers, as well as making room for any visiting emissary sent forth from another
gathering. The house type of meeting also allowed for genuine loving
relationships to form which aided believers in dealing with everyday challenges
that effect us all.
Typically there were two types
of meetings that took place. One type being more of a ‘body–oriented’ type of
meeting, in 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 the bible says “How is
it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm,
has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all
things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be
two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if
there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to
himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep
silent. For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all
may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the
prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all
the churches of the saints.” In this type of meeting, generally speaking
there will be prophetic oversight. This type of meeting by their very nature
probably took place only in private dwellings.
These types of meetings also
enjoyed and put into practice activities that typically would be thought of as
"...and breaking bread from
house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
praising God and having favor with all the people..."
The reason that this is referred to as family oriented, is that God intends for
us to walk out our faith as family.
While the first type of meeting
is ‘body oriented’ and more often than not took place in the homes of the
believers, the second type of meeting relied more upon the gifting and calling
of what is called a ‘five-fold’ minister (see Ephesians 4:11-14). The bible
says in 1 Corinthians 14:6 that Paul spoke to the people by revelation, by
knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching. Although a ‘five-fold oriented’
meeting can be overseen by a teacher (who teaches) or a prophet (who
prophesizes), usually an individual moving in all aspects mentioned above may
indicate an apostolic equipping gift.
The point is, there are two
types of meetings. One being ‘body-oriented’ typically occurring in the home of
believers. The other meeting is ‘five-fold oriented’ which will take place
either in a public or private setting under the guidance of five-fold /
The administration of each meeting must be determined by the direct leading of
the Holy Spirit, and not the agendas of men.
There is a paradigm shift occurring on several
levels within the body of Christ. What I believe is beginning to taking
place with Shilohouse and is also beginning to take root elsewhere is the shaping of
'the church in Ephesus' or in modern day terms would be the church in Orrville
or the church in Houston Texas, etc. This church is an area wide network
of autonomous house churches led by pastors/teachers who meet from time to time
in a public format as directed by the Holy Spirit. (Again not the
agenda of men).
While each house church is autonomous, they are in covenant
relationship; whereby they serve one another and pool there financial resources
together so that individual groups are not left to fend for themselves whenever
the needs are more than one group can bear alone. As house church leaders
(pastors/teachers) they serve in a governing counsel of elders dealing with
situations and opportunities that effect the network of house churches at large.
The continuity within the
network of house churches is also aided by a team of five-fold ministers working
in humility together. This team consists of apostles (usually one or two
-see Romans 15:18-20), prophets, evangelists, and teachers working on an
itinerate basis from house to house as the Holy Spirit leads them. This
team of five-fold ministers also serves along side the eldership team to discern and
follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
A Word of caution: The tendency of men would be look
at this blueprint and say among themselves 'this is how we do this.'
It is absolutely essential though that these types of structures remain
spiritual and function in a relational way. When we began to follow the
'how to' list that all institutional religious structures gravitate towards; we
move away from the relational dynamic that was part of the vibrant life within
the early church.
A snapshot then of where this type of
scenario existed is found at least partially in Acts 15:6 and Acts 20:17-28.
For more discussion on this aspect see the five-fold ministrysection of the wheel.
A note of guidance: In this biblical
framework; every house church is
overseen by a man of peace . This doesnot mean that women
can't lead, it only follows biblical principles that our Lord practiced and
taught (see Men of Peace below).
Here is an example of what a house church network
might look like today.
All house churches (regardless of color coding)
would typically be
led by pastoral / teacher type men and women.
represent newer house churches in the network.
couples have a duel role of being chosen as deacons for the network.
have a duel role of the husband serving as an
appointed elder for the network.
represents five-fold ministers moving from
house to house as the Holy Spirit leads.
Men of Peace
we build ‘according to the pattern,’ there are a number of aspects in this that
we should convey. The first being that whether we are talking about the natural
or spiritual temple, like King David; men of war are disqualified from building
a dwelling place for God, (see 1Chronicles 22:7-8).
is of interest to note that even Solomon’s name means peaceful. What’s the
connection? Luke 10:1-9 reads:
these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two
before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then
He said to them, “The harvest truly is
great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest
to send out laborers into His harvest.Go your
way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and
greet no one along the road.But whatever house
you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’And
if a son of peaceis there, your peace will rest on it; if not,
it will return to you.And remain in the same
house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy
of his wages. Do not go from house to house.
Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before
you.And heal the sick there, and say to them,
kingdom of God has come near to you.’
then as we "are being built
together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
it is essential for us to see that as the first temple was built with men of
peace, it requires the same to build God's dwelling in these last days.
The Lord does not require you as a man of peace to
conform your vision to what an itinerate five-fold minister would bring to your
house church. After all the Lord has established you, (along with your wife),
and has given you vision for your neighborhood.
Think about this though,
if you and your wife refuse sound doctrine being brought to your home;
(especially since the Holy Spirit placed His Word upon the heart of a five-fold
minister and led him or her to you), how are you genuinely going to reach your
neighborhood & town for Christ. In a sense by refusing genuine Spirit
led prophecy, teaching, evangelistic equipping / activation, and apostolic /
prophetic foundational workers; you move towards disqualifying the church in
your house from the very vision you received.
It would serve you well to remember the
words of John who had a strong rebuke for Diotrephes because he refused to "receive
the brethren." This is because he was the one who had to be THE
LEADER, he was the one who had to have preeminence (see 3 John vs. 9-10).
We are all called to walk out the vision God gave
each of us. If we are unable though to have our direction 'fine tuned'
through the fellowship of the saints, and the ministry of five-fold workers, then we leave ourselves open for
the very real
probability of missing God.
In all honesty, the self seeking ways of man are the primary reasons this aspect of the vision seems impossible.
However if we will humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then I believe
we will find the anointing of God in our midst to lead us even (spiritually
speaking) as the pillar of cloud led the children of Israel.
What an incredible appointment we all have with our
Creator in this life as we follow His ways and begin to see His Glory
rest upon whole neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties.... Sounds a little
like: "But you shall receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Everyone has their own Jerusalem. And while I do know that the Name of the Lord
rests on THE Jerusalem, the principle is simply that everyone begins at home
with his own wife and children.
this portion of the wheel is significant, it must be placed in proper
context with the rest of THE VISION.
As I see it, the primary reason
for house churches is that God desires relationship or
fellowship with His children and also created His people with the need to have
fellowship with one another. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says “God
is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus
Christ our Lord.” 1 John 1:7 says; “But if we walk
in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the
blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
It's difficult at best to really share intimate details of your life with people
when you only attend formal or ceremonial meetings with them once or twice a
week. The bible in 1 Peter 1:22 says — “Since
you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere
love (phileo) of the brethren, love (agape)
one another fervently with a pure heart” The first type of love
(phileo) while sincere, is a love based on common vision or purpose.
Obviously there is nothing wrong with this, it just isn't the fullness of what
Jesus intended for us to walk out. This is why the apostle Peter
encourages us to walk out a much closer relationship with our brothers and
sisters where the facade of the Sunday morning greeting is replaced by genuine
caring where we truly can "love one another" as Christ first loved us.
Ask yourself a couple
questions. Does anyone in "church" really understand you or the challenges
you face? Do you understand others in this way? If someone was hurting,
would you have enough understanding about their situation to really minister to
them? Do you have a habit or besetting sin that you are afraid of sharing
with others, so that you might receive prayer and counsel, or do you believe
that's what the pastor is for? Even if it is obvious that your pastor genuinely cares for
you, he or she can't 'be there' for everyone. I can't tell you how many
times someone has shared about a difficult time in their life, only to conclude
there story with 'no one even called me from the church or I never got one call
from the pastor.' This is why the bible tells us in James 5:16 to — “Confess
your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another,
that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails
much.” The pastor cannot be everywhere at all times.
This being said, we are
convinced that the effectiveness of each believer’s witness to the unbelieving
world and their experience in walking with God is directly related to their
willingness to walk in love, humility, openness, and service towards their
brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and their readiness to be
equipped by the five-fold ministers that God has placed in their lives. The ideal location
for these things to occur is still in one another’s homes. It is in this
environment where we can best love one another - serve one another – pray for
one another – encourage one another – submit to one another – forgive one
another – edify one another - and comfort one another.
If we do not allow for these necessities in
our walk with God, we for the most part will not bear fruit in our lives,
neither will we remain in a close fellowship with the Lord Jesus. 1
Peter 2:5 says that “you also, (or we) as living stones,
are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual
sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
House to house ministry is only
part of the overall vision for Shilohouse. While we are also an equipping ministry;
we have a home fellowship in Wayne County, Ohio (about 50 miles south of Cleveland)
and are in relationship with others in the area. If you live close
and let us know; maybe the Lord will link us
together as well.