House to House & Public Fellowship

 

The fundamental nature of life in the 1st Century church can be summed up in the following scripture verses: (Acts 2:42-47)   and they continued steadfastly in 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 saved. 

The 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.

The 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 begets life.

Scriptures that point toward where the church met in the various cities throughout Asia Minor include the following:

Greet Priscilla 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 greet the church that is in their house. (Romans 16:3-5)

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 (Philemon 1:1-2)

Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house. (Colossians 4:15)

As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

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 why the 1st century believers gathered together in one another’s homes.

Acts 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 publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

The 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 family oriented.   "...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 / equipping ministry.  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 ministry  section of the wheel.  

A note of guidance:  In this biblical framework; every house church is overseen by a man of peace .  This does not 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.

 These represent newer house churches in the network.

 These couples have a duel role of being chosen as deacons for the network.

 These have a duel role of the husband serving as an appointed elder for the network.

 This represents five-fold ministers moving from house to house as the Holy Spirit leads.

 

 

Men of Peace

As 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). 

It is of interest to note that even Solomon’s name means peaceful.  What’s the connection?  Luke 10:1-9 reads:

After 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 peace is 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, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 

So 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.

While 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 CLICK HERE and let us know; maybe the Lord will link us together as well.

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