We didn’t plan on starting a house church. To be honest, it started us.
We were fine just showing up each week, doing our part in leadership of a local church. And then we weren’t fine. Something in us began to burn with a deeper hunger for more, for intentional relationship. We found ourselves with the younger generation coming and asking us to show them how to find a deeper walk with God and His Word. We began to ask God, “Is there more than this? Is there more to just being somewhere each Sunday?”
In the midst of these questions, we began to ask others whether it was possible to have a setting where people came together, shared life, shared the Word and could pursue God, but without the typical format of a Sunday morning service. Not that there is anything wrong with that structure, but we wanted more—more family, more Word, more ability to ask and learn.
We started meeting weekly with three to four friends—reading through books of the Bible, talking, praying and changing. More people started attending and coming earlier and earlier each week, so we began to share our meal with them. In turn, they started bringing food to share, so we ended up having weekly meals with this growing family, and then reading and living the Word together.
This ragamuffin group that began innocently and organically started to become something we couldn’t define. We just knew it was new. We had heard of house churches, even read Larry Kreider’s book House to House and probably twenty other books on house church, but we didn’t plan on starting a house church or beginning a house church network. We didn’t consider ourselves church planters. We were just hungry for more of what God had for us, and we began to do what He was giving us naturally and organically. It wasn’t until we ran into Larry and LaVerne at a conference in Lancaster and shared what was on our heart and what was happening in our home, that Larry gently told us, “You have a house church.”
One of the principles we have learned is that a house church is always fluid and needs to be willing to move in whatever direction the Holy Spirit tells us. The common mistake is to take a traditional Sunday morning church service and try to fit it into a house church. We have found that each week is different in respect to what is happening in each other’s lives, what we are studying and what is happening in our culture. When someone is hurting, we can take our whole gathering to minister to them. When we all gather together and sense that we need a night of prayer, we can do that.
Mistakes—we’ve made a few. But I think that if we stay teachable and humble, any mistake can produce a positive result. We have come to understand that we are disciples making disciples. We have Bible studies that meet outside of our weekly gathering; these include some people who are not part of our house church. We also have joined our youth with other youth in The New Initiative, the house church network we are a part of, to create a “fusion” of youth. This is a youth group for all of the youth who are part of the house churches in The New Initiative.
We are beginning a new direction to help our group multiply. We meet three weeks at our home (the host home for Shift Church) then on the fourth week, we break into four to six groups that meet in each other’s homes, some meeting on different days. This helps not only with multiplication, but also increases the possibility of reaching more people. For example, we meet on a Wednesday night, but on that fourth week several groups chose to meet on a Sunday morning. This enables them to invite others who do not attend a church and encourages growth in each group, with the intent to become house churches branching off of Shift.
What would we do differently? Not much except we desire to keep the size smaller for each house church. We currently have between 35 to 45 people attending, which is a large number to gather together for a meal and fellowship. The heart of a house church is relational and that seems to work best with twenty or less. That is why multiplication is key to a house church, to keep the flow and keep the growth healthy.
We value and do outward missions in the following ways. We participate in “Love Lititz,” where we adopt a home and help with whatever the needs of that homeowner are, such as painting, mulching and picking up groceries. We also serve a lunch monthly in Lancaster city to the hurting and the homeless. We realize that each of us is doing missions where we live, work and play—but there are benefits of working together as a body.
We didn’t plan on starting a house church. It has indeed, started us.
Read Chapter 17. Growing is in the going here