Mega Church Roots
I attended a mega church for about 12 years where I had some great memories. There I had been saved, baptized, discipled, and married. After moving our residence to a new town to be closer to my employer, we went to a mid-size church for about 5 more years. It was also good. I really enjoyed the Sunday School group that we attended for those years.
During my mega church days, I experienced my first cell group / small group meeting at one brother’s house. Right then and there I knew I discovered something special. It had the teaching, the participation, and the family fellowship all in one place. The latter two qualities seemed to be missing during the regular Sunday service. I asked the cell group leader if we could do this more than once a month, but I was told the church had other programs and events that we had to honor, and we could not meet more often. Since that time, I have visited and talked to friends about other church’s weekly small groups. But many of them have a hard time with consistent attendance, some groups even shut down for the summer, and none of them included the children. I think the reason these groups have difficulty in attendance is because the Sunday church service at the church building is still the main event while the weekly small groups are an extra activity which sometimes get sacrificed when families get too busy. But with the house church, the small group on Sunday morning is the main event.
At the time when I was attending the once per month cell group through the mega church, I began to read about the cell group movement in South Korea. I remember reading that one church had 200,000 members yet did not own one building. They all met in member’s homes that were spread throughout the city. And from that cell group book I found a book by Steve Atkerson named, House Church Theology. Once I read that book, which is now renamed, House Church, I knew that was what my spiritual life needed.
Then about 8 years ago I found and attended this house church (although they never considered themselves part of the house church movement). I must say it has turned out to be a wonderful experience and even better than I imagined.
While attending the house church, my spiritual growth began to grow exponentially. I started fighting against those sins that I let creep into my life. My relationship with Jesus strengthened and became more serious in my faith. Just being in the small group helped me be more focused on the teaching, and there was a strong sense of accountability. I think the size of the group helped with my focus, also the ability to have open discussions helped me greatly to be excited in the scriptures as we studied the Bible verse by verse.
The teaching I received in the family setting helped model for me what a family devotion could look like. I soon began leading my own family devotions with my family at home (sometimes consistently, sometimes not depending on what other activities were going on at home). I remember using a small whiteboard to draw pictures from the Bible lesson for my kids, and I remember reading selections from some Christian books when my oldest son was entering his teens. Now as my youngest boy is older and busier with a job, these devotion times are less frequent. When we have them now, we read a portion of scripture and talk about it. Sometimes the passage will spur some questions. We usually do this after dinner lately.
The freedom to speak up and participate during the house church meetings on Sundays encouraged me to start studying the Bible more thoroughly than ever before because now I could contribute to the meeting in a meaningful way instead of just being a passive spectator. This thorough Bible study eventually led to this blog which has challenged me to write verse by verse Bible studies for the last few years. There is just something about writing down your thoughts for all the public to see. It makes you want to have your doctrine as right as possible. I wish I had started this discipline years ago.
The fellowship was the most amazing part of the house church. It took a lot of time to develop close relationships, but now these brothers and sisters are like family. In reality, they are closer than my extended family.
Below is a list of how we have shared life together over the years.
May God receive all the glory!!
We celebrated Christmas together that first year. I still have the pictures from 2007. The kids were so small.
When I was struggling, one dear sister said, I will fast for you this week. Wow! That was a first. What an amazing expression of care and a great example to bear one another’s burdens.
We celebrated a few of our childrens’ high school graduations together.
Some of us have gone on vacations together.
I remember attending one brother’s charity event when he had to plunge into the ice cold winter lake.
I remember double date night at the plaza with one couple. We went all out with flowers, dinner, limo ride, and a riddle hunt for a special gift for the ladies.
We celebrated one family’s daughter’s wedding together.
The ladies have been meeting for their own Bible study for a long time. I know it has been a blessing for them.
The men have been meeting on the first Saturday of each month for a joyful breakfast.
Over the years we have visited some sisters and a mom who were in the hospital for child birth or illness.
We have prayed for each other’s children who had gone wayward.
Two sisters visited my wife while she was in the hospital. One sister brought her personalized small gifts labeled with witty jokes while the other sister bought her a much needed walker and delivered it to our home.
Many meals we have made for each other over the years when someone was sick or in the hospital.
Oh the wonderful support I personally received when I suffered through my divorce. I appreciate the counseling I received, the prayers, and the dinner invitations during those lonely times. And how we supported another couple with marriage trials – praise God for their perseverance!
Unfortunately, I have been to a brother’s funeral for his dad and another sister’s funeral for her dad. They were sad times, but I know they felt encouraged by our support.
We have encouraged two missionaries in India with prayer.
Serving at the Salvation Army warehouse bonded us together.
Preparing meals and serving at the City Union Mission family center was memorable.
We showed great teamwork canvassing two neighborhoods for the ‘Fireproof your marriage’ weekend we hosted.
Attending the Voice of the Martyrs conference together was also special and encouraging.
We assembled shoe box gifts for Samaritan’s Purse Christmas project.
One brother and I met several weeks reviewing a men’s Christian book. We also went out door to door a few times together looking to share the gospel and invite others to church.
Recently we have started rotating the house church meeting to different brothers’ and sisters’ houses. This has been a blessing to share our homes and spread the labor of love to host the church.
One sister learned some Spanish so she could try to communicate with one of the brother’s Spanish-speaking mother who met with us for several months.
Once a month we generally have family game nights together. These are a blast!
Team cooking competitions are also a joyful time!
Progressive dinners traveling from house to house for food courses were fun events.
Volleyball games at the park were also joyful.
For the last few years I’ve had the privilege to welcome in the New Year with one dear family from church.
One family traveled with another family’s daughter to Texas for a Christian conference. They were all greatly encouraged.
One brother who is a Realtor helped one family in the church find their first home. Then many individuals from church volunteered several hours to help another family clean and paint the inside of their first home.
We attended three sisters and one brother’s baptism.
Brothers are often having lunch with one another.
Two brothers are developing a website and cell phone app to strengthen marriages.
One brother and I have met several weeks early Thursday mornings for prayer at a local park.
Late night joking on texting apps are also great ways to stay connected. Of course, prayer requests, Bible related article links, and general communication on the phone apps are also shared often.
I’m sure there are other big things I’ve forgotten. If I remember them, then I will add them later. There are also so many little things that are too numerous to list.
I suppose community like this can all be done in a larger church. But for me, I never experienced it like this. To me, the house church just seems more conducive to this type of community shared in our Lord Jesus Christ!
See below link for references of House Churches in the New Testament
See the links below from Barna Research regarding House Churches in America.
See link below for a call in radio show talking about modern day house churches.
God bless. Bob.