A House Church Primer: Recovering Biblical Principles in the Wake of Covid
Likewise greet the church that is in their (Priscilla and Aquila) house, Rom 16:5
Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house, Col 4:15
And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house, Philemon 2
In a 1959 speech, John F. Kennedy famously said: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger and one represents opportunity.” (https://www.brookings.edu/research/sometimes-the-world-needs-a-crisis-turning-challenges-into-opportunities/) Today the church is facing maybe the greatest crisis of its two millennial history. In the face of this enormous challenge, will it simply seek to gather up broken pieces and attempt to reassemble status quo church life, or will the church recognize the opportunity presented it and seek to recover and restore the biblical principles that launched the early church and enabled it to turn the Roman Empire upside down? How is it that these early believers could have such a pervasive and life-altering impact on their culture and society without all the ecclesial aids available to us today? They functioned without dedicated buildings, had no specialized schooling or training, operated with very little written resources, and no well-defined, educated and ordained leadership structure or denominational support. In spite of these “handicaps,” the early church was highly effective in taking the gospel of the kingdom of God throughout the Roman Empire. Here is a “power point” to hold onto—when the church is truly the church, the world will be conquered!
Although the pristine church met regularly in homes, that is not what authenticated and empowered its life and ministry. There were also meetings in the synagogues and the temple, but these sessions were more of an outreach or evangelistic nature. Sometimes there were larger gatherings in various towns to accommodate the teachings brought by the itinerate apostles, teachers and prophets such as were conducted by Peter, Paul, Silas, Barnabas and John Mark. When they met in their homes they were devoted to the true nature and ministry of the church. We will get more into this a little later. For now let’s just agree that the home provided the most conducive atmosphere for the church to exercise its relational, biblical mandates.
Since the lockdowns began around March of 2020, there have been some significant changes with respect to “attendance” patterns and giving within the church in general. These behavioral changes have occurred in spite of the efforts of most churches to counter the physical lockdowns through live streaming their ministries. A “State of the Plate” survey released in April showed that one third of surveyed churches indicated a drop in giving of up to 20%, one fifth had a decline of up to 50% and one tenth reported reduced giving of greater than 75%. These drops in the giving patterns were found to be deeper and more far reaching than what was experienced during the recession of 2008. George Barna’s Research Institute has found that nearly one third (32%) of Christians have stopped attending church altogether during the pandemic. Given these factors and considering the state of the economy in general—high unemployment, small business failures, growing inflation, etc—it seems reasonable to assume many churches are going to face some serious difficulties meeting payrolls and maintaining properties.
It is not within the purview of this primer to deeply address the underlying issues relative to this pandemic, but it is necessary concerning the overall thrust of the primer to set forth some beliefs this author felt to be pertinent regarding one’s perception of where the church is headed. We are presently living in one of the most divisive atmospheres in the history of our nation. Our arch enemy, Satan, the father of lies and the one who was a liar from the beginning, is working overtime to set all manner of persons, groups, ethnicities, political persuasions, doctrinal differences, etc. against one another. He is seeking to disrupt and destroy marriages, churches, cultural biases and political affinities. In Satan’s efforts he has very effectively coerced most to avert their eyes and consciousness from the true issues and to focus instead on the illusions or secondary causes. Deception is always the name of the enemy’s game.
It is essential that we recognize that this “pandemic” is a contrived piece of work that is simply one part of a greater master plan leading to the New World Order. The Coronavirus was intentionally created and released for the very purposes it is now serving. It is successfully being employed to destroy the economy and lifestyle of the United States, replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency with a global digital currency and bring about world socialism. The newly revised statistics from the Centers for Disease Control has reduced the number of deaths attributed to the virus in the US from 167,558 to 10,053! This means that the CDC originally inflated the death rate due to Covid by 94%. Based on this kind of misinformation, we have locked down our nation, destroyed innumerable businesses, disrupted supply chains, destroyed various aspects of our agricultural production, disrupted education, heightened inflation through the massive printing of unsecured fiat currency, driven unemployment through the roof and forced the church into “digital attendance.”
I find it impossible to accept the official Covid-19 story given the insane response we have instituted for something that has turned out to be less dangerous than many varieties of the common flu. One is challenged to look behind the “cover” story to discover the real agenda driving this entire madness. I strongly encourage all who are reading this to develop a discipline of prayerful and discerning research on the Internet while it is still available to us in an effort to arm yourselves with the truth.
We must first and foremost recognize and emphatically affirm that we are most assuredly in a spiritual battle. We are not to war against flesh and blood but rather against “…principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We must remember and exercise the reality that the “… weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” If we allow ourselves to be deceived into believing we are principally engaged in some kind of ethnic, or political or cultural war, we are going to be utterly defeated.
This national meltdown we are currently navigating isn’t about left versus right, black versus white, rich versus poor. It is entirely about righteousness versus unrighteousness, about good versus evil. This is not a local, national or even a global issue. It is cosmic and eternal and if we fail to properly assess what we are dealing with we are going to forfeit the victory and ultimate rewards Jesus died to secure for us.
Satan’s principal target is the kingdom of God. A realm filled with righteousness, peace and joy, and reigned over by the Lord Jesus Christ with all the power and authority bestowed upon him by the Father. The enemy knows that the church is God’s tool, his instrument for exercising and maturing the saints into the full stature life in Christ. The church is the spiritual milieu in which believers are conformed to the image of Christ. If Satan can successfully divert the attention and efforts of Christians away from God’s ultimate intention—many sons and daughters just like Jesus—he can potentially disrupt God’s desire for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Many sincere Christians still believe that the church cannot exist without the leadership of an ordained pastor, a covering denomination, a central building and a specific Sunday morning liturgy and ritual. I remind us once again, the most powerfully evangelizing and culture shaping era of the church was through the first three centuries of its glorious existence and they did it without the supports mentioned above.
The material being presented here is in no manner intended to be a proposed methodology for how we “do” church. You won’t find delineated here specific steps for the conduct of a worship service conducted in a home. It is rather my intention in this treatise to examine biblical and theological insights which I believe will be guidelines and encouragements for understanding the true nature of the church and how it functions unto the glory of God. Rather than fixating on what we have supposedly lost through this pandemic, we need to focus on what we can gain in terms of rediscovering the gospel of the kingdom and becoming the church that Jesus is coming for.
There is nothing inherently spiritual about churches meeting in homes or any other facility as far as that goes. This is not about whether or not a meeting place sanctifies the meeting. The significance of the house as a place for the church to gather is in how well it accommodates and fosters the functioning of the church. One of the most significant attributes of the church is its relational nature. However the church meets, it should always be encouraging open, sharing, transparent and honest relationships.
The benediction concluding Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth invokes for these believers the “…fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s fellowship is with Jesus and the Father as a member of the triune nature of God. Paul is praying that these Christians in Corinth would experience with one another the same degree of communion found within the Trinity. This same message is poignantly set out in John’s first letter—a circular letter sent to various churches—encouraging believers to share what they have seen, heard, witnessed and touched in their walk with Jesus unto the end that they would all experience the fellowship of the Trinity.
A small group of believers, sitting around a comfortable living room, maybe enjoying a cup of coffee or other refreshment, able to look upon one another’s faces, unencumbered by liturgy and ritual, overseen and led by Jesus himself, is positioned to experience the en-gracing realities God has always ordained for his own.
Spiritually speaking, the church may be on the watershed of one of the greatest moments in its history. The direction it takes from here could well determine how it traverses the apocalyptic events to come. My focus is entirely on pressing into the kingdom of God that I might satisfy fully the heart of God from eternity past and that I might be part of that glorious company of the committed that will rule and reign with Jesus in his kingdom on earth. I know that my maturation, my development will only flourish to the extent of my authentic relationship within the fully functioning body of Christ.
Danger and opportunity—how will you respond?
This excerpt is the introduction for a forthcoming book by the same title.