If you have never attended a house church meeting, your first questions might be, “What would a house church be like? Would there be singing? Would there be a sermon?
“Would there be an invitation to receive Christ? Would there be baptisms and Holy Communion? What about Sunday School? Midweek prayer service?”
It is significant that neither Paul the apostle nor Jesus Himself gave specific instructions to us in the written Word as to exactly what should be done when we congregate as a church.
Jesus’ words were very simple in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
He did not say they had to be doing certain things in order for Him to be in their midst. They just needed to be gathered together.
The Apostle Paul gave us a little insight into the nature of early church gatherings in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church.”
Church meetings in those days did not emphasize a certain speaker. They were open meetings where each person was to contribute for the benefit of the whole body. The exercise of spiritual gifts was encouraged so that all were blessed and edified.
There are no specific instructions left to us by Jesus or His apostles as to exactly what to do in our regular gatherings. However, we can find in the Book of Acts and the epistles some of the essential elements of a church meeting. The following are some of the things that are important to observe when we come together:
Make the following bullets:
– Praise and worship
– Prophetic ministry gifts
– Other gifts of the Spirit
– Sharing testimonies
– Praying For one another
The Holy Spirit will guide you as to how much time to give to each segment and the order in which they occur. At times some of them would not be included at all, but as a rule, it would be well to include all of them.
Praise And Prayer
It is always good to begin each meeting with an extended time of ministry to the Lord through songs of praise and worship. Time should be allowed for informal prayers in the midst of the worship.
As the Holy Spirit begins to move upon us while we are worshiping, it is altogether appropriate to lift up our prayers to the Lord. Sometimes this will be done just between ourselves and God. At other times He will impress us to pray out loud so that others may say “AMEN” to our prayer.
Musicians are an added blessing during the praise time. Pray that God will give your house church a strong and skillful praise team. While this is not absolutely essential, it is certainly a boost to the praise time.
Many groups will not have anyone who plays an instrument to lead out in the praise time. There are a number of powerful praise tapes that could be used to serve as background music as the people sing along with the tape.
Do not cut short the praise time. Let every other part of the meeting be shortened before you even consider cutting short the praise and worship time.
The most vital and dynamic churches today are those that give major time and attention to praise and worship. There will be times when the Holy Spirit will lead you to do nothing more than praise the Lord. Be open to His leading. All things flow out of the fountain of prayer, praise and worship.
Ministry To One Another
This is a time for sharing ministry gifts according to 1 Corinthians 14:26: “How is it brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”
In an open meeting, the leader directs and encourages the group to share testimonies, experiences, prayer requests, brief teachings, revelations, praise reports and so forth.
Be watchful that a few bold persons do not dominate the sharing time. Draw out the quiet ones by asking questions.
We want to share financial blessings according to 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 — “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
The second part of the sharing time is giving to the Lord. This is such a vital part of a worship service that it deserves at least a brief teaching on “the grace of giving” each time we meet.
Many sincere believers fall into the bondage of poverty because they have not understood the spiritual principle of generosity. Many of us are learning that our greatest weapon in times of financial distress is our generosity.
Our people need to know this and be strengthened in the grace of giving. The majority of the offerings should go for the support of spiritual leaders who give full time to pastoring, evangelizing and planting churches.
A generous amount should go for missionary work in other nations. God will richly bless the church that has a vision for the whole world and not just its own neighborhood.
We need to inform our people as to special meetings, plans for outreaches, sharing what God is doing within the city, nation and around the world. We must focus on the work of the Lord to a larger scale than just our little congregation.
We are world Christians. Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields….” (John 4:35).
We are only a small part of the larger picture. Let us keep our eyes and our hearts and our prayers on the world as we seek to do our part in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth.
Communion — 1 Corinthians 11:20-34
This is also a teaching time. Before taking the bread and the cup, let someone very briefly explain some aspect of the meaning of communion. Then let the brothers and sisters partake of the body and the blood of our Lord with understanding and faith.
This can be a very powerful time. It is a good time to give an invitation to the unbelievers present to receive Christ as their Lord. Lead them in a prayer to receive Him before you serve the bread and the cup.
Many people are ready to receive Jesus. Give a brief explanation of the gospel and lead the congregation in a prayer of receiving Christ. Many are led to Christ in this way.
Those who receive Christ as Savior should receive water baptism immediately. The example of the early church in the Book of Acts was always to baptize new converts on the day they received Jesus.
Be open to minister to one another through the laying on of hands, praying for the sick, prophetic ministry, praying to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and so forth.
Let all the gifts of the Spirit flow freely for the edification of all according to 1 Corinthians 14.
Someone should bring a brief teaching from the Word of God. Normally this is not a lengthy “sermon.” Because of the open church format, the Holy Spirit is teaching all through various ones who participate.
Throughout the centuries, the “sermon” or teaching time has enlarged more and more until it has almost excluded group participation. This has led to a spectator type of service in which one person is using his gifts while the rest watch, listen and receive.
The service should be pastor-led, but not pastor-centered. The more the pastor/leader involves the members of the church, the more effective the meeting will be. This will result in trained pastors and leaders and will lead the way to giving birth to more house churches.
The above is a suggested format for a house church meeting. The Holy Spirit will guide all the details in each meeting. Do not make it a program. The Spirit may lead you to do it differently. He has given us liberty to emphasize various things at different times.
Important elements of any church are praise, worship, prayer, sharing, informing, teaching God’s Word, encouraging the release of spiritual gifts, the grace of giving, water baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Holy Communion, evangelism and personal ministry to one another.
These are some of the things that Jesus was talking about when He said, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).