[originally sent to the faithful subversive underground list on Feb 3rd, 2006]
JOY by Keith Giles
Last night we hosted our very first official meeting of our new house church, "The Mission".
Two weeks ago our house was full of the curious and the searching as we explained our vision, how we got to this place, and answered questions about what this might look like.
That interest meeting had been sweet. We had spontaneously, seamlessly, shifted from talking about how to do house church into actually acting it out in the middle of the meeting. The sense of the Holy Spirit's leading and presence made our ministry to one another effortless and natural.
I sat back and marveled.
Last night, as Wendy and I prepared to receive our first guests there was a sense of uncertainty in the air. Our meeting time was six o'clock in the evening. At 6:05 there was no one in our home but Wendy's sister Felicia, our own two boys, and two boys from the neighborhood who were playing together while we made coffee and heated up a dish for our dinner together.
We were wondering about whether or not we'd just have to do this ourselves or not.
Then the first person showed up. About six minutes later, another showed up. And then another. And then four more. And then....
Soon our house was just brimming with people. There was laughter and there were warm hugs of welcome. We shared stories of the week, some people brought gifts, everyone brought a dish to share, and the sound of our fellowship resonated throughout the house.
After a prayer of blessing over the food we all got a plate and started to sample the various dishes.
Even as we sat to eat, more people kept coming in. Before long we had another wave of people who also came to take a plate, find a seat and begin to share with the rest of us.
After a while I passed around a loaf of bread and a glass of juice. Everyone took a bit of bread, dipped it in the glass, and passed it to the next person. In this way, in the midst of the fellowship, we celebrated the "Communion" of both the saints and the Lord with us, remembering the Lord's death until He comes again.
I read an excerpt from Tertullian's "Apology" dated in the 3rd century that explained how the early church gathered together in homes to share a meal, offer money to the poor, sing a song from their heart and pray to God together. It was amazing to read about how this was exactly what we were doing, even in the same order as they did, without intending to.
After a bit more time for people to finish their meal one of our members who played guitar took my old Applause out of the case and tried to tune it in the other room. Soon he returned to play some worship songs for us.
I was in tears watching the little toddlers, the elementary children, the teenagers, and even my own sons, begin to join in the worship with the rest of us. We all worshipped together, as one Body. Young and old alike.
After a few songs some of us began to offer spontaneous prayers to God. We sang another song together, and then some of us prayed a little more.
Some of us began to share what God had been showing us during the week, as we'd been asked to do at the interest meeting two weeks previously.
One person shared a song from a Cd that had ministered to her and it blessed us all as well. One person shared about how God had prompted her to pray for her unbelieving, and sometimes abusive, boss at work whose leg had been injured. Still another person shared an encouraging word to another in the group. Even the childen got involved, reciting memory verses to the group, with applause following.
I was especially blessed when a young boy who is in Jr. High asked for prayer from the adults so he could draw nearer to God. We also prayed for his younger brother who was having trouble sleeping at night.
Everyone gathered around these two young men, laying hands on them, and praying for them from the heart. It was sweet.
After this we shared some more, and then at 8:30pm we prayed to dismiss, but with the assurance that everyone was free to stay as long as they liked, but we had to have a stopping point "officially" so that those with children, or those who needed to get home, could do so.
Most stayed after 8:30pm.
Some even stayed to talk and pray and share until 10:30pm.
I am in heaven.
This is just so much more robust and sweet and rich and wonderful than anything else I've ever done in my life before with the name "Church" on it.
My favorite part of this sort of meeting is that, even though Wendy and I are the pastors and founders of this house church, we're just as much the followers as everone else is. And everyone here is also the leader, as the Holy Spirit leads and as we respond according to our gifting.
It takes so much pressure off of me to make things work or to keep people entertained. I'm not the one in charge of this church; God is! In fact, we just invite the Holy Spirit to come and we expect Him to show up and then...get this...we actually allow Him to lead the meeting the way He wants to.
Some of us are still working through the old model of waiting for the leader to spout out information. But I know in time that we'll all loose the "spectator sport" tendencies so ingrained in us and begin to actually embrace the priesthood of the Believer, ministering to each other and receiving ministry at the same time.
I can understand now why so many people who have done church this way say they can never go back to the old way of doing church.
I can never go back.
Only one more week until we meet again!
I can't wait!