How to Start a House Church
The house church movement is sweeping the world. Actually, it is not a
"movement" of any group as such, it is part of the harvest of the earth. The
stone cut out of the mountain that smashes the feet and topples the remaining kingdom of
this world is growing into the mountain which fills the earth and no one can stop it! The
Kingdom of God comes! Jesus is Lord
In China, the missionaries were sent home, and the pastors and leaders
killed or imprisoned. The result is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, revival the
world has ever known! An estimated 28,000 persons are born from above daily in China
alone. These believers, indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, gather in homes to worship
and exalt God, to pray, and to encourage one another. They are dependent on God for
everything, and God is faithful.
Many of us "old timer" Christians here in the United States
love Jesus more and more, and dislike the religious systems more and more. We have been
gathering as church in homes to worship and exalt God, to pray, and to encourage one
another. The number of God's people moving back into homes for church meetings is
mushrooming. Christians are emigrating out of restrictive institutions in large numbers,
and new believers are attracted to the reality, warmth, and love within the house
If God is calling you into a house church, or to start a house church,
this book is for you. May you be clearly led by the Lord and used mightily for His
purposes in this day.
We must deal with the question or challenge that the keepers of the
ancient ways will hurl at you, "By what authority are you doing this?" Or,
"Who is your covering for this?" Or, "Who is your elder?" Or, the same
question asked in a myriad of ways.
Remember the keepers of the ancient ways asked Jesus the same question.
Does this mean you are operating the same way Jesus did? Yes! Absolutely! He said, "As
the Father has sent me, so I am sending you."
First, we will deal with hearing the voice of Jesus -- an absolute necessity for His servants in this day. Then we will tackle the issue of church -- what it is and how it functions. And finally we will attempt to gather together some items to help you both philosophically and practically.
God help us!
HEARING THE VOICE OF JESUS
We live in a noisy, raucous, pressured world that seeks to destroy us. May the love of God cut through it all. May our hearts and minds be renewed. May we remember well who we are, and Who lives within us.
We need to keep our focus on Jesus and not the deteriorating religious and secular systems. We also need to encourage one another to love and good works as the day of the Lord fast approaches. We must also live as Jesus lived here on earth -- doing nothing on our own initiative, but moment by moment responding to His voice and direction. Much of the following material is revised from the chapter on discipleship in Ultimate Evangelism, the Church in the Harvest Age.:
"A student (disciple) is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." Lk 6:40. When Jesus, our master teacher, finishes discipling us in any area of life, we will be like Him. We will do things the way He does.
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. Jn 14:12-14
What a beautiful promise!
What a scathing condemnation of the faithlessness, unbelief, and prayerlessness of us modern Christians. Jesus said, "Anyone who has faith in me will do..." Do you have faith in Jesus? If so, where are the seeing blind? the hearing deaf? the living dead? the walking lame? the rejoicing poor? Jesus said, "ANYONE."
We are to do what He did, the way He did it.
At this point our need is to repent! Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and turn to Jesus to follow Him. Stop following all the wrong ideas, wrong theology, wrong approaches to ministry, wrong concepts, wrong faith, wrong approaches to life.
Every episode recorded in the gospels between Jesus and others seems to be different on the surface, but it was always the same. He approached each individual or group in a unique manner, but always from the same source. Sometimes He taught, then healed. Sometimes He touched, sometimes He allowed them to touch. Sometimes He referred to somebody's faith, sometimes faith isn't mentioned. Sometimes He did signs and wonders, then taught, sometimes He taught first.
Do you want to do it like Jesus? Do you want to follow Him? Okay. Here is the key. Here is the pattern, method, or system Jesus always used as He Himself described it:
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also. Jn 5:19
By myself I can do nothing. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. Jn 5:30
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. Jn 6:38
He who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world. Jn 8:26b
When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. Jn 8:28,29
I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence. Jn 8:38a
I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Jn 8:42
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. Jn 12:49,50
Got it? Once you see it, it's clear. Jesus said what He heard Father say; Jesus did what He saw Father do. Don't add anything, or make it more complex. Jesus said what He heard Father say; Jesus did what He saw Father do.
Why did Jesus spit on the ground, make mud of the spittle and anoint the blind man's eyes? Because He saw that happening. In His Spirit (the same Spirit He has placed in us) He saw this vision -- He saw Father doing it, so He did it. Why did He say to the woman at the well, "Go call your husband?" Because He heard Father say it. This is the pattern and method Jesus always used. "Always" is a strong word. It is the word Jesus used.
All right, that's the way Jesus always did it. What about us? Do we do it the same way? Yes! We do it the same way Jesus did. Moment by moment we are to always follow the same pattern, method, and system.
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Jn 20:21
As you (Father) sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. Jn 17:18,19
But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will only speak what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come Jn 16:13 (Even the Holy Spirit He has sent to live in us, follows the same pattern as Jesus)
Please notice carefully the following excerpts from John 10 about hearing the voice of the shepherd:
The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice...I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep...I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice...My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Beloved, we are to minister, do evangelism, live life, exactly the same way Jesus always did it. What we hear Jesus say, that's what we are to say. What we see Jesus do, that's what we are to do. The way Jesus says to do it, that's how we do it. That's it. That's the whole program.
What if you don't hear His voice?
If you don't hear the voice of the Good Shepherd something is wrong. It is normal for sheep to hear the voice of their shepherd. It is not normal to not hear the voice of your shepherd.
Read the Bible. The more we read His Word, the more we are in tune with Him. Sometimes He speaks to us through the scriptures, but this is not what we are talking about in "hearing His voice." The Bible helps us keep focused, instructs us in all manner of ways, and encourages us to listen to the voice of God.
If you're not hearing His voice, stop what you're doing, get still before God, and listen. Do not be afraid of silence when you are alone or when the church gathers. It is fear that causes people to fill silent spaces with noisy words and lose intimacy. "Be still and know that I am God." Make sure you are following Jesus, deny yourself, take up your cross and die to yourself, press on with Jesus and listen. If you still don't hear, ask Him to speak to you and tell you what's wrong.
The Lord speaks to us in our spirits. We also hear the voice of our own soul, and the evil one attempting to communicate with us every way he can. He is pushy and harsh, condemning and self-justifying. Sheep must learn to distinguish between the voice of the Good Shepherd and the other voices. Some believers have stopped listening because they don't want the responsibility of distinguishing the voices. If this is what you have done, repent and grow up. Jesus has a lot to say and He wants to intimately share with you moment by moment.
The Lord usually speaks to us in a "still small voice." Oh, He also speaks through events and happenings, through catastrophes and mighty shakings, but like Elijah, the closer we get to Him, the less we are concerned with the wind and fire and earthquakes, and the more we respond to the "still small voice."
Many of us no longer hear the voice of Jesus because sometime in the past we heard His voice and did not want to do what He said. We shut it off, and don't listen anymore. We become like those lonely, isolated people who are surrounded by words and messages, but don't hear anything. When God breaks through our silence and comes to us, like Adam in the garden, we too respond, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
We hide from God in religion, work, projects, relationships, drugs, alcohol, movements, school, sports, movies, TV, (the list is endless). The more "good" the hiding place is, the more we fool ourselves into thinking, "Im OK with God because Im doing something good." We forget the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil is death. The knowledge of evil is death. The knowledge of good is death. The greatest enemy of the best is the good. Hearing and responding to the voice of Jesus is what is best.
If this is what you have done, then I urge you to repent. Ask Jesus to forgive you for not listening to Him, for not doing what He asked you to do, and for not paying attention any more. Then, if it's appropriate, do what He had asked you to do before.
If you feel guilt and therefore dont want to hear His voice, get washed in the blood and forgiven. When Adam realized he was naked, he hid. Jesus clothes you with His righteousness. We are dressed in a magnificent wedding gown. "As many of you," Paul says, "as were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." We are well dressed, and fully clothed in Christ. He likes these garments He has given us.
If you are confused, or uncertain about the voice of Jesus, go and counsel with an elder or spiritual overseer. The Lord our Shepherd has also given us gifts of under-shepherds to care for the flock of God. Go and counsel with one who is God's gift for you so that the evil one cannot confuse you and render you ineffective.
The principle of two or three witnesses is important, especially when we hear questionable messages. Seek godly counsel. If what you are hearing is from God, others will be hearing it also. If the evil one is trying to isolate and destroy you, the counsel of your brothers will protect you.
When you hear things that are hard, follow Jesus. Fear Him more than men. Seek His favor, rather than praise from men. He has sent you; be faithful to Him. He is with you; walk in His ways. He has loved you unto death; be secure in Him.
Please read this at your home churches or bible studies or whatever you call the gathering of the saints when Jesus is in the midst. The time is short, and I believe this is a crucial message. Most of us need help with it -- encouragement to believe God and not our own souls or understanding.
It is true! The God of the Bible lives in us and speaks with us. The world in its present form is passing away. You are precious and loved. The nations (USA, Russia, etc.) are as a drop in the bucket, or as dust on the scales. You are not. You are God's inheritance. It is time to lift up our heads for our redemption is drawing near.
As you prepare to follow God back into the home for church gatherings, ask Him what to do, when to do it, how to do it, what to cover in the meetings, when to meet, who to counsel with, etc. Jesus said, "I will build My church." Get out of His way and let Him do it through you.
If following the voice of Jesus is new for you, I testify to you that the fruits of this journey are wonderful and exciting. That which causes doubts and hesitation when we hear His direction is usually our own pride. A common happening is Jesus will ask us to go and say something to a stranger or go pray for them. We think, "If I do that, they'll think I'm crazy. What if this isn't the Lord?"
So what? Lots of people think you're crazy anyway. Depending on your point of view on a multitude of things, someone thinks you have left reality, especially those who don't know and love our God. You really don't have anything to lose. My counsel is that whatever you think the Lord is telling you, do it, unless it is immoral, ungodly, or unbiblical.
Was Jesus ever tempted like this? Sure He was. "He was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin." Heb 4:15 He probably had the temptation when He was told to ask the woman at the well to call her husband, "Father, what if she isn't married? I'll look silly." Or when He heard or saw five husbands and a present illicit affair, "Maybe three or four at the most, but surely not five, and another man now?" Isn't that the way you or I might react? He was tempted like us in every way.
After lots of struggles and failures, I am committed to following my own counsel, and have done so for a number of years. To the best of my recollection, I have never approached a stranger to pray or speak a word that has not quickly resulted in tears of gratitude and the powerful working of God. That can be expected. He initiated it, I didn't. He wants to bless, and has given the direction.
Besides, if you or I hear a direction, act on it, and still feel or look silly, so what? What difference does it make? The alternative is trying to save our life, and Jesus said we would lose our lives if we do that.
We are wise to begin each day with quality time with the Lord. I find that its best for me to start early enough to have plenty of time with Him before the day gets started. I usually read a psalm, a few other chapters, and then ask the Lord if there is something else He would like me to read. I read whatever comes to mind, and it is usually wonderful. As I read, I ask questions and dialogue. Often I am drawn far from the preconceived plan of reading. I continue speaking with the Lord - thanking Him, presenting to Him the things that are on my heart, and asking to share the things on His heart. Then I present to Him the days activities - asking for approval or veto of the things I want to do, and get His assignment for the day, or week, or long-term project. Even when He gives a longer project, we must be open to adjustments at His say-so.
I think its best to gather this "manna" before the sun gets hot, before the hustle-bustle of our lives encroaches on the time set apart to be with Him. Of course we try to spend all our time in this intimate give and take fellowship, but somehow it is better for me early in the morning. When I rush the time in the morning, the rest of the day suffers, and I find myself speaking with Him less than on those days when we have had a good start.
When you and the Lord are in harmony and the communication is free flowing, ask Him about church. Would He like you to gather in your home for church? When? For how long? Should you lead it? Should you ask someone else to help you get started? Should you also meet with others? Should you follow some guidelines? What about...Should...When...How about... - remember to thank Him for His direction, His willingness to speak with you, His love, and His mercy.
Is this too simple? too worldly? too mechanical? Does this make you seem too important? You are important. You are a vessel of almighty God who loves you, speaks to you, and desires to use you as an instrument of His love. Listen to Him, and do what He says.
If God tells you to start church gatherings in your house, one of the important priorities He will probably give you is to help your people break free to hear His voice. Several times during one-on-one sessions I have had similar experiences. First we go through the Word of God in written form showing clearly that the Lord speaks to His people [we use many of the scriptures referred to here]. Then after praying for God to speak to the other person in his spirit, I ask, "Well, what did He say?"
"Oh it was just, ahhh, nothing really, just sort of a pat answer, probably I made it up," they answer.
What did He say?" I demand. "What did you hear?"
Finally they sheepishly [we are sheep you know] admit, "I heard Him say, I love you." Then they try to keep it on a low key as if this was no big deal.
The Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who spoke the worlds into being, Who counts the nations as a drop in a bucket, became one of us in the person of Jesus because He loves us. He died in our place because He loves us. And then, from His home within one of His children, God speaks personally and tenderly, "I love you."
Friends, this is a big deal. It is the biggest deal there is. Nothing is more important, more timely. God loves me, He lives in me, and He speaks to me. In this day of ultimate conflict, we need, I need, constant communion, direction and assurance from the One who holds the future. This world and its systems are terminal. I am not terminal, I am eternal, for Christ, who lives in me, is eternal.
It is also a big deal that His love and tender mercy be shared with as many as possible during the close of this age. Nothing is more effective in evangelistic outreach than church planting. I pray that the Lord tells you to start church in your home and become one of His harvesters of the people He loves.
This is not a message you will hear in a typical "church." If the radical (to the roots) concept of directly hearing from the Lord was received, it would destroy the dependence on an expert in theology - namely a seminary trained senior pastor. If we really believed Jesus when He said that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, we wouldnt have to keep God in our little boxes of doctrinal truth. A friend recently voiced his concern about all the possible theological error that could come from untrained house church leaders. What a novel thought that someone might draw disciples after himself and even start a new denomination based on twisted doctrine. It seems to me that all the theological training we have endured has only heightened this problem.
If the Lord does tell you to start church in your home, be assured that the keepers of the ancient ways will certainly ask you or tell you that you have no right to start a church. Thats true. They dont have that right either. Jesus said, "I will build my church." Unless this is a part of Jesus church [one per city], and you are acting on His direction, forget it. But if He tells you to do it, do it. God bless you!