Time is 7:21 p.m.
“Hi Sonia, please come in.”
As Lisa opened the door and greeted her new friend who’s a single mother of two children.
“How are you and your kids?” asked Lisa.
“A little bit busy and fussy.” Sonia answered with a meek voice. “This older one,” [scratching her son’s head] “is ready to go to school but my other boy will continue his medication to minimize convulsion.”
Sonia’s husband has just died in an accident, they have two children, the younger had an epilepsy so when Lisa heard what had happened she began to be friend her and invited her for dinner.
It was Sunday when a couple of Christian friends decided to bring their own food and have dinner in the house of Brother Molong. They agreed also to bring some of their colleagues and neighbors and friends. First who showed up in the meeting was Sonia, she is uninformed about the said eating but was invited by Lisa after knowing her urgent need of comfort.
Beside them, a sister in the Lord named Nikki came with her Christian friend Sister Wilsa. They worked in one of the big companies in the city of Lapu-lapu.
A friend Brother Darbie soon arrived with a bag of food in his hand; with him were two street people, Richard and Michael. He will pass them by when there is meeting in any house. They have these kinds of meeting everyday, anywhere at anytime with different people and from house to house.
Seconds passed, Brother Gary came with Sister Maricar. With them is a street couple, Jocelyn and Ken with their baby. Along with their families – Tatay Gamay and Nanay Celia, Jocelyn’s parents and her two brothers, Roel and Weng-weng.
And lastly, came Sister Christine straight from her work. She brought with her toys and foods for kids, and clothing’s to be given away.
All in all the people having a sort of a party is 20. Three couples, eleven singles – men and women, one widow, and three children. And by the way, there’s one more, a 6-month old baby inside Jocelyn’s womb.
“Okay, everyone can take their seats in the table now.” As Brother Molong the host announces.
As they all sat, Brother Darbie presented himself to give thanks for the food and later on announces that he is already engaged. They all rejoiced and congratulate him.
“Soon he will become a ‘good’ man.” Molong said.
“Good because the Bible says that, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’” Everyone laughed as they nodded their heads hearing Molong’s words.
“Marriage day is the day you’ll going to be with someone you love forever. And how happy it is to marry someone you love” Molong shared and continue. “And marriage too is God’s expression of His gift that is given to you through her.”
“Tell me Brother, how is it like being married?” Brother Darbie asks Molong.
“We’ll, they say marriage is a mystery and will always be like that.”
“That’s weird, that means I’ll be living with someone who’s completely strange?” Brother Darbie laughs as he comments.
“Maybe,” Molong says, “but I think if communication lines are open and secrets revealed it’s not anymore a mystery but ecstasy. Let me share to you what Mr. Harold Sala, an expert in marriage said, ‘Communication is vital in any relationship especially between spouses. It is the most difficult quality to develop and therefore must be given time and space between husband and wife.”
“But most,” he continued “If we follow the ‘rules’ of a Christian home in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and Colossians we will have a better family in the coming years.”
Brother Darbie listened intently as Brother Molong shared some verses with him from the Bible.
In the opposite end of the table was Sister Wilsa ministering to Sister Jocelyn and Sonia. They talked and shared each other’s feelings especially their present situation and then prayed for both of them.
“What?” Nikki’s eyes opened wide while conversing with Ken. “You just killed three people at the age of sixteen?”
“Yes,” answered Ken. “And I just spent three years in prison.”
Ken is a silent type of person. He just nods his head whatsoever you share with him but now he talks. They continued discussing about what happened to Ken those years.
“So, how did you changed?” Nikki asked.
Ken replied that ever since he joined in gatherings such as this, his life was changed.
In the middle of the conversation of Brother Gary, Richard and Michael, Sister Maricar interrupted and asked, “How did you guys met?” Where do you come from? Do you have families?”
“Yes, we have families,” Richard replied in anger, “but they’ve abandoned us! And I always blamed God for it!”
“Is that good?” Gary questioned.
“Well, I know it’s not good but I always will.” He said.
“Why, what has happened to your family?” Maricar asked Richard.
“My mom and dad left me. My Dad died when I was eight, I am 25 now, and my Mom left me to find another man to be with. I am their only child.” And he began cursing his Mom and praised his Dad’s goodness in the past.
“You know what? God has a planned for you because despite everything that happened, you’re still here and alive.”
“Yah, that’s true.” Michael agrees.
“The Bible says,” Maricar added, ‘Though my father and my mother forsake me the Lord will receive me.’”
“Why don’t you guys consider us as your new friends? Come and join us here in Brother Molong’s house. Brother Darbie will also be happy to have you.” Gary excitingly said.
They all enjoyed eating and sharing, and getting to know each other. Some laughed on jokes, some cried while they get prayed and some expressed their hatred and anger as they shared their burdens with their parents, brothers and friends. What a fellowship there was, shame was gone, transparency was present, behavior exposed and intimacy was shared. And suddenly…
Screaming and shouting from the kids. They ran to their mothers except one. A boy struggling to breathe and bubbles came out from his mouth. It’s Sonia’s epileptic child.
Brother Molong and some of the brethren got up rebuke and prayed for the boy while others are praying in their seats. And after a few seconds the boy got back to normal. They returned to their seats and Sister Christine brought some toys and began to distribute it to the children. She joined with them too in sharing stories.
“Before we go to the distribution of gifts,” As Brother Molong announced, “let us have Tatay Gamay share to us what he noticed in our fellowship.”
“Since I joined eating here,” Tatay says while every one laughs, “I collected more cartoons to be sold.”
Selling cartoons is their way of living. At this time he accepts that he needs to change. Brother Gary leads him in a sinner’s prayer at the corner. After that, Wengweng asked if he could sing the song that he just made. It’s a Tagalog song, and while he sang everyone listens. Brother Molong and Sister Nikki were crying while listening. If you knew him, you would have cried also for he is a drug addict and got overdose. The experience made him unable to speak clearly. But now despite of this, he sings with all confidence in front of them.
These all happened in the table while enjoying their meal. They ended up praying for each other and distributing some clothing’s especially for those who are in need. And they encourage financial offerings to be made and gave some to Sonia to help her buy some food and medicines for her child since she’s still recovering from her husband’s death.
And one by one as they felt the need to go home said ‘goodbyes and goodnights.’
The next meeting will be in the house of Brother Gary just right in the next Barangay. And the time of their ‘meating’, that means they meet to eat is at lunch time, the next day.
Time is 9:46 p.m.
The Church That Meets In a House
I am Romulos Nacua, they call me Brother Molong and Lisa is my wife. Our house is in the city of Cebu, Jakosalem Street; we have a small room for us but have a big receiving area to welcome 20 people in a large dining table.
This is our first home and we decided to start a house church or a meeting place for Christians in our area. We didn’t make our house a place to hold a series of religious meetings but only a place to welcome those in need of encouragement in the midst of their problems they encounter everyday. [Acts 28:30]. And most of our invited visitors are only those in our neighborhoods.
We Are God’s Church
Christians are the temple of God because God’s spirit lives in them. [1 Cor. 3:16]. And these people of God as a church meet “from house to house.” [Acts 5:42]. “Greet the church that meets in their [Prisca and Aquila’s] house.” [Rom 16:3-5]
What Is a House church?
A house church is an extended family of God that meets for mutual edification. [1 Cor. 14:26; Heb. 10:25]. It is a reflection of God’s family on earth as it is in heaven. A house church also is God’s natural design to save the whole household. [Acts 16:31-34]. Is it not your hearts desire to be with your own loved ones in heaven?
Christians in a house church meets any time of the day, everyday and it limits only to 15-20 people. And if it reaches more than that it should be divided.
What They Do In a House church?
For every person who wants to live Christianity in an authentic way, five important things must happen in their meatings:
1. Meating [Acts 2:42, 46]
That means they eat as they meet. Every participant brings their own food either for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even [midnight] snacks. It depends upon the time agreed since their meeting is flexible. Oftentimes, when God wants to deliver His Word and be understood, He will liken it with our physical food. [Matt. 4:4; Ez. 3:1-3; Rev. 10:9-10] That is why whenever He teaches and preaches it is almost always accompanied with something to eat. Feeding the five thousand is one of the examples.
And this ‘meating’ also is a time to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Since our Lord introduces it in the context of a meal. [“after supper” – Lk. 22:20] Throughout the New Testament period the Lord’s Supper was an actual meal shared in the homes of Christians. They do it until Christ’s return physically to those who are His. [1 Cor 11:26].
Essential qualities that will develop as they eat together:
a. In eating the command to “accept” or “receive” one another develops. A person who accepts another person is called a “Man of Peace.” [Lk 10:6]. If you ask a visitor in your house to eat with you is it not you agree [or accept him] with him? [See Jesus who receive sinners and eats with them – Lk 15:2] And make him your friends? [See Jesus who is a friend of sinners – Lk 7:34-36, and friend of His own people. – Jn 15:15]. In this context also develops the attitude of hospitality. “Given to hospitality” was one of the characteristics of the early Christians, and still marks out authentic Christianity. Our home is not meant to be enjoyed in lonely isolation: it is there to be shared. And the most important quality that will be developed in a person in this kind of environment is love and this will end up fulfilling the command of Jesus to “love one another.” Is this not how people will know us that we are His? [Jn 13:34,35]
b. Jesus came eating and drinking. [Lk 7:34]. Eating the Lord’s Supper in the house church meeting is a reminder of Jesus. He is the first, the center as well as the last to be honored in the meeting. In other words, they meet because of Jesus. Meating in the house church invites Jesus Himself. He’ll say something like; “I will surely come and dine with them.” [Rev. 3:20] Because He is the “Master of the house” and we are “His household.” [Lk 10:25].
2. Edifying [1 Cor. 14:26; Heb. 10:25]
The goal of their ‘meating’ is for the edification of every one – the body of Christ. Worship can be a part of it but not the reason because worship can happen when our lives are offered daily as a living sacrifice [Rom. 12:1]. We can worship when we’re alone anytime and everywhere but we cannot receive encouragement if we put ourselves in isolation. So if the reason of our meeting is for edification that means each one has a responsibility to encourage one. “How is it then brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, and has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” [1 Cor. 14:26]
There are 58 “one another” in the New Testament and that will mean that we cannot just live without one another. Our Christian experiences affects people everyday. That is why each one of us is important to be a part of especially in the meetings. The Bible does not guarantee that listening to a sermon even for hours will encourage everyone. Any preacher and member knows that fact. But as we encourage one another it certainly lead to the edification of the whole members of the body of Christ who are present in the meeting.
Environment like these in any church gathering promotes a couple of essential qualities:
a. They learn to submit to one another. The Bible clearly commands us to “submit one another in the fear of God.” [Eph 5:21]. What that means is that we need to be watchful in our actions and behavior and if our brother or sister corrects or rebukes us we should be willing to accept it. Submitting to one another does not exempt any members of God’s family. It is a two-way submission not a one-way. So if each one submits to another, the whole body is edified because both are responsible for each other.
b. They are accountable to one another. If we submit to one another then we are accountable to one another as well. That is why whatever happens to our brethren God will hold us accountable. [Gen. 4:9] This is one of the reasons why He gave us this “one another’s” command. Christians in a house church must have a feeling of accountability for if not many unhealthy attitudes and habits will develop in the meetings and most in our everyday lives.
c. They disciple each other. Everything we do in a house church meeting – accepting one another, pray for each other, encourage one another, exhorting one another, as well as submitting one another and all the “one another” in the Bible are the essential principles of making disciples for Christ. And these should be integrated with accountability for without it discipleship will never happen. Christ sent the twelve, not one, to do the making of disciples. One person could not just do that task to all nations. Modeling to someone is for everyone to learn. Not one man demonstrating or performing in front of everybody. It is “one another” not one man.
3. Teaching [Matthew 28:20]
In Hebrew culture, the traditional teacher was the father teaching his family in his house, usually at meal-times, says Wolfgang Simson in his book, Houses That Change the World. Teaching in Bible times even in the Old Testament is geared to show somebody how to do something, and to explain why things are the way they are. Its goal is not to acquire more knowledge but helping to obey and serve God and His purposes [Duet. 6:4-6; Rom. 1:5].
In a house church setting where everyone feels at home while eating, each can have each part of sharing what he thinks and feels of any certain matters concerning everything. This is followed by a question-and-answer time which is interactive and dynamic, and allows everyone to participate and get the explanation he or she needs. ‘Questions often what a person is thinking and can help to remove mental blocks if we deal with them rightly, and therefore encourage spiritual growth’, says Met Castillo.
Often the Greek word ‘preaching’ in the New Testament is translated dialogizomai, which means to have a dialogue between people [Acts 20:7]. We see this every time in Jesus’ preachings, there is always someone in the crowd that will interrupt by asking questions and oftentimes His teachings are a respond to someone’s curiosity. This teaching style is geared to help people become ‘doers of the word’, teaching them to obey everything He has taught us [Matt. 28:20].
4. Praying [Acts 1:14; 2:42]
Whenever and wherever the early believers meet there are two things that will happen: eating and praying. In a house church meeting prayer is a must by everyone. They prayed for anything and everything that concerns them. As interaction happens in their meeting each need automatically arise [by asking the right questions] and will be known by God through prayer. If one starts to pray for the other he will feel the burden and this leads to intimacy between each other.
Their prayer time happens anytime as they eat, before, during or after the meal. No set of programs to be followed in times of communicating God to man. No prayer lists to be made too. They can pray two by two or by group but make sure that everyone is involved. In an atmosphere like this everyone can easily adopt the habit and attitude of prayer. They learn it not by paper and ink nor in mind [knowledge about prayer] but in deed. Not one person mediating in prayer for everyone but everyone prays for one another.
5. Sharing [Acts 2:44; 4:34]
Spiritual, material and even financial needs and support are shared to everybody. If someone has a need someone is prepared to meet. This is what the early church did and our churches should follow it today. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” [Acts 4:32].
If you want your blessing to be counted on men expect something in return when you give. But if you want your blessing to be counted on God, expect nothing in return when you give. Boeing Paras, who’s a dear friend of mine who liberally gives, sent me a message on my cell that has some truth in it. It says that, “If you feel the love of God in your heart you are blessed by God. But if you share the love of God in your heart then you are a blessing from God.” Writer John Bunyan maintained, “You have not lived today successfully unless you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you.”
How About Tithing?
Tithing was not mentioned in the time of the early church. We cannot find even one verse that proves that they practice it in their meetings. God requires 100% of our lives and everything we have. When He saved us we are not on our own but His. What the rich young ruler to whom Jesus said, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor…and come, follow Me.” [Lk. 18:22] did not do, the church did it, as what Wolfgang Simpson rightly said. Not 10% but all! How pity a wife who only receives 10 percent of her husbands love. And how pity a nation who only sends 10 percent of its soldiers into battle. How pity a Christian who only allows the Lord to control only 10 percent of his life. I have a very good illustration about this truth:
A newly committed Christian brother prayed to God and as he pray the Lord interrupted:
“Do you have any money today?”
“Yes. I have Lord.” The man answered.
“Give it to Me.” God said. This might be the 10 percent of his income.
“Do you still have any money left?” The Lord asked him again.
“Yes Lord but it’s in the bank.” The man replied.
“Oh, you have a bank account? [As if the Lord is unaware of it] Wow! Can I have that too?” The Lord said.
“What?” the man started to murmur. “Everything? What will happen to my family then? How can I sustain them?” He complained.
“Huh! You have a family too? The Lord asked. “Alright, give them to Me also.”
The man kept silent for a moment, took a deep sigh and asked in a meek voice, “Even my beautiful wife?”
“Son,” The Lord explained, “you know that it’s not only you that I love and wanted to be mine. Your children also and yes your dear wife. Can I have them?”
Before the man uttered a word, The Lord continued, “Did you not surrender your whole life to Me as I had surrendered mine to you? And with all your heart, mind, soul and strength have you not loved Me? How come you are holding back everything you own?”
“Alright, it’s all yours.” The man said. “And since you’re taking all what is dear to me, so what am I here for? Everything that’s left is useless now so you might as well take my house too. That if you like.” The man tried acting for self-pity hoping God will change His mind.
“Wow, you have a house too? How many? How about cars and maybe businesses, can I have them all? The Lord was glad to hear the man’s offer.
“Go ahead, whatever, you can have it all.” The man replied with grumpy face.
A moment of silence occurs and God smiles while watching him sitting lonely.
And God said:
“Son, because you gave everything you had, all that is yours have become Mine and now I’m giving it all back to you in one condition.”
“What Lord?” The man replied as if heaven fell down on him. And the Lord said:
“Take good care of them, will you?”
Remember, God can only keep what you have committed to Him. [2 Tim. 1:12]
Two marks of a Christian: giving and forgiving. In a house church Christians give with a cheerful heart.
Who Leads a House church?
An elder leads the house church. [Acts 14:23] Simply older than anyone around the group not necessarily being the oldest. Elders do not have to be skilled Masters of Ceremony and learned teachers, but having modest and authentic fathers and mothers with obedient children will be great to start with. They should be mature in serving in God not freshlings from a seminary. Mature in family life experiences for, “how will he take care of the church of God if he does not know how to rule his own house?” [1 Tim. 3:5]
If Jesus had said it in the Mount of Beatitudes it would have been that, “Whoever can take care of his marriage and his family can take care of the church.” Specially, we as a church are just one in the house of faith [Gal. 6:10], and each one treats every one as his/her own part of family [1 Tim. 5:1, 2].
Christ became the head of His body which is the church because the meeting of its members is not led by one professional clergy man but fathered by an elder who cares and nurtures as his own “Dear Children” in the Lord. [1st, 2nd, 3rd John’s] The elders’ leadership can only be known and recognized if problems arise. But if the goal of such gathering is to encourage one another, the, leadership will be less needed because everyone commits to help, support and pray for one another.
WHY DO IT IN THE HOUSE?
The concept of this kind of meeting is most suitable in the most natural place in the world called home, where we are at home. The early disciples did it “from house to house” and when they wanted to have a big gathering or a celebration, they would do it outside the temple – temple court. But they can do it best in a small group with their family and in their own homes. What matters most in church meetings is intimacy and the bonding that happens with just a few people namely, your family, your friends and surrounding neighbors.
Why in a natural setting such as in a house? Because we all act more natural to ourselves than anywhere else on this earth. If I want to know you better then I’ll have to go to your home and watch how you treats your spouse and your children. Someone aptly said, “You cannot judge a person based on Sunday’s.” The most hypocrite person today can be found in our beautiful buildings with surrounding greenery scenes we called “Church.” Some people pretend to be somebody else on Sundays’. I can fool anyone outside my home but inside I fool no one.
Loving and believing God must be taught in the context of a family [Duet. 6:4-6]; In Jesus time He preferred to teach and minister in private than in public. There was a time when Jesus healed a demon-possessed man and when the man was healed He commanded him to go home to his family and tell them what the Lord has done for him. [Mk. 5:19].
Christianity Is A Way of Life
Christianity is not a mask you use to hide a sad life; Christianity should be a reflection of Christ’s image in you. It is neither a costume you wear on “holy days” but it is the righteous character of Christ clothed in you. Christianity should become a lifestyle – and this kind of lifestyle should be consistently practiced daily until it becomes a habit. In other words, Christianity is twenty four hours a day, one hundred percent, full time! We know that Christianity is not a religion, and I would say that it is not a scheduled service as well. Thus, Christianity in the time of Jesus became a life to live; it is being the church than merely doing or going to church. It’s not that we do church differently but it’s how we live life differently.
Religion is following a set of church system but Christianity is following a set of life system – the life of Christ. He said, “I am the … life… [Jn. 14:6]. And, “I have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly” [Jn. 10:10]. In Greek word, that life that Christ gave us is the life of God. And Jesus wants us to live that life. You may ask, how? Well, He said, “Follow Me!” It is to live the new life that God gave us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Cor. 5:17]
This is how is it was in the Old Testament: What you learn in the temple teach it in your homes. But in the New Testament, what you learn at home share it in the church meetings. If everybody’s doing this, we will all end up edifying and encouraging one another, which fulfill the main reason of our gathering [1 Cor. 14:26; Heb. 10:25].
When I shared this to two Christian ladies at Mc Donald the other one said with excitement, “Oh, just like what Jesus did!”
“Yes,” I reply. “It was how He ministered in the house of Matthew [Lk 5:29-39], Zaccheus [Lk 19:1-27], and in Simon the Pharisee. [Lk 7:36-50]. And in fact it is what we’re doing now, eating, encouraging, praying, teaching and sharing as in the days of the early, early church. And this is how Jesus defined church too: ‘Two or three gathered together in my Name I am in the midst of them.’ And we should be doing it as well following His steps.”
Isn’t it easy? Jesus is waiting right outside your home for you to invite Him in. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” [Rev 3:20]
May your house be used as an informal gathering of Christians in your community, your church at home.