Call it Open House, Cell Group, Micro Church – the function is more important that the name; but this article is about giving you some ideas in general - and specifically from scripture – that you can use to add some breadth and depth to your church expression and experience.
There are two key scriptures that we will take a look at to help paint a picture of what you can do:
Acts 2:42-46 (NLT)
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper[a]), and to prayer… 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.
1 Corinthians 14:26-31 (NLT)
26 Well, my brothers and sisters, let's summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. …27 No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say…29 Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said… 31 In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged.
Before we get into it...
You can run a house church
There is nothing stopping you from deciding to run a house church. Just call a date and time and invite some friends.
Small is the new Big
Don't think you need a huge number of people, in fact we have learned that often the smaller is the better! You might be surprised to find that a group as small as just 3 or 4 can be very fulfilling!
1. Open and Read the Bible
Get into the Bible together as a group. There is a stack of ways that you can do this:
Get on the Reading Plan
A lot of us in The Way are doing the "Read the Bible in a year" reading plan on the home page of this site. You can all jump on this together and simply talk about the revelation each of you have received in the past week in your reading. On average you will read 21 chapters in a week. That is a lot a scripture from which to get some great revelation and when everybody is reading the same stuff, there will be plenty of spiritual food to go around!
Pick a Book and Read it Together
Pick a book and just go through it verse be verse together and discuss what you are reading. We have done this for a number of years now (up until this year) in our Monday Night group. You will be amazed at the way you can get "stuck" unpacking just one verse and spend a whole evening discussing it.
Allow or Appoint Someone to Share
You could pick someone different each time you get together to bring a scripture and share from it, or throw it open to anyone you has had a revelation from the Word to share.
2. Get into some Teaching
What an amazing time in history we live in! With all the stuff that is available through the internet or on DVDs, we can bring the world's greatest teachers into our homes! And hey, don't forget some of the local home-grown teachers as well.
Watch Something Online
Pick a teacher or a series on YouTube and get together to watch it. Then talk about it together.
Watch a DVD
With so much good stuff available on DVD, a fantastic way to get some good teaching is to buy a series and watch it together.
Invite a Local Leader
There is nothing better than a bit of one on one time with a mature believer. Unlike a DVD or YouTube session, you get to ask questions – and get answers! It is a wonderful opportunity to receive some direct and personal ministry and to build relationship with your elders.
3. Enjoy Fellowship
Spending hang time together is part of a healthy fellowship of believers.
When Do We Start The Meeting?
Because of institutional training, we can think that the meeting starts when somebody "does" something – a song, an opening prayer. Socialising is as much a part of the gathering of believers as prophecy or healing is. From the moment people start arriving, the spiritual interactions have actually begun. You don't even have to "start" at all! The natural by-product of followers of Christ getting together will be all the spiritual stuff anyway. You can afford to let it "roll".
It's OK to do Fun Stuff
Sometimes, just get together without an agenda for the spiritual stuff. Have a BBQ, go to an event together, celebrate a birthday. All families do fun stuff together from time to time and our spiritual family should be the same.
Don't Fall in the Fellowship Trap
Some small groups can degenerate into just having fellowship time and nothing spiritual happens at all! Don't let that happen. Doing nothing but fellowship time each time you get together is like going to gym but spending all your time talking to your friends there. You may have a nice time, but you have missed the primary purpose of being there.
4. Break Bread Together
There are two kinds of spiritual meals that we see throughout the New Testament, and I encourage you to do both. They can even be done together.
Take the opportunity to have the Lord's Supper together – it can be a really powerful time of intimate fellowship with God and each other to take communion as a small group together.
Have a Meal Together
Sharing a meal together in virtually any culture in the world communicates "I accept you". Don't just have take-away in the same house, go to the effort of actually sharing from the same meal together. This can be as much of a spiritual act as anything else we do.
You can also have communion as part OF a shared meal. Try having some bread and wine (or grape juice) ready to share at an appropriate time in the midst of your meal.
It may seem obvious, but prayer should be a basic foundation to any gathering of believers. But there are many ways you can pray in a Micro Church environment:
Open In Prayer
Try committing your time to together to the Lord in prayer at the start. It can help set the right spiritual tone for the rest of the time you are together.
Pray for Each Other
We all have needs, take the time to minister to each in prayer, whether it is praying for external things that are important to the believers gathered or personal needs. Always be ready to pray for needs like healing. A favourite practice for many of us is "The Hot Seat". Put a seat in the middle of the room, someone sits on the seat and everyone else ministers in prayer and prophecy to that person. It is a wonderful experience.
Pray Beyond Yourselves
One of the most powerful dynamics of prayer is when we pray into areas that have nothing to do with us. For those who have done School of the Spirit, you might remember the list of 30 things the New Testament Church prayed for – and none of them had anything to do with themselves. Our prayers can cover all distances – lift your vision higher and pray for the nations!
Pray for Your Direction and Purpose as a Group
What does God want you to do as a fellowship of believers? He has a unique and special purpose for you corporately just as He does individually. Wait on Him and seek His direction for what that is.
Developing a generous heart to God and others is a natural outflow of a life in Christ. We tell God that we give Him our lives – but how do you feel about giving 10% of your income to him? I personally don't think tithing stands up as a New Testament practice – but the principle of it is a great litmus test. If the thought of parting with 10% of your income upsets you, just how surrendered is your life to him? It all belongs to him anyway so learn to give generously and cheerfully.
To Each Other
If anyone in your group has a need, why don't you give to them? Learn to take care of the material issues in each other's life as much as the spiritual.
For Your Own Ministry
Why not start setting aside some money for the ministry you are believing the Lord to use you in? Or start saving for a particular outreach. How about "putting in" to take another family out to dinner so you can share the Gospel with them?
Outside of Your Group
You could give to someone you know has a need; another House Church to bless them; a missions group like Favour of God or the Darby's at Give Kids Hope; a missionary like Elly; or what about one of home-grown works like our food bank run by Graeme and Lois; or Project Outward; or Bendigo for Homeless Youth. You could as group take on the support of one of the orphans in the Homes that John and Elizabeth Steele have Northern India… and that is just all OUR stuff we have going on! Beyond that is there are other churches, ministries, missions, homes and outreaches.
To The Way
As The Way continues to grow and develop, we need financial resources just to oil the wheels of ministry. We don't need much – and all the stuff mentioned before constitutes in one way or another arms of what we do as well, but organisationally, we need money just to cover things like insurances, rents, etc. There is also equipment to purchase and other practical resources we require. In that broader sense of the fellowship as a whole, we need that support. Consider setting aside some money each week to sow back into the fellowship that is support you and your ministry.
6. Celebrate Together
Why not as a group go to a larger gathering AS a group. Whether it is sitting together at Without Walls, or attending a conference in Melbourne or some other Christian event, decide to go "together" and enjoy it as a family of believers.
Worship for many has become something you do at "Big Church" with professional quality musicians and singers, big sound systems and all the bells and whistles. To worship in a small group can sometimes be daunting because it can be so intimate and vulnerable. But getting over that can lead to some amazing times in the Lord.
If you are a musician, you have a very special gift that the rest of us only can dream of. I know that it can be tiresome to always be expected play, but your talent is always going to be a blessing to those of us who are unable to do what you do. Your service in music is a tremendous blessing, please choose to bless others with it.
If your group has no musicians, there is a truly astounding amount of worship music available now. Spend some money on pulling together some good worship play lists (have you thought about how much money those talented musical people have spent on their skills?). By buying worship music to play when you come together you will add another dimension to your time AND support the ministries of those creating that great music.
And think of all the ways you can worship WITHOUT music. Praising Him with lifted hands, shouts of joy, kneeling or prostrating before Him, reading out Psalms or Hymns, waving banners.
Take out time just to worship and minister to the Lord. It could open up a whole new world for your group.
8. Activate the Gifts
Speak in Tongues, prophesy, pray for healing – go for it! Let your times together be a time of "practice" for hearing from God and moving in the Gifts of the Spirit. Remember tongues is the engine-room of the Gifts of the Spirit. Take time to pray in tongues.
In small groups we can sometimes get self-conscious and become quiet and gentle in our prayers. Don't let the closeness of your fellow believer or the small number intimidate you; instead, choose to develop a different culture! Raise the roof, with praise and prophecy, tongues and prayer. Allow your times together to become a potent expression of the Holy Spirit – so much so, that a visitor would say "surely the Lord is amongst these people".
Make plans as a group on what you could do in the future together. What about reaching out to a particular person, couple or family? How would you do that? When? Discuss strategies on whatever you feel the Lord is wanting to accomplish through your group.
I am hoping that this list inspires you and your group in how you can bring some diversity and flavour to your life in Him. Do you have any suggestions on what you could do to enhance the expression of your Home Church? Comment below.