Today was the first coming-together of... well, truth be known we don't have a name for ourselves. It's just a group of fellow Christians who came together mostly through Facebook after talking about our spiritual needs and the realization that we needed something more than "traditional" churches can provide. It hasn't been that we've wanted to "forsake the assembly" as Hebrews 10:25 exhorts against. Christians need others to edify them and hold them accountable, and we sell ourselves short when we deny the gifts that God has given us to help our fellow believers also.
That's one of the things that led us to consider taking this step: that we need to be part of an active, vibrant group of believers.
(As an aside, it was noted a few times that ours might be the very first church to start via Facebook. The Lord works in mysterious ways...)
For me personally, I can't help but think back to when I was in college at Elon, and the small group Bible study and discussions that we used to have. I took so much good from those times, and years later they are still with me. It's been a long time since those days and I guess that I still miss the small groups, for all the fellowship that I had and the growth that I gained from it.
So a few of us got together this morning at me and Lisa's apartment, for a time of worship and Bible study and prayer. Thus went our first foray into "house church": a return to the worship style of the very first Christians, and which according to some is a fairly rapidly growing movement among believers in America. It's already the predominant style of worship service in many countries where hostile governments have forced the local churches to "go underground".
It was with prayer that things got started this morning, as we thanked God for bringing us together and to lead our discussion. Then we went into Acts chapter 2 to examine how the first Christians worshiped, since they are the ones that we are most trying to emulate. And something I didn't catch until today: on the day of Pentecost, Peter and the disciples and the other followers of Jesus were in a house, not at the Temple or some other appointed place of worship, when the Holy Spirit came upon them. There's a lot of evidence that it was the same "upper room" that Jesus held the Last Supper in. And considering the architecture of Jerusalem at the time it might have been something very much like our own apartment.
There was no "leader" of this service. We just shared whatever God was putting on our hearts that He was showing us from the scripture. And this led into a lot of conversation about what it is that we're doing with coming together like this. I think today's service could be called an "icebreaker" or maybe the "orientation" meeting, but that's not the right terminology either. Acts chapter 2 was our jumping-off point for the kind of worship and praise that we are trying to have, over two thousand years after those first believers came together in Jerusalem, and how we are trying to go back to what it was that they held to.
This went on for a little over an hour, and then we decided that it was a good time to wrap up for now. We closed out with asking for prayer requests from everyone, and then held them up to God and thanked Him again for bringing us together and the time we spent this morning.
It was a Christian worship service without a church building. Without a pastor or some other individual leading the worship. Without fancy music (although if we need it Lisa can play something on her keyboard and we'd certainly welcome anyone to bring their own instruments if they like). Without dozens or hundreds or even thousands of parishioners. Just a small group of fellow believers come together in a humble abode to praise God together.
I will admit: we are still very new at this. But it's been a long time since I've come out of a worship service feeling so spiritually refreshed and uplifted.
And hey, in a lot of ways we are like a much larger church! We have a sanctuary (living room) with ample seating room. We've got musical instruments (the ones from Rock Band for Xbox 360). There's a fellowship hall (the adjoining kitchen) and a "pastor's study" (the back bedroom which currently serves as my video production studio and at the time was displaying new pics from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on the computer monitor). If we ever need it, there's also a baptistery in the form of the bathroom tub: yeah it's adjacent to the toilet but that's just a minor detail.
The one thing that we didn't do today, that seems to have been a part of the regular worship of the early Christians, was hold communion or a "love feast" as a lot of modern-day house church practitioners call it. We did have some blueberry muffins from yesterday that we offered everyone, however. But like I said: we're still a bit new at this. If we don't follow "the formalities" to the letter, that's okay. It's not whether we "jump through all the hoops" that matters as much as it does that we're doing this to honor and praise God with our hearts. We'll certainly start a communion service at some point soon.
And that's basically how it went today for our first worship service.
So how does this sound to y'all? You wanna come join us sometime? We don't know where we're going to be meeting next time: it might be here at our apartment again but it might be somewhere else too. Just please remember: it's not a "church" in the normal sense that we're out trying to create, with a name and a 501 (c3) tax exempt status. I don't know if we'll ever have a website. We're just a group of Christians trying to worship God in a way that He'll give us the most growth and encouragement from. That's it. But that's all that really matters to us anyway :-)
If anyone reading this would like to be a part of our lil' "house church" thingy, shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com with "Home church" in the subject line. I'll get back with you as soon as possible. We'd love to have you join us as we worship God together!
(And the blueberry muffins aren't bad, either :-)