My wife and I had an unusual and wonderful experience this Sunday (May 12). We worshiped that morning with a local house church. We had been invited by the minister and his wife. Both of them have been walking with both of us through the transition we are making (ending our current ministry and returning to our home state of Ohio to begin a new ministry; a far emotionally-tougher transition than I imagined it to be) and they invited us to be with their house church on Mother’s Day. Although neither of us have been to a house church before, we accepted, and I’m glad we did.
We were a little late getting to the church. We got to the house about 10 minutes late. I wasn’t sure, then, what we would find. I imagined we would be let in by the homeowners had we been on time, but I didn’t know what would happen once we were late. Would the door be opened? Would we have to knock? Would we just go inside on our own (which, to a a-man’s-home-is-his-castle-and-should-not-be-violated guy like me would be very difficult to do)? As it turned out, there was a sign on the door telling us that services would start soon and to let ourselves in, which we did. As we went inside, we discovered worship was already in full swing and the living room was already full. Our minister friends saw us and welcomed us, offering us a space on the couch, but we chose to let others take that space and stand in the adjoining kitchen.
As worship went on, I was very surprised and delighted to discover both how large and how diverse the group was. There were about 35 of us there (and the minister told me there are sometimes 50). There were men and women and children. There were young and old adults. There were Caucasians, African-Americans, and Latinos.
Overall, the service was far more vibrant than what I expected. The minister told me they made some mistakes in the worship and the service. I caught a few of those (I saw the guitarist look at the lead singer one time, obviously not sure what she was doing and how he needed to react), but they were not a big deal. What was a big deal was the level of fellowship and worship. We truly connected with God during this time and we connected with each other as well. That, I believe, is what a church needs to be. As I see it, church (both the group and the service) is intended by God to do two things: 1) lead people into a transformative interaction with Him, and 2) enable believers to strengthen and be strengthened by each other. We have made church do many other things today, and maybe some of those things aren’t bad, but if we are not doing these two things, we aren’t succeeding as a church. I thought this house church succeeded in doing that despite its relative small size and whatever mistakes may or may not have been made. That makes it a success in my eyes, and I believe it makes it a success in God’s eyes, too.