Paul Teaches What to Do at a House Church Gathering
What Scripture Teaches About Meeting Together Is Far Different Than Our Sunday Services
We talked about three options for a house church gathering: duplicate a typical service, participate online, or just hang out. Each of these three approaches have their strengths and weaknesses.
However, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives us some ideas of what we could do for a house church (1 Corinthians 14:26-27). He gives five activities that could take place: singing, teaching, sharing a revelation, speaking in tongues, and giving an interpretation.
But before we dig into these five areas, let’s look at some other key items first.
When You Gather
Paul says when you gather, not if you gather. This reminds us that getting together with other followers of Jesus should be a regular occurrence, not random (check out Hebrews 10:25).
This idea of meeting together can occur on Sunday morning or can happen at any other time. The Bible doesn’t command the day or the hour when we should meet, nor is the timing sacred. Gathering Sunday morning is merely a practice that developed over the centuries.
Next, let’s look at the phrase that precedes Paul’s list. He says, “each of you.” This means everyone should participate. The idea of all those present taking part suggests an egalitarian house church gathering, where everyone contributes, and everyone ministers to each other.
This instruction removes the divide between leader and follower, which happens in today’s church services. On a typical Sunday morning a few people lead, while most people watch. This means that a few people are active during church, while most sit as passive observers, as if going to a concert or attending a lecture.
Five Actions for House Church Gatherings
Instead Paul wants everyone involved, where each person can minister to one another. He lists five activities that should take place in our house church gathering.
1. Sing a Song
When we meet together, we should sing a hymn or share a song—likely more than one. This could mean playing a musical instrument so that others can sing along. For those who can’t play an instrument or lead others in singing, a modern-day option might be to play a recording of a song. Anyone can do that.
It could also mean—it probably does means—launching into a song or chorus a cappella as the Holy Spirit leads. This requires no preparation at all, just a willingness to listen to the direction of God’s Spirit.
2. Teach a Lesson
The same approach applies for giving a word of instruction. We don’t need to preach a half-hour to an hour-long sermon. In this case less is more. We can often communicate much by speaking little. Saying something concisely in thirty seconds may be more meaningful than droning on for thirty minutes. Again, no preparation required. And everyone present can do this.
All we need is a willingness to share something that God taught us during the week, or that we learned through studying Scripture. In addition, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to tell us what to share during our meeting. It can build off what someone else has already said, or it may be a new topic.
3. Share a Revelation
The idea of having a revelation to share will seem normal to some and a bit mystical to others. Think of a revelation as special knowledge that God has given to us. He could do this through a writing we read or an action we observe. And it can be through Holy Spirit insight. Regardless of the source of our revelation, Paul wants us to share these perceptions with those gathered.
4. Speak in Tongues
The last two items on the list may, or may not, be a comfortable activity in our group, depending on our practices and comfort level. The first of these two items is speaking in tongues.
The Bible talks about speaking in tongues, and Paul instructs the people in Corinth to do it. It’s biblical, and we should consider this for our house church gathering. But it may be optional, because Paul later says, if anyone speaks in tongues. This implies it’s not a requirement. But he does say that if people speak in tongues, only a few people should do it and then one at a time.
5. Interpret the Tongue
After someone speaks in an unknown language, someone must interpret it. Implicitly, if no one can interpret the message, then the person shouldn’t share it. After all, how can words that no one understands build up the church?
Holy Spirit at Our House Church Gathering
Much of the activity for a house church gathering means listening to the Holy Spirit and responding as he directs. Implicit in this we will encounter times of silence—sometimes lengthy—as we wait and listen. Silence unnerves some people, so if this idea of waiting for God to speak is new to you, move forward with care as you build up the ability to sit, listen, and share. Hearing from the Holy Spirit, however, is central to our house church gathering.Everything we do at a house church gathering must be for the purpose of building up the church, to strengthen the faith and community of those present. Click To Tweet
Build Up the Church
To conclude his list of five items, Paul says everything we do at a house church gathering must be for the purpose of building up the church, to strengthen the faith and community of those present. Doing or saying anything to elevate ourselves or draw attention to our abilities benefits our ego. This detracts from the group.
Instead we should humble ourselves and do things for our common good. This will advance the kingdom of God and the good news of Jesus.
[Read more about this in Peter’s upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church.]
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.