The Gates of Hell Were Prevailing
Jesus promised that He would build His church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. And everywhere I looked, I saw the gates of hell prevailing. No matter what the denomination was, no matter how good the preaching was, lives were falling apart. Young men were falling into sin. There were tragedies everywhere in the religious world no matter how good the preaching was, and it broke my heart. And so I and many other people and obviously you brothers, too, are trying to find out, “how does God want us to build?” Every man builds somehow. Paul said every man should be very careful how he builds. We either build with wood, hay, and stubble, or we build with gold, silver, and precious stones (1Corinthians 3:10b-13).
So, it matters how I raise my children. If I only see my children once a week, I can “say” I love them. I can give them good sermons when I see them. But, their lives are going to be harmed if I only see them once a week. God’s family is the same way. The physical family is a shadow of what is supposed to be the spiritual family. Jesus didn’t say He wanted to give us a place to attend once a week. He wants to give us a hundred mothers, brothers, sisters, lands, possessions, persecutions, and in the life to come eternal life. That was God’s promise that He would build a hundred deep relationships, not just some place to attend and be taught. He said, “Go into every nation and make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, and teach them to obey everything I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). He meant for us to interact with each other, and help each other obey the commands of God.
So, when you say the term “home church” or “house church,” it can either be another program, one more gimmick that is destined to fail, or we can view it a little differently. That is that God wants us to build the entire church as deep relationships, instead of a few deep relationships and most people just coming to hear teaching, to sing, worship and pray, and then go off to their own lives. He wants it to be a hundred mothers, brothers, sisters, lands, possessions, with persecutions (which you will have) and in the life to come eternal life.
Some have called us the pioneers and initiators of the home church movement in the United States. People have called us that for twenty years, though we don’t use that terminology. We don’t call ourselves “home churches.” Number one, there are way too many of us to fit in a house. In twenty years we’ve never owned a huge building of our own, but we do rent places one day at a time so that we can all be together.
We have a half a dozen places or so that we can call on one day’s notice and ask, “Can we rent this place tomorrow night?” and it would be large enough for all of us to fit. But it’s not a program, it’s relationship, and so we don’t assign leaders. We don’t assign anyone saying, “You’re a part of this home church, you’re a part of that house church.” Even though there are hundreds of us we don’t “assign” anybody to anything. Every person is involved in people’s lives and in different homes virtually every day and every night. Every single person in the church, like the prophecy said, “From the least to the greatest they will all know Me” (Jeremiah 31:34). They make the choices of whose lives they are involved in. People care for each other, just as you would for your children, and watch for spiritual needs and help each other.
We’ve watched our children grow, be married, and then have their own children. We’ve watched them grow in the grace and the nurture and admonition of Jesus. We’ve never had a split in twenty years. None. We’ve had to disfellowship people that decide not to follow Jesus, but that’s different, of course. So, even though we’ve been called the pioneers of the home church movement in North America and other parts of the world, we don’t call it “home church.” We call it loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The entire church is like a family, where lives are totally intertwined every single day. And of course we live in houses, so we use houses.