BUILDING STRONG HOUSE CHURCHES

By P.J.Hanley

PREFACE

As the end of the age approaches, it is becoming abundantly clear that the church of Jesus Christ will soon see the greatest harvest of souls ever reaped for the Kingdom of God! The Lord is shaking us out of our complacency and equipping us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The current emphasis of the Holy Spirit in evangelism, and spiritual warfare is very refreshing. However, in the midst of all the excitement regarding church growth, let us remember the lessons of the past and not deviate from truth already restored. The Lord has revealed that He is building His house and not just saving people. To gather people is not sufficient, there needs to be a building of lives together in relationship, working out the wonderful salvation God has provided. The local church is to be a family, where in an atmosphere of love, each member learns to grow and function. It is only as each member functions that the Body of Christ will grow strong and mature. House churches are essential to the building process, and where they are neglected the church will be weak and anemic depending solely on the ministry of a few gifted ones to keep things going. The church that Jesus is coming back for will not be like this, it will be one that has been built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit, against which the forces of darkness cannot prevail.

 

WHY HOUSE CHURCHES?

"And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and form beyond the Jordan" (Matt. 4:24-25 NASV) Here we have an account of the ministry of Jesus. It is clear that from the beginning He drew very large crowds, for they came to Him from all over the region, even as far north as Syria. He is the author of "Power evangelism," and was the greatest preacher ever known. There has not yet emerged one who surpassed His ability to gather a following. Yet it is evident that the Master did not consider gathering people together as synonymous with building the church, for later in His earthly ministry He declared to His disciples that He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not overpower it (Mat. 16:18). Gathering a group of people, large or small, under the banner of Christ, does not constitute building a church. The church is much more than a collection of believers, it is a living vibrant organism. Paul expressed it this way; "...You are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:19-22 NASV) The process of spiritual building cannot be accomplished in large crowds of people. It requires the environment of smaller groups, where there can be an intimate knitting of lives together. One major evidence that the Lord is restoring His church, is the growing number of Christian assemblies that use small groups as the means of equipping their saints for service. These groups are given a variety of names such as, home groups, cell groups, care groups, etc. However, the New Testament refers to them as churches. Here are some examples:

 

"Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts.
They broke bread in their homes, and ate together with glad and
sincere hearts..."(Acts 2:46 NIV)

 

"You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you, but have taught you publicly and from house to house." (Acts 20:20 NIV)

 

"Greet Priscilla and Aquila...also the church that meets at
their house."(Rom 16:3-5 NIV)

"Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha
and the church in her house."(Col. 4:15 NIV)

 

"To Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in
your home." (Philemon 1:2 NIV)

 

House churches are not simply bible studies or midweek prayer meetings. Neither are they a transfusion service designed to carry saints over until the next Sunday meeting. A house church is the smallest expression of a local church, an environment where every saint can be knit together in relationship, and find his or her place of function in the Body of Christ.

 

A FOURFOLD PURPOSE

"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as
evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping
of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the
body of Christ..." (Eph. 4:11-12 NASV)

"...But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all
aspects into Him, who is the head even Christ, for whom the
whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every
joint supplies, according to the proper working of each
individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building
up of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15-16 NASV).

In these Scriptures the church is referred to as "The Body of Christ." This analogy is used by the Holy Spirit to convey to us the importance of the building process. The human body is more than a collection of parts, it is a whole person, where each organ, each joint, all muscles, sinews, and tendons contribute to the living whole. Likewise it is God's intent for His saints to be built together as members of His body to become a mature man under the headship of Christ, fully expressing Him in the earth. It is my conviction that these Scriptures sum up a fourfold purpose for the saints. Namely: bonding, maturing equipping, and reproducing, something that can only be properly accomplished in small groups.

 

(1) BONDING

"Being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies..." (Lit. through every joint of the supply.) Being fitted together is not a one time event but a process. This process is dependent upon that which every joint (relationship) supplies. The body will only be as strong as the union between its members. Therefore, the bonding of lives together in Christ is of supreme importance to the proper functioning and cohesiveness of the body. A house church that fails to properly build lives together, even though it may have success in other areas (such as evangelism), will ultimately fall apart. This bonding process of building relationship cannot take place apart from growth in character (2 Cor. 13:4-7, Col. 3:12-16, Prov. 27:17, James 3:16-18)

 

(2) MATURING

"But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the Head even Christ..." One cannot develop excellence in spiritual gifts and ministries and be built together in relationship apart from also growing in the character of Christ (1 Cor 13:1-8). We are to become more and more like Jesus in the things we say and do. We are not called to give salt and light but to be salt and light. In a large gathering, a Christian can hide a lack of character. However, in the intimate environment of a house church, this lack will soon become apparent. Thus there is a need for meetings where there can be confrontation, admonishment, and growth. The house church provides and optimum environment for the process of building godly character.

 

(3) EQUIPPING "For the equipping of the saints for the work of service...according to the proper working of each individual part..." The "proper working of each individual part" is essential to the growth and ministry of the church. Each individual Christian must be equipped for the work to which God has called them. This is the responsibility of the five fold ministries (Eph 4:11). A house church is the environment for training believers how to function in gifts and ministries. Here they should be encouraged to begin by stepping out in faith in an atmosphere of love and acceptance. In this way, spiritual gifts and ministries can be tested, corrected and proven prior to being exercised in the larger congregational meetings. House churches should become seed beds from which gifts and ministries emerge.

 

(4) REPRODUCTION

"...For the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ...proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body..." The human body grows as healthy cells multiply and divide. In the same way, the body of Christ grows as a healthy Christians reproduce the life of Christ in others. The work of service that the saints (holy ones) are called to, is not just to bless one another, but to make disciples (Mt 28:19). As house churches grow in numbers of participants, they provide believers to start new groups. If a pool does not have water flowing in and out, it quickly becomes stagnant. So too, a house church that does not evangelize and make disciples will not grow in the life of God.

A PATTERN FOR HOUSE CHURCH MINISTRY

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42 NIV) Some may not believe there is a pattern for church life. However, we find the first century church, to be "Spirit-led" with a very distinct pattern. They were devoted to the apostles' teaching (the word), to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer, which included worship (Luke 11:22, Mark 14:26, Acts 16:25, Heb 13:15). Notice, they did not do these things when they "felt led to: but, rather, they were devoted to them. It is my conviction that devotion to the work, fellowship, the breaking of bread, prayer, and worship provides an excellent pattern for house churches today.

 

(1) PRAYER AND WORSHIP

When proper priority is given to prayer and worship in the house church, the person of Christ is exalted, and believers are encouraged to focus on Him rather than on their needs. This enables the Holy Spirit to speak clearly to the people and encourage them to cast their cares upon Him. If there is not freedom and participation in worship, the work of the Holy Spirit will be greatly diminished. Skillful anointed musicians can contribute much to worship. If there none are available among the attendees, it is advisable to import them from another house church until some are trained. Another option is to sing acappella. A lack of musicians must never be used as an excuse for not worshipping God. When a person does not consistently enter into worship, it is an indication something is foundationally wrong. Perhaps they have not been baptized in the Spirit, or they need teaching on worship, or they are under spiritual oppression. In any case, they need personal ministry. One should not accept excuses such as "That's the way I am" or "I like quiet worship." These are often masks covering the real problem. On the other hand, one must be careful not to define worship by externals such as the volume of the music or the way people express themselves. Only what comes from the heart is truly pleasing to God. Therefore, leaders must be careful to discern when God's people are truly worshipping Him from the heart and not merely singing as a ritual. Prayer is a necessity without which little will be accomplished. Often instruction on prayer is needed, as many Christians do not know how to pray. Praying for one another's needs should be a priority in meetings for the following reasons:

* People learn to give their problems to Jesus.

* There can be opportunity to move in spiritual gifts.

* Members develop compassion for the needs of others.

* Members learn how to pray effectively.

* Inhibited people often open up and share when they see others
set free.

* People get to know each other on a more intimate basis.

It is also important to pray for the needs of the whole church, so that people will not become inward in their vision. Also, God's answers to prayer should be shared along with testimonies and growth experiences, so that others are encouraged.

 

(2) THE WORD

"These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" John 14:25-26, 35

Because of a current emphasis on prophetic ministry, some Christians place less emphasis on the written word. There is a real danger in this. Without a strong foundation in the written word, it is easy to become led by experience, or feelings, or to not test spiritual gifts and drift from the clear teaching of Scripture. Those who endeavor to be led by the Spirit must remember that He did not come to de-emphasize the Word but, rather, to bring it to our remembrance and instruct us from it. The Word of God should be like a mirror, always before us (James 1:22-25). Paul urged Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4:13). Unfortunately, some Christians feel that simply reading the Scriptures contributes little to a church meeting. However, people should be exhorted to read the Scripture and to share their experiences as they walk with God in the light of the Word. Sometimes it is necessary for Biblical instruction to be brought on a particular topic. This could be an opportunity to help an emerging teacher exercise his gift. Perhaps the most effective way to stimulate participation in the word is to conduct a Bible study. This could be held on a monthly basis. One must be careful to not let this become the primary emphasis of the group.

 

(3) FELLOWSHIP

The importance of fellowship is often greatly neglected and underestimated in churches today. The early Christians were devoted to fellowship. The word fellowship means a common sharing. It is more than being friends and hanging out together. It involves participating and sharing a common vision, purpose, and goal. Fellowship also develops a sense of family. Believers need to experience the family of God in house churches. It is important that the sharing be around the Lord and His work, and not be simply a social gathering. Building lives together will occur only if our fellowship is in Christ (1 John 1:3). Where true Christian fellowship is neglected in a house church, bonding will not be achieved, and eventually vision will be lost. Promoting true fellowship in the Lord requires a great deal of sacrifice on the part of house church leaders. They must be prepared to work at it, and not just expect it to happen. Above all, they must not settle for superficial relationships. There can be no cliques. Here are some steps that can be taken to promote fellowship:

* Share meals together.

* Spontaneous gatherings after church, lunch, dinner, etc.

* Sharing material possessions when needed.

* Taking care of those in need (widows, single mothers,
pregnant women, sick, etc.).

* Reaching out in team evangelism. Great bonding takes place
when people work together toward a common goal.

 

(4) THE BREAKING OF BREAD

The presence of the Greek definite article in Acts 2:42 indicates that the breaking of bread being referred to was a specific breaking and not simply the sharing of meals together. It is most likely a reference to communion, the Lord's supper, which was a very important part of early church life (1 Cor 11:20).

"And when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This
is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In
the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying 'This
cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you
drink it, in remembrance of Me.'" 1 Cor 11:24-25

To remember Christ in the breaking of bread was not merely a suggestion but a command of the Lord. Having clearly understood this, the early Christians devoted themselves to this practice. Also, since the original context of communion was a meal and since Acts 2:46 tells us that they broke bread from house to house, it is logical to assume that this celebration of the Lord's supper took place in their house church meetings. Therefore, house churches ought to regularly celebrate the Lord's supper, remembering His covenant and proclaiming His death until He comes (1 Cor 11:26)

 

HOUSE CHURCH LEADERS

(1) ROLE

(a) Provide Direction

As a house church leader have you ever wondered what you are supposed to do? Have you had thoughts like these?

* "Do I just pray for people with problems?"

* "Maybe I should try to force the people to share, since
waiting for them to open up doesn't seem to work."

* "Well here we go, another dead meeting."

* "Perhaps if we just hang in there something will happen;
maybe God will show up."

One reason some men may find themselves in this frustrating predicament could be because God has not called them to this ministry. However, it is more likely that they simply lack understanding of the role of leader.

"Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith" (Heb 13:7).

A leader is one who imparts vision, purpose, and direction. He is a guide who goes before, and by word and example leads the way. Imparting vision to the people is a very important part of leadership. "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained" (Prov.28:18).

To be unrestrained is to be undisciplined or out of control. Perhaps this is why so many churches and groups of Christians today seem to be heading in a misguided direction. There is much nonsense and a lack of commitment and dedication to the purpose of God. May the Lord raise up godly leaders to impart His vision to the people and walk before them as examples. Godly leadership is not lording it over the flock. Neither is it passively sitting himself as a member of the body with an important function (Rom 12:8). If he views himself in this way and moves in humility, he will build up the church and not elevate himself in the process. If he does not understand this, he will most likely either elevate himself or abdicate the responsibility of leadership. Therefore, a house church leader should be one who leads the group by his word and example. It is his responsibility to make sure the meeting has direction and to keep it on track. He will need to cultivate a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to discern what God wishes to accomplish in each meeting. He must not be afraid to change the "flow" of a meeting if it is going in the wrong direction. The role of the overseer is to see that the will of the Lord is carried out, and not sidetracked by someone operating in the flesh. When he makes a mistake, he should be willing to humble himself and acknowledge it. God will forgive him, the people will respect him because of his humility, and he will grow in his call as an overseer. Remember, if you are a leader, God's people will follow you. You will lead them somewhere, but will it be into the purpose of God for their lives?

(b) Shepherd

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a
witness of Christ's suffering and one who also will share in the
glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under
your care, serving as overseers not because you must but because
you are willing, as God wants you to be..." (1 Pet 5:1-2 NIV)

When Peter admonishes the elders to shepherd God's flock, he reminds them that he was a witness of the sufferings of Jesus. I believe he is emphasizing how precious each believer is to Christ since He suffered so much for everyone. This is a sober warning to all who are called to shepherd. Since house church leaders have people under their care, they must shepherd them with the compassion of Christ, and not simply because the elders placed them there in charge. They should avoid a "Pastor Flock" syndrome realizing that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd and they are undershepherds. Their responsibility is to ensure that each one is growing, pointing them to Jesus and not to themselves. Where possible the needs of individuals should be met through "body ministry", such as group prayer for those facing a decision, or a problem. Some people will grow in stature and maturity without special help, but others require more time, prayer, and instruction. Shepherds have to discern such different needs and minister accordingly. House church leaders, who are not elders, should be careful to receive instruction and help for this task from the elders, and not do it alone.

 

(2) QUALIFICATIONS

"Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of
but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable,
hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent
but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must
manage his own family well and see that his children obey him
with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his
own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not
be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under
the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good
reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into
disgrace and into the devil's trap" (1 Tim 3:1-10 NIV)

Leaders called to oversee a house church should be men who appear to have a five-fold ministry calling. This means that they have potential to become future elders. A possible exception to this could be where one of the leaders is an elder. Leaders must have the compassion, authority, and discernment necessary to shepherd people. It is also important to have a plural leadership to train men in collegial relationships. Due to a lack of available men this may not always be possible, but it should be the goal. Since house church leaders are overseers, their qualifications are based on those given for elders in 1 Tim 3:1-10. The character requirements listed in these verses are to expected of all Christian men. Paul exhorts Timothy to make sure that the men he lays hands on for eldership possess these qualities. He is not saying that they are required only of leaders. The possible exception to this gift appears to be an ability to teach, which has more to do with gifting than character. Many of these character requirements are self explanatory and are not developed here. However, those which are often either misunderstood, or ignored, are discussed in more detail.

(a) Above reproach...cannot be accused of sin.

(b) The husband of one wife.

(c) Temperate...having a clear mind.

(d) Self-controlled.

(e) Respectable... orderly, of good behavior.

(f) Not given to drunkenness.

(g) Not violent...not argumentative.

(i) Not a lover of money.

(j) Not a new convert.

(k) Must have a good reputation with outsiders... not in trouble.

(l) Hospitable...to be hospitable is to love strangers by
sharing your home with them.

The house church leader and his wife must be hospitable. When people come into their home, they should find warm atmosphere. Strangers should easily relate to them. House churches will not grow unless the home environment is one of love and acceptance. Wives play a very important role in this. A cup of coffee or a glass of juice often makes the difference between people feeling welcome, or not.

 

(m) Able to teach.

A house church leader needs to have a clear grasp on essential truths of the gospel, as well as a basic understanding of God's purpose for His church. He does not have to be a "Five-Fold Ministry" teacher (Eph 4:11), but he should be able to teach, even though his ability may be in the beginning stages of development (1 Tim 3:9).

 

(n) Manage his household well.

"If anyone does not know how to manage his own family how can
he take care of God's church?"

I have often wondered why Paul attaches this question. Perhaps it is because this deficiency is not as easily discernible as the others. A leader's family can look good superficially, but yet be out of order. For instance:

* A man can appear to be the head of his household but in
spiritual matters he abdicates responsibility, and his wife
takes the lead.

* His children are not walking with God or growing in
relationship with Him; they simply pose as Christians.
He and his wife may cover up this fact, or be unwilling to face
it because it would put them in a bad light.

* His wife is a gossip behind her husband's back.

* He does not provide for the material or spiritual needs of his
family. Great care and discernment must be exercised in the
appointment of house church leaders. It is wise to follow the
Scripture's admonition concerning the testing of deacons before
appointing them. Then if there is nothing lacking, let them be
appointed (1 Tim 3:10)


PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF THE HOUSE CHURCH MEETING

(1) TIME

Some Christians feel that it is completely acceptable to arrive at meetings fifteen minutes to a half hour late. A few may even come as much as an hour late on a regular basis. This is so common in some Christian circles that it has been dubbed "Charismatic time." What kind of example is this to a young Christian who has been taught, even by the world, not to be sloppy or tardy in his time commitments? It is important to start the meetings on time whenever possible. However, one should not be unreasonable, or extreme, regarding this. If a pattern of tardiness is developing, then perhaps it is necessary to admonish the people gently. If individuals are consistently late without good reason, then it is advisable to speak firmly to them in private.

 

(2) PARTICIPATION

People must never be forced or "brow-beaten" to participate but, rather, encouraged and inspired to do so. It is important to discern whether a lack of participation is an individual or group problem and to treat it accordingly. Remember it will take some people longer than others to open up their lives and become vulnerable.

"Correct, rebuke, and encourage-with great patience and
careful instruction" (2 Tim 4:2 NIV).

 

(3) PROMOTING GIFTS

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given
for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7 NIV).

The operation of spiritual gifts is essential for proper functioning and building up of a local body. As already stated, house churches are seedbeds for gifts and ministries. There are two primary ways that house church leaders can promote spiritual gifts: instruction and example.

 

Instruction

Teaching and exhorting on spiritual gifts, their importance, how they function, etc., is very essential. Also, input from other men of God, especially prophetic brothers, can be very helpful. Sometimes and exhortation will make the difference between another believer having the courage to speak or not.

 

EXAMPLE

Probably the best way to equip others is by example. The house church meeting is a kind of workshop environment where people have the freedom to learn, knowing that they are allowed to make mistakes. Encouraging each one to be involved in ministering to those in need is an excellent way to promote spiritual gifts. An example would be someone in need of prayer and seeking direction with regard to specific matter. The leaders lay hands upon the person and pray, while at the same time encouraging the people to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to speak forth what He is saying to them. As people are filled with compassion for the one in need they will often bring words of prophesy, wisdom, knowledge, etc.

 

(4) CHILDREN

The home is the primary environment where children are to be nurtured in their relationship with God. The very young will receive little from a house church meeting, and will often be bored and become disruptive. Their attention span is short, and for them to sit for a couple of hours in an adult meeting will not be beneficial. They should be brought in for a short time, perhaps during worship. Parents are responsible at all times for the behavior of their children in the meeting. Sometimes confrontation with parents will be necessary over this issue; yet if it is handled properly in a spirit of love and gentleness, good fruit can result. If there are many small children at a house church meeting it may be necessary to provide some alternative for them, perhaps in another room of the house. Oversight could be arranged on a rotation basis so that all parents would have an opportunity to participate in the meeting.

 

(5) NUMBERS OF MEMBERS

Since the primary goal of house churches is a knitting of relationships and equipping of the individual believers, the meetings should not be allowed to become too large. This will defeat the whole purpose of house churches. Fifteen people is a good size group, while twenty five is probably too many. When house churches become too large it is time to start new ones. However, great care must be taken in assigning people. It is not good to move people around simply because of geographical location. It is important to allow people to hear from God concerning whom they are to be related to and minister with. This is an area where there is real danger for leaders to lord it over people. Dominant leadership can appear to get much accomplished, but it will not build and maintain relationship. People will feel like objects in the hands of leaders. In the end, this would be counterproductive and lead to unnecessary fractures and schisms. When people learn to hear from God for themselves, with help from their leaders where necessary, they will become more mature in their Christian walk. However, there are times when leaders should direct people to specific groups. For example:

* An individual will not commit to any specific house church
but chooses to hop around instead. This behavior cannot be
tolerated; such a person should be required to make a commitment.

* Someone wishes to transfer from one house church to another
to avoid confrontation, or because they have a problem that
should be resolved in their present house church. Leaders must
not allow this.

* An individual or couple that has a call to leadership, and
the leaders feel that God wants them to serve elsewhere.
However, leaders should not force anyone into this. If these
individuals are true servants they will hear from God. Their
decision should be respected.

 

Elders need to take the initiative in starting new house churches. They must seek the Lord for His guidance and choice of leadership. Once the leadership and home is available, and they are certain of God's timing, they should proceed. A house church can begin with a very small number of members. However, if the life and presence of Christ is there it will soon grow. It is preferable for new leaders to be taken from a house church that has become too large. This will facilitate a new house church merging quickly, as people will be likely to follow them to the new group. Another option is for an elder to start a house church beginning with his own family and, in time, raising up new leadership. This is invaluable training in church planting for men who may one day be released apostolically. Whatever way the elders are led to raise up new house churches, they must be careful to work with new leaders closely, until they are seasoned and ready to be released.

 

(6) UNRULY PEOPLE

"Admonish the unruly (disorderly), encourage the
faint-hearted, help the weak" (1 Thess 5:14).

House church leaders will sooner or later face the problem of disruptive, disorderly people. The devil can operate through such individuals to bring disharmony and confusion. The Scripture is full of warnings concerning this (2 Cor 11:13-26, Titus 2:15, 3:10, Jude). This issue is often difficult for house church leaders to grasp, because they may have trouble distinguishing between true Christian love, and what I call "sloppy agape." "Sloppy agape" says, "just love them." However, true Christian love involves confrontation. Discipline administered in love is the only way to reach such people. Where possible this confrontation should be done privately. Leaders should never allow a meeting to be disrupted by an unruly person, even if it means asking the individual to leave. We are to mark those who cause dissensions and hindrances; we are not to keep them in "a closet" (Rom 16:17).

 

HOUSE (CELL) CHURCH PITFALLS

During recent years there has been an increasing move toward the Biblical model of house churches or cell churches. Many large traditional churches are catching a vision of their value and are beginning to structure their church life around them. Although this is undoubtedly a move of the Holy Spirit in restoring the headship of Christ, there is great danger of derailment for the following reasons:

*For many, the cell church is a program to be tried to make a
traditional church " successful," rather than a New Testament
pattern of church life being restored.

*Men are often qualified for leadership on the basis of
education alone rather than on qualities of wisdom, character,
accountability and submission. This is a secular pattern and
not the one revealed in the New Testament.

*Leaders are often appointed too quickly, before they have been
tested and proven. Whenever this is done, the potential for
abuse and tragedy is high. Only those with the calling and
character should be given leadership responsibility; otherwise
the headship of Christ will be dishonored and replaced.

*The Holy Spirit is restoring New Testament church life to
return us to the simplicity and purity that existed then.
However, much of the man-made structure that surrounds the cell
church movement is complicating church life and frustrating this
restoration.

The principles of house church building I present in this pamphlet, have been tested and proven for may years in my own local church at Kingston, New York. They have not always been followed perfectly, but they are proven to work. We have succeeded in building people together and raising up ministry. We have tried to resist the temptation to cut corners in order to get faster results. We have much more to learn, and we could have been more effective. However, any weakness we have in this area is not due to the principles themselves but, rather, our failure to abide by them.

CONCLUSION

For almost two thousand years the world has been acquainted with Christianity. Countless numbers have been brought to Christ, but the glorious, triumphant church Jesus said He would build has yet to be manifest in the earth. However, one thing is clear; what the Master has spoken will come to pass. Though there has been much compromise and failure in the hearts of men, the plan and purpose of God will not be thwarted. He is not slow about His promise but is patiently waiting of each of us to embrace His heavenly calling. In these days of great restoration we, who have the awesome privilege of being "fellow workers with God," must be careful to build according to the pattern given us in the Word. We are not just called to proclaim a message but to live in a manner worthy of our great calling. The church is much more that a lifeboat rescuing drowning humans. It is an extension of God's kingdom on earth. Without the building of saints together in relationship, the body will not reach maturity and express the fullness of Christ's ministry. The importance of house (cell) churches in this building process has yet to be realized by many leaders and builders; nevertheless, they are an essential part of God's strategy to fulfill His purpose for His people in these last days. As darkness increases in the earth so will persecution of the church. Satan's influence may succeed in closing down church buildings, but he will be unable to withstand those who have been built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. They will extend the tightly woven net of God into a dwelling of God into the sea of humanity and gather in the greatest harvest ever known. Each local assembly should put a strategy in place to develop strong house churches, being careful to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He will reveal how to apply the various principles involved and adjust one's understanding where necessary. To all house church leaders I say, be encouraged, persevere:

"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the
love you have shown Him, as you have helped His people and
continue to help them" (Heb 6:10).

 

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