Well, I am on holiday and having the space and time to dream again, so here is my latest visualisation of a house church gathering.
The church gathering begins with a meal, probably dinner, in a home. There is a sense of joy and companionship as people eat together. Over the meal people catch up and connect. Newcomers are warmly welcomed. Their first contact with the church community, then, is during a very human activity — sharing a meal — not a formal meeting in a special building. The elements of the Lord’s Supper are incorporated into the meal — a pause early in the meal to break bread, a pause towards the end of the meal to raise a cup, in memory of Jesus’s death for our salvation and the salvation of the world.
2. We Worship God in Song
After the meal, the gathering assembles to worship God in song. We refuse to be caught in the hymns vs. praise songs debate. We will choose good and appropriate songs from whatever era that will help express what is in our hearts as we respond to God. We will begin with songs that focus on the transcendence of God, objective proclamations of who He is and what He has done in history, before moving to songs that testify to His immanence, how He has drawn near to touch our lives.
3. God Speaks to Us Through the Word
The main way God speaks to us is through His Word, including His Word preached. We aim for sermons that are rooted in a careful exposition of the biblical text but delivered in language that is understandable so that listeners hear what God is saying to them. After the sermon has been delivered opportunities will be given to the listeners to ask questions about the sermon as well as to give suggestions as to how the message can be applied in their lives.
4. We Respond in Prayer
In prayer we draw near to God. We will lift up before the Lord needs in the community. But we also embrace our role as priests on behalf of the world. We will lift up before the Lord needs in the country and in the world, prayers that beseech the Lord to work, especially in areas beyond our comprehension and our ability to help. Elements of prayer would include praise, confession, thanksgiving and petition.
5. We Give Ourselves in Service
We end by sharing about how we can be Christ’s representatives in the world. This would include how we will serve Him in the basic spheres of our lives — in our families, our communities, and our daily work. Some members of the community may be involved in parachurch groups or NGOs that serve the community. Others may be missionaries in various contexts and we will see how we can support them materially and in prayer. As led by the Lord, the community may embark on ministry initiatives of their own. We are clear that we gather to worship but we leave to serve. A collection may be taken to support select ministries and the needs of the community.
6. Clearing Up
The community helps the hosts to clear up even as they had helped the hosts to do what was necessary to set up the home for the meeting.
Next, what if there is a large response and the numbers are way beyond what would make for a more personal gathering? Well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. This is just a day dream.