Ok.... Perhaps I should give everyone a little history of how I ended up in a House Church.
I won't go on about any of the negative experiences that I am sure are universal to us all. It wasn't those experiences that led to the change anyway, they just were the catalyst for change that the Holy Spirit was calling for in my heart.
Let me retrace some of my steps on this path to House Church. I was found by Jesus in a little United Brethren In Christ Church in the San Fernando Valley at the start of the Jesus Movement back in 1969. The pastor was a wonderful grandfatherly man who was an old revival style Billy Graham type of preacher. He loved Jesus and he loved us long hair hippie kids. He took that same stand that Chuck Smith took - the kids stay! The pews, the carpet and anyone who does not like them can go!
Next step... the Coffee House. In addition to regular church attendance (3x a week) there was a Christian Coffee house inspired by Arthur Blessitt that was my favorite place to go. It was there that I learned about evangelism and every believer being a member of the Priesthood. It was there that I learned that church is not always inside the church. I even went on to start a coffee house that was open for about three years, we did lots of outreach from there.
Fast forward a couple of decades... My wife and I start attending a local fellowship that was promoting Home Groups, never really committed to the Home Group before but at the time we needed the closer fellowship. Over the next seven years we experienced the power of the small group setting. We helped with the Alpha Course and loved the developing community that we had with our mid-week group.
We were developing real relationships with a core group of about twelve brothers and sisters, then it happened, the change occurred. The pastor of the main church wanted to make some changes to the way the Home Group was structured. He dissolved all the small groups into one. Now the group dynamics changed, we were now fifty strangers with only brief greetings. No depth, no chance for real heart to heart fellowship, only a casual "hello" over cookies and coffee. My wife quit going almost entirely but I decided to hang in there and not bail out until I was sure that was what the Father wanted me to do.
I had shared on several occasions with the group and with individuals the concept that the small Home Group is the Church. I could have of been speaking a foreign language and got the same reaction, they all looked at me as if I stepped off an alien spaceship that just arrived from Mars!
I have to interject here that at this time the main church was embracing the whole "Toronto" thing and because of that I decided to make the mid-week Home Group my main place of fellowship. But it was the stark contrast between the old group and the re-formed group that caused me to seek out more information on House Church. I had known of the House Church Movement through my internet searches for links to add to my website, but was leery of them until I found a local House Church Network.
The big step... after several meetings with the folks involved with the local House Churches, a few visits to some House Churches, and a regional House Church Conference we made the leap. Our minds and our hearts had been slowly unplugging from the institutional church for a few years now and after giving the Home Group (now called a Community Group) one more year to see what would happen we called it quits with much prayer and heart searching. I met with some brothers from the old Home Group before making the change to seek out their advice and to share my enthusiasm which met with mixed reactions. Back in January of this year I composed a letter to the pastor explaining that I felt that the Lord was calling us to get involved with the local House Church Movement. I thanked him for all the years of great teaching and ministry that he labored in. I enclosed the church key that I had for several years because of being part of the Food Ministry. Although I told him that they will always be family to us, and explained that he should feel free to contact me at any time we have never been contacted by anyone about our departure.
Now baby steps... We have been part of a small House Church now since we left the institutional church seven month ago. It is a new group that is still feeling its way through developing relationships, learning to trust and to lean on one another more. We are a very diverse group.. a young couple with four kids from a Baptist & Friends (Quaker) background, a family that has teens that came out of a very legalistic denomination, an other couple with one teen at home that still is part of a Foursquare fellowship, and my wife and I the empty nesters that had a Calvary - Vineyard background. There are several others that gather with us from time to time and most of the group gathers together on another day too. The guys try to meet for coffee at some time during the week and encourage each-other. We also keep in touch via e-mail and cell phone often.
I am second from left and that is my bride of 29 years with the pig-tails to the right. (We both turn 49 this month)
We absolutely would have never gotten together with these folks unless it was a God thing.
(Oh, hippies can wear Hawaiian Shirts, right?)
Well, that is it in a nutshell if any one cares.
Peace, Love, and Light through Jesus the Christ!