HOW DO YOU CONDUCT A HOME CHURCH?
The disciples gathered together in one another’s homes. We find precedence for this in the Bible. For example, Hebrews 10:23-25 says the following:
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
One problem with conventional church services in our society today is they have become like a spectator sport in which the pastor speaks and everyone else listens. In a home church, which takes place in a more informal and smaller group setting, everyone can be involved.
Any church service can be described as a coming together of like-minded believers to worship God, study His precious Word, and to fellowship together. A home church certainly fits this definition. The purpose of this brief article is to describe how a typical 7th Day Pioneer Home Church meeting takes place, and to identify some possible pitfalls to avoid.
2. Roles Required in a Home Church Service
There are basically two roles and an optional third role to be filled for a home church service to run smoothly. The first is the host. The host is the one who is opening his home to be used for the home church service. His job is to make sure that everything is ready for people to arrive and have a comfortable setting to have church. He may be the one to help organize the potluck and communicate to the group what foods to bring for the meal. It is up to the group to decide where they meet. In some churches, that might be in the same home every week. In other groups, the location rotates between different homes that members of the group open up for home church service. The second role is the leader. He leads the service and makes determinations as to how it proceeds in an orderly fashion. The leader may help to set the tone and purpose for the discussion. The optional third role is the facilitator. The facilitator is there to assist the leader. He might be the one to print materials that will be needed for the Bible study and discussion. He can also help the discussion along as needed and help people with their understanding of the ideas that surface. He is also there to help people become engaged. And he might need to help the group to stay focused on the topic at hand.
3. An Example of a Home Church Service
Here is an example of how one home church operates. It is just an example. You are free to setup your home church in the way that works best for your group.
The set time this group comes together is 10:00 to 10:30. People bring in their food for a potluck meal that they will share together after the service is over. Most church services will go for about two hours, but it can be more or less depending on the group. This service begins after people have greeted each other and once most everyone has arrived. The leader of this group will determine when it is time to begin. Children generally stay with their parents during this time (this can be decided within the group).
The service starts by what we call “the good and bad” for the week, or it can be called “the blessings and challenges” for the week. This is a time that everyone gets to know how everyone else in the group is doing. The leader starts off by spending just a few minutes telling the rest of the group about his week. Prayer requests can be made at this time, or can be made after the lesson is over and before closing prayer. The leader then turns the discussion to the next person, and so on until all have had a chance to speak. The leader moderates to make sure that each person only spends a few minutes, and keeps the discussion moving. The leader can also ask a lead off question for people to respond to before the lesson begins.
After the opening discussion, the group has prayer. Someone may volunteer or be selected by the leader to have the opening prayer for the service. This is followed by an optional music service. The music can take place with actual musical instruments, or just recordings of songs and hymns. People are encouraged to join in the singing and to participate as they choose. Usually, words to the music are either displayed on a computer screen, or made available to read in handouts or actual hymn books.
After about three songs, the group enters into the Bible discussion hour. Everyone is encouraged to contribute to the discussion. In this home church, several questions have been printed onto small slips of paper and folded up and placed into a basket prior to the start of church. These questions focus upon a predetermined number of verses from the Bible. For example, today’s lesson might focus on the gospel of John chapter 10, verses 1 through 21. Ten questions have been prepared. Each person, is asked to pull one question (or more for a smaller group) from the basket. In this group, adolescents are allowed to participate (this is at the discretion of the group). When discussion begins, the group is asked who has question number 1. That person is asked to read the question aloud to the group.
Then everyone is allowed to answer the question and comment on it as they want, and as they feel led to share with the group. One of the tasks of the leader is to allow discussion to proceed, but to make sure that the discussion stay focused on the topic at hand. This is an art that an effective leader will learn. After some period of time, as determined by the leader, he calls for the next question to be read to the group, and the process continues until all the questions have been discussed. At some point, the leader makes the determination that the Bible study and sharing time is over. At that time, the group has closing prayer. This can be one person to offer up prayer, or it can be a group prayer in which people gather around in a circle, grasp hands, and pray as each one is led by the Holy Spirit. In this format, one person may be chosen to open the prayer, and then another to close the prayer. The one chosen to close the prayer may make that determination once a period of silence has occurred, or at any time to prevent the prayer time from going unduly long. The one who closes the prayer will offer up thanks for the meal to follow. After the closing prayer time, the host or facilitator will organize people to go into the area where the food is, and make final preparations for the potluck. After the potluck is over, people are allowed to freely congregate and fellowship together until a preestablished time has been reached, and as determined by the leader. It is important to allow people some time to congregate and fellowship. But it is also good to have an established end time. Perpetually going too long can lead to burnout.
4. Some Pitfalls to Avoid
Pitfall #1: Facilitator versus a leader. Every group must have a leader to start and stop the Bible study and to keep the conversation flowing smoothly. The facilitator assists the leader, but must be careful not to inadvertently compete with the leader for the lead role.
Pitfall #2: An expert who everyone looks to for the right answer. It is good to have knowledgeable people in the group, but we shouldn’t rely on the “expert” to have all the answers. This can quell participation by everyone in the group. It is almost always advantageous to have a variance of opinions that can be discussed.
Pitfall #3: Bringing a personal agenda into the group. We all have our own lives and things we want to accomplish. Many of us have some sort of baggage that we carry with us wherever we go. It could be issues we have with others in the group, or at work, or past experiences, or any number of other influencers. Each participant must be willing to contribute to the discussion in a positive way and avoid bringing in distractions that do not contribute to the lesson for the day.
Pitfall #4: Handling disagreements. At one time or another, most of us have been in a discussion with an individual that escalated beyond where it should have. We have to always remember that we are to love our neighbor and should never hold a grudge. We are in attendance at a church service to worship and honor God, not to win arguments.
Pitfall #5: Gossip and slander. Gossip and talking poorly about others behind their backs, or even if they’re around is one sure way to kill the joy of people in the group. Such things bring about division and hurt feelings and can demonstrate a lack of love for our neighbors.
5. IT’S NOT THAT HARD!
You may be thinking that you are not qualified to lead a home church. The truth is that all you need is to have a love for God and the Bible, and a love for your neighbor. If you desire to worship God in spirit and in truth and to fellowship with like-minded believers, then you are almost ready. All you need is to have one or more other adults (three is ideal) who are willing to help establish a home church.
But doesn’t it take a lot of time to prepare a lesson or sermon for a home church? No it doesn’t! We will provide a study lesson for you to use at your home church service and it is designed to encourage everybody to participate. There are other options such as connecting to a live church service on-line or watching a recording of a church service or a Bible lesson.
You may be thinking that it would be hard to find other adults to form a Seventh Day home church. That is where we can help, by posting a map with a way for you and others looking for a home church to discover each other. You may be surprised to find that there is a steady trickle of people leaving the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church who have discovered the truth about the Godhead. This is a truth that the pioneers who formed the SDA church once embraced, but a truth that the modern day corporate SDA church has rejected. There are other people just like you who are looking for a place to fellowship together and worship.
7th Day Pioneer Home Church can provide weekly discussion guides for the group leader to use if he wants.