House Churches: In Transition
House Churches: In Transition
By Lonnie Lane
Leaving a House Church which you helped to birth isn’t easy. Like leaving home, it changes your life and the lives of those you leave behind. Having begun with four of us, our house church was now a core group of eighteen adults, plus kids, with some others joining us periodically as they were able. We had now been together for a few years, meeting in each others’ homes, worshipping together and sharing the Word and our lives in the Lord. I had been more at peace in our little house church than I had been in all my 28 years of church experience. But when you sense that God might be saying that you are to be moving on, like Abraham before us, you need to go.
I continued to hold what I thought God might be saying about moving before the Lord. Finally I brought the matter to the church, wanting their confirmation that such a big decision was God’s will as I expected. I knew their natural feelings would not want to lose anyone in the fellowship, especially since our spiritual environment allowed us to know each so well. However, not one person responded negatively. Each felt that it was God’s will that I needed to be near my two daughters and their families in Jacksonville, Florida, and that my role as mother and grandmother was a large part of God’s task for me at this time. They prayed over me and released me into God’s plan for my life.
House churches, when populated by folks who had been in traditional churches for years, still have the tendency to sometimes look to its founders as leaders whom they perceive as more equipped to teach or ‘do’ ministry than themselves. A major part of the philosophy of house church is that each person is free to participate in the meeting in accordance with Ephesians 5:18b-19 which says, “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord,” and Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of [Messiah] dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Admittedly extroverts flow into that much more easily than the introverts.
While we basically functioned that way, with our Bible studies and discussions being interactive, my leaving brought to the surface that old sense of dependency on leadership, especially for the introverts. The women, in particular, were concerned as to whether the house church would actually continue, or at least the women’s fellowship which had been meeting, long before the house church began. Our favorite time of the week, we women agreed, was Tuesday nights when we met at my house for a Bible study, though often it was also a time for talking over and praying about our concerns for Israel, or for the events in our lives. Tuesday nights had become a very safe place for transparency and for ministering to one another as needs arose. My home was centrally located but the women lived far enough from each other so that no one who could have the meeting was near enough to all. Would the Tuesday girls, as we called ourselves, be able to continue to meet? Where could they meet? And who would do the teaching?
A discussion ensued. God has put the Body together so that each one has a part. When each of us is doing our part, the Body will function beautifully. Now was the time for everyone to come out of any hesitancy and step out for God. The question was, what’s on each one’s heart? What is God speaking to each person that the others would benefit from? What is each person’s part of the whole? For the group to stay together, and for that matter, to mature and grow, it will ultimately only do so if each member trusts that the Lord had called them all into the Body to function in their God-given ability optimal word being, “function!” Otherwise, it will have gaps and miss what could be strategic parts in the Body. It was time to believe the Word, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” (1 Cor. 12:7)
Just before I moved, at a meeting which I did not attend as I was in Florida finding a house, the group had another discussion as to where they were in terms of commitment and vision for the church. It was decided that everyone would indeed do their part and contribute to the enrichment of the whole group. One of the couples, the only ones within reasonable distance to everyone, decided to open their home for the Tuesday night women’s meetings so they could continue, as God had provided a miracle so that they could do so. Each would participate in sharing in the women’s meetings and in general meetings. And as a priority, the whole group most definitely wanted to know more of their Jewish roots in order to fully enter into the “one new man” experience, knowing that there are aspects of coming to know Yeshua and the Heart of the Father that can only be learned through awareness of the Jewish context of the New Covenant.
When it was time to make the move, our church family helped pack my household and my 85 year old mom’s household as she would be moving with me. She wasn’t sure at first about making such a big move at her age, but she continued to pray about it until she heard from the Lord. “He’s in charge,” she often says. Once this lovely little Jewish lady, who’s been a believer for over 25 years, heard from God that she should go with me, she was in full agreement and ready to move.
The church had given me a going away party, and video taped each person saying something to remember our times together. I have moved before and left other churches and have even gotten help from the Body before, but now there was a greater sense of being with my family, as if we were all cousins, or brothers and sisters. I truly believe it’s the house meeting environment that allows for being close like that.
On moving day, everyone came to help load the truck, or pack the last of what still needed boxing up. Others fed the whole crew and then cleaned the house immaculately, so that I left it sparkling for the next residents. As they knew I am a Believer, I felt proud that the house was clean enough to pass a Passover “leaven” inspection. I left a good testimony behind, thanks to my sisters.
When all was safely in the truck, we stood in the empty living room together, the living room that had been the place of so many blessings and times of meaningful fellowship, so many times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord. We held hands in a circle and prayed, them for me and me for the church, and we thanked God that as Believers, we never have to say goodbye.
Two men drove the rental truck the 1000 miles down the east coast from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Florida, where I would now be living. One man named David from the church, left his wife and kids for 4 days to do this for me, while the other, a friend named Abraham who had just completed a Jews for Jesus 6-month evangelistic tour days before, came into town just in time to leave again, and drive the truck. David and Abe brought it safely to Jacksonville. With the help of my family and several teenagers who are friends of my granddaughters’, on January 1st we moved into our new lovely home. This was truly a new beginning for Mom and me a new year, new home, new State, even a new climate.
Within a few weeks I began to feel the need for a new church too. I had emailed House2House magazine to ask if they had anyone on their mailing list of House Church folks in Jacksonville. I received several email addresses and wrote to say I was new in town and was looking to meet some who were meeting in homes. I received an invitation to visit one not too far from my home. As I drove there, I missed my own Philly home church and wondered how it would feel attending another group. Would I feel comfortable? Would I fit in? What were their meetings like?
I was greeted warmly by the three families attending and we began to get to know each other over a pancake breakfast cooked by Chris, the man of the house where we met. After the breakfast, we all sat in the living room and talked some more and then some typed pages were distributed with the words of worship songs on them. After prayer to invite the Lord’s presence, we sang whatever songs anyone wished from the song sheets. The kids, ages 15 to 5, joined in. Some of the songs I knew, some I didn’t, but I felt very comfortable and was able to enter into worshipping the Lord.
Chris played a guitar and after the first few songs, Sara, Chris’ wife, went to the piano and began to play along with him. I so enjoyed the music as I rocked in time to the rhythm in a rocking chair. Then Chris, who is a violinist, picked up his violin and began to play. Their little 5-year old went and got her instrument, the smallest violin I ever saw, which Chris is teaching her to play. Sara tuned it so that it was in the key in which we were singing and she sawed away, sure she was playing the same song as Daddy.
The music was so beautiful though we were only singing “Shine Jesus Shine” at that moment and I was so touched with how these families worshipped so sweetly together along with their children that I was moved to tears. The peace of the Lord was evident. Then we read through a chapter of the Word and talked about it for a while, everyone contributing some thoughts or insights. Prayer happened spontaneously as things came up in the discussion of the Word or just in talking, in one case about a situation at work for one of the men earlier. It wasn’t a formal, “Let us pray,” but a time to talk with the Lord as if the Master was in the room with us and part of our conversation. The kids were there through the whole experience, seeing the adults model worship and treasuring the Word. And best of all was a tender-hearted reverence for the Lord which caused my heart to resonate like the violin strings with theirs.
By the end of the meeting, though I’d only known these folks for a few hours, I felt like I had already known them longer. It would, no doubt, have taken much longer, if at all, to get to know them this quickly outside of the house church setting. On the way home, I blessed the Lord that He brought me to this home to meet those dear people, and for the violin. And I marveled that when Believers come together with other Believers whom they don’t even know, they will nevertheless feel a love for each other by The Spirit. The Lord had certainly made me feel “at home” in Jacksonville.
If you have any questions or comments you’d like to address to Lonnie, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be glad to respond to you. Use this same address to contact Lonnie about speaking engagements. Please put “To Lonnie” in the subject line.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships one with her brother Michael Lane in the Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked.” She is the Producer of Messianic Vision’s radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision’s intercessors.