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House Church Be•here Be•loved Be•long

ek•klesia


" D a y a f t e r day, i n t h e t e m p le cou rts

and from house to house, they never stopped

t e a c h i n g a n d p r oclaiming t h e g o o d n e w s that Je s u s i s t h e Me s sia h." Acts 5:42


“When you fall, Roger,

w ho w i l l b e t h e re t o notice ?

I thought this was a strange question to ask during my pastoral license interview. The engineering world I worked in required no interviews for entrance. No character requirements for acceptance. No concern for fidelity in my marriage. No requirement for faith for employment. A decent GPA, some reference letters about my abilities from a few professors, passing the EIT exam, a good economy in Silicon Valley, and the right opportunity, and suddenly I was thrust into the high tech, covert, Tom Clancy world of military satellites. Yet, this bridge into ministry was quite different. This world required doctrinal tests, character references from pastors, validation of ministry experiences and a candid interview from seasoned Pastors about my personal life with my wife, Janae, sitting next to me. “When you fall, Roger, who will be there to notice?” I was asked. At first I was upset by this question. How dare they presume I would fall! Of course I would. Fall flat on my face, that is. I knew that. I just didn’t want THEM to know that. But they did know, so I pondered how to respond. Bible school and seminary prepared me for many theological issues, but not this one. Essentially, they were asking me, “Roger, who are the people you have invited into your life who sustain you and care for you personally? Give us names and settings where you are walking honestly with others. Describe for us the community of faith you regularly live in.”


There is a fear in many people today. It is a founded fear, with numerous reasons why we can’t let anyone in. Rejection…ridicule…judgment…keeps others at bay. We walk guarded, cautious, ever weighing what cards we show others and which ones we keep to ourselves. We can’t be vulnerable to others, especially in church. So we hide in a meeting. Ironically, the very place where people are supposed to be the most free becomes a place where we convey “a religious image” to garner acceptance. In God’s house, we simultaneously project and deflect. • • • •

We rarely take time to look anyone in the eye. We skirt in and out of a service each week. We enjoy (or endure) a few songs. We hope to be stimulated intellectually by a sermon, keeping our faith “conceptual and theoretical” rather than “practical and communal.” • We find ourselves entering and leaving God’s house each week without ever connecting with anyone.

Church life becomes much like a BART ride to San Francisco where we find ourselves alone, if not invisible, even though we are surrounded by hundreds of people.


This, however, is NOT the picture of the community of faith in the New Testament. People in the New Testament did not “accept” Jesus as their personal Savior as much as identify themselves with this group of radicals and revolutionaries who actually believed Jesus of Nazareth – whom the Jews rejected, the Romans crucified, and the Gentiles ignored – was indeed the anticipated Messiah, the one true King, the only person deserving to called “our Lord.” For them, church was never a meeting on a weekend, not a protective wall from a dark and decaying world, nor a place to perform some perfunctory religious exercise. For them, church was a global village where people from every tribe and people, and language and nation ushered in the kingdom of God, primarily through the way they cared for each other (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:11-22).

For them, church was ekklesia:

“the gathering of a people for a specific purpose.”

This tract is your hand is my attempt to describe what their world looked like… and what ours should emulate.


House Church

…probably the worst marketing term, but perhaps the best descriptor of what is supposed to occur when Christ-followers gather each week.


Let me explain. . .

According to Acts 5:42, shown on the inside cover of this tract: • They met regularly: “day after day” • They met in two locations: “in the temple courts and from house to house” • They met to advance the Gospel: “they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Essentially, they had church in two locations – in the temple courts (a.k.a. a weekend

service) and from house to house (in their homes). For them, church did stop after the last song and benediction. Church was not a meeting to endure, then be free to run off to more pressing issues in life. Rather, church for them continued throughout the week into their homes. These were not small groups. For the record, there were no small groups in the New Testament. Nor were there Bible studies – though the Scriptures were always a central part of what they did. Neither were they service groups for a benevolent cause. No, these were House Churches – or to say it another way, they were ekklesia. Activities that occurred in their weekend services continued on in their homes. Okay, I see that eyebrow raise. You need more explanation. Fortunately for us, the Bible gives us a clear window on exactly which activities occurred when they met in homes. The Bible shows us what ekklesia looks like.

Let me show you. . .


What is Authentic Biblical Community?

Imagine if you are a first century reporter for the Jerusalem Post and were assigned by your editor to write a story on this new House Church movement carried on by these followers of Jesus. You receive an invitation to visit several house churches in a month’s time and you take notes on what activities you observe. Quoting from Acts 2:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” When the believers in the New Testament gather, Scriptures tell us seven activities surfaced in the ekklesia. Seven areas the Bible says “they devoted themselves” to each week; seven actions to which they were faithful to give of their time, energy and resources. Let’s go through them one at a time.


Study

They devoted themselves… “to the Apostle’s teaching” – Acts 2:42

The centerpiece of each House Church was the teachings of Jesus as given by those who walked with Him. For us today, that would be the sacred Scriptures (Acts 17:11). It undoubtedly included a compilation of the words of Jesus (Acts 20:35), some account of His earthly ministry, His passion and resurrection (Acts 2:22-24), and a call to join the work of kingdom of God on earth (Acts 1:3; 19:8; 28:23, 31). The movement of Jesus would first and foremost be an intellectual one. Antiintellectualism and the fullness of the Spirit are mutually incompatible, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (1 Timothy 4:11; 13 and 2 Timothy 4:1-2). The Church cannot operate on truth it is not taught; believers cannot function on principles they have not learned. These new converts were not enjoying a mystical experience that led them to despise their mind or disdain theology. Rather, the Spirit of God leads the people of God to submit to the Word of God.


Social

They devoted themselves… “to the fellowship (koinonia)” – Acts 2:42, 46

Fellowship (koinonia) expresses the depth their lives shared together in each House Church. No doubt they socialized. Yet, this term goes way beyond polite exchanges and common courtesies. It is a Trinitarian expression describing the fellowship, the closeness, the intimacy God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit share with each other that spills out into the community of faith (1 John 1:3). In the New Testament, we see this band of believers open up their homes, eat together regularly, share life’s challenges and joys, even give freely of their earthly goods to all those who were in need. What is notable is not what they did, but how they did it. “With glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46) they enjoyed each other’s company. The New English Bible (NEB) unites the two words here by translating ‘with unaffected joy.’ For us today, koinonia describes the satisfaction and pleasure life brings what we share life’s journey with each other.


Sacramental (OR WORSHIP)

They devoted themselves… “to the breaking of bread ...praising God” – Acts 2:42, 47

Their fellowship was symbolized by obedience to the spiritual duty of “the” breaking of bread, a reference to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. This duty is not optional, since our Lord commanded it of every believer (1 Corinthians 11:24–29). Here we see worship activities typically found in larger corporate settings brought into the home. No doubt other worship expressions such as songs, spiritual gifts, baptisms, perhaps even foot-washing as commanded by our Lord (John 13:14), also occurred in each House Church. In the Temple and in the home, on the weekend and during the week, under church leadership and under family leadership, in both formal and informal ways, with humility and wonder, joy and awe, the followers of Jesus worship God throughout the week.


Supplication (OR prayer)

They devoted themselves… “to prayer [or to the prayers]” – Acts 2:42

The first fellowship eagerly and persistently engaged in the critical duty of prayer. The prayer in view here is not only that of individual believers, but of the church corporately. In addition to Acts 2:42, corporate prayer is seen all over the book of Acts: Acts 1:14, 24; 4:24-31; 6:4, 6; 9:40; 12:5; 13:3; 14:23; 16:25; and 28:8. Second only to the study of God’s Word, prayer is by far the most dominant activity in House Church. The definite article and the plural usage “the prayers” suggest a pre-planned event in their gatherings. Jesus Himself promised in John 14:13–14 that “whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” The early church took that promise as the source of God’s provision for all their needs, and they relentlessly pursued divine help together.


Signs

They devoted themselves… “to wonders and miraculous signs” – Acts 2:43

No doubt the most spectacular dynamic of these House Churches was the supernatural hand of God. Jesus said that “signs would accompany those who believe” (Mark 16:17), and for them it surely did! Speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6), remarkable healings (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12-16; 19:11-12), prophetic words (Acts 21:10-11), divine earthquakes (Acts 4:31), visions to guide them (Acts 16:6-10), confrontations with demonic spirits (Acts 8:5-8; 16:16-18; 19:13-16), deliverance from peril (Acts 12:3-11; 16:25-34; 27:21-26), calling back the dead (Acts 20:712), even instant transportation from one place to another (Acts 8:39-40). Wonders and miraculous signs not only validated their message, it demonstrated to their listening audience that what they proclaimed about the kingdom of God and Jesus, the Messiah, was certainly true (Hebrews 2:4).


Service (OR support)

They devoted themselves… “to give to anyone as he had need.” – Acts 2:45

Within the Christian congregation that met house to house, the believers cared and supported the needy members of their group. This principle is stated twice in the book of Acts: “they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:45), and “there were no needy persons among them…the money…was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:34–35). The church father, Chrysostom, gave a beautiful description of their setting: “The poor man knew no shame, the rich no haughtiness.” As John was to write later, “if we have material possessions and see a brother or sister in need, but do not share what we have with him or her, how can we claim that God’s love dwells in us?” (1 John 3:17). Christian fellowship is Christian caring, and Christian caring is Christian sharing.


Sharing

(OR WITNESS)

“...the Lord added to their number daily those who were beings saved.” – Acts 2:47

The first six activities of the ekkelsia tell us what they did. This last activity tells us what God did. Their actions spurred God’s interaction. Their resolve to build authentic community compelled God to increase their influence. So unified, joyful, and Spirit-filled were they that their very existence was a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel. True evangelism flowed from the life of a healthy church. Their care for each other “convinced” the Lord they were worthy recipients of more people. Like any good parent, God entrusts His children to settings that will care for them as much as He does. Caring community compels His consideration.


"It is NOT good for man to be alone."

In the book of Genesis, six times God says, “and God saw that it was good.” From light to livestock, God gives Himself a five star rating regarding His work of Creation. This record remains unblemished until God creates man. Suddenly, His ratings tank and He says, “It is NOT good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) In a perfect world without sin, without evil, without temptation and with nothing to impair man’s access to God, God looks at the crown of creation – mankind – and says, “This is not good.” Why? Because God creates in man a “human-shaped void” that He Himself will not fill. Not money. Not achievement. Not diplomas. Not even God Himself can fill this vacuum. Only people can. Yet, not just anybody will do. Scripture tells us to seek community that strives to honor God by living the seven S’s together. Who knows? If we strive to engage these practices, if we make it our goal to discover meaningful and full relationships, perhaps we, too, may see God grant us influence and favor with others and, like them, see Him “add to our numbers daily” (Acts 2:47).


How do I find a House Church? The easiest way to find a House Church that fits your schedule and needs is to visit our website, www.ComeDiscoverVCC.org, and simply click House Churches. You’ll find a link there to our group finder tool. Simply plug in the criteria you would like to search by and see a list of open groups. You can also call our House Church Help Desk at (925) 560-6215 to have someone help you find the group that works best for you.

use a qr app to go directly to our website , or Look for this icon on the home page to find your house church!


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L e t u s n o t g i v e u p meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. HebREWS 10:25


Dr. Roger Valci is the Lead Pastor of Valley Christian Center in Dublin, California, where he is raising up five hundred ministers to reach the Tri-Valley for Jesus Christ. In 1995, he left his engineering career and traveled to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, to prepare for the pastorate. He received both his Masters of Divinity degree and his Doctorate in Preaching. In 2001, he became licensed as an Assembly of God minister, and in 2003, became ordained. Today, Roger lives in San Ramon, California, with his wife of twenty-one years, Janae, and his three children: Matthew (18), Taylor (15), and Erin (11). Matthew graduated from Valley Christian Schools in 2013, and now attends Biola University. Taylor and Erin still attend Valley Christians Schools.

7500 Inspiration Drive | Dublin, CA 94568 | www.ComeDiscoverVCC.org

Copyright 2013 | Valley Christian Center | All rights reserved.

About the Author

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