In Sarasota, we taught about house church concepts for 3 months before we had our first house church meeting. We did not begin regularly meeting in house churches until after 6 months of teaching and experimenting. We have finally reached a sustainable format but we are still growing in our ability to meet in our homes because it is so different. However, it is so edifying now. We believe that all that patience and training was worth it!
Here is our description of what we have experienced. Our house churches do not have “house church leaders.” We expect that a core group of 4 to 8 (depending on their experience with house church) take ownership for the group. Amongst the 4 to 8, some are facilitators of participation and others have shepherding responsibilities. A healthy house church is marked by preparation, participation, and depth of relationships. Preparation means that prior to the gathering, the disciples have thought about how they can build the body up whether by song, Scripture, prayer, testimony, etc. Participation from both visitors, disciples, and children is a clear marker of health. The house church is meant to be highly participatory and it takes some “un-learning” and training to facilitate this type of environment. Because we hear each other speak, depth of relationships is the result of the participation. There is definitely a familial atmosphere in these types of meetings.
All of this takes training, patience, and humility. We have all experienced some level of discomfort through engagement. Some of us have needed to talk more. Some needed to talk less. Believe me, you will find that you are “love poor” when you start meeting like this! We have grown by 8 fully unified, fully participating members. But, internally, the group has grown so much through the process. We are really starting to get some amazing comments from those who come to see. There is a tangible joy in the experience of this small group dynamic in worship.
In conclusion, if you want to meet in the homes too, I would recommend learning to do it the right way first. It is very different than Bible Discussions or Bible Talks. It is important to walk with people and get advise from those who are engaged in the same model before starting. It has taken us 2 full years in order to have 2 fully functioning house churches in 4 different living rooms each month. May God bless the work of our hands through his Spirit! Happy 2nd Anniversary!