The other day I was talking with a good friend when he said, “I have to confess, I guess I’m a homeboy.” I was a little confused, not really knowing what he meant. I knew that “Homeboy” is a slang term sometimes used by the younger generation when they refer to their good friends. The problem was that I am in my mid-fifties and so is my friend, and I am not really used to hearing one of my friends use that term. Then it hit me—he was referring to his affection and fondness for our local home church, meaning that he really prefers the intimate home setting instead of the traditional church.
His comment sunk in deeply and caused me to reflect on my fifty-plus years of Christian experience. I was raised in a large denominational setting with an emphasis on ceremony and tradition, and I admit that I still have a fondness for stained-glass windows, incense, and Gregorian chanting. I left that system more than three decades ago and have since experienced a wide range of meeting, preaching, and praise and worship styles, which I love. Given my exposure to such great diversity, I must confess that, like my friend, I am a homeboy at heart. So what exactly is it that I find so attractive about a home fellowship?
A few years ago we decided to start Sunday morning church services at our Camp Vision. Like most traditional churches, we have incorporated congregational praise, worship, prayer, a teaching/preaching from the Scriptures, plus other customary practices. Our attendance does not vary much, but does include occasional visitors. For a while I have felt that something is missing, and have been searching my heart to see if there is something I should be doing differently, but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling.
One evening I called to check on someone who had stopped coming to church about a month earlier. He confided that he was feeling isolated and alone, and that church was not working for him. He said he “needed to feel a greater connection to others.” I knew instantly that he was expressing the exact same thing I was longing for.
I know there is a time and a place for large congregational meetings. Large meetings can serve a godly purpose, but there is also a need for smaller gatherings. The answer was not to shrink our Sunday church services into a home, but to add some weekly home meetings. We knew we needed to provide lots of time and space for heart connection, so we decided to start each night with a community meal, a “communion” if you will. Lori and I launched our Wednesday night home church with Jesus’ promise that “…where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).
Knowing that the Lord Jesus has given spiritual gifts to each person who has made him Lord, we decided to focus on the uniqueness of everyone in the fellowship by emphasizing our individual gifts. In fact, we tell everyone to come prepared to participate with a gift, which can be a psalm, a sharing, a blessing, a prayer, or an act of service. It is great to see how the Lord works through each person in his or her own special way. He is the center of our meeting, and the Word of God is always our rule for faith and practice.
Last week one person opened by sharing how he/she was hurting about the recent death of a young person he/she knew. Another spoke up and admitted that he/she too knew the deceased but had never seized the opportunity to lead him to Christ. That led to our praying for comfort followed by a discussion on the Hope. Someone else shared about receiving the financial answer to a long season of prayer. Lori and I shared that we have recently had some family setbacks that require us to provide additional help with three of our grandchildren (ages 2, 3, and 4). Another said she had been praying for part-time work, and it turned out that she was an answer to our prayer for help with the grandkids. I have always said the Lord specializes in making one move that answers multiple calls, somewhat like tossing up one stone and hitting ten birds. I reminded everyone of Nehemiah’s words, “…Don’t be afraid…Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”(Neh. 4:14). Then, knowing some of the deep needs of everyone, we had reason to unite in prayer, praise and worship, song and encouragement.
Our home church is an ongoing experiment of living out the love of Christ. We do not follow a set program, or have a teaching, but something is always taught. We focus on whatever we perceive the need to be, and allow everyone time to present the gift of themselves. It may be an evening of prayer, song, or healing, but our home church is always a time of togetherness and heart connection. I believe I have found what my heart was missing. Like my friend, I too must confess, I really am a “homeboy.”