I want to share updates on our spring conferences in the Netherlands and Finland, an update on the remodel for Chris, and some thoughts on house church.
Dutch & Finnish conferences - This was our 10th Dutch conference and it felt like a big family reunion, though over a dozen nations were represented. We hold it at a retreat center which means we all eat together and spend time visiting in between meetings, so real friendships develop.
What I love about our conferences is the balance between the Spirit and Word – I teach and share things the Father or Lord have told me in some sessions, but Saturday afternoon of each conference is open ended worship, and the Lord always ministers to people directly in varied ways. Several seeing the Lord and/or angels or other visions, and some felt heat and healing or were touched in other ways by the Lord.
It was much the same at the Finnish conference, the worship highlighted by one woman’s singing tongue with the interpretation shared while simultaneously several others saw visions of various things that ministered to them, and many were ministered to by the Lord.
Being a conference and time of learning, I always have people share what they saw, heard, felt, or experienced during these times, and it is always amazing to hear how ministry by the Spirit touches people.
Our Finnish conference has outgrown the facility and next year I plan on spending 7-10 days there visiting the house churches after the conference in that wonderful nation. Besides seeing old friends once again, I was also asked to teach a 4 part series on TV7, the Christian station there, and then minister at their live ‘Holy Spirit night’, which is always a blessing. I could feel a different spiritual dynamic in Finland this year, and He is really moving in the church body as a whole in Finland!
Chris’ remodel - I’m happy to report the foundation work is set to begin in about 2 weeks and framing immediately after. Chris really doesn’t understand what is about to happen, though he understands a big ‘digger’ and cement mixer will be coming soon, so he is excited about that. We’ll keep you posted. A big thank you to those who have helped us with this as lifting and walking Chris to the other end of the house is quite a feat of strength for me. And lifting him out of the tub has become especially difficult. Thank you!
Many house churches start with just 2 people – maybe husband and wife, or 2 friends – and grows often by inviting others over for a meal, some discussion, prayer, worship, and study of the Word. From there the meetings become regular, they rotate homes and who leads, and realizing their own growth and commitment to one another, also realize the Lord has brought them together to be the church.
The key is taking that step and then entering the lifestyle of house church – relationship based faith. But often that first step of inviting someone to dinner is the hardest…but step out…
The amazing revelation that God lives in people instead of a building must have been overwhelming for believers on that day of Pentecost. They went house to house and had meals together discussing this amazing new birth and infilling with the Holy Spirit they’d experienced.
After 18 months or so when persecution caused everyone to leave Jerusalem to move to outlying areas, new dynamics were certainly experienced. Old friends and neighbors had moved further away and new acquaintances took their place. When they’d outgrow the homes they met in they’d multiply out, taking a core group to start meeting on their own, but remained in relationship with the original church and from the looks of Paul’s letters, still got together at least some of the time as a whole group.
Seasons and a core group
These changes reflect the seasonal nature of relationship-based and home based church. The influences of young families when children are young mean the nature of the meetings will be more child friendly, and as they grow into their teens so does the nature and subject matter of meetings, even the worship changes.
When a house church consists of mostly adults and fewer children, the discussion can include more adult subject matter, the hours they meet may change, and the whole dynamic shifts. People move in and people move away, which is the seasonal nature of house church.
The key is the relationships through it all, growing and flowing with the seasons. I’ve often observed that when a house church is new, or people coming to it are newer, everyone is on their best behavior the first 3 months. In the 3 to 6 month time frame the guard comes down and people start to get to know one another, and that is where differences emerge.
IF they will work through those differences in that 6 to 9 month time frame, IF they will work at perceiving the grace in one another – the work of Christ in their lives – then they will love Christ in that person and learn to truly love them as a result. That means it is almost a year before a house church starts developing a core group who are solid in their relationships with each other, who have worked through personality conflicts and grown in love with each other.
Unlike a traditional church where the relationship is with the pastor at a distance, or the building or its programs, and if you don’t like something you can move to another church to your liking, house church is relationship based, so we choose to work through differences together, thus growing in Christ. It is harder, more painful as we are forced to love and forgive and overlook each other’s failings, thus messier, but it is much richer in spiritual depth, and you know ‘who has your back’ and who is your true spiritual family.
As I’ve taught before and noted by historians, the time between Pentecost in Acts 2 and all believers except the apostles leaving Jerusalem in Acts 8:1, was about 18 months. The Lord used that time to develop those core relationships, and that’s what we see today. It takes that long to get the temple thinking out of us and Christ in us thinking of the New Testament in us, and that much time therefore for relationships to become strong.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t bumps along the road, for the seasonal nature of house church means there is constant change, constant adjusting to the seasons of life – as I mentioned earlier, children grow, new babies come along, a child-filled church suddenly becomes a group of empty nester’s. And the reverse is true – a church of empty nesters suddenly has to consider children if a family with young kids make that house church their home.
It means the influences of people and leadership will change in an ebb and flow as the dynamic and children change. So get used to change and go where there is life. Change with Life and don’t become set in routine.
You’ll know you’ve become ‘religious’ about the comfortable routine if someone suggests changing the norm and you become agitated, lol! I like to say that in the old way of doing church we would build a structure and then try to breathe life into it – we’re starting a bus program, now we need volunteers - as an example.
In house church we look for life, then erect just enough structure to facilitate life, thus when life changes, so can the structure. I remember the first 12 weeks we started CWOWI in our living room; We hosted each week and by week 11 Barb said something has to change. It was a lot of work opening our house every single week, having Chris and the other boys ready, and we were both tired of the routine as there was no end in sight.
By week 12 we knew it was time to start rotating house to house whether everyone was ready or not, in part because everyone else had become used to the routine and partly because of our fatigue. At first I think we all felt like deer caught in a car’s headlights, rotating homes was the great unknown, but we all adjusted and liked it.
The key is not to be afraid to mess up the routine, not to be so locked in that ‘this is what we do’ that you are unable to see the changing of the dynamic of the church and relationships occurring all around you.
Thank you for your generous support! We’d appreciate your prayers over the next 2-3 months during this remodel for wisdom and provision. Our next trip we have felt led to do is to the UK in early September, so it will be a busy time between now and then. We couldn’t do what we do around the world without you.
Thank you! Blessings,
John and Barb