House Church Formation – Part 7 – Seven Guidelines for House Church Meetings – A.
It may come as quite a surprise to most people, but there is only one passage in the whole New Testament that gives us guidance on how to meet as the church. Yes, there are passages that tell us some of the things that should be done, such as in Acts 2:42-47, but there is only one passage that gives us any details at all. Let’s look at that passage, in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40.
Guideline One – Everyone Should Be Encouraged To Contribute
1 Corinthians 14:26a, NIV – (26) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done …
In this passage, “everyone has” something to contribute. So not only should everyone be allowed to contribute, they should be expected to contribute, and they should come prepared to contribute. They come together intentionally with a purpose to bless at least one person in the group (or even the whole group), with something that the Lord has given them. It could be something that the Lord has taught them during that week, or during that day, or just moments before the meeting, or spontaneously during the meeting. But everyone is expected to share.
Obviously, this cannot be done in a traditional “institutional” church gathering, where, if each person in a congregation of one hundred people shares for just three minutes, it would take five hours for everyone to share. However, in a House Church, this scripture can be easily, fully, and joyfully obeyed.
Note also there was no talk about an “order of worship”. It was just “everyone has … all of these must be done”.
Guideline Two – The Goal Is For The Church To Be Strengthened
1 Corinthians 14:26b, NIV – (26) … All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
Everything done should be for the strengthening of the church. Which church? The people in the House Church which is gathered. Every person who contributes must do so with the goal of strengthening those to whom they are ministering. So every time something is done, the question must be answered … Does it strengthen, does it encourage, does it empower, does it comfort, does it show love, does it support, does it edify, does it lift up the members? If not, it should not be done.
Obviously, if this verse is obeyed during the meeting, people would be refreshed, renewed, restored, and re-energized for the week ahead.
Guideline Three – Spiritual Manifestations Are Encouraged As Long As They Benefit The Group
1 Corinthians 14:27-28, NIV – (27) If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. (28) If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
Speaking in tongues with interpretation for all the group to hear is encouraged (because speaking in tongues with interpretation is similar to prophecy, in that they are both understandable and can be a blessing to the group). However, if no one in the group has faith to receive and speak the interpretation, the person should either speak quietly in tongues under their breath, or not at all. (As Jude 1:20, speaking in tongues without interpretation is for personal edification, and does nothing to strengthen the group).
Guideline Four – Everything Shared In The Group Should Be Tested
1 Corinthians 14:29, NIV – (29) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
Prophecy is to speak forth the mind and counsel of God. It is not just foretelling, but also forth-telling, the sharing of any revelation from God.
Even if prophets speak, the members needs not be intimidated, no matter what is shared or taught. Everything they say “should” be weighed carefully. Discernment is encouraged, and nothing should be received without question. The group has the right … and the responsibility … to check everything that is said, no matter who in the group says it, with the goal of confirming that it is scriptural.
In any group, especially in House Churches, false teaching and false prophecy are a real possibility, and so discernment is always appropriate, and necessary.
Guideline Five – Spirit Manifestations Should Be Ministered In An Orderly Fashion
1 Corinthians 14:29-33a, NIV – (29) Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. (30) And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. (31) For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (32) The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. (33) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. …
Note that Paul is speaking of prophecy here, not teaching. Teaching is usually based on learning and preparation; but prophecy is based on revelations of the Spirit. So Paul is not saying that it is okay to rudely interrupt a teacher. It is okay to add insights to the teaching, as long as it is done in a respectful and edifying way.
However, in this case, Paul is talking about prophets getting revelations from the Spirit of God. So the first prophet will get a revelation from the Spirit of God, share it, and then perhaps share their insights on the revelation with the listeners. But if a second prophet is getting a revelation from the Spirit of God, it is appropriate for the first prophet to end their explanation and sit down, since the second prophet is now getting the revelation. The Spirit of God will not interrupt Himself, and so if He starts speaking through a second prophet, then it is a sign that He has stopped speaking through the first prophet. The first prophet must be humble, and be willing to sit down, even if they do not feel that they are finished “explaining” the revelation that they just received.
However, the prophets must speak “in turn”, and not rudely interrupt each other, because “the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets”. So no prophet can blame the Holy Spirit if they rudely interrupt another prophet. The meeting must be orderly, and not a free-for-all. The prophets must be peaceful, respectful, and inoffensive.
Notice also that this tells us that the prophets “should speak”. If God gives a revelation to someone, they should be willing to share it for the benefit of the group, even if they do not understand it, or if it seems strange to them. Remember that the group is encouraged to “weigh carefully” what is said. We can trust that God will give someone in the group the appropriate insight, as long as we are willing to do our part, and share what God gives to us.