Maybe not EVERYTHING, but LOTS of really good stuff!
I was "saved" while in the Amway business - a salvation I believe I am STILL working out with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). I had attended a huge conference in Richmond, Virginia, having driven at break-neck speed with a group in a Winnebago from DeSoto, Texas. On the Sunday morning after we arrived, my traveling companions encouraged me to attend Amway's non-denominational service with them. I did, seating myself comfortably in the back row. After Billy Zeoli, President of Gospel Films - President Gerald Ford's personal pastor - presented the simple Gospel, he gave an altar call, an opportunity to prayerfully accept Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior.
Though I may have done so before, it never felt as real – as necessary – as it did at that moment. Wild horses could not have kept me in my seat! I returned home to Texas a changed man.
I learned an awful lot in the Amway business, too. I increased my people skills, overcame my fear of public speaking, and learned how to lead my own small organization. I exposed myself to positive-thinking, encouraging, successful people in conferences, home meetings, through books and tapes. Time after time I heard people share their love of God, His providence and miracles in their lives. It was good for me; GREAT, in fact. I left Amway only when I began struggling with serving two masters; God and Mammon, it's called. I had not yet mastered the ability to have money without it having me. So, I decided only to grow in my relationship with Jesus.
AMWAY AND THE HOUSE CHURCH
Our group was loaded with Christian people. Though I didn't know it yet - every meeting was a Church meeting. There was food and fellowship and tons of Bible Talk. I LOVED those meetings and, on several occasions, was told by others they got more out of these gatherings than they did traditional church services.
There were some other things I learned while I was in Amway - things those involved in House Churches could benefit from:
1) Turn the thermostat down. Cooler is better, Trust me, the place WILL warm up whether it's from the oven, body heat, or the presence of the Holy Spirit.
2) If multiplication is going to be one of your core values for community transformation, everyone attending SHOULD be able to do what they see being done when they arrive.
3) Keep It Simple, Saints!
a) Make sure your meals are simple and reproducable. Nothing wrong with store-bought cookies. I've actually been told by a woman that she was embarrassed at the thought of having a meeting in her own home because of the fine spread she's seen other women put forth in their homes. She felt she couldn't compete. (Incidentally, yesterday was the 60th anniversary of a restaurant chain called "Whataburger" and they were giving away free burgers to everyone wearing orange. Six of us donned orange shirts, two even painting their hair orange! We got our free burgers and came home to eat, discuss godly relationships, and pray together. That was church!)
b) No time to show off that preaching gift or Bible know-how. Purposely make things as interactive as possible. Folks remember very little of what they hear but MOST of what they say.
c) Don't fill the living room with chairs before everyone arrives. Bring the chairs out as-needed. It's intimidating to enter a room full of empty seats. Most people actually LIKE to hide among the crowd and prefer not to BE the crowd.
MORE HELPFUL TIDBITS
As Felicity Dale wrote in her book An Army of Ordinary People, "Share a meal together, share what is going on in your lives. Study the Word of God, and pray for one another. This outline is based on Acts 2:42, where the disciples "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, and to sharing meals... and to prayer." It can be used for all your group's times together, whether it is with unbelievers or mature believers..."
I've noticed that Jesus was always eating at other people's houses, sometimes even inviting Himself to dinner. Many great things have taken place while breaking bread, including my own first-date with my wife.
On many occasions, while instructing people on the "How-To's" of House Church, I have encouraged the attendees to "think Thanksgiving Day or Family Reunion... THAT is the House Church atmosphere." I have also recommended, "... if your sweaty, breathless kids came charging in while the adults were having a Bible study, challenging you to a game of kickball, the best thing you could do - the thing they would remember forever - is that you took them up on the challenge, opting to have your Bible study later. We spell "love" T-I-M-E, after all and they would feel VERY loved, especially after you let them win!"
Our own House Church fellowship has been going on for over 7 years now. On occasion, when a traveling minister we know comes to town, we will contact other groups for a "Paul at Troas" type of meeting in a larger place.
MONEY AND MINISTRY
Regarding finances, I have actually heard people involved in House Churches say, "House Church is great... we don't have to tithe because we have no preachers or buildings to pay for!"
These people are missing the point. I contend that, if Christians REALLY understood reaping and sowing, we'd be like heat-seeking missiles actively looking for somewhere to plant our seed! We can NEVER go wrong by investing in people. As our people feel led to give, the funds go into a bank account for use as we agree it should be distributed. In fact, on several occasions, I have received a call where I was informed of how much money we had in the account and asked, "Has God shown you anywhere we should be sowing this?" It never fails that a homeless person pops up, an air conditioner breaks, a need arises that we can immediately address with these accumulated funds. We can do so much more together than we can apart!
We stress to our group that our own Wednesday Night Dinners are not "it" where "Church" is concerned. We are to BE The Church in the homeplace, the workplace and the schoolplace, restaurants, malls, stores and coffee shops, too. In fact, we are never NOT The Church. At times, we'll forgo a meeting in the home and go to a restaurant instead, returning to the house for prayer afterward for those who still have time (some folks get up early or their kids have school). All are aware that, if they need prayer, counsel or fellowship, they can drop in or call any time and we'll likely be, or make ourselves, available.
Since Wednesday night dinners are just PART of being The Church, from time to time we'll gather on other days to minister healing to a friend in a nursing home or hospital. Some of us have even gone to pray over businesses and homes on "off nights." Admittedly, there are certain things that can best be done in smaller numbers. Ministering healing, deliverance, Biblical counseling, etc. This is why it's important that we resist the inclination to GO to Church and begin to embrace the concept of BEING The Church.
Many ministers would be surprised at how many of their Members have visited us for prayer and fellowship, and they can thank me for the 1AM and 3AM calls from others who didn't know who else to call. Even the Police Department has called several times for people needing assistance. Some who attend traditional forms of church have even felt led to sow time and money into our Kingdom work.
Despite the rumors, we have no issue with those who attend a traditional institutional church. As I often say, "BE The Church... whether you're at work, in a store, or seated in a pew." From where I sit, anyone who calls God "Father" is a relative of mine. We may not be identical twins, but we are STILL related.
Unfortunately, not all Christians are grasping this concept. On too many occasions, I have had to correct House Church affiliates who have begun to entertain an "Us vs. Them" attitude. No, we are ALL The Church, ALL the time. If Satan is messing with one of us, he's messing with ALL of us.
I pray this helps as you embark upon the exciting House Church experience! Remember, participation does NOT mean you have to leave the institutional church you may be part of at this time.
Let me know if you need help!
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