By Robin G. Jordan
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20 NKJV)
We can take great comfort from these words of our Lord. He has promised that where two or three gather in His name, He will be with them. He did not say that when a great multitude gathers in His name as in a megachurch on Sunday morning or a congregation of a hundred so gathers in His name as in a more modest sized church, He would be there. He said just two or three. When you and a college roommate, your spouse, a friend, or a colleague meet together to pray, He is there. If another roommate, a child, a neighbor, another friend, or another colleague joins you, He is in your midst. Wherever believers gather, our Lord is present.
This often comes as a surprise to Anglicans who are accustomed to meeting in groups much larger than two or three in the formal setting of a church on Sunday morning with a minister or priest to officiate. “We don’t need a Bible, a Prayer Book, a hymnal, or a priest?” Someone is bound to ask. While a Bible might be handy and Prayer Book helpful, they are not needed for Christ to be present with His Church. Two or three gathered in Christ’s name is His Church. He has promised to be in their midst. And He keeps His promises. Christ is wherever His Church is.
When two or three gather in a dorm room, a living room, an office, or any other place, when they gather in Christ’s name, He is there. Where they gather may be indoors. It may be outdoors. It does not matter. What matters is they are gathered in His name. Christ will fulfill His promise. He will be present with them.
In the 1980s I returned to my home parish of Christ Church (Episcopal) after wandering in the Sinai for twenty years. Two of the ladies in the choir, one of whom is now with the Lord, invited me to join them for prayer once a week. Through our weekly gatherings in the Lord’s name my prayer life was transformed. God changed my life in other ways. I came away from our weekly gatherings with a firm conviction that our Lord does indeed keep His promise when two or three gather in His name.
I now cannot imagine being a disciple of Christ without being part of a small group of believers that gather in the Lord’s name on a Sunday morning, a Sunday evening, or during the week. Gathering in the Lord’s name with such a group each week has nourished and strengthened my faith. It has provided me with opportunities to minister to others and others with opportunities to minister to me. I have learned the full meaning of Christ’s love commandments.
For a number of years I was a part of home fellowship that met in the home of a doctor and his wife every Monday evening. We were not a large group. I do not think that we grew any larger than twelve people at any one time.
A home fellowship that grows as large as fifteen people may want to multiply, starting a second home fellowship with some of its members as the nucleus of the new group. The two home fellowships can meet periodically for a “social.” Individual members can maintain contact with each other outside of weekly gatherings. Friendships do not have to end when a home fellowship gives birth to a second home fellowship. The two groups can undertake joint community service projects together and do other things together.
The doctor and his wife who hosted the home fellowship in their home provided light refreshments for the group—cheese, salsa, chips, vegetable crudités, dips, nuts, cake, pastry, fruit, and that sort of thing. Group members also brought snack foods. A number of people in the fellowship came straight from work, including the doctor himself.
After a short time of fellowship, we began our weekly Bible study. We would examine a specific passage of Scripture not only to draw out the meaning from the text but also apply what we had discovered to our lives. “What are the implications for us of the biblical principle or truth underlying this passage?” was a frequent question. We would conclude our weekly gatherings with a time of sharing, encouragement, and prayer. We sometimes gathered around someone in particular need of prayer, laid hands on that person, and prayed over him or her. Our weekly gathering helped sustain the member of the group through some difficult times.
During the prayer portion of our gatherings, our practice was to sit in a circle, to share prayer requests and concerns, and then to pray around the circle for each request and concern as the Holy Spirit prompted us. During these prayer times I frequently observed God at work. A thought for a prayer would come to mind. If I hesitated in expressing that thought in a prayer, someone else in the circle would offer a prayer expressing the thought. It was quite evident that the Holy Spirit was praying through us. At first I thought that it was co-incidence but it happened so often that it could have been only God.
The apostle Paul writes about building each other up in the Christian faith and way of life. It is in gatherings like this home fellowship that believers do that. They also help seekers to become believers.
Since that time I have been a part of a number of home fellowships and other small groups meeting in a variety of settings. These settings included a library annex and a student center. For the most part the groups met in homes. My experience in these groups has more than ever convinced me of the tremendous difference such groups can make in the faith and life of Christians that take part in them. Christ has promised that when two or three are gathered in His name, He will be in the midst of them. He is not only there but He ministers to His gathered people. Very few come away from such gatherings unaffected. I would go as far as saying that the only way we can experience the fullness of the Christian faith and way of live is through participation in such gatherings.
As you may have gathered by now, I believe in the value of home fellowships. These gatherings not only make a difference in the faith and life of Christians who are members or regular attendees of a church, they make an even greater difference in the faith and life of believers who are churchless. A number of Anglicans and other Christians find themselves without a church. A number of mainline denominations like The Episcopal Church have gone through so many changes in recent years that for many long-time members the denomination to which they once belonged no longer feel like their church. Their local church also no longer feels like their church. As a number of Episcopalians have put it, “I have not left the Episcopal Church. It left me.” In some cases their local church has been closed. Its congregation was not large enough to meet the denominational requirements to keep the church doors open. Having lost their old church, they have not found a new church where they really feel at home.
Here is where a home fellowship can make such a difference. The group need not be large. Its participants may come from the same community or different communities near each other. They may gather once a week or once every two weeks. I do not recommend any less often than once every two weeks.
Such gatherings are the gatherings of Christ’s Church as much as the services in a parish church. Those gathered in Christ’s name are not only Christ’s Church during the gathering, with their Lord present in their midst, but they are also Christ’s Church to the world when they disperse at the conclusion of the gathering. They are as much Christ’s Church as the congregation of a parish church. The setting in which they gather may have no pews, stained-glass windows, hand-embroidered kneelers, and polished brass candlesticks, but they are His Church. They are Christ’s flock.
In response to a number of requests Anglicans Ablaze will be publishing a series of articles on home fellowships for Heritage Anglicans. I will also be directing interested readers to other sources of information on home fellowships and identifying useful resources. The articles will be written from an Anglican perspective but they will be applicable to non-Anglicans, recognizing that Anglicans are not the only ones whom developments in their denominations and churches have left churchless.