As a follow up to the series “On Church Leadership” (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary), I wanted to share a post that Sándor wrote for his Hungarian/English blog “keskeny út – narrow way“. In it he describes some of his first-hand experiences of living in an organic, “house-to-house” expression of the church in Hungary. For those who are not familiar with this form of church life, this post will give you a well-rounded insider’s view. For those of you who are familiar, and are pursuing this form of the ekklesia, I believe this will be very confirming and helpful. I pray that all of you are blessed by this rich sharing which Sándor has allowed me to post here in full on this site. Please also see the link at the bottom of the post to the English section of Sándor’s blog for further spiritual help in following “keskeny út”, the “narrow way.”
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Experiences of House Church
by Sándor Abonyi
“gathering from house to house”
(Acts 5.42; 20.20; Col. 4.15; 1 Cor. 16.19; Phil. 1.1-2, etc.)
After coming out of a “traditional charismatic church” we started on a new way; gathering
from house to house. Earlier we had experienced “house groups” in a limited way while
still belonging to our local church, but now we wanted to live a total paradigm change of
Christian community using family homes. I contacted many people in the USA, Canada
and New Zealand, who started this way earlier, to know their experiences. During one year living the community life in a natural way we have learned many things and have reached some level of understanding. We are aware that we do not yet have a full understanding but are in a continuous purifying process, and desire the Lord’s presence among us. We are now seeking a way of multiplication and are making efforts to build a new system of relationships in our region, in Hungary, and even with people in foreign countries as well. We have already formed some of these relationships.
To summarize, we can say the following: We don’t have a predetermined timetable for our meetings, nor do we make a program or order of service. Events occur in an organic way
and, therefore, each meeting is totally unique and different. Our fellowship times consist of worship, prophecy, and teaching. Here are some characteristics of our current practices:
1. Teaching – Adhering to a hour-long teaching or sermon, as we did earlier in the
traditional church, would not be practical here because now we are an “interactive
community” not an “audience.” Gathering from house to house we still have the three
men who served as teachers in the earlier local church, but they now teach in an interactive way. We assign “home work” (writings, books, CDs or DVDs) to individuals or the whole community prior to meeting together. We sometimes look at a teaching together and then have discussion. Very often people bring prophetic words that they’ve received to the meeting to be read and discussed. People ask questions, and we try to answer them according to the Scriptures. It is very important that everyone learns to use Scripture to answer their practical questions of life. We practice this together so that every one develops this skill. We have not had visiting teachers, as we did earlier, but we are open and have invited people to come and share in this fellowship. People have indicated they would come, but these are not from traditional churches. If any visitor comes, it will be with the concept of interaction with the people, not merely to inform them.
2. Worship – We don’t have a worship team, and it is not our goal to have one. There
are three who play guitar and lead worship. We make an effort to live the Word which
says, “everyone has a psalm, revelation, word . . . “ and encourage the people to be ready;
to come bringing “everyone something.” According to these Scriptural principles, worship
is not prepared by one person and is created as we go along with additional people introducing songs that we all sing. If someone gets a song by the Holy Spirit at any time during the meeting, we join in singing that also.
3. Prayer, Revelation, Prophecy – Mixed in during worship are prayers to the Lord to receive from Him. The people regularly get revelations, prophecies, thoughts, and pictures. These are shared after each prayer. On every occasion two or three receive visions. (See for example the translated, Vision of the Broad and Narrow Ways.)
4. Service to Each Other – It is very important to encourage, comfort and share joy. This part usually takes one to one and a half hours, and after that we help solve problems,
praying to get revelation and advice to give. Everyone participates in this, an activity that
the people totally missed earlier. Because of this sharing, we commonly need four or five
hours for each meeting.
5. Spiritual Leading – We don’t have a separate leadership group. The “elders” are among us (1 Peter 5:1), praying and discussing with all the others who together make decisions. The elders have continuously received revelations and prophecies about the direction of moving ahead and what the next steps should be.
6. Support of Each Other/Sharing – This is an area that has changed dramatically from the earlier situation of traditional church. According to the Word we are God’s family, and we have declared that we will live our lives as a true family. Now that we meet from house to house, we know the home situation of each member; that is, the living conditions and needs. I personally have installed electricity, others have bought essential food for those in need, others have purchased fire wood for the winter. Our cars are similarly used as in a family to help each other. We have made a common decision not to own a building to use for meetings, only to rent space as it is needed. In the summer we can use the gardens of our houses where more people are able to gather. Therefore, the congregation doesn’t have pay for building rent, honorariums to visiting ministers, or big, high-cost programs. Therefore, all of our money is available to spend on meeting needs. Needs can be met by sharing cars, as well as paying for petrol or maintenance costs.
7. Tithes – We decided not to collect tithes (a tenth) but everyone used available funds to serve and support others according to their needs. In this way not everyone pays a tithe, but the richer members often contribute more than a tenth, and the poor who have need are supported by the richer. We support the poor to help them out of bad situations and get them on the road to self-sufficiency. We had money saved that we used to stay in a guest house for two nights to build unity among the community. On another occasion we went on a day excursion together. [All left-over monies are used for those who have needs.]
8. Meals in Common/The Lord’s Supper – These two things are very close. We share
food in common at the end of every meeting. Sometimes it’s only pizza, or sandwiches, or
cold dishes, or bread and drippings with onion, but at other times we have a real dinner party with the whole community eating together.
Fitting the traditional Lord’s Supper (small piece of bread and little cup of wine) into our
sharing of regular food proved problematic, therefore, we quickly abandoned this practice
and began to follow the practice of the first churches. We researched Scripture and the
practices of other house churches. Presently we do the following:
– We looked at the Lord’s Supper as a possible way of meeting the needs of others,
using the context of a shared dinner. Paul spoke of this aspect of the Lord’s Supper to
the Corinthian church. Looked at this way, needy people are able to have enough to
eat on a regular basis.
– Not every supper is the Lord’s Supper. At a normal meal we only give thanks at the
beginning of the meal. If we decide to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, then the host
(usually a man) pours wine or grape juice into everyone’s glass. Before eating
someone gives thanks, remembering the crucifixion of Jesus – His broken body and
shed blood. Then we break the bread. At the end of the supper we take our glasses and
someone (usually another person led by the Holy Spirit) prays and remembers the
communion and unity we have with Jesus and with each other by Jesus’ blood. After
this we drink the wine.
– With the breaking of bread and drinking of wine during the meal, we remember the
crucifixion of Jesus and reaffirm our unity. This is the difference between a normal
supper and the Lord’s Supper according to our present practice. It looks like many
people today are seeking the original meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
9. Meetings – The number of believers has doubled in the past year. Today we have about 20 people who gather in six family homes on a rotating basis. We meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays at three different places from 4 to 9 p.m. The Wednesday gatherings consist of three smaller groups, but there is overlapping with group attendance. There is not sufficient room in any one home for the whole group to get together on Saturdays, only in the summer where there is more room outside in people’s gardens. Sometimes only three or four will come together, such as a men’s meeting. The four men elders meet regularly to pray, share visions, and discuss them. The elders prepare suggestions for the house churches, and the whole fellowship later acts on these suggestions. (In our earlier church there was a separate elder board which made unilateral decisions.)
10. New Believers – We baptized more born-again people last year. One young lady
baptized another young lady, and one older lady an older lady. On another occasion after
a tour together, the whole community baptized a young man totally spontaneously. We
have been baptizing in a bath tub, but we are open to other possibilities as well. Two
people joined us from other traditional charismatic churches. We expect others in our
fellowship to become totally committed to Christ and receive baptism in obedience to
Scripture. Our target is not to enlarge the size of our congregation, but to see a deep level
of real Christianity (quality, not quantity). We wait upon the Lord to enlarge the church
with people born anew, and we are witnessing in our lives that He works this way. So our
community has doubled in one year. Other reports from house churches document that
this kind of duplication is normal.
We first try to reach unsaved family members in the homes where we regularly gather.
We use the natural environment and activities – such as teaching guitar playing, helping
with wedding preparations, praying for people who ask – to build relationships and
manifest the church as the Body of Christ. In this way single believers become part of the
family life of the church, who is Christ.
11. Spiritual Warfare – This way is not without its problems. During the past year we
have experienced spiritual attacks, feelings of heaviness from time to time. For two or
three months after coming out from traditional charismatic church, we had very strong
spiritual attacks. Everyone in our city and region was against us for leaving the organized
church. They thought our different way of being a church threatened their traditions.
Even when we tried to explain, they didn’t understand and they didn’t want to have any
contact with us.
The first six months when we were forced to be alone proved to be very useful. We had
time to seek the Lord’s will, and to lay the groundwork for community living and working
in a totally new system. We sought out other small groups walking in similar ways. We
had to forget many of our earlier practices in organized church and seek after new ways.
Even our earlier ways of thinking were a hindrance, and we had to put them aside. This
was not easy for most believers. After two or three months, we were able to stabilized the
community and lay foundations.
Also during this period we were visited by other Christians who caused disorder and
disturbances. Some of these people where unknown to us. However, one highly visible
and committed believer, who had not been affiliated with any church for some years, tried
to destroy our new community from the start. I had to send him away.
From the beginning we saw it was practical to divide the community into two different
groups. One of the two groups was comprised of older believers. They were the “seed”,
in that they received visions and they laid the foundation for the new way. They gave
stability to the community. The other group was made up of young believers who needed
to order their lives and overcome their problems. After one year both groups now live
together in a good community life without disturbances.
At this time we are trying to find a way of multiplication in order to live our beliefs in
more small groups, geographically separate but connected within a network. This will be
our way to enlarge. And we have experienced many more spiritual attacks because of it.
Satan tries to cause disturbances among believers that we can’t understand, therefore, our
only defense is to fight it in a spiritual way, and the Lord is giving us victory. We have
organized a three day’s meeting in the mountains in order to reinforce our relationships
with each other so we can go forward in this “natural” way.
Praise the Lord!
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I greatly appreciate what Sándor has written here. There is a strong working of the Holy Spirit around the world to call God’s people back to the simplicity, purity, and power of the early church and to assemble in organic, house-to-house expressions of the ekklesia similar to what Sándor has described. For further encouragement along this line, and on other spiritual matters, please visit Sándor’s blog. The English section begins with the following sub-heading page: keskeny út – narrow way/English teachings.
May God bless you,
David and Sándor
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