A little known fact about the early church during the New Testament period (i.e. Book of Acts) is that they did not meet in large facilities for worship. Most of the time they met in someone’s home and there they studied the Scriptures, read letters from apostles, shared the Lord’s Supper, were baptized, heard sermons, prayed and sang praises to God. Official above ground churches would not come along until a few centuries later. During the Roman persecution, some Christian congregations even had to meet in the catacombs (burial places) underneath the city streets and buildings. But, by and large they met in one another’s home. On some of the major networks on Sunday mornings, there are some ministers whose stage area behind them is decorated as a home would be in order to create a greater sense of family and togetherness….with 3,000 people! Let’s hope there are a lot of bathrooms in that house!
A movement that began to gain attention in the mid 90’s is still very much part of Christian ministry in churches today.
Home Study Groups offer church members (and visitors) an opportunity to gather together in homes for study, prayer and fellowship. Unfortunately, for those who come to Sunday worship at 11 (the usual time) and then are not seen again until the following Sunday have little opportunity to get to know their fellow Christians. A Sunday School class has a better chance but even they usually meet for around 45 minutes or so before the worship service begins. Whereas as a Home Study Group (HSG) has the flexibility to start around 7pm and end an hour or so later. A church I served previously had a well established program (for older congregations this concept is really out of the box and may take some time to adopt) and our HSG met every other week and we had a tremendous time. Not only did we enjoy a quality study, cake and coffee, but more than that we shared our lives together. Therefore it was not uncommon for meetings to start at 7 and not finish in terms of people leaving until 8:30 and sometimes later. No one minded because we were having such a good time together!
The laughter you share will leave you smiling the whole drive home. The pie and coffee will satisfy your stomach. But the real treasure in HSG is the way that your lives are shared. As you talk and get to know one another, burdens will surface and soon you will discover that others have the same worries, fears, delights and hopes that you do. You will be practicing what the Bible teaches us to do as we help shoulder one another’s trials and difficulties. This is what happens when the church begins behaving as the church is designed to. Finding studies is easy to do. Most denominational offices will be able to point you or the pastor in the right direction. Web sites such as Christianbook.com are well stocked with books and curriculum for HSG. Avail yourself of those materials and begin to form groups whose subsequent friendships will be lasting connections. HSG’s are best put together in terms of geographical proximity to one another. This makes it easier for them to get together and reducing travel time means less of a hassle for them. Also, this takes away the tendency for people to gather in peer groups. This way you learn and grow from those who are both younger and older than you.
Now, begin the adventure!