House Church in Philadelphia
By Lonnie Lane
Our house church in the Philadelphia suburbs began meeting almost two years ago after my brother Michael and sister-in-law Sherry and I and another friend spent several months in prayer and preparing ourselves after we left the traditional church. A year later we have approximately 18 people meeting with us, plus kids. As my brother and I are Jewish believers we felt to meet on Friday nights for the Sabbath. Our group is comprised of Jews and Gentiles, and Blacks and Whites, marrieds and singles. Since most of us work during the day, we found a prepared meal burdensome but we bring finger food, dips, veggies, and munchies and spend our first hour or so together in the kitchen around a big island counter eating and talking and fellowshipping in a relaxed and casual manner, glad to see each other after a long week.
This is a time for lots of laughter, birthday cakes, catching up on news during the week. Last week it was looking at wedding photos of our newlyweds whom we recently dedicated to the Lord under a Huppa, a wedding canopy made from a prayer shawl in Hebrew fashion and blew a shofar over them to bless them.
After about an hour in the kitchen, we gravitate into the living room for our ‘meeting.’ We begin by someone dedicating the evening to the Lord, to set ourselves apart before Him. Our premise is that we, the Church, have for years been telling Him what we want Him to bless so we tell the Lord that we have no agenda but to worship and follow His lead and ask Him to do just that lead us. We’ve all read a little book suggested to us called “God Guides” which basically teaches that if we ask God something and listen, He’ll answer. So we spend some time in quiet before the Lord, either asking Him something specific or just asking Him what He wants and waiting for what He may put on someone’s heart or all of our hearts.
This quiet waiting may happen before or after the worship time. While those leading with the guitars may have songs they’ve prepared, anyone is free to start singing a song that’s on their hearts and the others will follow. We’ve also had times when one or two of us felt to bring a CD to play for worship.
On occasion someone opens up a discussion or need and we never get to singing till the meeting is over and then worship comes spontaneously and overflowing with what God has just done in our midst. It often happens that while we’re talking a song that fits the subject comes to someone’s mind and they begin to sing to the Lord and we all join in. Our discussions are often sprinkled with worship, though there have been times when we never sing at all, but prayed all evening, or we got into a discussion that kept going.
We never plan a Bible study, having found that when we have, it doesn’t flow. But when the Holy Spirit brings something to someone’s mind, invariably someone will bring up an other verse and so the discussion goes. Our group is interested to learn of the Hebrew roots of Christianity believing many aspects are as much a part of the restoration God is doing as is meeting house to house. Drawing on our Jewish backgrounds and our gifts as teachers, relevant teaching discussions often come up. As the Hebrew/Jewish way of teaching (contrary to the Greek method upon which our traditional church model is based) is dialogue and never monologue, these teachings usually give rise to lively discussions as do any discussions about Scripture, Hebraic or not.
Prayer is a major part of our meetings. Personal applications of what we’re discussing often lead to prayer. Sharing the needs and concerns of our lives has led to much healing and deliverance as we pray for one another and prophesy over one another if the Lord so moves. The gifts begin to function and the presence of the Lord in His precious manifestations of mercy and compassion and power are evident. At times we have all stood in a circle holding hands to pray for revival, for America, for Israel, for world events as a spirit of intercession comes upon the group together. Occasionally someone feels inclined to lay hands on someone or everyone and pray or prophesy as the Spirit leads. Always that is a time of great blessing, encouragement and refreshing in the presence of the Lord.
When the meeting seems to draw to a natural conclusion for the evening we return to the kitchen and pick up on the eating and fellowship where we left off while we all clean up.
Most of the women meet during the week for a time of fellowship and Bible study or to do something socially together. Since we’ve been meeting together for a few years, there’s a closeness that’s developed and a sense of sisterhood that’s precious. The men who may not have known each other before joining the group, have now begun meeting also for an early Sunday morning breakfast once a month which has drawn them closer. Several of the couples too have begun meeting together for dinner or times to share couple things apart from the meetings. More and more we are tending to be more a part of each other’s lives than just ‘doing church’ together.
Never in my 27 years of being a Christian, has my church life been so satisfactory and devoid of frustration. Each reports that they are more able to be themselves, free to use their gifts, feel more accepted and loved and affirmed than a traditional church setting would have provided for. We’ve seen our people come in with serious situations in their lives on some occasions. We’ve left the kitchen to immediately minister to that person, resulting in joy and hope returning within an hour. Were they to come into a traditional church setting, likely there would have been no avenue for that kind of ministry, let alone to even have it noticed or addressed. Financial needs have been met by the generosity of this small group in meaningful ways.
Questions and confusions as to what to do in certain difficult situations when brought to the group were made clear as direction came through the prayers and oft times prophetic input of the group. Basically, we’ve begun to function as a family. It’s made us wonder just what unmet needs, unresolved conflicts and festering hurts remain for folks sitting week after week, year after year, in pews as most of us did, with limited trust and relationship-building that would allow for opening up or bringing these issues to resolution through the gifting and caring of the Lord through His people.
At least one couple has verbalized the intent to begin another house church in their home, though they want to continue to meet with us as well. I’ve met two other unrelated families recently who have felt the Lord had been speaking to them about starting a house church with whom we’ll be speaking in the next few months to hopefully help them to start their own. In this case they are not coming directly out of our group, but through hearing about ours and wanting to start their own rather than join ours, which I’m delighted about. In both cases, they are Gentiles who value the restoration of the Hebrew roots of the Church through grace as do we. God seems to have put us together. We’re assuming it’s something He is doing.
Having spent one immeasurably valuable week in Austin, TX in a “Luke 10” house church emersion experience, I am grateful for apostolic humility and vision which was imparted. (Go to House2House.tv for more information on house churches.) I personally am concerned with multiplying and reaching out to others. Our group, however, after waiting on the Lord with the question, “What is our purpose? What do you want us to be doing?” feels on the whole that He would have us to learn how to deepen our trust and love for one another and to allow Him to bring the freedom He really intends for His people to us. In other words, we believe He wants us to go deep before we go wide so that when we reproduce ourselves, we will have experienced a deeper walk with Him and each other so we can lead others into it. We are also asking the Lord to give us a deeper understanding of what He means by One New Man.
So that’s what’s going on in Norristown, PA. I’d be happy to answer should anyone have any responses or questions. You can respond to email@example.com.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships one with her brother Michael Lane in the Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked.” She is the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked: A Jewish Family's Search for God".