What Is a House Church?
We consider Lighthouse Military Ministry a church. More specifically, a ‘house church.’ If you’ve never heard of a house church before, keep reading. In the articles in this section I’ll explain what a house church is. The really short answer is that a house church is a church that meets in a house. But there’s more to it than that. Our mission field, or the people we are trying to reach are the men and women serving in the military in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. If you’ve looked at other parts of our website you will have seen that we do things a little different than most churches. We eat together, play together, worship together, share the Gospel message, and pray together. You might think, “Well, most churches do that, don’t they?” And the answer is yes, they do. We just do them all, every week, in our home!
Let me start out by talking a little bit about what makes a church a church. Is it a big building? Someplace you go for an hour or two on Sunday morning and sing songs and listen to a sermon? Or is it something more? I think the answer can be found in the Bible. So let’s take a look first, at a conversation Jesus had with His disciples in Matthew 16:13-18.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
In this passage Jesus asked His disciples who people were saying He was. Then He asked them, more pointedly, who they believed Him to be. Peter responded by saying that He, Jesus, was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus said Peter was right! He went on to tell him that he hadn’t come up with that on his own, but that God the Father had revealed that to him.
Jesus went on to explain that He would build His Church on the answer that Peter had just given. Jesus was going to build His Church out of people who believed and confessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God. It wasn’t going to simply be an “institution,” or a “place,” but a dynamic, living, organism made up of human beings just like you and me.
Before Jesus ascended back to heaven He gave His disciples what is referred to as The ‘Great Commission’. It was His mandate for the Church and is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV
He said the members of the Church were to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He commanded. The Church would be made up of committed followers of Jesus Christ who would confess Him as their Savior and Lord, and then go out to help others come to know Him as well.
For the Lighthouse Military Ministry, that means reaching out to the military community and helping them come to know Jesus Christ personally; baptizing them in water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and then teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught. That includes loving one another, worshipping Him, living lives that are pleasing to Him, and sharing His love with those who do not know Him.
There are several metaphors in the Bible that are used to describe the Church. I want to mention four of them here: the body of Christ, the house of God, the family of God, and the flock of God.
The Body of Christ
The Church is referred to as the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 where every person who believes in Jesus Christ is considered part of this body. In verses 13 and 14 the Apostle Paul says,
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” KJV
It is the Holy Spirit who baptizes individuals into the body of Christ based on their faith in Jesus Christ.
All of the servicemen and women who acknowledge that they are followers of Jesus Christ, and members of the body of Christ, are welcome to fellowship with us regardless of what faith background they have. We also invite military men and women who do not belong to the body of Christ to fellowship with us as well. How much they choose to identify with Lighthouse Military Ministry, and how often they participate in our activities, is their choice. We encourage them to participate regularly, and as often as they can, as the best way to receive the most spiritual benefit from their association with us. It’s our hope that those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will do so as a result of fellowshipping with us, and so become part of the body of Christ. But, as with any church, this is ultimately the individual’s choice.
The House of God
The Church is referred to as the ‘house of God’ in the books of Hebrews and 1 Peter. In Hebrews 3:5-6 Paul says,
“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast (Hebrews 3:5-6, NIV).”
And, in 1 Peter 2:4-6 Peter writes,
“As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-6, NIV).”
Here again, the idea is that every believer in Jesus Christ is considered to be a ‘living stone’ making up this ‘spiritual house’, with Jesus
Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
The Family of God
The third metaphor describing the Church in the Scriptures is the ‘family of God’ mentioned in Galatians,
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:10, NIV).”
This expression is repeated in Hebrews where it says,
“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family (Hebrews 2:11, NIV).”
Then again in 1 Peter,
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God (1 Peter 4:16-17, NIV)?”
This description of the Church in the New Testament is of an organic entity made up of people who are believers in Jesus Christ – a family.
For us, this is the reason we try to be a surrogate family for young men and women serving their country in the military and away from their biological families. We refer to our fellowship as a ‘home away from home’ for them. Our focus is on developing a close, personal, family environment.
The Flock of God
Finally, the fourth metaphor used in the Bible to describe the Church is the ‘Flock of God.’ This metaphor is found in two passages in Acts and 1 Peter. The people who make up ‘God’s flock’ are described as sheep, and the caretakers of the flock as shepherds under the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The attitude of these under shepherds is addressed by Luke when he says,
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28, NIV).”
Yvonne and I consider the young military men and women who come into our home and fellowship and worship with us as having been brought into our care and spiritual oversight by the Holy Spirit for as long as they choose to be associated with us. Our concern, care, and oversight for these young people doesn’t end when they leave us geographically, but continues as long as they choose to remain connected with us.
The Apostle Peter says,
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers not because you must, but because you are
willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you,
but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never
fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4, NIV).
For many young military men and women we are often the only pastors they know. When they have a spiritual need, want prayer, or seek council, they call Yvonne and me. We are their spiritual shepherds. We consider all those who the Holy Spirit brings to us as part of the ‘flock’ under our care and we are responsible for their spiritual well being as long as they want us to be.