The Church in your house

It feels strange to wake up on a Sabbath morning and not be heading out to Church. What is this thing called COVID 19 that has robbed us of the privilege and right of going to Church? So who are we when we don’t go to Church? Are we Seventh-day Adventists when we don’t attend the Seventh-day Adventist Church? How can this little bug called a Coronavirus stop all of us around the world from going to Church? Perhaps this Coronavirus crisis forces us to answer the question, What is Church?

In 1 Thessalonians 1:1, Paul describes the Church at Thessalonica as follows: “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” So we get the idea that the Church has an address, a location, and that address is in God the Father and in Jesus Christ. This is our most important address, nevermind the street or suburb or village where our meeting place is located. We are a Church that is located in God. We have a heavenly address, and that address is “in God,” praise God. We share a common identity–we are the Church in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever place we meet we are the Church that is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But we also do have a common earthly address that is given in Scripture. Paul writing from his Roman prison to Philemon, his Christian friend, says, “To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow-labourer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Apphia is thought to have been Philemon’s wife. It is notable that Paul describes Philemon family as “the church in your house.” And to this church in the house, Paul pronounced the grace and peace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please do not make the earthly human mistake of thinking small of the church in your house. It is very important. God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send their grace and peace to the church in your house.

In another epistle, Paul writes to the Christian believers at Rome. In his closing greetings, he greets different members. In Romans 16:3-5 he says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house.” Again Paul is drawing attention to the church in the house. Think of the family unit as God’s nuclear Church. Out of the family church units God builds the larger Church.

Old Testament Perspective

Abraham’s Church was his own household. In Genesis 18:17-19 God says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Abraham led the Church in his house well. He took his responsibility seriously.

The fourth commandment admonishes us to remember to keep the Sabbath holy. Exodus 20:8-11 reads, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it, you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

It is notable that the Sabbath commandment is inclusive of the different members of the family, parents, children and servants. The Sabbath embraces the whole family. It is also notable that the commandment says nothing about Church building. It mentions the family remembering the Sabbath together.

When the Children of Israel were about to enter into the land of Canaan, Moses reminded them, that religious instruction was to take place in the setting of the family unit: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house when you walk by the way when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). The home circle is the place of worship and religious instruction.

Jesus is talking about the Church in Matthew 18:15-20. He ends by saying in verses 19-20, “Again I say you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Even when the Church in your house is very small, consider it important. Even when two or three are the size of the group, Jesus promises to be there.

The church in your house is the building block for the bigger Church. When the Church in the house is weak, the bigger Church will also be weak. But when the Church in the house is strong, the bigger Church will also be strong. The bigger Church meets only once a week, but the Church in the house meets every day.

Coronavirus poses a great challenge to the Church. It is forcing us to re-define how we do Church. We are redefining the nature and reality of our faith. Even when the Coronavirus has finally vanished, Church may never be quite the same again. Some things will change forever about how we do Church. Coronavirus offers us new opportunities to learn how to do Church. We may become less attached to buildings and structures, and more focused on context and relevance–why we do what we do and how it could be done more effectively. We may come to better define ourselves and understand ourselves and our mission as the people of God. This Coronavirus may act a part in preparing us for the difficult end-time scenarios when Church doors may be closed because of persecution. This time we worship God peacefully in the comfort of our homes. At that time we may not have the comfort of our homes to worship as family units. Our worship may be on the run. If we can’t enjoy deep meaningful worship during the time of the Coronavirus, how will we fare when we are on the run for dear life.

Obviously there is room for the church as we have usually known and experienced it. But as we have seen, the New Testament highlights the place of the Church in the house. House is where the New Testament Church began, in the Upper Room in a home. That is how the Church expanded and spread as it crossed regional and National boundaries. And that is how the Church will triumphantly culminate when persecution makes meeting in Church buildings impossible.

I will close by sharing how we did church at our house last Sabbath, 28 February 2020. We followed the outlined order of service from the Conference. We assigned my 10-year-old granddaughter to be the Chorister for the day. She did a wonderful job of leading out. We had Children’s Sabbath School led out by Shepherdess Musvosvi, my wife. I led out in the Adult lesson study. Our youngest daughter, Rumbidzai did the children’s sermon. Our 8-year-old grandson was the deacon. He shared a reading, prayed for the tithe and offering and collected it. I did the Sermon, while seated, and made the family participate in the discussion. After lunch, our older daughter led in a discussion on the Coronavirus and how to keep ourselves safe. We thoroughly enjoyed doing Church at home. We planned our program and did assignments the evening before. So each person had time to prepare. Let as many members of the family as possible have a part to play. May God bless you as you plan and enjoy your family worship. Coronavirus will go away but the Church in your house is a blessing that is here to stay.

By Pastor Joel Musvosvi