Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My guess is that most of you who have heard much preaching have been challenged to pay attention to the verse from Hebrews 10 which says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Too often this emphasis is used to exhort everyone to be faithful in worship attendance. Not a bad thought, yet not always striking home, either to the incapacitated, or those who avoid the conventional and institutional church which failed to spread the Good News to people where they are. That’s where intimate sharing reaps great spiritual benefits, through house groups, just like the early church. The Holy Spirit is free to lead and reveal.
This brings to mind a 28-year-old American Christian minister, Saeed Abedini, who has been in jail and tortured for many years in Iran. He has family there, who occasionally are able to visit him, but not his wife and children who are in the U.S. He was beginning an orphanage and was in Iran to finalize arrangements when he was captured. Much pressure has been exerted on Iran to release him. Many other Christians are there and all used as rejected pawns in order for Iran to get its way in the U.S.-Iran treaty talks. One important point in this saga is that Saeed was charged with attempting to create Christian home, groups. Of course, this is a giant No-No in the Islam indoctrinated empire, often punishable by torture, imprisonment, and even death. Even if this were the case, we wonder what kind of god they worship. Our God, Jehovah through Jesus Christ, the only true God, is too big and too great to pay any attention to threats, which brings us to an emerging issue.
We at Home Church International (HCI) are followers of the early church pattern where, though disliked by many, continued to meet, encourage, and equip the saints for ministry. Under severe persecution, they met in homes and other private settings to avoid being discovered. Often in shopping areas they would hang out the sign of the fish in which were the letters IXOYE, our English attempt for Greek letters. These letters spelled out “fish”, the letters of which were the first letters of words meaning “Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior”. Christians then knew this was a meeting place. To have been more obvious would have meant immediate arrest and unspeakable treatment. So, they used these house churches as a way to continue their mission. This approach is employed in many countries. China, who has a few ‘government approved and monitored churches’, is believed to have some 50 million of these Christian house churches.
Though HCI is not under any kind of threat, at least at this time, we find that the intimacy through teaching and sharing in a smaller house church setting has real advantage over weekly pew occupation. If pastor Abedini was involved in this approach, it would seem evident that this would be an effort which might have a better chance of succeeding and surviving. We at HCI experience growth and maturing in our private settings. As we mature in faith, we enjoy the freedom to question and share during our meetings. We grow close in our fellowship. All are blessed during intercessory prayer. We are not limited to Saturday nights or Sundays because each house will meet any day of the week, or easily change as the need presents itself. Each home gathering has its own pastor-in-charge, all operating under the headship of my wife, Susana, and me.
We see this type of ministry because is not threatening and is family-like in its structure, as a growing trend in today’s world which is beginning to experience growing opposition. We don’t judge this splintered world. We grieve yet pray for it to come to know and follow our triumphant and loving God.
In His Grace, your pastor,