So, Christians met together in each other’s homes to have “church” in the New Testament. That’s good to know, but what did they do? The Bible gives us some great information about that:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NIV)
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV).
It seems that their meetings involved teaching from the apostles (now found in the Bible), fellowship (talking and sharing their lives with one another), breaking bread (sharing food together), prayer, song and giving thanks to God for the good things He provides.
We do all of these things when we meet together in our home group. We often start with snacks that each of us brings. During this time we also catch up with each other regarding life events and how they are impacting us. We then usually have a time of singing or listening to a worship CD together. We then often follow this by reading something from the Bible, and then we pray. We pray about many things: each other’s lives and struggles, things we believe God has called us to do, and generally that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven–that everyone would come to know His love and salvation, and that those who know Him will continue to grow and be transformed by His love.
The Bible also mentions that God’s Spirit sometimes gives people gifts that they can use to encourage one another. This is mentioned many places in the Bible, including Romans chapter 12:
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8, NIV)
We find that God’s Spirit does lead us and give us gifts that we use to encourage one another during our “church” time together. These gifts do not become our main focus though. They are a means to an end. Our goal is to encourage faith, hope and love in one another, to know and share the love of God. (see 1 Corinthians 13)
So, that’s what church in the New Testament looked like, and I hope this also gives you a picture of what it can look like today. We try not to be too rigid with our format though. We want to allow God to have the opportunity to lead us during our time together. When God is involved, I believe it is important to leave room for the unexpected :).