Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home. Philemon 1:1-2
The five functions of the church (evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship and worship), as they were practiced in the New Testament, were frequently carried out in private homes. But the early church was not limited just to homes. They also used the temple, synagogues, lecture halls, open forums, riverbanks, ships and other places.
However, it is encouraging to realize that all the functions can be performed in a small house. In many restricted countries, this is the only available place. The New Testament specifically refers to five “house churches,” and there were probably many more (Romans 16:3-5, 23; 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2).
Believers from Muslim Background (MBB’s) take great risks when attempting to meet together. They do so secretly in small groups of no more than ten or fifteen to avoid suspicion from locals. They change their meeting place each time they gather in order to cover their tracks. While some are fortunate to participate with their families, many come with fear because their Muslim relatives do not even know about their new faith.
Such was the situation of the twelve MBB’s who quietly came one morning into a mountainside property in Central Java for a believers’ gathering. It was special, because a baptism ceremony would take place the next day. The MBB’s were excited and scared at the same time, more so for the four MBB’s who came to be baptized. They are nervous as their families and neighbours still think of them as Muslims.
The gathering started at night. Beginning with worship songs, the room fills with warmth, slowly stripping away fear in the hearts and minds of the believers. After the singing, the MBB’s and their children, sit on the carpeted floor. In their hands they hold the Injil and prepare for teaching. It may be a long while before they hear God’s Word again—that is, if they get the chance to. If their faith in Christ is ever discovered, the prospect of attending the next gathering grows dim.
One MBB shares that since his conversion he experienced peace, especially when sleeping at night. No longer did he wake up the next morning with much anxiety in his heart. Fights at home ceased, and his wife noted a change in him. “My husband never shouts at me anymore. Our house is full of love now. I cannot stop thanking Jesus for changing my family. He is Almighty; He is good!” she said as she broke into tears of joy.
On the second day of the gathering, the MBB’s stand at the side of a laundry pool as they witness the baptism of four more MBB’s. They see tension vanishing from their faces as each comes out of water. The church can function in many forms and still be the church.
RESPONSE: Today I will be thankful for the many ways I can gather with Christians to be the church!
PRAYER: Pray for believers—especially MBB’s—living in fear that can limit expression of faith.