Organic Church Life: The Beginning
My wife and I left the traditional church in September 06 and began a search for authentic church life around Jesus Christ. In November 06 we began meeting with a group of folks who all left the same organized church in East Texas. We call this our “experimental house church” when telling our story. Why? Well, frankly, we didn’t know what we were doing.
We were all reading books on house churches and studying the Scripture in new ways. It was simply a time of discovery and of detoxing from religion. This is when I first began a long-distance relationship with Frank Viola. The Lord is still using his influence in our discovery of Christ in the church.
We were largely concerned about “what to do” than simply letting Jesus give us that familial community that is in Christ. Yet, this was the season the Lord had us in and it was an essential part of the journey.
In January 07 we went to the North Texas House Church Conference in Dallas. It was there that we learned not everyone was gathering in homes for the same reasons we were learning about through Viola and a few other authors.
We learned a huge lesson at this conference. Some folks had just switched venues (from the building to the house) but had no new revelation of Christ. It was really sad to watch. But we are thankful that the Lord allowed us to see the difference and draw close to him.
We were in this experimental stage for about 7 months. In the Summer of 07 we moved to Houston to seek new jobs and a new life. Our move was primarily made as a result of connecting with a group of believers who had been meeting in homes for 7 years in West Houston. I can still remember that first visit. Wow! That was when everything clicked.
The brothers and sisters there were radiating Christ in their gatherings. It was the first time I saw Jesus lead a gathering where there was no man leading. There was leadership, but not in any way I had ever seen.
It was also the first time I had ever met an 80 year old man who knew the Lord as a Person. He is now in heaven awaiting the resurrection of our bodies and the fullness of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Lord moved us to The Woodlands in July 07 just north of Houston. It was clearly where the Lord wanted us… even though it was 45 minutes from the believers in West Houston. To keep this note short(er), I will just tell you we met with the saints there for a year. In that year, the simplicity of church life gathered around Christ had become natural for us.
We quickly began sensing the Lord calling us to meet where we lived. Not only were we convinced that this is how churches ought to be established (locally), we felt a deep desire for greater community with believers in our area. We knew the Lord wanted us to be an expression of his Person where we lived.
So, my wife and I, along with our friend Grant (27) who lived down the road from us, decided together that it was time to begin meeting in our city.
I wish I could tell you that the people started knocking on our door, but I would be dishonest with you if I did. We waited patiently for the Lord to naturally cause us to cross paths with folks who longed for more of Christ. The three of us met in our home (with an occasional visitor) for about 6 months before Jesus began moving around us.
We were just about to the point of discouragement (OK, maybe we were already there) when the Lord brought Michael (39) to us. He had been on a similar journey as the three of us. Toward the end of the year, we had another solid addition. Rita (50) committed herself to the fellowship.
Joel (39) e-mailed me after having read my Confessions of an Ex-Clergy Member. He and his family had been detoxing from the religious “mega-church” life for about a year. They lived right down the road from us! I met Joel at Starbucks for coffee and a bit of convo and we hit it off! His family of four (with one on the way) has been meeting with us since the first of the year.
Presently, we gather on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights regularly. These times are etched out in our schedules and are the easiest for sure times to meet. Every other week it seems we have a visitor.
The Lord is really busy around us. I have met with two brothers this month who just wanted to talk about Christ and our journey. I am meeting another brother this week who lives in Houston. I constantly have folks writing and inquiring about the gathering of the saints in our city.
Three weeks ago we had a gathering of house churches from all over the city. It was the first of its kind that we know of in Houston. There were about 60 there from all over Houston. One older brother there said he had been meeting in homes for 25 years and never knew we all existed. This tells me that we are on the front lines of what Jesus is doing in the greater Houston area.
We feel blessed to be included in the Lord’s work. In August, we will be having an Organic Church Life Conference in The Woodlands with Frank Viola and Milt Rodriguez. We are excited about what the Lord is going to do between now and then.
Finally, I just want to add what a joy it is to know Christ in community. As a local expression of Jesus in our city, we feel like we have known each other forever. We are beginning to see Jesus build his Body through real relationships that have him at the center. Thank you Lord!