Having Church When You Can’t Go in the Building

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“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Cor. 12:27

By Tim Ahlen, Pastor and Church Consultant

Do We Really Need a Building?

Today, I am sitting in my home office, sheltering in place and praying that God will keep “the bug” out of my body.  It’s not really something I worry about.  I know that my life is in God’s hands and that He will keep me around as long as I am useful for His Purposes.  But I also know that God wants me to be careful and not to presume recklessly upon his protection. But that means having church will have to be different– I can’t go into the church building.

 20 Go home, my people,
     Hide yourselves for a little while
until the Lord’s anger has passed
     21 Look! The Lord is coming from heaven
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
     The earth will no longer hide those who have been killed.
They will be brought out for all to see. [1]

Sounds a little like our current situation, doesn’t it? Interestingly, the Bible tells us that God does not shirk from taking responsibility for plagues when they come (cf. 2 Chron. 7:13). Sometimes, He allows them to run their course as judgment upon the sins of His people. Therefore our best means of escape is to stay inside until it’s over.

Some questions you may want to ask are, “OK, I’ll stay home.  I want to protect my health and that of vulnerable seniors and others.   But am I really stuck with nothing to do but binge watch Netflix and Andy Griffith reruns? How can I continue to meet and fellowship with my Christian brothers and sisters?  I miss my church family!”

The Church from Home

The good news is that you don’t need that big old church building to be the Church.  You already know that the church is not the building.  The church is any group of Christ followers who together do three things:

  • Love God.  We love God by worshiping Him and faithfully obeying His commands.
  • Love people—We love people by doing for them whatever is in their best interests.
  • Make disciples—We make disciples by baptizing new believers and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commands.

Now I want you to think about it:  Love God.  Love people. Make disciples. Which of those actions require a church building?  How many of them can be accomplished from your home?  Answer:  None of them and all of them! At the very beginning of the Church’s existence, Christ followers met in two places: (1) in large groups in the public Temple Courts   and (2) in small groups in private homes.

Since right now we cannot meet in large groups, why not try having church from the privacy of your home?  How do you have a small group church meeting not in your home, but from your home?  It’s simple:

having church when you c an't go in the building
They met in the Temple courts AND in their homes!

Steps to Worship at Home

  1. First, earn how to use Zoom, Facetime, What’s App, Skype, Microsoft Teams or any similar video chat app you can find on the APP store.  Be sure to read the reviews and select the one that offers the best privacy and security at the lowest possible price.  Many have free versions.
  2.  Sit down one evening and write up a list containing the names and contact numbers of everyone you know.  Yes, everyone!  When you are done, ask God which 5-10 of them He wants you to involve in your church from home.
  3. When you have settled on who to invite, set a date, schedule it on your video chat app, generate invitations and send them out to your invitees.  It is best to send out your invitations a couple of weeks in advance.  Call your invitees on the phone and explain to them what you are doing and why you are inviting them.
  4. Next, send out email or text reminders about the church from home meeting a week, a day and an hour in advance.
  5. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time, you should be in the meeting room, awaiting the arrival of your guests
  6. Begin with prayer promptly at the start time.  Plan for 1 hour- 1.5 hours for the meeting. Finally, close with prayer.

What to Do During the 3/3 Meeting

Each Church From Home Meeting contains three components: (1) Look Back, (2) Look Up and      (3) Look Forward. This format is used by many simple church practitioners and is commonly dubbed a 3/3 Meeting.[2] Here is the detail:

1. Look Back (1/3 of your time)

having church when you c an't go in the building. looking back.
Expressing Love for God and One Another

Loving God and Loving Others

The focus in the Looking Back segment is on Loving God and Loving Others. 

To begin, each participant is given the opportunity to share something they are thankful for, and/or something they have struggled with in the last week. Have someone else in the group pray for the expressed needs and give thanks for the blessings.  If it is a complicated issue, suggest that you will address it after the meeting.

Bible Passages and Testimonies

Next,  spend time sharing with each other Bible passages, testimonies about how they have experienced the love of God, love of others, especially as this themes relate to commitments the participants made in previous weeks.

A good way to check up with one another is to ask each person to share how they did regarding the commitments they wrote down from the previous week:

  1. How have you obeyed what you have learned?
  2. Who have you trained in what you have learned?
  3. With whom have you shared your story or God’s story?

If they forgot to follow through on a commitment or did not have the opportunity to do so, then those commitments from the prior week should be added to this week’s commitments. If someone simply refuses to obey something they clearly heard from God then it should be treated as a church discipline issue.

2.   LOOK UP [1/3 of your time]

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Looking up to learn more about God’s Will

The purpose of the Looking Up segment is to study God’s Word in order to hear from Him about what He wants you to do this week. Begin this segment with a simple prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach everything we need to know about the passage you are about to study.

Read and Discuss: Read this week’s Bible passage. Discuss the following questions:

  1. What did you like about this passage?
  2. What did you find challenging or hard to understand about this passage?

 Read this week’s Bible passage again.  And discuss these questions:

  1. What can we learn about people from this passage?
  2. What can we learn about God from this passage?

3. LOOK FORWARD

 looking forward.
Radical immediate obedience produces a faithful Christ follower.

The last segment of a 3/3s Bible study is the Looking Forward segment. Its purpose is to focus on what we have heard from God that day. making a commitment to obey what He has commanded, to train one of your disciples in what you are learning and share your story or God’s story with someone.  First, take at least five minutes in silent prayer. Next, have everyone in the group pray for the Holy Spirit to show them how to answer these questions. Then make commitments for the upcoming week. Have everyone write the commitments down so they can pray for people knowledgeably and hold them accountable. Finally, how will I apply and obey this passage?

  1. Who will I train or share with about this passage?
  2. Who does God want me to share my story [testimony] and/or God’s story with this week?

Practice: In groups of two or three, practice what you have committed to do in question 5, 6 or 7. For example, role-play a difficult conversation or facing a temptation; practice teaching today’s passage, or practice sharing the Gospel.

Talk With God: In the same groups of two or three, pray for every member individually. As you do, ask God to prepare the hearts of the people who will be hearing about Jesus this week. Ask Him to give you the strength and wisdom to be obedient to your commitments. This is the conclusion of the meeting.

Conclusion

To sum it up, there are many similar ways to “do church” from your home.  If your family is big enough, you can do church with just your family present, and you can do it face to face without going online.  You can do it with a group of your current church members or you can plant a new online church by reaching out to people who do not belong to any church. You can make it a local church or you can reach out around the world and make it a global church.

But, if you want your church to grow and multiply, utilize the principles found in a 3/3 group meeting.  For more information, visit www.zume.training.


[1] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Is 26:20–21). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2]Curtis Sergeant,  https://zume.vision/articles/how-to-have-church-at-home/. Accessed 4/8/2020.

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