Thursday, September 17, 2009

The 1st Century Pattern



One day in 1978, during a time of prayer, I was startled when I heard the Lord speak to me through His still, small voice. "Are you willing to be involved in the underground church?" He asked. The words that I heard in my spirit were piercing and distinct. When the Lord spoke to me, although the words were clear, I didn't understand what He was trying to tell me. 

My mind raced immediately to the Berlin Wall and the barbed wire fences that, at the time, surrounded the borders of many communist nations. I thought of the persecu ted church meeting underground in nations that opposed the gospel. 

"Yes, Lord," I replied as tears formed in my eyes. "I am willing." I chose to obey, even though I didn't understand what it all meant. I was hearing the call of God--what would become a life call for me. 

Soon after the Lord spoke to me I asked two men to join me every week for prayer, Bible study, encouragement, and mutual accountability. Within the next few years this "house fellowship" grew, and we star ted to reach out to new believers. Soon our living room was filled to capacity. 

I slowly began to understand what the Lord had in mind when He asked me if I was willing to be involved in the underground church. An underground church is like a tree: its trunk, branches, and leaves are only half of the picture. The unnoticed half, the underground root system, nourishes the whole tree and keeps it healthy. Without the roots of the home church, the underground root system, the visible community and mega-churches will suffer. 

"The underground church" the Lord spoke of was believers gathered together through a structure of home groups meeting to pray, evangelize, and build relationships with one another. It was identical to the model we see in the book of Acts, when Paul the apostle taught them both publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20). 

We came to call our new church DOVE Christian Fellowship and met in three small home groups during the week. By the grace of God, during the next ten years our church grew to well over 2,000 believers scattered throughout our communities and meeting on Sunday mornings and from house to house each week. We had embraced a new wineskin, an underground church, and the Lord had grown us from a small fellowship of young believers into a church-planting movement. 

The Lord eventually led us to decentralize our one large small-group-based church in Pennsylvania into eight self-governed, small-group-based churches. We then began to help people start new churches in six continents of the world. 

As we continue to reach those who do not yet trust Jesus, many new kinds of churches are needed. There is room for traditional community churches and mega-churches to coexist and network with the newer house churches--and God blesses all three!

As God continues to build His underground church among us, both new small groups in our churches and new house churches in our communities are needed. I leave you with this final question: "Are you willing to listen to the voice of God and be involved in His underground church?" 

Larry Kreider is the founder and international director of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, a family of churches established on six continents. 

As an author of more than 25 books and a speaker at conferences and churches, he travels extensively, training Christian leaders and believers in practical Christian living. Larry and his wife, LaVerne, live in Lititz , Pennsylvania . They have four children and three grandchildren.

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