It all began in a house.
As we celebrate Pentecost, retelling the story of the roaring gale, the tongues of fire, the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s good to remind ourselves that the great, revolutionary Christian faith began in a house.
And today, the house church continues to be a place of revolutionary power. In countries where the church has been driven underground, the Kingdom of God has not only survived in the house church, it has flourished and grown.
In 1982, for example, the communist government of Ethiopia began persecuting the church. Along with other denominations, the Mennonite churches had their buildings confiscated and their leaders imprisoned. So the church went underground, meeting in secret and even stopping singing out loud for fear of someone reporting them to the authorities.
Ten years later, the communist government was overthrown and the church came out of hiding. And the church leaders were amazed to find that their 5,000 members had grown to 50,000 in that ten-year period.
Today, the house church is still vital in the life of the persecuted church. The church in China is facing increasing regulation and oppressive surveillance. In response, many big churches have splintered into smaller, less visible house churches. As one of their church leaders, Caleb*, says:
“Many house churches are like water in a river. Whenever an obstacle is encountered, they will not fight it. Instead, they stream past the obstacles and change course, but still continue to flow towards the big ocean, which is the Great Commission.”
The revolution began in a house. And in houses and apartments around the world, it is still happening - because nothing can stop the power of the Holy Spirit.
God of all power and might,
Inspire us all by the power of Your Spirit, Kindle the flames of faith,
Ignite the light of truth,
Give us the burning passion to share the Good News about You to those around us.
We pray especially for our persecuted brothers and sisters at this time,
For all those who meet in houses and apartments,
The underground outposts of the revolutionary Kingdom of God.
Protect them all we pray,
May Your Spirit visit them anew,
And fill them afresh with hope, courage and love.
The first followers of Jesus were viewed as a bit of a rabble. Uneducated Galileans, fishermen, ex-tax-collectors, who would think it possible that these ‘unschooled, ordinary’ people (Acts 4:13) would transform the world? But that’s the power of the Holy Spirit.
Anastasia* is a courageous house church leader from Central Asia. Over the years she has led many to faith in Christ but has also faced monitoring by the police and threats against her life because of her faith and ministry.
Recently, the secret service told her that they don’t see her as a threat any more. “The secret servie may say that I’m too old,” she says. “They see me as a retired old woman. But God is not retiring and neither am I. There’s so much to do in God’s Kingdom.”
And now besides leading house churches, she has started a new initiative, leading retreats for women and children in remote places.
“During the retreat we have a 360 degree watch near the property - my husband is our guard!” she says. “We teach the women to teach others, encourage them to start home groups. We encourage them to shine the light of Jesus.”
The house church is the engine room of the persecuted church. For decades, with your help, Open Doors has supported underground house church leaders like Anastasia around the world.
*names changed for security reasons
Dangerous Faith. Journey back to a time when every church was a house church. Perfect for Pentecost, this eight-part series is a journey through the book of Acts with the persecuted church.
What if? Use the real-life stories of persecuted Christians in places such as Bangladesh, Colombia and North Africa to explore key questions, such as ‘What if your church was closed down?’ and ‘What if you had to follow Christ on your own?’
* Names changed to protect identities
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.