Abiding as a Family
House church takes work and intentionality. Weekly meetings and dinners don’t just come together on their own – they need people’s time and investment – but they’re worth it.
House churches are at the heart of Apex Community. We don’t simply gather on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings, but we create families all over the area to meet weekly and live life together. One such house church, in northern Cincinnati, was hesitant to have a story written about them for the Anthologies blog. Jonathan was hesitant to agree to a story being written about his house church because he couldn’t think of a reason why one should be written.
“Comically,” Jonathan confessed, “My initial reaction was one that wondered what crisis in the house church had occurred without my knowing.”
But it was his decline for the story to be written that caught the editors’ attention at Anthologies. House church is rarely glamour-filled, but is often a physical representation and picture of what it looks like to abide. It was within those spaces that the house church needed to be written about.
Jonathan planted the North Cinci House Church in his small, one-bedroom apartment in 2009. In the history of this house church, through change in location and size of the group, the median age has remained in the late twenties.
This house church has taken their general age and willingness to travel and put it to use in the city of Cincinnati to share the Lord with its residents. For several years, Jonathan’s house church purchased, prepared, and served a dinner once a month to more than 100 homeless people in Cincinnati’s City Gospel Mission.
“We were able to build relationships with some of Cincinnati’s neatest people through that effort,” Jonathan explained.
Their house church has also been able to put on fundraising efforts for the missionaries being sent out by Apex over the years.
As their house church has shifted locations and “grown up,” flexibility in schedules changed the pace of the house church’s capabilities for outreach. In times past, Jonathan has wrestled with thinking that this is a failure, but has come to see it as a mark of God’s faithfulness in growing them up.
“Priorities among house church members have shifted,” Jonathan said.
He explained that they have grown from independent singles, to married couples and now some families. Since they planted in 2009, Jonathan could think of at least seven marriages that have occurred within their house church. “We now have two wonderful kids in the house church, both age one. We love them. How quickly they have changed the dynamic of the group–and for the better. It’s so neat seeing people’s hearts turn toward loving children; not just parents, but non-parents as well,” he said.
Melissa, Jonathan’s wife, has seen large amounts of growth within their house church over the years.
“God has placed a desire specifically in the hearts of the men to pursue Him,” she said. “Consequently, I have seen it shape the couples and families in our group, because we are led by husbands and dads who love Jesus and His Word.”
She can feel the Lord sanctifying the whole group, but her own heart, specifically.
“I have seen God point out some of the rough edges of my heart. I still remember when I started attending house church, I didn’t get along blissfully with everyone. I had moved away from my family (who lives in New Hampshire) and I left behind a lot of friends, too. I prayed that God would help me to love the people in my group, and He answered that prayer in a very real way. I had truly seen God change the desires of my heart,” Melissa said.
“I think that’s a continual process for Christians in community – to see one another the way Christ sees us and to humble ourselves to realize we aren’t always so lovely ourselves,” she said.
Jonathan and Melissa have been able to see this group of people grow into a living, breathing, working family. Their family has been through multiple births and multiple marriages together; they have prayed over surgeries, delivered meals to each other, helped out with rides and errands. They live and experience life together.
The two shared how house church takes work and intentionality. Weekly meetings and dinners don’t just come together on their own – they need people’s time and investment – but they’re worth it. They have seen God’s hand through all of it – He places the desires to work together as a family on all of our hearts and through that they have become a family that celebrates together, mourns together, and lives life together.
House Churches don’t come together and stay together by chance; they require intentional conversations, flexibility with schedules, sacrifice, and being an open vessel for the Lord to pour into. Jonathan initially declined to do an interview because he felt his house church was “too boring” to be written about. But the Lord sees “boring” as abiding and He grows within that space room for family to be born outside of bloodlines and family trees.
Author: Stephani Duff
Photographer: Hilary Tebo