As we celebrate Pentecost together, it’s a good thing to remind ourselves: it all began in a house. Today, with so many of us still largely confined to our houses, this story has a special relevance. But we should remember that the house church has always been a powerful, dangerous, a revolutionary thing. And, in countries where meeting publicly as a Christian is banned, the Kingdom of God has not only survived in the house church, it has flourished and grown.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
-- Acts 2:1-4
The church began in a house.
As we celebrate Pentecost together, as we retell the story of the roaring gale, the tongues of fire, the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s a good thing to remind ourselves: it all began in a house.
Today, with so many of us still largely confined to our houses, this story has a special relevance. But we should remember that the house church has always been a powerful, dangerous, a revolutionary thing.
That’s certainly true of the persecuted church. In countries where meeting publicly as a Christian is banned, the Kingdom of God has not only survived in the house church, it has flourished and grown.
In 1982, for example, the communists overthrew the government of Ethiopia and persecution of the church began. Along with other denominations, the Mennonite churches had their buildings confiscated and their leaders imprisoned. Forbidden to meet, the church went underground and continued to meet in secret. They could not even sing out loud for fear of someone reporting them to the authorities.
Ten years later, the communist government was overthrown allowing this church to come out of hiding. The church leaders were amazed to find that their 5,000 members had grown to 50,000 in that 10-year period.
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.
Anastasia and her husband
Recently, the secret service told her that they don’t see her as a threat any more. “The secret service 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.
So, this Pentecost, as we celebrate together, please remember in your prayers all the houses where the revolution is still happening: where the Spirit is still moving in power.
The truth is that the church doors may be closed. But in houses and apartments around the world 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 persecuted brothers and sisters at this time,
For the churches that meet in homes:
Protect them we pray,
And may Your Spirit fill them with hope, courage and love.
*names changed for security reasons