I asked a group of home group leaders this question last week:
Can you give me a single word that sums up what you think your house group is about?
The answers were varied and interesting. We had caring, fellowship, worship, growth, love, and several others along the same lines. The slightly surprising answer I shared to that question was the one found in Hebrews 10:23-25.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
As far as I can tell, this verse in the NT is the only one that actually commands us to meet together as believers. It doesn’t specify what day or in what numbers or in what set or subset of the local congregation we should meet. Simply that we should not neglect doing so, and that the purpose of our meeting together is for mutual encouragement. But encouragement for what? The context of the verse tells us.
The writer to the Hebrews has been establishing for his readers some of the enormous privileges of being Christians. And our verse is a part of the paragraph where he sums them up with a call to action. The primary call is to “draw near to God” because Jesus has opened up the way for us to meet with God through his own blood. We should stand before God with absolute confidence, says the writer, because what we receive from Christ is absolute forgiveness, cleansing, and removal of our guilt before God. More than that, the writer tells us that Jesus is our great high priest, who is now in the heavenly temple making intercession for his people.
But we also need (v. 23) to “hold fast” to our confession (belief and trust in Jesus as God’s one true King) in the face of opposition with the encouragement that “God is faithful.” And more than that (v. 24), we must think hard how we stir each other up to live the new life that we have received – by doing good to others and being filled with the love of the Lord Jesus for our lost world. And there is an urgency to this (v. 25) because we know that a day is coming when Jesus will return, and the world will be judged, and the new creation established.
So central to any gathering of God’s people, and therefore your home group, I would suggest, is that people leave with the following things having been underlined, impressed upon them, stirred up within themselves, or taught to them for the first time:
• The past work of Christ. The facts of the gospel and their new status in Christ. Forgiven, cleansed, renewed by the blood of Christ.
• The present work of Christ. He is your King and Priest in heaven and is utterly committed to getting you through to the end. We need to know this because life as a believer can be brutally hard.
• Our calling to follow him now in very practical ways. Expressed not just by being known as a Christian but through being loving and doing good works. Our badge of recognition as a believer is not church membership but the character of Christ, a passionate love of all people, and being committed to doing good to others.
And all this set in the context of…
• The future work of Christ, Who will return as judge.
One lady at the training session said that her aim with the group she leads is “to keep them going as Christians for another week.” A brilliant answer. And the way to keep people going is not just to care for them and look after their human needs for friendship, food, and fun. It is to feed their souls by reminding them of what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do for them. It is to remind them who they serve and what he calls us to.
How does your home group match up to this standard?