This post is written by a member of the Messianic community in Israel or guest contributor. The opinions and views expressed are solely those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Kehila News Israel.

SURVEY: Believers share their thoughts on home groups and congregations

In trying to determine new congregational trends and how believers feel about having their needs met in a congregation/home group, KNI recently conducted a brief survey asking mostly Jewish believers in Israel (and a few others) their opinion about the following questions:

Do you think home groups are the legitimate wave of the future? Do you attend a congregation and do you prefer it to a home group? If so, why? Do you attend a home group instead of or in addition to a congregation? Explain why.

Ben writes: I have always held that home groups are a core of community life and the best environment for discipleship, exercising the gifts of the spirit, and outreach. I believe that the weekly congregational service should be less of an emphasis than the engagement within home groups. I do attend a congregation. I think the weekly congregational service serves a different function than that of a home group. I think both are important. Many home groups become insular and do not maintain the accountability required so that they don’t stagnate. There should be a balance between the larger, corporate gatherings for worship (much as the Temple or synagogue was to the earliest Messianic believers) and the home group. The home group is where one can really build relationships of service, prayer, and growth together in the Lord.

Rob writes: I don’t know if home groups are the legitimate wave of the future (i.e., I won’t predict that that’s the way the body of the Messiah is going to go vis-a-vis fellowships with authority structures.). However, I don’t believe it would be the right way for the body to go, en masse, because I don’t think it inherently supports authority and accountability structures as described in the Scriptures. I attend a congregation. I do not attend a home group. The reason is that there is no home group in our congregation. I would attend a Bible study if there was one available, but it would be in addition to, not in place of, a congregation.

Eli writes: I do think home groups are not only legitimate but also important for the future of the movement. When there is a smaller number of people who meet in more private and informal setting of a home group, it is much easier to be able to build relationships to the level of personal friendship, prayer on a deeper level, etc. I am leading a small fellowship like this, and despite the usual attendance being 12 people, I never get upset that we are so small. We all know each other by name which helps us to have a closer relationship than what would happen in a big congregation, and we don’t have the issue of raising funds to pay rent and utilities.

I do not see a problem with attending a congregation at the same time. If anybody from our group is interested, from time to time, in participating in a service with a different format, I am definitely not against it. After all, my goal is to work with the people that were sent by God to me for a period of time (a month, a year, the rest of their lives…), and if He wants them to go to another place, who am I to hold onto them. In my opinion, both a congregation and a home group are the ways for God’s flock to be fed, to have an opportunity to fellowship with others, and to serve.

Helen writes: I do believe that home groups are the legitimate wave of the future. I believe there is an intimacy as well as the ability to truly share with each other that gets lost with big congregations. I no longer attend a large congregation and truly wish there was a vital and caring home group in my area. The few times that attempts were made to start a home group, I found a real sense of community, breaking bread, delving into life’s challenges on a more personal basis as well as an opportunity to become close to one another and forge a family type relationship as opposed to showing up once a week at a congregation and getting swallowed up by the crowd and becoming more invisible and lonely as time went on.

Jesse writes: I know that home groups are very popular nowadays, especially for people who’ve already been members of various congregations and have been hurt or disappointed in/by them. I personally don’t think that home groups on their own are the wave of the future. I attend a congregation and yes, I prefer it to a home group. When I first came to Israel, I was a teenager and the Messianic body didn’t have the wide variety of congregations we have now. All we had, at that time, was a small home group, which I did attend for a number of years. The worship was basic, and there was no one near my age with whom I could fellowship. Gathering in a home group was better than not gathering at all with believers, but as it was, I had an intense dislike for this manner of gathering which has affected my how I feel about home groups today. Children and youth NEED other kids with whom to fellowship, whether it’s a youth conference or youth ministry but home groups usually can’t offer that. On the other hand, I feel that small groups as part of a larger congregation are a wonderful way for people to get to know one another better (when there usually isn’t time enough at the weekly congregational meeting), for them to pray for one another and get involved in one another’s lives. I’m very much for small groups as part of a larger congregation.

Alex writes: Yes on Home Group wave of future. I attend a congregation but I prefer a weekly home group with a monthly congregational meeting cycle. I attend a home group for relationships, bible study, prayer, and community but I also attend a weekly congregation because I am expected to since I work in ministry.  Often I feel I don’t get a lot out of it and that’s why I would like to see a larger community once a month to fellowship with others that do not live near me or that I’m not that involved with daily.  Francis Chan has a teaching on all this – he promotes the development of strong communities, and activating the gifts among believers to each other that produces effective evangelism.

Shirley writes: We host a “home group” (Messianic Jewish Fellowship) so really love our small group. We have never felt “called” to be congregational leaders so have purposely kept our group small enough to fit into our living room (12-16 people max). It is a wonderful group of believers who encourage and support each other. All of our people are 50+ years old so we don’t have children in our group. That is the one drawback of home groups — children’s ministries. So, my opinion is that home groups are good supplements to a larger congregation but congregations can offer families, especially, more opportunities than a small group can. We do attend a congregation weekly but we are not involved at all. As an aside, some of our folks only attend our home group but I think they’re missing something by not being in a congregation. On the other hand, isn’t the purpose of a small group to give folks the opportunity to get to know one another better, support and encourage one another, and to help one another? If that happens, it is a wonderful supplement to a congregation, but I don’t think it should replace one.

Carol writes: I do not know if home groups are the wave of the future, but I believe they are important and growing for a reason. Others have claimed that “a new paradigm” is needed to sustain the body. I agree. I am part of a home group, although not regularly. I prefer it to a congregation, because of the structure, formality and scale (even the small ones are too big). A home group seems like a much more natural, convenient and uncomplicated way to sustain one another.

Karen writes: Yes, I feel that home groups are the way forward. I feel that biblical precedents were set with the early followers of Yeshua meeting in homes throughout that period until the diaspora. I believe that believers need fellowship that is meaningful with shared accountability. My husband and I don’t attend a large congregation. We are part of a home group. We feel that the Lord led us out of a congregational fellowship and we only attend a small group where we learn, pray, worship and care for each other. I believe that the early body of believers (what is referred to as “church” in the Greek) such as those in Jerusalem was to represent many groups and not a single congregation. The model of congregations was later imposed by Church Fathers following a pagan model from temples in the Graeco/Roman world. These imposed top down authority and corralled believers into a front facing arrangement that separated laity from clergy. Some were “holier and more learned” than others. This is still mostly the model with paid clergy. For us this model is unbiblical and creates systems, programmes and a mistaken authority. Additionally, we are able to support one another more effectively.

Tali and Bob say: We believe home groups can be fine as long as they’re well planned. They should be led by a mature believer, someone who loves (and seriously studies) the Word and is able to teach and generate good discussion. We believe home groups should be under the covering of a congregation. We’ve been with our fellowship since the spring of 1997.

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