So You’re Starting a Home Church: How do I get people to show up?

Back in the 90’s there was a movie called Field of Dreams where a man hears a disembodied voice in the middle of his corn field saying, “If you build it, they will come.” He did, and they did—see the movie for more details. The same is largely true for a home church, if you build it, they will come. The lingering question in that case is, “What is it?”

People are drawn to authentic community. The problem is, it’s very hard to find it these days. We have an abundance of “virtual community” where people like, love, care, and share with the click of a button; they send “thoughts and prayers,” but have little to no real interaction or participation in the lives of others. Most often, We seem to feel that virtual interaction is the same as actual, interactive participation. The great tragedy is that this trend is alive in well in many churches and it isn’t lost on the people that “try church” and leave disillusioned.

Authentic community was what turned the world upside down for the early church. Just listen to this description of what church life looked like for them: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

Don’t let that line, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” get lost on you. “Getting saved,” for the Jews in that time, meant being disassociated with traditional, Old Testament Judaism, which meant being viewed as an apostate, which meant being ostracized from society and from family. Being baptized in Jesus’ name was supremely costly, which is why we’re also told that “no one else dared join them even though they were highly regarded by the people” (Acts 5:13). In other words, no one just hung out with them unless they were prepared to pay the price. But many were! More and more every day! Why? Because they had never seen authentic community like this before, and it was worth the sacrifice.

When you find people who are willing to give sacrificially for your good, people willing to give up their lives in some way for the well being of others, you are drawn to those people. If you look at most church membership covenants, they are typically focused on what the members are expected to give the church: their time through attendance, their talent in service to the ministries of the organization, their money through giving, and their devotion by way of commitment. In building authentic community, it’s more about what we give to one another; it’s more about how I love you. I trust God to meet my needs, so I am free to love my neighbor sacrificially because I know my needs are taken care of… or will be taken care of. People are drawn to that.

You are starting a home church, so simply start loving people. Listen to their stories, help where you can, connect them with other people (Christian or non-Christian) who can help with their needs—or who share similar struggles. Be available. Listen, counsel, and care. The reality is, as a follower of Jesus, whenever people spend time with you, they are “in church!” You don’t have to sing or read or preach. Connecting with people will afford you the opportunity to pray for people, with those people, but don’t feel like you even have to rush into that. Love your neighbor. That is the purest form of worship. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

People will come around when they know, beyond a doubt, that you genuinely care about them. They’ll want to spend time with you. Have people over for dinner. Food draws a crowd. See what opportunities open up from there. Set every agenda aside except the agenda to love your neighbor; the agenda to care for people. You may not start with anything that resembles a formal gathering or traditional church service, and that’s good. What you’ll wind up with are friends who are connecting with the Love and Truth of Jesus as you love them as He loves you through your counsel, your help, your compassion, your comfort. You’ll wind up with some authentic community, and God can move powerfully through that!