Why You Should Consider Starting A Neighborhood Home Bible Study
Ann Morgan Miesner
Why Is Your House So Important?
Before this verse in Isaiah 66:2, the Lord asks the question, “Where is the house you will build for me?” meaning, how can He possibly be confined within the four walls of a building? Churches that offer small-group, discipleship, cell groups in homes that study the Bible live out this reality––taking Jesus to the people, rather than expecting the Church to come to the church. These are the churches that are growing.
Our world is changing fast, and we are about to enter the age of Word of Mouth. If you have not yet read my article, “Family Tipping Point Letter,” about this, please to do so. It is on my Web site and Appendix A of this guide. (Also see Appendix B: The Story Behind the Cover.) We are going to have to rely on very primitive kinds of social contacts. This is where our homes become so important. This is why:
Your neighborhood house provides a (cheap) natural, built-in area for small-group social/spiritual contact. Nothing can take the place of one-on-one, word-of-mouth, face-to-face interaction. This is what individuals miss in many traditional, impersonal, large-group gatherings. Large groups are needed, but they don’t provide all the love, caring, sharing and nurturing needed. Small groups are like small boats catching fish or like the barns gathering and holding the harvest.
Your neighborhood house provides a relative persecution-safe environment––within walking distance. The early church met in homes due to persecution. They had no “church” building except for the large group gatherings they held periodically in certain areas. House churches have sprung up, not only in overseas countries where persecution is rampant, but in the United States. The Church has come full-circle as people have answered the call to open their homes and hearts in preparation for the time to come.
Your house can provide a neighborhood group that eliminates denominational barriers. In 1961, Billy Graham led a crusade in St. Paul, Minnesota. His parting comments went something like this: “We need Bible study groups on every block of this city. Yes, that’s what we need.” Since 2002, that is happening through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in countries where it’s dangerous to gather in the name of Jesus Christ. The result is an even greater outreach.
On November 6-8, 2008, BGEA hosted their largest crusade ever through their My Hope television project in Brazil. Instead of having a crusade in one stadium location, 600,000 living rooms were mini stadiums where the Good News was preached. These living rooms had the potential of reaching a minimum of six million souls––each home group reaching approximately 10 people.
“One of the main characteristics of the My Hope is that it eliminates denominational barriers and allows everyone to work together in the conquest of thousands of souls for the Kingdom of God” said, Pastor Jose Willington Bezerra da Costa, president of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Brazil. Socrates de Oliveira, executive secretary of the Brazilian Baptist Convention , said, “We will have the greatest harvest in the history of our country.” (Decision, “BGEA Bringing Hope of Christ to Brazil,” October 2008, pg. 9).
Your house can reach across denominational lines to help bring this phenomenal harvest to the western world. When people of all denominations come together, the whole body of Christ is pulled together, working together, and at the last performance stage of teamwork! [See Chapter 19 for explanation of the four stages of teamwork.]
Your neighborhood group is easily replicated. Module 10 of this book describes the “rank upon rank” of small “v’s” I saw––small groups all within one large “V.” I didn’t understand it then, but now, as I’ve taught this book to my own neighborhood group, I know what they meant: out of one––many. These groups multiply when we’re willing to help the next person we’ve recruited––just like in a multi-level, network marketing business. Jesus sent his laborers out two-by-two. Recruit one and go with them to pray and invite their own neighbors.
I’ve also learned since writing the book that a small “V” structure puts Jesus Christ as the head in a small group. When you open your heart-home to people, you are placing Jesus as the head of “the flock of geese” [without worrying what others think of your house––they just appreciate you], and you are partnering next to Him alone. He is the cornerstone––at the bottom and servant of all. Notice the direction for growth is upward, outward, and unlimited. Out of one––many happens naturally with small groups.
Your neighborhood group has a lasting, on-going potential. There is a lot of material and information about who God is and what ‘who He is’ means to you and me in this book. It can be overwhelming. For these women, whose stories are documented, and for me, it took seven years of going over the same names of God, over and over, and around and around again, in order to internalize it. It may be the same for you. And, as you do, you will experience God in a different manner each time––deeper and deeper still. Your next group may have some of the same people as the first, but new ones will show up for each round; furthermore, as times get harder, more and more groups will spring from yours.
Who Are Called To This Special Task?
Women: “More than 50% of the church worldwide is women who, in traditional Christianity, have very few opportunities to blossom spiritually or to get significantly involved in the ministry,” says Wolfgang Simson. He is a strategy consultant researcher and journalist within the DAWN International Network, a cheerleading network for house groups. His book, Houses that Change the World, is written to encourage and inspire those who are willing to open their home for sharing the Gospel. He sees women as the first group who will mould the future Church.
We see in the early church how Jesus released women to minister. A church met at the house of Nympha in Laodicea (see Colossians 4:15). Lydia, a businesswoman dealing in purple cloth, met with a group of women outside the city gate of Philippi where she met Paul, Timothy and Silas. She invited them to her home to stay after she and her whole household were saved and baptized (see Acts 18:26). More than likely, the church of Jesus Christ continued to meet in her house. Euodia and Synthyche were women who contended at Paul’s side in the cause of the gospel (see Philippians 4:2-3). Jesus has already given you permission to share Him with others––in your own home. You need no other permission.
Godly couples: A Jew named Apollos, a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures spoke with great fervor about Jesus. “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Priscilla is always mentioned first, possibly because she was the one who led in inviting Apollos to their home. Unless the female has an open, willing heart for hospitality, it usually won’t happen. Romans 16:5 says the Church met in their house. Philemon 1:2 tells of Philemon and his wife Apphia, a well-to-do couple, who hosted the Church in their home in Colosse.
Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament books. Their influence was very great in establishing the Church after Jesus’ resurrection. Likewise, couples who are at peace and one in the Lord will have great influence reaching other couples and families in preparing the Church, the Bride, before Jesus’ return. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
How Can You Get Started?
1. Pray. As you know, nothing happens until we pray. You may have already been walking your neighborhood or city praying for the families and children behind closed doors. If not, now is the time, for you are living on earth today for such a time as this (see Esther 4:12-14––fasting is a good idea also)! You have been chosen by God as a part of Joshua’s end-time army. For six days, without saying a word to anyone else, march around your neighborhood while claiming the blessings of obedience to the Lord––by His names––for each family. Although not necessary, on the seventh day, you may want to march around seven times, and on the seventh round shout, “Praise the Lord, for He has given me my city [neighborhood]!” (Joshua 6:16).
I’ve designed a Joshua/Jericho-Prayer Walking Guide that can be downloaded from my Web site that organizes the twelve names of God into six days, two names of God each day, to use in praying for your neighborhood. On the seventh day, pray all twelve names and listen to praise songs in seven rounds. Never try to take new territory without giving it this week-long preparation of breaking ground before trying to plant Word seed.
Pray with people you have prayed for when possible. In December, 2007, immediately after writing about Every Home Crusade (EHC) in Module11, I received a phone call from their vice-president. It was a thank-you call for supporting them for 25 years. I asked him if they had a program to help Christians go home-to-home in the U.S. like they do overseas. He said they tried to get six or seven local churches in a city to come together for a training session, but they would never cooperate. He said what works is to pray for the neighborhood; then, go to each neighbor and say, “I’ve been praying for you, but I just wanted to know if there is a specific request you have.” Then, he said, “Pray with them, not just for them, and leave it in the Lord’s hands.”
2. Decide how you want to organize your study. You may want to invite those interested to an initial cookout, dinner or dessert party. This can help you get acquainted and share how you got involved, allow them to purchase the study, and decide which day or night would work best for all, etc. If you don’t do this, you would have to make sure this information was on your invitation to start with––which is harder to do. You would have to get the book to them individually before the first meeting so they could have Module 1 read and study questions answered; however, Module 1 is only one chapter so it does allows for more time for each to share about themselves at the first meeting––which is important whether or not you have an initial get-to-know party.
We started in September after school began, ran for six weeks, studying one of 12 modules––two chapters each per week––except for Module 11 which requires two weeks. We took a break for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and started the second half of the book in January for seven more weeks. As the facilitator, I had to be gone a couple Thursday nights that were planned, so all we did was to postpone those meetings without any problem. It worked well because it gave more time for the participants to digest the material.
Since the publication of this workbook, a few women who completed it decided they wanted to lead it by taking one chapter each week. They were in no hurry to just ‘finish a study’ and go on to something else, and God blessed their desire to know Him by His names. He also added to their numbers those who were being saved.
3. Invite your neighbors, friends and those the Lord brings to you. After my Bible study was published, I knew that unless I was willing to share my vision [of the Body of Christ taking off like an airplane], in reaching out to my own neighborhood, the Lord could not and would not bless any other teaching or speaking thing I did. After I committed, He brought an unknown neighbor to me at my job site. When I saw her address, I quickly asked, “Would you be willing to come to my house for a Bible study?” I could hardly believe how this young mother’s eyes lit up as she said yes and that she used to go to one. I was ashamed to learn she’d lived in my neighborhood for one year without my knowing her.
The Lord brought another young mother of three from out of town to my work site. He made it very clear that I was to share with her part of my testimony about how God met our financial needs. Although she lived twenty minutes away, she jumped at the chance to come to my house at night after she taught school all day. Another neighbor stopped at my desk at work and readily agreed to come.
These three invites were easy. Going to the rest of the neighborhood on our figure 8, the equivalent of four blocks and 51 houses, was not as easy. I was so nervous! I finally stopped and prayed, “Lord, you promised to give Joshua every place the sole of his foot should tread, and I know You are doing that for me. It’s not by my might, nor by my power, but by Your Spirit. You promised to send Your angels before me, in Jesus name.”
Just then, I watched a vehicle pull into the house I was to stop at next. After I rang the doorbell, a young lady I partially knew answered the door. After I explained the flyer I handed her and told her she could find out more from my Web site, she said, “That sounds like fun!” I was taken aback and said, “Oh, really?” We both laughed. She had been praying for about a year whether she should start a Bible study. She was envious of those in the large city who had access to more opportunities. She brought two other ladies to our group––one, another neighbor and the other from another neighborhood. We started with eight women––most from different denominations. One didn’t show, but she had bought the book. We later learned that the mother of a lady in our group was witnessing to her.
Plan enough time to get around to all your neighbors. It took me over three hours on the one day I had to do it. Plan more than one attempt in order to find all people at home. I had to leave some flyers for those not home––not the best way to do it––and if I hadn’t known the basic spiritual foundation of most of them, I would not have done that. Think twice before leaving a flyer with your address on it in regard to this study. Remember “word-of-mouth.”
4. Make it clear there is a deadline for new members. The biggest reason to set a deadline is because latecomers hinder the sharing process; people need to get to know each other in a small group setting. Also, it may be easy to catch up after missing the first meeting of one chapter, but after the second it would be hard, since each Module is composed of two chapters with study questions at the end. However, for every rule, there is always an exception. Three of our women had a friend who was interested in coming after we were almost half way through. She showed up at the sixth meeting with all Modules read (from her friend’s book), excited about coming and contributed greatly to the discussion. The only rule is to be open to the Holy Spirit, but set the deadline anyway, and let them know you may be willing to lead another group simultaneously, or another one following this group. Ten members is the suggested maximum for a good, interactive, small group that benefits all members.
5. Remember this is only a study “guide”. Depending upon world, national and family situations of the day, a member may come who is rather upset or who has been particularly encouraged with how God has revealed Himself through that week’s study. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading and allow people to share, especially if all are of the same mind; however, if one person is always dominating the conversation, you may need to take leadership to stay on course.
6. How long should the meetings last? For the Women with a Passion for Jesus meetings and these neighborhood groups, we have never been able to go less than two hours. When suggestions were made to keep them to only one hour [and causing great confusion], Denise, the young lady in the book, spoke up, “We can sit through a movie for two hours, but we can’t give Jesus two?” After that, there was never a question about how long we spent with the LORD.
7. What about food or snacks at the meeting? From the beginning, as working women, we did not feel we had time to worry about food. Rather, we felt we wanted our only food to be the bread of heaven––Jesus. We brought our own drinks to the Saturday morning meetings. We feel He honored that. Nevertheless, your circumstances may be different. I always had drinks available for the evening meetings in my house. If someone else wanted to bring finger food, they were free to do so, or provide them yourself.
This article “Why You Should Consider Starting a Neighborhood Home Bible Study” by Ann Morgan Miesner was excerpted from: www.godwhoareyou.com web site. January 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”