The following words are by a man who gave up leading a megachurch which he had founded in California, called Cornerstone, to begin a housechurch that would seed other housechurches:
Cornerstone was by most standards a pretty loving church. But next to the example of the early church in the New Testament, it just fell flat. Jesus said the world would know us by our love (John 13:35)… we gathered some of our friends into our home and started a church… It has been five years now… peace has come from knowing God more deeply than ever. While I believe I have loved Jesus for years, it feels totally different now. Lately I have become obsessed with knowing and experiencing Him. The strangest part about this season of my life is that my intimacy with God has been directly tied to my connection with the Church. This is really weird for me because for years, I felt closest to God when I was away from people and alone in my prayer room. For the first time in my life, I actually feel closer to God while praying alongside my church family! It’s as if I can sense His actual presence in the room with us. It makes me want to stay in a room with them all because I want to get as close to Jesus as possible – Francis Chan, Letters to the Church, ch. 1.
Here are extracts from three testimonies in Frank Viola’s book Reimagining Church, p.20-25:
I was raised in a Christian home and attended church every time the doors were open. I knew how to live and behave as a Christian should… Late in high school and in early college, I met some Christians who sparked a passion in me that I never knew was possible… they actually seemed to know Christ much more deeply than I… It wasn’t until I met these other Christians that I realized that all of the previous churches that I was a member of didn’t fulfill my thirst for Jesus… The more I was with these believers, the more I wanted to know Christ like they did. I was drawn to Christ like a moth to a streetlight. Their meetings were free and open. There was no liturgy. There were no clergy. They didn’t actually need them… They prayed together, taking turns talking to Jesus unrehearsed and from the heart. They met together as if Jesus was actually in the room. They treated each other like a family that loved each other… I began to want to share with my brothers and sisters what I had seen of the Lord. Instead of being passive, I now thought it was easy to function and contribute… Sometimes we sang for hours. Sometimes the believers were bursting at the seams to share what Jesus had done in their lives that week. Sometimes we revered the Lord’s awesomeness in silence. No one had to tell us to do these things. The Spirit was moving in these ways and they just spontaneously happened…. we would share responsibilities for caring for one another… If there was a member in need, we would think of ways to help them… There was always something happening where you could share Christ and love the Lord together… When we did get together, I saw a Christ glorified and magnified. We were constantly making new discoveries in Him. Every time I saw Him in a new way, I wanted to see more… I have now seen the freedom that Christians can really have in meeting together organically, just like the early church did – a male marketing and business consultant.
Organic church life has changed my life in so many ways. The church was planted through a conference… After the church was planted, I was experiencing Christ with my brothers and sisters as I never had before. I knew this was “it” for me. I had finally come home. God knew what my husband and I needed. The revelation I received began to grow and unfold before my very eyes. I saw a beautiful and radiant bride filled with passion for her Lord. I saw a community of believers being built together as a dwelling place. I saw brothers and sisters from different backgrounds who had never met before begin to love one another… I saw that the church really is Christ’s body, and He is the Head – an ex-Minister’s wife.
Long ago I learned that the Lord is in His people, but this church was the first one I had ever seen where Christians really put this into practice. They all shared Christ in their meetings one by one so that He was brought right before my eyes. I learned through them that He is our food and drink… The intimacy I saw had drawn me in, but it was the freedom that these Christians lived in that kept my attention and made me decide to keep coming back to their meetings and become part of their community life… I began to see what it looked like when Christ has the first place in the lives and meetings of his people, which brought incredible unity… He never ran dry… in this church, with the combined love of my brothers and sisters, I began to discover just how glorious He really is – a female schoolteacher.
They took the preachers and pastors to prison. Other men stood up and filled their shoes… Then they took their houses of prayer. Then at that point began the practice of small groups – people who lived near each other would gather in small groups… Sixty years of terror, they were unable to get rid of the faith… It was saved specifically in small groups – Yuri Sipko, Baptist pastor in Soviet Russia, reported in Rod Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies, p.172.
You are really asking about where we find the meaning of the underground church… It was in small community. Only in small communities could people feel free – Ján Šimulčik, Catholic dissident in 1980s Czechoslovakia, reported in Rod Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies, p.167.