In these unusual and unprecedented locked-down days of coronavirus, I’ve been asking the Lord what he is doing and saying. While I could mention a number of things, one that especially stands out relates to worship at home. I believe the Lord is building houses. Houses of Worship. Indeed he is re-establishing the home as the key place of worship.
Worship at home
Churches like the one I lead in York, UK, can’t meet as normal on Sundays, so we’re producing services online, and encouraging mid-week small groups, enabling people to join in at home. People are participating with others from the comfort of their living rooms, kitchens, gardens and potentially from every room in the house with a broadband connection! Basically, people are worshipping from home. It’s new, novel and certainly noteworthy.
Why is this happening? Well the simple answer relates to practical necessity. We have no choice: we can’t go out so we either worship at home, or we don’t worship at all. But there’s a more nuanced and prophetic answer, which relates to the plans of the Lord. You see, I believe the Lord is using this stay-at-home season to build worship back into the heart of the home.
If we’re totally honest, up until coronavirus most followers of Jesus confined their worship to a church building. Whether your style is noisy and enthusiastic or quiet and reflective, ‘proper’ worship has always taken place in a church building. That was the place where we felt comfortable in expressing our praise, our love and our prayers to God. Could those things have happened at home? Well in theory ‘yes’, but in practice ‘no.’ Our homes were places for rest and relaxation, even for socialising and entertaining, but not really for worship. At best we’d open them up for a mid-week home group, as long as it was mainly for doing bible study, not worship. No, worship was for church, not the home.
I believe the Lord is now using this necessity to stay-at-home as his chief means of bringing worship back into the heart of the home. This has always been the Lord’s intention. It’s not that God doesn’t like church buildings, it’s just that he doesn’t want to be confined to them! That’s why he wasn’t super-keen to have a temple built in the first place (2 Samuel 7:6; Acts 7:48).
A really helpful story that illustrates this so well is that of Obed-Edom (in 2 Samuel 6:10-11). When King David decided not to bring the ark of the covenant to the temple, it instead went to the house of Obed-Edom, one of the doorkeepers of the temple, for three months. This ark was linked to Israel’s worship and represented God’s presence. What happened to Obed-Edom during this time? The Bible could not be clearer: ‘The Lord blessed him and his entire household.’ You see, when God is worshipped in the home, and God’s presence is welcomed, the whole household prospers and does well. This will be one of the effects of re-establishing the home as the centre of worship.
Acts of Apostles
The same thing happened in the early days of the church, as recorded in Acts. While the church occasionally gathered in large settings, most churches were small house churches, with worship taking place in the homes. It was in their homes that they encountered God. That’s why some of the New Testament letters end with greetings given to people and to the church which meets in their home (see eg. Romans 16:5).
If the home is again to be one of, if not the main, worship centre then we’ll need to read passages like Ephesians 5 with new lenses. Maybe the apostle Paul had the home context, rather than a church building in his mind when he told the Ephesian church to ‘be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit’ (Eph 5:18-19).
For those not used to worshipping at home, some will take to this new context like ducks to water! It will feel like the most wonderful, liberating thing. If that’s you, great! Enjoy, and encourage your family and friends. Others however will find this really difficult and slightly weird. They may find themselves enjoying watching services, but in reality they’re observing, not worshipping. If that’s you, may I urge you to get over yourself, and whoever else is in the room or house, and just worship. Switch up the volume if it helps. Certainly give the Lord the praise he deserves. Don’t hold back in your thanksgiving. Cry out in passionate prayer for the fearful, the vulnerable, the elderly and those who are ill and mourning. Enter into his presence like you would when you gathered at church. This is all part of our good Father’s desire to create fresh houses of worship.
Houses of Prayer; Houses of Worship
Over the last fifteen years or so, there’s been a powerful prophetic movement in the UK and beyond, establishing Houses of Prayer. (We have a small but important House of Prayer in York which we established in 2015). I think a similar movement is being launched in the Spirit at present. But rather than Houses of Prayer, he’s building Houses of Worship (Psalm 127).
May millions of such houses be established in the UK in these days! And many millions more across Europe and the world. They will be houses where the high praises of God are sung, and where the strong presence of Jesus is known and encountered. Let the houses of worship arise!