‘Support group for life’

House church creates more intimate worship atmosphere

MVNU is now home to a new type of worship.

A group of students has formed a house church focused on personal relationships and a sense of belonging.

The house church idea sprang from a desire to create a comfortable and intimate worship setting for students.

Hank Spaulding, pastor of Shepherd’s House Church of the Nazarene and a leader in the campus house church, said students sometimes feel like strangers when they visit area churches. He wanted to provide students with an accessible church that felt more like family, he said.

“We wanted to foster an atmosphere where people feel like they belong,” Spaulding said.

He explained that most churches model a pattern where a person has to “believe first, and then change behavior, then if they make it through both those things, they can feel like they belong.”

The house church model aims to flip that on its head: belonging comes first, then genuine Christian transformation in behavior and then belief and adherence to doctrine.

Each week at the house church, one member shares his or her personal story of faith with the group, and after the testimony, each member of the group shares the hardships and blessings of the past week.

A time of communal prayer follows. The group concludes by taking communion together and singing the Doxology as a benediction.

Phil Lanz, who hosts the house church in his Cypress apartment with his wife Lauren, wanted to make it clear that it is more than a Bible study group.

“This is a church,” Lanz said. “We have communion every week.”

Currently about 25 people attend each week — and Lanz said he’s running out of room.

“We are trying to fill the need of the number of people who want to belong, but we have run out of space in my home,” Lanz said.

To preserve the integrity of the intimacy found in the house church, they expanded to Thursday nights in Central Complex to accommodate any new people who may want to attend.

“We didn’t want the house church to have a mega church model,” Spaulding said. “The expansion to Thursday nights was half necessity and half mission.”

Even as the house church begins to grow, Spaulding emphasized the intimacy and supportiveness that is unique to the house church setting.

“This is a place that fits into the category of a support group for life,” he said. “It’s a very intimate environment where people’s innermost pain is being shared. We are here for you.”

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