Lighthouse Ministry

THE LIGHTHOUSE FELLOWSHIP MINISTRY—A FELLOWSHIP WITHOUT WALLS

Written by Niki Tshibaka

“[T]he people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16; Isaiah 9:1-2.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” Matthew 5:13-15 (NASB).

Now as I looked at the living beings, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another. Whenever they moved, they moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved. Ezekiel 1:15-17 (NASB).


THE VISION

Our vision is to dedicate our homes to serve as “lighthouses” that will shine the light of Jesus Christ into the communities in which we live, by:

  • establishing a safe and welcoming setting for anyone who is interested in exploring what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ;1
  • fostering a spiritually dynamic environment that will challenge, inspire, encourage, and grow believers in their walks with God;2 and
  • providing a sanctuary where those who are wounded, burdened, and oppressed may find healing, rest, and freedom in Christ.3

Jesus has called His Church to be a light in the darkness. But our modern-day conception of “church” has severely limited and hampered our ability to fully and effectively fulfill our Savior’s call. Typically, we envision church as a building where people gather once a week (sometimes more) to worship God and receive teaching. As a result, our church buildings generally serve as our lighthouses. Each building casts a warm glow around its immediate environs. But as bright as the light may shine, its ability to pierce the surrounding darkness is limited, because it remains constrained by the four walls of the church building.

Jesus never meant for His Church to be a building, however. The Apostle Paul writes that you and I are the Church—we are part of what Paul describes as the “body of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:27. The Church is not a building, it’s a body. God no longer resides in a temple of stone, but in a temple of flesh. We are “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:19. Understanding this truth should radically change our conception of church. If God’s church is not comprised of buildings, but of His disciples who gather together in those buildings, then the light of Christ should not be confined to the four walls of a man-made temple; rather, it should shine forth from the hearts, hearths, and homes of every believer. Jesus made this abundantly clear when He said to His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:13 (emphasis added). The light of Christ was never intended to be limited to a simple building bonfire every Sunday. It was meant to be a torch, a tongue of fire that followed His disciples wherever they went, even to the ends of the Earth.

Shortly after Kelly and I opened the doors to The Lighthouse Fellowship, God gave me a picture of what our church would be. The picture was not of a single bonfire burning from a church building, but of candles or torches shining forth from The Lighthouse Fellowship members’ homes. The result was that the light of Christ would more powerfully and effectively penetrate the dominions of darkness in our communities. We all know, through simple observation, that a handful of torches, strategically placed, can pierce the surrounding darkness with a larger swath of light than if they were all combined into a single bonfire.

As long as believers continue to structure church and ministry around the church building, the light of Christ will be confined to the four walls of that building. God has called us to be a church without walls! I believe that our Lighthouse Ministry will play an important role in fulfilling that call. Wherever there is darkness in our communities, we will have lighthouses that will pierce the darkness with the light and life of Jesus Christ! We may gather together on Sundays to worship God and fellowship with each other, but the place where we meet will not be the focal point of church life—it will be the launching point!

Finally, the Lord gave me another picture that, I believe, complements and confirms the picture He gave me that our church would not be a single bonfire emanating from a central meeting place but a conglomeration of torch fires dispersed throughout our communities, because the church’s life and light would flow from the homes of its constituent members—from a multitude of lighthouses.4 This second picture He gave me was that of a ‘wheel within a wheel.’ The central meeting place for our church would be the hub of the wheel, but the reach and influence of the church would extend, like the spokes of a wheel, to The Lighthouse Fellowship members’ homes (or, perhaps, to future homes, dedicated to specific ministry activities, that the church may be led to purchase). Those homes would make up the wheel’s rim. In time, though, some of those homes would become their own hubs, and would form other wheels, thereby creating ‘wheels within wheels.’

As I contemplated this picture, Ezekiel’s vision of the four intersecting wheels beside the “four living creatures” kept coming to my mind, see Ezekiel 1:15-21. One thing in particular that struck me, besides the imagery of the intersecting wheels, was Ezekiel’s observation that as the creatures moved, the wheels “would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced[,]” see v.17. I believed the Lord was saying that what He is doing in and through The Lighthouse Fellowship will not be limited to our immediate area. Rather, it is something He is going to do in the North, the South, the East, and the West (i.e., everywhere).

Since giving me this second picture, I believe the Lord has twice confirmed it to me. The first confirmation occurred when I attended a Foursquare pastors’ conference in early December 2007. During the conference, I met a gentleman who is the Senior Pastor of what seems to be a network of house churches in New Hampshire. I shared with him about The Lighthouse Fellowship and, after some gentle but firm nudging from what I now know was the Holy Spirit, told him about the picture the Lord had given me that our church would be

like a ‘wheel within a wheel,’ and how He had led me to read Ezekiel 1:15-21. I was nervous the pastor would think I was a ‘little off my rocker.’ Instead, he chuckled and called his administrative assistant to join us. He then shared with her what I had told him and asked her if that sounded familiar. She laughed, nodded, and smiled at me. With a twinkle in his eye, he told me that God had given him the exact same picture when he began his house church network years ago. While I won’t go so far as to say that God is going to do the same thing with The Lighthouse Fellowship, it certainly was a confirmation.

The second confirmation came when I was preparing to deliver my “State of the Church” sermon, in January 2008. I had decided to include in my message an overview of the history and mission of Foursquare. In the course of my sermon preparation, I came across a description of the origin of the “Foursquare Gospel.” It stemmed from a revelation Sister Aimee received in July 1922, part of which involved Ezekiel’s description of the cherubim at the throne of God as having four faces—that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, see Ezekiel 1. Sister Aimee likened those faces to the four phases of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In her book, “The Foursquare Gospel,” she explained that:

  • In the face of the man, I saw the Man of Sorrows, One acquainted with grief[,] dying on the tree, Jesus our Savior.
  • In the face of the lion, I saw the mighty Baptizer with the Holy Ghost and fire, Jesus our Baptizer in the Holy Spirit.
  • In the face of the ox, I saw typified the Great Burden-bearer, who Himself took our infirmities and carried our sickness, Jesus our Healer or Great Physician.
  • In the face of the eagle, I saw reflected the Coming King, our Bridegroom, who would soon come catch His beloved bride away, Jesus our Soon Coming King.

It was a perfect gospel, a complete gospel for body, for soul, for spirit, and for eternity. It was a gospel that faced squarely in every direction: North, East, South, and West. See FOURSQUARE LICENSING PROCESS GUIDE, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, at § 26 (Symbols) (emphasis added); see also THE FOURSQUARE GOSPEL, Aimee Semple McPherson, at 5.

A church of lighthouses, of wheels intersecting wheels. This is our vision! This is our call!


A WORD ON HOUSE CHURCHES & HOME-BASED MINISTRY

Before I address how we will implement the vision for The Lighthouse Fellowship’s Lighthouse Ministry, I think it’s important to acknowledge and address some of the controversy surrounding the development of house churches in the modern-day Church. Today, many in the Church view house churches with a guarded skepticism. Some may even believe house churches are a dangerous anomaly, an example of ‘church gone wrong.’ A common concern is that house churches are often established as free-floating entities and are prone to teaching shoddy doctrine, even heresy.

While it is true that house churches, especially those that are not subject to a particular denomination, or are not accountable to an overarching leadership structure, can be vulnerable to false doctrines and teachings, the same could be said of any other denominational or nondenominational church that has an established hierarchy of leadership and meets in a building. The so-called Dark Ages in the history of the Western Church were not the result of loosely affiliated house churches running amuck, but of the political and theological corruption of the well-organized, well-structured, and doctrinally-rooted Roman Catholic Church.

Hierarchy, structure, and a theological rootedness in the traditions and core doctrines of the historic Christian Faith are essential to preserving the life and doctrinal integrity of any church or denomination. See, e.g., 1 Timothy 2-3. But they are not an absolute protection against heresy and doctrinal deviancy. Therefore, like Timothy, we must watch our lives and doctrine closely, relying on the Holy Spirit and the Word of Truth to guide and protect us,5 so that we are not lulled into a false sense of security and led astray because of a mistaken belief that hierarchy, structure, and great doctrinal knowledge are alone sufficient to keep us on the narrow road that leads to life. See 1 Timothy 4:16; Matthew 7:14.

Free-floating house churches and home-based ministries are particularly susceptible to doctrinal error, even heresy, if their leaders are not grounded in sound doctrine, and if the churches are not accountable to an overarching hierarchy and structure that is designed to maintain order and to preserve the churches’ doctrinal integrity. That is not an argument against house churches and home-based ministries, however. Rather, it is an argument for ensuring that house church leaders are rooted in sound doctrine, and that their churches are subject to a biblically-based structure and hierarchy that will help to preserve order and guard against heresy.

The most compelling argument for building the kingdom of God from house to house, however, is found in Scripture. If we study what the New Testament says about the early Church, we find that early Christians evangelized entire cities and people groups, and discipled converts, through house churches and home-based ministries. Most ministry and church services took place in believers’ homes. This was particularly true of Gentile converts because they did not have any reason to worship in synagogues, or at the temple in Jerusalem.

Believers’ homes were the focal points of ministry in the early Church—not a temple or large, centralized building. Church happened in people’s homes, and we see evidence of this throughout Paul’s various epistles:

  • Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. I Corinthians 16:19.
  • Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. Colossians 4:15.
  • To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home . . . Philemon 1:1b-2.

House churches and home-based ministries are not an aberration or perversion of the Church. They represent a renascence of the Body of Christ in its primal form, and a resurgence of the means by which God grew and established His body on Earth—from house to house, not from temple to temple.


IMPLEMENTING THE VISION

Now that we have established the biblical foundation for house churches and home-based ministries, we can address how to answer God’s call to spread the light of Christ from house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, community to community, city to city, and nation to nation, as the early Church did. How do we become lighthouses? How do we create a safe place for nonbelievers to come and learn about God? How do we foster an environment that will encourage, challenge, and inspire believers to grow and mature in their faith? How do we transform our homes into sanctuaries where believers and nonbelievers can be healed from brokenness, relieved of their burdens, and liberated from spiritual oppression? Simply by following the example of the early Church, which, I think, is beautifully and brilliantly summarized in Acts 2:42-47 (NLT):

  • All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
  • A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Finally, Scripture also says that Jesus’ followers were commanded to “make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19a. Acts 4:31-33 says the disciples answered that call and, filled with the Holy Spirit, “spoke the word of God boldly” and “[w]ith great power.”

These passages of Scripture provide us with explicit and implicit direction on how to use our homes to advance the kingdom of God. We do it through: (i) Bible Study; (ii) Fellowship; (iii) Regular and Frequent Get-Togethers; (iv) Evangelism/Outreach; and
(v) Replication. I elaborate on each of these below.

Bible Study
Acts 2:42 begins by saying that the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching[.]” They gathered together and committed themselves to studying, learning, and meditating on Scripture and on the apostles’ teaching. The small groups that gather in our church lighthouses will do the same.

Fellowship
Acts 2:42 says that the early believers not only devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, but also to fellowship, which included sharing meals and participating together in the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes we mistake the word “fellowship” for “relationship.” But the term “fellowship” carries with it a much deeper theological significance. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia, which literally means “sharing in common.” Biblical fellowship involves sharing what we hold in common at the deepest level—our relationship with God the Father through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in our hearts. We can have relationships with nonbelievers, but we cannot have Biblical fellowship with them. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 6:14b-15, “[W]hat fellowship can light have with darkness? . . . What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”

Here are some examples of Biblical fellowship that we should seek to foster in each TLF lighthouse:

Accountability
We cannot run the race of faith alone! We need the other members of the Body of Christ to run alongside us—to counsel us if we’re encountering problems in our race, to encourage us when our strength is failing, and to correct us if we’ve veered off the “narrow road,” Matthew 7:14. Indeed, Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

Sharing About Our Relationship With God
Sharing about areas of struggle in our relationship with God allows fellow believers to help, counsel, and encourage us in those areas. Also, sharing with fellow believers what God is teaching us is a means by which we can help, counsel, and/or encourage them.

Ministry of the Holy Spirit
God has given every believer spiritual gifts that are meant to be used for the edification of His body. Every lighthouse should be used as a training ground that will allow believers to mature and develop in exercising their spiritual gifts, while edifying and ministering to the other people in their fellowship. See, e.g., Romans 1:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Corinthians 14:12.

Mutual Care, Love, & Service

  • The members of each lighthouse group should devote themselves to caring for one another’s needs, to loving one another, and to serving each other. No member should have to suffer, struggle, or rejoice alone:
  • “ . . . God has combined the members of the body . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
    1 Corinthians 12:24a, 26.
  • “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2.
  • “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3.
  • “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10.

  • “[S]erve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13b.

Prayer
Acts 2:42 records that the early believers devoted themselves to prayer. The members of each fellowship group should spend time interceding for each other, for our church, and for the world:

  • “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2. “I constantly remember you in my prayers.” 2 Timothy 1:3b.
  • “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Romans 15:30.
  • “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” I Timothy 2:1-4.

Breaking of Bread & Fellowship Activities
Acts 2:42-47 indicates that the early believers spent a lot of time together—time that included eating together and partaking in the Lord’s Supper. In the same way, members of each lighthouse should not only take Communion together on a regular basis, but they also should strengthen the cords of fellowship through social activities that are designed to build relationship (e.g., sharing meals on occasion, or engaging together in service to the church or to their local community).

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT).

Regular & Frequent Get-Togethers
Acts 2:46 says that the early believers met together in the temple courts every day, in addition to eating together, praying, and studying Scripture in each other’s homes. They lived life in communion with God and each other. In the same way, we will strive to live in regular fellowship with one another. Lighthouse groups ideally will meet once a week, but members should be encouraged to fellowship with each other outside of (and in addition to) the regularly scheduled meetings.

Evangelism
Jesus has commanded us to “make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19a. It is a monumental task, but the experiences of the early Church, and the promise of Acts 1:8, teach us that it is manifestly attainable through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. To that end, each lighthouse fellowship will be both inward and outward focused. Discipleship and evangelism will be encouraged and practiced. We will not be “ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes[.]” Romans 1:16a.

The members of each lighthouse will engage in relational evangelism (reaching out to nonbelievers with whom they have relationships), and community evangelism (engaging in outreach events that are designed to show the love of Christ to people in their local community). Through such efforts, the Holy Spirit will empower them to lead acquaintances, colleagues, friends, family members, and neighbors to faith in Christ.

Replication—Spreading the Light
Acts 2:47 says that every day new converts were added to the body of Christ. While this is not explicitly stated in Scripture, it seems reasonable to assume that as more and more people placed their faith in Christ, additional households were needed where people could fellowship with one another and study Scripture.
In the same way, our goal will be to establish new lighthouses, new places for fellowship and outreach, as our small groups grow and new leaders are trained and equipped.


GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A RELATIONAL MINISTER

The fundamental goals of our lighthouses are to bring believers into deeper fellowship with God and with each other, and to bring nonbelievers into fellowship with God and with the Body of Christ. The common denominator in both of these goals is relationship—relationship with God and with members of the Body of Christ. Accordingly, the leader of each lighthouse group will be called a Relational Minister because his/her task is to lead nonbelievers into a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ on Earth, as well as to help deepen believers’ relationships with God and one another. The term “minister” should not be construed to mean that these individuals are pastors, however. Diakonos, the Greek word that is translated “minister,” also can be understood to mean a “servant” or “attendant.” I use the term ‘Relational Minister’ in that sense—it is someone who will serve the people s/he is discipling, and will attend to their spiritual needs.

The following include some of the Relational Ministers’ responsibilities:

  • Lead and facilitate the lighthouse Bible studies;
  • Model what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, reflecting the fruit of the spirit in their lives (see, e.g., 1 Timothy 3; Galatians 5:22-23);
  • Serve, encourage, challenge, and correct the members of their lighthouse group;
  • Help and encourage people to develop and practice their spiritual and ministry gifts for the benefit and edification of others;
  • Raise up leaders who will be able to oversee other lighthouses, and instill in their lighthouse group the vision for our Lighthouse Ministry;
  • Prepare their lighthouse group for replication;
  • Foster and encourage accountability, discipleship, mutual care, fellowship, and evangelism/outreach;
  • Model and foster The Lighthouse Fellowship’s core values—love, faith, fellowship/relationship, prayer, giving, and service;
  • Encourage their lighthouse group to be open and welcoming, and to work against cliquishness;
  • Foster an atmosphere of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, as they and the members of their respective lighthouses are all fallen and undoubtedly will make mistakes;
  • Remain in submission to God and their pastor, recognizing that their task is to represent the pastor, not replace him.

CONCLUSION

As we move forward in obedience to God’s call, by establishing The Lighthouse Fellowship’s Lighthouse Ministry, He will empower and equip us to accomplish all that He has called us to do. The One who calls us is faithful! See 1 Thessalonians 5:24. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB).


FOOTNOTES

1 See Acts 1:8 (“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”); Acts 13:47 and Isaiah 49:6 (“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”).

2 See Hebrews 5:13,14—6:1a (“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity[.]”).

3 See Isaiah 53:5 (“[H]e was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”); Matthew 11:28-30 (“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”); 2 Corinthians 3:17b (“[W]here the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”); Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV) (“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, [b]ecause He has anointed Me [t]o preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, [t]o proclaim liberty to the captives [a]nd recovery of sight to the blind, [t]o set at liberty those who are oppressed; [t]o proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”).

4 I decided to call the church homes that do the ministry of The Lighthouse Fellowship “lighthouses.” It was only later that I learned Aimee Semple McPherson (the founder of our denomination) used to call Angelus Temple’s satellite churches “lighthouses.”

5 See, e.g., John 16:3 (“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”); 2 Timothy 3:15b-17 (“[Y]ou have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”).

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