Here is a continuation (Part 3) of Frank Viola’s recent interview of Henry Hon about his book, “ONE: Unfolding God’s eternal purpose from house to house”. In this part, Henry shares some personal experiences that shaped the insights in the book…
HEART TO HEART WITH HENRY (3): MY EXPERIENCE
I came to know Jesus Christ and serve Him in 1969 during the Jesus People movement. Although I was only 16 at the time, I gave myself to study the Bible, to preach the gospel, and I wanted to see the building up of the one body of Christ. In the first fifteen years after being gained by Christ, my understanding was that in order to serve the Lord, I needed to be a good preacher—a dynamic speaker; therefore, I did my best to learn to speak publicly—from open-air preaching to teaching weekly at a church, and eventually speaking in conferences. I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with my own performances and the long-term results of people that were inspired by this type of speaking.
Additionally, though I had received the vision of the oneness of believers, I was frustrated in its actual practice: it wasn’t happening. While church groups that grew out of the Jesus Movement were typically contrary to the traditions and divisiveness of mainline denominations, they competed amongst themselves to possess the mantle of being in the forefront of what God was doing. Being in such a group, we expected Christians to leave institutional churches and join our group if they, too, saw the vision of one body. Needless to say, that didn’t work well; rather, it produced even more divisions.
During this time of dissatisfaction and reflection concerning the way for me to serve the Lord and how to practice oneness, I received help to see from the New Testament that the way to build up the assembly, His body—from bringing people to know the Lord Jesus to mutual edification—was in the homes. I began to understand that the life of fellowship in the one body of Christ should take place from house to house. Therefore, since mid-1980, my focus of service and fellowship has been in the homes.
Over these last thirty years, it has been a joy to participate in the Lord’s move in building up His body in the homes. Our home became a gathering place of young people in large part due to my four children and their network of friends. They all contributed and participated in the assembly in our home as they were growing up and many in their network of friends were brought to salvation and fellowship. Over the course of these years, we have continued to assemble in our home and have spread out into a number of other home gatherings. Believers are liberated to function in the body, just as they are, in Christ.
As I progressed in learning to assemble and fellowship in the homes from house to house, I found that it is in this environment that the oneness of the body and the believers’ gifted functions are manifested. People from diverse backgrounds have been received and accepted, and hundreds of people over the years have come to Christ and have grown spiritually. Additionally, any differences that would normally divide Christians have become a non-factor in the genuineness of the one fellowship of Jesus Christ. The love for one another as Christ loves is freely expressed when there is no hierarchy or tradition that one has to follow.
While I was actively enjoying the body life from house to house, I was still involved in an organized church group. This church was founded on the basis of practicing the oneness of the body; therefore, I was attracted because they lifted up Christ and were receiving all believers as the one body. But their teaching also included accusation and condemnation of institutional churches. As this church evolved, their teaching of unity in the body became one of having a unique leadership structure, an exclusive ministry led by specific teachers, and a singular way to practice the oneness. My assembling from house to house in the complete freedom of the Spirit became conflicting with their way to practice oneness. Due to my unwillingness to submit to their direction, I was told that I was no longer part of building up the body. Furthermore, some believers that we were fellowshipping with were directed and influenced to stop coming to our home gatherings. This experience caused me to reexamine the Scripture to improve my understanding of the oneness of the body, including the practices and manifestation of this oneness.
Due to the confusion caused by the opposition from the leadership of this church, the home gatherings that I initiated were greatly disrupted. Our family with just a few other believers started again in a small home gathering. We started to grow again with new and young believers, and I started to proactively go out to greet, to embrace in fellowship, other believers and groups that are not in our small circle of relatedness. As I was enjoying expanding my circle of fellowship, I received fresh insight to Romans 16 with strong confirmation. In that chapter, I was commanded to go out to greet diverse believers to expand the fellowship in order to manifest the oneness of the body.
What I am presenting in my book, which is what I have been experiencing in the past few years, is not a matter of merely building a supporting relationship among believers in a “home church”, nor is it related to being a part of an ecumenical movement among institutional churches. I herald the oneness of believers that is innate in each one, to trumpet the unique fellowship of Jesus Christ among diverse believers that is instantly and constantly available. Finally, my message is to show how the three gifts given by the Lord Jesus in John 17 are able to bring the perfect oneness that He prayed for into practice and manifestation.
Today, I am experiencing and enjoying a growing network of home assemblies with believers that are diverse not just ethnically and socioeconomically, but some are into the charismatic practices of tongues and miraculous healings, while others may be suspicious of such practices; some are Calvinists on the side of Reformed Theology, others emphasize free will; some attend institutional churches, and others only meet in homes; and that does not even cover all the variations relating to baptism, communion, end times, musical style and Bible teacher preferences. This diversity manifests genuine oneness of the body in the unique fellowship of Jesus Christ. Additionally, the various gifts given to all individual believers are functioning and being manifested among non-professional ministers, just common believers that go to work and raise children doing home assembly planting, teaching, evangelizing, exercising deliverance, healing, caring for the homeless and the ex-addicts, and more. Though diverse in ministry and gifts, we are all working together in one fellowship to build up the one body of Christ.
So the things in this book have shaped my experiences over the past 47 years of Christian living and service; conversely, my human and spiritual experiences over these 63 years have shaped how I have perceived and applied the revelations of Jesus Christ and His eternal purpose.
To be continued