One day in 1978, I took a break from farm work and youth ministry duties in order to pray for a few hours I was startled when I heard the Lord speak to me through His still, small voice. “Are you willing to be involved in the underground church?” He asked. I was shocked. The words that I heard in my spirit were distinct, even piercing!

When the Lord spoke to me, although the words were clear, I didn’t understand what He was trying to tell me. My mind raced immediately to the Berlin Wall and the barbed wire fences that at the time surrounded the borders of many communist nations. I thought of the persecuted Church meeting underground in nations that opposed the Gospel. It still didn’t make sense, yet I knew I had to respond; I was hearing the call of God—what would become a life call.

“Yes, Lord,” I replied as tears formed in my eyes. “I am willing.” I chose to obey, even though I didn’t understand what it all meant.

Soon after the Lord spoke to me about the underground church, I asked some of my Christian friends if they would be willing to meet with me each week for the purpose of enhancing our own spiritual growth. Two men responded. We began meeting every week for prayer, Bible study, encouragement, and mutual accountability. Within the next few years this “house fellowship” grew, and we started to reach out to new believers. Soon our living room was filled to capacity.

With leadership established in the first group, eventually my wife LaVerne and I were commissioned out to help another couple start a second small group. These groups served as a place for new believers to be nurtured and taught the Word of God. We had no desire to start another church. We felt there were enough churches in our community.

Then one Sunday morning in January of 1980, while sitting in our local Mennonite church near Lititz, Pennsylvania, the Lord spoke to me through His still, small voice. As I was waiting for the service to begin, the Lord spoke these words clearly to my spirit, “It’s time to start something new.”

Larry Kreider, House to House: Growing Healthy Small Groups and House Churches in the 21st Century (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2009).