"You cannot live the Christian life without a small group of intimate allies surrounding you... who know you... and who will stand with you and fight for your heart."
This is not an exact quote... but I believe it is close enough to the most direct statement that John Eldredge made at the House2House Conference.
I will do my best to summarize his key points although I could never do justice to John's poignant style of sharing which he peppers with movie clips designed to awaken our heart to "the story" that we live in and stir us to enter into our life with God whole-heartedly--heroically. In fact, as I think about it, most of the content shared came right out of his last two books, Waking the Dead and Epic. At best, I am offering a very, very meager summary.
1. We are in a battle. Life will never make sense if we do not recognize where we are in the story. Our ultimate rescue is assured, but we continue to live in a war-torn, battle-weary land. Why is the Christian life so hard? We have an enemy.
2. The battle is for the heart. Once the enemy accepts that we have found eternal life in Christ, he turns his attention to rendering us impotent by robbing the life out of our heart. Jesus came to bring us life... real life... full life... life that frees the heart to live out our calling passionately. He openly declared that He has come to "heal the brokenhearted" so that we can love God with our "whole heart." If the enemy can take out our heart, then he has effectively taken out who we are meant to be in Christ.
3. Jesus' plan to restore the heart comes together in what John calls the four "streams": intimate counsel as we listen to each other's stories, deep healing of the heart, freedom from spiritual attacks and bondage, and discipleship. John gives a detailed description of these four streams in Waking the Dead.
4. We cannot battle for our hearts and take hold of our place in our story alone. We need others. We need a small fellowship. We need little fellowships of the heart. We need a band of intimate allies who will fight for each other. We need a platoon to be devoted to that will call us to acts of heroism and sacrifice for each other. This type of devotion takes place in small units, just as in a family. This is essential. This size community must come before any other church expression.
John clearly did not say that there was something wrong with large church expressions. He simply stated his conviction that the small group, whether house church or whatever, is primary. It is the one essential expression of community for the Christian life. Once that is in place do whatever else, church-wise, that you have time or desire to do. Just don't neglect the necessary small fellowship. Our hearts, and therefore our lives, depend upon it.