First Church Albuquerque: A 21st Century House Church
By Carl Stagner
While many contemporary churches meet in spacious auditoriums and colossal tabernacles, the early church met together continually, wherever they could gather. As recorded in Acts 1, the apostles came together in the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pastor Helen Brown-Mulima is leading an innovative house church whose impact reaches far beyond the Land of Enchantment.
Brown-Mulima was twenty-six when God called her into ministry. She had long been involved in church, teaching Sunday school and carrying out the work of a deaconess. Prompted by God’s still small voice and encouraged by her mentor, Brown-Mulima took steps to prepare her mind and soul for pastoral leadership. Training from Bay Ridge Christian College in Kendleton, Texas, as well as Anderson University School of Theology, enabled her to serve congregations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. But God had more in store for Brown-Mulima. “Serving in Charlotte, God reassured me that he was calling me to be a trailblazer,” she recalls. After her husband accepted a position in Albuquerque, Brown-Mulima began to ask God what trails she would blaze for God’s glory.
With only one Church of God congregation established in the city of more than 800,000 residents, Pastor Brown-Mulima prayerfully considered the need for expanding the Lord’s work there. In 2008, Brown-Mulima and her husband moved out West, and soon thereafter, First Church of God came to being in their modest apartment. After a period of meeting in another church building, the church discovered maximum stewardship in the house-church setting. First Church now meets in Brown-Mulima’s new house.
“The house church experience has been very positive,” Brown-Mulima explains. “There is closeness and a caring that is not usually common in large churches. People have come to know each other in a more personal way as we seek to disciple members. There are activities like celebrating member’s birthdays, graduations, and so on. We fellowship, cook and eat together, study the Bible, and go out for picnics. The experience is relaxed, yet recognized.”
From the very beginning, First Church of God has used social media to its advantage. As one of the most active members on the Church of God-Anderson, Indiana Facebook page, Brown-Mulima is intent on sharing her faith with as many people as possible. Her messages and worship services are video broadcast via Skype, reposted on the church’s blog, and embedded in Facebook updates. Brown-Mulima shares a story of how a couple from Anderson, Indiana, recently participated in their house church service through Skype and actually read Scripture and led prayer. “We are able to connect not only to other Churches of God, but also we are able to establish an online presence in the Albuquerque community. We are a small church in size; however, one of the major ideas we embraced was allowing other people from different states to join our service. It is a blessing that we have decided to embrace technology, but also hold true to our values of the Church of God.”
There are several challenges to leading a church from the ground up, but Pastor Helen Brown-Mulima is holding fast to a faith that sees blessings in store. She asks that the Church of God remember their ministry in prayer, believing that there is a unique role for this small-but-growing house church to play in the kingdom. “Once the church expands and has resources, we can move to a larger facility. So far, however, it has been a blessing to have a house church similar to the early New Testament model. I continue to do more evangelism, and we have had more than twenty-five members baptized in our church.”