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osandoval
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Joined: 2010/2/19
Posts: 89


 Eight Scriptural Reasons For House Churches

The following is part of an article from New Testament Reformation Fellowship ministries

Toward A House Church Theology

That the original church held its meetings primarily in private homes is common knowledge and without dispute (Acts 20:20, Ro 16:3-5a, 1Co 16:19, Col 4:15, Phlm 1-2b, Jam 2:3). Less well known is the fact that the early church continued this practice for hundreds of years, long after the New Testament writings were completed. G.F. Snyder observed, “the New Testament Church began as a small group house church (Col. 4:15), and it remained so until the middle or end of the third century. There are no evidences of larger places of meeting before 300.” For longer than the United States has existed as a nation, the nearly universal practice of the church was to meet in houses. Again quoting Snyder, “there is no literary evidence nor archaeological indication that any such home was converted into an extant church building. Nor is there any extant church that certainly was built prior to Constantine.”2 Why were house churches the norm for so long?

Persecution?
The most common explanation for the existence of early house churches was the pressure of persecution, similar to the situation that exists today in China. However, could there also have been other, equally compelling, reasons for having living room oriented fellowships? Suppose there had been no first century persecution. Are we to assume that church buildings would automatically have been constructed, and that individual congregations would have swelled to enormous size, limited only by the dimensions of the biggest building locally available?
It is often overlooked that the followers of Jesus sometimes met in homes while simultaneously “enjoying the favor of all the people” (Ac 2:47, NIV). Persecution was not always a factor. Based on 1 Corinthians 14:23 (“if the whole church comes together and . . . some unbelievers come in,” NIV), it is possible that unbelievers also attended church meetings, so where they met was not always a secret to outsiders. It is simply not true that early believers were always persecuted everywhere and all the time. Persecution prior to around A.D. 250 was sporadic, localized, and often the result of mob hostility (rather than the empire-wide decree of a Roman ruler). Surprisingly, Roman officials are often presented in a somewhat favorable light by the New Testament writers since they intervened to protect Christians from unlawful local harassment by unbelieving Judaism (Ac 16:35, 17:6-9, 18:12-16, 19:37-38, 23:29, 25:18-20, 25:24-27, 26:31-32). Prior to 250, Christianity was illegal, but generally tolerated. The simple fact is that widespread persecution did not occur until Emperor Decius in A.D. 250, followed by Gallus (251-253), then Valerian (257-259) and finally Diocletian (303-311).3 Someone, somewhere, could have constructed a special church building in the 200 years prior to Decius, but significantly, no one ever did. (Even in China today some believers manage to construct church buildings.) This suggests there might have also been a theological purpose behind home meetings.
When persecution did erupt, meeting in homes did not keep Saul from knowing exactly where to go to arrest Christians (Ac 8:3). The church in Rome later responded to government persecution by meeting underground, in the more protective catacombs. Even the presence of persecution, however, would not necessarily rule out a deeper, purposeful preference for smaller, house-sized congregations. The fact remains that everything in the New Testament was written to a living room sized church, and arguably the New Testament ideal for church life is best realized in a smaller, family like setting.

A Purposeful Pattern?
Might the apostles have laid down a purposeful pattern of home churches? What practical effects would meeting in a home have on one’s church life? It is a design axiom that form follows function. The apostles’ belief concerning the function of the church was naturally expressed in the form that the church took on in the first century. Some of the distinct practices of the early (house) church are worth considering.

1. The over arching significance of the house church lies in its theology of community. The church was depicted by apostolic writers in terms which describe a family. Believers are children of God (1Jn 3:1) who have been born into his family (Jn 1:12-13). God’s people are thus seen as part of God’s household (Ep 2:19, Ga 6:10). They are called brothers and sisters (Phm 2, Ro 16:2). Consequently, Christians are to relate to each other as members of a family (1Ti 5:1-2; Ro 16:13). (In fact, in China today, house church is called family church.) Out of this theological point that God’s children are family arises many church practice issues. The question becomes, what setting best facilities our functioning as God’s family?

2. Many scholars are persuaded that the Lord’s Supper was originally celebrated weekly as a full, fellowship meal (the Agape Feast). Each local church is to be like a family (1Ti 5:1-2), and one of the most common things families do is to eat together. Early church meetings, centered around the Lord’s Table, were tremendous times of fellowship, community and encouragement (Lk 22:16-19, 29-30, Ac 2:42, 20:7, 1Co 11:17-34). Rather than a funeral-like atmosphere, the Lord’s Supper was in anticipation of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb (Re 19:6-9). The larger an individual congregation, the less family-like it becomes, and the more impersonal and impractical the Lord’s Supper as a true meal can become. Thus in later centuries, as the church abandoned home meetings, the Lord’s Supper was eventually stripped of everything save the token ingestion of a small piece of bread and one swallow of wine.

3. Early church meetings were clearly participatory (1Co 14, Heb 10:24-25, Ep 5:19-20, Col 3:16). Any brother could contribute verbally. The prerequisite for anything said was that it be edifying, designed to strengthen the church. Since public speaking is a great fear for many people, participatory meetings are best suited to living room sized gatherings, composed of people who all know each other and are true friends. Participatory meetings are impractical for large numbers. Once the living room setting was replaced by the sanctuary, interactive meetings were replaced by worship services.

4. The Scriptures are full of the “one another” commands. Church is to be about accountability, community, and maintaining church discipline (Mt 18:15-20). These ideals are best accomplished in smaller congregations where people know and love each other. Church is to be about relationships. A large auditorium of people, most of whom are relative strangers to each other, will not easily achieve these goals. Nominal Christianity is harbored as it becomes easy to get lost in the crowd. Churches that meet in homes best foster the simplicity, vitality, intimacy and purity that God desires for his church.

5. The New Testament church had clearly identified leaders (elders, pastors, overseers), yet these leaders led more by example and persuasion than by command. The elder-led consensus of the whole congregation was paramount in decision making (Mt 18:15-20, Lk 22:24-27, Jn 17:11, 20-23, 1Co 1:10, 10:17, Ep 2:19-20, 4:13-17, Phlp 2:1-2, 1Pe 5:1-3). Achieving consensus is possible in a church where everyone knows each other, loves each other, bears with one another, is patient with one another, and is committed to each other. However, the larger the fellowship, the more impossible it becomes to maintain relationships and lines of communication. In a large congregation, the pastor necessarily functions more like the CEO of a corporation.

6. The first century church turned their world upside down (Ac 17:6), and they did so using the New Testament house church. House churches are low cost, generally lay led, can reproduce quickly, and have great potential for growth through evangelism. We need to think small in a really big way! God does not equate bigness with ability. Paul reminded that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1Co 1:27-29, NIV).

7. The New Testament urges the generous support of missionaries, evangelists, qualified elders, and the poor (1Co 9, 1 Ti 5:17-18, 3 Jn 5-8). Which group of believers would better be able to fund church planters and assist the poor, a thousand believers organized in a single traditional church that meets in their own church sanctuary, complete with a Sunday school complex and family life center (gym), or a thousand believers networked together in cooperating house churches? Surveys of Protestant congregations in America reveal that on average 80% of church revenues goes toward buildings, staff and internal programs; 20% goes to outreach. In house church networks, those percentages are easily reversed. Being freed from the burden of constructing church buildings and their resulting expenses would also allow greater sums of money to go toward the support of church workers and the needy.

8. Since they met almost exclusively in private homes, the typical congregation of the apostolic era was small. No specific number is ever given in Scripture, but there were generally no more people than will fit comfortably into the average living-room. The pattern is for smaller, rather than larger, churches. Regarding the size of first century homes, Fuller seminary professor Robert Banks, wrote that “the entertaining room in a moderately well-to-do household could hold around 30 people comfortably — perhaps half as many again in an emergency . . . it is unlikely that a meeting of the “whole church” could have exceeded 40 to 45 people, and may well have been smaller . . . In any event we must not think of these as particularly large . . . Even the meetings of the “whole church” were small enough for a relatively intimate relationship to develop between the members.”4

Conclusion
We are not arguing for meeting in houses simply for the sake of meeting in houses. We are suggesting that the apostolic church did not erect church buildings in large part because they simply didn’t need them. God intended the typical church to be living room sized. The letters which were written to the various New Testament churches were in fact written to house churches. Because they are written to house churches the instructions contained in them are geared to work in a smaller congregation — they were never meant to work in a large group setting. Consequently, they don’t work well in such a setting. To attempt to apply New Testament church practices to a contemporary large church is just as unnatural as pouring new wine into old wineskins (Mt 9:17).

— Steve Atkerson www.ntrf.org

 2010/7/22 17:45Profile
passerby
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Joined: 2008/8/13
Posts: 612


 Re: Eight Scriptural Reasons For House Churches

Like others, I am not inclined to carry this concept on home churches into extreme or orthodox position. At some point it can result to divisiveness and from what compelling evidence or arguments so far presented_are they not rather tainted with speculations.




 2010/7/22 21:29Profile
Miccah
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Joined: 2007/9/13
Posts: 1752
Wisconsin

 Re:

I lead a House Church out of my home for the last 3 years. That being said, being a part of a House Church is not in everyone's calling. The Body has many different limbs and parts. All work for the greater function, and that function is bringing glory to the Lord.

House Church is the way for my family and I, but I understand it is not for everyone's family, unless lead so by the Lord.

Blessings!


_________________
Christiaan

 2010/7/22 22:53Profile
hoohoou
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Joined: 2009/12/11
Posts: 212
Texas

 Re:

Quote:
unless lead so by the Lord.


_________________
Matt Smith

 2010/7/22 23:03Profile
mguldner
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Joined: 2009/12/4
Posts: 1860
Kansas

 Re:

I am in the moment training to be a home church leader, not by any school or anything but everyday by the Holy Spirit and His leading. God has placed this on my heart along with my wife's and we are excited to start a home church. God has yet to call us out of current church and I suspect He is waiting for me and my family to be prepared for such a task. My wife and I are looking at letting people live with us that need a place to stay and doing a home church and counseling center type thing. Like Christian said its not for everyone but it does have its function and purpose. I understand having biblical reasonings for using the Home Church model but I see nothing wrong with the modern model of a church building. I would suggest attending which ever the spirit leads and be obedient to that :)

God Bless,
Matthew


_________________
Matthew Guldner

 2010/7/22 23:04Profile
osandoval
Member



Joined: 2010/2/19
Posts: 89


 Re:

passerby wrote:

"Like others, I am not inclined to carry this concept on home churches into extreme or orthodox position. At some point it can result to divisiveness and from what compelling evidence or arguments so far presented_are they not rather tainted with speculations."

I agree that we should not make this a matter of orthodoxy and thereby causing unnecessary division among Christians. My main contention is with believers from traditional churches who do just that. They see all house churches and house church members as having no Biblical support for doing things the way they do. And many say that one cannot be in God's will if they are not part of an established traditional church. They see the traditional establishments as "The Church or Body of Christ". Some even say you cannot have assurance of salvation unless you are part of an established traditional church.

 2010/7/23 13:45Profile
narrowpath
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Joined: 2005/1/9
Posts: 1067
Germany NRW

 Re: Eight Scriptural Reasons For House Churches

Dear osandoval,
Thank you very much for this post; it really speaks to me. We had meetings in our home for many years but I was never part of a house church. In the mainstream church model pastors often take on the role of a priest and mediator. They either assume this role or the congregation expects it. Few people can then really exercise their gifts and bring fruit. I am inclined to say that the house church model is probably the most biblical. Future persecution may tell us which model will survive.

 2010/7/23 17:57Profile









 Re:

Paul, in I Cor speaks of the love feast and people hoarding things to themselves ...and even getting drunk at it, and then he says something to the extend of, "don't you have homes to do that?

House churches in the NT were as a neccesity and not as a standard. (How do you fit 30+ into a house when the Lord adds to your number...and if He doesn't, something is not right somewhere in the congregation.)

Look at the first church in Acts.
They met on Solomon's porch, and to be perfectly honest, how do you fit 8000 men + families into a house?

House churches have their place, but open air assemblies are better. (Unless there is persecution, what's the purpose in hoveling 10-15 here and there? That what the Islamic cell factions do. Should we hide our faith?)


I have participated in house churches and there is a certian lack of the bigger picture: there is so much busyness about the little group and little about those outside of it: right there in their own community; outreach more often than not takes the form of sending money somewhere, rather than encouraging and sending those in the group to go out.

I can agree that persecution was the key to them meeting house to house rather than on Solomon's porch.

Jesus attended Synagogue and Temple, yet the other time was spent as a wandering Jew, through prayer as the Spirit led.


Why persecution?

Well if one can put a thousand to flight, what were 8000+ doing?

Sometimes it's thought that house churches are segregation.



On the other end, it's been seen of bigger churches eventually dying out.

In both instances, it's been seen to be the lack of adherence to church discipline due to a lack of interactive community.

House churches and larger churches are good when they are active in making disciples.

Thing is, when house churches are making disciples, they do not stay that small that long and outgrow the house capacity.
(This has been seldom been seen to happen.)

Anything else is lopsided.

If a house church is doing their job, they will not remain a house church.

As for the other things mentioned, these can be and are done in larger assemblies.


There are 'roles' assumed in any gathering no matter how big or small.

There will always be the unfaithful many and the faithful few.

One thing that wreaks havoc unseen, and ruins any gathering of believers is when those without or with little faith put their foot foreward.

Faith works by love: not doubting and questioning God's ability and purpose.

Are these things correctly stated?


Agape,
g
Acts 20:32

 2010/7/23 20:32
Miccah
Member



Joined: 2007/9/13
Posts: 1752
Wisconsin

 Re:

Phanetheus wrote

"If a house church is doing their job, they will not remain a house church"


I disagree brother. If a House Church is doing its job, then that House Church is making passionate and radical followers of Jesus Christ. If a House Church is doing its job, it cannot stay the same as when it started. It HAS TO expand BECAUSE leaders will arise from within. When a House Church gets to the point of expansion, new leaders need to step forward and begin to lead their own House Church, breaking off from the original. The making of disciples of Jesus Christ is the focus of the leaders of the House Church.


It is a beautiful thing when the Lord is in control of a House Church, and man takes a seat at the feet of Jesus. I cannot tell you how many times the Spirit has changed the direction of our House Church meetings. Last week was a great example. I have been feeling lead as of lately to teach on the Sermon on the Mount. The week before I let everyone know that we need to be reading Matthew 5-7 every day until the next weeks House Church. When the next House Church arrived, the Lord changed the topic and direction of the HC. We ended up praying and laying hands on one of the newer members who may have cancer (still waiting for the results). The Lord had us (all of the HC members) pray and weep for her healing. We wait on the Lord.

The point I am trying to make is that each and every House Church is supposed to be different. They are not all to look, act or even feel the same. Yet, if they are not completely focused on making disciples of Christ and passionate Christians, then there is no reason for them... They would be just another self help group, or cell group.... and I have no time to lead a middle aged self help group...thats what girl friends or guy friends are for.

Come prepared to learn about His word and how to truly give your life over to Christ. He taught us how to live, and we as leaders are called to teach other how to to live that life, and then those that we teach, to pass on what they have learned to others.

The cycle repeats. The Kingdom grows. Christ is glorified!


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Christiaan

 2010/7/23 23:43Profile
mguldner
Member



Joined: 2009/12/4
Posts: 1860
Kansas

 Re:

The idea that a house church wont remain a house church is a noble idea but to me the appeal to a house church is quality over quantity. I have seen little groups expand and grow greatly in numbers and people turn into a big mega church setting and we can all say praise the Lord that church must have been doing something right but at the price of numbers we lose fellowship and people forget the very thing that brought them all together because there are so many people that only a select few are familiar faces anymore.

I am looking for long lasting Christian Brothers and Sisters and believe that the House Church is the best model for this for me. A group of people that are weak but working together for the kingdom of God.

*Added* We in our modern day churches are so impressed with numbers but we look at Paul in his letters and he praises the churches for their great Love for one another and unity of Spirit. We all have what works for us my opinion stick to what Challenges you to be like Christ.


_________________
Matthew Guldner

 2010/7/24 0:06Profile





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