Every single denomination and Christian movement has begun with a desire to in some way get back to the model and example of the Book of Acts1. For those that are Biblically building the Church and being led of the Lord are invariably drawn back to this apostolic example we have preserved for us. I have heard many reasons why different Christian movements practice a specific doctrine and why they promote a certain teaching, being because it was found in the book of Acts. Yet, when I carefully study this book I find that many practices in modern Evangelical churches are not found in this holy record of the pristine apostolic Church2.
One of the glaring obvious thing you do not find in the book of Acts is the reliance on Church buildings. Yet there is almost in every Christian circle and denomination an emphasis that when at all possible build the church and by that they do not mean the "building up of the body of Christ3" but rather the building of an actual structure that we refer to commonly as the "church". Though there can be a great benifit in having a building to meet in as the Lord's people and use it for the ministry of the Gospel. Yet, when we look at the book of Acts, we find plainly that the Church did not build any buildings, ever! Though they met in some physical locations such as Solomon's Colonnade4 and Tyrannus Hall5 that was not their common meeting place. Even looking carefully in church history is is hard to even find evidence of a building being used until 300 AD when the pagan temples were converted into churches under the reign of Constantine.
The overall clear evidence was that the early Church in the book of Acts met in believers homes. The Church thrived in such a way so that they always had places to meet and when persecution came as it did constantly in the record of the Acts of the Apostles, they were setup to minimize its effect on the Church as they met secretly all across cities, towns and villages. Even as church history progressed and an institutional system that became the Catholic church took the stage, many true believers in sects and groups met in homes. Even to be more concise many met in caverns, caves, beside river banks outside cities, such was the meeting place of many who were severely opposed for the testimony of Jesus Christ they held. The forbidding of believers meeting in homes has been the reality of the Church since its inception.
Here is a very rough outline believers meeting in House Churches throughout church history:
A.D. 30 - Christ and His Apostles meet in Homes.
A.D. 30-200 - The early Apostles met in homes from house to house and in Gentile countries this practice continued as Paul the Apostle and others spread the Gospel.
A.D. 380 - Bishop Theodosius ordered that all should submit to the established state church and that all other meetings be forbidden, therefore to be meeting in the house church would make these believers criminals.
AD 400 - There was a Priscillians movement in Spain and France were many priests and bishops joined with them. Their small fellowships were known as brotherhoods only baptized believers could meet in their simple house church meetings.
AD 300-1500 - The similar groups that have existed under the larger Roman Catholic system throughout the ages were known as: Montanists, Marcionites, Cathars, Novatians, Donatists, Paulicians, Manichaeans, Bogomilians, Beghards, Petrobusians, Patarenians, Waldensians, Albigenses, Lollards, Anabaptists, Hussites, The Brethren, and many other groups6 though not perfect survived under persecution and met in Homes primarily.
AD 1700 - PRESENT - Other more modern movements such as the Moravian Society meetings, Wesley's Class Meetings, and up to this day Underground churches in persecuted countries carry on this legacy.
In light of Church history and the moving of God in many groups that stood for the truth a house Church movement does not seem so radical but rather it seems like a more Biblical thing to do. If there was an importance of having Church buildings to represent God and spread the Gospel would not God have commanded them in Scripture? Yet though we find detailed instructions for the tabernacle in the Old Testament in the New Testament we find quite a different emphasis. We see this prophetically spoken by Stephen right before he was martyred: However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands7. He spoke those words in the Sanhedrin which met inside the temple. God was doing a new thing where He resided in the hearts of His people and not in temples. Thus wherever the Lord's people would meet did not matter for the presence of the Lord was with His people not a building.
And to this day though God's people meet in many buildings called "churches" across North America. Yet, He is still with His people that meet in homes, worshipping and exhorting each other from His word.
May we not be ashamed to align ourselves in anyway with such believers who did not agree with the larger status quo of their day.
1 Acts Of The Apostles
2 We are clearly given an example of how a church should look, act and believe in the record of the Book of Acts.
3 Ephesians 4:12
4 Acts 5:12
5 Acts 19:9
6 These are just the in many cases derogatory names given to these groups sometimes named after their founder. Many of these referred to themselves simply as Christians or believers. And there is a much longer list of these precious saints and groups that existed under a corrupt and apostate christendom.
7 Acts 7:48
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon