house churches in early christianity

house churches in early christianity

Church hostess Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman who sold expensive purple fabric and could afford servants (Ac 16:14). The apostles’ belief concerning the function of the church was naturally expressed in the form the church took on in the first century, and this would certainly include size considerations. Ancient Rome’s battle against the early Christians was an amazing time in history—one which shaped and in many ways resembles our lives today. Ute E. Eisen, Women Officeholders in Early Christianity: Epigraphical and Literary Studies (Liturgical Press, 2000) Roger Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church … Some of the distinct practices of those early small churches are worth considering: Large crowds are great for special praise concerts, seminars or evangelism, but the weekly church gathering is to be about something more—mutual edification, accountability, encouraging one another, the fellowship of the Holy Meal, strengthening relationships, building consensus, etc. Nominal Christianity is harbored as it becomes easy to get lost in the crowd. 9. The epistles of the New Testament written to churches were all written to congregations that met in homes. . Discussion Questions Commit to being a small church that starts new small churches that start other small churches.         The early church continued this practice of home meetings for hundreds of years after the New Testament was completed. What advantages for growth and reproduction might house churches have over fellowships that have to build church houses? Small churches align very much in size with apostolic churches that met in Roman villas. Those who have pulled their children out of both government and Christian schools are often not interested in their children being involved with Sunday school or youth groups. Some argue that Roman villa sized churches were characteristic of the church in its infancy, but not in its maturity. The Church should be associated with mutual encouragement, accountability, relationships, community and maintaining church discipline. The real influence in the room is not the teacher but peer pressure. Rather than growing your one congregation bigger and bigger, make it your goal to start new small churches that start other small churches. No one can better describe the early Christians than Mathetes who was a 2nd century Christian. Smaller, Spirit-filled congregations are, arguably, part of a much larger divine design. “Unearthing the Christian Building”, Dura-Europos: Excavating Antiquity (Yale University Art Gallery), 2. . Why? How many people attend a church? 2:5-11; Gal. But the network of tiny house churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire did experience their oneness in Christ so vividly that they were able to defy and eventually conquer a powerful, pagan civilization. The impluvium had been tiled over and benches were added around the walls. They were so effective that Christianity eventually became the dominant religion. Some of the distinct practices of those early small churches are worth considering: 1. House Church and Mission will stand as one of the most important studies on the First Century church. Once leadership is in place, send out a sizable portion of the original church to jump start a new small church. Those who have pulled their children out of both government and Christian schools are often not interested in their children being involved with Sunday school or youth groups. The legacy of a faithful small church will outlast a larger, entertainment-oriented congregation. ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2217 Note how Paul greeted the Christians in Corinth: “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Pattern Rather than in a funeral-like atmosphere, the Lord’s Supper was reverently celebrated in anticipation of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. Proportions This was probably because of the large size of the home and the financial ability of the host to provide much of the food for the love feast. A church met in the home of Aquila and Priscilla, a couple employed in the evidently lucrative first-century trade of tent-making (Ac 18:1-3). New leaders should be continually trained from within to go out and start new works. Resource Allocation: Charles Price, late Director of Missions for the San Antonio Baptist Association, lamented that the typical cost to start a new church in North America is an astounding two million dollars. . Graydon F. Synder, Church Life Before Constantine (Macon, GA:  Mercer University Press, 1991), 166. Jews claimed an ancient tradition with law codes for daily life (the Laws of Moses) and revelations from their god through Prophets. Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando estimated, “Our two church plants are going to cost us about $2,450,000 over a three-year period.” In light of these staggering figures, as your small church starts new small churches, be creative in finding places to meet that are cost efficient. However, the larger the fellowship, the more difficult it becomes to maintain relationships and lines of communication. Eucharist was celebrated by the Church — that is, the Body of Christ — assembled together in private homes. Look into renting an apartment clubhouse, dance academy, storefront, school cafeteria or community center. In the West, the perceived disadvantages of small churches are mostly cultural. The ESV Study Bible notes that early Christian churches “met in homes . This would seat around 100 people. Philemon, wealthy enough to own a slave, hosted a church in his home (Phlm 2b). Aquila and Prisca together with the church at their house send you many greetings in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:19). We desperately need new settings and structures for watching over one another in love.” Building consensus of the whole congregation was important in decision making. . 8. What practical advantages and disadvantages would meeting in a home have? When one pastor of a church composed of home-school families was asked if his church had a youth pastor, he replied it had not one but twenty youth pastors—each family’s father. There seems little doubt that these informal gatherings of small groups of believers had great influence in preserving the simplicity and purity of early Christianity.”, Seminary professor Ronald Sider, in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, wrote, “The early church was able to defy the decadent values of Roman civilization precisely because it experienced the reality of Christian fellowship in a mighty way . The Matthew 18 restoration process detailed by Jesus clearly assumes more than just “us four and no more.” There was a single congregation meeting in Corinth at the time Paul wrote; counting the various people using their spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14 adds up to a healthy number of believers. Early Christian Architecture By the end of the first century, it is evident that Christian places of worship had developed a somewhat standard form of architecture. What psychological impact might the size of a church meeting have on the actual meeting and people themselves? By David Paulsen. There were no more people in any one congregation than would fit into a wealthy person’s home (in the atrium, courtyard, or large living area). This would seat around 100 people.         Seminary professor Ronald Sider, in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, wrote, “The early church was able to defy the decadent values of Roman civilization precisely because it experienced the reality of Christian fellowship in a mighty way . One challenge in worshiping in a home today lies in the fact that modern homes are often far different from first-century Roman villas. Yet even in the absence of persecution, might the apostles have intended to lay down a purposeful strategy of smaller congregations? A home-school family’s thinking is often based on such truths as, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child” and “the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Because children are foolish, putting them all together in a school classroom may be a recipe for spiritual and social disaster. Registration: Pastors' Workshop on Growth Strategies of the Ancient Church, New Testament Church Dynamics: Leader's Guide to Church Growth, Église-maison: simple, stratégique, biblique (French book), • Pastoring Strategy >>To Lead Like Jesus, • Covenant, Dispensational & New Covenant Theology Compared. When one member suffered, they all suffered. They were big, semi-public houses. Consequently, Christians are to relate to each other as members of a family (1Ti 5:1-2; Ro 16:13). Today, as always, we can see God’s footsteps, if we are looking for them. Walls between adjoining rooms off the atrium could be removed to create a big open area. One known ancient home that hosted a church was the Lullingstone Villa in Kent, England (built during the Roman occupation). Rather than growing a single church bigger and bigger, consider sending off clusters of people to start new small churches. This custom of … The inter-personal relationships described in the New Testament work best in situations where everyone knows each other. In early Christianity, there were no church buildings. In Social Aspects of Early Christianity (1977), A. J. Malherbe observed that up until that time “no major work has been devoted to the New Testament house church”. Many thriving small churches focus on reaching home-school families. Since New Testament churches met almost exclusively in private homes, the typical congregation was relatively small. It is not surprising then to see women taking leadership roles in house churches. In short, involvement with a smaller church can be a wonderful blessing with strategic, divinely-designed advantages. ‘House churches’ offer return to in-person worship by following practice of early Christians. Someone needs to minister to singles and empty nesters; small churches are in an excellent position to do so. And when a brother or sister fell into sin, the others gently restored the straying person (Mt. How did New Testament churches grow numerically yet still meet in private homes? Listen to Our Talk on Strategic Size It will likely create a contagious excitement that will cause numerical growth as well. 10).”, According to W.H. As first-century congregations grew, they did not erect bigger and bigger buildings. . While recognizing various powers in the universe, Jews nevertheless differed from their neighbors by only offering worship (sacrifices) to their one god, Yahweh. The church at Dura-Europos occupies a midpoint in the evolution from early house churches to the monumental buildings of the age of Constantine. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. Church discipline takes on genuine significance. What practical advantages and disadvantages would meeting in a home have? Participatory Worship: Early church meetings were clearly participatory. The church was depicted by apostolic writers in terms which describe a family. How can this be overcome? When a "church" wasn't a building These early believers did not have church buildings to meet in. An examination of floor plans in Pompeii shows typical atriums measuring 20’ x 28’. There are no professionals in charge; they often have no leaders. Though house churches were at the opposite end of the spectrum from modern mega-churches, it is important to avoid the mistake of thinking too small. Participatory worship fits smaller settings better and the things shared are much more meaningful. 6. 2. Noah faithfully preached to his generation, yet only a handful were saved. Participatory worship fits smaller settings better and the things shared are much more meaningful. They were big, semi-public houses. 7. Robert Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Historical Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 41-42. There are over fifty of them, such as love one another, give preference to one another, encourage one another, agree with one another, accept one another, submit to one another, etc. . “The antidote to the evangelical obsession with the ‘bigger is better’ model of church organisation. One challenge in worshiping in a home today lies in the fact that modern homes are often far different from first-century Roman villas. It was right and natural, they argue, for each church to grow beyond the confines of a home, building larger and larger places to meet. The many “one another” exhortations of Scripture can be more realistically lived out. Kingdom minded older congregations may be willing to let you use their building after their services are over. Noah faithfully preached to his generation, yet only a handful were saved. . “Lullingstone Roman Villa”, English-Heritage.org.uk. In addition, the household employed servants and their families. Enough believers were able to gather in the villas to make disciples, manifest a variety of spiritual gifts, have multiple people with the same gift, support widows and orphans, have a plurality of elders and financially support qualified pastor-teachers (who were thus freed to be devoted to in-depth teaching and leadership). There were tragic lapses. Official Website of theCatholic Diocese of Little Rock. Since New Testament churches met almost exclusively in private homes, the typical congregation was relatively small. The practical reality of the priesthood of the believer was lost until the Reformation. Learn Practical Tips on Ministering in Smaller Churches. A church met in the home of Aquila and Priscilla, a couple employed in the evidently lucrative first-century trade of tent-making (Ac 18:1-3). What can be done? Nor is there any extant church that certainly was built prior to Constantine.”. Acts 16:40, 20:20, Romans 16:3-5a, 16:23, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1-2b, James 2:3. Christian fellowship meant unconditional availability to and unlimited liability for the other sisters and brothers—emotionally, financially and spiritually. In the smaller Roman villas, these areas would have seated 50-60 people. Get the Book The Church as Family: An overarching significance of the New Testament church lies in its theology of community. Isaiah 6:9-13. Acts records 120 believers assembled in the upper room of a house. The Jerusalem Church had thousands of members meeting house to house. The sacredness of these places did not arise from their architecture, it resided in the presence of those gathered — the assembling of the local Body of Christ — and in what they had gathered together to receive, the Body of Christ in the signs of bread and wine. We know that it was common in the early days of the Church for the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated in the context of a larger meal that was referred to as an “agape,” or love feast (see verse 12 of Jude). Church buildings would not be built for another 200 years. 2 Tim. Don’t rule out the possibility of meeting in someone’s home—under the right circumstances it can still be a viable option (see our, ow many people were involved in an early house church? The larger the congregation, the less family-like and the more impersonal the Lord’s Supper as a true meal becomes. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper as an actual faith-family meal is more natural in a smaller setting. Instead, they multiplied, constantly training leaders and sending out groups to start new fellowships. According to Fuller seminary professor Robert Banks, “Even the meetings of the ‘whole church’ were small enough for a relatively intimate relationship to develop between the members.” Early house churches were able to support qualified widows and elders, which would have required more than just a handful of believers (1Ti 5:3-16). For example, Aquila and Prisca held church meetings in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19). A helpful resource is Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church Field Guide by Wilson & Ferguson (Exponential Resources, 2015). Worst yet, many parents drop their children off at a church youth program as sort of a reform school, hoping for a miracle. Continually teach the men to be the leaders in their homes and the church. We long to see the Lord’s churches full if such growth represents people being reached with the Gospel and made into disciples. . Perhaps some congregations were large and therefore met in big buildings, but this is an argument from silence. The most common explanation for the existence of early house churches was the pressure of persecution, similar to the situation existing today in China or Iran. While the Eucharist is no longer celebrated in the context of a meal, what are some occasions when your local church feasts together that are an important part of parish life? We need to think small in a really big way! They are called brothers and sisters (Phm 2, Ro 16:2). Nominal Christianity is harbored as it becomes easy to get lost in the crowd. 1. . The size should be just right; not too big and not too small (neither mega nor micro). Catholic Prayers, Practices and Devotions.         According to W.H. The overwhelming majority of churches today, however, do not provide the context in which brothers and sisters can encourage, admonish and disciple each other. The late Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s masterful book, “St. Through his tent making work, Paul was able to support himself and his traveling companions, some seven men at least (Acts 20:4, 34). Significantly these two centuries mark the most powerful and vigorous advance of the church, which perhaps has never seen been equaled.”, Martin Selman of Spurgeon’s College in London wrote, “The theme of the ‘household of God’ undoubtedly owed much to the function of the house in early Christianity as a place of meeting and fellowship (e.g. 10. What might Christians today learn from the experience of house church in Corinth? Beyond the business office was an even large,r semi-covered, completely enclosed courtyard. When Claudius expelled all Jews from the city of Rome, however, only the Gentile Christians remained. 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