[sent on 2/27/06 to the faithful subscribers of the subversive underground newsletter]
HOUSE by Keith Giles
As I’ve been studying the practice of the early church, both historically and scripturally, I’ve learned quite a bit about how these first disciples of Jesus gathered, shared, and lived out the Gospel in their everyday lives.
What’s come as a shock to me has been the wide range of reactions from other Christians when this subject comes up.
My favorite response, so far, has to be this one: “It’s not Biblical”.
No, really. Someone actually said to me that what we’re doing, meeting in homes to share a common meal, study the Scriptures and minister to one another in the Power of the Holy Spirit, isn’t Biblical.
So, just to set the record straight….The House Church is the Biblical Church. No other form of church is described in the New Testament.
There are more than 21 references to House Churches in the New Testament.
While the early part of the book of Acts suggests that the early believers “…used to gather…” at Solomon’s Porch (or Collonade), it is clear that, even at the time Acts itself was put to paper, this practice had already been abandoned.
Early on, those who followed Jesus were mostly Jews, and they were welcome to gather in the temple and in the local synagogue to worship and to read the scriptures aloud, even have their own “Rabbi’s” teach that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
However, soon it was too dangerous for the Jews to continue to worship alongside the Messianic Jews. As persecutions of Christians intensified, Jews and Messianic Jews were lumped together, and soon the same Jews who crucified Jesus began to apply pressure on the followers of Jesus.
Most likely it was the execution of Stephen that prompted the Jews to close the synagogues and temples off from the Messianic Jews, as their persecution of them intensified.
At any rate, specific references to the gathering of Christians in the homes of fellow believers is cited, in part, below:
House Church in Caesarea: Met in the house of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:7-12)
House Church of the Collosians: Meeting in the house of Philemon (Philm. 1-2)
House Churches in Corinth: The house church of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7); The house church in the home of Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11); The house of Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15); The house of Gaius (Rom. 16:22-23).
House Churches in Ephesus: The house of Aquila and Priscilla (1Cor.16:19); various un-named house churches referenced (Acts 20:17-21)
House Churches in Jerusalem: Various house churches (Acts 2:46-47, Acts 5:42, Acts 8:3); The house church of Mary (Acts 12:12)
House Church in or near Laodicea: The house of Nympha (Col. 4:15)
House Churches in Rome: The house of Aquila and Priscilla (Rom.16:3-5); The house of Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10); The house of Narcissus (Rom. 16:11); The house of Asyncritus (Rom. 16:14); The house of Philologus and Julia (Rom.16:15); The house of Paul (Acts 28:16, 23, 29-31)
House Church in Thessalonica: The house church in the home of Jason (Acts 17:1-9)
House Church in Troas: The house with an upper room (Acts20:7-12)
Therefore, let there be no doubt that, Scripturally, the early Church met in the homes of the believers and had no central building of worship for over 300 years.
I always like to remind people that America hasn’t even been a Nation for 300 years.
Historical documents support this as well.
The practice of worship in the home, gathering together as a family of God, breaking bread, exercising the gifts for the building up of the Body, the priesthood of the believer, etc., are all concepts which developed out of and flourished because of this model of church.
I personally feel that it was not an accident that the form of church inspired by Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit, and intentionally modelled by Peter, James, John, and Paul the Apostle, was based on the concept of family. It wasn't something arbitrary. It wasn't because they couldn't afford a large building, as if they would have met in a mega-church format if they could have.
I believe that the early church made a conscious, intentional choice to meet as a family, in homes, to facilitate a strong sense of community, build disciples, freely exercise all the gifts of the Spirit, and evangelize in a more organic way.
Their fruit in these areas (community, service, discipleship, evangelism) is legendary. The system worked. We ourselves are living evidence of this.
Not to say that God isn’t using the traditional form of Church. He is. I remain a firm and loyal supporter of all expressions of worship, but as for me and my house, if I am offered the choice of something built on a corporate business model, or an organic, family-based form of church that sets people free to engage one another and facilitate community, discipleship and spiritual growth, not to mention evangelism based on relationships, then my choice is the same as that of the first disciples of Jesus.
Just had to get that off my chest.
I feel better now.
UPDATE: So far this little e-newsletter has grown to over 55 people. Wow. Thanks to all of you for making this work. I hope these articles and bits of info are encouraging to you in your walk with Jesus.
"TWO OR MORE" by Keith Giles
My newest article online at Seed Stories here:
ENGAGE: APRIL 22ND WITH DAVID RUIS
Be sure to check out the groovy website now online here:
I'm on Chapter three of my book so far. Thanks for helping me stay on target for this little project. Hopefully this will be available in a bookstore near you in time for Christmas.