2. Note how Paul greeted the Christians in Corinth: “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Kingdom minded older congregations may be willing to let you use their building after their services are over. . 10).”, According to W.H. 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. Second, continue doing things to bring in new singles under 35. 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. William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1875), 430. Profit        Smaller settings foster the intimacy, unity, love and accountability that characterized the early church. One of the more surprising revelations in his book is how few Christians comprised the Church in Corinth. When one member suffered, they all suffered. Small churches today still have the same great potential to advance God’s kingdom in the love and power of the Holy Spirit . Nor is there any extant church that certainly was built prior to Constantine.” Roman villas featured large areas in which the church could gather, such as the atrium. Let us strive to faithfully follow the example of Christ and the apostles in our churches and ministries today. 6. Today, as always, we can see God’s footsteps, if we are looking for them. 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.” Apart from home-schoolers, expect an exodus to a larger church with a first-rate children’s program. For example, a Barna Group’s study on why small churches don’t grow revealed that people with children are often looking for a church that offers an impressive children’s ministry, which in turn requires the funding for first-class facilities and to hire competent personnel, something smaller churches have financial difficulty doing. 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. Some of the distinct practices of those early small churches are worth considering: 1. 6. Luke’s account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-20) bears the closest resemblance to Paul’s account. The early Christian community started as a house church. They were so effective that Christianity eventually became the dominant religion. Size plays an important role in this. Noah faithfully preached to his generation, yet only a handful were saved. Instead of getting bigger and bigger, purpose to maintain the New Testament example of Roman-villa-sized churches.         There are both advantage and disadvantages to small churches. Acts 16:40, 20:20, Romans 16:3-5a, 16:23, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1-2b, James 2:3. Robert Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Historical Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 41-42. 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. In keeping with the New Testament example, the ideal size for a congregation might be the same number of people that would fit into a first-century Roman villa (which, by the way, is more than will fit in a typical modern home). . What evidence is there that persecution was not the only reason the early church met in homes? Worst yet, many parents drop their children off at a church youth program as sort of a reform school, hoping for a miracle. Early church meetings centered on the Lord’s Table were tremendous times of fellowship, community, and encouragement. This is good. 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. And when a brother or sister fell into sin, the others gently restored the straying person (Mt. One challenge in worshiping in a home today lies in the fact that modern homes are often far different from first-century Roman villas. Achieving congregational consensus is easier when everyone knows everyone else and open lines of communication genuinely exist with one another. They will grow spiritually. We desperately need new settings and structures for watching over one another in love.”. We need to think small in a really big way! 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. From it we learn of the centrality of the Eucharist to the traditions Paul taught as well as much about early Christian communities. Many times that is the way the early church would have met. W.H. What importance do you see in Paul’s teaching that we who gather together in Christ’s name are the actual Church, rather than the building in which we gather? Spacious living rooms were often built off this courtyard. Rather than growing your one congregation bigger and bigger, make it your goal to start new small churches that start other small churches. In larger homes, they could have seated as many as 150. Each local church is to be like a family; one of the most common things families do is eat together. [I wrote a blog series explaining the marks of a biblical church.] The inter-personal relationships described in the New Testament work best in situations where everyone knows each other. Though house churches were at the opposite end of the spectrum from modern mega-churches, it is important to avoid the mistake of thinking. The inter-personal relationships described in the New Testament work best in situations where everyone knows each other. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Saint Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2002), 180. Aquila and Prisca together with the church at their house send you many greetings in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:19). In a real Eucharist, they would recognize and respect each other as the Body of Christ. In most modern-day home churches, all members are considered to be equal. Having too many people in attendance can serve to defeat the purposes for holding a church meeting in the first place. Instead of getting bigger and bigger, purpose to maintain the New Testament example of Roman-villa-sized churches. The overwhelming majority of churches today, however, do not provide the context in which brothers and sisters can encourage, admonish and disciple each other. Forty may be a safer guess. (501) 664-0340, Official Website of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, Associate Director, Little Rock Scripture Study. 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. Special thanks to Stephen David of Hyderabad, India for significant contributions to this section. The real influence in the room is not the teacher but peer pressure. One challenge in worshiping in a home today lies in the fact that modern homes are often far different from first-century Roman villas. . Disciple making is more personal and natural. Once leadership is in place, send out a sizable portion of the original church to jump start a new small church. Posted Sep 10, 2020. . House churches in the early church. When a person or church experienced economic trouble, the others shared without reservation. Who Were The Early Christians? Other early churches also met in homes. “Small Churches Struggle to Grow Because of the People They Attract,” Barna.org, accessed September 01, 2016. The sisters and brothers were available to each other, liable for each other and accountable to each other. A large auditorium of people, most of whom are relative strangers to each other, will not easily achieve these goals. on Saturday, 11 April 2020 at 5.17 pm by Simon Sarmiento categorised as Church of England. “The antidote to the evangelical obsession with the ‘bigger is better’ model of church organisation. No one can better describe the early Christians than Mathetes who was a 2nd century Christian. What can be done? In the previous chapters, small churches were encouraged to play to their relational strengths by incorporating some of the practices of first-century house churches. Building consensus of the whole congregation was important in decision making. . Smaller churches can best foster the simplicity, vitality, intimacy and purity that God desires for His Church. Build reproduction into the DNA of the church. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House), 22. Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1977), 190-191. Special thanks to Stephen David of Hyderabad, India for significant contributions to this section. Proverbs 22:15, 13:20. Congregational Consensus: The New Testament church had a plurality of clearly identified leaders (elders, pastors, overseers), yet these leaders led more by example and persuasion than by command. romanticize the early church as an age of purity to which we should seek to return DURA EUROPOS AND THE EARLY CHRISTIAN ‘HOUSE CHURCH’ BACKGROUND When Christianity emerged in the late antique world, Christian ceremony and worship was much more private—even secretive—than it would become in the later Medieval periods. Each local church is to be like a family; one of the most common things families do is eat together. What advantages for growth and reproduction might house churches have over fellowships that have to build church houses? 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 … Griffith Thomas, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing, 1984), 422-423. They were big, semi-public houses. Referred to as house churches today, in their own time, these Christians would have thought of themselves as the Church and the place where they assembled as someone’s house. This would seat around 100 people. Philemon, wealthy enough to own a slave, hosted a church in his home (Phlm 2b). 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). 3. The many “one another” exhortations of Scripture can be more realistically lived out. The meeting room measured approximately 15’ x 21’. By modern standards this would seat about 50 people. 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). 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. They also probably had more of an Asian mindset to crowding than we do in the West; there may have been 150 people in an early house church. They also probably had more of an Asian mindset to crowding than we do in the West; there may have been 150 people in an early house church. . Beyond the business office was an even large,r semi-covered, completely enclosed courtyard. The record in the book of Acts tells us that 'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to … This would seat between 60 and 80 people. The legacy of a faithful small church will outlast a larger, entertainment-oriented congregation. Though Scripture never states such, it is quite likely that churches also met in tenement housing called. Someone needs to minister to singles and empty nesters; small churches are in an excellent position to do so. Instead, they multiplied, constantly training leaders and sending out groups to start new fellowships. Before Christianity was legalized in the fourth Scripture indicates that the early church met in the private homes of its more affluent members. . Believers are children of God (1Jn 3:1) who have been born into his family (Jn 1:12-13). Church discipline takes on genuine significance. Worship was generally conducted in the atrium, or central courtyard of the house.”, The early church continued this practice of home meetings for hundreds of years after the New Testament was completed. It was sporadic and did not necessarily affect all the churches at the same time. house church. Some couples who leave a small church upon having children will return after their children are grown. The practical reality of the priesthood of the believer was lost until the Reformation. Inscriptions on the interior—Remind Christ of the humble Siseos and Remind Christ of Proclus in your midst—probably hearken back to the donors of the house. Paul’s Corinth,” reveals a great deal about these early house churches. Perhaps some congregations were large and therefore met in big buildings, but this is an argument from silence. The others would be relegated to the atrium, a room that was open to the elements from above and where they would be seated on the floor. . “Lullingstone Roman Villa”, English-Heritage.org.uk. Since New Testament churches met almost exclusively in private homes, the typical congregation was relatively small. 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 book for more about modern house churches). Furthermore, there were typically multiple generations of family living under the same roof. The church was depicted by apostolic writers in terms which describe a family. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic Dec. 13, 2014. Throughout church history, God has used the house church strategy to draw his followers back to a simpler form of church life and mission. It was not unusual for strangers to be in and out of a home. Why might the apostles have laid down a purposeful pattern of small churches? Perhaps some congregations were large and therefore met in big buildings, but this is an argument from silence. What psychological impact might the size of a church meeting have on the actual meeting and people themselves? We desperately need new settings and structures for watching over one another in love.” The larger the congregation, the less family-like and the more impersonal the Lord’s Supper as a true meal becomes. 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. 7. However, what happens when they marry and have children? Synder, 70. Gaius, a man with the means to generously support missionaries (3Jn 1-5), had a home big enough to host the sizable Corinthian congregation (Ro 16:23). ‘House churches’ offer return to in-person worship by following practice of early Christians. 5. 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.”         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. 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. 6:1-3). Worst yet, many parents drop their children off at a church youth program as sort of a reform school, hoping for a miracle. How many people attend a church? Church hostess Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman who sold expensive purple fabric and could afford servants (Ac 16:14). Multiplication: Small churches have great potential for growth through multiplication. There are no professionals in charge; they often have no leaders. In addition, the household employed servants and their families. 1. The Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper was originally celebrated weekly as a full, fellowship meal. The temptation is to enjoy this growth, allowing the original church to get far larger than a typical church of the apostolic era. Acts 2:42 - And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of … Since New Testament churches met almost exclusively in private homes, the typical congregation was relatively small. Of course not.         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 . 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. The early Roman churches were dominated and led by Jewish disciples of Jesus. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper as an actual faith-family meal is more natural in a smaller setting. 4:19; Phm. One known ancient home that hosted a church was the Lullingstone Villa in Kent, England (built during the Roman occupation). Second, continue doing things to bring in new singles under 35. 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. Achieving congregational consensus is easier when everyone knows everyone else and open lines of communication genuinely exist with one another. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor measured six homes in Pompeii and Ephesus and found the average atrium size to be 797 square feet. Out of the theological truth that God’s children are family arises many church practice issues, such as the size of a congregation that best facilities our functioning as God’s family. At the far end of the atrium was the business office. 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