Home fellowships, the ‘church in the home’ is a big part of true Christian culture. There’s no doubt that the early Christian church met in homes. Let’s verify this with the Word of God.
Philemon is a letter written to someone hosting a church in their home.
Philemon 1,2 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer,
And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house.
The book of Acts exhibits the birth of the Christian church. Let’s see if home fellowships are in there.
Acts 2:26 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts
You may think they met in the temple and just ate in the homes, but that’s not the case. They went to the Jewish temple because the very first Christians were Jews and they wanted to win their Jewish family and friends over to Christianity. The home is where their ‘church’ met.
Romans is the first doctrinal epistle to the Christian church. It shows us there were many home churches in existence.
Romans 16:3-5 Greet Priscillac and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
Greet also the church that meets at their house.
Here’s one in I Corinthians too!
I Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.
The letter to the Colossians was written long after Pentecost as well as Romans. It also refers to the church in the home.
Colossians 4:15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
Home churches were the common way to meet in the first century Christian church. This was prescribed by our Lord Jesus Christ, it wasn’t a temporary measure until they built new cathedrals and man-made temples. There are many good reasons why Jesus chose the home as the setting for the church.
Why the Church in the Home is Best
Some people think they met in homes in the first century because they weren’t organized enough to build church buildings yet. Some think they were too poor to do so. But there are no indications in the New Testament church epistles that God or Jesus want anything else but home churches. There is no command, or even a suggestion, to build church buildings to meet in. Why is that? I have a few reasons in mind.
1) The family lives in the home. That’s where Christ wants to live on a daily, moment-by moment basis.
2) People already have homes and don’t need to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars — sometimes even millions of dollars — to build a church building for people to meet in. That money can go to help the needs of the saints instead of paying off the church mortgage and running expenses.
3) Every Christian has a function in the body of Christ. In smaller gatherings, each person is more able to share whatever it is their function is. With larger groups, only a few people ever get to exercise their functions while the rest of the people sit, watch, listen and sing along. Home churches encourages people to grow into their functions instead of sitting there every week in a large congregation as a passive participant.
4) Those who are given the ‘gift’ ministries in the church by our Lord Jesus Christ are not to “lord it over” the people they minister to. Smaller groups mean less control from the top. God is about making Christians free, not enslaving them to leaders.
5) Homes are situated in communities. A home church can reach the people in its own community readily. The people don’t have to go far to meet since the home fellowship is right in their own community.
There are many more advantages to meeting in the home than in large congregations, but the large congregation also has its place. So the question arises, “If Jesus prefers home fellowships, what about corporate worship and large meetings? Where do they fit in?” That’s a good question, let’s think about it a bit.
A vibrant home fellowship will grow in numbers over the course of several months to a year. Since individual involvement is more pronounced, several people will rise up in that home fellowship, as they learn and apply the Scriptures in their own lives, to lead others. When the home church reaches a dozen or more people, those church will ‘split’ but in a positive way. The new leaders will start a new home fellowship and some of the members will help them with the work. Now there are two fellowships and the process continues in the same way cells in the human body split and multiply.
When you have two or more home fellowships, you can schedule occasional meetings, as needed, for everyone to get together. Then you can enjoy the benefits of a larger congregation without sacrificing the benefits of the home church. You can rent a meeting hall if you want or you can meet outside in a park or in someone’s yard or garden. You will spend much less if you have to rent a place occasionally rather than paying off a six of seven figure mortgage but in most cases, you don’t even have to rent. You can meet outside whenever you want.
Man’s Way is Not God’s Way
With so many examples of home churches in the New Testament and not one example or admonition to build a building to worship God and learn God’s Word in, God’s way is clear. The church lives in the home where people live. We Christians are the church of the living God with Christ as Head. We, the body of Christ, are an organism, not an organization. The home is where we live and that’s where God wants the church to live.
Have you considered opening up your home for fellowships? There are many good books out on how to ‘do’ home fellowships but from my experience, all you need is the Lord Jesus Christ, a few Bibles and willing hearts. Just remember these words from Jesus himself…
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
I have had wonderful experiences starting and supporting home churches. Sometimes problems develop between individuals because of the close proximity of believers with diverse personalities and issues of their own, but those are opportunities to develop Christian community by exercising all those admonitions to forgive one another, to teach one another and to help each other along in our Christian journey. From my experience, people grow into their God-given functions much more quickly and more often where the church meets in the home in comparison with large congregational meetings.
Some churches combine the two; they have the large meetings in the church and they have home fellowships, usually during the week. My experience with those is that the importance of the large meeting is emphasized over that of the home church. From the Word of God I think the opposite should be true. The home church is the main meeting place and the larger congregational meeting is less important.
The most important thing to consider is this. It’s not the leaders of the church that hold it together and supply the needs of the saints. It’s the spirit of God in each one of us that is the supply. Leadership often supplants Christ and the spirit with their own agenda. This is to be avoided at all cost.
Let’s see what happens in a home fellowship where the Christians involved are walking by the spirit of God.
Ephesians 5:18-20 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you live in Southern Houston, Texas and want to be part of a home church, send me a message. I might be able to help.