Churches from the 1 st through the 3 rd centuries took classical Greek and Roman architecture in … 5; 2 Cor. This focused look at women in the household context discusses the importance of issues of space and visibility in shaping the lives of early Christian women. 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. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Saint Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2002), 180. 4. Once leadership is in place, send out a sizable portion of the original church to jump start a new small church. The Church should be associated with mutual encouragement, accountability, relationships, community and maintaining church discipline. Noah faithfully preached to his generation, yet only a handful were saved. 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). 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. Professors 2.         There are both advantage and disadvantages to small churches. 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.         Reformed scholar William Hendriksen said, “since in the first and second centuries church buildings in the sense in which we think of them today were not yet in existence, families would hold services in their own homes.”  6:1-3). Smaller churches can best foster the simplicity, vitality, intimacy and purity that God desires for His Church. How successful was Isaiah’s ministry to a dull, spiritually blind people? As the home was the domain of women, women took a leading role in many aspects of the early church. Smaller churches can best foster the simplicity, vitality, intimacy and purity that God desires for His Church. Though Scripture never states such, it is quite likely that churches also met in tenement housing called. How do you feel about this? The Catechism describes the Church as “the family of God” (§ 1655). 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. 2:5-11; Gal. “Space Calculator for Banquet & Meeting Rooms”, BanquetTablesPro.com, accessed October 04, 2016. Continually teach the men to be the leaders in their homes and the church. A helpful resource is Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church Field Guide by Wilson & Ferguson (Exponential Resources, 2015). At the far end of the atrium was the business office. Smaller, Spirit-filled congregations are, arguably, part of a much larger divine design. Traditionally, meals would have been served in the triclinium, a dining room where guests would recline on couches which took up a lot of room. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings.” Colossians 4:15, “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.” 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.         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 . In the smaller Roman villas, these areas would have seated 50-60 people. We need to think small in a really big way! It is not a cure-all panacea for the many ills in the church today; however it is the start of a conversation that may—with God’s help—lead to much-needed reform.”. 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. Some of the distinct practices of those early small churches are worth considering: 1. 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. “How Much Does It Cost To Start A Church?”, MissionalChallenge.com, accessed September 1, 2016. A church also met in the home of Philemon (Philemon 1:2). This is good. Some of the distinct practices of those early small churches are worth considering: It was not unusual for strangers to be in and out of a home. This is good. When one rejoiced, they all rejoiced (1 Cor. Jews claimed an ancient tradition with law codes for daily life (the Laws of Moses) and revelations from their god through Prophets. 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. Synder, 70. So we should not think that home churches are any more "biblical" in … This custom of … Perhaps some congregations were large and therefore met in big buildings, but this is an argument from silence. What evidence is there that persecution was not the only reason the early church met in homes? In addition, the household employed servants and their families.         Scripture indicates that the early church met in the private homes of its more affluent members. Early churches meeting in Roman villas typically consisted of scores of people, perhaps over a hundred, but not hundreds and certainly not thousands. Proportions Church buildings would not be built for another 200 years. Rather than growing a single church bigger and bigger, consider sending off clusters of people to start new small churches. 4. Catholic Prayers, Practices and Devotions. Acts 16:40, 20:20, Romans 16:3-5a, 16:23, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1-2b, James 2:3. Disciple making is more personal and natural. The pastors become inaccessible. “Lullingstone Roman Villa”, English-Heritage.org.uk. Spacious living rooms were often built off this courtyard. Hence, a successful small church leader is one who is faithful to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” It does not matter if your church never gets larger as long as one is faithful in God’s household. Participatory Worship: Early church meetings were clearly participatory. What is it about them that make them important? house church. . Hence, a successful small church leader is one who is faithful to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” It does not matter if your church never gets larger as long as one is faithful in God’s household. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. Church buildings would not be built for another 200 years. The real issue is not where a church meets but how it can best do what God requires of it. Robert Banks, Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Historical Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 41-42. Commit to being a small church that starts new small churches that start other small churches. 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). 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). The practical reality of the priesthood of the believer was lost until the Reformation. 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). 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). Disciple making is more personal and natural. Learn Practical Tips on Ministering in Smaller Churches. And when a brother or sister fell into sin, the others gently restored the straying person (Mt. Worst yet, many parents drop their children off at a church youth program as sort of a reform school, hoping for a miracle. They were so effective that Christianity eventually became the dominant religion. Early church meetings centered on the Lord’s Table were tremendous times of fellowship, community, and encouragement. Why Do Newly Planted Churches Grow Faster Than Older Churches?”. The meeting room measured approximately 15’ x 21’. There are no professionals in charge; they often have no leaders. This was the gathering place for worship. But they do have their dangers. 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). 4. Walls between adjoining rooms off the atrium could be removed to create a big open area. Beyond the business office was an even large,r semi-covered, completely enclosed courtyard. How would the number of people involved impact a church’s ability to have a participatory meeting or to achieve congregational consensus? The church was depicted by apostolic writers in terms which describe a family. Scripture indicates that the early church met in the private homes of its more affluent members. ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2217 Of course not. Many times that is the way the early church would have met. Because children are foolish, putting them all together in a school classroom may be a recipe for spiritual and social disaster. All rights reserved. Why might the apostles have laid down a purposeful pattern of small churches? Are we to believe that having smaller congregations was a purely incidental aspect of the blueprint for church life or was it purposeful? Train up new leaders from within. One challenge in worshiping in a home today lies in the fact that modern homes are often far different from first-century Roman villas. What evidence is there that persecution was not the only reason the early church met in homes? 1. Church hostess Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman who sold expensive purple fabric and could afford servants (Ac 16:14). What advantages for growth and reproduction might house churches have over fellowships that have to build church houses? Walls between adjoining rooms off the atrium could be removed to create a big open area. 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? Roman villas featured large areas in which the church could gather, such as the atrium. The practical reality of the priesthood of the believer was lost until the Reformation. 7. Listen to Our Talk on Strategic Size Christian fellowship meant unconditional availability to and unlimited liability for the other sisters and brothers—emotionally, financially and spiritually. One challenge in worshiping in a home today lies in the fact that modern homes are often far different from first-century Roman villas. They were big, semi-public houses. However, the larger the fellowship, the more difficult it becomes to maintain relationships and lines of communication. 2. The church at Dura-Europos occupies a midpoint in the evolution from early house churches to the monumental buildings of the age of Constantine. Worship was generally conducted in the atrium, or central courtyard of the house.” William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House), 22. 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. If it is set up at the beginning to continue for a … Acts 16:40, 20:20, Romans 16:3-5a, 16:23, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1-2b, James 2:3. One known ancient home that hosted a church was the. Acts 2:42 - And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of … 6. 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). The problem with this is the corrupting influence children have on each other: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” It is also felt that putting children in Sunday School or a youth group takes the pressure off the parents to fulfill their God-given roles of training their own children. As first-century congregations grew, they did not erect bigger and bigger buildings. When Claudius expelled all Jews from the city of Rome, however, only the Gentile Christians remained. This is the 12th column in a 12-part series. 2. It is a design axiom that form follows function. The two rooms facing the street were often businesses. An informal, smaller setting is an effective place for the building of consensus. “Space Calculator for Banquet & Meeting Rooms”, BanquetTablesPro.com, accessed October 04, 2016. It was not unusual for strangers to be in and out of a home. . Throughout church history, God has used the house church strategy to draw his followers back to a simpler form of church life and mission. House churches in the early church. The problem with this is the corrupting influence children have on each other: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” It is also felt that putting children in Sunday School or a youth group takes the pressure off the parents to fulfill their God-given roles of training their own children. This would seat between 60 and 80 people. House churches have not altogether disappeared, either, even within Catholicism. 3. Profit        Smaller settings foster the intimacy, unity, love and accountability that characterized the early church. It is a design axiom that form follows function. Once leadership is in place, send out a sizable portion of the original church to jump start a new small church. God’s people are thus seen as part of God’s household (Ep 2:19, Ga 6:10). What psychological impact might the size of a church meeting have on the actual meeting and people themselves? Church discipline takes on genuine significance. Small churches align very much in size with apostolic churches that met in Roman villas. “Lullingstone Roman Villa”, English-Heritage.org.uk. Since New Testament churches met almost exclusively in private homes, the typical congregation was relatively small. Build reproduction into the DNA of the church. The early Christian community started as a house church. Before Christianity was legalized in the fourth According to Yale University archaeologists, “The first Christian congregations worshiped in private houses, meeting at the homes of wealthier members on a rotating basis . Reformed scholar William Hendriksen said, “since in the first and second centuries church buildings in the sense in which we think of them today were not yet in existence, families would hold services in their own homes.”, According to Anglican priest and evangelist David Watson, “For the first two centuries, the church met in small groups in the homes of its members, apart from special gatherings in public lecture halls or market places, where people could come together in much larger numbers. 7. 1 Corinthians 15:33. Size plays an important role in this. House-church ministry must be birthed in prayer. Photo: St. John’s Episcopal Church 7. Having a plurality of pastors in a church is unlikely in too small a setting (Acts 14:23). Instead, they multiplied, constantly training leaders and sending out groups to start new fellowships. A Woman's Place provides an overwhelming sense of community that women of the early church shared. When a person or church experienced economic trouble, the others shared without reservation. There are no evidences of larger places of meeting before 300.” Again quoting Snyder, “there is no literary evidence nor archaeological indication that any such home was converted into an extant church building. Why might the apostles have laid down a purposeful pattern of small churches? In addition, the household employed servants and their families. Noah faithfully preached to his generation, yet only a handful were saved. Yet even in the absence of persecution, might the apostles have intended to lay down a purposeful strategy of smaller congregations? Each local church is to be like a family; one of the most common things families do is eat together. They are called brothers and sisters (Phm 2, Ro 16:2). 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. Church hostess Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman who sold expensive purple fabric and could afford servants (Ac 16:14). Synder, 70. 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. 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. The overwhelming majority of churches today, however, do not provide the context in which brothers and sisters can encourage, admonish and disciple each other. Several aspects of women's everyday existence are investigated, including the lives of wives, widows, women with children, female slaves, women as patrons, household leaders, and teachers. 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. How fast it grows? Profit        Smaller settings foster the intimacy, unity, love and accountability that characterized the early church. 4:19; Phm. 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. As public speaking is a great fear, participatory meetings are best suited to smaller gatherings composed of people who all know each other and are true friends. We need to think small in a really big way! Rather than growing your one congregation bigger and bigger, make it your goal to start new small churches that start other small churches. The Revd Peter Anthony, Vicar of St Benet’s, Kentish Town in London has recorded a half-hour talk on why what we’re doing now is not a copying of the house churches of the patristic era.. View it here on You Tube.I strongly recommend this video. Biblical gardens reveal God's plans for us, Both war, peace found in biblical valleys, Rivers, streams of Bible flow with new life, Jesus brought good news to ancient villages, God's plan is the original 'urban renewal', © Copyright 2021 Diocese of Little Rock Building consensus of the whole congregation was important in decision making. This would seat around 100 people. Furthermore, there were typically multiple generations of family living under the same roof. Today, as always, we can see God’s footsteps, if we are looking for them. The record in the book of Acts tells us that 'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to … Members of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, gather in the front yard of a couple from the congregation for Sunday worship.         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. An examination of floor plans in Pompeii shows typical atriums measuring 20’ x 28’. Perspective Beyond the business office was an even large,r semi-covered, completely enclosed courtyard. Kingdom minded older congregations may be willing to let you use their building after their services are over. A raised area was added at the front (for a podium?). It was sporadic and did not necessarily affect all the churches at the same time. When church meetings in Roman villa atriums were replaced by meetings in much larger basilicas, participatory worship was replaced by scripted, stage performance type services. Consequently, Christians are to relate to each other as members of a family (1Ti 5:1-2; Ro 16:13). There are both advantage and disadvantages to small churches. 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). 2 Timothy 4:2. How many people attend a church? Graydon Snyder of Chicago Theological Seminary observed that “the New Testament Church began as a small group house church (Col. 4:15), and it remained so until the middle or end of the third century. Let us strive to faithfully follow the example of Christ and the apostles in our churches and ministries today. However, what happens when they marry and have children? 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. The Dura-Europos church, located in Dura-Europos in Syria about 232, is the earliest identified Christian house church and one of the earliest surviving Christian churches. Someone needs to minister to singles and empty nesters; small churches are in an excellent position to do so. When one member suffered, they all suffered. [I wrote a blog series explaining the marks of a biblical church.] Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1977), 190-191. What practical advantages and disadvantages would meeting in a home have? 2 Tim. The ESV Study Bible notes that early Christian churches “met in homes . Official Website of theCatholic Diocese of Little Rock. Roman villas doubled as centers for commerce. 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 … These ideals are best accomplished in smaller congregations where people know and love each other. Posted Sep 10, 2020. In short, involvement with a smaller church can be a wonderful blessing with strategic, divinely-designed advantages. Achieving congregational consensus is easier when everyone knows everyone else and open lines of communication genuinely exist with one another. 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. 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. The home should have a large assembly room and ample off-street parking. An examination of floor plans in Pompeii shows typical atriums measuring 20’ x 28’. Lane Dennis, ed. No one can better describe the early Christians than Mathetes who was a 2nd century Christian. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper as an actual faith-family meal is more natural in a smaller setting. In early Christianity, there were no church buildings. There were tragic lapses. Second, continue doing things to bring in new singles under 35. The Ancient Mass in the”House Churches”was not as Informal as Many Think As you may know, the Catholic Faith was illegal in the Roman Empire prior to 313 AD, when the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan permitting the Christian Faith to flourish publicly. As first-century congregations grew, they did not erect bigger and bigger buildings. House churches are legitimate. They were big, semi-public houses. E-mail exchange, May 8, 2013. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. Rather than growing a single church bigger and bigger, consider sending off clusters of people to start new small churches. So, for example, the fact that early Christians often sold all they owned and shared the profits (Acts 2:44-45) among other believers does not mean that we must do so today (although it certainly would be acceptable). 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”. How would the number of people involved impact a church’s ability to have a participatory meeting or to achieve congregational consensus? There is extensive archaeological evidence from many cites showing that some homes were structurally modified to hold such churches.” One such modified home known to host a church was found in Dura-Europos, Syria. It could, according to the Yale archaeologists who excavated it, seat 65 to 70 people. For all their scandalous behavior, we are grateful to have Paul’s response to the Corinthians. Apart from home-schoolers, expect an exodus to a larger church with a first-rate children’s program. Further, in a large congregation, the pastor necessarily functions more like the CEO of a corporation or, worse yet, like a king over his own kingdom. Acts records 120 believers assembled in the upper room of a house. What are we to do with the fact that the early church met mostly in homes? Building consensus of the whole congregation was important in decision making. . 2. 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. 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. What psychological impact might the size of a church meeting have on the actual meeting and people themselves? The two rooms facing the street were often businesses. Though it is a simple step, without prayer and God's leading, we invite trouble. Some worry that house churches don’t have all the marks of a biblical church. 6. Was Jesus’ ministry a failure? 3. A large auditorium of people, most of whom are relative strangers to each other, will not easily achieve these goals. 6:1-3). The legacy of a faithful small church will outlast a larger, entertainment-oriented congregation. (501) 664-0340, Official Website of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, Associate Director, Little Rock Scripture Study.