Home Fellowships

Are home fellowships, where believers gather at the place where someone lives in order to learn about God and worship him, found in the New Testament? How many of them existed? Does God approve of them?

Our modern society is accustomed to believers of ANY faith gathering in unique buildings. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, Temples, and other buildings constructed for the express purpose of worship exist throughout the world. For first century Christians, however, such dedicated structures to meet in (except for the rare Synagogue) simply did not exist. Home fellowships were, in many cases, the ONLY way believers could come together as a group, in peace and with those of the same mind, to learn about God.

There is direct evidence of the early church gathering in what we would today call 'home fellowships' for the purpose of worship and study. When Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians in 56 A.D. he mentioned a group of believers coming together each Sabbath at the place where fellow laborers Priscilla and Aquila lived (1Corinthians 16:19).

Paul wrote his epistle to Philemon sometime during 61 to 63 A.D. when he was in Rome (Acts 28). His greeting makes clear that there were Christians meeting where Philemon resided (Philemon 1 - 2).

In the area around Laodicea there appears to be have been two groups of Christians meeting. Paul's epistle to believers in Colossae makes a direct reference to a church meeting at someone's residence (Colossians 4:15). He then mentions "the church of the Laodiceans" (verse 16), which might have been another of several fellowships meeting in the area.

The Jerusalem church seems to have initially used their dwellings for food and to commune with one another (Acts 2:46). Later, church leaders used places where people lived, near the Temple, to help spread the gospel and encourage Christians in the way of God (Acts 5:42).

Before his conversion, Saul (before he became Paul) persecuted believers. Luke tells us that Saul was so zealous that he entered one dwelling after another looking for fellowships who met in order to arrest and throw them jail (Acts 8:3). Why did he do this? The answer is simple. They were the places where the church met for Biblical instruction and for learning about Jesus.

 
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In the spring of 44 A.D., during another wave of persecution, where people lived were still utilized for assembling Christians together. We know this because the book of Acts tells us that one on Jerusalem's fellowships got together, when Peter was arrested and thrown in jail, to pray for him (Acts 12:1 - 5).

When Paul stayed in Corinth (Acts 17:11) for about a year and half he first started preaching in synagogues. When the Jews rejected him and his message he, as he always did, began to preach to Gentiles. He also began to stay where a man named Titius lived. Soon, the house becomes the center of Paul's ministry in the city and a gathering place for new Christians.

Toward the end of his third missionary journey Paul meets in Miletus with elders from the Ephesus church (Acts 20:17). Reminding them of his integrity as a preacher, he states he never withheld anything helpful when he taught in the fellowships conducted where they resided (verse 20). The apostle preached in these places because that is where Christians met.

Subverting believers

Paul, in a letter written directly to Titus in 63 A.D., warns him about self-willed men who teach false doctrine.

"For there are many . . . who rebel and deceive others with their nonsense. 11 It is necessary to stop their talk, because they are upsetting whole families ('houses' in the Greek) by teaching what they should not" (Titus 1:10 - 11).

At the time Paul wrote, there existed those who would journey to home fellowships on the Sabbath spreading their false doctrine. Timothy, Paul's trusted friend, also received a similar warning from him (2Timothy 3:5 - 6). In his Second Epistle, John instructs the host of a home church to NOT let anyone in the door, especially during the time of worshipping God and learning from his word, that does not teach sound doctrine (2John 1:10).

Conclusion

At least twenty-one home fellowships are found scattered throughout the New Testament. After the death of Jesus, the early church or "ekklesia" met mostly in small groups where someone lived. These gatherings show us it is perfectly acceptable to meet in this fashion for the express purpose of learning what the Bible teaches and worshipping God.

Additional Study Materials
Map of Apostle Paul's
First Missionary Journey
Map showing important
events in the early church
 
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