Home Fellowships

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Was it a normal practice for early believers to gather in a home for the purpose of worshipping God? What is the New Testament definition of a church? MUST people commune with God in a big congregation meeting in a church building they own? Do small groups or fellowships that meet in a home going AGAINST what the Bible teaches? Is there any evidence in the New Testament that supports small "house churches?"

The original language word ekklesia (Strong's Concordance #H1577) is where translators get our English word church. Ekklesia is not used to refer to a building or other man-made structure utilized by believers. It is used to denote the Christians THEMSELVES that gather, regardless of the location of the meeting. The ekklesia or church is a collection of two or more Christians that are brought together by their faith in God and desire to learn of his ways. The word can also be used to broadly refer to several assemblies of believers, ALL true Christians living in the world at a given time or all true believers who have ever existed in history.

Contrary to what some may think, no known evidence exists that shows believers in the 1st century A.D. utilized buildings dedicated to God. According to one researcher, "Until A.D. 200, then, a Christian architecture did not and could not exist. Only the state religion erected temples in the tradition of the Greek and Roman architecture . . . " (Richard Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture, Penguin Books, 1965, 1975, Page 24.)

Evidence of worship in houses

There is direct evidence of the early church gathering in each others' homes for the purpose of worship and study. When Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians in 56 A.D. a group of believers gathered in the home of Priscilla and Aquila (1Corinthians 16:19) each Sabbath.

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 was a church / fellowship meeting in the house of Philemon (Phil. 1-2).

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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 in someone's home (Colossians 4:15). He then mentions "the church of the Laodiceans" (verse 16), which might have been a second fellowship group meeting in the area.

What did a Christian house look like?

What did the homes used by early Christians for worship look like? According to author Richard Krautheimer they were generally cheap homes. They were generally buildings that could house one family and could be as high as four stories. The houses contained a few simple pieces of furniture.

Church in the House

The Jerusalem church seems to have initially used their homes for food and to fellowship with one another. Luke states that "Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts" (Acts 2:46). Later, church leaders used homes, besides 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 "entering house after house" (Acts 8:3) he not only arrested Christians put had them thrown in jail. Why did he do this? The answer is simple. Houses were where the early church met for fellowshipping and instruction in the Bible.

In the Spring of 44 A.D., during another wave of persecution, homes were still utilized for the purpose of assembling Christians together. We know this because the book of Acts tells us the church 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 in the house of a man named Titius. 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). Witnessing to them regarding his integrity as a preacher he says "You know that I did not hold back anything that would be of help to you as I preached and taught in public and in your homes." (verse 20). The apostle preached in houses because that is where Christians met.

Subverting house fellowships

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 literally go from house to house (fellowship to fellowship) 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 fellowship 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).


After the death of Christ the early church or "ekklesia" met in small groups at someone's home. In the New Testament the Bible contains at least twenty-one references to fellowships meeting in someone's home. These gatherings of believers show us it is perfectly acceptable to meet in this fashion today.

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