Christian House Churches
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Christian House Churches
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Upper Room Jerusalem

Upper Room JerusalemThe Christian house church was the earliest meeting place in Jerusalem. One pre-Pentecost assembly of Christians contained 120 people. With such precedents, the Christian house church quickly became the established norm in early Christianity. They gave important insights into the ordered form and numerical impact of the ministry of Paul and of the "Diaspora mission" which was a term used to describe the exiled Jews of the Old Testament. According to E. Earl Ellis (1926-2010) in "Pauline Theology - Ministry and Society" "A Christian house church might involve a small gathering of twenty or so, but in the peristyle of a larger house it could easily accommodate a congregation of between one and two hundred." A "peristyle" was a row of columns surrounding a space within a building such as a court or internal garden or edging a veranda or porch. Particular Christian house churches were specified in Colossae and recorded in Acts 2.46, "They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity." A possible alternate to "generosity" is "sincere hearts." In Acts 5.42 Luke wrote, "And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: 'Jesus is the Messiah.'" Acts 1.13-16 also read, "When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. During this time, when about 120 believers [or "brothers"] were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them. 'Brothers,' he said, 'the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David.'" Acts 20.7-8 was in agreement, "On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lords Supper. [or "to break bread"] Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps." The phrase "to share in the Lord's Supper" may be translated "to break bread." Scriptures in Corinthians 2 or 4, Ephesus 1 or 2, and Rome 4 or 5, imply that the whole of the local church were not gathered in that one place.✞

Diaspora Mission

Ephesus GateThe diaspora mission was basically an outreach to those people living outside their place of origin. At the time of Paul's letters, the Christian community in each of these cities probably numbered from a few hundred to over a thousand. Such were their size that it provoked a riot of the silversmiths' club of Ephesus, which was hardly caused by a ten percent decline in sales and presupposes that the initial Christian mission had a telling effect, an influence that within fifty years had emptied the pagan temples in the cities of the neighboring province of Bithynia.✞

"Christian House Churches"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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