Christian House Churches
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Upper Room Jerusalem 155

Diaspora Mission

Upper Room JerusalemChristian house churches were part of the practice of the earliest Jerusalem Christians, including one pre-Pentecost assembly of 120 people. With such precedents, Christian house churches quickly became an established practice in early Christianity, and they give important insights into the ordered form and numerical impact of the ministry of Paul and of the Diaspora mission generally. According to E. Earl Ellis (1926-2010 AD) 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." When particular Christian house churches are specified in Colossae as 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 [alternate 'sincere hearts']" In Acts 5.42 we read, "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 reads, "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 [alternate "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 agrees, "On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. [alternate "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." Corinth 2 or 4, Ephesus 1 or 2, and Rome 4 or 5, imply that they were not the whole of the local church in that place.✞

Christian Community

Ephesus GateAt the time of Paul's letters, the Christian community in each of these cities probably numbered from a few hundred to over a thousand. 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 effect that within fifty years had emptied the pagan temples in the cities of the neighboring province of Bithynia.✞

"Christian House Churches"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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