to House Churches
Not going to
church! But being the church!
we began Revival Ministries in 1998 we have been
committed to planting the church in the house.
We knew from the beginning that ‘we are the church’ and the Lord showed us to practise the ‘first works’ according to Acts 2:42. This we did everywhere
we went, even in the car as we travelled and even
on the aeroplane when we went internationally.
We encouraged meetings in the house wherever we
went and for some years as we have travelled in
Australia, we have been received in many houses
and not so many church buildings.
meetings to house church
in 2007, we asked our folk who were meeting in
a congregational meeting at SHILOH Centre on Sundays
to break up as a congregation and meet in smaller
house churches. We already had two house churches
meeting on Sundays in localities outside of the
city of Toowoomba, but since January ’07 three
more house churches began to meet in the city.
One of these groups continues to meet in the SHILOH
Centre but meeting in a house church format, which
is seated in a circle with collaborative sharing,
opportunity for questions and every person is
able to be involved. Since then more house churches
have begun to function.
one Sunday each month the house churches come
together for a Community weekend. On that weekend we
also have a special Friday night meeting with
worship and time to wait upon the Lord and on
the Saturday a
training day from 10am to 4pm; on Sunday mornings
we have a double service [teaching session plus
worship service] with a fellowship lunch. Brethren
from regional house churches, even from far distances,
gather with us on those special weekends and they
have become very significant times in our church
Why house church?
reasons why we made the change from a congregational
meeting to house churches were as follows:
enhance the accountability
of each individual saint
to be a contributing member in the church
· to encourage each individual saint or family to take responsibility for the well-being of
the other members of the house church, (Acts
· to give to each member a sense of ownership: ‘this is my church and I am responsible and
accountable for its success’.
Meeting in the smaller
individuals to function in giftings and contribute in the meeting
the brethren to begin to care for each other as
the whole group operates more like a family
c) facilitates the raising and training of new leadership,
giving apprentices ministry experience.
are two articles on housechurch following:
1.The first article is Chapter 7 of the RMA manual
titled "Leadership in the Last Days Church" by
Paul Galligan. The chapter is presented here to
help those who are thinking about or those who
wish to establish house "churches". The following
scriptures indicate the importance of such "churches".
Acts 2:46-47 And day by day, continuing stedfastly
with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread
at home, they took their food with gladness and
singleness of heart, praising God, and having
favor with all the people. And the Lord added
to them day by day those that were saved.
Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and at
home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus
as the Christ.
Acts 20:20 ... how I shrank not from declaring
unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching
you publicly, and from house to house, ...
The second article on this site "The Purpose
and Conduct of Ministry in the House" is
Chapter 4 of a new manual "FAITH IN PRACTICE"
released in November 2003 by Paul Galligan. This
article gives some history of the restoration
of ministry in the house over the last 30 years,
shows the very biblical nature of church in the
"The purpose of ministry in the house is:
1. To plant the biblical church, 2. to release
it to function."
the apostolic church is restored we need to teach
from the Scriptures concerning the house church
or the church that meets in the house. The model
and practice of 'local church' in recent times
is not biblically valid, except if we were to
see the local church meeting as simply the house
church meeting in a hired hall; but this is not
the case. The idea of dedicated buildings that
are not used as part of every day Christian life
is not scripturally sound. We do not need to build
a sanctuary for God on the earth, there is only
one sanctuary and that is the one mentioned in
Heb.9:11-12 & 24.
Matt.18:20 Jesus says "For where two or three
are gathered together in My name, I am there in
the midst of them." This is a sanctuary, two or
three gathered with Jesus present in the midst.
church of a city
the Scripture the apostles wrote to the church
of a city. In Jerusalem that church was led by
apostles and elders [which included prophets,
Acts 15:22 & 32]. In Antioch the church
was led by prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1),
and from Acts 14:23, the practice was for apostles
to ordain elders in every place. So there was
the church of the city with either apostolic leadership
or apostolicly ordained elders in leadership.
the Scripture the church of the city met in various
houses. The apostles attended the house meetings
and taught the apostles doctrine, Acts 2:42 &
Acts 20:20. The development of local churches
numbering hundreds and thousands of saints is
not a biblical development. A church that meets
in the home is by definition limited in number.
This means that every person who is saved is very
naturally included in the life of the church.
The church of the city will in time number hundreds
and even thousands of saints but they meet in
house churches with a common eldership oversighting
the church of the city.
DID THE CHURCH MEET?
Church Met in Houses
is no evidence of large single congregations in
the New Testament except in the precincts of the
temple of Jerusalem in the very early days of
the church's life. The indisputable evidence of
the New Testament is that the church met in houses.
Acts 2:46-47 tells us they met daily, from house
to house; everyone's needs were met in the fellowship;
they broke bread together, sang praises to God
and people were getting saved every day.
the Church in Friendly Houses
the church spread to other towns and cities the
disciples followed the instructions Jesus had
given them in Matt.10:6-15 and Luke 10:1-12, establishing
the church in friendly houses. Throughout the
book of Acts and Paul's epistles there are many
instances of the church meeting in the house.
greets the various fellowships in Rome
example in Rom.16:5 there was a church in Pricilla
and Aquila's house; in verse 10 Paul greets the
household of Aristobulus; in verse 11 he greets
the household of Narcissus; in verse 14 he greets
a number of brethren who are together; in verse
15 he greets the saints who are with the five
brethren mentioned. There are five churches mentioned,
and these fellowships are part of the church of
Rome to whom Paul is writing.
the Union of Myanmar [formerly known as Burma]
the indigenous church is generally not allowed
by the authorities to construct dedicated church
buildings. This is a blessing in disguise - there
has been some resentment among believers over
this law. So the church meets from house to house.
Some of the house meetings that gather to receive
the visiting apostle number over one hundred,
but it is normally 20-40 people who gather. In
such gatherings there can be as many as half of
them coming for salvation. Here we see the biblical
example working, the lost are being added. It
has been an absolute delight to minister in the
outlying areas of Myanmar going from town to town
into house churches. It is a very biblical experience.
On one occasion in a very isolated place the Holy
Spirit came as on the day of Pentecost to a crowded
house meeting of approximately 60 people, the
majority of them being school students. Students
and adults were speaking in new tongues [including
English which they did not naturally know],
prophesying, singing new songs in the Spirit and
weeping in deep intercession. Some were drawn
from the street to come up to see what was happening.
FIRST HOUSE CHURCH
could be said that the first house church in the
Bible met in the Garden of Eden, in the cool of
the evening at Adam and Eve's place. This is where
they met with the LORD. Jesus said in Matt.18:20,
when two or three come together in his Name, He
will be there in the midst. In Jesus our fellowship
with God is restored, and that fellowship is with
the Lord whenever we gather in His name. We are
blessed to enjoy our Lord's fellowship "in the
cool of the evening."
happened in Adam and Eve's house church?
assume that the LORD God taught the word, making
it clear to Adam and Eve what the Divine purpose
was and warning them to beware of the wiles of
the devil, that is, to not eat of the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus said that
if you receive the apostle you receive me, (Matt.10:40).
Jesus still comes into the midst where there are
people gathered together in His name.
can imagine that life in Adam's household after
they had been expelled from the garden, included
Adam training up his sons to walk with God. In
the account of Gen.4 we find that both Cain and
Abel had a personal relationship with God and
had obviously been taught the doctrine of redemption
through the offering of a lamb.
godly line from Seth through to Noah, suggests
the ongoing training from generation to generation
in their fathers' households. Each first born
son was prophetically named and trained up in
the knowledge of God's redemptive purposes. Finally
in Noah's family, his wife and his three sons
and their wives, were all involved in building
the ark of salvation in that generation. The house
church, consisting of the four families, worked
together under the apostolic leadership of Noah.
This was a mighty work they were called to, but
the work we are called to is of equal significance
as we prepare an ark of salvation in our generation
through the biblical ministry of planting the
church in every place, in friendly houses.
A VERY SUCCESSFUL HOUSECHURCH LEADER
"For I have known him, in order that he may command
his children and his household after him, that
they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness
and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham
what He has spoken to him." God says He chose
Abraham because He foresaw that he would manage
his own household well and thus be qualified to
become the father of many nations, releasing the
blessing of faith to every family, Gen.12:3. This
blessing is through Christ and is for every family.
church is primarily to be planted in the home:
it is a family church.
before Abraham had his own son Isaac, he had many
spiritual sons. Gen.14:14 tells us that he had
318 trained men [servants] in his own
house, who were able to go to war with him. If
most of these men were married imagine how many
souls were under Abraham's care. This house church
was really a traveling village: hundreds of families
living in tents, caring for their flocks and herds.
And this was in the early years of Abraham's ministry.
In Gen.18:1-15 the LORD Himself actually visited
Abraham and Sarah in their own tent. This was
when the LORD prophesied the conception and birth
of Isaac. The word of the LORD is to be released
in the house church. Whenever two or three gather
together in His name, I AM is present. HALLELUJAH!
As we share in the faith of Abraham we receive
will visit us in our fellowships and His word
will be precious and powerful.
LAMB FOR A HOUSEHOLD
from Exodus 12 reveals to us that the Israelites
living in Egypt, lived in households that included
more than the immediate family. God instructed
Moses that each household was to prepare a lamb,
Ex.12:3. If the household was too small to consume
in total the lamb, they were to join with another
smaller household, v4. There was an optimum number
of people to make up a household and in the context
it appears the average household was of that optimum
size. This is exciting teaching: God has provided
a lamb for every household. For every fellowship
of God's people who come together there is a lamb.
the new covenant house church, God has provided
a lamb, His own Son.
household [house church] has been provided
for and is authorised to break bread in the home
[breaking bread daily from house to house
Christ is the Lamb for every household.
is a wonderful example of this in Acts 10 when
Peter was invited to go the house of Cornelius
to share the good news of Jesus Christ with Cornelius
together with his relatives and close friends.
The household that gathered received Jesus the
Lamb of God, through the preaching of the apostle.
Even as God provided deliverance for His people
from Egypt through Moses, household by household,
so now He has provided salvation for all people
through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has appointed
apostles and other ministers to establish the
church in every house that will receive them.
INSTRUCTION FOR HOUSE CHURCH
taught how the house church is to function daily,
Deut.6:4-9. The people of God in loving God with
their whole heart and soul and strength must function
in their houses as believers from day to day.
"You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and
when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign
on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between
your eyes. You shall write them on the door- posts
of your house and on your gates."
THE HOUSE CHURCH
10:1-24 The church is established in 'friendly
houses' by preachers [apostles and evangelists]
being sent out in the will of the Lord. In this
chapter of Luke, Jesus gives us clear instructions
to establish house churches in every place.
to every place before the Lord comes
1 The Lord appointed seventy others; sent them
out two by two, before His face, to every place
where He would go. We are to prepare every place
for the coming of the Lord.
for the Harvest
2 Why do we need to establish a church in every
place? Because Jesus said, "The harvest truly
is great, but the laborers are few; therefore
pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers
into His harvest."
3 Jesus said He was sending them out as lambs
among wolves. There will be wolves, beware! You
will not be popular going out to plant a church
in every place. You may meet with opposition from
other established churches, it they are already
there, and from the evil spirits in areas controlled
by sorcery and false religions.
in the Obedience of Faith
4 We are not to take anything with us but trust
that God will supply; we are not to get off focus
[no missionary tourism]. Jesus said "greet
no one along the road." Don't allow other distractions
to take you off focus.
5 Enter the house where a man of peace resides;
in other words, where you are received.
a Friendly House
6 Have discernment: is this a 'friendly' house?
If it is not a friendly house don't remain in
from that House
Remain in the friendly house; receive their hospitality;
minister from that house. We are not meant to
go knocking on every door, remain in the place
where you are received.
city is judged by their hospitality
8 A city will be judged by the way they receive
the preachers that the Lord sends.
the Sick and Preach the Word
9 In the friendly house offer to pray for the
sick. Jesus instructs us to heal the sick and
to preach the kingdom of God. Others may be brought
to the house to receive prayer for healing as
the news spreads. The power of God is present
to heal in that house! This opens up the opportunity
to testify about Jesus.
comes to people and cities who do not receive
11-12 Wipe the dust of that city off your feet
[a prophetic act of judgment because they
did not receive the Word], but in so doing
warn the city of the judgement to come.
16 "He who hears you hears me, he who rejects
you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects
Him who sent Me." It is as people receive Jesus,
believing on His name that they are born again,
Jn.1:12. If people reject the preaching they are
rejecting the Lord. We receive Jesus by believing
on this Name. People will only know His name if
we preach about Him.
over the devil
17-19 The devil and demons are subject to us.
Satan has been defeated, Jesus said "I saw satan
fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give
you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing
shall by any means harm you." Our lives are hidden
with Christ in God, Col.3:3.
20 Jesus emphasises that the greatest miracle
is the new birth, bringing people into salvation.
The goal is to see people saved.
comes by revelation from God
21-22 The Lord sends us so He can save people
through our preaching. Jesus reveals the Father
to those that He wills, (Matt.16:17). People are
saved through revelation.
23-24 This gospel we have received is the revelation
of the mystery which was hidden from the Old Testament
IN THE HOUSE CHURCH
the Book of Acts we see the church planted and
functioning from house to house. In this study
we are looking at aspects of the church functioning
in the house.
2:1-13 The coming of the Holy Spirit; giving power
for ministry and witness as Jesus had promised
in Acts 1:8,
14-40 Peter preaches Jesus, the Lord and Christ,
v. 37 The listeners were cut to the heart by the
preaching of Jesus crucified, dead and risen.
v. 38-41 Peter tells them how to be saved; repent
and believe the word, and "they received the word
gladly"; be baptised; receive the Holy Spirit
foundations of the new church are being laid by
fundamental functions of church life
2:42 This verse reveals the five vital components
of church life
1. They continued steadfastly - this means what
it says: the early believers continued devotedly
or steadfastly in the other four components. Without
a regular, full-on commitment to the things of
faith, the church will not fulfill its purpose.
2. Apostles doctrine
4. Breaking of Bread
results of continuing steadfastly in these vital
components of church life
43 Great fear came upon all the believers. This
'fear' is the fear of the Lord, which in the Old
Testament is the equivalent of faith. Mighty signs
and wonders were done by the apostles.
fear [faith] released the miraculous.
44 The believers were all together and shared
all things in common. A true community emerged.
v. 45 Possessions and goods were sold, and the
proceeds used to meet needs in the community.
v. 46 Daily - continuing daily
one accord - in agreement, no private agendas
[dealt with severely in Chap. 5:1-11]
the temple - they presented as a coherent, compact,
committed body of believers
the church world of their day [the temple]
broke bread from house to house, "a lamb for a
house". The communion is fundamentally essential
in the house church. They shared meals together
with gladness and simplicity (check Amplified
Bible). Many churches authorise home meetings,
but never authorise the breaking of bread. Until
all control (doctrine of the Nicolaitans) is taken
off the believers, and Christians meet daily in
homes, fulfilling the five fundamental functions
of church, we will not experience "our first love"
for Jesus and fulfill His good acceptable and
47 "Praising God and having favour with all the
people. And the Lord added to the church daily
those who were being saved." The Lord added to
the church, daily, those who needed salvation.
house church was the house of the saints, where
they were praying late in the night.
4:23 "And being let go, they went to their own
companions and reported all that the chief priests
and elders had said to them." Peter and John went
to their companions and reported to them. They
found their companions meeting together in a house.
4:24 "So when they heard that, they raised their
voice to God with one accord and said
They prayed together.
4:31 " And when they had prayed, the place where
they were assembled together was shaken; and they
were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they
spoke the word of God with boldness."
place (house) where they were meeting together
was shaken and they were filled with the Holy
Spirit. They went out from that place preaching
things in common
4:32 "Now the multitude of those who believed
were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone
say that any of the things he possessed was his
own, but they had all things in common." The result
was revival broke out!
community releases revival; many others want to
4:33 "And with great power the apostles gave witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great
grace was upon them all."
power' and 'great grace' was upon the apostles.
The apostles were preaching Christ. Jesus is the
DOOR to the community.
the apostles feet
- 37 reveal the level of giving and sacrificial
generosity of these disciples. The people were
prepared to lay their money "at the apostles feet"
and allow them to distribute it. This is a principle
of God's word.
- THEY DID NOT CEASE!
5:42 "And daily in the temple, and in every house,
they did not cease teaching the preaching Jesus
as the Christ." AMEN!
we return to the biblical model and practice of
preaching and teaching Jesus as the Christ in
every house that will receive us and in public
places such as the temple represents, we will
not see the life and witness of the glory of Christ
Jesus that we long for. We still only give partial
approval to church in the home. Most churches
forbid the breaking of bread in the home and yet
this is the right place for the breaking of bread.
It is neither biblical nor practical to break
bread in large congregations.
work of the Gospel is continuous, publicly and
from house to house, daily.
elders of the church in the city work in unity
to plant the church in every friendly house. There
needs to a real soul-winning, apostolic housechurch
in the midst of every locality, in every city,
town and rural area, so that every soul is contacted
and impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was in city overseas and on the Sunday I preached
in four Sunday meetings. The first was in a suburban
area, which was quite poor. It was a humble housechurch
meeting which included the breaking of bread.
Three souls were saved in that meeting. I led
them to the Lord before I ministered communion.
Then they were able to receive the communion.
next meeting was held in the upstairs of a large
house which has been set apart for meetings of
the church. There was a regular Sunday meeting
here, with communion. No one came for salvation.
The third meeting was held in a small church building.
It was packed. There was no communion and no one
for salvation. The fourth was an evening meeting
in a pentecostal church building, with 3-400 present.
Again, no communion and no one for salvation.
first meeting was held in a humble house in a
humble street and unsaved folks were drawn into
the meeting. The breaking of bread in such a meeting
is easy, natural, intimate and powerful to save
as we experienced. This is the biblical breaking
of bread in the house, with the apostle present
to teach the word in the house.
pastors with congregations meeting on Sundays
in dedicated buildings have the potential to plant
multiple housechurches. Such a work is truly apostolic
and must be done for the effective witness of
the Gospel to every creature. This is the Biblical
way to go: the planting of churches in every friendly
next article on this site "The Purpose and
Conduct of Ministry in the House" is Chapter
4 of a new manual "FAITH IN PRACTICE"
released in November 2003 by Paul Galligan. This
article gives some history of the restoration
of ministry in the house over the last 30 years,
shows the very biblical nature of church in the
"The purpose of ministry in the house is:
1. To plant the biblical church, 2. to release
it to function."
PURPOSE AND CONDUCT
MINISTRY IN THE HOUSE
church of the New Testament is the church that
meets in houses. The apostles taught the doctrines
of Christ in the house meetings as believers gathered
daily. There were public ministries but they were
mainly for evangelism and there is the use of
a public hall as in the case of Paul in Ephesus
where he gathered the disciples for training,
but there is no ‘dedicated church building’. In
recent decades there has a restoration of ministry
in the house, from the cell groups of the 1970’s
to the cell churches of the 1990’s. And along
the way there have been many experiments and experiences
of genuine New Testament church in the house.
I became a Christian in 1974, I soon heard about
cell groups based on the experience and teaching
of Juan Carlos Ortiz from Argentina. Within a
couple of years I was leading a cell group as
part of Christian Life Centre in Toowoomba. Ortiz
had been to the C.L.C. mother church in Brisbane
and cell groups were now in vogue.
me back-track a little, to tell that I was actually
born again in a house meeting. It was a typical
inter-denominational house meeting of the mid
1970’s called prayer meetings, where people
who were experiencing the ‘Spirit-filled’ life,
gathered together to share their experience of
praise, spiritual gifts, to share their experience
of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These ‘charismatic’
prayer meetings were happening regularly
in a non-organised [there was an anointing
flowing], non-systemic [not related to or governed
by any particular church] way, and were a
rich expression of the church that Paul speaks
of in 1 Cor.14:26 "How is it then,
brethren? Whenever you come together, each of
you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue,
has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all
things be done for edification."
was welcome at the charismatic prayer meeting;
there was salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit,
and active participation of everyone present.
cell groups were more organised, with set weekly
meeting times, specific ones invited, set teaching
given to the leaders by the pastors of the local
church. Much was lost in moving away from
charismatic prayer meetings because that meant
moving away from 1 Cor.14:26, where each
one was able to share freely and the Holy Spirit
was expected to come. Cell groups were closed
by their very nature. There was not the expectation
of new ones coming and being saved.
late 1977, the church fellowship I was part of
left the C.L.C fellowship of churches and the
leadership Pastor Trevor Chandler, Brisbane, and
joined the ‘Discipleship’ movement which was led
overseas by Charles Simpson, Don Basham, Bob Mumford,
Ern Baxter and in those early years, by Derek
Prince. The movement was led by Howard Carter
in Australia. The change that came that is relevant
to this discussion was the change from cell
groups to households. Each household consisted
of 9-15 adults on average plus children. The
pastoral care of the people was exercised through
the households and each household leader was called
a shepherd. Only committed members
of the church community were allowed into membership of a household. Even wives with unsaved husbands
were initially excluded. The shepherds were
accountable to the leader of the community. The
rules governing, and the authority over, these
groups intensified. The meetings were closed.
There were set teachings to be shared, including
listening to many tapes of the Australian leader.
There was much reporting by the shepherd of the
household to the community leader. There was very
little reliance upon the Holy Spirit and a lot
of the joy of Christian life was lost.
CHURCHES SO CALLED
we formed house-churches for our Sunday meetings,
where three or four households met together in
a larger house or a hired hall. These groups numbered
between 50-100 in each so-called house-church. The purpose of these groupings was to raise
up more leaders, capable of ‘public’ ministry
in areas of preaching, worship leading etc. There was talk and initial planning for these
‘house-churches’ to grow into autonomous local
churches but unfortunately the overall leaders
became nervous about losing control and the house-churches
were closed down. While they functioned they met
on Sundays and once a month the Sunday meeting
was a combined gathering of the house-churches
for a community meeting. Note: these meetings
of the church were wrongly named as they did not
normally meet in houses.
discipleship movement finally disintegrated, mainly
due to the wrong exercise of authority by the
leaders, wherein authoritarianism actually hid
serious flaws and error in the conduct and doctrine
of senior leadership. After ten years in that
movement the Lord led us [my family and I] to
withdraw. There were some positives in the Lord
through all those years and it was something He
required us to go through. However, overall it
was a situation of serious religious bondage,
which operated through fear, intimidation, manipulation
and domination. My family was very damaged by
that church experience as were hundreds of others
here in Australia. In North America thousands
of disciples were damaged.
THE CHURCH IN THE HOUSE
leaving the ministry as pastor of the community
church in Toowoomba in late 1987, God made it
clear to me that I was to remain in the same city
where I had been and continue in ministry. In
the leading of the Lord, I began a healing seminar
in our home on Friday evenings. We were renting
a large house and the lounge room could comfortably
seat up to eighty people. The landlord had given
permission for ‘church’ to be held in the house.
Up to thirty people attended the healing seminar.
At this time I had visited some other fellowships
in our city and had been invited to join, but
knew in the Lord not to become involved. After
two weeks I decided to meet for the Lord’s
supper on Sunday in our home. The second
week I did this, four young people who lived with
us but had been going out for Sunday church, joined
us. The following week another family joined us.
The church in the house, which already had up
to thirty coming on Friday nights for the healing
seminar, now had over thirty coming on Sundays
for fellowship around the Lord’s supper.
Lord’s supper, a key component of house church
are many aspects to "church in the house",
but a key component is the Lord’s Table. Historically,
denominational ‘communions’ have been established
that are exclusive and enshrouded in man-made
mystery, and authorised according to strict denominational
control. It is a major breakthrough for
believers to take communion in a simple house
fellowship that mirrors New Testament practice. In a very real way, the breaking of bread signifies
the establishment of the church. Worldwide,
home churches of whatever persuasion, if they
are part of a denomination or movement are not
allowed to break bread in the homes. The breaking
of Bread is restricted to public meetings of the
church. Thus there is not a true recognition of
the church in the house as basic biblical practice
is not allowed.
A HALL, ADVERTISE, GO PUBLIC!
as the church in our house was beginning to flourish,
I joined a charismatic denomination and submitted
to their way of opening new churches. This meant
hiring a public hall, advertising, waving the
church name on a banner etc and it meant forsaking
the very real fellowship that was growing in the
later became involved in a traditional denominational
church which had been flowing in aspects of spiritual
renewal for some years. The senior minister of
the church was very committed to raising others
into ministry and as a result there were many
saints operating in areas of gifting and ministry.
This local church actually had a prayer counselling
and seminar ministry into the whole nation. The
church also encouraged "home groups"
and in the four years I was on staff, there were
often meetings and discussions among leadership
about the purpose and function of the home groups. Were they an extension of the church into
the house that encouraged fellowship and spiritual
growth in the smaller groups?
these a more Scriptural expression of church fellowship
than the larger congregational denominational
questions were never adequately answered because
there was no apostolic leader who was able to
teach accurately from Scripture the true nature
and expression of the church, day by day and from
house to house. We sought counsel from various
ones but there were many opinions and no clear
biblically sound way to go.
more recent years, we have heard of cell churches
and various groupings have sprung up following
very set formulas for the conduct of meetings.
Again there is no clear apostolic vision for how
each cell church is to grow into the mature church
of Jesus Christ. There are many rules and prescribed
ways of doing things. So one asks, ‘Is this just
another system of church?’ and I fear that it
OF MINISTRY IN THE HOUSE
and large, most small group expressions whether they be cell groups, home groups, households
or cell churches are effective in providing
close pastoral care and fellowship for the saints,
but generally fail to bring the saints into
the full expression of their giftings and ministries
to fully function in the Body of Christ.
This is because there is still an important
foundational understanding of church in the house that is missing!
to the New Testament Scriptures the church in
the church in its primary and ongoing expression.
model of local congregations propped up and strengthened
by small groups operating in the houses is not
New Testament. The actual house to house
meetings of the saints (believers) is the only
expression of church found in the New Testament except for public preaching and testimony
in places like Solomon’s porch (Acts5:12),
and apostolic teaching schools such as the school
of Tyrannus in Ephesus (Acts 19:10-11).
PURPOSE OF MINISTRY IN THE HOUSE
clearly and simply: the purpose of ministry
in the house is
1. to plant the Biblical church
2. to release it to function.
is the way of ministry that Jesus instructed the
seventy witnesses in Luke 10: they were
to stay in the house of the man of peace [a friendly
house, a house where they were received], heal
the sick and preach the kingdom of God. They were
not to go from house to house but rather Jesus’
expectation was that the sick and the lost
would be drawn to the house where the ministers
of the gospel were (Lu.10:1-9).
CHURCH IN THE HOUSE IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
are clear references in the book of Acts to the church in the house:
1:12-26 the hundred and twenty were waiting
in the upper room, continuing in prayer until
the Holy Spirit came – they were in a house.
It was in this extended time of prayer and
supplication, that the twelfth apostle,
to replace Judas the betrayer, was chosen. Clearly
the Scriptures were open in this
house meeting and the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter through the Scripture.
2:42-47 after the public preaching in the
street on the day of Pentecost, three thousand
souls were baptised and added to the one hundred
and twenty believers. V.42 "And they
continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine
and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and
in prayers." Where did the 3120 continue?
Where did they meet? This is a crucial question
which most do not ask or else ignore the answer. V.46 "they continued daily with one
accord, …, breaking bread from house to house." They met in multiple houses. One
can imagine that the upper room of Acts 1 probably held few more that 120. Many other believers
opened their houses, inviting numbers of the new
converts who were already baptised and had received
the Holy Spirit on the day they believed, to come
to the house meetings where the apostles
were teaching daily. As well, there were
daily prayer meetings in the temple precincts,
specifically Solomon’s porch (Acts 5:12).
4:23,31 after Peter and John were released
by the Sanhedrin "they went to their
own companions", [we can assume they
went to a house] and prayed to the Lord about
their situation and asking the Lord for boldness
and for signs and wonders. "And when
they had prayed the place where they were assembled
together was shaken and they were all filled with
the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God with
5:42 "And daily in the temple, and in
every house, they did not cease teaching and
preaching Jesus the Christ."
9:11-19 Saul was "in the house
of Judas in a street called Straight".
Paul was healed, filled with the Holy Spirit and
baptised by Ananias in a house.
v.33-34 Peter raised the paralysed man from
his bed – we assume he was in a house.
10:24-48 Cornelius gathered all his
relatives and friends together in his house to
hear Peter share the message of Jesus Christ. V.44 "While Peter was still speaking
these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who
heard the word". Peter then commanded
them to be baptised [they must have had some water
in the house – maybe a Roman bath!] and he
stayed with them in the house for a few days to
12:12 when the angel delivered Peter from
the prison he went to the house of John
Mark "where many were gathered
16:15-40 Lydia came to salvation through the
preaching of Paul and as soon as she was baptised
she persuaded Paul and his team to "come
to my house and stay". The church
in Philippi was planted in Lydia’s house.
That is where the church met. When Paul and Silas
were released from the prison they went back to
Lydia’s house where they saw the brethren (v.40).
In v.33-34, the Philippian jailer and his
family were all saved and immediately baptised;
he then brought the apostles into his house and
set food before them. Again the function or conduct
of church life was in the house.
18:7 in Corinth, Paul initially testified
in the Jewish synagogue but when opposition arose, "he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus,
who worshiped God, whose house was next door to
v.8 "Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household." Often in the New Testament evangelism
reached whole households; this was because
the ministry of the gospel came into the house!
20:20 Paul testifies that in Ephesus he "taught
publicly and from house to house".
He was speaking to the elders from the church
in Ephesus. When Paul was in Ephesus he taught
publicly, daily, in the school of Tyrannus. But
the church met in houses and so in the evenings
Paul ministered from house to house. The school
of Tyrannus in the model for apostolic training
21:8 When Paul and his company came to Caesarea,
he "entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and
stayed with him". House meetings
happened automatically and after many days Agabus
the prophet arrived from Judea and ministered
in the house (v.10-14).
28:30-31 "Then Paul dwelt two whole
years in his own rented house, and received
all who came to him, preaching the kingdom
of God and teaching the things which concern the
Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no
one forbidding him." Paul had spent
two years teaching in the apostolic school in
Ephesus, but he is just as committed to teaching
the apostles doctrine in his own rented house
for two years. This is the last picture we have
of the great apostle Paul in the Scripture and he is practicing church in the house.
have looked at all the direct references to the
church meeting and functioning in the house in
the book of Acts. There are many other
indirect references because
the normal meetings and conduct of church
salvation including baptism to the deeper
wisdom of the word of God
taught by the apostles
from house to house.
IN THE HOUSES IN THE EPISTLES
Rom.16:5 "Likewise the church in their house [Priscilla and Aquila’s house]"
v.10 "Greet those of the household of
v.11 "Greet those are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord."
v.14 "Greet Asyncritus … and the brethren
who are with them."
v.15 another group of saints are together with
some brethren Paul knows by name.
had not been to Rome at the time he wrote the
letter but he knows ‘brethren in a number
of households’, ‘church in the house’, ‘brethren together’. There are five
of these groups and it is reasonable to believe
that they were five house-based fellowships that
were part of the church in Rome.
Cor.16:15 refers to the household of
Stephanus who "devoted themselves
to the ministry of the saints". Stephanus
is referred to as a minister and a coworker with
Paul. He ministered through the church that was
based in his house as well as travelling in ministry.
v.19 Priscilla and Aquila had a church in
their house in Ephesus, as well as in
Rome later and in Corinth earlier.
4:15 here the church is in the house
of Nymphas [or Nympha].
1-2 Philemon hosted and led the church in his
4-6 He was known for his love and faith and
his refreshing ministry to the saints and to Paul
the apostle, 20-22.
in the book of Acts there are only some
specific references to the churches being in the
houses. However there are no references in either
the book of Acts or the Epistles to the church meeting customarily anywhere else. It is time to return to New Testament Christianity,
to follow the apostolic pattern clearly set in
IT IS WRITTEN
apostles in the Bible minister publicly and from
house to house. The public ministry was generally
evangelism, but included speaking in the synagogues
regularly in the early years of the church and
also in the Temple precincts. Prayer meetings
were held in the Temple. However the normal
life of the church was lived out [conducted] in
the homes, from house to house. The new
converts that came from public evangelism were
received into the church; that church met in many
homes. The three thousand saved on the day of
Pentecost were added to the hundred and twenty,
and met in many homes daily, and were growing
daily "the Lord added to their number
daily those who were being saved" Acts
only mention of the venue of church meetings as
such in the Scriptures is in houses. Yes! Public
witness happened in a variety of places, but never
does the Bible suggest that the church met in
these places for the conduct of normal church
life. Normal church life, which is the ‘conduct’
or function of the church was undisputedly in
the houses. So why is there such confusion
today? Often when I tell another minister about
the development of ministry in the house and the
formation of house churches, the comment is, ‘Oh,
when the group grows they will be able to get
a building.’ No! that is not our goal.
goal is the multiplication of disciples who
meet in houses
hear the apostles doctrine,
fellowship together including the meeting
of each others needs,
break bread regularly – at least weekly but
to pray together to discover God’s purpose
day by day;
nurture the new converts
to disciple the believers.
DID THE THOUSANDS OF NEW CONVERTS MEET?
you ever asked: ‘What happened to the 3000
converts of Acts 2:41?’ ‘What happened
to the 5000 in Acts 4:4?’ ‘What happened
to the ones being added daily to the house churches? Acts 2:47’. The ones from Acts 2:47 joined the house churches; but what about the
3000 and the 5000? Where did they experience church?
The only answer is: in the houses of believers
or maybe even in their own houses. Certainly
we can assume that the church continued to meet
in Cornelius’ house in Acts 10. We can
easily imagine a church meeting regularly in the
house of the Philippian jailer after he and his
household had been dramatically saved. It is clear
that Lydia invited Paul and the brothers to her
house to meet as the new church in Philippi.
GOING TO CHURCH!
is not a step forward for a group of believers
meeting in homes to grow in number and then to
go and rent a hall or construct a dedicated church
building for their assembly. In fact as soon as
that happens the church has actually taken a backward
step and will stop growing in the way God has
ordained. The experience of church in an assembly
that meets on Sundays predominantly is not a true
example of Biblical church, nor is it a true experience
of Biblical discipleship.
BEING THE CHURCH!
is a life-changing experience for Christians to
realise that we are ‘to stop going to church’
and to start ‘being the church’.
CONDUCT OF MINISTRY IN THE HOUSE
prayer, enabling the lost to find Jesus
doctrine – leading to sound doctrine practiced,
revelation understood and grace received.
opportunities for ministry – signs and wonders,
preaching and teaching.
conduct of house ministry in the early church:
Acts2:42 "And they continued steadfastly in the
apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking
of bread, and in prayers." Five-fold
ministry happened in the house. The apostles came
to the meetings and taught the doctrine; the saints
shared fellowship, broke bread and prayed together.
These four aspects are the key works of the church
functioning in the house. Even quite mature believers
are continually made dependant on the staff of
the local church – never delegated to function
in ministry at home, daily, breaking of bread,
prayer, study the Word.
v.43 "Then fear came upon every soul, and many
wonders and signs were done through the apostles." There was evidence of the kingdom of God in the
midst. The sick were healed; miracles were happening
in the houses.
v.44-45 "Now all who believed were together, and
had all things in common, and sold their possessions
and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone
had need." The fellowship that develops
out of house based ministry leads to a deep level
of sharing. Every member in the group is known
and valued; individual needs are shared openly
and prayed about; help, support and provision
flows as the Lord leads.
v.46 "So continuing daily with one accord … breaking
bread from house to house, they ate their food
with gladness and simplicity of heart." There was the opportunity for believers to meet
daily in open friendly ways, to share meals together
and to share opportunities of experiencing the
Lord through the breaking of bread. The breaking
of bread in the Scripture from its inception at
the Last Supper was always in the context of the
meal. Today as the church returns to the house
meeting the breaking of bread can once again be
part of the fellowship meal and take on greater
v.47 "Praising God and having favour with all
the people. And the Lord added to the church daily
those who were being saved." The
place of praise and worship is in the house meeting.
The house-based church is in ‘natural’ contact
with neighbours and all who live in the vicinity
of the house church. The early Christians had ‘favour with all the people’ – this
means they were popular and well thought of. Neighbours
are easily included into house church. In one
of the areas, Wondai, a small country town, where
we minister in a house church, we are seeing this
literally coming to pass. Initially the house
church meeting was a gathering of saints from
various local fellowships to hear the apostles’
doctrine. In more recent times it has become a
truly effective Biblical house church – neighbours
and their children are happily coming to the house
church meetings, sharing the meal, receiving Jesus,
breaking bread, being taught the Word of God.
It is to these groups of people, meeting together
with the evidence of God’s presence manifest in
the midst that the Lord will bring the lost.
TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE IS CLEAR
New Testament church met in houses. The church
was planted in every friendly house. Acts 5:42 "And daily in the temple and in every
house, they did not cease teaching and preaching
Jesus the Christ." In Luke 10, Jesus sent the witnesses out two by two into
every city and place where He was about to go.
He instructed them to find a friendly house and
minister there, healing the sick and preaching
the kingdom of God.
GOAL IS MULTIPLE CHURCH PLANTS
goal is a church in the home of every Christian
church in the house of every Christian household,
church on every floor of every apartment block,
church in every street,
church in every farming district.
the gospel to be fully preached,
the Great Commission to be fulfilled,
the church to be prepared for the Lord’s return,
needs to be a Bible based,
Spirit empowered church
the midst of every group of people
that every soul is contacted
impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.