When Jesus becomes our Lord, he begins the lifelong project of ruling in our hearts and also in our homes. The rightful king of the universe wants to use our lives and our living spaces as tools in his hands. Nevertheless, the old saying, ‘A man’s home is his castle’ speaks of a worldly attitude that is often found in us. We want to be the rulers of our private homes and no one can tell us what to do there; and we are reluctant for others to see how we really live. We need to be reminded that our homes are given by God not just for ourselves but for others, and in this article we look afresh at the biblical value of meeting in homes and how God uses this for our growth and His glory.
Early believers meeting together
A sweep of the gospels shows that Jesus purposefully spent a significant amount of time in homes teaching, evangelizing and also resting (Matthew 26:6, Luke 10:38, 14:1, John 12:1) and there were some homes he loved going back to; for example in Bethany to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Acts gives us a snapshot of the first believers in Jerusalem meeting publicly in Solomon’s colonnade and in homes. Interestingly, Solomon’s colonnade was a large public area traditionally used by rabbis for teaching, and it was where the early Christians gathered to listen to the apostles’ teach and to see the power of God demonstrated (Acts 5:12). Even so, it was their homes where the nitty-gritty of discipleship took place; prayer, communion, communal meals and sharing life together (Acts 2:46, 12:12). Is this because homes were somehow more holy or sacred to God? No, rather they met in homes because it was the simplest and most accessible place open for believers to share life. It is the same still today.
So for the first 300 years of early Christianity, the people of God primarily met in homes (Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15). But as the church becomes more formalised from the time of Constantine, so church buildings became more prominent, elaborate and set apart for holy use. And as churches become more institutional, so the use of homes diminished. This picture of the church as a holy place was my understanding growing up as a Catholic and the actual buildings seemed very sacred to me as we ‘went to church’. I didn’t understand the truth that church is a people in whom God dwells (Ephesians 2:19–22), not a physical place we go to.
Don’t throw the church baby out
Now some want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and declare that we should have no church buildings nor specific days of worship. This is because firstly, the early church seemed much more organic (meeting daily and in homes) and secondly, it has all has been seemingly corrupted through Constantine’s controlling hand. A healthier perspective however is to acknowledge that we do need public spaces (church buildings) to gather large groups together in – such as the early church did in Solomon’s colonnade; and we need to keep the custom of meeting on Sundays as the early believers did – gathering on the first day of the week as it was the day of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). Meeting publicly together on Sundays is one of the building blocks of church life but from there we launch into discipleship in our homes between Sundays.
The richness of meeting in homes
Wouldn’t it be incredible to have Jesus himself come into our home like in the story of Martha inviting the Lord to her house in Luke 10:38? However, every time we have a fellow believer in our home, it is as if we are inviting Jesus himself (Matthew 25:35). This astounding truth reveals the spiritual richness that takes place when we meet in our homes. We invite people into our lives when we do so, especially outside of formal meeting times. Often my most surprising times of encouragement and prayer have taken place around a dinner table or in the kitchen. I grew the most as a young Christian hanging out in the home of mature believers, watching the way the husband treated his wife and his children and listening to him talking about the Lord and it impacted me deeply. For mature believers and leaders in church life, we dare not forget the power of example. People imitate our lives and our faith (1 Thessalonians 1:5, Hebrews 13:7) not through teaching a course or being at a meeting, but in how we behave in the routines, pressures, frustrations, and joys of daily life practicing the presence of God. This richness of discipleship can only take place as we open our homes and lives.
Of course, the lockdown has been a respite for those of us introverts who enjoy privacy. It’s not wrong to love our own space but we are to love the Lord and His people more so. Let’s remember that our homes are a gift from God to us, our families and also for the people of God to use; and may we continue to offer up our lives and our living spaces to be effective tools in the hands of our great God.
* Other great resource dealing with the ministry of our homes: https://www.four12global.com/authors/michaeldoffay/the-art-of-hospitality-in-the-age-of-isolation