Friday, March 03, 2006

There's No Pulpit Like Home

Some Evangelicals are abandoning megachurches for minichurches--based in their own living rooms

Read more from the Time magazine article online

Christian Heritage Center (CHC) has proclaimed March as House Church Month

To mark the importance of house churches—which have been a part of Christianity since the earliest days following Pentecost—the Christian Heritage Center (CHC) has proclaimed March as House Church Month.

While many view the house church as a modern day phenomena, in reality it dates back to the days of Peter, Paul, and John.

“The house church was one of the primary meeting places used by the church for the first few centuries,” says Greg Humphries, founder of the CHC. “They were there at the beginning and they’re here now. We believe it is important to honor their contribution to the advancement of the Gospel over the past two thousand years.”

Humphries says the New Testament bears out the existence of early house churches.

“There are four verses in particular that mention the church being in somebody’s home,” according to Humphries. “Solomon’s Porch, the synagogues, and the marketplace were all used for evangelism but the meeting place for the believers was in a home. In fact, the very first meeting of the church took place in a house, in the upper room as told in Acts 1.” The Bible shows that the apostle Paul urged believers to “greet the church that is in (Aquila and Priscilla’s) house” (Romans 16:3-5).

One of the early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria, speaks in his writings of a house being used as a place of worship. Likewise, a private house in Dura-Europos (near Baghdad) was excavated in the 1930’s and was found to be used as a Christian meeting place in AD 232, with one small room serving as the baptistery.

Historical references to house churches over the next sixteen-and-a-half centuries are scarce since the movements that met in homes were generally outlawed, but it is known that the Waldensians—a severely persecuted group of believers in the 12th and 13th centuries—met in homes throughout Europe. Also, some early Anabaptists met in the home of Felix Manz, who was martyred before the age of 30 by followers of Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss reformer.

Today, it is estimated by the Barna Group that there are up to 30,000 house churches in the United States and possibly a million worldwide. One ministry alone in India has planted more than 3,000 house churches numbering some 50,000 believers. It is believed that about 50 million Christians are fellowshipping in homes in China.

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