Thursday: Home Churches

Read Romans 16:51 Corinthians 16:19Colossians 4:15; and Philemon 12. What do all these texts have in common?

In the Roman world there were two main types of residences. There was the domus, a large, single-family home built around a courtyard, typical of the wealthy. Such a home could provide a meeting place for 30-100 people. The other type of residence was the insula, with shops and workplaces on the ground floor facing the street and apartments (flats) on the floors above. This was the primary urban housing of the working classes. One of these apartments or workplaces could normally accommodate only smaller churches.

The domus, and many of the insula, would house an extended family-including two or three generations, employees of the family business, visitors, and even slaves. If the head of household could be converted, it could have a great impact on everyone else living there.

The ideal location for an urban house church would be near the city center. The shops and workplaces connected to the house would foster contact with artisans, trades-people, shoppers, and manual laborers looking for work. This was the setting in which much of Paul’s missionary work may have been done.

In some parts of the world, people still worship in home churches, often because that’s all they have. Or, in some cases, they are not allowed to do anything else, and so a home church is their only option.

Read Acts 18:1-3. How do these verses help us to understand how Paul worked?

As a Roman citizen and, at one point, a member of the Jewish elite, Paul must have been from the upper classes. If so, working with his hands would have been a sacrifice for him; however, by way of such labor, he identified with the working classes and reached out to them (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23).

How well does your local church interact with the community? Are you part of that community, in the sense of being involved, or is your church locked in “a siege mentality” in which you isolate yourself from the dangers of the world so much so that you don’t impact it at all?



Thursday: Home Churches — 11 Comments

  1. If we would like to evangelise and witness, we have to associate with all classes of people. There are more people on the streets who need to know Jesus. The local churches has to apply street evangelisim to attract those in the streets.

    • I think, before we go, evangelize to other people, we have to make sure that, inside our church, all our members are deeply rooted to the faith. Revival and reformation of ourselves and our church should be our primary concern.

      • While I appreciate your perspective, Mark, isn't this a little like saying before we come to Jesus, we must clean up our lives? According to Jesus, the tares grow in the wheat until the harvest. Perhaps it is not realistic to expect the church to reform itself before evangelizing. In fact, maybe it is the act of evangelizing that causes the church to become more heavenly.

        • Hi Stephen, you bring up a good point. I do think that Mark has a good point too. We cannot wait for everyone to be straightened out before we begin evangelizing, but there should be some attempt made to have an upper room experience before going out and bringing people back into a non-nurturing environment.


        • Hi, Andrew. I appreciate your viewpoint. The danger as I see it is when we try to institute reform because we feel it needs to happen, it is far too easy to cross the line and attempt to impose onto the church our idea of what God's will is for the organization. I see both liberals and conservatives succumbing to this temptation. It is troubling to me.

  2. Concerning Paul's trade of tentmaking here are two quotes from Ellen White that shows what she understood to be the situation involving his physical labor.

    Though Paul sat, a diligent student, at the feet of Gamaliel, he also learned a trade. He was an educated tentmaker. It was the custom among the Jews, the wealthy as well as the poorer classes, to train their sons and daughters to some useful employment, so that should adverse circumstances come, they would not be dependent on others, but would have educated ability to provide for their own necessities. They might be instructed in literary lines, but they must also be trained to some craft. This was deemed an indispensable part of their education. {This Day With God, p 203.2}

    The apostle Paul regarded idleness as a sin. He learned the trade of tentmaking in its higher and lower branches, and during his ministry he often worked at this trade to support himself and others. Paul did not regard as lost the time thus spent. As he worked, the apostle had access to a class of people whom he could not otherwise have reached. He showed his associates that skill in the common arts is a gift from God. He taught that even in everyday toil God is to be honored. His toil-hardened hands detracted nothing from the force of his pathetic appeals as a Christian minister. {Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p 279.3}

    What is interesting in the second quote is the phrase." He learned the trade of tentmaking in its higher and lower branches." If that is true then the implication is that Paul learned how to be a seamstress along with making patterns and assembling them together and also was instructed in the managerial tasks involved in having a business. The further and more interesting implication is that it is quite possible that tentmaking was the family business back in Tarsus probably along with making sails for ships to augment their income. That might be why he learned that trade while in Jerusalem. To me that would not be an outlandish assumption to make at all considering that Tarsus was a coastal trade route hub much like Thessalonica.

  3. Hi Tyler, very interesting quotes. To me "to support himself and others" means that Paul probably was teaching and inspiring his fellow ministers and local converts to have their own trade (business) and/or work together as a Christian team. I mean he wasn't only preaching doctrines and dogmas, but also coaching his followers into what we call now sustainable personal development or resource management.

  4. This is what I liked about my church, it not only catered to the spiritual man but took a wholistic approach. I had no ambitions until I joined this great church and I am who I am, where I am because of it. However, there seems to be a shift in focus. We seem to be losing our sense of community (at least where I am). Our churches need to initiate programs that cater to all the needs of the community, not just the spiritual ones. I am advocating for a Homework program in my own church where we can assist not just our young people but young people in the community with their assignments in the afternoons after school.

    • Miriam, I thank God for people like you who get into the trenches to help people. That is what Dorcus did and is the reason why deacons were established in the early church. However, not everyone has that gift as strongly as you have. We all should be concerned about our neighbor but each one has a different way of approaching it.

      I am glad that there is a variety of plants in a garden, each one having a different purpose. It is the same thing that Paul speaks of in 1 Cor 12 where there are different gifts and that no one can say that a particular gift is unnecessary. We need each other!

  5. Wednesday's part of the lesson talks about one of the highlights of this week's study, which says that Paul witnessed with his life.


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