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Ok, where i gather, we have a Brethren-like "house church" system, which means that we have no building for the chuch meeting. But the number of members are increasing and we are about to face a decision: split the members into 2 house groups or go up and rent a hall in order to gather everyone at one place.

We had a discussion about that with the elders and one argument was that

There is no reference of a christian regular gathering model in the New Testment other than house gathering (eg. Act 2:46; Rom 16:5, 14, 15; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 2). And the reference of the Temple in Acts 2:6 wasn't properly a christian meeting, but a practice of Judaism transfered to Christianity at that time.

But the counter-argument to the above was that

There is no doctrine at all about the place of gathering in the New Testment. We have doctrine about how to gather, what to do and how to do almost everything in the church meeting, how to order the meeting, even the necessity of gather, but no word is written about where the meeting have to be done. We only have examples and to make theology out of examples we need to (specially) consider the context, and in considering the early church context (historical, cultural, religious, thological) we see why they gathered in houses, but this is no such thing as a limit, but a solid ground for us to build uppon.

The controversy

After the discussion, the question was settled: are the examples of house gatherings in the new testment an evidence of a theological stablishment, a oral doctrinal statement and a common sense at the early church that just houses are expected to host the Church regular gathering? Or just the natural flow that the Holy Spirit choose?

My questions

  1. Is there any writting from a reliable source of church meeting in the early church (400AD-) outside the context of a house host?

  2. Is there any writting from a reliable source that the church had a prohibition in the theological ground for hosting a meeting in a rented or built hall instead of the house context?

  3. Is there any good argument about why should we host the church regular meeting in a hall building, if there is no example of that in the NT?


Sorry for my bad english, portuguese speaker here. God bless.

  • Acts 2:41 is a Service where at least 3000 met and were converted at a service that was continued. It is a good thing to have gatherings in a home, especially if the alternitive is being fed to the lions. – Marc Nov 28 '15 at 17:14
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    There were no continuous persecution. Not all emperors persecuted the church. For example, Acts 9:31 says that the Church had peace in all the Judea. And i ask you to, please, don't use this space like a chat. You can provide an answer and i could check it out. God bless – Filipe Merker Nov 28 '15 at 17:43
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    What do you consider the 'early church'? There are purpose-built churches that survive from around 300AD, so we can presume there was no prohibition on meetintgs outside the home at that point? – DJClayworth Nov 28 '15 at 18:06
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    Filipe, you seem to be trying to have an argument here. This is the wrong place for it. You asked what the arguments were for hold in Christian meetings in a way for which there is no example int he NT. We told you. If you don't agree with those views, you are welcome to disgree, but we are not going to argue with you here. – DJClayworth Nov 28 '15 at 18:16
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    @FilipeMerker The fact that Diocletian issued an edict (not widely enforced, at least in the west) that churches be down is evidence that by the end of the third century, Christian churches were quite common. Gibbon refers to the proliferation of "stately and capacious edifices ." – Dick Harfield Nov 28 '15 at 19:50
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By way of answer, I refer you to this article on the history of Christian meetings. I'll summarize some sections.

In the first century, Christians generally met in homes, especially the homes of more prominent members.

The Acts of the Apostles portrays the first Christian community in Jerusalem as gathering in the temple colonnades and “breaking bread in their homes.” As the Christian message gained a wider hearing in eastern Mediterranean cities, early believers commonly met in the homes of the community’s more prominent members. Though houses came in various styles and sizes, an atrium in a Roman villa (or a spacious dining room of a Greek house) would accommodate the needs of the small Christian communities.

By AD 150, even though the church had grown significantly, the pattern had not changed much:

Justin’s defense before Rusticus also suggests that although the Christians in Rome were becoming fairly numerous, they did not abandon meeting in homes, even if that meant the Christian community could no longer assemble in one place. Thus, the house-church pattern, first articulated in the New Testament, continued for the first generations of the church’s expansion in the Roman world.

However it does not appear that this was done for theological reasons.

Then the prefect, Rusticus, demanded: “Where do you meet?” “Wherever it is each one’s preference or opportunity,” said Justin. “In any case, do you suppose we can all meet in the same place?”

100 years later, around 250AD, Christians were meeting in buildings converted specially for the purpose. One example was unearthed from the siege of Dura-Europos in 256AD.

[One of these houses] had been altered to become a Christian church. The private residence was modified by removing one interior wall in the dining area, creating a larger room for Christian services. A small dais at the eastern end of the hall probably served as the worship center. Benches were installed around the walls of an interior courtyard, perhaps to mark off a place of instruction. In yet another room, a canopied baptismal font was erected, flanked by frescoes of Adam and Eve, and the Good Shepherd—perhaps signifying the Fall and Redemption.Though it began as a private house, after renovation all domestic use ceased, and the building became property of the church.

Very shortly after that, churches were being purpose-built.

Unlike the house churches, which looked outwardly like private dwellings, the churches erected [around 260AD] were large structures. They were designed to accommodate the throngs of new believers who swelled the church’s ranks. In some cases, Christian communities acquired property adjacent to the renovated house churches, tore down or modified their properties, and built spacious new prayer halls.

Another fifty years and church building were becoming highly visible.

Church buildings attracted the ire of Diocletian and his colleagues during the last and greatest persecution of early Christianity (303–311). It was left to the patronage of Constantine (312–337) to rebuild these churches in an even more splendid manner.

To answer the question specifically, by 400AD church buildings were commonplace, and had been around for at least 150 years. Some examples of these buildings still exist today.

  • One thing to add is that even the Jewish synagogues were parts of homes or modified homes. I'd have to do a bit more research, but I don't think there were very many special purpose buildings at the time. – curiousdannii Nov 29 '15 at 0:38
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Acts 5:42 references preaching in the Jewish temples and house to house as you referenced:

"And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus." - Acts 5:42 ESV

Clearly, from this, the message of the gospel of Christ is not restricted to a specific venue or format. Certainly this was not always the case in the Old Testament. Prior to Christ's life, death, and resurrection, God would meet with his people in a physical place of dwelling, and there were rules to be followed. (See Numbers 1:51 for example)

But now, God interacts with his people through the work of the Holy Spirit, and we are the temple:

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV

Further, Jesus himself tells us that:

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." - Matthew 18:20 ESV

Although this verse is not referencing corporate worship of the church, it is significant in that Jesus states that he comes to wherever they are gathered, in this case to give authority to the decisions of the church leaders. They do not come to him to meet in a temple or tabernacle.

From this, it is clear that there is no requirement of the church structure, venue or location. As long as the church follows the teaching and practices of the Scripture, the building itself is not particularly relevant.

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    Matt 18:20 is specifically about church discipline however. – curiousdannii Nov 29 '15 at 0:36
  • That is an important clarification that I appreciate you making. I have edited my answer accordingly. – Jon the Architect Nov 30 '15 at 0:55
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Where the church should gather?

An archeological assessment of past practices may not be the best basis for determining present practice.

Like what you are experiencing, the driving force is size. Also, as you are experiencing, people do not want to give up the joy of close fellowship.

However, as you try to scale up Christianity (or any relational experience) it usually follows that there is a transition from intimate fellowship to the organizational characteristics of the early Catholic church. Hierarchy, doctrines of control more than personal instruction, and an emphasis on rules define the management of a collective.

It is understandable that people want to grow in size and keep their close fellowship. However, it is impossible to accomplish. Just like a family cannot remain a family if they keep all their children as they grow and marry and have their own children. They would have to organize themselves along collectivist lines in order to function.

If you get larger, you find that you need to segregate the children and then segregate those who look after the children. Soon many are compartmentalized and the close fellowship you had at the beginning is lost.

  • Fellowship in the RCC means something entirely different then what you are suggesting fellowship to be. We, as a Church, worship together, sing psalms together, read the Gospel together, repent together, we act as one in works of Mercy, our fellowship is world wide and reaches beyond the boundaries drawn by Politics, ethnicity, or customs. One of the most important features of Catholic fellowship is that we pray together, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. It matters not that I don’t know their names or that I even see thier faces, It is one supernatural bread that we break and that bread is Christ. – Marc Nov 29 '15 at 17:53

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