Church Attendance or Home Worship?

Church or Home? Where do you prefer to be on a Sunday? Which one does the Bible recommend?

Background

Over the centuries, we have always known that Sundays are for going to church to hear God’s word. This concept of corporate worship is a familiar thing to many. From the days of Old Testament prophets to those of the New Testament apostles, the idea of a common place for fellowship has always been there (1 Kings 5-6, 2 Chronicles 2:7-10). The Jewish culture emphasized Temple worship and synagogue meetings. These happened even during and after the life and ministry of Christ. After Christ’s ascension, we hear about house churches in the Book of Acts. We must note that during this period, a lot of persecution warranted the believers to have more house churches than big group, mega-church type of gatherings (and we shall explore this much more). 

A few years ago, the world was struck hard by the COVID-19 virus, and the world shut down. The global Church went through a difficult time moving away from the regular Sunday service gatherings to the little-known online fellowship method and more towards house worship options. After the menace subsided, it was difficult for some people to resume weekly ‘church’ fellowships (the word church is used loosely in this context, for the biblical meaning is unique). So, with this in mind, many have been caught up between weekly church (localized place of worship) attendance and more cozy, house church fellowships. Which one is most beneficial or most biblical?

Misconceptions 

Like many things in life, the issue of church attendance and home worship has been misunderstood. Since we live in a broken world due to sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23), we must admit that not everything will be done to its best. Where imperfect beings exist, there is always a possibility for misunderstandings and conflict. 

Whether one of the ideas is better or the other is not the issue. As born-again believers, we are to attend Church, and we are also supposed to worship our God in our homes. We must seek to personally appreciate the place of these two things to avoid making a mountain out of a molehill. Think of it as someone dismissing the need for drinking water just because they ate solid food or vice versa. All ought to be complimentary and not necessarily contradictory. 

A Biblical View of the Two Ideas

There is always good reason for the scriptures to call us to participate in some things, be it communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), baptism (Matthew 3:11, Romans 6:4) etc. What God commands us to do is always beneficial for our growth and love for him. So, what does the Scripture say about church fellowship?

Church as a Public Place of Worship

Old Testament Times

When we imagine public worship in the Old Testament times, we cannot help but view it as Temple worship. After the children of Israel walked free from Egypt (Exodus 13:1-15:), God led them into the wilderness and gave instructions on how they were to worship Him (Exodus 21:1-27:21). Moses was tasked with getting a team that would build the Tabernacle (tent of meeting) where the people, as a congregation, would come together and worship God. The Tabernacle worship was such that the people would arrive with their offerings (animals and grains) and worship together during the different festivals and feasts they had as a people. 

Afterwards, we see the construction of the Temple by King Solomon (2 Chronicles 3:1-7:12), where the order of worship was thorough. Singers, ushers, and other liturgies were incorporated (2 Chronicles 5:1-14). God desired a temple built in Jerusalem for his worship. He affirmed it through Nathan the prophet, David the king, Solomon the king, and His presence at the temple’s dedication. The priests would take time to read the Law of the LORD before the congregation as part of their priestly duties. This idea would go on for ages as God had designed that it should, leading up to what we call the ‘church’ in our modern day. 

New Testament Era

There is an important note we hear from Jesus when he was cleansing the Temple (Mark 11:15–19, Matthew 21:12–17, Luke 19:45–48, John 2:13–16) that suggests to us the wrong practices that came through the compromise of the teachers of the Law (Pharisees). The problem seemed so ingrained that the people were now okay with it; buying and selling things in the temple instead of using it as a place of prayer. Just as God’s design for the temple in pre-Jesus days was to be a place of prayer, worship, and proclamation of the Law of God, the Church during the time of Christ was to emulate the same. Therefore, the fact that the Pharisees had messed up the original purposes of temple worship did not in any way render temple worship wrong and unnecessary. 

Consider the Corinthian Church (1 and 2 Corinthians), for instance. At first glance, it appears nowhere close to the model fellowship in many ways, yet Paul was there, teaching, discipling, and pointing them to the Lord. Today, many issues in our churches have led many to walk away and deem it better to stay home without drama and other human conflicts. However, is this reason enough to walk away from the gathering of believers, even rendering it unnecessary? Another might say things like the pastor is not walking right, so I am leaving; the worship team members are hypocrites; there is no unity; there are groupings in this Church, etc. Is that reason enough for us to stop going to church altogether? The Bible completely discourages this kind of thinking (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

What about Online Church?

When it comes to online church or bedside Baptist, as they call it, it is much better to meet together with brethren physically. According to the Bible, it is the whole point of the church gathering. Unless otherwise, go out and meet with God’s people. Online Church is a great innovation, but it should not be the most preferred way of fellowship. Unless you are ill, on medication, travelling outside your usual church fellowship, or want to engage with other saints remotely, go to a physical fellowship. Go to Church! 

House Worship

Due to the complaints mentioned earlier, many who have left ‘church’ have opted for house churches. Does the Bible say anything about house churches? Should we shun this idea altogether, or is there something in Church history for our learning? 

The New Testament provides several other references regarding house churches. These were family homes where early believers would gather and ponder the life and message of Jesus. Acts 2:46 says the disciples met in their homes, breaking bread and praying. Examples of these churches are as follows:

  • Mary’s House church in Acts 12:12. This verse occurs after the ruler of Judea, King Herod Agrippa, suddenly becomes intolerant of Christians. Seeking to win support from Pharisaic Jews, he had James, “the brother of the Lord,” beheaded and Peter thrown into prison (Acts 12:1-3).
  • Lydia’s House Church in Acts 16:40. Lydia, who sold purple cloth in Philippi, met Paul during his second missionary journey as he crossed Europe to preach the gospel. Paul’s words so profoundly struck Lydia that she and her household were baptized, and she offered Paul and Silas lodging in her home. 
  • Prisca and Aquila’s House Church in Romans 16:3,5 is another example. When Paul went to Ephesus, this couple accompanied him. When Paul opted to move on again, Prisca and Aquila remained in Ephesus and allowed for their home to be used as a church (1 Corinthians 16:19). The couple had learned much during their time with Paul.
  • Nympha’s House Church in Colossians 4:15. When Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Colossae, he extended an additional greeting to the Christian community in Laodicea (now in ruins near Colossae in modern-day Turkey). This letter included a greeting to Nympha, who let her house be used as a church.
  • Philemon and Apphia’s House Church in Philemon 1-2. Philemon and Apphia, a well-to-do couple in Colossae, had become Christians through Paul’s ministry (verses 4-7). 

All these and others that we may not mention here serve as a confirmation that though there were huge fellowships where saints met, there were church gatherings in houses as well. Saints met together in smaller groups and equally met as congregations. But of utmost importance is understanding what the Church is defined to be in Scripture. Most fundamentally, the Church in the Bible does not refer to a building or a place first before it refers to persons (1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:14-20; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 1:24). When we meet together, we actually bring together the body of Christ. 

Biblical Conditions for Long-term House Churches

Do the scriptures help us to understand when to continue with the idea of house churches? In the early Church days, one of the reasons for the emergence and thriving of house Churches was persecution. From the times of the disciples, especially after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:60), the disciples started fleeing from danger and would meet in small groups till they were out of harm’s way. Today, in countries where the Christian faith isn’t tolerated, people still meet in small house fellowships with very organized leadership and worship structures

Otherwise, the modern Church somehow does that in the form of cell groups, not because of persecution, of course, but to reach their members more effectively. The Scripture approves these fellowships in both cases, yet I do not see it vouch for one over the other. Instead, they are designed to be more complimentary than contradictory. 

So, yes! Attend Church and meet the many saints who gather in your assembly and get your hands serving there. Secondly, attend a cell group, connect and use the opportunity for in-depth fellowship. Finally, if you are in a war-torn or anti-Christian area, seek out the house Churches and be a part of it. Whatever you do, do not neglect the meeting together of brethren, as is the habit of some (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Reference 

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/st-anthony-messenger/house-churches-in-the-new-testament

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