Q: Some people claim that our modern church practices are unbiblical and that we must only gather for worship in private homes, like the early church. What does the Bible really say about how we should worship?"
A: First off let’s try to establish what the “church” actually is.
Churches in the New Testament time were, for the most part, small assemblies that met in homes as found in Acts 2:46..... “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” and in Acts 20:20.... “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.”
This tells us that meeting in homes is biblical. There are some other reasons to have house churches as opposed to large gatherings..... closeness of the people, stronger relationships, informal worship, one-heartedness, etc. Fact is, that larger churches often have separate small groups that meet in homes in addition to meeting at church.
So does that mean we should all meet in homes? That is not what we are saying. First of all, the fact that first century Christians did things that way does not mean that the generations of Christians to follow must do likewise. (*unless there is also a clear direction to do so in God’s word). So, for example, the fact that early Christians often sold all they owned and shared the profits as in Acts 2:44-45.... “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; ...And sold their possessions and goods, and gave to all men, as every man had need.” This doesn’t mean that we are commanded to do so today. Just as home churches are no more acceptable than any other worship situation.
The other more obvious reason that the early church met in homes was because.. where else would they meet? There were no church buildings, community halls, public schools, or movie theaters that could hold large groups. Also take into consideration, even if there was room somewhere, this was a time of persecution of Christians by the Romans, and any public gathering of large numbers of people would attract the attention of the authorities and their very lives would be in danger. We can conclude that it might not have been by choice that the early church met in small groups but an act of self-preservation. In fact, the Jews were much more accustomed to meeting in larger groups -- the home meetings must have been quite a change for them to become accustomed to.
One of the more common reason for home churches today is that someone became disgruntled with a mainline church and decided to begin a ministry of their own...sometimes doing their “own” thing, right or wrong. For this reason, when joining a home meeting church, make sure you know where they stand with God’s Word. The popular view today is that the Holy Spirit teaches believers directly through the Bible. This idea may lead people to believe that no matter what the group teaches, it is from God and is therefore safe from error.
But the New Testament is full of warnings against false teachings coming from within the church. And because home churches are often independent, small groups, they have no accountability to anyone but themselves. Another thing to consider about the early church was that the Pastors/Leaders made their livings outside the church with their own jobs and skills. For example, the Apostle Paul was a skilled tentmaker, and wrote this to the church.... 1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NLT).... “Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you.”
Paul’s example is the way I have chosen as Pastor at our church....working out at a job and not being a burden to our congregation. But for the most part, things are different today where many Pastors are more full-time in ministry and supported by their congregations....and quite simply a larger assembly can better take care of a full-time pastor, where a smaller home church would find that a more difficult undertaking.
Finally, there is nothing unbiblical about Christians gathering together in homes, or large buildings, or any other large group situation because the “church” is not a building or a place....the biblical “church” is within each of us as believers when we give our hearts to the Lord and the Body of Christ, as in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” The “church” is made up of every true believer. We as believers ARE the church......Amen!