Constantine has been called “the father of the church building” (Pagan Christianity, George Barna, pg. 21). This is because up until the 4th century, churches met in homes. There really wasn’t any meeting place that can be likened to the modern church building (maybe the church in Jerusalem in the 1st century?).
But as Kevin DeYoung reminds us in his book Why We Love the Church? (pg. 120), the first Christians didn’t meet in homes because God prescribed the “home church” as the most effective gathering places for Christians. They met in homes, usually, out of the need to be underground. Christianity was being greatly persecuted in the early days and the idea of building megachurches wasn’t wise, due to governing authorities being able to locate the Christians much easier. Thus, the church met in smaller groups, scattered around, with a tone of anonymity.
However, scholars like also remind us that it was not uncommon for homes to have open-floors plans with the capacity to hold up to 100 people in them, which may be what Solomon’s portico was like (Acts 5). And on occasion, it seemed like they would all come together to meet in the synagogue (Acts 3; 19; Jas 1-2).
Is it wrong for Christians to gather in homes today and “call that church?” No, it is not wrong at all. I have many friends and acquaintances who attend house churches and thrive in their walk with the Lord. To each his own, on that issue, I suppose.
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