The Early Christian House Church and Today’s Experience
How can our church experience be more like the early church?
More than ever, we are dependent on many means of communication to manage our day-to-day lives. We are acquainted with email, text messages, notifications, and even video streaming. Our phones are no longer tied to a wall, and we are able to access information we need by looking at our hand-held cell phones. Technology has brought methods of communication that, when used correctly, can help members be in closer touch with each other and their church.
Joel Comiskey, writing in Christianity Today, described what the early church was like.
“House churches played an essential role in the rapid growth and ultimate triumph of Christianity, and it’s safe to say that the first three centuries belonged to the house-church movement. House-to-house ministry allowed the believers to challenge the social order of the day. They became witnesses—through their words, lives, and suffering. Because of their small size, house churches maintained a family-like atmosphere and practiced brotherly love in personal and effective ways.”
The early Christian church also depended on the communication techniques that were available at that time. Gathering in each other’s homes was a common way to keep in touch with each other to pray, worship, and communicate important information.
Today we worship in churches that often include large numbers of people. Is it possible to attain the intimacy of the early house church? The experience of intimate fellowship that leads to growth in faith, love, service and outreach can be difficult in today’s larger churches.
Cell phones are now almost universal, and can use “apps” (applications) for many purposes. Cell phone Apps designed for church member use fall into two basic types–“static” and “dynamic.” Static apps provide set features, while dynamic apps are integrated with the church database in real time. On-line Bibles, Bible studies, and daily devotions, as well as mapping programs, are examples of “static” apps. Other “dynamic” apps might include giving programs, sermon streaming, calendar programs, dynamic member directories and social media.
At RDS Advantage we chose the dynamic route for an app we call “Unite” that is integrated with each church’s database in real time. We believe its value is so important, it is offered without cost to users of the RDS cloud-hosted system.
A pictorial directory of members and staff is included, and members can install their favorite family or individual photo. Address, phone, e-mail and other information can be updated in real time. Telephone calls, messages and e-mail can be placed with a tap of the finger. Secure tithes and donations, including ACH and recurring payments, can be made for designated purposes. A member can see a record of their donations for the previous and current year. Push notification of messages can be made by both members and staff. People can enroll in activities and events, with notice automatically sent to event/activity leaders. Leaders of groups can enroll, record attendance, and notify members of scheduled events. People can enroll in activities and events, with notice sent to event/activity leaders. Members can volunteer for activities of the church. Maps of member homes can be displayed, with driving directions from the present location of the user.
The value of these features is to bring pastors, staff and members closer together, integrate members with the activities and ministries of the church, and provide easy communication between members and church.
These features may not exactly mirror the early house church experience of the first and second centuries, but they offer many benefits to bring people together in the name of Lord.
Dick Webber, President