What Was the New Testament Church Like?

What Was the New Testament Church Like?

Acts 2 house churches have a lot to teach today's small groups.
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Embracing Acts 2 Community

The Western world is so different than the world of the first century church. They lived in close quarters with their neighbors, while many today live in private homes with security fences. Their lifestyle centered on the home. We drive to work, go out to eat, and find friends and hobbies away from our neighborhoods. They relaxed primarily with others, talking over a meal. We relax alone, staring at television and computer screens. Though we live in different times and cultures, many timeless principles apply directly to our small-group ministries:

  • Foundational rather than optional. Small-group ministry must be foundational to our churches today—not a nice add-on. God chose to develop the first disciples through house-to-house ministry and his purposes in small-group ministry remain the same today.
  • Life over curriculum. The early house church agenda was transformational and life-giving, not dependent on curriculum. We need to ask the Spirit of God to guide us and our groups so that life-change is the norm.
  • Changed lives win new people. The early house churches grew and multiplied as God transformed those present. We need to remember that our best hope of reaching our friends and neighbors is by showing them our own transformed lives. That's when they'll want to experience that same healing for themselves.
  • Developing leaders from within. The early house churches developed leadership naturally and internally by encouraging believers to lean into their spiritual gifts. We must do the same.
  • Connected ministry. The early house churches networked together and were not independent entities. We need to take advantage of the resources in the larger body such as preaching, equipping, and coaching in order to effectively make disciples who make disciples.

God is calling the church today to journey back in time to apply the values and ministry practices found in the New Testament. While house-to-house ministry might look different today, many of the same principles apply and will help us do a better job of making disciples who make disciples through small-group ministry.

—Joel Comiskey is author of 2000 Years of Small Groups: The History of Cell Ministry in the Church and an advisor for SmallGroups.com.

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