John White comments on the need to understand what a "household" really is in Scripture. Just having a church in a house does not do justice to the scriptural meaning of 24/7 community life. John says, "moving church from a special church building into a home does not go nearly far enough." Here's his entire email:
Roger Gehring in "House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity" demonstrates that the concept of household (oikos in Greek) is a critical and significantly underappreciated element in understanding the meaning of "church" in the First Century. To say it another way, if we want to understand what ekklesia (generally translated "church") meant to people like Jesus, Peter and Paul, we need to have a good understanding of what oikos meant to these same people. For these people, oikos was the context for ekklesia.
Gehring quotes Luhrmann (another NT scholar): "...the ancient oikos is not just one social and economic form among others but rather the basic social and economic form not only for the ancient world and the New Testament but presumably for every pre-industrial sedentary culture as well." p. 17
Gehring goes on to say: "Scarcely anything determined daily life more than the oikos with its network of relationships...the significance of the oikos for the establishment and organization of early Christian church life can hardly be overemphasized." p. 17
A House is not necessarily a Household.
The implications of Gehring's insights about the importance of oikos are huge! For one thing, it means that moving church from a special church building into a home does not go nearly far enough. The churches established by Jesus and his disciples were not mere weekly meetings. They were literally households - ongoing, 24/7, family like communities.
Consider 1Cor. 16:19 - "Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house (oikos)". If we read this from our 21st Century Western context, we would (unconsciously?) conclude that once a week a group of Christians met in this couple's home for church. However, if we read this verse from the 1st Century context, we would conclude something quite different.
To say that we have a "house church" because we meet in someone's home at 7 pm on Tuesday nights, falls significantly short of the New Testament concept of "house church".