The Glossary of Terms

house churches


House Churches

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

Until the 4th century (under Constantine's rule), community Christian worship took place entirely in house churches. These were Christians' private homes that were made available to the local Christian community for worship. Initially there were no dedicated dwellings that were solely used for congregating, but by the end of the 3rd century it appears that some homes were completely turned over to the Christian community. Still there were no church edifices, no dedicated church buildings designed and built for worship -- until Constantine launched a church building program in the 4th century. As churches moved from the home, which traditionally was women's domain, to the elaborately built Roman church edifices, women in the church became further marginalized.

Even today Christian worship in many localities throughout the world is conducted in house churches. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Christianity survived -- and even thrived -- entirely in house churches.

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Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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