By Joel Comiskey, Summer 2020, check out Joel’s latest book, Living in Victory
One common refrain that I often hear in my Brazilian seminars is “Every house a church and every Christian a minister.” I took a photo of this phrase in a 2019 Brazil seminar at the Attitude Church in Rio de Janeiro.
I love this phrase because it’s pregnant with possibility. Every house is a potential church. But is this even possible? We know that every believer is a minister and is equipped with God-given gifts. But every home a church?
The Attitude Church, where I took this picture, has 1300 cell groups and about 13,000 people attending the cells. How many members have opened their houses or apartments? I’m not sure. Yet, it’s possible that every believer could at least open their home to an occasional cell group.
I’m passionate about the possibility of every house a church. Traditionally, people leave their home to go to church and then go back to their homes to live. I long for the day when the church is in the home, and the planting of new churches primarily involves the use of existing homes.
The cell group is fully the church. The New Testament writers used the word “ecclesia” when referring to the church in the home as well as to the gathered church on Sunday. Paul addressed the whole congregation in a particular place as ecclesia and also used the same word ecclesia to describe the individual house groups (1 Corinthians 1:1; 16:19). Wherever believers met together, they were “the church of God.”
Some today look at the Sunday celebration as the true church, but small groups as less than the real church. Others tend to prioritize house churches as opposed to the gathered church. The biblical writers saw both the cell and celebration as fully the church. Bill Beckham writes, “To be consistent with New Testament usage, ecclesia cannot be called the church in one place (the large group expression) and not called the church in another (the small group expression).”
Throughout church history, God has used cell ministry to draw the church back to a more simple form of church life and mission. He’s doing the same today as we see Every house a church and every Christian a minister.