"A biblical community for the spiritually curious."

A HOME "GATHERING"

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the [ekklesia or “gathering”] that meets at their house (1 Corinthians 16:19).

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MANNA! Life Groups are a biblical “ekklesia”—a gathering of “called out” people—for discipleship, worship and fellowship (Acts 2:42). Our simple desire is to reflect the biblical gatherings for home “ekklesias” as revealed in the book of Acts and the epistles. In other words, we gather for four reasons: to learn biblical truth, experience Christian community, engage in prayer and practice the ancient “breaking of bread” tradition known as the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist (Acts 2:42). We strive to balance all four components in every gathering, just as the early church did, but occasionally a group might choose to focus upon one.

Like the early church, MANNA! Life Groups meet in houses (private homes).

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46).

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).

Greet also the [ekklesia or “gathering”] that meets at their house (Romans 16:5a).

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the [ekklesia or “gathering”] that meets at their house (1 Corinthians 16:19).

Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the [ekklesia or “gathering”] in her house (Colossians 4:15).

...also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the [ekklesia or “gathering”] that meets in your home (Philemon 1:2).

The practice of the early church was to congregate (ekklesia or “gathering”) in private homes for fellowship, discipleship and worship. They had no concept or practice of meeting in a common public facility. The New Testament terms “church” (ekklesia), “house of God” or even “temple” never refer to a building but rather to a "body of believers." The Greek term most commonly translated “church” is ekklesia and every time it appears (114 times in the New Testament), it’s in reference to an “assembly of people.” The word never means a “building” or physical facility.

Simply put, the people of God formally “assembled” (gathered) in private homes. Occasionally, and it’s only noted in the Jerusalem context, did the early believers gather also in the temple courts (Acts 2:46), but this was a common space near a building (outside court) not in a dedicated space inside a building (temple).

The clear testimony is the tradition of all New Testament gatherings (ekklesias) was to meet in private homes. This practice continued until the time of emperor Constantine (AD 285-337) when he legalized Christianity and anointed it as the state religion of the Roman empire. Constantine erected the first church buildings around AD 327. Many were converted pagan temples. Most of the new (church) buildings were erected over the graves of Christian saints (as the ancients believed they had special power) and named these facilities after them (i.e., St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome).

From Constantine forward, Christians have publicly assembled in a building they eventually called a “church” (from the German translation of “ekklesia”: kirche). New Testament scholar and historian Graydon F. Snyder concluded, “There is no literary evidence nor archaeological indication that any such home was converted into an extant church building. Nor is there any extant church that certainly was built prior to Constantine.”

The intention here is not to debate the merit of Christians publicly meeting in church buildings. That’s a 1700-year-old tradition. It is not an unbiblical practice, as some critics charge, but it is abiblical in nature. Nevertheless, we contend for the original DNA and ancient practice of Christians to gather in private homes. It is from both a biblical and historical context that all MANNA! Life Groups operate out of private homes.

However, we also encourage all attendees of MANNA! Life Groups to continue regular church attendance and Christian service in their respective congregations. MANNA! Life Groups operate alongside the local church to disciple and equip. We are not a replacement for weekend church as much as an enhancement to the discipleship needs of specific believers or local congregations.

The Board of Directors for MANNA! Educational Services International do not set any restrictive guidelines on MANNA! Life Groups except that they adhere to an Acts 2:42 format (all gatherings must include biblical study, prayer huddles, fellowship and participation in the Lord’s Supper), remain open (inclusive and inviting_ and submit to the general MANNA! Statement of Belief.

Should any issue, problem or controversy arise within a specific Life Group, it will be dealt with from the lowest necessary authority (leader/shepherd/facilitator, community leader or area director). Very rarely will local issues or specific house gathering problems rise higher than the area director. The goal is to keep all decisions and low-level as possible.

In general, unless it's a matter that involves heresy (false doctrine) or immorality (biblical sin), then MANNA! Life Groups are autonomous in nature, submitting only to Christ Jesus and the norms of their community, area, region or zone.

 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
(Matthew 28:19-20)